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    As the bright flash pierces the eyes of Amelia Zwybeski, the final child in the line of alphabetically arranged fourth graders, Blake begins to cry.

    Blake and Amelia close their eyes simultaneously. She, to protect them from the stinging rush of light. He, to prevent open weeping in front of a child. 
   Blake is in the gym of Upper Wissahocken Elementary School. The canary yellow walls of the phys-ed classroom are covered with an eclectic mix of laminated posters. Here, a 1990s-era image of Michael Jordan with a milk mustache, asking the age-old question – “Got Milk?” There, a diagram of the long-outdated food pyramid taped next to a graphic of the longer-outdated four food groups. Nearest to Blake is a parody of a speed limit sign that reads “Excuses Limit – Zero.” In here, the children have no excuse for their failures. It’s an inspiring message. 
   In the pack of already photographed students beyond Blake’s camera station, twenty-eight pairs of sneakers squeak as they shuffle against the maple wood floor. It’s picture day and the ten-year-old children buzz with their temporary freedom from the classroom. A trio of boys hover just beyond the blue-screen background, staring directly into Blake’s main flash. When the light pops, they scream in agony and pleasure at their temporary blindness, enthralled by this masochistic game. Normally, these screams grate on Blake’s nerves, but right now he is too focused on his imploding emotions to notice.
  Blake looks at the digital image of the pupil sitting before him and wipes his own pupils, desperately trying to hold back the waterworks.
  In the photo, Amelia’s eyes are closed, scared of the light.
   “Your eyes are closed,” he says, his voice shaky. “Just once more.”
   Amelia, now frightened both of the flash and of her photographer’s inexplicably sorrowful tone, cautiously repositions herself.
   “Head a little this way,” Blake instructs as he points to his right, positioning Amelia once again into the exact pose demanded by his bosses at SmilePosts, the nation’s number one purveyor of school picture days.  
   “Great big smile,” he instructs her, wavering far from his typical enthusiasm, trying as he is to fight the tears. 
   The girl smiles cautiously. She fights with her anxiety about the flash and forces her eyelids wide open.  The result is a rather unflattering photograph of poor Amelia, looking like a French Bulldog, her eyes bulging nearly halfway out of her skull, an uneasy smile on her face that conveys, I am trapped – please help.
   Normally Blake would give it a third try, determined to take a photo where Amelia looks like a normal human. But there is no time. In a few more seconds he’ll erupt in a fit of weeping in front of three classes of fourth-grade students, five teachers, and two co-workers from SmilePosts.
   He says, “great, thanks, you’re all done,” to Amelia, who will surely be back for retake day once her parents get a look at her petrified portrait. He mumbles, “going to the bathroom,” to his co-workers at their camera stations, as he turns his back to them. He runs to the boys’ room across the hall with a frantic skip.

• • •

    The boys’ restroom has been designed specifically for children ten and under. The urinals are a third the size of the adult variety and their bases practically sit on the floor. Despite the diminutive toilet design, the kids’ aim has been poor. There are flecks and pools of urine all over the ground, as well as splatches of pee on the walls. Heaps of wet toilet paper are clumped and strewn everywhere. In his current emotional state, Blake takes no time for his usual confusion as to how and why the toilet paper has spread in such a chaotic arrangement. Instead, he makes a beeline for one of the extra-thin stalls, locks the door behind him, and sits on the miniature toilet seat, which rests nine inches above the ground. 
   The door locked shut, safely hidden, Blake lets the tears flow.
   It has been nearly three years since he last cried. As sad as he often seems to be, waterworks are rare. This morning a grief pipe has burst within him and there is no stopping the tide. 
   As the rush of memories bombards him – all the failures, all the rejections, all the disappointments – he cries violently, tears expelled like an incurable disease he is trying desperately to purge from his body. 
   He knows his break time is short and he will have to return to the camera at any moment, but he can’t get a hold of himself. The tears will not slow.
   “I deserve her,” he whispers to himself. “I deserve this. It’s not fair.”
   His heaves of misery are interrupted by the sound of the bathroom door opening. Little footsteps shuffle into the restroom and then stop. 
Blake takes several deep breaths, attempting to quiet his sobs.
   There is an ominous pause.
   And then…
   “Hey!” says a little voice. 
   Blake waits. He says nothing.
   “Hey!” repeats the little voice. “Are you pooping in there?”
   Blake sits still. He continues to cry, unable to stop despite his best efforts. 
   “Are you pooping in there?!” repeats the little boy, louder and more aggressively. He is a detective interrogating an accused criminal. 
   Blake doesn’t know what to say.
   He sits on that tiny toilet, wiping away tears, wondering how his life has led him to this hilarious, miserable moment, and where things could possibly go from here. 

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