BRANDON LANGFORD TALKS THROUGH DETENTION
I’m here because I don’t want a suspension,
but I hope you know you caused me to miss my bus.
I don’t even understand why I have detention.
You tell us to say what we think. I spoke
my thoughts, and that’s my right. My dad
does it all the time, freedom of speech,
and we cheer. Well, we did. He’s a combat vet,
but now he’s in prison for child porn
and hitting my mom. She’s glad he’s gone.
Do I have to stay here the whole time?
If I’m nice, can I leave early? You could even
drive me home if you want. My house is four
miles from here. My mom works. You wouldn’t
want me to sit outside until ten would you?
I don’t know what to write my narrative on.
Maybe you could give me some ideas. Do you
like fish? I have tropical fish. I could write about that.
Have you ever been to a fish show? Bet you
didn’t even know there was such a thing.
I won first place in the last show. I set up
a great tank, and all of my fish have babies.
I like guppies best. I once had a mother
die in childbirth, but the baby lived. I still have him.
My fantails are beauties, and I have gouramis
and cichlids. My mom says they calm me down.
You probably want me to shut up and do homework,
write that narrative for your class. I already did my math.
I’m good at math. I’m not good at raising my hand
before I talk. This I know. I can do my timetables
up to fives. My math teacher taught me how to do them
on my knuckles. Do you want me to show you?
Nah, you probably want to grade papers
and ignore me. I get it. My mom does that too.
She turns the TV louder. You wouldn’t mind
taking me home would you? You could see my fish.
—from Rattle #74, Winter 2021
Maryfrances Wagner: “I did have Brandon (I changed his last name) in an English class I had many years ago, and when I was going through old journals I kept, I found the conversation I recorded when he did serve detention in my classroom after school, a way I tried to provide an extra opportunity for students to have another chance before they were suspended. That time I spent with him told me so much about him that I would have never known otherwise. It reminds me of how important it is not to judge before we know the whole story.”