Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In Which I Write a Story About a Desolate Boy

We were teaching the children of our third grade class about feelings. We instructed them to identify their favorite feeling and then draw it on a piece of construction paper. What we ended up with was eleven pictures of 'happy', hemorrhaging waxy color, one picture of 'sleepy' with a girl laid across a purple bed, and one picture of 'christmas.'

Then there was one that was only a few scant lines: horizon, sky, a tree of grey branches. Standing alongside the tree there stood a man: disproportionate, tubular arms hanging flush against his sides, his nose a U (it was a child's depiction after all.) The figure was looking straight ahead, two dots and a brief line for a mouth that gave away absolutely nothing. The feeling for this picture was Desolate.

We took the boy aside and wanted to know where he had learned the word. He looked up at us in genuine confusion. No, he could not remember where he had learned the word, who remembers learning words? He had always known the word for desolate because he had never not known it. It would be like asking me when I learned the word for apple. I had always known the word for Apple because I have always known apples.

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