Copyright is held by the author.
THE BIGGER boys sniff the air, lips curling.
“Airwick’s here, people, time to smell the shit.”
Giggles bubble up as the Grade 8s jostle toward the windows of the two-room schoolhouse on the rural concession road. Until:
“Take your seats!”
He clumps in and sits behind me. Tall, loosely put-together, hands red and raw, too big for the ends of his wrists. A farmer’s son whose task this and every other morning is to tend the milkers and clean the barn before taking off to school any way he can get here.
Never quite gets all the manure off his boots. We watch him through the classroom window, scraping, wiping, trying so hard before coming in. But some residue always sticks. He never acknowledges, or challenges, being nicknamed for a room deodorizer. He knows why. Accepts it as his due. Takes it. The price of learning. Maybe one day to know enough to be able to get off the farm?
I turn in my seat, look back at him. His huge, dark, wet eyes hold my gaze, waiting.
I say, “Hi, Wayne.”
Rhymes with “pain.”