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.
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.
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.