“School Bags”

They were selected for practicality, not color, or brand or cool factor. They were selected for practicality, nothing else, because they could hold foreign grammar, dead dictator’s speeches, photosynthesis simplified, pi and lunch. They held everything; bulky books and lunch boxes neatly organized with parental love and sweaty cheese sandwiches. Colorful travel cups too; filled to the ill-fitting brim with milk by mother dear, gone sour by the 4th period after French. By the 7th hour, the curdled lumps glued together the pages of a handwritten paper on seals of the North Sea.

They held papers; pristine, folded, crumbled, hidden, torn or stained with red lines, stripes, crosses and circles, they carried them regardless of the hurriedly scribbled grades, high or low, notes and question marks in the margins. The cheat sheets, the sick note, the anonymous Valentine card, detention rules, the report cards. They were stretched at the seams, but held the rubble of crushed gum balls, spilled ink and the well-intended, worn just once, knitted scarf, that rock star’s photo, the moldy gym clothes, the broken friendship bracelets.

They bounced hard against narrow, sweaty backs. They lost the padding in their straps and cut into the shoulders they clung onto. Bags and backs were crushed alike between stone walls and the endless stream of bigger bodies on the staircases. Coat hooks and door handles tore into the taunted canvas in hallways clogged with teenage laughter. They were dropped onto the wet chlorinated floors of deserted bathrooms, they were cried on, and wiped clean from dollops of stark white whipped cream and paper spitballs, so well-aimed, so wet and sticky with saliva.

Nobody really expected them to last the full six years in there, in that learning factory. Zippers gave in, bottoms gave out. They were frayed at the edges, too stained, too foul smelling when they were replaced by bags selected for their color, their brand, their shape. Make no mistake about it, they too were dropped on wet floors, ripped and kicked around because the right amount of stains adds the cool factor. But they weren’t snatched away and tossed in trash bins, nobody tried to flush them down the toilet, or throw them down the stairs. And most of them did make it out.

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About Lilian D. Vercauteren

Lilian D. Vercauteren was born and raised in the Netherlands, but felt since a young age drawn to America's wide open spaces. At age 22 she came to Michigan ("for a year or so") and ten years later she lives, works and writes in Tucson, Arizona. She has studied at the Writers Studio, and has had her work published by the Lowestoft Chronicle, The Missing Slate and forthcoming from After The Pause. She is currently working on her first novel which is about pie and a sharp-witted Dutchman.