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Attention Span
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“Pay attention.” The teacher’s voice is clipped and sharp. The students’ eyes are glazed. It’s near the end of the school day and all they want is out.

The teacher drones on. Some history thing, the girl thinks. She’s by the window, sees the leaves on the oak tree shift in the wind, a junco peck at the ground under the tree, and squirrel scamper up the trunk.

“Cassie.” The teacher again, glaring now. “What did I just say?”

Cassie has no idea and no way to fake an answer. She sits, silent.

“Pay attention.” The teacher broadens her gaze away from Cassie to take in the whole class. Continues to talk.

The squirrel must be in the tree, Cassie thinks. He’s nowhere to be seen. The junco has flown off, too. Only the leaves continue to flutter. The tree, anchored, isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Cassie. She feels for the tree, for herself.

The bell rings. The students pick up their things and head out the classroom door. The teacher stops Cassie. “I need you to pay attention in class. What’s the problem?”

Cassie would love to tell her the truth–you’re boring, history’s boring, school’s boring–but she says none of those things. She shrugs.

The teacher sighs. “Talk to me Cassie.”

The teacher’s pleading now, but that’s just step one. Cassie says nothing, knows how this conversation will go. First, plead. Next threaten.

“You’re going to have trouble passing your tests if you don’t pay attention, don’t listen, don’t study.”

Yes, there it is, the threat. The first threat. Cassie still says nothing, just stares at the teacher’s chin, something she does to avoid looking her in the eye. Waits for the next threat.

“I’m going to have to talk to your parents and the principal if your behavior doesn’t change.”

Yup. There’s threat number two. Cassie doesn’t care any more. Anything’s better than sitting in class day after day while someone drones on about some long-ago something that doesn’t mean anything anyway.

Cassie waits. The teacher will have to let her go sometime.

Another sigh. “Alright, you can go.”

Cassie walks out the door, doesn’t look back. Outside, the leaves still flutter on the tree and Cassie wonders if they’re bored, too.

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