The day of the competition, Melody is nervous about answering questions correctly and about the reporters who might show up, but Mrs. V assures her that she’ll be admired by the public and seen as “Spaulding Street Elementary School’s own personal Stephen Hawking.”
Melody admires Stephen Hawking, and she is writing her language arts biography report on him. When she’s not wishing she were “normal,” and is instead feeling more comfortable with her body and her illness, Stephen Hawking is an icon and an inspiration. He’s a man who, although he is in a wheelchair, seems to be able to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.
After school, Melody’s mom drives her to the studio where the competition will be filmed. Catherine joins her and together they make sure Melody will be accommodated. The stage manager, Paul, has set up a special answer board for Melody so she can better participate. He explains that his son is also in a wheelchair, and wishes her luck.
Paul understands the accommodations Melody needs. His empathy comes from his own personal experiences. He is one of the only strangers in the book who understands that Melody is smart and deserves to participate, and that she sometimes needs special accommodations, which don’t make her less intelligent.
The rest of Melody’s team arrives and prepares to compete. Claire tells Molly, an alternate, that she deserves to be on the team instead of Melody. Melody tries to tune them out and mentally prepare for the competition.
Even during the competition, some of Melody’s teammates can only see the ways that Melody is different and distracting, instead of the ways she is valuable, as a teammate and as a human being.