Posts tagged ‘fiction’

Secret Shortcut — FINAL

For those who haven’t read it, click here for the blog post with the first draft of my writing student’s adaptation of The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague.

This is my student’s final version that he gave me today after working on it for a few weeks.  He’s done a nice job filling it out and being creative with it:

“Mom, Bob and I are going to be late for school.  Why didn’t you warn us?  I di — siiigh.”  While I was frantically choking down toast and putting on clothes above my pajamas, my friend was tapping his toe while saying: “Hurry up, hurry up!”

On the way to school we discovered a huge lion effectively blocking the entire road; he said we could pass, but only if we could solve a riddle.  I was about to go a different way, but then my friend pointed out that I didn’t actually know a different way, so the lion said: “Throw me out the window and find a  grieving wife; pull me back but through the door; watch someone giving life.”  First I tried a clarinet swab and the letter A, and then a baby because if you throw some one’s baby out the window, you’ll usually find a crying wife, and if you pull a baby through the door, you can refer the door to a wife’s stomach.  I also tried the letter “A”, but none of them were right, but then Bob said the letter “N.”  (window –> widow  door — > donor) Finally, we could pass, but it took us like 1 hour, and we were late.

Before we got to school the teacher was teaching the class how to do “5x+7= . . . You’re late!”  The teacher yelled at us for like 5 minutes because we were like an hour late.  I told her the story of the 20 feet high, 6 feet across giant lion, and she didn’t believe us.  So, for all our trouble we got an hour in detention.  I mean seriously, giving us detention because of a so-called lie and being a little late.  Wait a minute!  Is putting us in detention when you’re in elementary even supposed to be legal?!

On Friday day my friend and I encountered a thick fog with an electrically-charged banana in it that chased everybody that was in the fog.  When we went in we found out that it could teleport and tackle really well.  So, we tried running across, but I guess trying to outrun a teleporting banana is pretty darn hard.  Because it didn’t work one bit.  We had about one more try before the bell rang.  So, we tried flinging ourselves over with a catapult that I built at home.  But that seemed impossible because it was 1 foot wide and 1.5 feet across and built with Popsicle sticks and super glue.  But believe it or not, it worked  We did a victory dance until we saw an onrushing goblin clan, so we ran back to my house, but it turned out that they only wanted to make friends.  To make a long story short, we just ditched them.  We got to school exactly one hour late.  But instead of giving us detention, our teacher sat on us for 5 minutes while the rest of the class laughed at us.  But what made them laugh even harder was the fact that I was saying “Nieooooo. Nieoooooo. Stop, please!  Nieoooooooo.  Nieoooooooooooooooooo please. . .” the entire time.

On Saturday I was playing in the backyard when my eyes chanced upon a little hole.  When I looked in, I could see what I thought was my school like 20 feet away.  I called my friend and told him to come to my backyard on Monday.  He asked why, and I said: “I’ll tell you on Monday, da Da!  da Da!” in a singing voice (in the tune of Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase).

On Monday I told him about the hole.  After a while we went down the HOLE.  It turned out the school that I saw was faked; it was just some very well-painted leaves painted red.  We tried to get out, but I guess the hole new what we were going to do, so it just collapsed.  So we just ventured around the jungle biome and dodged a few tigers, lions and a monkey for what I thought was 5 hours until I thought I saw our school; it was.  Just then, I heard the early bell ring.  I said to my friend that we might just make it if we hurried.   To tell you something, running wouldn’t be enough so we swung on the vines.  We made it.  Just a femto second (a millionth of a billionth of a second) of a second before the bell rang.  Finally, we make it to school on time.

We kept going into that hole, and after each time, we found a different biome.  Like an ocean or a desert, and each time we used it, we were always a femto second before the bell rang early, no matter how slow or fast we were.

For next week, my student is working on mixed-up Aesop’s Fables, his own creative twist on mixed-up fairy tales.  I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with!

