It was late spring. Beads of sweat ran down my forehead and burned my eyes. It was the last day and last hour of school. Summer vacation was so close, yet so far. As I sat at my desk in Ms. Hughs’ second-grade class, I noticed the hands of the wall clock moved at a glacial pace. I felt sick to my stomach and let out a small, restrained grown. I sat in the back of the class, so I didn’t think Ms. Hughes would notice. She was busy at the blackboard, her back to us, yapping something about verbs and nouns–but she heard me and turned her red-hair-in-a-bun head around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
With a demonic demeanor, her be-speckled green eyes spotted my forehead like a laser-scope rifle. “Gary! Would you like to come up here and do that in front of the class?!”
Her question, of course, was rhetorical, meant to elicit embarrassment within the typical seven-year-old’s psyche. I, however, was no typical seven-year-old. Yes, I sucked at English, didn’t pay attention in class and preferred daydreaming while the old biddy rattled her false teeth about nouns and verbs. I often fantasized that I would grow up to be a famous actor–perhaps as famous as the three stooges! Or Beaver Cleaver! Instead of sheepishly shrinking in my seat, I saw Ms. Hughs’ invitation as my big break into showbiz! So I shocked the liver-spotted spinster and shot to the front of the class. I sat on a stool and faced the rest of the kids–their jaws dropped, their eyes the size of goose eggs. No student in the history of the school year had ever done what I just did and was about to do.
My stomach was really starting to ache now and I thought I might relieve the pain if I laid face-down on the stool, spread my arms like an airplane and made groaning noises resembling a plane taking off. My stomach pain didn’t disappear, but the class, being a pack of seven-year-olds, thought this move was worth several cackles and guffaws.
Ms. Hughs, however, wasn’t laughing. “Gary! Stop that! You are not funny!”
It was my first critical review.
This early experience definitely revealed the kind of person I would grow up to be: a communicator–someone with the balls to speak his mind and who suffers no embarrassment. To this day, I still suck at English. Don’t ask me what a dangling participle is; I haven’t a clue. For most of my career, I made my living as a performer or speaker. The advantage of verbal communication is you don’t have to know where to put the comma or the period. You just move your lips and grown. Easy!
If you told me, say, seven years ago that I would write 35 books and that four would become best sellers, I would have laughed in your face. I never dreamed of being a writer. It just happened. It’s simply my destiny. Of course, using a word processor with spell check makes a big difference. I remember dropping out of a creative-writing class because I couldn’t stand the tedium of using a typewriter and whiteout. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I had to pay for copies so the class could read my (cough) creations and do their little critiques like Ms. Hughs. Those days are long gone thanks to the Internet and technology that compensates for so many of my weaknesses. Like the proverbial reluctant hero in so many tales, I resisted what I was destined to do for years–but now writing is doable, so I do it. Ms. Hughs is no doubt rolling in her grave.
Challenge: Using prose or poetry, write a story, true or fictional, about something that happened in your childhood that might have had some influence on what you do or how you think today.
- There is a limit of three submissions from each member per day. If you’re extremely prolific, spread out your work and post only three submissions per day.
- Post to Gather Writing Essential.
- Tag your submission with SatWE.
- Include (Saturday Writing Essential) as part of your title.
- I ask that you make your submission(s) by next Friday afternoon.