Friday, February 27, 2015

TMoH #2: Most Improved

Another thirty minutes of hell! If you don't know what I'm talking about, my introductory post on this topic provides a quick summary.

The writing prompt from NANO fiction is: Write an essay, flash fiction piece, or prose poem of under 300 words about a person not many people know who is famous for one specific thing.

Most Improved

It was starting to smell, a faint but troubling brownish odor that was no doubt leaking out from within Jared's dirty jeans.  Mark held resolutely still anyway, burying his face into the grass and breathing in the comfortably natural smell of dirt.  In his mind he could feel his wrists spinning and his thighs aching as he tensed and jumped, over and over and over...

Eventually Jared got bored and stood up, lifting himself off of the back of Mark's head.  Mark scrambled to his feet at once, taking a disoriented step or two as he tried to regain his balance.  It was more than his balance that was off; he caught himself right before he was about to make a small hop in the air.  Stop that, he chided himself - but with a smile - and got ready to run.  He knew better than to struggle once caught, but once he was free?  Getting ready to flee was just common sense.

Jared had no interest in further torments though; perhaps Mr. Offsprung's lackadaisical gaze had drawn too close for comfort.  "You're still a loser," Jared said, backing away.  He kicked the paperback book on the ground, and the cover half-ripped.  "No one in class likes you.  You'll always just be a dumb stupid loser."

Mark said nothing.  He waited until Jared had tromped away.  Then he sighed and went to pick up his book.  The library wouldn't like this, he thought sadly as he examined the tear, one that split the silhouette of the detective into two.  In his mind he remembered the feel of the rope catching against his ankle.  A hundred stumbles and falls from the past happened all at once.

He shrugged and checked his watch.  There were only ten minutes left in recess, six hundred seconds for him to dive back into his book, six hundred thousand milliseconds until it was time to line back up and march back into his third grade class.

Mark smiled and began to twirl his wrists once more.  "What do you mean, 'only'?" he said out loud.  There were still ten minutes left, and even if he was a loser now - and he was pretty sure he was; why deny the obvious? - there were still months, weeks, days in which to get better!  He thought he could.  He knew he could.  After all, who had been named 'Most Improved at Jump Rope' three years ago?  It certainly hadn't been Jared!

And so with a smile, Mark plopped himself down on the ground, found his page (147) and continued to read.


Okay, I cheated - but in my defense, thirty minutes isn't a lot of time to think of a person who's "just famous enough" while also figuring out a story about that person.  So instead I came up with one specific thing that I'm proud of accomplishing that nearly no one knows about: being named the Most Improved Jump Roper all the way back in kindergarten.

This is completely serious, by the way.  I sucked at jumping rope as a six year old, and I remember working really, really, really hard to get better.  And when my efforts were recognized... wow!  Pow!  Sometimes trying really hard really is enough!  Really!

The rest of this story comes from a conscious effort to write something a bit more uplifting.  I think there's a common mistake made by novice writers like me, and that's to believe that 'depressing' equates to 'adult' and 'hopeful' equates to 'childish'.  That's simply not true.

A few more notes
  • I started this story knowing that I wanted to tie in Mark's memory of his jump roping award with his optimism that life will get better.  The first draft of the story had no reference to his award; that started to get layered in during the second draft, which is what you see above.
  • Subsequent drafts would have tried to integrate his memory with his current situation a bit more seamlessly.  They would have also tried to deepen his interior feelings somewhat and maybe add a bit of self-conflict.  Right now, Mark comes off as unnervingly blasé.
  • I wasn't really bullied all that much in school.  In fact, for a few glorious months, I got much of my small third grade class hooked on Agatha Christie novels.

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