“Ditto goes to school” (XXIX)

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Shall we read page four? said Ms. Johnson. Oh yes, said Virginia, page three was very interesting! Alright, said Ms. Johnson, page four:

The sound of footsteps approached and then stopped. The door opened.

That’s all? said Virginia, that’s a very short page. Yes, it is, said Ms. Johnson. Who’s at the door? said Virginia. We don’t know, said Ms. Johnson. It’s probably “they,” said Ditto. “They”? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, the ones making the teacher and children afraid. The bad guys, said Virginia. Why do you think they’re bad? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, they conquered the teacher and children and Johnny’s father.

What does conquer mean? said Ms. Johnson. It means to take over, said Virginia. Yes, said Ditto, to take control. Did the teacher and children have control before? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Virginia. How did they get it? said Ms. Johnson. They took it from someone else, said Ditto. How? said Ms. Johnson. By being stronger, said Ditto. So the teachers and children are conquerors too? Yes, said Virginia. Are they bad? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Virginia. Why not? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, the teacher and children are nice. Why? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, we know them. But we don’t know the new conquerors? No, said Virginia.

Do you think we might like the new conquerors if we knew them? We might, said Virginia, like me and Ditto. You and Ditto? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Virginia, when Ditto came to school no one talked to him because he was different, but when I saw him eating alone, and went to talk to him, I liked him better than anyone else. What made you like him? said Ms. Johnson. He offered me a sandwich, said Virginia, even though he only had one. Was he trying to buy your friendship? said Ms. Johnson. I don’t think so, said Virginia. Were you? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto, I wanted to thank her. Thank her? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, because I didn’t want to be alone.

You don’t like to be alone? said Ms. Johnson. Sometimes, said Ditto, but it’s more fun to be with someone you like because you can tell them what you’ve been doing, and hear what they’ve been doing, and you’re not as frightened because there are two of you. But the teacher and students are frightened, said Ms. Johnson, and they’re not alone. That’s because they don’t know who’s at the door, said Virginia.

Who do you think it is? said Ms. Johnson. Someone bad, said Virginia. Like who, said Ms. Johnson. Maybe the king of the unknown, said Ditto. Or someone with a hay sandwich? said Ms. Johnson. A hay sandwich? said Virginia. Yes, said Ms. Johnson. Or a bale of hay? said Ditto. Yes! said Virginia, a bale of hay! And the children could throw it on the floor, and roll around, and Ditto could eat as much hay as he wanted! Ditto? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Virginia. Ditto’s not in the story, said Ms. Johnson. Oh yeah, said Virginia. Yes I am, said Ditto. What do you mean? said Ms. Johnson. I’m in the story, said Ditto, by listening. What? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, if I weren’t listening, or Virginia wasn’t listening, or you weren’t reading, it wouldn’t be a story. It wouldn’t? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto, it would be something that no one noticed, and the story wouldn’t exist. It would not exist? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto, because a story is a conversation. A conversation? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, between a reader and writer. Is everything that exists, said Ms. Johnson, a conversation? I don’t know, said Ditto, it might be.

“Blurtso looks at the grass” (II)

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If a single blade of grass exists only as a part of the pattern called grass, and the pattern called grass exists only as a part of the pattern called the world, and the pattern called the world exists only as a part of the pattern called the universe, then everything that exists exists only as pattern, and it is impossible to speak of grass, or pumpkin pies, or “Blurtso”, without speaking of the universe.

“Ditto goes to school” (XXVIII)

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Do you think we’re dumb? said Virginia. Dumb? said Ditto. Yes, said Virginia, because we’re in the class for failures. But you failed on purpose, said Ditto. Yes, said Virginia, but maybe I’m too dumb to find the regular class interesting. I’m not dumb, said Ditto, and I don’t find the regular class interesting. Then why did you fail the Benchmark? My mother, said Ditto, says I failed because donkeys have a different way of understanding. A different way? said Virginia. Yes, said Ditto, we’re donkeycentric. Donkeycentric? said Virginia. Yes, said Ditto, we understand things based on our experience as donkeys.

Is Ms. Johnson donkeycentric? said Virginia. Partly, said Ditto, she’s multicentric. Multicentric? said Virginia. Yes, said Ditto, she understands things from multiple perspectives. How can she do that? said Virginia. She’s not bound by any limits, said Ditto, and her center is everywhere.

