The Flat Earth


Love is like an orange. The world is flat. The globe in the classroom is wrong.


Hugh has hands like flying saucers. The boys and girls in the third grade sit in rows and do not speak. Matthew raises his hand. May I be excused, Matthew asks. Yes, Hugh says. Hugh is sitting on his desk and swinging his legs.

Girls in fourth grade have yellow skin, Mark says when Matthew walks into the bathroom. Mark looks at Matthew. Matthew is small and has tiny arms. Who are you, Mark asks. I am Matthew, Matthew says. Give me a dollar Matthew. Ok, Matthew says.

In the classroom, Hugh laughs. The walls in the school are thin. It used to be a school for little nuns. The boys in the bathroom can hear Hugh laugh. That is my teacher, Matthew says. I know, Mark says. Now give me a dollar. Ok, Matthew says. Matthew hopes his family will move to the castle in England. That is where Mr. Clayton says they will go if life continues to be so damn hard in the mine.

Matthew goes back to the classroom and sits down. Hugh laughs again. His laugh sounds like a man screaming inside an empty water well. I have an empty water well in my backyard, Stacey says. Really, Hugh asks. How big is it. I don’t know, Stacey says. My brother fell into it last winter and Mr. Clayton said that it was too deep to get him out. Oh, Hugh says.


Mrs. Clayton cries in the kitchen. Why does she cry, Stacey asks Matthew. Because she is sad, Matthew says. Why is she sad? Because we can’t move to England because life is not too hard because Mr. Clayton can still work in the mine.

Mr. Clayton drinks whiskey and falls asleep in the chair in the living room. The man on the television says things like: people die in car bomb; tornado takes down Lutheran Church; famous man who played a horn dies in his sleep. Matthew plays with his trucks on the rug. The red truck is bigger than the blue truck. Aren’t you too old to play with trucks, Mrs. Clayton asks. She stands behind Matthew. She rubs her hands together. She is not crying now. Her face has hardened and it looks like a cement rock.

Mr. Clayton snores in his chair. His left leg twitches. His neck is going to hurt in the morning, Mrs. Clayton thinks. She walks into the kitchen and lights a cigarette. My boy is going to turn into a boy who likes to get caught in bathrooms, she thinks and sighs. She decides to smoke two cigarettes.


Where is the dollar for milk, Stacey asks Matthew. I spent it, Matthew says. But I am thirsty, Stacey says. Go get your own milk, Matthew says and walks away. Matthew has a red mark on his neck. The mark looks like a coal miner’s hand.

The principle sees Matthew in the hallway. Did somebody hit you on the neck, the principle asks. The principle wears glasses and a wool suit. The principle cleans his glasses. His shoes are black and polished.

Mind your own business, Matthew says. I am calling Mrs. Clayton, the principle says. Go to hell, Matthew says and smiles. Matthew knows that hell is a place that is hot and on fire. The men in hell carry pitch forks and pinch one another. The men in hell scream and say, “Why me?” God laughs at the men in hell. He should really go to hell, Matthew thinks.


Mrs. Clayton knocks on the classroom door. Is Matthew here, she asks. She has a flowered skirt on and she has red marks on her neck that look like coal miner hands. Did somebody hit you, Hugh asks. Where is Matthew, Mrs. Clayton asks.


Why aren’t there women in hell, Matthew asks Hugh later. Because women are in heaven, Hugh says.


Matthew told the principle to go to hell, Mrs. Clayton says to Mr. Clayton. Mr. Clayton shakes his head and walks into the basement. He is going to get the sticks Matthew, Mrs. Clayton says. She walks into the kitchen and stares out the window. There is one tree in the yard and the one tree has white flowers on it. There is a well next to the tree. The well has not had water for many years.

Mr. Clayton returns from the basement. Matthew is moving to England, Mr. Clayton says to Stacey and Mrs. Clayton. I am moving to England, Matthew thinks. He follows Mr. Clayton into the basement. Help me tie this rope to that beam Matthew, Mr. Clayton says. Ok, Matthew says. Matthew and Mr. Clayton tie the rope to the beam. Put this around your neck, Mr. Clayton says. Now climb to the top of the stairs and jump. Is this a game, Matthew asks. Yes, Mr. Clayton says.

Matthew jumps. Love is like an orange. The world is really flat. Hugh throws the globe out the window and smiles. The principle cleans his glasses and smiles.


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