In honor of National Short Story Month, we will be posting some of the stories from the first Along the River anthology.
Up first is “First Day” by Daniel Tyx, which won second prize.
The panic began creeping into my body from the moment I pulled into the gravel parking lot at Josephina Aguilar Elementary School. Mr. Hernández, the head janitor, was out in a reflective orange vest directing the swarm of pick-ups and 70’s-era gas-guzzlers, herding the students into the gym that served as a holding pen until the day officially began. The school buses pulled around back, discharging dozens more students. As I waded through the crush of students into the still-empty hallways, I felt a tension branch up through my chest cavity, into my deltoids and neck, spreading outward until it had reached my hands, which I held clenched to try and make the shaking go away.
I waited, cocooned in the safety of my classroom, for 7:45 to arrive. I set out the name tents that I’d labored to write in my best cursive; I hadn’t written in cursive since junior high school, but I wanted to set a good example. When that was done, I adjusted and readjusted the desks to make sure the horseshoe was perfectly symmetrical. I was so occupied by keeping myself busy that I showed up a minute-and-a-half late to the gym. The other classes were already walking single-file down the hallway in my direction in total silence. Every student had their hands locked behind their backs like shackled inmates; later I would learn they were trained to walk that way since kindergarten to keep them from pushing and shoving in line.