“NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING,” by Erin McKean. Read by the author.

Everyone knows that the fourth day of ninth grade is when you get your results. I mean, that’s the way it happens in our town; other towns do it differently. Amy, who moved here from Atlanta, said that in the big cities they do it when you’re born, since they have to take blood from babies, anyhow, to test for HIV and that disease that means you can’t drink Diet Coke. (She says she’s going to be shot in a botched robbery, but I think she’s lying. She also said her aunt is on Days of Our Lives, and I don’t believe that either.) But here, in our town, all the parents got together and decided that they just couldn’t take knowing before we were at least in high school. Tim K. says it’s because when you’re in ninth grade, your parents find you so annoying that they can actually bear to think about you dying. Allycia thinks it’s because when you’re our age you think you’re immortal and they want to scare it out of us. That might have been true for our parents, or our grandparents, but I don’t know anyone our age who hasn’t always known that they’re really going to die.

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Erin McKean is a lexicographer (look it up). She lexicogs as the founder of Wordnik.com, and blogs about dresses at dressaday.com. She has written one novel, four books about wacky words, and enough email to cover the entire moon with a layer of alphanumeric characters five ems deep. (Erin McKean’s books on Amazon.)

Update: See Carly Monardo’s great illustration for this story!