Long Story: The Sick Teacher
My tenth grade English teacher Mr. Fay-guns got sick the day that he was going to give us the lesson about gerunds. I don’t know if he had the flu or a bad cold, but whatever he had made his voice raspy, and it hurt him to talk.
When Mr. Fay-guns stepped out of the classroom at the beginning of the period to blow his nose, we stayed quiet out of curiosity. What sound would Mr. Fay-guns make when he blew his nose? Would it be snorty and snotty? Or would he have an elephant horn sound? To our disappointment, we barely heard it. Even his nose blowing sounded monotone.
“He should have stayed home,” Denise (the cheerleader with the nice legs) said. “He can barely talk.”
“But the rasp sounds cool,” I countered. “If he talked like that every day, this class would be interesting.”
“Nothing would make this class interesting,” Denise said, eyes stalking the door to make sure Mr. Fay-guns wasn’t close enough to hear.
Since Mr. Fay-guns couldn’t lecture us all class long, he gave us an assignment that would take us the whole period. We had to write a story. It could be about anything. He wanted us to write the story in class. We had to write quietly. That was it for details. I was ready to start thinking about my story, but other students had questions.
“How long should the story be?” some kid asked.
“At least a page,” he struggled to say through what was probably a sore throat.
“Can it be more than a page?” another student asked.
“If it’s less than a page, how many points are you going to take off?”
“It has to be at least a page, or I’ll give you a zero.”
“I don’t know what to write. Can you give me any ideas?”
“I have writer’s block.”
It was obvious that Mr. Fay-guns was getting annoyed, and I could understand why. He had given us the freedom to write, hoping that he wouldn’t have to explain a complicated assignment (like gerunds). Instead, the freedom that he gave us caused a bunch of students to ask him a bunch of questions that he was trying to avoid in the first place. If I remember correctly, that’s an example of irony.
Once Mr. Fay-guns told us to be quiet a couple times, we shut up and started thinking about what to write. A few students started writing immediately. Somebody on the other side of Denise asked her what her story was going to be about.
“I’m going to write about a girl who has to write a story but can’t think of anything to write and she fails English class because of it,” Denise answered.
I whispered to Denise, “And at the end the girl can wake up and it was all a bad dream.”
Denise smiled at me, turned to her friends on the other side and said, “And then at the end the girl wakes up and it was all a dream.”
Even Mr. Fay-guns laughed. Denise could deliver a line. Having nice legs didn’t hurt her either.
A couple minutes later, a kid named Tony asked out loud, “Will we have to read our stories in front of the class?”
Mr. Fay-guns paused. The class waited silently for his answer.
“Yes,” he finally said. “Tomorrow, you will read your stories to the class.”
Several students groaned. One kid called Tony a moron. Another kid called Tony a dick. Tony flipped off the kid that had called him a dick, but Mr. Fay-guns didn’t see him do it.
I wasn’t worried. I didn’t want to read my story (however it turned out) to the class, but I had already figured out the probability. Tomorrow would be Friday. It was a 45 minute class. There were 27 of us. It would take at least 5 minutes for each kid to get up, read his/her story, and then return to his desk. At least 5 students would volunteer. That would take up at least 25 minutes, probably even longer. That would leave no more 20 minutes for Mr. Fay-guns to call out the unwilling volunteers.
On Monday, Mr. Fay-guns would feel better and we’d get back to gerunds. No more than 4 of us would get called. 4 out of 22? I liked my odds. I would write my story, no matter what, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have to read it in front of the class.
Yes, I ended up having to read my story in front of the class, but I’ll get to that later.
To be continued in Long Story: The Writing Process.
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