Category Archives: Fiction

Sunday writing 20150802 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start, cont’d: Birth of the recorder; Rewrite second half of first scene first- to third-person

The eldest woke up in rain. It had washed the mud from him and shriveled his skin, but no wind blew and he learned some summer comfort. From his rock, he looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud. The waves washed over the rock, dirtying him and his home, but the rain would wash it away. The mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and in this way, hours or days passed. The sky was too overcast to tell, and he had not yet learned about time.

As he was becoming used to this boredom, fidgety but accepting, he noticed the rain letting up, and eventually the waves subsided. The sky broke open and sun streamed through, and his eyes hurt to behold it, and he squinted and covered himself with his arm. His skin warmed and began to itch as the mud on him began to dry and flake.

He scraped fleks off him and wondered at what would come next. More hours passed, and the sun fell again behind clouds, and a certain foreboding darkness crept across the overcast sky. There, in the damp and primal darkness, the toll of his first day and night crept into him, and the eldest did his best to clean the dried mud from the rock and laid down to sleep.

He woke to the sunrise the next day, the first weak beams of the sun’s very top hitting his eyes. The clouds had vanished, and his eyes adjusted to the ever increasing brightness of the quickly rising sun, and suddenly it was day, and everyone around him brown reached out to blue until the met far off in the distance. The eldest felt both a sense of anxiety and a modicum of pleasure at the open expanse of the world about him.

As the day crept on, he stood and stretched and moved about his little rock, but he felt too wary to leave it. Restlessness eventually set him, and he felt the ground around the rock, and was pleased that though it was moist, it was no longer liquid. He pushed his fingers in and then picked up a handful at a time and squeezed, and it pressed through his fingers and fell back into place. He stepped a foot out into it and sunk down to his ankle, but then it held his weight. Anxiety again got the better of him, and he retreated to his rock again.

He slept some in the afternoon, and when he awoke his body began to cramp and make discomfiting noises. He stood and stretched again and tested the ground, but this did not alleviate the feeling. Then he noticed one little upshoot from the ground just a little bit away, a white flower dry in the afternoon sun. He sank to his hands and knees, and crawled towards it suspiciously, and when he reached it, he snuck a petal from its flower and put it in his mouth, and chewed and swallowed. He liked the taste, and he liked the feeling of having chewed it and having swallowed, and he plucked another petal and ate it, and another, until all that was left was a little green stalk with a small yellow bulb. More skeptical of the remants, he licked the yellow bulb, but its taste was unpleasant and bitter, and he left that part of the plant alone.

His body no longer moaned or ached, and he walked quickly back to his rock. He noticed the sun now in the position where it had broken through the clouds, and he wondered whether the world would darken again today as it had the day before, and he sat down to watch and see.

No clouds formed, and the sun sank down, and the eldest saw the first sunset rival the first sunrise. The sky flamed white, then burned orange, and then the sky darkened to purple and to black, and everywhere its darkness was broken by winking pinpoints of light. He marvelled and wanted to keep marvelling, but again, when the sun had set down at last and all was dark, the toll of the day took him again, and he slept.

He woke later the next day, with the sun already ascended and climbing the sky blue and unbroken. He smiled at the certain sadness that he could not see the stars forever but steeled himself to wait for night again, when the bright sun would sink and the stars would wink.

The eldest stood and stretched, and gasped when he noticed that where yesterday there had only been an expanse of ground and sky broken by the single flower, today there stood a field of the white flowers, stretching as far as he could see and shimmering like stars with morning dew.

He stepped off his rock down into the field, and he plucked a flower’s stem and held it up in front of his face, and he smiled at it. He plucked its petals with his teeth and ate them, and he tossed the stem aside and grabbed another. As he moved through the field, he ankles chilled with the flowers’ wetness, and underneath the sun he had an urge to feel that wetness all over, and he fell to the ground and rolled in the flower bed, and as he rolled a sweet scent flew into the air. Once he was covered in dew, he rolled to his back and flung out his arms, and he sighed and breathed deeply the flowers’ smell, and he smiled and lay there until his front was dry.