“Ditto goes to school” (XXVII)

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I’m going to say two words, said the schoolmarm, tell me which begins with “eh.” Listen carefully: egg, pan. Which word begins with “eh”? Egg begins with “eh.” Now, I’m going to say two more words. Tell me which begins with “h”… I wonder, thought Virginia, what Ditto is thinking? It looks like he’s paying attention. I never realized how boring this class was until I got put in intervention. We never say what we think. We just repeat. I wonder if the schoolmarm likes what she does? I guess grown-ups don’t get bored as easy as kids.

“Ditto goes to school” (XXVI)

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Shall we read page three of The Children’s Story? said Ms. Johnson. Oh yes, said Virginia, I want to know why the teacher and children are afraid. Very well, said Ms. Johnson, page three says:

The children rustled, watching the teacher, wondering what possessed her… Johnny looked away from the door and watched with the other children. He did not understand anything except that the teacher was afraid, and because she was afraid she was making them all worse and he wanted to shout that there was no need to fear. “Just because they’ve conquered us there’s no need for panic-fear,” Dad had said. “Don’t be afraid, Johnny. If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive.”

We still don’t know why they’re afraid, said Virginia. No, we don’t, said Ms. Johnson. I don’t like to be afraid, said Virginia. Neither do I, said Ditto. Maybe that’s why Johnny has so much hate, said Virginia. Why? said Ms. Johnson. Because he doesn’t like to be afraid, and he’s angry at the person who’s making him afraid. Are we sure it’s a person? said Ms. Johnson. It says “they” conquered, said Virginia.

Who are they? said Ms. Johnson. I don’t know, said Virginia, but they must be bad if they conquered. Is conquering bad? said Ms. Johnson. That depends if you’re a conquer or a conquered, said Virginia. A “conqueror,” said Ms. Johnson. “They” could be another kind of animal, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Any kind of animal that’s different from them, said Ditto, like a herd of rhinoceri. “Rhinoceroses,” said Ms. Johnson. Or a swarm of bees, said Ditto, or a school of piranhas. What’s a piranha? said Virginia. A piranha, said Ms. Johnson, is a freshwater fish with an insatiable appetite for meat. Insatiable? said Virginia. Impossible to satisfy, said Ms. Johnson. Oh, said Virginia.

Why don’t you like to be afraid? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But something good might happen, said Ms. Johnson. But it might not, said Virginia. We fear the unknown, said Ditto, like Hamlet. Hamlet? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, my parents and their friend Blurtso staged a play called “Hamlet” last year. What does Hamlet say? said Ms. Johnson. He says, said Ditto, that he would rather stay with something familiar that doesn’t make him happy than take his chances with something unfamiliar. Something unfamiliar? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Like death, said Ditto. Are you afraid of death? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. And you, Virginia? Yes, said Virginia.

Do you think Johnny is afraid of death in the story? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, or something worse. What’s worse than death? said Ms. Johnson. No one can say, said Ditto, until they know what death is. So it might not be bad? said Ms. Johnson. It might not, said Ditto, but we don’t know, so we create nightmares to fill the unknown. Is that what Johnny’s dad is telling us, said Ms. Johnson, when he says, “If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive”? Yes, said Ditto.

Have you ever heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto. He was a president of the United States who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What does that mean? said Virginia. It means, said Ditto, that the worst thing to do is be afraid. Why? said Virginia. Because when you’re afraid, said Ditto, you’ll do anything to stop being afraid. Do you think it’s easy, said Ms. Johnson, to frighten people into doing what you want them to do? Yes, said Ditto, all you have to do is convince them something unknown will happen if they don’t.

“Blurtso listens to the birds” (II)

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The chickadees are in full throat today, said Blurtso. No, said Pablo, those are blackbirds you hear. Really? said Blurtso. Well… how about that one… now that was a chickadee! No, said Pablo, that was a kingfisher. Really, said Blurtso, a kingfisher? Wow… it sure sounded like a chickadee… hold it… hold it…how about that one… now that was a chickadee! No, said Pablo, that was a red-tailed hawk. A red-tailed hawk? said Blurtso. Hmm, he must have been imitating a chickadee… hold it… hold it… how about that one! That was the most unmistakable chickadee I’ve ever heard! No, said Pablo, that was a duck. Remarkable, said Blurtso. What about that, was that a kingfisher? No, said Pablo. A blackbird? No, said Pablo. A red-tailed hawk? No, said Pablo. A duck? No, said Pablo. A chickadee? No, said Pablo. I give up, said Blurtso, what was it? That, said Pablo, was my stomach growling.