28 April, 2010

I feel pretty good about what I have decided to do with my life.

I really like teaching. The more hours I spend in the classroom I am volunteering with at Room Nine, the more convinced I am that this is the vocation for me. That being said, I am glad I majored in something else for my undergrad, because I think I will fit in better at the UW's teaching program than BYU's. Assuming I get in. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, today I was helping some fourth graders prepare for the writing section of the MSP (which used to be the WASL, which used to be something else ... which is just one symptom of the disease that plagues public schools these days ...but that's not what I'm here to talk about). I took three of them into a tutoring room to help them do a practice worksheet for the narrative writing section, where they give you a prompt, ask you to write a creative narrative piece, and then grade you on it. Super counter intuitive. But again, beside the point.

I thought it would be a helpful example, and also only fair, if I participated in the dreaded exercise with them. The assignment is to take the open-ended prompt they give you, do a pre-writing exercise, write a first draft, and then write a final draft.

Here is the prompt.

"One day you receive a special gift. It is a very old watch. You put it on. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens."

Inspiring, yeah?

I talked through my pre-writing process with the three ten year-old boys I was working with. Here is what I came up with at first.

1. Get present (in the future).
2. It's a watch.
3. Watch explodes.
4. I get hit by a truck.

The truth is, I am a ten year-old boy in a twenty-five year-old woman's body.

So anyway, in the first draft stage we talked some more about my story and agreed that it was super awesome. However, it still needed the following additions:

1. An alligator.
2. A dinosaur.
3. A veterinarian.

And now, I present to you the story I wrote for the fourth grade Washington Skills Test. I imagine it would get top marks. Maybe even extra points for being so awesome.


It is the year 3000. The world is a very different place than it was the year I was born. For starters, man now lives to be several thousand years old, which has its good points and bad points. I certainly appreciate the medical miracles that allow for such lengthy and pain-free lives, but the monotony of day-to-day life over so many years can get tedious. Also, I have way too many relatives.

The only thing that really keeps me grounded nowadays is my pet alligator, Robert Palmer. I call her Bertie for short. She has a very genial disposition and always listens to me. Feeding her can get expensive, but when she gazes at me adoringly with her beady yellow eyes, it's all worth it.

Today is my birthday. I am 1016 years old. After so many years I have completely run out of birthday party themes: pirate, cowboy, French food, Salem witch trial reenactment--I've done them all. Plus most of my friends are dead or cryogenically frozen. I decided to just have a quiet birthday dinner, me and Bertie.

Knock, knock. A visitor? Nobody ever visits me. Not even door-to-door missionaries. the "BEWARE FEROCIOUS ALLIGATOR" sign is a bit misleading, but I don't feel too bad about it.

It was the Fed-UPS driver with a package for me. After a retinal scan to confirm my identity, he handed me a small package. It was from my Uncle Eugenio. He and I have never gotten along. What was his angle? Maybe he was trying to make nice. I quickly tore open the package.

It was a calculator watch. The kind I had when I was a pretentious 25 year-old hipster, almost a thousand years ago. I couldn't believe Eugenio would get me a present I actually liked. I put the watch on.

KA-BOOM!! The force of the watch's explosion sent me flying through the air, over my front lawn and into the adjacent road. Stunned and slightly singed, yet unhurt, I staggered to my feet just in time to see the truck barreling towards me.

The next thing I remember, I was on my back in a white room, Bertie at my side, and a dinosaur in a lab coat was shining a flashlight into my eyes.

"Good afternoon," she said somberly. "If scientists hadn't proved the non-existence of luck six hundred years ago, I would say you are the luckiest person who has ever lived."

Dazed, I tried to sit up, but she pushed me back down with one three-fingered hand. "Nope. Rest. It's a good thing Ms. Palmer brought you in immediately. I don't believe in God, being a dinosaur, but somebody deserves to be thanked."

"Thanks, Bertie," I mumbled weakly. She nuzzled me with her snout and nipped affectionately at my silver space pants.

"You can go home now, or whenever you want," Dr. Rex called over her shoulder as she bustled out of the exam room. "I need to attend to a few solar panel burns. Feel better!"

Bertie and I ambled home slowly, her pausing every few seconds for me to catch up. I felt sore all over, like I had been hit by a truck, which made sense. But as we were finally within sight of my house, I saw that familiar sinister van parked in my driveway. A white van with no windows. Uncle Eugenio!

He stepped out of the car slowly as soon as we arrived at the sidewalk. His golden teeth glinted in the sun, as did his greasy mustache.

"So, you survived my birthday present," he snarled out that last word.

"Why, Uncle Eugenio?" I asked, choking on the term that indicated we were of the same blood. "Why would you want to kill me?"

"Why?" He screeched. "WHY? Because our grandmother died and left her massive fortune to all her descendants! Split evenly! Do you know how much I received?"

I racked my brain, trying to recall how much my share had been.

"A dollar?"

"FIFTY CENTS!" He sputtered, flecks of his saliva striking me in the face. "Millions of dollars amounted to nothing for us all! Why? Because there are TOO MANY OF US!"

"So ... "I began, trying to figure out where this left him and me.

"So I am going to destroy every member of our family until I receive a decent inheritance. You rabbits," he said, cocking a pistol at my forehead. "I will now finish what I started with you, you alligator-loving bunny."

Before the shot was fired, however, there was another sound. A sickening crunch, like burning logs. I looked down and saw Bertie, with Uncle Eugenio's leg from mid-femur down, in her mouth.

Robert Palmer continued to work her way methodically through her meal on my front lawn. I watched for a few seconds and then went inside to fix a cup of herb tea, guiltless.


I expect a letter regarding my Hugo Award sometime in the next week or so. If you want to ensure I get the recognition I deserve, go ahead and submit my name for me. I won't be embarrassed.


Tessa said...

Very awesome, Elisa!

theFinn said...

Ha! As soon as I read the "what happens now?" prompt, my brain jumped to "magical watch with time travel abilities. DUH." I may also be a 10-year-old inside. A less-creative 10-year-old, perhaps.

Cammie said...

holy cow you're funny.