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Doing Homework – Fragment #75

At first, she finds the social studies unit on the Salem Witch Trials fascinating. The idea of neighbours and friends turned against one another with a few seeds of misplaced words fascinates her. But then she reads about the various tests designed to reveal if a person was a witch. In one such test, accused witches were dragged to the lake, hands and feet bound before being thrown in. If they floated, they were guilty; if they sank, they were innocent. The person being tested had a rope tied around the waist should they need pulling from the water. Still, she reads in the notes, depending on a number of factors, including the victim’s standing in the community, sometimes the person drowned anyway.

She thinks, “You let someone drown because you don’t like them or they have more land than you do?” This is the world she has to live in – sure, it’s no longer 1692, but it occurs to her that attitudes haven’t changed much. The words float in her mind, weaving in and out of the cells of her grey matter. Her limbs become heavier and heavier – she drops the textbook on her desk, open still at the repugnant page. Her soul feels like it’s smothering her.

How does she tell her mother chopping vegetables and browning ground beef for “Seven Layer Casserole” that she’s experiencing a depressive episode because of her history homework? She sits very still, numbed by the thought of twenty people who failed to float away from such idiocy.

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