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Classroom Graffiti

It should be a recipe for disaster. The classroom left wide open during 7th grade lunch by a naive substitute. Seventh graders are notorious for shenanigans and poor decision making. Their favorite activities seem to be deliberately destroying things on accident and inventing new ways to bully each other. Low and behold a gaggle of 7th graders had snuck in to my classroom at some point and left graffiti splayed all across the whiteboard for me to find upon my return at the end of the day. It gave me strong feelings so I snapped a couple photos with my phone and then forgot all about it. I rediscovered the photos recently as I was going through and organizing older and older photos, trying to piece together the forgotten days of my past.

This was my white board on the day before the last day of school 4 years ago, which was coincidentally the last year I taught 7th grade science.

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This is the type of thing that makes me really love being a teacher. If only every day could end like this.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

 

Lighthouse Point

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There’s lots of monuments that represent Santa Cruz, like the Boardwalk with its Giant Dipper, or the Municipal Wharf, or even the Harbor. But nothing says Santa Cruz like the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point. Home of the world famous surf break known as Steamer Lane, the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse now contains a surf museum.

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

The Test

The lecture diverged to the subject of taking personal responsibility for your actions and making decisions that considered others. The art of thoughtful action.

A hand rose in the back of the classroom. “Mr. Peabody, will we be tested on  this?”

“Every single day for the rest of your lives.”

Question (by Clarkston SCAMP)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.

Hating Life

His life filled with things he hated. Radiation. Chemotherapy. Inoperable cancer.

He hated that everything should be compromised to have a chance.

He hated that everybody told him how sorry they were, like it was their fault somehow.

Above all, he hated that what he really wanted was another cigarette.

Smoke (by Ferran.)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.

Letter to My Future Self

Greetings to me in the future.

I am writing this letter to relate a peculiar happening and also provide a reminder of the utmost importance to you.  The happening occurred fairly recently, and I am only relating it to you now because you play an integral role in its passage despite my current ignorance of the exact methodology. Of course you probably already know this, and if I think on this fact too deeply I find myself paralyzed by a logical fallacy deeper than my tiny brain can endure, so I must just continue on and not consider the implications of it all.

I was wandering along the beach (you no doubt remember the one) lost in many moments of deep contemplation, such as consideration of the number of sand grains on the shore, the exact hue of the ocean’s blue, and the seeming pointless existence that I appeared to be carving for myself through the passing of days. The general melancholy and malaise that had been filling my gut recently had started to take purchase in my physical body in the form of stressful headaches, near debilitating back pain, and a battery of sleepless nights. I had just finished my college education and felt no more prepared for life than the day it had started. My job was a tedious dead end of triviality, and left me each day with a sense that I had accomplished nothing but a continued trajectory carrying me one step closer to the grave. There never seemed to be enough money, enough time, or enough love in my life to allow me to even feign happiness.

As I was reveling in my self-induced circling of the drain, a strange elderly gentleman approached me. I tried to ignore him so I could concentrate on the existential dread that seemed to be so important at the time, but his insistence was difficult to avoid. His hair was grey and frizzed out in the style of Einstein, and he walked with a pronounced limp accentuated by the soft unevenness of the sand. He waved to me and I continued past him, so he turned and shuffled after me across the beach. It was only when he called out my complete name that I halted and provided my attention.

I asked him how he knew my name. He responded that despite the fact that I was not familiar with him he knew me well. I asked if he had been spying on me, and he responded that he had indeed, but from a distance greater than I could comprehend. I then asked him who he was, and he told me he was me from the future, that he had traversed the very fabric of time to provide me with an important message.

The rigors of doubt immediately flooded my mind. I wondered if was he crazy or dangerous, what mental institution he had escaped from, and whether the authorities should be alerted. Of course he was able to understand my skepticism since he had presumably experienced the same moment of doubt himself at one time. He told me that he knew I didn’t believe him, and that was understandable, and someday soon I would come to appreciate this peculiar rendezvous. He told me that he had one simple thing to tell me.

