shaping tomorrow’s leaders.

in the morning i’m visiting a dairy farm, self-proclaimed as an udderly cool place, in canton, georgia, where, at the end of a one and half hour tour, i’ve been promised a free half pint of either whole or chocolate milk.

admittedly i could have left atlanta by now, venturing out to the interstate where, in all likelihood, i’d be able to fill up, but i was fearful my fate would parallel those we saw at a station where gasoline was expected soon. at nine pm, a man in line told us he’d been there since three because he had heard a rumor. it was a shanty town, with abadoned cars and feral dogs, small fires and hucksters selling panacea.

the reason for my delay in returning to charlotte, then, is that i’m spending time with two people i’ve known for over a decade and their son. during high school we spent most of our waking moments — and quite a few sleeping ones — together. this frequency continued with only a slight abatement through college. for graduate school, they moved to new york city, and i visited only occasionally on the way to and from my own form of higher education in vermont.

their son was born about twenty-five months ago. this is the second time i’ve seen him, the first being a year ago and, thankfully, his head no longer looks like an egg perched atop a toothpick. he speaks in this staccato french-sounding language (curl e na translated into english becomes squirrels eat nuts). since i’ve been here i’ve taught him a lot of important things. for instance, i taught him how to lick my big toe, though i could only get him to do that once. also, i showed him how much fun it is to put ice down someone’s shirt (well, until you get a handful in your diaper). he takes me outside to show me insects; i pick them up to show him their iridescent wings up close. i keep telling people that i’m not his parent and, therefore, i can’t be expected to stop him from pouring sand on a little girl after borrowing her pail at the park (yeah, he did that and it was so awesome my eyes welled up with pride). i’m only responsible for coming around every once in a while to show him cool things, guaranteeing his high school popularity.

after my morning tea finished steeping, i gave him the bag and showed him how he could swing it like a pendulum, and, if he wanted, hit people in the face. he ran around the house with it held as far in front of him as his arm could reach. later, when his father returned to the room, i told the boy (pictured here after scalping the family dog) to show him what he had learned. go teabag, daddy, i repeatedly called out to him, my little puppet pupil, excitedly.


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