Monday, November 2, 2009

A Bit of Writing

I haven't written anything in ages. So, today I wrote something. It's pretty obvious that I've been reading a lot of children's books lately. And working with children, watching children, reading to children... This is very different from everything else I've done. Don't know if anything will come of it or not, though it's clearly a first chapter. Let me know what you think!

No Vacancy

Ms. Talon’s murky voice bubbled in Andrew’s head like a mud puddle, or like hot tar on an oppressive summer day. Andrew closed his eyes and lifted his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose as he imagined his classmates prying their tar-covered feet from her voice, trying to escape the mouth opening after them like a bottomless cave with yellowing teeth hanging like stalactites. Instantly, his classmates turned into dinosaurs, fossilizing in La Brea as he reached for them, helplessly.

Lisa elbowed him.

With a start, he looked at the girl next to him, whose soft blond hair framed her face like a silky shawl weaved of sunshine. His glasses slipped down his nose, and Andrew pushed them up so that Lisa’s face would come into clearer focus.

She nodded toward the front of the room.

“Leaving us again, are you Andrew?” Ms. Talon said. Her arms were folded across her chest, which seemed to meld with her belly in a smooth curve.

“No, Ma’am.” Andrew looked at the screen at the front of the room. Ms. Talon hadn’t added any information, which meant she hadn’t said anything important enough for him to take notes on anyway.

Ms. Talon shot him that "I don’t believe you" look he’d become too familiar with. If he wasn’t getting that look from his teachers, he was getting it from his parents or his big sister Cheyenne, or his piano teacher Mrs. Pryn. "You daydream too much," his mother observed. "You’re dawdling," Mrs. Pryn sang. "You’re vacant!" Cheyenne yelled, with her face an inch or less from his and her finger flicking his forehead.

He wasn’t vacant. In fact, Andrew had always been able to display a neon "no vacancy" sign across his forehead. His mind was full of things—ideas, words, creatures, facts, colors, inventions, and light. Andrew was brilliant. Unfortunately, no one knew it but him.

“I expect you to hand this in first thing in the morning,” Ms. Talon said.

Andrew pulled out his planner, along with the other students who hadn’t already done so. He jotted down under Thursday “turn in impossibly dull math sheet with insane and improbable story questions about trains traveling to Chicago at 11:05.” His handwriting was small, but neat, and he bent over the planner to make the letters as perfectly as he could.

The other students got up for recess, but Andrew was still writing in his planner.

“What you writing?” Lisa asked.

“Our assignment,” Andrew answered.

“You doing the whole assignment in your planner?” she asked.

Andrew didn’t respond. Her attention flustered him, and he wrote one of his letters backwards. He sighed.

Lisa was staring at him. He could feel her gaze on his neck, and it bothered him, like a fly buzzing right next to his ear. He fought the urge to bat her away. Though she was beautiful, and he longed for her friendship like nothing else in the world, she didn’t understand him. No one did.

He erased the backwards letter, and noticed with frustration that as he strove for perfection, the dark pencil mark had settled so deep in the grain of the paper that it couldn’t be erased entirely. He crossed out the word and started it again, though the graphite mark was enough to make him want to give up all together.

“Well,” she said. “See ya.” She sounded disappointed.

Andrew grunted. “Yeah.”

Through the corner of his eye, he saw her turn away from him, her blond hair waving slightly with the gravity of each step. She smelled like flowers. He wasn’t sure which flowers because the smell was so full and sweet that he doubted they were real. A mixture of flowers, perhaps. A glorious bouquet of golden Alps-grown honeysuckle glistening with frost.

He wrote another letter backwards. With a groan, he crossed out the whole sentence and wrote math in his messiest scrawl.

“You didn’t miss your medication this morning, did you Andrew?” Ms. Talon asked.
Andrew glared at her. “No!” That was private, and he resented her for bringing up his medication. At least Lisa had left the room by then.

“Well, you seem more…distracted than usual. Everything okay at home?”

“I’m fine,” Andrew said. “I’m just bored.” He knew that would get her to back off, one way or another. Either she would feel guilty because her teaching skills were lacking, or she would give him another assignment to ensure that he wasn’t bored.

She apparently opted for guilt. “I’m sorry, Andrew.” Ms. Talon sighed heavily. “Maybe this class isn’t the best place for you to be.”

“Perhaps not,” he said, pretending he didn’t care what her comment might imply. He was bored. He was smarter than the other kids in the class. Maybe Ms. Talon was right.

The thing that worried him was how she would determine where he belonged.

“Go out to recess,” Ms. Talon said. “Go get some fresh air.”

Andrew closed his planner and set it obediently in his desk, beneath his math book and flush with the back of the desk. He stood, then pushed his chair in so that the legs of the chair were square between the legs of the desk. Everything was in order before he left the room.

He stopped just outside the classroom door, out of Ms. Talon’s eyesight, and sat on the hard carpeted floor. Lisa and one of her friends walked past the outside door. Her hair was infused with light when she was outside. It shone so bright that Andrew imagined she was an angel who would beam into the sky and join the sun. He closed his eyes and could see her image there, burned into his retina. That was how photographs worked, he knew. A photographer in the olden days would expose film to light, and a chemical reaction would burn the image onto the film.

Andrew made sure this image would never fade.