Before he was pulled over, Philando Castile worked in the cafeteria of an elementary school. Imagine with me all manner of child: their voices ringing off the tile floors, chewing with their mouths open, small shoes shuffling along in the line where the workers stand behind slanted glass. Imagine small cartons of milk. Plastic trays with square compartments for circular food. Small hands hold the corners of the trays. Some of the kids are scared and nervous this first day of school so a man at the end of the line gives them graham crackers and little goldfish. By all accounts I could find he was a fine man. In a few hours he will be shot in a car and all of us will see what happens next, but for now let us imagine him smiling and hugging the small children, saying “Here now, kids, eat all your food, so you can grow up to be big and strong.
Paul Crenshaw teaches literature and creative writing at Elon University. His work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Pushcart, Quarterly West, and elsewhere.