Then he heard a grunt and a rustle nearby, the unmistakeable sound of breath happening to somebody else’s rhythm.

He shoved himself up and over onto his hands and feet, his body tight and ready to move. Then he heard the rustle again and snort again, and he looked to his left and saw an animal. He wondered at whether it would be dangerous to him. It had noticed him, too, and also looked at him warily. Then it resumed its snuffling and grazing.

Those are mine, a thought shot through his mind.

There’s plenty, another thought answered.

They might not be there tomorrow, the eldest thought to himself, thinking about the differences between his days so far.

He relaxed and pulled his legs under him and sat looking at the animal. It had four stubby legs and couldn’t walk as he did. It also had protrusions from its mouth that looked hard and sharp, and he knew they might be dangerous if the animal charged or caught him with a swipe of its head.

The eldest plucked another flower and ate the petals, discarding the stem. He watched the animal root about and wondered how many flowers the animal would eat, and how many he himself should eat. He saw then that the animal had trampled several flowers, crushing them back into the ground and bruising the petals, at which he felt a hint of sadness.

The eldest watched the boar until nearly sunset, when it turned and wandered away through the field. He had a desire to follow it, but also he did not want to leave this place he had come to know, for who knew what might come tomorrow, or what might be beyond, just out of sight. So he watched until it was gone, and then he watched the sun until it was gone, and from his flat rock, he spied the stars and they pierced the oncoming darkness. Hey lay on his back with his hands behind his head, and sighed at the beauty, and slept.

He awoke before sunrise to the sound of a loud pop. The stars were gone but the sky was dark, a deep and rolling gray, and rain was falling again. Panicked, the eldest looked for flowers to collect and save, but they were all gone, replaced by the waves of mud which surrounded him again.

A muffled shout reached him over the dull drum of the rain, and he turned in its direction and saw an arm flailing out from the mud. It slapped the surface hard, and the hand closed on the wet earth, and it sunk beneath.

The eldest sprung from his rock into the waist-deep mire and trod his way over to where he’d seen the arm, and there was a soft, squelchy sound, and the arm rose again from the earth. The eldest grabbed at it, but it was slimy with mud and slipped through his hands, and plodded back into the mud again, sinking below the surface.

He took another step closer to where the arm emerged and slipped, feeling his knees crash into another body thrashing around beneath. Legs kicked him softly and then arms grabbed him about the ankles, and he would have been pulled underneath if the earth beneath his feet had not held firm. The hands grasped desperately, crawling up his front, and a man broke the surface and sucked several deep breaths of air. He grabbed the eldest’s shoulders and pull himself to his feet and then immediately began to cry. He sobbed and moaned against the eldest’s chest, and the eldest stood in silence, shock, and awe.

After a moment he regained himself, and he pulled the new man over towards his rock, and when he found the lip he pushed him onto it and crawled up himself. The man curled his knees up to his chest and continued to suck in air and to weep, and the eldest could think of nothing to do but pat him on the shoulder. He felt and instinct to make soothing noises as well, but he did not, instead just maintaining constant contact.

The rain washed them clean, and the mud washed lightly over the rock with its waves, and finally cried himself to sleep. The eldest wondered, decided that the sun would not rise today in the rain, and laid down himself and wept.

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Sunday writing 20150802 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start, cont’d: The tower of babble

The aggressor called out: “Go into the fields, and grab the first stone you see larger than your fist, and bring it back here. Together, we shall build a mighty thing, a home that will not leak in rain or bluster in the wind! Together we shall make something permanent, something to keep, something that’s ours!”

