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“Let us all pretend that our lives are a very long book. A story.”

He had them. The complete and malleable attention of every single one of them. Timing and delivery were everything but his gender and height certainly added some gravitas.

”You each have a different story to live. Many parts you know ahead of time… the parts where you’ll eat or sleep or brush your teeth.”

It was so easy to lose them at this point without the right transition.

“But what about the unknown parts? The surprises!”

They always perked up at that word no matter the size of the audience. He took a deep breath as if it took courage to go on. Their pupils were dilating. He had them in the palm of his hand.

“Where will you be in the future? What kind of house will you buy? Who will you allow to live with you? What will scare you the most?”

These were not easy questions for them to answer. He tugged in a practiced way at the full windsor knot of his tie. He shook his head slowly as if he too shared their doubts. First days made it so easy and the older he got the more seriously they took him. He allowed them to stare at his back for just a moment more before spinning about-face with such speed as to make his short jacket tails audibly smack his thigh. Then an arch of the eyebrows with a little more prominence given to the chest.

“But you all know how this story ends! Whether you are a long book or a medium book or the slimmest of selections… All. Our. Tales. End. The. Same. Way.”

Some comprehend immediately. Their faces such bright skies quickly clouded over. Most wait for the explanation. He looks each and every one of them in the eye before answering in a slow, hushed tone:

“We die.”

The bell rings and they scatter for recess. That beautiful tension released like opening a pressure valve.

It was this speech alone that kept him coming back as a substitute kindergarten teacher. That, and the novelty of never having worked in the same school twice.