Volume 14 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2022-2023

Michael Cocchiarale

True Story

A spring thunderstorm, strident but passing quickly. Typical Florida. Around recess, the sun began to prance, so Mr. Smith, Teacher of the Year, brought students outside. Smiled while they swung. Skipped rope. His knees buckled, though, when he spied Taylor Brights reading a book. Thankfully, upon inspection, he found it history-free.

Suddenly, Alex Jolly jabbed at the sky, crying, “Rainbow, rainbow!”

Sure enough, there were two rainbows! “Kids, kids!” Smith sang. Children danced. Laughed. Held hands.

Next day, the principal informed Smith: “There have been complaints.”

“But I’ve been so careful!”

“Rainbows. According to the charge, you told them to look.”

Therefore, an emergency school board meeting was called.

In his defense, Smith said, “The rainbows were not stickers. Not flags. Just nature doing its lovely thing.”

A concerned mother said, “They always say ‘it’s natural’ when it’s really a lifestyle choice that’s all in-your-face.”

A school board member said, “In fairness, according to reliable reports, the rainbows were not close to touching.”

Jeers. An especially concerned mother countered, “That’s just how they behave in public!”

“Boys must be boys,” an extremely concerned mother cried. “And girls girls!”

Chaos ensued. Words fired in no coherent order: “Constitution,” they shouted. “Bible,” “Family,” “Guns,” and “Woke.” Finally, the most concerned mother of all growled, “Groomer,” which proved the coup de grace.

The vote was 8-1 to terminate. The board president explained, “The rainbows were there, but, like porn on a computer, it was morally irresponsible to apprise impressionable children of the fact.”

Next day, a group of open-carry fathers crashed Smith’s things against his door. On top of one box sat a monochrome card from the kids. Smith swallowed hard. Sobbed. Inside, it read, “learn” and “from” and “this.” Except for a few signatures, all other words had been thoroughly redacted.

Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections—Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, South Florida Poetry Review, The Wild Word, and Sleet Magazine.