The tribe cheered, and each person went about their labor, going out into the fields like they might have been gathering fruit in some other place. The eldest watched long as the tribe performed their work, watched as the stones collected, building a very shallow square. One, under further specific instruction from the aggressor, brought up sand from the nearby river and coated the stones in it, using his hands and a stick to build a level foundation upon which more rocks could be stacked.

The aggressor approached the eldest with a look of satisfaction. “You see? We have no need of caves here,” he said, “nor of manna. We shall care for ourselves.”

“But why?” asked the eldest. “What is the need for this?”

“Need?” scoffed the aggressor. “What need is there in your home? What need is there in eating?”

The eldest suddenly felt very sad and a little tired. “We must have shelter. We must have food. The sentiment must does not apply to what you’re doing here.”

“The sentiment must has no meaning here.” The aggressor looked away from the eldest with impatience, preferring to scan his laborers. “What we do here will be good for us all. We can travel with a little more security, knowing that there’s a stable home for us to reach. We can live in comfort, knowing that our shelter is better than whatever we stumbled across and managed to hold for the night. We will make the world for us rather than find our way in the world. You’ll see: There will be comfort, and we will share it with the world.”

Here was the crux, then. The eldest could sense it: his one opportunity to stop this gruesome folly. He started: “Yes, but—”

“No more!” the aggressor commanded. “I will have my house, I will have my people. We will do this. Begone from here if you cannot stand it.” And with that, the aggressor turned his back.

Confusion fell on the eldest then. He felt his mind darken, and everything that the aggressor had said became so much buzzing. In fear, he tenderly reach out his hand and placed it on the aggressor’s shoulder, but the aggressor grabbed the elder’s hand fiercely and with a sudden movement had twisted his arm around so that he fell to the ground on his stomach, and the aggressor mounted his back, screaming, twisting his arm violently so that a sharp strain bolted from his elbow up through his neck. The eldest screamed and tried to buck, but the aggressor was on him and twisting and was not satisfied until he heard a pop, and the pain changed from lightning to a fierce stabbing in his shoulder joint, and the eldest cried and went limp. The aggressor looked on him for a moment with a look of sheer disgust, and he leaned down face to face with the eldest, whispered some noises at him, and then tossed the limp arm to the side and shoved against the eldest to stand up. He then shouted at some members of his tribe who were closest, and pointed at the eldest and made some more noises, but the eldest could not comprehend him.

The tribesmembers didn’t seem to understand the aggressor any more, either. They stopped gathering to stand gawking at him, and a few looked at each other and mumbled. It began to dawn on them within a few seconds that the words they had spoken to each other before now failed them. No sound from any mouth made any sense, and panic set in.

But the aggressor, in his panic, only became more irate, and he barked to the closest member and pointed at the eldest and made a quick movement of his hand that could have been a motion to throw something away. When the member made no motion to move but remained frozen in place, the aggressor went to him and grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him towards the eldest, and he herded another two in this fashion. He urged them with his movements and with him hands to get the eldest to his feet and to march him away from their building. And so the eldest found himself outcast, standing on the outskirts of the aggressor’s fields, struck dumb.

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Sunday writing 20150726 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start

Mud. Mud and its earthy fragrance was all I knew for the first minute of life. I breathed in deep, relishing breath. I had never experienced it before. Nobody had, and mine was the first body.

The caked on dirt kept my eyes closed, but I could breathe and smell, and I filled my lungs with that primal scent. Mud may still exist and have its certain reek, but even when I bend my face into swamps, I cannot find again that first sweet smell of my own life there in Earth’s vital soup.

“Man,” a voice above me said. Even my ears opened before my eyes.

“And what is man good for?” a second voice asked. “Small, no claws, dull teeth: They’re no good as predators and no good as prey.”

The first voice answered, “They’re something new I’m trying. Sometimes hedging your bets guarantees a loss, and I’ve already maxed out the crueler and the protective traits on others. Now I’m trying wits.”

“Wits?” the second voice asked with a bite of contempt. “Wits will win no contests and cost these creatures all.”

