I mentioned last month that the girls in our book club were going to write a short story to bring in for this month’s meeting. Even though I’m a bit biased, I thought they did an amazing job. The girls are 11 & 12 years old. The first piece is an untitled short story from Maya Sposito, age 12:
Bianca closed her eyes. There went her book, spiraling to the floor, landing with a thud. What was the point of trying to do anything when it always ended up like this? Letting out a moan, she opened her eyes to the same scene she had just shut out. “Bianca,” her mom said, “You know the rules. It’s too dangerous for you to go out in the forest alone, and we needed you in here anyway.” “Why do you worry about me so much mom? Why not Jake or Carson? It’s not fair. It’s just because of my leg, I know.” “Hon…” her mom started to say but she had already grabbed her crutches and hobbled out of the room.
Bianca lay down on her bed, staring at the stickers she had put on her ceiling when she was little. A while later she found herself in a familiar scene, her most feared enemy.
She sat on a rung of her rope ladder enjoying the breeze, dangling her feet below her to the grassy forest floor. She heard a strange noise in the distance, but didn’t think anything of it until it got closer, then even closer. She started to panic and tried to run back home, but her foot caught in the rope so she fell, making a noisy ruckus. She tried to get up but she couldn’t, for there was a face looming over her, the face of a wild cat. Not thinking, she lifted up her leg to kick the cat, but in a second, feeling the worst pain she had ever felt, she let out a blood-curdling scream. She drifted into darkness quickly.
Bianca sat up in bed with her blanket on the floor and her pillow under her legs. She thought that she couldn’t calm herself down, but in a minute she was back asleep again.
Bianca woke to the smell of muffins, eggs, and coffee in the kitchen. She hobbled in and hugged her mom, bringing a smile onto her mother’s face. “I’m sorry about last night, sometimes I just get so mad that I hurt my leg, and if I just hadn’t gone into the forest that day, none of this would have happened, and my leg certainly won’t ever be the same again.” She started to cry. “I’m sorry too, I know it’s hard for you. Lets get some food.”
Later at school, Bianca and her best friend Ali were sitting at lunch. “Did you see the bulletin board today??” Said Ali. “There is going to be a school play, Snow White!!! I’m sure you’ll get the lead. You ALWAYS do!” “Ali, you know that I want to with all my heart, but there is no such thing as Snow White with one and a half legs.” They finished eating in silence. Later at music, Elena came up to her saying, “You know, Bianca, there are auditions for Snow White coming up. Are you gonna audition? You would get the lead in a second!” “That wouldn’t happen. How could it???? Snow White is supposed to have two legs. I don’t even have two FEET!” Bianca yelled, a little too loudly. Now everyone was staring at her. “I’m sorry Bianca….” Elena had started to say but Bianca already stormed out of the room.
The audition came, and just as soon had gone, and Bianca had nothing to do with it. One day, Bianca asked her art teacher, Mrs. Leighman, if she could help paint the sets. “Why, my little Anca!” Mrs. Leighman said in that way of hers. “Don’t you think that you should be in rehursal right now? It’s about time that the story of Snow White is changed a bit. Don’t you think? I think that Snow White shouldn’t have two legs anymore. Don’t YOU think so? Because I do. If I watch the normal version of Snow White once more, I think I will just DIE of boredom! Don’t YOU think?”
Bianca watched every rehursal and listened to every criticism or praise the director gave, and without knowing it, learned all of the lines.
But the night of one of the final rehursals, there was a huge dilemma; Snow White wasn’t there! No one knew what to do, because they got all of their cues from her entering and exiting the stage. Ten minutes later, “Snow White’s” mom called. “I’m so extremely sorry, but Claire is sick. She isn’t going to be well until at least a week after all of the shows are over. Even if she went on stage, she wouldn’t be able to sing. She’s barely able to speak. I’m so sorry, I know this could be a show-stopper.” “Oh, you don’t know how sorry we are to hear that.” Their director replied to the bad news. “Tell her to get well soon. Goodbye.” By this point, all of the children had gathered around the phone, trying to hear the conversation. “What is it, what is it????” The kids pretended to not have heard the conversation. “Oh, you heard well enough. Claire is out.” All at once everyone started talking. “We could….” “No, we should…” “I know! We could…” “Silence!” Shouted the director. “I have an idea.” She walked over to Bianca. “Bianca,” She said, “I understand that you have been watching every single rehursal. I also understand that you know most of the lines… Could I ask a huge favor of you? Do you think you would want to go on next week, as Snow White?” “Me?” “Yes, you.” “Um, I don’t know…” “Tell you what Bianca. Come straight to me tomorrow morning and tell me what you decided. Okay?” “Alright.”
