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& I’ve got this student, a nice kid, a big kid, a goofy linebacker kinda kid. Quick with a joke, slow with an answer, right? The kinda kid they make sports underdog movies about. One day, we had a substitute working with our class, a real hardass of a woman with something to prove, one of those subs that loves to get in the way of me doing my job, and she took to hassling this kid and he made the most heartbreaking appeal to me. He said, “Damn, Mr. Carpenter, get this military-ass lady away from me.”

It’s a daily challenge. Am I on the side of the kids or the grownups?

I told her I’d take care of the situation. She backed off.

This kid, like all of my students, has this freakish devotion to red hot Cheetos with the dayglo dye that stays on their fingertips for weeks at a time and stains the corners of our textbooks, the keys on our computers. So, naturally, they’re banned from the classroom, and naturally, the kids sneak them every chance they get. One day, this kid was just walking around the classroom, chowing down on a bag like he’d forgotten the ban.

So, I asked him, “Are you really eating Cheetos in here?”

He looked at me. He looked at the bag. He’d been caught thousand-sun-bright-red-handed. He looked back at me and said, “Nah, them’s grapes, Mr. Carpenter.”

Then he poured the remains of the bag into his enormous, stained paw, and shoved the whole bunch into his mouth before crumpling the bag and casually tossing it into a wastebasket.

Five years, maybe six. NFL draft. Mark my words.


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