Tony: you’re a piece of shit!
Yeah? You’re a fecalpheliac!
It means you eat shit!
That’s not even factually correct! yelled the teacher.
Earlier, the janitor, Mr. Weltschmerz, used a squeegee to clean juice from the moist mural with one hand, and then the other, in perfect rhythm.
Miss? asked Lily.
How come Mr. W is so good with both hands, but I’m left-handed?
Ms. Georgia worked in this way- tossing words above their level, pointing to a stack of dictionaries- as if confusion sparked interest- which always lead to a consulting of Toothsome, the brilliant, brave student– an onamatopeoeia and oxymoron: not Hollywood’s passive dork– who, although not always correct, gave answers with confidence.
Toothy, what’ s that mean?
Toothsome– call me by my full name.
Mr Toothsome The First, what’s that mean?
Dementia – are you vapid?
Do you want my brother to kick your ass?
It means to be stupid – for life.
Lily retracted with a horror – as though uncovering a long-hidden truth: Mr. W was cursed.
She was waiting for Mr. W as he made to leave the class, blocking the door.
Can I help you?
I am so sorry, said Lily, taking his large hand in her two small fists.
Loquacious, said Toothsome.
That’s correct – said the teacher – and
Bullshit, said Lily.
We all know it’s lickityplit.
I’m sorry, Lily, but Toothsome is correct. And you can come visit me after class.
A few boys burst out in laughter at a mediocre joke that had gained value with the attempt to remain quiet.
Tony! What would your answer have been?
Lord Pretty Flacko Mafaka Jodye 2, said his friend, Steven.
Tony erupted in laughter.
That’s my new name, y’all- y’all gotta call me that from now on, y’all,said Steven.
No – we won’t be doing that.
Steven’s attempt to absquatulate was marred by the locked door.
Where do you think you’re doing?
This is an infringement on my free speech, said Steven, in near tears. I’m going to call my dad.
Okay, your free –
He’s a lawyer, you know, y’all, so you’re going to be sued because the second amendment.
You might be confusing legal name change, said Toothsome.
Charlie hebdoooooo! said Tony.
The teacher sighed at the raucous. She thought about the entitled white Liberals she had seen in a recent protest, who yelled loudly (as usual) about their entitlement to spread hate (loudly).
What about it?
Free speech! We have a right to free speech! U-surp, u-surp! said Tony.
Free speech and name change are two different things, said the teacher. Sit back in your sit.
Only if you call me Hova, yo, said Steven.
I thought it was Pretty Flacko, said the teacher, with an intonation that demonstrated her knowledge of the pop culture phenomena- silencing the class.
Yeah, you can call me that! said Steven, forgetting his black-cent.
You aren’t allowed to appropriate black culture, said the teacher, because you come from a family of slave-owners.
Lily, in the back, was drawing a picture of Mr. W’s hand, beside the mural, and the new beauty she seemed to find in the wrinkles.
word by Liam Lachance
colour by Spogo
From the author: “This piece was a collaboration with about twenty people who suggested words to use in the piece – it was a fun challenge. I wrote this piece to talk about the effect that conversations in the popular tabloid news and in our homes affect what our kids believe and say – and how it will help, or embarrass them, when they try to apply abstract ideological ideas in their lives.
The kids in this piece did not invent appropriating black culture, for example, but will be the ones to pay the price when adopting it as a way to seem successful.
The kids did not invent the loud way white people take up all conversations on race and racism, oblivious that the volume of their voice is itself indicative of the problem, but they will pay the price when they attempt to align themselves with those ideas, heard at home.
We have a responsibility to give them better narratives because they are the future leaders of our movements for equality and human dignity.”