The next morning Bianca came into school with a smile on her face. She went straight into the director’s office and said, “I’m gonna do it” before she even looked up. “Bianca, you can bring a smile to anyone’s face if you set your mind to it.” The director happily said.
Bianca had a hard time learning everything she didn’t know about the play for the next couple of weeks, but by opening night she was ready. The curtain went up and Bianca turned into Snow White.
After the show, the director said, “Bianca, that was amazing! Now I will only be able to imagine Snow White with one and a half legs, and crutches.”
Next is the beginning of a longer story being written jointly by my daughter Maya and her friend Greta Mori. Maya is 11 and Greta, 12. I think writing a story with someone else would be difficult, but the girls say it’s easy because they give each other ideas and feedback. Maybe I’m just too selfish in my writing! Here then, is the first part of “Waking Up in Paris”:
Valerie Kramer woke up in room 32 of a small Parisian hotel, just across the street from the Eiffel Tower. She couldn’t remember anything from the day before, or where she was or what she was doing there. Was she a foreign exchange student, learning French? Was she a homeless drunk who got a hand lent to her by the hotel owner? Was she on a trip that her and her best friends, Lil and Shay, had dreamt about for years? Who knew?
Certainly not Val.
She got up from the bed and found it hard to stay on her feet. The drunk story certainly could apply here, but she had a feeling it was a hard night in a different way. Getting up more slowly, she steadied herself and looked around the room. Green and white striped wallpaper coated the walls and the floors were covered with a wall-to-wall rug that was the same sea-foam white as the wallpaper stripes. Too matchy-matchy for her taste, and not anywhere she’d been before, she thought. Deciding to be brave, she walked out the door. She found herself in a cramped hall, more suited to be a closet. The stairs spiraled down into an ocean of darkness. She walked down the stairs and when it seemed like they weren’t going anywhere, she stepped into another room with dim lighting and a soda machine on her right side. The labels on the cans of diet soda and fizzy water looked unfamiliar, she didn’t know why or care at the moment. She looked to her left and saw a grey door with the word ‘poussez’ on it. She shoved with all her might, thinking it will be very heavy. She finds herself heaving a door light as a feather and plummeting through the lobby. She stumbled and fell to a man’s feet. The man said, startled, “Uh, excusez-moi?” and tried to help her up. She grabbed his hand thankfully and said, just because it seemed appropriate, “Merci,” with a pitiful attempt at a French accent, which made her sound like she was about to cough up a lung. She stood there a moment, trying to put the puzzle pieces together. A different man walked up to her, asking if she was all right, in English. She answered yes and walked over to a table with flowers and a framed piece of paper written on in English:
Welcome to Hotel Eiffel, and make yourself at home!
We ask you to not bring any food up to your rooms, and to instead try our breakfast every morning, and to eat out during the day. We recommend Cafe Du Mars. We also highly recommend visiting the Eiffel Tower, only 3 blocks from this very hotel!
Please, do respect fellow guests and the hotel staff.
Now she knew where she was at least. She looked up and struggled to keep herself from screaming. There was her reflection, and it was not an attractive sight. Her mousy brown hair hung off her scalp in mats, and it looked like there was a piece of food between two clumps. Her intense blue eyes were red with exhaustion and there was a smear of mascara on her left cheek. Her nose, who her mother always said looked like a strawberry, was now that exactly in color. Her raspberry freeze lipstick was uneven and smeared, and her left earring was missing. She looked down, and her clothes weren’t much better. Her black jeans, that would be skinny on any size 6 person but on her size 2 legs looked baggy, were sticky and shiny with a cola spill. Her purple wedge shoes with rhinestones had little jewels hanging off of them, and most had broken off already. Her top was hideous, a yellow tank and green scarf. The green scarf looked like it had been soaked in an unknown substance and her shirt was stained as well. Now she understood the looks she was getting from the people sitting at the breakfast tables to her left. She quickly ran up the stairs and back into her hotel room, or what she assumed was her hotel room. She searched the room for a suitcase, and couldn’t find one. So she washed her hair and went out. Being a college student, she was used to things similar to this happening, but never this mysterious. She didn’t drink that much, being 20, and she only partied occasionally. Confused and strangely excited, she walked out of the hotel lobby and onto a cobble-stoned street. There was a Breakfast house right in front of her, but she passes, scared to speak to a French person in the little French she knew. She really didn’t want to embarrass herself right now. She walked down the street and contemplated her surroundings. A French bookstore, a bread shop, a souvenir shop, and Cafe Du Mars. The people she passed were mostly very young or very old couples, (indicating to her that it was a neighborhood, not a tourist trap) but they were all dressed the same. They had on subtly fashionable clothes, making them look poised and confident. Val looked down at her own boyfriend jeans and JC Penney Graphic Tee, feeling completely inferior. She looked around, wracking her brains to see if she could remember why she was here, and what for. Nothing. Her stomach rumbled. She walked into Cafe Du Mars to see if she could grab some breakfast. “Où aimeriez-vous pour s’asseoir, mademoiselle?” a man that appeared to be working there asked Val. “Um……” Val didn’t know much French, but the man was pointing to open tables so she assumed he might be asking her where she would like to sit. “I’ll sit there” she said, pointing to one of the tables. The man’s eyes got wide and went in to the other room. Quickly, a woman came out and thankfully spoke English. “I’m sorry about that miss, he only speaks French.” “That’s okay… um..” Val noticed the woman was staring. But she had every reason to, Val was a big wreck. Then the woman handed her a menu, nodded, and walked away. Val looked at the menu, at first lost because it was all in french, but then she saw that under each french word was an English word. She decided to have some croissants.
