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June 8, 2003

dust we must return

My life is dull.  This should bother me, but it doesn't.  Like an old man shelling peas, I am content to sit beneath this tree removing cholesterol pills from plastic blister packaging.  Halfway across the park, with the quiet dignity of Ted Nugent, a father explains to his twitchy son the finer points of hitting a baseball.

From this spot, I can see the elementary school I attended.  I let my eyes zig-zag up the fire escape.  In the old days, no one concerned himself with child safety.  My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Falstich, thought nothing of sending me outside to clean erasers on the third floor fire escape landing. 

I loved the vista, the solitude, the responsibility.  While the other children staggered across the pages of their Alice and Jerry readers, I stood alone and high, chalk-stuffed erasers lined up along the fire escape railing like boxcars filled with cocaine.  I held an eraser in each hand and clapped them together producing white clouds of chalk dust.  At first, the slightest contact caused chalk dust to erupt like ash from a volcano.  As the erasers came clean, harder and harder beatings were required to extract dust until, finally, I had to use my imagination to justify my stay outside.  If I squinted real hard, I saw ghostly apparitions calling to mind sentences and equations, so elegant when written on the blackboard and, then, reduced to dust.

©  2003 by the beastmaster