“Just keep writing.”

I am providing it in quotes so you will know what to say to me when the time comes. Indeed the words seem to reverberate through my head without end recently, a mantra that I am unable to forget even with my most determined effort. I decided at the time that even if the man was crazed the advice was indeed useful. I at that point still didn’t believe anything he had said except those three words, not that I felt inclined to act upon them immediately. He then told me that was all he wanted to say, and that he felt it important enough to travel back to this beach to provide me this message using some as of yet unimagined technology. He then turned and started walking away, leaving me in the confusion that had overtaken my conscious thought.

On a whim I asked him what had caused his limp. He turned to me and smiled, and told me it was a motorcycle accident. I found this to be the final straw of discredit to his claims, as I did not own nor had I ever ridden a motorcycle. He winked at me and repeated those three words to me again, Just Keep Writing, and then hobbled off down the beach in a lurch. And I continued on with my woeful meditations and general unease with the process of living for many years after the encounter, positive that it had been a short foray into an old man’s dementia. But just to be safe, I avoided every temptation to ride, touch, or in any way come into contact with all imaginable manner of motorized cycle.

It wasn’t until I was standing on a street corner many years later and witnessed a motorcycle run a red light, get struck by a truck and sent careening through the intersection into me and my now destroyed leg that I realized the true value and importance of the man’s visit.

And of course, after the accident, I sat in my wheelchair during my rehabilitation and started writing immediately.

You know what to do.

Sincerely,

A Man Transformed

DeLorean Time Machine (by Anime Nut)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine, and/or the DP Daily Prompt: If I Could Turn Back Time

 

How Did I Get Here?

(aka My Illustrious Writing Habit)

When I tell people that I started writing stories in second grade many find this hard to believe. In truth I may have started earlier, but since the first physical artifact of my early writing still in my possession dates from the second grade, I’ll go with it. The second grade was also when I published my first collection of short stories under the tutelage of Mrs. Olson, my 2nd Grade teacher. Most of my memories of Mrs. Olson revolve around my surprise at how freaking old she was, by far the oldest looking teacher I have ever had. I remember her librarian glasses and how the skin hung off her arms when she was writing on the chalk board, swinging back and forth like a wrinkled hammock in the breeze. It is quite possible that she wasn’t really that old, but the mere act of teaching snot-nosed little brats everyday had caused her physical body to age at an accelerated pace, something I know about all to well having somehow becoming a teacher myself. But I digress.

Chapter 1 – Simple Pleasures

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nogmania

I actually found my book of stories while cleaning out a closet at my mom’s house when we were getting ready to sell it. Its somber title was January Stories by Jeff Hager. One thing I had when I was younger was imagination, though not necessarily reflected in this title. I practically lived in an imaginary world, but  since I was such a lone wolf I had no imaginary friends in there with me. It was me and my words and my pictures. Here’s a transcript of one story, Nogmania.

My nogs live in people’s hair. If you don’t comb it they will eat you up. If you take one out they will give you a disease.They are like little savage monsters. They are smaller than a termite. One day everybody was combing his hair and all the nogs died, except one was lucky and didn’t die. He moved into Bottle City!

Despite the fact that the POV changes and there is a character named everybody, it is better than a lot of my first drafts. As you can see I also illustrated each of the stories, and I was quite the young artist if I do say so myself. I was using similes at age 8, and unlike a lot of the stories I wrote in high school, something actually happens in this one. But I also see why my teachers and mother were so concerned. I rarely ever spoke, in class or at home, but when I sat down to write somehow words and ideas poured onto the page. Soon after the triumph of January Stories I completed another illustrated book called Lost Land. It involved a young boy going back in time and meeting a bunch of dinosaurs. Some were nice and some tried to eat him. I think it was loosely based on the original Land of the Lost television show, which was a favorite of mine. This book proved very predictable in its storyline, but the illustrations were pretty kick ass, mainly because my father had given me a book on how to draw dinosaurs. I probably drew a dinosaur on at least 75% of my papers in elementary school, usually when I was supposed to be working on math problems or something else that didn’t interest me. Dinosaurs were cool. That was all that mattered. These early writing successes planted the writing seed somewhere deep in my brain, but unfortunately the successes were short lived. My youthful enthusiasm would soon be placed ruthlessly into a chokehold by the iron grip of editing, criticism, and rejection.

