I write every single day. For this creative endeavor my preferred tools are a No. 2 pencil, a sheet of paper, and a pink pearl eraser.
The first draft of everything I write, I write in long hand.
What I consider to be my first complete story was written in the 3rd Grade. Mrs. Thurston, my stylish thirty-something teacher, fetchingly attractive with her black cat-eye glasses and auburn Betty-Crooker-helmet-hairdo, assigned our class a creative project wherein we were to tell a tale of the first Thanksgiving Feast hosted by the Pilgrims living in the woods.
The tale I told was scribbled on thin brown paper with wide blue lines. I handed it in early.
But that accomplishment was overshadowed by Mrs. Thurston’s rejection of my one page masterpiece. She told me in no uncertain terms that my composition would not join those of my classmates on the classroom bulletin board because parents attending our upcoming Autumn Pageant might read it. She said my Pilgrim tale with its colorful descriptions and realistic dialogue would not be posted because the story included a bear.
Now, it was my contention that if you live in the woods, as these Pilgrims did, then you’re going to encounter bears. And if you encounter a bear, they’re going to eat you or someone else. Since I was the one telling the story, I couldn’t have the bear eat me. So I picked my best friend Tedd to be the victim. He sat one row over and a chair behind me. In my adolescent logic, as we were running for our lives the bear would reach him first. In my tale, Tedd didn’t make it and I did.
It was my opinion back then as it is now, that Mrs. Thurston would never have made it in the cutthroat business of today’s pop culture publishing. She had literary tunnel vision. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth.
This opinion of mine is based upon the meeting she and I had at my desk. At that time she informed me, in no-uncertain-terms, that my two favorite story elements; the bear and the state in which Tedd’s remains were found, had to be removed. And not just rewritten mind you, removed.
In my story, I led the town’s search for Tedd because, of course, I was the last one to see him alive. The lead up to the bear’s appearance involved a morning walk in the woods, an encounter with the bear, and my hair raising escape due only to my superior foot speed.
Having marshaled the town’s elders, I led the late afternoon search back into the shadowy woods for my best friend. As I rounded an enormous trunk of a fallen tree my eyes beheld the disturbing sight of what was left of my best friend. I then dropped to my knees and cried out in anguish, “Look what they did to Tedd! Oh God! Look what they did to Tedd!!”
My story then went on to describe, in detail, not the partially devoured limbs and torso of my best friend, but rather a large pile of what bears do in the woods with a little scrap of his shirt perched on top of the brown pyramid for dramatic impact and ease of identification.
“It’s Tedd I tell you!” I sobbed to the crowd, “I know it’s Tedd!”
The secret audience for whom I wrote my Pilgrim and a Pyramid tale was my beguiling freckle faced classmate Bonny. She had declined my invite to spend lunch together the day before. Undaunted by this disappointment, I thought an exciting frontier adventure with a vicious bear chasing a young hero, played my me, and the untimely gruesome demise of his best friend, played by Tedd, would melt her heart.
Obviously, Mrs. Thurston put an end to that daydream.
To perform these draconian editorial directives, she gave me a brand new Pink Pearl eraser. Rubbing away my cherished bear passages written with an oversized No. 2 red pencil from the thin brown paper with its wide blue lines was like cutting off my arm.
But I removed them and replaced them with a passage where Tedd and I found an orphaned baby bunny hiding behind the fallen tree and brought it home to adopt it.
Mrs. Thurston loved my new tale. I hated it. It was posted with the others on the bulletin board. I’ve never written of this until now.
Tedd, I’m sorry I killed you off. Bonny, I’m not sorry I turned you into a bunny.