3rd grade, I’m on top of the world. I have 4 good years of becoming best friends with some of the greatest friends I’ve had, I’m comforted in a school that sits only blocks away from my house so I begin to ride my bike to school. I’m happy.
I’m the fucking king.
4th grade comes, and I’m no longer a fucking king. I’m placed in a of 1,600 kids. All of my friends are split between different classrooms, different places. I don’t know anyone around me, and the kids are so goddamn loud and obnoxious. On the bus to the first day of school, some kid 2 years older than me punches my seat and the shot vibrates through my backpack into my spine. I’m terrified, I’m car sick, and the smell of gasoline is blocking out all sunshine. I’m miserable.
I get to school. They have me sit in a gym full of 1,600 kids. We’re placed in our respective sections, classes. I know little to anyone. I see a friend across the gym. Sunshine. I wave out to them. Nothing, they don’t see me. I yell out to them, and I’m a loud fucking kid. They can’t hear me. All these other kids, all 1,600 of them, they’re as loud as I am, and while I’m trying to reach out for that one friend I knew, the one kid that I could talk to and be happy around, all 1,600 of these kids around me are making new friends. They’re talking and laughing and yelling and they’re happy. And with all this noise around me, I shrink. My voice isn’t heard. I’m a small child new to this big intermediate school and no one cares. I am, perhaps for the first time in my life, silenced.
I get to class. I get a teacher on her last year before retirement. She’s hard on me like she is with everyone, and she makes the class, while not even being an advanced class, more difficult than need be so that our 5th grade year is easy. She carries that philosophy with her, that everyday she teaches, she‘s teaching a class that will learn to understand all subjects at a 5th grade level by the end of the year, and she was damn good at it. Truth is, I needed a teacher like her. I didn’t need someone that would bullshit me and coddle me when I was anxious. I needed someone to pull the reigns, force me to continue on and keep me in check. A happy-go-lucky teacher could make me happy but would never be able to fix how goddamn anxious I was.
School was hell. It took only 3 days for my first meltdown. And this meltdown happened in front of everyone. One moment I was fine, and the second I got thinking back to 3rd grade when I had all my people, I just let it all out. All the stress and the anxiety, everything. Poof. I had never felt that before. I had never, to that point, been so utterly terrified and so anxious all at once. I had cried in front of people before but not let out all of my emotions in front of a group of people I didn’t know and didn’t feel comfortable around. Absolute misery.
I started getting sick about 2 weeks into the school year. Morning after morning I’d throw up. I don’t throw up because I wanted to and it wasn’t because I was trying to. I became so anxious and stressed that out of the pressure, I’d just throw up. And we didn’t know it at first. My parents thought something was wrong with me somehow, and we didn’t understand, I included, that I was throwing up due to stress, and so I spent a lot of the first quarter of school in the hospital with IV’s in my arm. Through my time in the hospital that year, I probably had at least 10 IV’s, if not much more. I got pumped full of electrolytes and good shit for my body, but I continued to throw up. I was so scared and I was in a building 7 hours each day that I’d rather die than go back to. I couldn’t stop crying.
When the throwing up stopped, the crying continued. It got so bad that during the month of October that year, I got strep throat 3 times in a tow. I’d get it, it’d go away, and then I’d get it right back again. More hospital time, more ridicule. When I was out of school they were all probably laughing at me. The crybaby kid giving himself strep. Doctors told me if I got strep one more time by the end of November they were going to have my tonsils removed. I wanted it, I wanted to be out of school. When November hit, it was like I was incapable of getting it again. The tonsils stayed in and I immediately had to go back.
My 4th grade teacher was no angel, but she was a saint. She started up a deal with me; everyday I went without crying, I’d get a can of Barq’s Root Beer. Root Beer was and is my favorite soda of them all, and she utilized that to get me out of it. She cared for me. She wasn’t going to baby me and wrap me up in swaddling clothes but she was going to set me straight, one can of that root beer at a time. I ended up getting 2 cans, that was all she allowed me, and when she rewarded me with my second can, she told me the deal was off. She said now it was time I continued on without tears, do not be afraid. She told me I could continue to sit in her classroom at lunch so I wouldn’t have to hear people talking about me in the lunchroom, that was my reward. I relied on it.
I learned fast that shell I had was gone, and what a shell it was. Most people are protected by their ability to fend for themselves and survive in the climate they find themselves in. I had to break into that state of being. Until 4th grade, I had been coddled. My childhood magic was made up of parental love and the idea that life would always be happy and loving and exciting, and in the flash of a light, it wasn’t. Life was cruel and school was full of people who were growing older and closer while I remained fixated on the past, leaving me vulnerable. I needed an inward ability to laugh at myself, laugh at situations, and find my personality in the moments of despair. It came, finally.
4th grade, I was assigned to an old, rusty locker that barely opened up for anyone, and more often than not, my bus had to wait on me before leaving because I couldn’t get my locker to open. Some times they would leave me, and when that happened, my mom would get a call and she’d have to come to the school and pick me up, and I was so embarrassed. But one day was different, and that one day changed me.
It was time to leave, and my locker of course, wouldn’t fucking open. Try after try of the combination, no luck. I had to tell my teacher, but man, I didn’t want to. It had been a good day though, that day, and so I went back to that classroom with a defeated, yet smiling face on, and with a chuckle, I said, “Mrs. LaTour, you’re not gonna believe this but my locker isn’t opening again!” And I laughed. I fucking laughed. I had never laughed at myself before, never found the happiness of a misfortune, but there I was, and goddamnit, I was smiling. And Mrs. LaTour, she stood there and she smiled, and she knew immediately I had gotten somewhere.
