CL Bledsoe

C L Bledsoe

The First Day

        My dad drops me off at the door and drives away. I wander into the first room. It's full of children I don't know. A woman yells at me to go to the office. It's hard to understand her but she repeats it.


        "I don't know where that is," I say.


        The other kids giggle. She snatches my arm and drags me down the hall and leaves me at a door. I knock and nothing happens. I knock again and someone laughs. I go inside and a woman at a desk tells me I'm late. She says I’m supposed to give her something and asks where my parents are, as though I'd stolen something. Then she sends me back to the first room.


        The woman there tells me to sit. She's calling names. The students answer when their name is called. She calls out,


        "Quat-knee Blas-saw."


        No one answers. She repeats it, then moves on. When she's finished, she asks if anyone's name wasn't called.  


        "Mine," I say.


        "Raise your hand when you ask a question and I'll call on you," she says.


        "I already asked it, though," I say. She stares at me until I slowly raise my hand.


        "What's your name?" she asks.


        "Cortney," I say. 


        "No," I say. "Bledsoe."


        "That's what I said," she says. The kids giggle and she shushes them.


        "No it isn't,” I say. “You said 'Blas-saw."


        She writes my name on the board and I think good, maybe she'll remember how to say it, now. She begins to tell us things I already know. When she asks questions, I say out the answers, but she scolds me. When I raise my hand, she doesn't call on me so I keep blurting out the answers. None of the other kids seem to know the answers, or maybe they're not paying attention. Later, she calls my name, and I don't answer again.


        "Don't you know your name?" she asks.


        "That's not my name," I say. "My name is Cortney, not Quat-knee."


        One of the other kids gasps. The woman grabs my arm and drags me out into the hall and hits me on the backside with a board. It doesn't hurt, but it surprises me. She tells me to stay out there to think about what I've done. I try to ask her what it was, but she doesn’t answer.


        A bell rings and kids stream past me. A girl says, “If you don’t even know your name, you shouldn’t be in school.”


        I stand in the hall until everyone leaves. The lights switch off, and I walk to the big, push-doors. Outside, kids stand. None of them talk to me. Cars pull up, and kids run and jump in. After they all leave, I start walking. My father passes, turns in at the school and drifts through the loop before pulling back out. He doesn't see me. I wave, but I don't yell because some of the kids might live near there, and I don't want them to see. He drives past. I walk faster and turn away from the road when anyone passes. I remember the way from the drive that morning.  It's not far.

CL Bledsoe is the author of two poetry collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem. A third collection, Riceland, is forthcoming later this year. A chapbook, Goodbye To Noise, is available online  at Right Hand Pointing A minichap, Texas, is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. His story, "Leaving the Garden," was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South's Million Writer's Award. He is an editor for Ghoti Magazine. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings.