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What should be - an excerpt from The Ordinary Monster

“Here,” she said handing him a sheet of paper.

“What’s this?”

“That’s your vocabulary list for today.”

“Oh, man,” Junior replied with a shake of his head and exaggerated shrugs.

“Don’t you roll your eyes at me, young man,” Emma responded with a shake of her head. “Vocabulary is an important part of reading.”

“Why do I need to know all these words?” the boy protested.

“If you don’t know what something means you are gonna forever be asking. Every time you ask me what something means in English, that’s vocabulary; just like every time I ask you to tell me how to say something in Spanish. It’s important if you wanna be able to talk to someone, right?”

“I guess, but. . . “

“Ain’t no butts in this house.”

“But I don’t want to . . .”

“‘Don’t want to?’ ‘Don’t want to?’ Boy, there are many a day that I ‘don’t want to’ but I do it anyway. You gotta do what you gotta do no matter the ‘don’t want to.’ Life is what happens when you ‘don’t want to’. But I guess if ‘Our Lord and Savior’ ‘don’t want to’ . . .”

“Why do you keep calling me that?”

“What? ‘Our Lord and Savior’?”

“Yeah. I ain’t nobody’s savior. I hate that.”

“You hate your own name? Child, I didn’t name you.”

“Can we just . . .”

“Just what? Do what we ‘don’t want to’?”

“Why do I gotta do this today?”

“What’s wrong with today?”

“Nothing. It’s, well, it’s just not fair! This ain’t how it should be!”

The old woman looked over to the boy seated in front of her, took a deep breath, then said, “Child, whoever tole you life was ‘fair’? God don’t give one whit whether life is ‘fair’. It is what it is, and you best be learnin’ to deal with the ‘what is’ if you ever wanna get to the ‘what should be’.

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