Her name is Chardonnay. But it’s pronounced SHAR-DUH-KNEE, not to be confused with SHAR-DUH-NAY. I repeat, not to be confused with SHAR-DUH-NAY. Because if you were to confuse it (not that you would have a reason to), then you might or might not have a four-foot-ten-inch, ninety-pound African American girl ranting in your face with her finger wagging and her head bobbing back and forth . . .

“I mean, what. do. you. not. unduh-stand ‘bout that, Mr. Teacher-Man? My name is Chardonnay—SHAR-DUH-KNEE. Not, SHAR-DUH-NAY. Ain’t nobody got time fuh that. Ain’t nobody. I mean, what’s so hard ‘bout sayin’ my name anyways? Chardonnay Selina Graves. That’s my name. What do people not unduh-stand ‘bout pronouncin’ thangs?”

So Chardonnay transferred from an inner city school roughly thirty minutes away. It’s the kind of school where students curse out their teachers, and their teachers curse them back. The kind of school where barbed wire circles the fences and only a weathered outline of the school’s name remains on the brick siding because the real letters eroded away years ago. The kind of school where graduating is the exception to the rule. The kind of school where students like Chardonnay are raised by their grandmothers because their biological mother refuses to take them in.

Needless to say, she didn’t last long in the regular population before being referred to our classroom. Whether instigating fights, stirring up drama, acting inappropriately with boys, defying teachers, or using vulgar language, Chardonnay Selina Graves was sure to be involved.

I don’t know much about wine, but I’m going to go ahead and stock up on Tylenol and Gatorade. Because I have a feeling that this little girl is going to leave one heck of a hangover.


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