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Sep 142010
 

by Richard Fein


I winced, we all did. Conner as usual was a jerk.

The girl next to me called him insensitive and stupid.

Back then insensitive was a girlie word to us high school boys,

but we all knew stupid.

Mr Drix had been droning on about transcendental numbers,

something about the log of e to an infinite power,

an exponent, a function, an equality none of us really understood.

Then Drix digressed. His eyes drifted from blackboard to sunlit window.

Our teacher went on

Okinawa, WWII, 19 year old marine,

that rifle shot, that other one falling probably also 19,

that nip, gook, Jap, (those were my teacher’s words)

how he spit blood, how he called out in incomprehensible Japanese,

how he grabbed his bleeding belly, how he shook

how Mr Drix squeezed the trigger again.

And then our teacher asked of himself of all of us,

why that second shot? why that first one?  was it right? was it wrong? yes? no? true? false?

There was no maybe, no sometimes, no answer in between,

for the equation reduces to either life or death, true or false, right or wrong.

It’s that simple, life’s a series of binary algorithms.

Then he was silent, then all of us were, dead silent.

Until Conner blabbered one of his usual stupid questions

“Will it be on the test?”