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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Because you are reasonable, the dead chicks—the ones the flyer warned against—are interred at the bottom of your wire trash bin, underneath broken yellow crayons, wads of apprehended bubblegum, and crumpled up pieces of paper, including the flyer. But more of the chicks survived than you thought, and dozens upon dozens of them now scurry around the room, shitting everywhere.
In the flyer, it recommended against telling the schoolchildren how many chicks were expected to arrive. It did not, however, prevent you from telling the children how the chicks arrived, via First Class Parcel Postage delivered expeditiously.
“Why in a plane?” The schoolchildren ask, their eyes large and wondering.
“Because they can’t fly by themselves,” you say.
The schoolchildren blink and blink and blink—their eyes fluttering like dying fluorescent lights.
“Will chickens never fly?” the schoolchildren ask.
“Only because we don’t let them,” you say.
“Are we going to teach them how to fly?” the schoolchildren ask.
“We don’t know how to fly so we can’t teach them how to fly,” you say.
“What are we going to teach them, then?” the schoolchildren ask.
On the crumpled up pieces of paper, you had written your resignation letter over and over and over. But it was never quite right. You’ve been filling the trash bin with resignation letters ever since you started teaching schoolchildren.
“We’re teaching them how small life is,” you say.
You are not worried about the schoolchildren discovering your plans to resign because they cannot read, and you cannot seem to resign. In demonstration, you pick up a squirrelly chick, a soft brownish-yellow bird. You pet it between its wings.
“The chick is gentle, I am gentle, and you are all gentle,” you say.
The chick twitters and nips at your fingertip. After it shits in your palm, you let it hop from your hand and it flits around your desk like wound-up windup toy. The chick squeals loud as it can, but it’s still quiet. When it teeters to the edge of your desk, the schoolchildren hush and stare.
Suddenly, it seems silly to have such a noble desk with such a small chick paralyzed at the edge of it.
“What will the chick do?” The schoolchildren ask.
“We can’t know,” you say. “It doesn’t even know.”
The chick peers down at the papers in the trash bin, and you know you must urge it one way or the other. The classroom becomes quiet despite the constant twittering, and the schoolchildren stare forward in unblinking symmetry, unsure of what they’d like you or the chick to do. You alight your palm gently against the chick, pausing while you mentally draft a new form of resignation.
Mary Stein is a Minneapolis writer. Her fiction can be found in Caketrain, The Brooklyn Rail, and Spartan Lit among other journals.
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