If I ever get my fiction published, I will dedicate my first book to my seventh grade teacher. This is what the dedication will say:
To Mrs. Weigel, who gave me an award for a story I didn’t write.
Yeah, that story of mine that you gushed over, that earned me the only A+ I got that year, it wasn’t mine. Oh, I didn’t copy it word for word, but the story came from the back of a puzzle box.
Every year my mom bought a new 1000 piece puzzle for us to complete over the annual two week shore vacation. Something to do on rainy days I guess. A part of the down-the-shore experience that she had inherited from her parents. That summer the puzzle had been of a deep, dark jungle: palm trees and parrots and tropical fruit. On the back of the box there was a story about the picture. I must have read it a dozen times over the course of that puzzle’s existence on the foldout table under the bay window that faced the ocean.
The story told of a Hawaiian style shirt that came alive at night while its owner slept. I think the parrot might have flown around the guy’s bedroom and lost a feather or something. I don’t actually remember it now.
But I knew the story well back then. Well enough that when you handed out the mimeographed coloring book page of a jungle scene and told us to “Demonstrate your knowledge of the First Person Narrative” by writing a story about the picture (and color the picture for extra credit) I knew exactly what story to tell.
I wonder now if you made such a big deal over the story because it was the only decent thing I had ever done in your class and you felt like it was a good opportunity to let me shine. You were everyone’s favorite teacher. You were kind and affectionate and you were always fair. I wonder now if you felt a little sorry for me, so much smaller than the other kids, smart, but totally uninterested in spelling, the rules of composition or memorizing poetry. I never really excelled at anything in your class.
You made such a fuss over that story that two things clicked in my brain. First, that making up stories and writing them down can garner praise. And second, that someday I was going to write a story for real and show it to you in order to feel like I actually deserved that praise.
Well, it took me thirty odd years, and I don’t even know if you are still alive, but here it is, a real story, just for you. I hope you like it as much as you liked the other one.
If you should ever stumble across this blog, Mrs. Weigel, I hope you read some of the fiction I have posted here. All of it is a 100% my own creation, and all of it is for you.