Later, when Val was back up in her room, she tried to fix herself up. She took a shower, found a brush and brushed her hair, and decided she needed to wear different clothes. She finally found a suitcase under her bed (that was probably hers). She opened it and was shocked. Neatly on top, in plastic, was a wedding dress. A wedding dress. Was she getting married? Surely not…… but then again, she was 20, and it could be possible. She sat down on the strangely low bed in her room and tried to recall her last memory. She remembered her 20th birthday at Crimson in Manhattan, her hometown. How had she gotten from Manhattan to a Paris hotel room, not remembering anything about how she’d gotten there? She went back over to her suitcase, and picked up the wedding dress. It was beautiful. It was snow white, with ruffles at the bottom. She put it aside and went through her suitcase. She found the obvious; clothes, toothbrush, matching white heels, and books. One thing she knew for certain, she loved to read. But there wasn’t anything else of importance in her suitcase. She had a feeling that she was the one getting married, though. After all, why else would she have a wedding dress in her bag? She wouldn’t. She walked across the room and spotted a phone. She went to pick it up but then realized, who would she call? She thought it would be smart to call her Mom. But when she dialed the number, it wouldn’t go through.
The next day Val decided she needed to figure things out. Why was she here? When did she get here? Who was she supposed to be with? But she didn’t know how to answer those questions. She decided to take a walk again, because she was more in her right mind now then she was the last time she went out. And maybe it would help her find answers. She walked downstairs to get some breakfast that she saw they had on the sign the first day. It was like a buffet. She remembered being at one of those once….
After Val ate, she walked outside into the fresh morning air. She decided that until she realized why she was supposed to be here, she just wanted to live her life. Maybe she could go shopping? She walked the opposite way of where she had gone the day before, and she passed a lot of things that were very nice. She saw the Eiffel Tower. It looked so huge and amazing! She had seen it in photos, but never so up close. She found a little shop where they sold stationary and she bought a sketchpad to draw the Eiffel Tower to show her family when she got home. But…. when would she be home? She wanted to draw it anyway. She bought the sketchpad. As she was walking to a nice grassy patch to draw it, she saw a man at the end of the block. Staring at her. “VAL! VAL!!! VALERIE!” He yelled and started running toward her. Frightened, Valerie ran the other way. But he was too fast, he caught up with her. He grabbed her arm. “Get away from me!” Valerie shouted, resisting his grip. “Valerie, what’s wrong?” The man said. He knew her name, that was strange. Valerie released his grip and ran. As fast as she could. “Valerie.” She heard his voice, softer now. She slowed down and turned around. He had tears in his eyes. They made eye contact, and Valerie quickly looked away and kept running, until she got back to her hotel. She finally got there, gasping for breath. What was that about? The man didn’t sound french, he knew her name… maybe he had known something about her past! Maybe she should have stayed and asked who he was and what he knew. But she was afraid, what if he was trying to hurt her? She shook her head. He wouldn’t want to hurt her, he looked sad when she had run. She took the elevator up to her hotel room. She sat on her bed, and looked out her window over Paris. It was beautiful, she thought. She shouldn’t worry about the man. Maybe he was just crazy? But if she did run into him again, she decided she was going to ask questions.
Not bad, right? No massive overuse of adverbs (the cardinal sin of writing) and well executed. I’m sure I could not have done as well at their age.
Next month they are going to write an autobiographical story, keeping it to one page. It’s great that our book club is morphing into a place where the kids get to flex their own literary skills as well. We’ll see what they come up with!