While I await the return of my mother and therefore also a USB cable which will allow me to scan in all manner of humiliating photos from my childhood and awkward adolescence, I thought I would engage in a little exercise I call ‘Embarssing Youth Writing Mash-Up.’ In case you care (which you do not) and to nobody’s suprise, I have been constructing masterworks of self-loathing and cynicism from a very early age. My parents, though not your average child-worshipping scrapbook freaks (somehow they elected to have jobs and lives and interact with us on a daily basis instead of obsessively photographing/taping/recording everything), managed to archive several of the best (and by "best" I mean "most kick-assedly humiliating") examples of my early work in a small Nordstrom box in my old closet, and now, because the true coup de grace requires illustrations and therefore scanning and therefore USB cables and therefore my mother, I bring you…A(n Annotated) Story I Wrote When I was eleven!!!
April 26th, 1988
Period 6 (I believe the class was called "Write On!" and it was taught by Connie Manley, and I have a photo/audiographic memory so do not dispute me)
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY. The sun shone down on the small town of Bishop, the birds chirped, the fish jumped.(1)
Shawna was bored out of her mind. She wished someone anywhere near her age would move to Bishop, or at least her neighborhood. All that was in her neighborhood were 16-year-olds and babies. (2)
She lay on her back, floating, in the swimming pool, staring up at the clouds against the bright blue sky. She found pictures in the clouds–trees, swings, slides, dogs–and one huge, bumpy cloud made a dragon. She imagined herself riding on his white, fluffy back. Slowly, Shawna drifted off to sleep. (3)
She awoke to the sensation of being lifted. Something big and white was lifting her up. She looked down, and her swimming pool looked like a blue ant. What could it be that was lifting Shawna up? No! It couldn’t be! She managed to look up shakily, and found herself face to face with the biggest dragon she had ever seen! He was made out of clouds from head to tail. He even breathed cloud fire! The dragon said, in a voice louder than Bon Jovi in concert, "You will make me a nice feast, and in the words of our holy idol, ‘Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I’m gonna cook your cute little buns!’" (4)
The dragon (5) set her down with a THUD in front of some cloud cannibals. The cannibals paid the dragon in white money and then tied Shawna to a cloud pole with cloud rope. She was bewildered. "What is this, cloud nine?" she asked one of the cannibals. He answered, "Nope, it’s cloud 8." (6)
The cannibals began discussing how to cook Shawna.
"I say we fry her."
"I say we boil her."
"I say we freeze her."
"I say all three." (7)
"She’s gonna taste great."
"Less filling!" (8)
The cannibals went down a cloud level to discuss the distribution of Shawna.
A small, thin, perfectly white cloud girl poked her head out from behind a cloud wall. (9) Slowly and cautiously she made her way up to the pole where Shawna was tied. She jabbed Shawna on the arm.
"Ouch, that hurt!" Shawna was not in the greatest of moods.
"Sorry." The girl shrank back and started to walk away.
"Wait," yelled Shawna. "Come back!" The girl came back. (10)
"Hi," she said. "You’re a weird color!"
"So are you," Shawna said back. "I’m Shawna. Who are you?"
"I’m Nicole," said the girl. (11)
"Are you related to the cannibals?" asked Shawna.
"Are you kidding?" said the girl. "I’m a vegetarian!"
"Then could you get me out of–" but Shawna had no time to finish, because the last thing she saw before the cannigals blindfolded her was Nicole darting back behind the wall where she had first appeared.
Shawna could hear the cannibals building a fire, she could feel the buring, and then——
Somebody splashed water on Shawna’s face. She looked up. The grass was green. The water was blue. She was back in Bishop. A girl Shawna had never seen before was standing on the pool deck. "Gosh," she said. "It took you long enougt (sic) to wake up!"
The girls’ voice was vaguely familiar. She was short and thin, with the palest skin Shawna had ever seen. Then she remembered who this girl was.
"How in dragon’s name did you know who I was?" asked the girl, astonished. (13)
"Well-well-I-uh-well-you-se-it was this sort of dream I had and oh, never mind." Shawna was too surpised with herself to speak clearly.
"Well, anyway, my name’s Nicole. Nicole White. We just moved to Bishop. I’m gonna be in the seventh grade this fall," said the girl.
"Me too," said Shawna. "Maybe we’ll be in the same class or something!"
"We can hope," said Nicole.
"Yeah, we can hope," said Shawna remotely. She was day-dreaming (sic) again, about clouds, cannibals, and nice girls. (14)
(1) Already you can see my writers’ desire to "write what I know," here used in my decision to set this story in Bishop, California, the place of my birth. Unfortunately I only lived there until I was three days old and therefore probably did not notice that it has no bodies of water and therefore also no fish.
(2) Obviously "her age" refers to eleven.