Re-Lost in Good Books

"Open Book" courtesy of digitalart/

“Open Book” courtesy of digitalart/

I forgot how much I enjoyed reading.  Especially fiction books.  When I was  younger, I only read fiction books, but the last few years I’ve been reading mostly non-fiction.  But as much as I enjoy non-fiction, you can’t get lost in non-fiction, like you can in fiction.  I don’t think too many people start an informational book and stay up all night reading it because they can’t bear to wait for the ending.

What do most people in book clubs choose to read?  Fiction.  So, as much as I’ve tried to make reading purely educational, my social groups have encouraged me to become mesmerized by it again.  Don’t get me wrong — I still LOVE non-fiction.  However, now I’ve fallen back in love with fiction, too.

During my break I was determined to read as many of my 2013 book club books as I could (they post the list ahead of time), as long as I thought I might actually enjoy each book.  I eliminated a murder mystery, a historical documentation of a serial killer (though I may come back to that one, if I’m feeling brave), and a book that just looked boring (though I might come back to that one when I’ve finished all the rest).

Here are the books that I’ve read so far:

  1. The Forgotten Garden
  2. The Red Tent
  3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
  4. 13 Reasons Why
  5. Gods Behaving Badly

Next Up: Middlesex

To read within the next month:

  1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  2. The Friday Night Knitting Club

I’ve enjoyed something about each of them.  The Forgotten Garden was my least favorite, but I liked the overall story and the fairy-tales infused without.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was my favorite, and I’ve even started following her blog.  And I thought the other three were extremely creative — one for taking a classic text and creating a whole new story, one for its experimentation with a cassette tape dialog, and one for taking on gods on an entirely different level.   I’m looking forward to reading the next three!  (*Also, I just read Safe Haven before that, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  Excellent sentence fluency.  Couldn’t put it down.)   ((**Also, also, I’m sorry I haven’t mentioned the authors of each of those books.  Not paying much attention to the authors is a weakness of mine that I’m unfortunately not ready to correct yet.))

Solicitation Gone Wrong — A Scene

I don’t think she likes me,” Daina thought to herself. It could just be paranoia. . . but she could feel the difference between an open reception and a cold one. She tried to shrug it off as she left the mall sandwich shop, but she found herself squeezing her boyfriend Jack’s hand extra hard as they continued their walk. He smiled at her and leaned in for a quick kiss, misinterpreting her insecurity as a random show of affection.

Daina hated how sensitive she was to the reactions of others. She was an independent woman. She had a mortgage, a career, a life. So, where was her confidence? She felt so helpless to the extremes of her emotions and how desperately she sought acceptance and reassurance. Perhaps that’s why she felt so uneasy now. “Or was there something else going on there? Something between Jack and Sara?” she wondered. “This was foolish,” she thought, scolding herself. She tried not to think about her encounter with Jack’s childhood friend. Instead, she turned her attention to the colorful Christmas displays in the store windows lining the mall walkway. She had come to get some exercise. Perhaps it was better that they hadn’t stopped to chat long.

As the two of them turned the corner, they were approached by a young woman from one of the stands in the center of the mall. “Excuse me, would you like to try?” Recognizing a sales pitch when she heard one, Doreen switched into her detached, “I’m in a hurry” posture and shook her head, moving forward. But she was jolted back by Jack pulling her toward the stand. “What’s with Jack’s sudden interest in Beauty Salts?” she wondered.

Daina’s initial discomfort at being approached by a vendor began to ease as she took in the saleswoman now before her. Her demeanor was nothing like Jake’s friend Sara’s. This woman, Alise, was inviting, her laugh was delightful, and her accent even reminded Daina of her Latvian heritage. Daina could almost see her favorite cousin in Alise’s bright eyes and smile. Daina’s tight shoulders began to relax as she soaked in Alise’s free, abundant attention. Alise tousled Daina’s hair and gently touched her shoulder as she continued her lively small talk, asking about her job and what she was up to today. She began teasing Jack and Daina, asking if they were sweethearts, and commenting on how cute a couple they were. “Ready to try the salts, darlings?” She took Jack and Daina’s hands and gently placed them in the solution. Daina luxuriated in the pleasing sensations. Her hands were softening! “Well,” Daina thought, “ I would never spend money on such frivolous a thing, but I do need something for the family gift exchange.” Daina smiled shyly at Alise as Alise wiped her hands dry.

