On my first day of third grade my class was given the simplest of homework assignments: write a story. It could be on any topic we wanted. Any topic at all, my teacher assured us. I was delighted by the possibilities. I couldn’t wait to get home and start my masterpiece.
That night, the words poured from my tiny brain and onto the wide-ruled paper with fervor. It was my first experience of a piece writing itself and my first time feeling that laser beam focus brought on by inspired writing.
The end result was an epic tome about a family whose home is invaded by a wild aardvark that trashes every room, eats all their food, and then barfs everywhere.
Not only did I write this story with zeal, but the barfing sequence spanned a whole page. I thought it was a comic triumph, a true literary accomplishment, a droll, insightful tale for the ages. I couldn’t wait to turn it in.
So you can imagine my surprise the next morning when I realized that everyone else had simply written a few paragraphs about their summer vacation. I knew this because my teacher read every story out loud to the class.
As anecdotes of beach outings and Disney World adventures were met with applause and even some Q & A, my puking aardvark extravaganza was followed only by a long, stunned silence that will forever reverberate through my soul.
I had no friends going into third grade, and needless to say, I did not make any more that year.
I learned a few things that day. (1) I was not like everyone else, (2) there’s a sort of subtext in school and in society that everyone seems to understand but that I clearly do not, and (3) the act of writing awakens weird things in me and perhaps I should tone it down.
The spewing aardvark tale is just one of many strange short stories I wrote as a kid and later threw out from embarrassment. But today I would give anything to be able to read those stories.
Other story premises from my childhood (that I can remember):
All this reminiscing about the absurd things I wrote as a kid is starting to make me think that I was way cooler and more creative back then. If I could tell the eight-year-old me anything, I’d grab her by the shoulders and tell her she is smart and capable and funny and has more potential than all those other boring losers who bully her everyday. I would also tell her to please save all those amazing things she wrote so that I can post a better blog about them in the future.
Stay weird, my dudes.