Franklin is a strange and wonderful child. So was Einstein. Congratulations. You’ve got a real gem there. But – and I’m sure you know this – he does weird things. He is a real “beat of a different drummer” kind of kid. He’s easily distracted by the camera and finds it necessary, often, to let us see the contents of his mouth, which sends the rest of the class into fits of unearned hilarity. He sometimes lowers his camera and puts his snack in equal rows across his desk. He collects. He has ripped out every page in our novel Sign of the Beaver that has the word “savage” on it.
He’ll probably go to Princeton, like Einstein. He’ll discover a cure for something we will need to cure. Or maybe he will stand on top of a mountain and proclaim, “No more hate! Stop killing people for running a light! That’s what the courts are for.” At least that’s what I can glean from his persuasive essay. He understands that people get killed for traffic violations. That was the startling fact that came out of his essay, and it took me a while, but I think I understand what he’s getting at. The fly in the ointment for me was his suggestion of bringing the courts in as the actual arbiters of justice, since – and I think you know what I’m getting at here – they’re “part of the problem.” I’m not going to delve into that with a fourth grader, even one who is clearly going to outshine us all at some point in what seems, traveling at his current trajectory, to be the very near future. Still, if I’m being real, his essay was all over the place. LOL. I can’t really deal with it or fix it, but I’ve tried.
“Tried” and “tired” use the same letters, though, so that’s about where I stand with all this. Still, I’d rather read Franklin’s solutions to hatred than another persuasive essay about school uniforms. I tell these children: don’t waste your time. I have sent thousands of your colleagues’ essays up the chain of command and nothing. Not even a response. You will be in those itchy shirts, those sweaty pants for the next several months of your lives. But count them. It’s not that many. Maybe 20? Soon, you shall be free.
And what will you do with your freedom? Will you find yourself, decades down the road, writing out report cards for fourth graders, noting sparks in the dull procession of predictable sauceboxes by placing a little star next to their name in your gradebook, constantly checking your Facebook page for likes, eating yogurt with cereal every morning, trudging downstairs for yet another deadly zoom session?
God, I hope not.
Jeanne Jones is a writer, teacher, and former lawyer living in the Washington, D.C. area. Her stories have been published in American Short Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, Fanzine, and Juked, among other places. She is a flash reader for Split Lip Magazine.
image: Woody Evans