Trying or Not

I’d rather not today. I’m tired and I’m sick. I just wrote a speech on how to fasten a button and make a buttonhole and now I’m nervous for tomorrow because I’m going to be up on the stage, sniffling and stammering as I try to teach people at 7:30 in the morning how to do something that they don’t care about. Yeah. I’m not in the mood.

However, I’m not going to let myself get away with it. I’m writing, with God as my witness, and also my mom, who told me to not forget to Story-a-Day today. I wanted to forget. I really did. I considered. I was sitting in the bathroom, hoping to get my schnoz cleared out by the shower steam, and I thought, “I’m sick. I need to sleep. The Universe will understand if I don’t write today. I mean, I’m sick. Why shouldn’t I try to get better?” But then I thought that the Universe might not actually understand. Because there’s all those people in rural China who don’t get to take sick days because they have to have enough money to put their kids through school, which they have to walk ten miles to get to and sometimes they get mugged along the way and they’re just little kids, why do they put them through this type of thing?

So then I thought that I should not take a sick day and I should write my story. I can assure you, though, it probably won’t be very good…

My shadow fell over the desk. I was almost shaking with anxiety.

His eyes pored over the pages–three in total. Far fewer than any of my classmates. Most of them had six or more pages. I had half that. This bode unwell for me.

He read the whole thing, going from single-spaced page to single-spaced page. I predicted what he would say about it: Why isn’t this in MLA format? Why, for the love of God, would you justify your header to the left on your final project? Do you want to take this class again?

He didn’t say anything of the sort. Instead, he said, “Good. I like it. Who knew how cool red pandas could be?”

I just stared, kind of dumbstruck. He had taken my bullshit final–a research report on red pandas–read it, and liked it? And now he was taking it to the front of the class… getting everyone’s attention… holding up my essay…

–What the hell was he doing?

“This,” he said, shaking the unstapled sheaf of paper in an authoritative way, “is what is known as brevity. Three pages, ladies and gentlemen. Today, you are high school students. In two days, you will be adults. You’ll be going to college–or the workforce, or the military, or whatever it is that you decided to do after high school–in just three months. Do you really think your professors, bosses, or sergeants are going to want to hear you gab for pages and pages?

“No. Brevity, my dear children. Three pages of succinct, brilliant information. Three pages of real meat. This is a real research paper.”

Everyone looked at me, stunned. They all knew that it was a last-minute slapdash made solely out of adrenaline and caffeine at two in the morning. They knew this because they saw it on Facebook before they all had gone to bed at a normal hour; at eleven, I had posted the status, “English final is killing me. Anybody know anything about (or even care about) red pandas? Jesus Christo, this is not my day.”

I had gotten comments like, “You know if you fail English, you’re doomed right?” and “Why the hell haven’t you already started this?” (that was from my mother)

No one could have expected this. It might have been the single greatest thing that ever happened to me in my entire senior year of high school.

I was succinct. That was my niche.


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