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By Tara Millette & Sam Allemang
I think, therefore I am.
More importantly, I think the classroom clock says 1:55, therefore I am about to enjoy the finest 20 minutes of my day: Recess! I throw on my doublet and cape, and join my playmates in the yard. Oui, a typical day at Glenwood Elementary!
Mais quoi?! Could it be? Brayden waves me over. “Yo, René! We’re playing Duck, Duck, Goose and Todd’s in detention. You in?” I leap at the chance. Brayden is the literal coolest and as a 17th-century philosopher currently enrolled in the first grade, I am rarely asked.
“You better know the rules,” he warns.
Not wanting to profess ignorance, I nod. I must impress Brayden; it is rumored he has touched a boob. I take my place and ferme ma bouche.
The game is afoot! Brayden rushes around the circle, tapping our heads, declaring each of us “Duck!” But… They are not ducks. They’re Cooper, Carly, Cady, and Cody. Ridicule!
And so, when Brayden taps me on the head and announces that I too am “Duck,” I am aghast. For, compare the Platonic form of Duck—a “bipedal creature with feathers,” as it were—with myself: a philosopher with musings on ‘Les Passions De L’Ame,’ an impressive pog collection, and a darling little mustache. How could I in any way be confused for a duck! Perhaps I should have joined Camus and Sartre behind the toolshed to sneak some Gauloises after all. This game is philosophically incoherent and—désolé, Brayden—downright absurd!
“A canard?! Moi?!” I bellow.
“It’s just a game, Descartes,” Brayden says. “Can’t you be cool for once?”
I am so embarrassed.
This is Brayden, after all. The Brayzinator. Le Prince du Playground. At 4’8”, he’s a giant. He has a grand countenance, an inquiring mind, and the absolute raddest Fortnite backpack. He touched Lisa P.’s boob and I have touched… rien. If I hope to ever play with the popular kids again, I must, as he says, “be cool.” He continues around the circle and persists in ontological error. Tyler? Duck! Tia? Duck! Tanner, Taylor, and Tyson? Duck, Duck, Duck! Truly, a taxonomic travesty!
Or is it? Brayden must know something I don’t—for would a layman be throwing a Go-Kart birthday party next month? Do the dopest tricks on his scooter? If Brayden thinks I’m a duck, therefore a duck I must be—cogito, ergo quack!
And so it is my philosophical duty to fully consider this thesis:
Were I a duck, I would no longer sup on the finest French cuisine at court with noblemen and buxom ladies—at whose boobs even the great Brayden would cower. Now, I will be lucky to be tossed stale breadcrumbs by bloated locals. Gee, thanks for the Wonder Bread, Vera! It’s fucking delicieux!!
And yet… would this new identity be so terrible? The gift of flight, for instance! How sweet to fly South and bid adieu to the chill of winter. And my tail feathers, oh how they wiggle! And when I dip my head down into the water and my derrière sticks up in the air, is that not the cutest? Mon dieu! I am such a silly duck!
I can see myself taking to the sky! I feel free! Brayden has no power up here. He can no longer laugh about when I peed myself during show-and-tell. We ducks pee where we want, when we want, with no taunting—only celebratory honks! For once in my life, all questions of philosophy and schoolyard hierarchy melt away! Liberté, I honk!
I think I’m happy, I think I’m complete, therefore I am happy, I am complete. I think “today is the first day of the rest of my life—my life as René Duckcartes,” and therefore it is.
Just then I feel Brayden’s light tap on my head.
“GOOSE!”Merde. The truth, she is fickle.