A chime sounded, and the heat I had been born into dissipated, and the mud collapsed in on me, and I first felt the sensation of drowning, mud caking my throat. I panicked and began to kick wildly, and a heel broke the surface — I knew, because I could feel it go colder. Then I knew where to scramble, and first my right hand, and then my head and shoulder broke the surface, and I tried to climb out, but my weight pulled all of me back under. Different parts of me broke free and then resubmerged, and a frantic, instinctive fear told me I was going to drown and to die. To think, I had only been alive a moment and already knew to fear death.

I flailed more, rolling onto my back one more time, and as I did my right elbow and arm broke free, and I drove my elbow onto a rock. Pain shocked my whole right side, but panic drove me over again, and my left arm grasped upon it and pulled me finally from my birthplace. My breathing was fast, and all I could see was a blinding white, and I was afraid, but within a moment I had fallen asleep.

I woke up in rain. The water had washed the mud from me and shriveled my skin, but the wind didn’t blow and the rain was warm, so I actually felt refreshed. From my rock, I looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud, and they washed over the rock, resoiling me, and the rain would wash it away, and the mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and I sat like that for hours.

I had nowhere to go. I was the first, and no homes existed before me, and I saw only rolling gray clouds and rolling brown waves. But when the rain stopped, I stepped off my rock and found that the mud wasn’t deep at all, only covering my ankles. The gray sky split to a wondrous and bright blue, and the water receded.

I stayed on my rock and wouldn’t leave it. The sun rose and fell, the wind blew and turned bitter in the night, and my hunger turned as bitter. Creatures came and went, and I felt fear of some with their claws and their teeth, but none attacked me, and eventually they all left. I wept, and I felt fear and its several flavors, and I wept. My body groaned against this stagnation, but still I wouldn’t budge.

After some count of days the mud turned to dirt, and the manna sprouted, and I was saved.

My rock just happened to be here when I was born here. And I’ve never left it; it was my safety that night, and I feel like it keeps me to this day.

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Thoughts on the 99%: A little narrative about overthrow

Occupy Wall Street is happening in my back yard. I’ve been down to offer a warm body and moral support a few times, but I’m not what I’d call involved in the movement. I post news stories and pictures to Facebook and sometimes Twitter, trying to help get the word out, but I’m pretty sure my social base is largely impatient with the idea in general, not to mention hesitant about protesters altogether.

I also follow the blog Information is Beautiful regularly. Everything they do fascinates me, and their presentations go beyond beautiful: they are always interesting and usually helpful, even if only in a very minute sense.

These two threads joined today when Information is Beautiful posted via BusinessInsider.comCHARTS: Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About… I knew most of the narrative, but I didn’t know most of the information as specifically as they listed it, so I was happy to see it and shared it with a friend and my social networks. But it also made me sick to my stomach with anger, one of the reasons I’m sympathetic towards and participate (even as distantly as I do) in OWS: something is wrong, and the numbers communicate it, and there’s a narrative to the numbers, so not knowing really is about not looking at this point.

So I tried to communicate this with my girlfriend, which may have lead to her asking why I’m so bent out of shape about it, which might have lead to a conversation that included my saying, “That’s like saying Hitler’s Germans didn’t know about the Holocaust.” Hyperboles aside, she later asked me, “So why don’t you participate?” Which is a really good question, to which I only have a really bad answer: I don’t know what to say. But not knowing what to say usually only occurs because one hasn’t tried yet to say anything.

Well. Then. Here’s attempt #1.

**

A new kid arrives at the playground one day and sees all the children playing. Cliques are already formed, and in the corner is a lonely giant trying to catch a grasshopper. The new kid surveys the social groups, picks one for his own reasons, and begins to socialize with all the others. He builds some clout over the next weeks or months until he feels like trying to double-down on his status: he begins to pick on the first group he noticed, using all of his observations to grief and nitpick them until all of the other cliques form into an anti-that-group clique. Then everybody except that group belongs to the new kid; he even befriends the stupid giant in the corner and courts him as a strongman.

