We have failed at Lincoln/Douglas debate. We have failed at Speech. We have failed at Hygiene. We have failed at Square Dancing. We have not been invited back to Improv. We have not been invited back to Taxidermy. We have not been invited back to Surgical Procedures 101. We have been whooped upside the head. We have been whipped into a frenzy. We have been told we lack initiative. We have been told we must learn to finish what we start. We might at one time have said, let’s start a formal club, association, society, or religion. But of course, as we’ve been told, we lack follow-through. We have been told we take up too much space. We have been told that, at times, we appear to be in our own world. We have been told we need to stack the blocks in the corner neatly before we take our turn at the easel. We need to learn the skills of being invited back to formal clubs, associations, societies or religions. We need to learn the skills of judging distances. For example, distance can be judged by sound. If we see a gun fired in the distance, we can count the number of seconds between the flash and the sound of the explosion reaching us. In this way we can tell how far we are from danger. If we see a gun fired close up, judging the distance will not be necessary and won’t help us anyway. We have been told these are good skills to learn if we wish to make a solid contribution. We will learn the skills of basic survival. We will learn to tuck and roll. We will learn to make ourselves invisible.
Kathy Fish’s stories have most recently appeared in Ploughshares, Wigleaf, and Washington Square Review. Her work has been widely anthologized, notably in the Norton Reader, Best Small Fictions, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a recipient of the Copper Nickel Editors’ Prize and a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship.
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