Rumor Has It

The first time gossip exploded throughout our school like a shaken bottle of soda was when Charlie, a greasy-haired kid in the fourth grade, jabbed a pair of safety scissors into Ms. Grant’s leg.

Normally, we would have felt a certain amount of sympathy for a kid who got in trouble, because as kids, we understood what it was like to face off with an adult who didn’t understand how tough life was for us.

However, Charlie made us nervous. Besides smelling really bad, he never said anything out loud. He mumbled under his breath and glared at us if we tried to get too chummy. After he was hauled off to the principal’s office, he was never heard from again. As you can imagine, the stories kids made up about his fate were epic. We didn’t miss him much.

Ms. Grant, on the other hand, charmed all of us with her warm personality and silly jokes. We even forgave her for wearing panty hose that made her legs look orange and allowing her lipstick to bleed into the wrinkles of her papery skin. Just as we would for a grandparent who took ill, we worried about her. Ms. Grant had to take some time off so her leg could heal. Families chipped in to send some flowers to her hospital room and kids drew get well cards on sheets of construction paper.

In the aftermath, Ms. Parker, the gym teacher, was brought in as a substitute teacher. If only that had meant endless games of dodgeball! Unfortunately, Ms. Parker’s installation in our fourth grade class led to the second great scandal that rocked our school.

She sent home packets, which our parents deliberated over. Some signed the permission slips. Others sent letters to Ms. Parker protesting their child’s involvement. We had no idea what was going on, only that some of our friends were were shipped off to the library, while the remaining girls were sent to one classroom and the boys to another, like cattle being separated at the stockyards.

Our wide eyes and whispering expressed our collective concern over what was about to happen. The adults managing our troop movements refused to talk off script. No one gave us a hint as to what was in store for us. Then, in the dark, after much fumbling with the reel-to-reel projectors, our nightmare began.

None of us were the same after watching those videos. When the boys returned to the classroom, they chuckled and blushed, but none would share what they had seen. The girls, ashen-faced, tucked away the booklets and boxes of samples into the very depths of their backpacks. Charlie’s misadventures faded to nothing as we contemplated the traumas and indignities that all of us were to face in the years to come.

Exercise:Write a fragment of fiction on a subject you find ignored or avoided– for reasons of taste, decorum, or any other reason you can think of– in contemporary fiction, film, or television. You might start by listing such subjects, and then choosing the subject, or letting it choose you. 500 words.

From The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley

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