But that’s not overthrow, except maybe from nature to structure; that’s normal political functioning. Overthrow comes after the new kid has gotten his clout to mature into something substantive. It’s at this point he defines another anti-that-group group, allowing the first disenfranchised to re-enter the social circle at the expense of another. But this is the only way to collect all of the pawns: to rotate hatred from one group to another to another and so on ad infinitum.

One day the new kid realizes that if he just sacrifices the stupid giant so that he’s always the enemy, he can keep the other social groups all the time, whose social capital is always greater. And so he begins an escalating assault upon the stupid kid in the corner, because everyday the jeers from before lose a little luster, and every day things have to become a little more intense to maintain the feeling of realness. So the big kid stays in his corner, lonely and feeling utterly stupid and without power. He searches for more grasshoppers to pass the time.

But one day the jeers aren’t just jeers anymore. Once, another kid worked up the courage to kick at the stupid giant as he passed, and everyone laughed but no one pointed fingers. And another day, another kid slapped the giant upon the head, and everyone leered with little tight smiles. And these little cruelties continued; the students broke the playground rules in order to solidify their moral alienation of the giant. They increased until the giant was too dejected to even look for grasshoppers anymore. He just sat there in the corner wondering how he had gone from being alone to being so lonely.

And then the real escalation began: The new kid began to hit the giant, too. Before, the new kid had refrained for fear of retaliation, but seeing everyone else do it without so much as getting a swing thrown back at them, he finally worked up the brass. Except once he felt he had implicit permission from the group, he could sanction in his own mind the worst tactics. Instead of a poorly aimed kick here and there, the new kid aimed for the giants knees or kidneys or stomach, always looking to hurt in addition to breaking the rules. He began to throw a pinch or a bite into every attack, just for a little humiliation to spice his enjoyment. But the other kids were watching, and seeing this kind of broke some of their hearts, for though they could agree to alienate the giant and hate him, they still remembered when he was one of them and kind of loved him, and felt his alienation as a kind of participation in them. If this progression continued, though, they may not be able to count him as a friend, even a bad one.

So it came to pass that some of the children felt bad for the giant, and they stopped hitting him and teasing him. Instead, they offered a kind word here or there. Others said that the giant deserved what he was getting and continued to attack him and increased their viciousness to match their leader, the once-new kid. The giant didn’t understand any of it, and he didn’t try to; he just sat in the corner, wondering when the next hit might come but smiling at a few of the nicer children every now and again.

One day, the once-new kid and his little gang attacked the giant all at once. They pushed him to the ground and started kicking him, and he cried and asked them to stop but they didn’t. The other children began to complain, saying that this had gone too far, but the once-new kid’s gang was in the moment, animal, and they wouldn’t let it go until they had to. One of the others threw a rock and hit the once-new kid in the head, and he fell on top of the giant, and there was blood. The once-new kid staggered to his feet, tried to guess which one had been brave enough to throw the stone, and lunged for an attack.

Which, of course, was when the giant finally acted. He grabbed the once-new kid by the ankle so that he fell chin-first into the gravel. The giant climbed on top of the once-new kid and waited for the cue: either the new kid would go slack, or he would struggle. The first meant the fight was already over, the second that it had to be finished.

**

I apologize if it’s first-draftiness obscures any of what I meant to say but will say that I view all politics through the lens of this allegory. Those in control will abuse those not in control up to and including the point where revolution tips from possible to likely to happening. Whether or not those in control recognize the tipping point or can even summon the opposite force to negate the momentum before reaching no-return is decided historical moment to historical moment. I base this understanding of historical turmoil on an intense reading of history’s literature and a light education of world history.

On another note, if you’ve read this far and are still interested, I thought I’d share with you that I thought about the 99% before it was cool: Here’s a post I wrote about the problem of profit.

