February 16, 2010

Prairie L. Markussen

HOMESCHOOL FIELDTRIP, 2ND GRADE

I knew it was pulp when all the other kids thought
it was a pile of shit. (Of course they didn’t say
as much because we were homeschoolers,
and only the worst of the bunch said swears, and
even those ones only said damn and hell.
So, instead of saying it was a pile of shit, they said
things like, Is it dirt? Shredded leaves? Animal dung?)
I waited for all their dumb answers to be done,
all the while looking at my mom, and she looking
back at me, and we were practically beaming
because I knew what it was and she knew I knew
what it was, and better than that, she knew she
had taught me what it was, which means she
had taught me something other moms didn’t teach
their homeschooled kids, which meant I was smarter
and ultimately that she was smarter, and we both
knew it. And when I finally raised my hand demurely as though I
wasn’t sure, as though I wasn’t all that interested,
and said, It’s pulp, I could have almost choked on
my excitement. And the farm guide said, Yes, it’s
pulp, good job
. And I sauntered on with the rest
of the bunch as we headed toward the stables,
acting as casual as I could, and looking
at my mom now and again, just to be sure she
still looked proud, thinking we were complicit
before I even knew what that word meant, but
feeling of a pair, as they say. I heard her lean
close to one of her friends and say I taught her
that
and nod.
                       And then that made me a little mad
because up until then it had been between us:
the knowing and the feeling of a secret about it.
But now someone else knew how and when I
came to know about pulp and I didn’t like that at all.
And I started thinking somewhere, deep down
that maybe the knowledge wasn’t hers at all,
that it was mine alone all along, that maybe she hadn’t
taught me and I had learned it all on my own,
and that maybe it had nothing, nothing to do
with her.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009