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C Student

“The world should be run by C students,”
my father liked to say. He especially liked
to say it to me, because I always got A’s.

He, of course, always got C’s, a fact
he cited with self-deprecating pride
as if it were the firmest possible proof

of one’s good character … whereas getting A’s
meant you were a show-off, or a pantywaist,
or (worst of all) an intellectual.

So, while other fathers were lecturing their sons
for “not living up to their potential,”
I was being mocked, because, in his book,

getting A’s was a mark against me, my own
Scarlet Letter, worn invisibly on my chest
with a strange combination of pride and shame.

Sometimes I threw it back in his face:
“Maybe I don’t want to run the world.”
“No,” I can still hear him say, “you want

to stand on the sidelines and criticize it.”
Fair enough, but even after I grew up
and found my way, he never stopped saying

“The world should be run by C students,”
and I never doubted it was directed at me,
though I did begin to wonder if he was right:

he didn’t run the world, but he ran
a company, whereas I (as he might say)
have never run a damn thing in my life.