I wish I still had the short fiction story. It was the first thing I wrote that was “published,” if you call the mimeographed version of the West Junior High School Sword and Shield being published.
Once that newspaper hit the halls, I knew I had found the thing I would do for the rest of my life. I would write.
The story was about a girl, let’s call her Stacy, who always kept to herself, didn’t wear nice, clean clothes and only brought a sandwich every day for lunch. She sat by herself. Others would make up stories about why she never talked to anyone and why she looked sad all the time. They’d laugh and snicker behind her back.
No one knew much about Stacy. They knew she walked to and from school every day no matter the weather. They knew she never came to any school activities and on field days she did not show up. No one had ever seen her parents.
Then one day Stacy wasn’t at school. It was several days later when the teacher told students in her homeroom that she had gone to live with her grandmother in another state because her mother had died of a brain tumor. Stacy, at age 13 had been the one taking care of her because her father had left years before.
I had written the story in first person as one of the group of girls snickering behind her back. The story garnered quite a bit of attention. Even though it was clearly labeled fiction, people in my classes would ask me who the girl was. I told them she was fictional, but they didn’t believe me.
“You couldn’t make that up,” Ellen whispered to me during Spanish class. “It has to be about someone. Why are you hiding who it is?”
“She’s NOT real,” I said.
Ellen rolled her eyes and went back to doing her Spanish homework.
My English teacher was the newspaper sponsor and the one who chose my story to go in the paper. Then, after the response the story got, she invited me to be the features editor.
The title wasn’t technically correct because the stories I wrote and had others write weren’t stories about real people, which are usually what the feature section of a newspaper includes. The stories were fiction, well, sort of.
Stacy Was Me
What I didn’t tell Ellen, though, was that my story was about a real person. That person lived inside of me. It was how I felt when I thought about my mother. She was very much alive and didn’t have a tumor. I was having a hard time understanding how she was “sick”, as my Dad called her condition.
She wasn’t sick, like with a stomach ache. She had an emotional illness and preferred to live in isolation. She rarely went anywhere, never came to any school functions and most of the time neither did I. I would go straight home to take care of my brother and sister, make supper and do the household chores.
In other words, I also felt isolated. I wanted to be home, but another part of me wanted to go live with my Grandma, who represented warmth and comfort.
It was the first time I realized the real power of words. Words can move people to action. Words can make people think about things that are right in front of their faces everyday, but most of the time don’t give them a minute’s thought.
Before Spanish class started, I turned Ellen and said, “What if I told you a part of that story was about me? And maybe a part about you? And maybe a part about the girl with the dirty blue
coat who always sits in the back of class and is afraid to talk to us because we don’t talk to her?”
Ellen was quiet for a moment. “What part is about you?”
“My mom is sick, not with a tumor, she has emotional issues that are hard for me to talk about.”
“I didn’t know..”
Why did I tell her? Now she will tell everyone in school. I slumped down in my chair. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone?”
Ellen hugged me. “I promise.” Then she stood up and took my hand, “Let’s go talk to the girl in the back.’
“What will we say?”
“Let’s start with Hi, what’s your name?”
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken (or written) in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11 NASB
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