Monday, September 04, 2006

Everything that Rises Must Submerge

(Yet another storyseed that has lain fallow for years.)

by Joy Renee

Jan sat at her desk waiting her turn as one by one her fellow sixth going on seventh graders were called to receive their graded term papers. She tried to read but the words of Jane Eyre flowed together as the voices of the kid’s surged around her. Even as enthralling a story as this couldn’t take her mind off what was happening at Mr. Ty’s desk right now.

She watched Mr. Ty thumb over the jacketed pages, stabbing his finger at splashes of crimson on them. The sight of all that red made her wince for the pristine black and white pages of her own Life and Works of the Flannery O’Connor. Hers was probably the only typed one because Mr. Ty had proclaimed: “All work must be your own. Down to the last jot and title.” a few of the brasher boys had loosed a stream of raunchy guffaws but Jan knew what he meant before he explained: “Every letter and punctuation mark is to be put in place by you. No soliciting the nimble fingers of mother or big sister.
But Jan had been typing for three years. She had loved every minute of the project from note-cards to twenty item bibliography page. She couldn’t have put more of herself into it if she’d used her heart’s blood for ink.

“Jan Hill.” Finally! She slipped out of her seat and approached Mr. Ty who held her report like a guillotine blade over his left palm, slicing it down over and over. Then he fanned the pages and she was relieved to see only a few small red stains.

“You expect me to believe you wrote this?” his words submerged her in an icy ocean of shame where her mind thrashed about to make sense of them. He tossed the paper to her and she opened it to the title page which was gashed by the bizarre equation B/D. Form over content was Mr. Ty’s way of grading all written work. “Be glad it’s not F/F. Because I know you’ve copied this from somewhere and if I had time to go to your sources and prove it you would be taking sixth grade English over again in Summer School.”

She turned away to hide the tears welling in her eyes. But suddenly remembering something she swung back.

“What is it?” he snapped. “You better not be planning to challenge me on this. Because if you make me have to hunt down your source I’ll see to it you have to repeat sixth grade entirely!”

“My books.” she said, reminding him of his promise to return the six novels he’d confiscated throughout the year when he caught her reading them during class he unlocked his drawer and stacked the books between them.

“I hope you’ve learned you lesson.” he said as she grabbed up the books like a life buoy and made her way back to her seat and sank into it.

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