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Long Story: Bad High School Memory

December 23, 2012
Ursula Franklin Academy a high school in Toron...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to admit that my memories of high school might not be very accurate.

I found my 10th grade yearbook a few months ago.  Denise, the cheerleader with the really nice legs, doesn’t look anything like I remember her.  Maybe it’s creepy for a guy my age to check out a 15-year-old girl, but this yearbook came out almost 35 years ago, and I was 15 the same time she was 15, so it’s not like I’m some random old guy checking out a random 15-year-old girl.

If it’s creepy, at least the creepiness has a point; when I write about an event that happened during the 10th grade almost 35 years ago, some of the details might be off a little bit.

My memory isn’t all bad.  The one picture of me in the yearbook (I was the kind of guy who only had one picture in the yearbook) showed that I was as dorky looking as I remember myself being.

*****

A lot of students complained about the writing assignment in Mr. Fay-gun’s English class.  They complained about the possibility of having to read their stories aloud in front of the class.  They complained that they had to write a whole page.  And while other students complained, I wrote.  And I wrote quickly.  And I wrote all day long, even during classes that were not English.

I’m left-handed, and I wrote so much that I had a long blue ink smudge on the side of my hand from dragging it over the paper.  Left handed writers hate spiral notebooks because the spirals are on the left side and get in the way of the hand while writing, so I would tear the pages out before I wrote.  That left a bunch of sheets of loose paper that I had to keep organized the whole day while I wrote.

At the end of the school day, I was stuffing books into my backpack, and I wanted my story in my top folder, so I stuck the pages between my legs while I loaded the backpack.

As I finished up, Denise approached me, staring at the stack of loose paper between my legs.

“James, is that what I think it is?” she asked.

I noticed the direction her eyes were looking, and I wasn’t used to girls looking there, so I was momentarily confused, and then I realized what she meant.

“You mean this,” I said, pulling it (the story) out with my free hand.  “I think it’s out of control.”

“How long is that?” she asked, amazed at the size (of my story).

“12… pages, and I’m not even half way yet.”

“What’s it called?” she asked.

“I think I’m going to call it ‘Long Story’”

“That’s not a very long title,” she said with a laugh.

Then her boyfriend Tom showed up.  He wasn’t that big (or nice looking of) a guy, but he was a senior.  He and Denise pecked on the lips, and I was about to hightail it out of there because Tom was a senior and I didn’t want a senior misinterpreting my conversation with his girlfriend, but then Denise said:

“James is writing a 12 page story for Mr. Fay-gun’s class.”

“Who’s James?” Tom asked, looking at me like I was a new student at the school.

“It’s not really 12 pages,” I blurted out.  “It’s 12 right now, but I’m only halfway done.”

Tom paused, narrowed his eyes at me, and then asked, “Why?”

“Why am I writing?” I said too quickly. “Because he assigned it to us today.”

“Faggins told you to write a 12 page story?” Tom asked.

“No, it only has to be a page.”

“Then why are you writing 12 pages for Mr. Faggins?” Tom was serious, and I didn’t have an answer that would make any sense to him.

Denise punched Tom on the shoulder.  “Don’t call Mr. Fay-guns that.”

“Mr. Faggins?” Tom said with a snort.  “You know that’s his real name.”

“It’s pronounced Fay-guns.”

“It’s Faggins,” Tom declared.  “He only says it’s Fay-guns so we won’t make fun of him to his face.”

Then Tom turned to me.  “What do you think?  Is it really Mr. Fay-guns or Mr. Faggins?”

I’m not proud of what I said next, but I have a (hopefully) reasonable explanation.  I was the type of student that should have been a target at school.  I was skinny.  I was quiet.  My clothes were always out of fashion.  My hair wasn’t cool.  I carried books with me everywhere.  I was clumsy.  I didn’t play any sports.  I should have been a target, but for some reason I wasn’t, and I wanted to keep it that way.

“It’s definitely Faggins,” I said directly to Tom.  “C’mon!  He’s an English teacher.”

Tom snorted again and grinned at me.

Denise said, “That was mean,” and I could tell she was disappointed in me, and I panicked.

“I meant he’s an English teacher, so his name should follow the rules of pronunciation,” I said quickly.  “The two g’s in his name should make an ‘a’ sound, like ‘cat.’  That’s what I meant.  I didn’t mean he was… you know… because he’s an English teacher.”

Denise shook her head.  She wasn’t buying it.  Tom narrowed his eyes at me again and then turned to Denise.

“What’s your story about?” he asked.

She walked away from both us.  “I don’t want to talk to you.”

As he followed her, he asked, “Is your story about what a great boyfriend I am?”

“Yeah, it’s a short story.”

I put “Long Story” into my folder before anybody else noticed it, grabbed the rest of my stuff, and went out the opposite exit.  Denise was mad at me, and I felt bad for making a stupid comment about Mr. Fay-guns just to stay off of a senior’s bad side, but I also wondered about my story and Tom’s reaction to it.

I didn’t have to write a long story.  I could have stopped after one page.  I could have (and maybe should have) been done with the assignment hours ago.  Yet I kept on writing.  It was something I couldn’t have explained to Tom.  I had a story that was living up to its title “Long Story,” and I didn’t know why I was putting so much time into it.

There was another problem.  I knew that “Long Story” was going to be long.  I wasn’t sure if “Long Story” was going to be any good.

*****

To be continued in Long Story: The Rough Draft.

Or to start Long Story from the beginning, read Long Story (Part 1): Teachers with Funny Last Names .

From → Long Story

5 Comments
  1. Great dialogue. I can’t wait for the rest.

  2. This is excellent. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy it, but I really related to the main character (who I assume is you, unless this is fiction).

    You’re writing in one of my favorite subgenres: the coming-of-age story set in a school. And I just learned last week that there’s a German term, used in literary criticism, called “Erziehungsroman (‘education novel’) that focuses on training and formal schooling.”

    I had no idea that it was a formal style of writing; it’s one of the “maturation” story plots (something else I didn’t know).

    And, FWIW, reminiscing about high school friends, and noticing something attractive about a girl (now a woman) who’s your own age is not weird at all. That’s quite common, actually.

    Again, great post. I look forward to reading more.

    • “Erziehungsroman,” is a cool word, even though I don’t know how to pronounce it, I like words in other languages that don’t exist in English (I kind of phrased that clumsily).

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  1. Long Story: The Writing Process | Dysfunctional Literacy

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