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Teacups

The story that this scene belongs to met with fairly mixed reviews in class. I’m interested to see what you make of it. 🙂

**

Grab the wheel, honey, the polished circled. The illusion of control makes the ride bearable.

His eyes washed over his daughter’s pale gentle cheeks. Worry painted her features; he only gave advice at the worst moments, in the face of impending unpleasantness. He wondered whether she wasn’t entirely unlike a dog, associating his advice with the master’s harsh and sometimes inexplicable hand of judgement.

Fear struck as the wheel began to spin faster than he was pulling. When he used his hands to resist it, the force tossed his hands away like a parent might slap rougly the hands of a child. His wrists popped and his hands flew with a loud plastic clunk into the inside wall of the cup. He looked at his giggling daughter; in mirth, she had closed her eyes. Perhaps she felt safe, still assuming he was in control.

Her laughter stopped abruptly and her brown eyes caught his off-guard. She held his eyes through his terror with a steady and confidence gaze that contradicted and complemented her youthful brightness and pushed him further into fear. Then, “Daddy,” she asked, “why don’t you tell me you love me?”

A thunderous crack drowned out his dumb response, and the cup teetered like a dying top. A sudden nausea struck him, but he noticed the teetering detract; the spinning became violent, clamping him against the bench. This can’t be happening, he thought madly. This can’t be real!

A second audible crack preceded a more violent swaying. John turned his head from side to side and felt the summer of the concrete and the winter of the humid air. The speed increased the tilt; he clenched his muscles, forcing shut his eyes and closing off his senses, leaving only his reeling consciousness inside the darkness.

His daughter’s eerie calmness and the absurdity of her question convinced him to open his eyes again. Behind her, the world spun into colored lines with indefinite borders. She alone remained in clear focus—even the cup blurred around the wheeling vortex, but he could distinguish her through the whirlwind.

Concern coated her features and he voice as she said once more, “Daddy?” A third crack dislodged the cup, which turned sideways, harped against the concrete floor, and bolted off, tossing two cups and the riding families aside, their bodies flying lifelessly, casualties.

The cup crashed into the dark hall of Space Mountain, and his daughter closed her eyes and fell limp. A loud crash deafened him as the cup collided with the track, rolling downhill and ripping out accelerator chains.

His daughter began to shake and squirm as the cup penetrated a neon orange tunnel. Her loose hands tightened into fists, and her head rolled from side to side randomly, quickly sometimes and slowly. Her teeth pressed against and then pierced her lower lip, and he saw her tongue lick blood off of her chin.

He reached against the hostile wind and the careening force of the cart. Even his own arms seemed to resist as if bound to his torso by rubber bands. He managed to reach six inches out, and then a foot. At the wheel’s circumference, his fingers and then his wrists and then his arms broke within a second, one tri-part crack. John wailed in  pain and anger, pushing with his legs towards his daughter even as his useless arms fell back.

But the passion only lasted a moment. Through the surreal howl he heard his recognition that even if he reached her now, his ineffectual grip could not wake her, would only cause him pain as he tried with broken bones to seize her. His hollowed-out sense of paternal protection felt as vacant and vague as the false orange stars.

The cup hit a crest and at once derailed, breaking again the rollercoaster’s shell. Through the air he and she sailed; her eyes opened and her shrill and terrified scream beat out the freight-train tone for a moment. Her cheeks had turned ghastly and hollow in her momentous horror.

The cup fell magnificently into the ocean, but just before they hit the girl’s face lit up with a smile, and she seemed al of a sudden placid. The porcelene plastic shattered on impact, and John’s body skipped like a stone against the harsh and salty surface.

He crashed into a cresting wave that repelled him like an immortal wall, and he saw his daughter one last time through his pained delirium. She stood atop the final wave smiling. He sunk into the blue.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Featured Fan: Kiran Dorling

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A Highschool Story: Ms. Young

I don’t often couch stories with extraneous information, but here it seems relevant. If you’re not interested, please continue on to the story, which I feel is just as good without.

