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The Jelly Shoes Club

Time to divert from all things grammatical (my previous posts) with another blast from my past — a very short (i.e. blog-length) story.

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It was the second week of second grade. I made my way out onto the playground, eager to find new friends among my classmates.  Most were still open to new acquaintances, although some cliques had already become well established. The playground was large and spacious, and at first I just wandered, watching idly from a distance while gauging the available activities and the people involved in them, looking for a safe place to plug in.

Heat from the sun poured down onto my head and shoulders, and the great oak trees on the far side of the playground held the promise of cool — or at least cooler — shade. As I made my way there, I noticed a gaggle of girls giggling amongst themselves as they milled amongst the massive roots exposed by erosion. This particular group was not normally the safest to approach, and my decision to do so was perhaps somewhat naively based on the fact that I recognized a few of my friends standing within it. As I silently arrived on the fringe and attempted to listen in on whatever was so terribly funny, a scrawny little girl with red pigtails looked up at me sharply.

“This is the jelly-shoes-only club!” she quipped, and the group paused with a collective gasp.  I looked down at my brand-new, still-shiny tennis shoes that my mother had so proudly bought me, and I frowned. But then I remembered another pair of shiny new shoes sitting in my closet that I had simply happened not to wear that day.

“I wore jelly-shoes yesterday,” I said, thinking how I was exactly the same person as I had been the day before. “Y’all are dumb.”

Another collective gasp followed me as I walked away. Some — but not many — came with me. We formed the who-cares-what-shoes-you-wear club.

Even jelly-shoes were allowed.

—–

Do you have a childhood memory around acceptance/rejection? What was the strongest part of the memory that really made it stand out to you? Was it how you were feeling at the time, something you saw, someone who influenced you? For me, it was the realization that who I was didn’t change when my shoes did.  What was it for you?

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Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Writing

 

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Writing Experiment – Show, Don’t Tell

My last post reveals a pleasant childhood memory written in a style that I hope communicates what happened and the humor of the situation.  As I’ve wandered through the blogs, forums, and websites of other writers, however, I’ve come to realize that it tells far more than it shows.

So, as an experiment, I decided to post a revision and see which one the readers prefer, and why.  Feel free to cast your vote in the comments below.

Summer Folly — revisited

I observed before me a thing of beauty—a massive piece of Styrofoam. Its beauty came not from its substance, but its potential. It perched there on the rocky shore of the lake, ready to jump into my arms, begging to be transformed.

“We could build a boat!” my cousin interjected

“That’s what I was gonna say!” I snapped, deflated.

“Well, then, let’s do it!” He pushed a mop of brown hair from his eyes and grinned. “I saw some wood behind the house.  Think you can find a hammer and some nails?”

My mood slowly lightened as various scrounged-up supplies materialized on a nearby dock, but the final pile of wood screamed “not enough!”

“Let’s draw it out first,” I suggested, feeling the tug of potential disappointment, afraid that the dream might slip between the cracks of the weathered dock and float away.

The chicken-scratch blueprint would not have passed code, but who cared?  A few hours, two sore thumbs, and several splinters later, a great feeling of pride and satisfaction swelled up inside.

“It’s ready,” I whispered almost reverently.

My fingers curled around the splinter-filled edge of our boat/raft/thing-that-might-float.  My cousin’s counting pulsed in my ear, and my heart prepared to soar as my muscles prepared to heft.  “One, two, three!”

But my beautiful Styrofoam would not move.

My sinking heart was buoyed only by my absolute incredulity.

“How did it get so heavy?”

It mocked me—the roundish white block that had just so recently flirted with my imagination now tossed those possibilities back in my face like so much rubbish washed up on the shore.

Sweat dripped down my face, and I licked my salty lips. “Let’s try again.”

My muscles screamed in protest and my cousin grunted with effort, and still the petulant raft pouted.  What did I do wrong? All my hopes and dreams for that day lay in that stupid piece of Styrofoam surround by a pile of pieced-together boards, and it wouldn’t work!

I sat and jammed my sweaty chin into my fist, glaring as if I could change it by sheer will-power. A stray nail sneaked its way into my hand, and I twirled it between my fingers until its presence suddenly jumped into my awareness.  My eyes darted between the nail and the wood, and realization washed over me as I fell backwards in uncontrollable laughter.

“Look at the nail!” I gasped, but the nail withheld its insight until I placed it directly beside the wood.  After an initial moment of hesitance, the nail—half an inch longer than the width of the wood—finally shared its secret with him, too.  We had nailed the raft to the dock!

—————–

Do you think that “show, don’t tell” could or should apply to other areas of life? Why or why not?

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Writing

 

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Summer Folly

When I was younger, my two cousins and I decided to engage in some innocent and innovative youthful folly—we decided to build a boat.

Perhaps “raft” might be a better term to describe it, if even that.  While exploring the rocky beach of a lake, we had made the exciting discovery of a massive piece of Styrofoam washed up on shore and decided to make it “lake-worthy.”

We promptly scrounged up several pieces of wood, nails, and a hammer, and even drew rudimentary blueprints of a frame.  We carried all of our dubious supplies and the Styrofoam onto a dock and got to work.  Many hours of effort later, we finally had a frame that should work relatively well.

The three of us each took hold and got ready to heave it up to our shoulders.  One – two – three – go!  Except, it didn’t go.  Not even an inch did it budge, and the three of us scratched our heads in puzzlement.  We tried again and a third time with different holds, more force, different angles, but nothing could convince it to move.

The sum bulk of the wood could not possibly have been so heavy that it wouldn’t even shift.  And then I had a revelation.  Picking up one of the nails, I examined its length and started laughing so hard that it took a few moments for me to regain my breath and explain.

We had blueprinted and measured so many things, but we had never thought to measure the length of the nails, which were about 1/2in longer than the wood was thick.  We had nailed the raft to the dock!

My cousins groaned and we all had a good laugh.  After freeing what turned out to be a relatively lightweight creation, we finally finagled it onto the Styrofoam and “out to sea.”

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were so convinced about what a problem was (in our case, the weight of the boat), when it turned out to be something completely different?  How did you feel when you finally realized the truth?  Feel free to share!

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Writing

 

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