He is the educator of the children.
The children are 9 to 11 years old. They have 48 arms and 47 usable legs, the discrepancy belonging to the right ankle of SaAnkhessa, who broke her foot when she jumped off a rock during Field Day — an event that none of her friends realized had happened (lots of people had already jumped off the rock without incident) until she came back school with a hot-pink cast, which everyone immediately signed.
Mr. Leonard and the children are ready, in ways that are similar and different — in ways that can be both compared and contrasted, to use a reading comprehension lesson — for summer vacation.
“Mr. Leonard,” Shoa says. Shoa is the first student to arrive, a buoyant fashion hound with springy red braids. “Mr. Leonard, did you know that Imani and I were the first people in your class to go on the new ride at Six Flags?”
“I did not!"
“We did. This weekend. The Apocalypse. It has real fire.”
They rode the Apocalypse, and then Shoa bought new sandals, sparkly silver jelly sandals, which would normally not be worn to class, but which are entirely appropriate for the last week of school.
Shoa understands a concept that is relatively advanced for her age and grade level. Shoa understands that school and summer are not discrete capsules of time. School and summer bleed into each other, overlap in a Venn diagram. Summer can actually start while school still persists. Shoa has already been to Six Flags. She has already put on the jelly sandals. She has already commenced outdoor swim practice every evening — a chlorinated, liberating experience that seems to mock the schoolwork she is still expected to do during the day.
Testing is over, grading is complete, but still the students must arrive at this school by 8:45 in the morning, not to be released until 3:15. The last week of school, and all of its attendant giddiness and sadness are the first experiences that children have with the concept that life may, in fact, be a novel written by Joseph Heller or Jean-Paul Sartre.
There is an exit. The exit will never come.
Mr. Leonard’s room, on the second floor of Shepherd Elementary School, is lined with computers and bookshelves. It smells like cinnamon-air-freshener trying to mask the smell of something else. It is stacked with cardboard boxes into which everything must be eventually be packed before everyone can eventually go home.