My friends know (my family may not) that I loathed Plano with every inch of my being while I was there. It started with the classroom and moved further out to the manicured lawns and streets. My entire sentient life there I spent attempting to leave in one form or another. Not the least reason for my frustration was my consistent poor performance in school.

That’s not to say that I tried really hard and failed. I hardly tried and rarely failed, but I was always looking for something that just didn’t seem to be there. Who knows at this point what it might have been, but as my life has progressed, I think the desire has morphed into a search for a mentor, for somebody to believe in me or perhaps just see me for my potential. Teachers, for all their intentions, seem to me incapable of fulfilling this role. I discuss this more in an article on Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti’s Tant Mieux, but suffice to say that teachers have to concern themselves more with your test scores than your potential out of mere practicality.

Some have argued with me, saying that my English teachers’ collective challenge to my ability could have been applied reverse psychology, hoping to make me shape up by telling me that half-assing it wouldn’t cut it. Perhaps if the fact of my performance in the classroom had been limited to one or two teachers, or even to five, I might agree that it’s possible. However, I nearly failed every English course I ever took in high school, I actually failed the only English course I took in college, and the closest course to an English course in my post-grad work is the closest one in which I came close to receiving less than an A.

Another theory, posed by no one who knows me but one I have to pose just to prove the example, is that I can’t think critically. Since I don’t cover all of the angles to any given topic, I deserve my low grade because it’s symptomatic of half-assed work. Well, my work history in addition to standardized test scores disagree with this theory, and hopefully there’s ample proof on this blog alone that such is not the case.

I posit, therefore, that English teachers simply didn’t understand. They didn’t see the promise in my essays not because it didn’t exist but because their academic dogmatism kept them tied to more traditional approaches (those things very near plagiarism that was call “essays,” as much a violation of intellectual property–even if the owner is long dead–as any basic example of unsolicited remix). Call me arrogant if you want, sure, and empty of promise, but in my opinion, English rooms are sterile and stifling environments that squelch creativity and independent thought. I have no love for them at all and, as soon as I had the choice in my academic career, avoided them to what I consider my benefit.

Of course, what’s happened here is that I’ve moved from loathing Plano and it’s English departments to loathing English teachers in general. Baylor had nothing to do with the PISD, and Emerson College in Boston, MA certainly bears no connection. So what do I do with this leftover rage towards Plano, most of which was tied up in my inability to make my peers there understand either my frustration with them or merely my simplest thoughts, a basic communication dilemma that continues to exist to this day? Well–and fuck you, Mani–I still hate Plano, even if I can forgive it this slight little bit.

**

Though in the English hall and an English classroom or Jasper High School, I chose Creative Writing because Ms. Young sold me its distinct image. Her classroom buzzed with energy because of her youth and zeal; unmarried and unburdened by the relentless years of classroom experience that weather away the beautiful composite face comprised of the students who supply her reason for having chosen education as a career, she’s decided to teach a course no other teacher felt willing to shoulder but which helped Plano appear more well-rounded. I’ve never found diversity (especially of thought) in an English classroom, but I decided to give her new course a shot.

Fifteen minutes before the bell rings, Ms. Young asks everyone to stop writing and requests that someone read the work they had accomplished that day. I look around at all the other students, a few of whom keep their eyes down while others look around like I do; white faces all around. No one looks at Ms. Young while she scans the room, afraid to volunteer by eye contact. She really is quite pretty with her long, thick brown hair and her pale but hopeful eyes. Her mouth hangs slightly open as her head turns from side to side, and her body, red sweater, and brown skirt are motionless. When I look away from her, my eyes land on the inspirational poster on the door about walking in footprints on the beach; I roll my eyes, keep my head down.

Marissa leans over and puts her hand on my shoulder so she can whisper, “You shouldn’t be afraid.”

