Long Story: Literary Analysis and Feedback
The worst part of presenting to a class back in my high school days was the feedback. Nobody (sometimes not even the teacher) paid attention to me. When the presentation was done, an uncomfortable silence would follow, where the class knew they should clap, but they were just too tired or bored or apathetic to do it. Somebody would cough or fake sneeze. The teacher would utter a half-hearted “Thank you.” The experience was usually miserable.
But when I finished reading “Long Story” to my tenth grade English class, I got booed. Finally, some positive feedback!
After the class finished booing me, they laughed. It wasn’t a mean laugh. It was a shared joke, one that I was a part of. I could laugh too, but I wasn’t the type to laugh out loud in front of a bunch of people. I think maybe I smiled.
After the clamor had died down, my tenth grade English teacher Mr. Faggins (pronounced Fay-guns) spoke up with his raspy flu voice. “I have some bad news and some good news.”
The class paused for the bad news.
“Jimmy, that was probably the worst ending to a story I have ever heard in my 23 years of teaching.”
The class laughed, and my smile widened a bit.
Denise, the cheerleader with the really nice legs, said out loud, “You’ve been teaching for 23 years?”
And the class laughed again.
Mr. Fay-guns pretended like he hadn’t heard. “The good news, Jimmy, is that you took up the entire period reading your story. We don’t have time for anybody else to read. The rest of you are off the hook!”
The class erupted in a standing ovation. The English class who hated everything loved the opportunity to not have to read their stories. The bell rang a couple minutes later, and a relieved class rushed out.
A couple guys patted me on the back. Even Rebecca, the school’s hot vicious minx, said, “Nice job, brain.” I wasn’t really a “brain,” not by other brains’ standards, but I was probably the best student in that class, except for Denise, but she was a cheerleader and so a lot of students underestimated how smart she really was. She was clever enough to steal my best lines and ignore the bad ones, so I respected her. And she had really nice legs.
“You did a good job reading your story,” Denise said to me after I grabbed my books from my desk.
“Thanks. You would have done better.” She had volunteered to read my story for me, but I had declined the offer.
“I’m serious,” she said. “You actually sounded like your different characters. And everybody was listening. Everybody. Even Shakespeare couldn’t do that.”
That was a way to boost my self-esteem. The class had fallen asleep when we read William Shapespeare’s Julius Caesar aloud. Even O. Henry had caused a bit of drowsiness. But me? According to Denise, I had kept the whole class alert.
“But I have one complaint,” she said, pausing. “You should have treated Melinda better.”
“Melinda?” I said, probably too defensively. “But she caused all the problems. Are you mad that I let her get hit with a rock?”
“No,” Denise said. “What I mean is that after she breaks up with you or Danny or whoever the narrator is, you never mention her again. I think you should have brought her back sometime.”
I didn’t have a response. I simply hadn’t thought of adding more Melinda scenes, but then again, I had written the story quickly.
At lunch, a bunch of jocks/athletes surrounded me while I was eating. Normally, I would have gotten nervous, especially after my friends scooted away from me, but I sensed that the conversation was going to be friendly.
One of the jock/athletes, a backup quarterback who was in my English class, said, “Hey, Jimmy, did you ever do it with that girl?”
I had to think about that. “What girl?” I asked.
The jock/quarterback sat down next to me in the seat that my cowardly friend had vacated. “That girl you wrote the story about. The girl with the nice voice.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “It wasn’t important to the story.”
All the jocks around me laughed, which startled me because I was serious.
“You don’t know if you did it with her?” the jock/quarterback next to me said.
Another jock across the table said, “You should have done it with her. It’s your story. She couldn’t say no to you.”
The jock/quarterback next to me said, “If I made up a girlfriend for a story, I’d do it with her all the time.”
“Your hand is your girlfriend,” another jock behind me announced, and everybody laughed again. Since it wasn’t me they were talking about, I laughed too.
So the cheerleader and the jocks agreed that I should have done more with my fictional girlfriend. Maybe they were both right, but I wasn’t going to put much more thought into it. After the lunchroom conversation, I believed that would be it for “Long Story” and that it would soon be forgotten. But I was wrong. And this time, the feedback wouldn’t be so positive.
To be continued (one more time!) in The Death of Long Story.