July 26, 2010

Looks Don't Mean Much

This story is one of the best reasons to have a writing partner. When you don't feel good and you can't think of what to write with the prompts you are staring at, your partner comes to your rescue and writes something this magnificent from the items where you couldn't see a story. --Anne Prompt: In Omaha, Nebraska...there was a scruffy spotted...girl...who had a tiny head...and some very big plans. Sheila walked along the sidewalk, looking neither left nor right. She was, in fact, looking at her shadow on the sidewalk. It didn’t look strange to her, but then, she was used to the fact her head had remained roughly the size of a toddler while the rest of her body grew at the normal rate. Her mind, however, was not on her shadow at all, but on the project she was involved with. If the prototype tests this weekend proved successful, she would be able to enter her project in the Science Fair with great satisfaction and confidence. She already knew she’d win, because of the complexity of her design and the usefulness of her scheme. Sheila thought it wouldn’t be long before every household would be clamoring for her product; not only each family in Omaha, Nebraska, where she lived, or in the whole United States, but it wouldn’t be long until every household in the entire world would want what she had to offer. Mr. Rydell, her science teacher, would be pleased on Monday when her prototype worked perfectly. Billy Gnesher, the biggest bully at school, would have to eat his “pin-heads are dummies” words publicly; a situation she’d enjoy thoroughly. He’d been bragging about his own project…an expensive gamer prompt for playing computer games in the dark so you could sneak-play after your parents sent you to bed when you weren’t tired. Big deal. If his project worked, kids who could afford it would want to buy one, yes, but her idea! Well, every adult in the universe would be wanting her project. It was not only practical, but it would be affordable. Besides! Think of all the lives which would be saved! Honestly…pit his self-serving project against her humanitarian one? She’d win…hands down, no contest! Reaching home, she entered and the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies greeted her. Sheila plopped her books on a chair and continued down the hall to the kitchen. She loved to be in the kitchen with its pale green walls with bright yellow sunflowers painted in clumps and groups around the room. The white and yellow daisy curtains and matching tablecloth her mom had made to complete the effect gave Sheila the feeling she lived in a magical garden. The brightness and cheeriness of the kitchen could raise her spirits no matter how bad her day at school had been. She entered and saw her mother pouring two small mugs of cold milk to drink while she ate the warm cookies and reported on her day. This was a ritual started on her first day of school when she’d entered kindergarten. It was as much a part of her as breathing and reading were. She did lots of both every day, which kept her body healthy and her mind active and creative. Sheila had been nearly four years old when she realized her head was smaller than it should have been. Because of her mother, though, she’d been well-prepared for people’s thoughtless remarks and the strange looks she got even when folks didn’t say anything at all. Her mom had continually taught her that a small head didn’t mean one had no brains. It just meant she looked a bit different; like having a big nose or large feet or being fat like many people she saw at the mall. She settled onto one of the chairs and picked up one of the warm cookies. She slowly broke it into two halves while her mother put the two mugs of milk on the table and set the plate of cookies between them. Sitting down in the other chair, her mother watched the warm chocolate chips stretch between the halves of the cookie before they finally let go of each other and the ends swirled just a bit into a small curl. They grinned at each other. “Perfect, Mom. Thanks!” Sheila then took a bite of the delicious cookie, savoring the layers of flavor as the cookie slid around in her mouth. “No problem, Sweetie Pie. How was your day?” She broke apart her own cookie with the same slowness, and when it finally parted, she took a bite of it. “Normal stuff,” Sheila answered, picking up her glass and sipping a bit of the cold milk between her lips. She swallowed. “You?” “I got your dress finished today. Now will you give up your scruffy outfit so I can retire it to the trash bin?” Her mother smiled as she said it. “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. This pair of pants and blouse is extremely comfortable. I like wearing them.” “I know, Sweetie Pie, but they’re spotted with paint and getting ragged at the cuffs. It makes you look like a street urchin. You did pick out the fabric for your new dress, and we want to give it a good trial run before the science fair, you know. That way we can make sure it fits perfectly and feels just as good on you as your scruffy duds do. You’ll have all the confidence you need to face the judges and win the prize!” She picked up her glass of milk and drank several swallows. Sheila looked at her mom while she took another delicious bite of cookie. “Do you think I’ll win?” Her mom put her glass down, licked the milk moustache off her top lip and grinned. “Of course you’ll win. Every person who owns a car will want your ‘Stayin’ Alive’ gadget on their vehicles. Think how many lives will be saved if everyone has one! Nobody else has figured out how to make cars not crash into each other or run over people or things. Only you! It’s what I’ve told you every day since you were born; the size of your head has nothing to do with the amount of brains you have, or how you use your intelligence. That’s up to the person herself.” “I know. I believe it, too. I’ve got other big plans in mind, too. Bicycles, roller skates, ice skates—all of these need some sort of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ device. I’ve got a few ideas on miniaturization that may work. I’ll have to test it out, though, but not until after I win the National Science Fair. We’ll certainly put Omaha on the map, won’t we, Mom?” Mom’s mouth was full of another cookie, so she simply nodded, her lips curving in a big smile.