Is life really a matter of choice or chance? I thought about it on the ride here in my mom’s raggedy Chevy truck. Usually, I walk with my brother, but she doesn’t want her “little superstar” missing class. Mama Dukes wants me to keep my attendance streak. I only missed one day of school my entire life and that was whole a year ago. So, my attendance record is basically perfect. Did you want me to spell it out for you? P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Perfect. Just like me. Tiffany.
If I don’t miss another day for the rest of the year, I’m going down in Highbridge middle school history. I’ll have the best attendance record in the entire grade. Do you know what that means? Double chocolate chip brownie ice cream. (Beat.) With the sprinkles. My mom promised me and we never have ice cream at home.
Principal Smith even showed me the attendance records in his fancy office. The entire school is rooting for me. My classmates, my teachers, the cranky lunch ladies. Even the janitor. And he doesn’t say a word to anybody. I know. I know. I’m cool like that.
But school is for noobs. We don’t do anything besides sit in a wooden desk, look at the clock, and stay trapped in a classroom. It’s like jail. There’s no adventure. Look, anybody can go to school and sit in a chair. But, my favorite part about the school day is the walk there.
Me and my brother JJ always walked to school together. We would do all kinds of shenanigans. We’d play punch buggy. I’d never see any of the cars he would see. They were like invisible cars or something. Then, boom boom! I’d have these two big ol’ plums on my shoulders from him nailing me. And we would race to school every day. Listen, I only lost because I always jump over the little cracks. I didn’t want my mom to break her back. Obviously. But JJ would always step all over them. He was always in a rush to get me there.
After he’d drop me off, he’d go to work. I thought being in middle school would be rough. JJ worked way harder than me having a real job— And he’s only five years older than me. Sometimes, he even works overtime. In the middle of the night, JJ comes home looking like he ran the mile. 1000 times. My mom was always so hard on him for working so much but he’d always said (older brother voice) “I’m tryna live the good life, Ma.” One morning, we were playing punch buggy and I asked him if I could I live the good life too. (Older brother voice) “How you gonna live the good life being in the desk the whole day?”
For the first time ever, I decided to play little hooky. Look, it was just for one day. I kept my eyes on the prize and followed him like a secret spy. It didn’t even matter that I was stepping on the cracks. I didn’t see an office building, though. We were heading to the wrong side of the tracks. All I could see was he was talking to these group of guys and—and— Pow. It wasn’t his fault. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Is life really a matter of choice or chance? I don’t know. But I haven’t missed a day since. (Beat.) Oh no!
(Tiffany rushes to put her backpack on.)
No! No! No! I get to class on time! I’ll see you next time, Doc.
Devin Porter is a New York based playwright who uses writing to grant voice to the ones who aren’t heard. Devin is pursuing his MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University. His work can be found on New Play Exchange (NPX).