Alise then pulled out a laminated card that listed products and prices. Gesturing toward the salts, she exclaimed, “See? There’s a special deal! Buy one for $30. Buy 2 for $40!” She led Daina toward the front of the stand where the cash register rested.

Well, my sister asked me for a gift idea for one of her friends. Might as well get the deal.” Daina thought.And Alise is so pleasant! She really does remind me of someone. And . .. see? Alise doesn’t even know me, and she likes me. It’s amazing how a chance encounter can really turn a day around.

“Yes, great. I will get 2 of those,” Daina responded, beaming. “What a pleasant little exchange,” she thought, “I really must journal about this.”

“How will you pay?”

“Credit card,” Daina promptly responded, whipping the card out of her purse and handing it to Alise. Alise smiled, continuing her friendly banter as she packaged up Daina’s purchase and returned her card.

Abruptly, Alise turned and grasped Daina’s hands again. “Let me see your nails, sweetie. What do you do for your nails?” Startled, Daina pulled her hand away. “N-nothing. Not much. I don’t care much about my nails.”

“I can tell!” Alise crowed. She spun on her heel and grabbed a box off a shelf, “You must try this on your nails!” she crooned. “You’ll love it!”

Daina began to feel a nagging irritation. “No, thank you,” she said, with an uneasy laugh, “We need to be going now.”

“Oh, but you will love it! You will love it, darling! Just try. Try it, darling.” She grasped Daina’s hands and pulled her back toward the beauty station. Daina’s stomach began to cramp and she felt a slow simmering emerge from somewhere in the middle of her chest. As Alise continued to chat merrily away, polishing Daina’s nails, Daina was increasingly distracted by the fire that was gradually consuming her from within. She didn’t want to be here anymore. She wanted to pull away.

Finally Alise was finished: “They are lovely! No product will be this nice. Don’t you love them?”

Warily, Daina responded, “Yes. My nails look. . . better. Very. . . shiny.”

“I told you!” Alise cried triumphantly. She spun around again and glided back to the cash register. “Perfect for you. How many do you want? One? Two? How will you pay? Credit card?”

“No,” Daina said, attempting to be calm and fight the growing tide inside her. “She’s trying to take advantage of me!” “I’ve got what I wanted, Alise. We’ve got to be going.” Daina looked to Jake for some sort of back-up.

Alise followed suit, turning to Jake. “Have you gotten your girlfriend a Christmas gift? No? You should get this for her. Doesn’t your girlfriend deserve something nice?”Her voice dripped with honey.

Affronted by the blatant appeal to her boyfriend’s sense of guilt, Daina’s voice chilled: “No. I don’t need anything from him. I am fine.”

Picking up on Daina’s changing in mood, Jake quickly echoed Daina: “Yeah, she’s not really into gifts . .” His eyebrows knitted together, and he paled, watching Daina. The lady at the nearest booth moved to the other end of her stand. Those walking through the mall also gave the stand a wide birth. Alise, on the other hand, seemed completely oblivious. No longer getting any response from Daina, she turned her complete attention to Jake, continuing to berate him about not being a good boyfriend by not indulging his girlfriend.

Daina thrust out her hand and grabbed Jake’s. “We are going now. I already bought something from you. We are going NOW!” She dragged Jake behind her, as Alise’s continuing entreaties bounced off their turned backs. Daina sped away, storm clouds thickening about her. She felt like a wild monster, like a raging female Hulk, and try as she might, she couldn’t fight the electric fury streaming through her body and shooting out her eyes. She could sense Jack’s confusion and fear as he silently walked next to her.

Finally, he whispered, “Are you ok, baby?”

She hesitated and then asked, “Why did you stop?”

He shrugged. “I thought she said, ‘Would you like a food sample?’” he said. “I guess not,” he added,with a chuckle.

“So, are you ok?”

“I’ll be fine,” Daina said. She turned her head so he couldn’t see the tears that had begun to creep from her eyes.

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