I don’t turn my head to look at her, but I smirk. “Neither should you.”

“I’m not. I didn’t write anything.” I can imagine her crafty smile, resting lightly upon her pretty but slightly scarred face. She’s allergic to her own sweat, which causes her face to constantly break out. I look over my shoulder to make sure it’s there, pleading with me like I expect.

We chuckle quietly together, and I resign to volunteer. I can’t quite claim an alpha personality, and my decision doesn’t really stem from a desire to save Marissa from potential embarrassment. I feel compelled to end inefficiency in how my class spends its time when the silence drags on vulgarly.

Ms. Young smiles at me while I tremble in front of the class, my nerves suffering under a weird mix of terror and excitement. There’s only twelve students scattered amongst the tables in the classroom. I know everyone in here by name. I shouldn’t feel scared of them.

A wizard stands on a cliff ledge overlooking a village that trusted him for protection. (Already the shaking has subsided.) The flames from the village are strong enough to light his face, scarred more than wrinkled, experienced more than wise. (I forget the classroom; only the page and my scrawl exist.) He has failed them; he wants to shoulder their burden, the weight of his failure measured out by the ashes of burnt homes and the bodies of murdered victims, but finds himself unable. (I am the wizard; no, I am his sorrow and his guilt. No, I am the world he wants to bear. No.) His arms reach towards the stars as he screams out a long, undulating cry to the heavens: “I’m sorry!” (I’d never make it as an actor; I’m suddenly conscious of the other students again.) He leans forwards, finds himself capable after all.

I beam with pride. Students applaud lightly and nervously, not really sure about what they’ve just heard. Marissa smiles, the vain Catholic. The bell rings, and she and the other students bolt. I return to my seat and shove the paper in haphazardly.

“I don’t get it,” says Ms. Young.

I answer her quietly: “I know.” I’m not sure she hears me.

I leave the classroom without discussing the story with her. It wasn’t complicated, or maybe it was, but at any rate my mind had rushed to other subjects than my creation. Ms. Young had implied a request for me to breakdown the story; she had asked for me to treat it like literature and explain it to her. She claimed that she didn’t understand, but could she really not have? I wonder briefly, Can my incomprehensibility cover my life to such an extent as to umbrella every instance of  communication, both the fantastic and the academic?

I leave the carpeted English corridor and emerge over the polished tile of the hallway. In front of me, a metal banister splits the stairway in half. I approach it and rest my right hand on it, looking at the reflection of a florescent light obscured by my head and shoulders, the floor too opaque to show my reflection in detail. The bell rings for class to begin, but I’m lost in thought and not the type of student who frets over punctuality anyway.

English teachers pose literature as my nemesis with their superficial questions and their polite challenges and impolite grading, but I know truth doesn’t reside in rebellion. I don’t want to feel the weight of the world of ideas in my mind or to criticize anyone’s arrangement of words in an educated manner, but not because I don’t enjoy reading or thinking. Actively engaging a story takes away the passive pleasure of reading it, and I’m content with the passive pleasure, aren’t I, the satisfaction of writing, of reading, of thinking abstractly without criticizing specifically? I would have to submit to my formally recognized enemy, my teachers, if I engaged a work actively, wouldn’t I?

I’ve been told that by imposing academic structure on my mind, I will broaden my understanding of the world and multiply the number of subjects I can ponder. But the fact of the matter is—as I prove when I sit in the reigning creative silence of Ms. Young’s room—that I can hardly get my mind to shut up. The last thing I need from it is coherent categorical thoughts.

I utter words and phrases that apparently only I can understand. I formulate ideas that only I can stomach, only my tongue decipher. I’m not convinced that educating myself in the manner my teachers have suggested will help them understand me. Not only do I doubt their conjectures, I feel almost certain they are wrong.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Creative nonfiction, Criticism, Fiction, Humanistic, Writing