E by Robert Kaufman

When I was a little boy,

before I became a teacher,

I pronounced “vegetable” different.

I pronounced it: veh-JEH-tay-bleh.

I didn’t realize my second-grade classmates giggling

were giggling at me. But Mrs. Smith did.


She asked me about my pronunciation.

I told her it was the second E that got me.

The second E got you what, she asked.

Well, the first and third Es are heard, I said,

So that second E should be heard too.

Mrs. Smith then asked me if I had siblings.


I have two sisters, I told her.

Older or younger? She asked.

One older, one younger, I said.

She hugged me.

Don’t worry, she said,

you’ll be heard one day.


I didn’t know what she meant then,

I just knew I wanted to be a teacher.