Commonplace (and Happy 4th of July)

“At exactly nine o’clock the bell rang and Ms. Schaefer stormed into the room. Disheveled and visibly nervous, she never bothered to introduce herself or say good morning. She wrote her name on the board in shaky, wavering strokes and took attendance. The class instantly interpreted her behavior as a display of lack of trust and concern. That day I learned my second ghetto lesson: never let on that you don’t trust someone. Even if that person has bad intentions toward you, he will take offense at your lack of trust.

Ms. Schaefer spat off the names like salted peanut shells.

‘Wardell Adams?’
‘Here.’
‘Varnell Alvarez.’
‘Aquí.’
‘Pellmell Atkinson?’
‘Presentemente.’
‘Praise-the-Lord Benson?’
‘Yupper.’
‘Lakeesha Caldwell?’
‘What?’
‘Ayesha Dunwiddy?’
‘Who wants to know?’
‘Chocolate Fondue Edgerton.’
‘That’s my name, ask me again and you’ll be walking with a cane.’
‘I don’t know how to pronounce the next one.’
‘You pronounce it like it sounds, bitch, Maritza Shakaleema Esperanza the goddess Tlazotéotl Eladio.’
‘So you’re here.’
‘Do crack pipes get hot?’”

—Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle (1996)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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