Allison Amend: “Dominion Over Every Erring Thing”

This short story is excerpted from Allison Amend’s first collection, Things That Pass for Love. To give credit where credit is due, I discovered her through the blog Andrew’s Book Club, which was a featured link in this month’s Practicing Writer e-newsletter. Here’s the opener:

I am teaching my fifth graders to add fractions when the body falls. Only one of the students looks up. I have placed Kendrick next to the window at a desk by himself, away from the table clusters because the previous Friday, as I walked by his desk, he said, audibly enough so that José, sitting closest to him, snickered: “I smell white pussy.”

Today he is ignoring his paper, purposely avoiding drawing in the bars that measure 1/5 and those that measure 2/5. I see the body fall out of the corner of my eye, and Kendrick stands up and shoves his head so far forward that I hear it hit the glass just after the body thumps to the ground.

“Oh my God,” I say. I go over to the window, and through the soiled glass I can see the body, toes up and eerily straight, in the dirt of the playground. In the background, two planes land and take off from the airport in symmetry.

“What?” Tisha wants to know.

“Nothing,” I say, and I hurriedly close the blinds. “It’s nothing.”

“Just another body,” Kendrick says.

“Kendrick,” I warn him.

There is a bored sigh, and then the class settles back into its worksheets. I stick my head out the door and ask the floater to watch the class.

“Come on.” I put my hand behind Kendrick’s head to steer him downstairs.

“What, what’d I do?”

“Nothing,” I say. “We’re just going to see Ms. Sabarowski.”

“Awwww,” Kendrick says. “Why? I didn’t do nothing.”

Ms. S is the guidance counselor. Her office is next to the overworked principal’s, and she has become the disciplinarian. Inside, Ms. S is standing at the window, watching the paramedics drive over the dirt field to the body, her hands on her broad hips.

“Another one,” Ms. S says without turning around.

“He fell feet first,” Kendrick says. “And no blood.”

Confused, I strafe my gaze from Kendrick to Ms. S and back again. I feel like there is a joke that I’m not getting.

Want to know what happens? How can you not? Read the whole story here.