I make occasional generic noises about wanting to be a writer, and really, I actually do! But I don’t write. I try to do a bit of blog writing here and there, but I know mostly it’s rather crappy and I’m jusr writing something for the sake of writing something.
So I asked a girl from work about doing a writing club. Even though I think it might be torment. I suggested that we should write a short story from our childhood. We should be meeting in half an hour and this is what I wrote in the past 2 hours.
In Mrs Brewington’s second grade class, every child was given a badge for completing your work on time if you finished before lunch. After lunch you had recess and art, and those didn’t count towards finishing anything, other than the school day.
The badge was made from construction paper with mimeographed purple outlines. It always said “I finished my work on time today!” in the middle. Last week there had been a blue ice cream cone, a red strawberry, a brown puppy, a pink shoe, and a purple flower. Miss Anne used a straight pin to attach the badge to the front of your shirt. You had to be careful not to move your arms around your chest so that you wouldn’t get stabbed.
Every day, Meg took her badge and put it in her Capezio ballet shoebox. It was a black box with a million little white stars on it. Systematically, she poked a whole through the center of each star on the box using one of the straight pins. And she filled the box with badges.
On Tuesday, Mrs Brewington told the class that they would be making books. They spent the entire day sewing together a stack of pages and then gluing that in to a cardboard cover. Then they got to pick out a bit of wallpaper sample to decorate the book’s cover. Meg chose a blue wallpaper with a white bamboo pattern. It took the whole day to complete the construction of the books, but Meg finished before lunch and Miss Anne pinned a yellow sun on to her favorite shirt.
The next day, the assignment for the class was to fill the pages of their books with a story. The story could be illustrated, or just words, or whatever you would like it to be. Meg wrote a story called “The Lone Stag” about a loner deer. He was quite content to cavort about the woods associating with no other creature, as he was quite solitary, but in a noble way.
One day he meets a very pretty doe in the woods and she introduces a new longing to the stag, who decides that it might be nice to spend more time with the doe, and then they get married.
Meg filled the book with lots of crayon drawings of the stag in his forest, with many vines twirling about in the trees. She especially liked the last picture of the doe and the stag together, with the stags complicated horns silhouetted against the setting sun.
The rest of the story was about the adventures that they doe and the stag had together after they got married. But it was time for lunch and she had not finished her book, even though most everyone else had. She was not getting a badge. Miss Anne patted her on the head, but she did not pin the purple mushroom to Meg’s shirt.
Meg walked in the single file line with the rest of her class down the hallway to the lunchroom. Her eyes were stinging and her breath was coming in choppy little bursts like it when you are trying very hard to not cry. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the badge that she didn’t get and the shame that she hadn’t finished her work on time today.
She slunk quietly over to an empty table in the corner of the cafeteria and put down her Holly Hobby lunchbox. She opened it and looked inside and then couldn’t hold back the gulps any more. She put her head down on her folded arms on the table and just cried. It was just so unfair! When you work so hard on something, you shouldn’t be finished for taking a bit longer! Her story had at least 20 more pages than any one else’s book.
And then someone sat down next to her at the table. She looked up. It was Charro. Charro Ward was a boy in her class and he never finished his work on time. Not once. Mrs Brewington was always saying things like “Charro Ward! You are the laziest boy I ever saw!” outloud in front of the class about him. Once she whacked him across the knuckles with a ruler when he couldn’t read the word ‘elephant’ from a worksheet. He rode the same bus, but his stop was after hers, so Meg didn’t know where he lived. Sometimes he wore clothes to school that had belonged to her brothers. That was funny to see. Her mother had brought in a big bag of clothes to donate to kids who didn’t have enough clothes. Meg and Charro were two grades ahead of her brothers, so it didn’t make sense that their clothes would fit him.
Meg looked at Charro. He was ugly, with googly eyes and he smelled. He had white crust in the corners of his mouth, like too much spit had dried there. Meg was shuddering from the exertion of her crying and she wiped her nose on the back of her hand.
Charro patted her hand. “It’s ok. It’s ok to not finish. It happens to me every day.”
Meg’s eyes started to well up again. She pursed her lips together tightly and nodded, looking down at her hands. Charro patted her hand again and then he stood up.
“Don’t worry,” he said and he left.
The next day, Meg did finish her work on time today, and she got an orange goldfish badge. But for the rest of the year, there were 4 other days that she didn’t finish and she didn’t get a badge. And she didn’t cry, either.