“And that’s it.” I stopped, closing my composition book. There were only five other people in “Writer’s Oval,” but I was still always nervous whenever I read my story aloud.
I waited for someone to comment. Miss Carling was usually first. She was the English teacher, and possibly my least favorite educator at Agenton High. It wasn’t just that her lessons were unusually dull, but also that she was the type of person whom–if asked–would probably pick up a pair pom-poms and do a chant.
I was waiting for her to speak, and was caught off-guard when Reb spoke first.
“I liked it. I really think The Man’s sarcasm adds to the story. I never know what he’s going to say.”
I couldn’t help but grin. “Neither do I.”
Reb nodded. “I’m that way with one of my characters–Ezekiel.”
I nodded as though I knew who he was talking about. (Now I felt really guilty about not listening.)
I grinned politely, though, waiting for other comments. It was several moments before someone else spoke up. She was a sophomore whose name I didn’t know, and she began squeakily, clearing her throat. “I’m confused.”
I squinted in question.
“Well,” she continued, “Last week, The Man was stealing that disc. Now he’s suddenly with–was the girl’s name Aislynn?”
“Did he get hurt when he stole that disc, because I don’t remember him getting hurt?”
I shook my head. “No, he didn’t get hurt when he stole it.”
“Then how did he get hurt?”
I had no clue, but I knew this for a fact: The Man hadn’t gotten hurt when he stole the disc. It had happened later.
And, somehow, I knew that mysterious person–that new character–was the key to answering my questions.
“So, how’d his leg get cut?”
I shook my head. “That happened after he stole the disc.”
Miss Carling spoke up this time. “Everett, its seems like you forgot to write a chapter.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s the way it happens.”
“Well, maybe you should put something in between stealing the disc and meeting Aislynn. It would make it easier for the reader.”
I didn’t care about the stupid reader. “That’s all I have. I don’t know what happens between then.”
“Well, Everett, I’m sure you could figure it out.”
I shook my head. There wasn’t anything else there.
“I agree with Reb,” another boy–a senior–began. “The sarcasm helps lessen the cliché.”
I sat straighter in my seat. “Cliché?” I repeated.
The other boy shrugged. “Yeah, I mean the whole spy idea is a little cliché, don’t you think?”
“No.” The answer was immediate. It wasn’t cliché because that was simply the way it happened–it couldn’t be changed.
“And,” another girl spoke up, “It’s kind of confusing. I mean, a part from the fact that you’re always jumping around, the main character doesn’t have a name.”
“Sure he does. He’s The Man In The Shadows.”
“That’s not a real name.”
I looked over to Reb; he was silent.
“That’s just what I want to call him, okay?” I was surprised by how much of a snap there was in my voice.
“Everett!” Miss Carling’s tone was harsh. “You need to be able to take a bit of constructive criticism.”
“Constructive, everyone’s just tearing it down!
The only person who said anything positive was Reb!”
Reb gave a half-smile, and reached for his own notebook. “I’ll go next. I just have some poems today. Writer’s block sucks.”
Everyone’s attention turned to Reb, and I was thankful for his distraction. Miss Carling still glanced at me scathingly. Like all my other teachers, she had grown to dislike me as well.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d raised my voice at “Writer’s Oval.” I had no idea how much I was going to pay for it until the meeting was over.
I threw another rock into the otherwise calm waters of the Kaliska River. It splashed loudly, and I gave a satisfied grin.
I was tired. I’d been throwing rocks into the river for almost ten minutes. I plopped down onto a large rock, and looked to the sky. Many feet above me was the bridge that crossed over the Kaliska River. I’d ridden my bike to the river’s edge, and was watching its green waters move quickly over the passing rocks.
There were still clouds from yesterday, and it
looked as though it was going to rain soon. But I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to stay here beside the river.
I reached for my composition book and stared at it angrily, as though it was The Man In The Shadows’ fault that I’d been kicked out of the “Writer’s Oval.”
Because I didn’t belong there. I didn’t belong because it was for “serious writers.” I laughed mirthlessly at Miss Carling’s voice as it echoed in my mind.
I threw another rock into the river and considered doing the same to my composition book. I’d been writing the story for three years, and yet I knew less about the plot than anyone.
It seemed really useless.
But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I sighed, reaching for a pen. Serious writer or not, I’d always written; I couldn’t stop now.
Copyright Sarah Davidson 2020