Ira Sukrungruang, Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing and English Department Professor, has published a fiction piece, “Poor People Disappear” in The Rumpus. You can read this in its entirety in the Rumpus Original Fiction section.
This is the third day, and there are more empty seats. The spread of sickness is to be expected at the beginning of every quarter. Children, after all, are the ultimate carriers of germs. They touch what others touch, they lick whatever others lick, and they never wash their hands, no matter what the teacher tells them. The springtime will breed lice, and there will be handfuls of students missing then, too.
Never in Anna’s five years of teaching, however, have this many students been absent at once. There are three students in her third-grade class, and they aren’t any of her favorites.
“We’re light today,” Anna says. “Is everyone sick?”
None of the three say a word. The one Anna dislikes most—Mat spelled with one T—stares out the window. He is a bully in the making, like his older brother who terrorizes cats, and his father who owns the lumberyard in town. Often Mat can be found sitting on top of another boy laughing at the power his strong body possesses. He comes from a stock of brutish men. His older brother is brutish, his father is brutish. Mat is brutish. Poor Nicolas (absent) knows about Mat’s brutishness and Joshua (absent) knows and even Anon (absent). Especially Anon, a sliver of a boy who smiles at everything, even with Mat on top of him pulling at his curls, screaming I am king, which coincidentally is his last name.