Fiction · 08/28/2019

A Long Line of Little Yous

Friday. First week of kindergarten. Everybody sitting in a circle around teacher. Waiting to go out to the buses home. You really need to use the bathroom. Like really, really. But the day is almost done. You’ll be home soon. While you wait, teacher asks what everyone wants to be when they grow up. You’re uncomfortable and cranky from your first week of school ever, yet her question excites you. A digger up of dinosaur bones. A put-er back together of them. You listen to other kids say doctor, say ninja, say CEO, until your turn comes and you say proudly paleontologist. Teacher smiles. How wonderful. You agree. You’re nothing if not a to-be paleontologist. Your t-shirt with the T-Rex on it proves this. So does your pillowcase at home and shelf of books and collection of models and more. Someone is asking teacher a question you cannot hear but what you can hear is her reply. Actually no, she says, most of you will change your mind and become something else. Wait, you think, what? You feel as if a little plastic door has been opened behind you from which someone extracts your spine. You will change your mind and become something else? Somehow this is way scarier than not getting what you want. What are you if not your mind? What are you if not what you want? Suddenly changing your mind sounds exactly like dying. It sounds like you are dying all the time. Teacher’s making a foul face. She picks up the garbage can and sniffs it and puts it out in the hallway. When she returns a voice in the ceiling tells her to lead everybody outside and she does. You follow along, trying to keep your knees together. The bus driver makes the same face teacher did when you pass by and sit alone, leaning to one side. Somebody says poopy as the bus starts to move. The whole ride home you watch things pass by out the window, watch mailboxes, parked cars, trees, houses, imagining each of them is you and that every instant you change your mind and become the next thing. What you see is a long line of little yous arising and vanishing along the roadside home each day. That’s when the bus hits a speed bump going faster than a bus really should because the bus driver knows kids love it. Usually you cheer with the rest but today you do not. Today the bump bounces you high up in the air and you come down softly and warmly on exactly what you were trying to avoid.

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Dan Tremaglio’s stories have appeared in various publications, including Gravel, Thrice Fiction, Literary Orphans, and Tammy, and twice been named a finalist for the Calvino Prize. He teaches creative writing and literature at Bellevue College outside Seattle where he is a senior editor for the journal Belletrist.