Monday, August 27, 2012

Three Minutes with a Random Word

Normanday #43: Word of the day: Orwell.

Pick up the nearest book. Without looking, point at a word. You can look now. That word you’re pointing at? Use it as a starting point for three minutes of free-writing.

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day September 2 (put “Norman is a Walking Dictionary” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here are the entries from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes…

…about the first day of school.


It was the first day of middle school sometime in the mid 80s. I was nervous. Our elementary school went from 1st grade to 5th grade and I had known the people there my whole life. Middle school was far away from our house, in another school district. We were getting bussed there. It was at least a 45 minute bus ride. Our school district didn’t have a middle school, so they rented one in Indian Hills, the part of town that was filled with mansions which was so different than Milford, filled with middle class homes and salaries. Our middle school combined a number of schools—not just Pleasant Hill, but Loveland, and other surrounding areas.

Trying to be optimistic, I put on my one new outfit I got for the school year. It was a light gray shirt with a collar and fake dark gray vest on top with teal argyle pattern across the chest. And I had bought teal, corduroy gauchos to match. (Gauchos were wide leg pants that came to mid-calf.) I loved them. I don’t remember my shoes, but I imagine they were my favorite pale pink ballet slippers that I wore until my mom threw them away in disgust. I looked good.

The bus came bright and early, as we had a long journey ahead of us. The bus ride was quiet. It was still dark when the bus arrived at my block and the sun slowly came up as we journeyed to the high end part of town. Everyone stared in disbelief at the mansions and huge tracks of land in Indian Hills. One place even had a herd of horses, chewing grass and running free in the morning light. Another place had a great fountain, which sparkled and caught the early sun light. The cars that were not in garages were shiny and expensive. We had no idea who lived in these pricey places, but rumor had it Johnny Bench, the great Cincinnati Reds baseball player, had a mansion in these parts.

The bus pulled in front of a school much bigger than Pleasant Hill Elementary School. It even had a huge football field. Hopping off the bus, I did see a few of my friends from 5th grade, although a number of them had moved to another city all together. We waved to each other and compared schedules. We didn’t have any classes together…not even home room. Disheartened, I went to face my day.

Homeroom was fine. My homeroom teacher was also my English teacher. She was a disagreeable woman with strong opinions about the fashions in the day. I went to Math and History. My Math teacher was really funny, my History teacher was not. I recognized a few people, but no one I had been friends with. Finally, lunch bell rang. I ate my packed lunch and sat, quietly, in the lunch room by myself before deciding to explore outside. It was an overcast day by that point. It had been drizzling on and off. I saw a few people playing kickball. I looked over hopefully, but they ignored me. I was sitting under the awning, scanning the vast field, when a figure caught my eye. It was a lone girl. I thought at first she was running. But then I realized she was galloping. And clapping her hands. I had seen this behavior before. My older brother had shown me a movie from England called Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Instead of horse, all the actors just galloped and clapped coconuts together to sound like horse hooves. I laughed. Here was this girl, by herself, pretending to be a horse. I was not a brave person. Usually, I just waited for people to approach me. But I was so intrigued, I walked over to her and asked her if she was pretending to be a horse. She laughed and said she was and that her older brother had shown her the same film my older brother had shown me. She asked if I wanted to join her and I did. I was aware that no one else was playing make-believe during recess in 6th grade, but I didn’t care. I loved that my new friend still played make-believe like me. As we talked, we realized how much we had in common, including sharing a number of classes.

That was my first day of school, 29 years ago. We have been close friends ever since.

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