“Ditto goes to school” (XXIV)


Hello, said Ms. Johnson, my name is Ms. Johnson. Hello, said Virginia, my name is Virginia. Now that Virginia is with us, said Ms. Johnson, we’ll go back to the beginning and start our book again. Is that o.k., Ditto? Of course, said Ditto, I loved the beginning. Very well, said Ms. Johnson, the first page of The Children’s Story says:

The teacher was afraid. And the children were afraid. All except Johnny. He watched the classroom door with hate. He felt the hatred deep within his stomach. It gave him strength. It was two minutes to nine.

That’s a strange beginning, said Virginia, it doesn’t even say “once upon a time.” No, it doesn’t, said Ms. Johnson. Why not? said Virginia. Because the story, said Ms. Johnson, doesn’t begin at the beginning. Why not? said Virginia. That’s a good question, said Ms. Johnson, what do you think? I don’t know, said Virginia. I think, said Ditto, that the author doesn’t want us to know the beginning. Why not? Because, said Ditto, if he doesn’t tell us the beginning we have to guess, and to guess we have to pay attention to the middle. Very good! said Ms. Johnson.

Like a riddle? said Virginia. Yes, said Ms. Johnson. Or a game of twenty questions? said Virginia. Yes, said Ms. Johnson, except that we’re never sure of the answer. Why not? said Virginia. Because, said Ms. Johnson, the author never tells us the beginning, even when the story is over. So how can we be sure of anything? said Virginia. We can’t, said Ms. Johnson. I don’t like that, said Virginia. Why not? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, I like to be sure.

Why do you like to be sure? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, if I’m sure of something I can tell if it’s right or wrong. How much information do you need, said Ms. Johnson, to be sure? All of it, said Virginia. All of it? said Ms. Johnson, is that possible? No, said Ditto, it’s impossible to know everything. So how can we be sure? said Ms. Johnson. We can’t, said Ditto, not completely. But we make judgments every day, said Ms. Johnson, and act on those judgments. Yes, said Ditto, but we can’t be sure those judgments are right. But lots of people, said Virginia, are sure they’re right. Yes they are, said Ms. Johnson. Maybe, said Ditto, they should read this book. Yes, said Ms. Johnson, maybe they should.