So today, I’m late with the day’s short story, but that’s because I’ve been hanging at NPR.org. in their readings section. So much to read. Today’s short story is called The School by Donald Barthelme.
by Donald Barthelme
One day, we had a discussion in class. They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don’t know, I don’t know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life. Then they said, but isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of –
I said, yes, maybe.
They said, we don’t like it.
I said, that’s sound.
They said, it’s a bloody shame!
I said, it is.
They said, will you make love now with Helen (our teaching assistant) so that we can see how it is done? We know you like Helen.
I do like Helen but I said that I would not.
We’ve heard so much about it, they said, but we’ve never seen it.
I said I would be fired and that it was never, or almost never, done as a demonstration. Helen looked out the window.
They said, please, please make love with Helen, we require an assertion of value, we are frightened.
I said that they shouldn’t be frightened (although I am often frightened) and that there was value everywhere. Helen came and embraced me. I kissed her a few times on the brow. We held each other. The children were excited. Then there was a knock on the door, I opened the door, and the new gerbil walked in. The children cheered wildly.
Short Story Week Review
- Why did I choose this story? The quote above is the largest reason why I chose this story. The teacher in this story summarizes the things that happen in the year. All surrounding death or a similar ending, all of it going wrong, and once you read it, the thought is that these guys have bad karma, or something is wrong for it to go so wrong. But then at the end, this teacher is the figure of strength, and reason for the children. The one who must teach them that despite the terrible things, they must go on and keep facing the future. And of course never giving up, as the new gerbil they’re about to take care of, comes into their class. There was a lot of thought in this story, definitely a realistic view of life and the cycle it takes.