is an online magazine of the literary arts.

2 June 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 2


In second grade I learned about abuse and the German language. The reason my parents sent me to Manchester Elementary on the North Side of Pittsburgh was so that their kleine madchen could take advantage of the early language program therein. "Guten Morgen, Frau Kranz," we would say every day before the Pledge of Allegiance. For one section of our daily academic work, we would learn words and a few phrases auf Deutsch.

On the bus ride home, we would exit the North Side, cross the bridge, swing through the West End Circle, and then work our way up the back of Mount Washington, which is distinctly divided into two regions: good and bad. I lived on the side nearest the city, closer to the shops, libraries, and stately homes that overlook the city. Toby, the third-grader who was always clenching his jaw and absently punching his nylon lunch bag lived on the other side.

His house had a wraparound porch that sagged on both ends. There was an upended bassinet that lived on the dirt lawn and his mother was always waiting in the doorway with a scowl when the bus dropped him off. Toby was excitable. He sat in front of me and sometimes made fun of me. There were lots of things to make fun of, really. For one, I picked my nose incessantly. For another, I