In my efforts to catch up on the A to Z Challenge, here’s a little story post. I wrote this for a storypraxis prompt a few weeks ago, and it was chosen to appear in the bi-weekly storypraxis magazine. While I don’t particularly love it (not false modesty, just being honest!), maybe it’ll give you a smile today!
When Roger’s tenth-grade English teacher handed his essay back covered in red marks, Roger wasn’t all that concerned. It happened a lot. Probably because he wrote all his papers the night before they were due, loading himself up on Red Bull and Twizzlers and writing until he either fell asleep at the keyboard or the sun came up.
But when he turned to the final page where the grade should have been, no bright red numbers popped off the page. Instead, one scrawled sentence stared back in thick, blood-red ink:
THIS WRITING IS APPALLING AND YOUR WORK ETHIC SHAMES YOUR FAMILY
YOU BELONG IN KINDERGARTEN
Roger glanced at his English teacher, who had her back turned while continuing to hand out papers to the other students. He shrugged, picked up his book bag, and walked out of the classroom. Down the stairs, out the front door, across this street and that, until he reached the entry to Saint Michael’s Elementary.
He strolled through the halls, peeking in the little windows on each door, until reaching a classroom that appeared to be full of exceedingly tiny children. He knocked, opened the door, and found himself facing a very startled young lady – and about thirty staring, miniature humans.
“Hello, I’m Roger,” he said, stepping into the classroom, “And my English teacher recommended I go back to Kindergarten. So here I am.”
The young woman stood, shaking her head. “I… I’m afraid that’s not possible. I’m going to have to ask you to leave, or I’ll call the office, and–”
Something tugged at Roger’s leg.
“Why did your teacher tell you to come to Kindergarten?” shrieked a curly-haired child, yanking on Roger’s pants. “Did you fail?”
“Please, sir–” said the teacher.
“My writing is terrible,” he told the child.
“I can write real good! Teacher said!” the child said, continuing to express himself in a loud, exuberant voice. “Right teacher?”
The teacher opened her mouth, closed it again, and sighed before responding. “Yes, dear. You can.”
“You’re probably better at it than me,” Roger said, handing his paper to the child. “See all that red ink? That’s what I got wrong.”
“Can’t your English teacher help you?” the young woman asked, “Rather than sending you here to disturb my class?”
Roger shrugged. “You can call her if you want.” He dug his phone out of his back pocket, found the school’s phone listing, and handed the phone to her. “She really hates me.”
“It’s okay, Ms. Clare likes everyone!” said the tiny child. “She wants everyone to always do their best.”
A tiny hint of a smile formed at the corner of the young teacher’s mouth. “Well, that istrue.”
“Can he stay, Ms. Clare? His teacher said so, and you always say that teachers know best…”
Roger snorted, earning a sharp glance from Ms. Clare. She snatched Roger’s paper from her student, flipped to the back page, and read the comments. Her stern expression wavered, shifted, and melted into concern, before settling into something else entirely. She closed the paper and handed it back to Roger.
“Just for today, Roger. If anyone asks, we’ll say you’re a work-assignment student, all right? I’ll call your teacher at the end of the day and let her know you came. There are a few things I’d like to say to her, in fact.”
A cheer rose from the human attached to Roger’s leg, and Roger extended a hand to Ms. Clare. “Thank you.”
Ms. Clare nodded, and pointed to the carpet where the rest of the children sat, waiting. “Have a seat. I believe you have some learning to do.”
Ahh, kindergarten… those were the days.