By Anna Chotlos
My students arrive at 7:15 with snow-damp shoes and mittens on strings threaded through coat sleeves, swinging backpacks by the straps, twirling free school breakfasts in plastic bags, whispering (yesterday afternoon, just down the block from our school) as they settle into their seats; I perch on a child-size chair, knees crammed to my chest, eating a bruised banana while the first graders pick apart cinnamon muffins and slurp foil-lidded applesauce cups, and as I start to say, “Let’s talk about something else—” J volunteers, “Don’t worry Ms. Anna, I’m gonna show you what to do when you hear them shooting,” and hurls himself onto the scuffed gray linoleum, knocks over his milk carton and lands splay-shoed, head buried in his arms, milk pooling around his body—
(I stare, room so quiet I can hear milk dripping off the edge of the table)
J looks up, grinning, milk droplets in his brown curls, and explains: “When they shoot at you, just pretend you’re already dead.”
Anna Chotlos likes to write essays and will be starting work toward a PhD in nonfiction at the University of North Texas this fall.
Art by Jeff Kallet.