Chapter 2 – The Doubt Creeps In

3rd grade was difficult. ADD wasn’t widely understood. I wasn’t hyper, but definitely had difficulty concentrating and staying seated in class. My third grade teacher had called for a conference with my Mom about my distractibility in class, and her suggestion was I may have ringworm that was causing my restlessness. She swore she had seen it before, so my mother took me to the doctor to have me tested for parasites. I wish I was making this up, but unfortunately my imagination is not that macabre. Needless to say there were no parasites. I continued to struggle in school, except when I was writing.

By fourth grade my teacher noticed my writing immediately. She thought it was good, so good that she accused my parents of writing my homework assignments. Of course they didn’t. They proofread maybe, but I was very incensed that someone didn’t believe I had written the words that I wrote. My parents were contacted and of course denied the accusation. Being a teacher myself I know that parents always do, whether they wrote it or not.

My fifth grade teacher went even further and accused me of plagiarizing my state report. There were four grades and I got an A+ on three. On the writing grade I got a D because my teacher assumed I could not have written such descriptive and interesting passages. This was about twenty years BG (before google) and the internet was still a glimmer in some nerdy engineer’s glasses. I had written every word myself, and put a lot of work into it. I’m still not sure what is more disheartening for a writer, being told your writing is not good enough, or being told your writing was so good you couldn’t possibly have written it.

Chapter 3 – Accusations and Lies

It wasn’t until middle school that I finally found the recognition I thought I deserved. But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It was middle school after all.

During these middle school years my writing actually started gaining a little momentum, and garnered some praise and recognition from my teachers. In seventh grade I got first place in our school limerick contest, though I have no idea how, as poetry has never been my strong suit. The teacher that judged the contest had a peculiar disdain for me, and assumed I must have plagiarized the content from somewhere. I was called down to the principal’s office to answer to these accusations. She didn’t know where I had plagiarized it from and had absolutely no proof, but was nonetheless positive I could not have written the poem myself. But lacking any concrete evidence, I denied the charges and was eventually allowed the first place prize, and awarded a tacky little certificate most likely run off the school ditto machine. I have no further proof of any of this happening beyond my faulty and questionable memories of these incidents.

It was finally in the eighth grade that a teacher directly praised my writing abilities and presumably my intelligence. In English we often had to answer in class essay questions in response to the literature we read, and my English teacher would always start reading my paper the moment I handed it to her. I remember one time that she gasped out loud after I had turned in an essay response, while most of the class was reading silently. “Jeff, your response is perfect,” she said, “just perfect.” I felt suddenly embarrassed by this, and I’m sure that my classmates were looking at me like I was some kind of do-goody brown-noser, though I can’t be certain due to my prominent position in the front row (did I mention my ADD?). This one teacher had praised my writing privately many times, reassuring me that I had a certain lucky proficiency with words that was above the average.  Since she actually witnessed me sit down and compose the words in front of her, she must have realized that I had in fact written it myself. She was the first person I remember telling me to keep writing, which later became a theme among teachers that recognized some kernel of talent in me, and even as I write this now I try to keep telling myself this. Just keep writing.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

Stay tuned for more chapters…(upcoming episodes)

Chapter 4 – Acceptance

Chapter 5 – College (what I can remember of it)

Chapter 6 – Life Experience

Chapter 7 – Self Actualization