m i c h a e l    c h a n e y

No Crying At School

 

The bullying had to stop. Every day she'd come home with a new tale of woe. First it was teasing about this or that pink thing she likes. Some kid leaned over at lunch and whispered a grim decapitation of pinkness, which is maybe what started the tears to pour out of her blue eight-year-old eye socket speakers. Then it got personal. Dramas in crayon of frilly massacres with misspelled captions in case the thrust of the illustration had been missed. These came home in tear-stained crumples in a backpack fertilized with banana peels and fruit flies. I hate the way they linger in front of your face, as if the very air had grown a suspicious mole, or when you tap the fruit bowl, which you keep stocked because you've got kids and fruit is good for them and so you buy the kinds they like and never what you'd prefer—a pack of them patiently meander up from the bananas like a slow reveal. Enough is enough, I said, catching a stern look from the wife. All this has to stop, I said to my daughter's tears, spinning a gear on a belt of intake she couldn't get her motors to seize. Tomorrow it all changes, and I said it just like that and meant it too. That night with my wife was like high school again. Making noises like we weren't parents, not married, not even friendly. I should have known that things were going to be different. But I didn't know how different until we got to school the next morning. The girl was in the backseat crying and wringing her hands like she was on auto Pontius Pilate. Leave her here, I said real cool to my wife, who insisted that we roll the windows down and lock the doors and leave her with a banana in case she got hungry even though I kept thinking and my wife knew I kept thinking that it would only bring fruit flies. But I let her arrange it and we left her there in the moated car, a Rapunzel letting down strand after strand of tears, which from the other side of the school parking lot made her look like she was singing the blues into a banana microphone. My wife never looked back. It was time for reprisals. We strolled into homeroom and took seats. The teacher wanted explanations but we were cagey. We got out our pencils and thinking caps. When she turned around I didn't even sock the kid next to me for staring. I wanted a lesson in whatever: division, amoebas, the judiciary branch, who cares. There'd be gym soon. Then I'd smoke these little jokers at whatever. Then maybe there'd be band and I'd push my way to something cool like the xylophone. And then lunch and other stuff to finally get back to without all the worries and the bananas or the death swarms and all this crying over school.

 

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MICHAEL CHANEY has been published in decomP, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Callaloo, and his work is forthcoming from JMWW, Harpur Palate, and Michigan Quarterly Review. He lives in Vermont, teaches English at Dartmouth College, and blogs about flash at michaelalexanderchaney.com.


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