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I haven’t done one of these in a while. And it’s Friday the 13th, so I’m going to go for a relatively mortifying memory, because why not?  I can afford to. I’m so much more sophisticated now, yes?

Anyway. How The Hell I Got Myself Into This, part –um, whatever.

Monkey and Typewriter

I am 12, a prickly 7th grader in too-tight clothes, too much eyeshadow, and fashionably gigantic hair that takes 30 minutes and half a can of aerosol hairspray to achieve. (No, mercifully, I will not be posting pictures of this.) I have written what is apparently the best story from our English class assignment, titled Ollie the Alley Cat, a strange cross between Beverly Cleary’s Socks and Oliver Twist, only much shorter and with English bulldogs.

It never occurred to me I might be asked to read it aloud.

Had it, I probably would have refrained from the plaintive meows and waows that my scintillating dialogue is composed of, and I definitely would have avoided the full-line, all-caps screech in the climactic scene where brave young Ollie defends himself and a helpless little human girl from the evil chain-smoking bulldog gang. But alas, I had no idea I would be forced to sit in front of the class, flashing too much leg in my too-short skirt, my shellacked hair catching a faint breeze from the hallway and moving more or less as one piece, with all those eyes on me.

Five handwritten pages in the moment arrives. I hesitate for a few seconds, staring at all those vowels strung together in extra-dark blue ink, underlined for emphasis, and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I wrote this. How strange will it sound if I just skip this part? Can I somehow screech quietly?  But it’s too late to back down now: they know what’s coming anyway. I’m trapped. Balls to the wall, I decide (though I’m sure it was a slightly less graphic phrase that went through my hairsprayed head)  and utter the amazingly stupid REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW I wrote for stalwart Ollie with –well, probably not the enthusiasm it would take for a 2 lb kitten to scare off a pack of bulldogs, but definitely enough to startle Jody Mertzel out of her mid-morning doze and make Jason Maxim drop his notebook. Jaws drop. There is much laughter. I finish the last paragraph grimly, through a chorus of giggles, and sit to applause that I understand is purely for the entertainment value of that moment.

Lessons learned:

1) always read your work out loud before turning it in, and

2) there are moments when tell vs. show is not only an appropriate choice, but a necessary one.

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