He is...a small broom. Swept slowly, without a sound. Turned like a page, skimmed briefly, and turned over quietly. For there are no words here, there are only lines. Long, black lines mostly. Some difference in color, thickness, length, direction, but no matter. These are not words, this boy is merely a series of lines. We do not have time to understand what we see. Leave him alone.

He is five years old, or six, or seven and a half. It is mostly the same. The differences measured in a few sparse inches of height, or the length of his thin, brown, Asian bowl-style haircut. He is walking to school, early, very early. Before the rest of the boys are even awake, he thinks. He is thinking about the trip to the library he makes every day at 11:00. While the other people in his class learn about spelling and vocabulary words. The teacher always lets him go - he doesn't need to stay for this part of the day. He is thinking about which book he should read. Whether he should read one of his favorites again, or keep reading through the books made for the bigger kids. This can be hard for him though, sometimes. He doesn't like to start a book if he can't finish it by lunchtime.

He is not thinking about lunch though, or recess, or TV tonight, or God, or girls. Well, not thinking about most girls. He is thinking about his teacher, a little. But she's not a girl, not in the same way. She's not loud or mean or laughing like most of the girls are. She's a woman. Even he knew that difference. His teacher would be mean with him too, sometimes. She would yell at him sometimes. But it was for different reasons, and it was in a different way. And no matter what, she would always hold his hand to go to the bathroom after lunch. Every day. Every time. No matter how mad at him she was, walking with him like that meant a lot to him. He would always look up at her while they were walking, like he was trying to forgive her. She would never look back.

But that was all still to come. Now the sun was barely even awake enough to make sure he got along okay. Now was still crisp and crunchy steps and autumn and I can make smoke out of my breath like the way dad does when he smokes his cigarettes. Now is the time to stop, at least for a little while, and play in the piles of leaves. They would be on front lawns, or in gutters, or just sitting right there in the streets, waiting. Wherever he could find them in the three blocks between his house and the school. Sometimes it would be diving into them, sometimes rolling around, sometimes on his knees, splashing them up and around him like he was in a fountain.

It was a lot better than when he had to walk home in the afternoons. Through the same streets, through the same piles of leaves he'd left in the morning. The boys would all be going home at the same time he was, not like in the morning. They would tackle him in those leaves. They would smear them in his face, crown them on his head like thorns. It was better to get the autumn on his clothes and in his hair when he could do it himself. He knew his mother was going to spank him when he got home for coming home so damn dirty either way. So, he might as well start his day with joy. Before he has to be around anyone else, before he has to be anything but himself. He can even hope, if he wants to.

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