We tell ourselves stories in order to live…. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Joan Didion

The White Album


She came back to paint the school as a penance. Larissa Johanssen had been in Maui during the shooting. She’d taken that Monday—Presidents Day—off so that she could have one extra day in the sunshine before returning the haze of a Minnesota winter.

She’d flown back on Wednesday, trying to stifle tears, simultaneously wishing she had been in her classroom with her students and relieved that she had been nowhere near Manatowa High School when Leif Soderstrom—a student she’d been trying to draw out of his moody shell—had brought three assault rifles, six automated pistols, and a homemade grenade into third-period lunch, and proceeded to pick off his fellow students.

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