Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Like, The Sun Also, Um, Rises, and Stuff

A little while back, Kelly mentioned a story I had written back in high school. She astounded me with her excellent memory. We were challenged by our writer's craft teacher to mimic Hemingway's style of writing in a story of our own, a "parody", if you will. I cannot profess to being a true Hemingway fan, I'd have to be way more forgiving of his sexist, macho ways than I am. But, I have read him, I do appreciate him, and according to that teacher (and Kelly) at least, I can mimic him fairly well. Or at least what Hemingway would have sounded like when he was in high school. I will resist the urge to tinker, and print it in its original, embarrassing form.


His pace was quick, he licked his lips. He had never seen so many flavours at once. Adam's throat was dry. He inhaled deeply. Up and down the aisle he walked, his mind racing. The choice was just too much.

There was rocky road, french vanilla, butterscotch ripple and pecan. Adam's eyes darted from side to side, growing larger by the second. Rows of pink plastic spoons were ready and waiting nearby, like soldiers poised for battle. A sweat broke out on his brow. The server stood before him, scoop in hand, expectant. The barrels of ice cream were calling his name. Adam's stomach let out a low growl of anticipation.

A soft breeze from the air conditioning hit the backs of his knees. He gave it no thought. The server was expecting something from him; a nod, a raised eyebrow, any indication would do. Adam cleared his throat and sniffed a bit. The cool air always gave him a runny nose. He wished for one of the fancy blue paper napkins but his arms were like lead beside him. His instinct was to bolt from the little shoppe, but his feet remained planted firmly to the speckled tile. He was a grown man, and a decision had to be made.

The freezer was massive and metallic. In the corners, little icicles hung down in groups of three or four. The list of its contents went on forever: strawberry, chocolate delight, raspberry swirl, mint chocolate chip. He glanced at the frozen yogurt out of the corner of his eye and then quickly looked away. He would not even consider those today. Maybe one day he would be ready, but today was not that day.

Finally, he felt a burst of confidence. He looked up and managed a small nod. The server smiled and look relieved as he took a cone from the pyramid behind the counter. His apron crinkled as he moved behind the freezer, happy to have something to do and happy that his customer had finally made up his mind. Adam went up to the glass case and thrust his finger in the direction of his selection, neapolitan. It was his favourite. The silver scoop cut through the softness of the ice cream smoothly as it had done many times before. The man behind the counter grimaced with the effort. He packed the ice cream into the cone and put a nicely rounded scoop on top.

At the cash register, Adam traded some bills for the cold treat. He headed toward the door, squinting and frowning slightly at the cone in his hand. He stopped suddenly and took a lick. A sigh escaped his lips. By God, it was some good ice cream. It was the best ice cream he'd ever tasted.


So there it is. It makes me cringe to think one of the best pieces of writing I did in high school is one of the worst pieces I still have in my possession. I struggle through the poor point of view and my awkward shifts between tenses - how did I make it through high school without someone screaming at me "Hey, that ain't good English!" And even worse, I was at the head of my class. I received awards and scholarships based on this work.

High school is a strange place. What exactly did I learn there? I learned how to play euchre. I learned that there was a 'wrong' side of Lancaster. I dissected a sheep eye, and what I took away from that is that they're 'gross'. I learned that when a museum posts a sign saying not to touch the display, they really mean it. Maybe the point of high school is to learn life lessons, sometimes at the expense of things like reading and writing. It's a good thing I went to University to learn the good English, eh?

And just to clear something up: a few posts ago, a friend of mine made mention of "special classes" I took because I was smart, and Shane wanted to know what exactly was meant by that. When I was 8 or 9, we went through standardized testing, and I scored in the 'gifted' range. My mother didn't want me taken out of my school, so I went to 'enrichment' courses, which supposedly fostered independent thinking and would help prevent me from being so bored in the classroom (a lot of good that did). We worked on special projects, puzzles to expand the mind, and even put on plays. It was great to get out of normal class several times a week, but not exactly what I would call an enriching experience. But once a year, during education week, we boarded a bus and drove 100+km away to attend specialized classes at a University. The first time I went was when I was 13, and I took a week-long science course that opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities, mostly because I went to a small hick- school that had no science budget whatsoever. I'd never even heard of a beaker or a bunsen burner before. However, I don't put much stock into this test that gave me this label, for two reasons: 1- They tested us once in grade 4, and that score followed me throughout high school 2- Our enrichment teacher once had the bright idea of reading our scores out loud to us; she told me I was the only one she'd seen that had ever had a perfect score, but some people in the group scored quite a bit lower and still fell within the gifted range...and I can't help but feel that any test that allows a 9 year old girl to score perfectly just can't be all that good. Anyhow, that test has followed me throughout my career as a student. I also took University courses in creative writing, geology, and film. None of this prevented me from getting bored with what the rest of the class was doing, and some teachers recognized this and gave me papers to correct to keep me busy, and other teachers ignored it. Maybe it's why I stopped going to school, and maybe it's not. All I know is that I'm not done learning, not by far, but I am done being taught.

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