Creative Nonfiction/Flash: Some Things Your Third Grader Needs to Know by Michelle Ross

1. The point where two line segments meet in a polygon is called a vertex.
2. If he’s a boy who is colorblind, he may get corrected by his peers when he inadvertently chooses purple, the girl color, over blue, the boy color.
3. Grouping things that have much in common is called classifying. Classifying helps us understand things and their relationships to each other.
4. If he’s a boy who wears his hair long, adults may assume he’s a girl, no matter how stereotypically boyish his clothes, no matter that he has chosen blue over purple. Some will call him “little lady.”
5. In 1619, shiploads of women began to arrive in Chesapeake Bay. For the price of 120 pounds of tobacco, a colonial man could purchase one of these women and make her his wife.
6. If he’s a boy whom adults mistake for a girl, grown men will block his entrance to the men’s restroom.
7. Amphibians live part of their lives in water and part on land.
8. If he attempts to explain to these men that he’s a boy, they may not listen. They may say, “This is the men’s restroom.” They may point and say, “There’s the girl’s restroom.” They won’t call it the women’s restroom.
9. The ear’s cochlea is filled with liquid, which vibrates as sound enters.
10. If he manages to walk into the men’s restroom without being directed to leave, men will glance down at him as he uses the urinal.
11. The word “pelvis” comes from the Latin word for “basin.” Look at a skeleton, and one can see why the pelvis is thus named. The bones of the pelvis make a shape like a bowl.
12. If men stare at him while he pees, it’s because they’re checking his credentials.
13. “Clean bill of health” is an idiom people use to mean that something is in good shape.
14. What these men are so worked up about, why they won’t listen to him, why they think they know better than he does what he is and where he belongs is more difficult to explain.
15. One of the more famous Expressionist paintings is Edward Munch’s The Scream. Most people focus on the face of the figure in the painting—that open mouth, hands over his hears. They think the scream comes from him. But notice the wavy lines and strange colors of the sky. Munch’s explanation: he was walking along one day when suddenly he felt that the whole world was screaming. I bet your third grader understands Munch putting his hands over his ears to block out the sound.

*Inspired by What Your Third Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Third-Grade Education, edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, The Pinch, Wigleaf, and other venues. Her work has been selected for Best Microfictions 2020 and the Wigleaf Top 50 2019, as well as been a finalist for Best of the Net 2019 and the Lascaux Prize in short fiction and flash fiction, among other awards. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review.

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