(3) I got the name "Shawna" from a gymnastics teammate named Shawna Solomon who once explained to me that she hated Michael Dukakis because he, personally, was going to take away her dad’s guns. Also, I realize both the cloud-picture metaphor and the "narrative in dream-space" milieu are extremely trite, but just wait.
(4) Oh good lord. Where could I possibly begin to justify this paragraph? What is worse, that I used Bon Jovi in similie (I believe we were instructed to use similie in this story at least once), or that I actually wrote the phrase "found herself face to face" in earnest? Not to mention that I basically lifted the Gargamel/Smurf I’m-gonna-eat-you motif directly.
(5) Another thing worth pointing out is that I now pretend to refuse to read any science fiction or fantasy book on the basis that it may be "too dragony." This includes many books that I know have no dragons in them; rather I use "dragons" and "dragon count" as a metaphor for how fantastical and/or science-fictiony something might be (I also make no distinction between science fiction and fantasy because I think they are both for dorks).
(6) This paragraph begins with great potential. I am proud of my past self for thinking of the quirky detail of the cannibals (and if they really are cannibals, why are they not eating a cloud person instead of a flesh person?) paying the dragon off. I am not, however, impressed with my painful "cloud nine" joke, especially because I obviously didn’t know what the phrase "on cloud nine" meant, unless your idea of indescribable fun-osity involves cannibals and a dragon, which it very well might.
(7) This is a direct rip-off of the scene in my favorite movie at the time (and, come to think of it, still), "Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure," wherein Pee-Wee accidentally irks the Satan’s Helpers in their private biker bar and must woo them with his charming rendition of "Tequila."
(8) I didn’t even know what that meant. Or why beer wasn’t supposed to be filling. Or why those had to be diometric opposites. I just liked the "is not"/"is too" construction being used by adults; I thought it was hilarious, obviously hilarious enough to pilfer. I can’t believe I didn’t get expelled.
(9) Obviously I possessed a great deal of internalized racism and sexism if this is my idea of perfection.
(10) If this sentence does not demonstrate my power as a young Hemingway, I don’t know what possibly could.
(11) Nicole was the name of another girl on my gymnastics team. She was sometimes my best friend but other times would arbitratily decide that I was too stupid to talk to and torture me horribly. Often she would ask me a question and then halfway through my answer, she would turn around and start talking to someone else. Once she was my "Secret Santa" and since I was the only Jewish kid in the history of my gymnastics team, she felt it was a good idea to write a card that said "Happy Honika Becky, From Nicole." It was sweet. Once we had a meet in Bend and a select group of us got to go a day ahead with Nicole and stay at a fancy cabin in Sunriver owned by Nicole’s mom’s boyfriend Jim. It had a hot tub and snow and we went back and forth between the snow and the hot tub in our leotards. Nicole also had a very sqawky voice when she was feeling abusive, and once I had a nightmare wherein Nicole was pretending she didn’t understand what I was saying even though she obviously could, and in the nightmare she was going WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? and when I woke up it was actually the call of this very annoying bird that still roosts near my parents house (not the exact bird, jackasses, the species), and to this day I call that particular kind of bird the Nicole Bird. But I digress.
(12) In case you were not aware that some time is passing and the space/time continuum being breached, I provide not only approximately four more dashes than you need (——), but a double line break and a ******. This probably signifies the time at which I became tired of this story and realized I needed to wrap it up. To this day I am terribly impatient as a writer (and in all other respects) and cannot write an ending to save my life (read every other post on this blog, column I’ve written, or anything else you can find on the Introweb if you do not believe me).
(13) See, the problem with touchy-feely hippie upbringing is that everyone is so concerned with me learning to express myself that they fail to note that this sentence is so horrid that I should probably have some form of punishment exacted on me for writing it and not some big huggy gold star. Obviously I wanted to point out some metaphysical connection between Shawna and Nicole by bringing in an element of the "dream" space, but nobody says "in dragon’s name" ever, so that was a total failure. You might also note the vague homoerotic elements in this piece, how the only semblance of a metanarrative thread is that Shawna longs desperately for a female companion who understands her innately, a friend who really "gets" her, both on the spaced-out, hyper-intellectual, cheesy budding stand-up comedian "head in the clouds" level and back on earth. This part of the story actually makes me really sad to read, because it reminds me of how lonely and isolated I felt back then, despite constantly being surrounded by teammates and friends. I would actually spend my free time sitting around longing for some sweet friend who understood me. What the fuck was my problem?
(14) I wonder if Connie Manley showed this to all her friends in the teachers’ lounge and they all called me the Future Lesbian of America. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Lesbianism, I mean; name-calling is petty and immature and hurtful, not only to the caller but also the call-ee, who is generally just projecting some amount of self-loathing or other.