4th grade was never easy. Even after I stopped throwing up and crying, it was still a hard year for me, and halfway through April of that year, my family moved away and I had to start brand new at a new school where everyone was talking about me all over again. And I was scared, and slightly anxious, of course, but I tell you what. I wasn’t crying when I stepped foot in that new school. I was thinking of Mrs. LaTour. I thought about that time I laughed when my locker wouldn’t open, and when I stepped my right foot into that school for the first time, you best believe I was smiling.
Goddamnit, I was really smiling.
Kids Are The Cruelest Animals
I was...nine. Well, it started when I was eight, but I was nine for most of the school year. An advanced student. The one they moved up early.
I was in a Montessori school, so we learned in three-year groupings. I had transferred in as a second-year elementary student, but given third-year work. The following year, the administrators advanced me to the upper elementary class as a fourth-year, and my teacher was giving me fifth-year work. So I was a third-grader in fourth doing fifth, and the girls in my class didn't like that.
It was worse because I was super social. I was friends with most of the school and basically all of the teachers and adults. The girls in my class, all of them at least a year or two older than I was, didn't like that either. I didn't understand at the time what it meant when my mom said they were scared of my 'charisma'. Looking back, they were just upset I was more popular than they were, and therefore did exactly what stereotypical preteen bully girls do: shunned me.
Led by the girl with the richest parents, hereafter referred to as the queen bee, I was completely closed out. None of the girls wanted to go against her; the one who tried, I was wary of as she was the queen bee's best friend. They wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't work with me unless they absolutely had to, wouldn't sit with me or even near me, wouldn't eat with me... as an elementary schooler, it was devastating.
I've never been what most people would call normal. I was homeschooled for two years before entering Montessori and never had any siblings, plus we moved too much for any long-term friendships. I have never really used social media unless Prose counts. I haven't had television service since I was six. My only big hobby was and still is reading. So to my classmates, I was weird. I didn't fit in. I was a threat to the queen bee's perfect little kingdom.
But because I'm a stubborn twit who was determined to be herself (at least somewhat) and also because I didn't really understand the situation, I didn't even try to fix it. I was friendly, but that made it worse, so I said f*** it (or rather, the fourth-grade equivalent). I carried books to school, did every assignment that could be completed solo. I was fine, academically, and I wasn't bored, but I was lonely. That was the first time I discovered that it's possible to be lonely in a room full of people.
It worsened over time. The boys couldn't have cared less about the girls' war; they talked and joked and worked with me just fine, but they were preteens and immature and got awkward at random moments, and I was nine and didn't understand why. They were also obsessed with video games, most of which I had never heard of. (Even years later, I would really appreciate it if I never have to hear the word 'Minecraft' again.) My crush was being shunned by the boys and I was being shunned by the girls, and I was too scared to stand up for him or myself. As it turns out, for as much as I was a headstrong child, I didn't really like conflict then either.
Slowly, I retreated. I began to avoid the tables where people formed groups, choosing to find a stool and a corner where people would leave me alone. I would eat at the table that only held two people, with no hope that anyone would join me. I became a ghost-like presence, the phantom that just happened to be taking up that seat. My teachers either couldn't act or didn't. My parents fought about whether or not to pull me out, and decided to have me finish the year.
I ended the year with almost no self-confidence, but a greater sense of self-reliance and knowledge that I could, in fact, complete assignments perfectly well with no assistance. Ironically, I was also more attached to my few friends than I had ever been before. I became clingy and prickly simultaneously in a strange duality.
These days, I'm only the headstrong, social person I was as a child when I'm with only my family or closest friends. I've regained some of my confidence, but now it comes in the form of 'I don't give a s***' and ignoring people entirely. I've not come out of ghost form, really. I just function better within it. (To use video game terms I've since learned, I kept the skill and outgrew the debuff.)
I don't know if I actually answered the prompt, since I can't really consider that a maturity shift or a sudden growing-up moment, but that's the biggest shift I've had.
The Yard Dog
I am a yard guy. I like to plant something, give it periodical care, and proudly watch it thrive. Which is why the thin spot in the grass at the corner of my driveway has driven me bonkers for the eleven years we have lived here. I have de-thatched it, aerated it, over-seeded it, fertilized it, limed it, treated it for diseases and fungus, and still it remained sparse.
But no more. Spring is sprung, and for the first time ever the spot is a thick carpet of shitty green lushness. But damn, what I wouldn’t give now to have that thin spot back?
It seems that Josey Wales has gone and taken her waiting spot with her.
Should Trash Go To Space?
1) Absolutely not. The double wide would never survive re-entry!
2) “Trash“ would automatically pull it’s britches down every time it hears “moon-shot”.
3) “Trash” already has too many craters on it’s Uranus.
4) You just can’t deep-fry Tang.
5) “Trash” would giggle every time the other astronauts suggested a dark side re-entry.
6) There would be Croc prints forever embedded in the moon dust.
7) If ”Trash” found out there were asteroids in the Milky Way it would quit eating candy.
8) “Trash” would cut the sleeves off of a perfectly good space suit to show off a new tattoo.
9) Do we really need a pink flamingo planted outside the International Space Station?
10) The other astronauts would forever be calling out “moon-shot”! (See #2)
No, “Trash” should stick to vacationing on the Gulf Shore beaches, where it belongs!
Pen to the Paper 21
Nick grabbed my tie and adjusted it for me. "Thanks, man. Was it that bad?"
"I didn't know someone could wear a tie that poorly."
"Well, dang. I'm usually pretty darn good at it. On the bright side, this isn't what I'll be wearing for the show."
Nick made a spinning gesture with his hand. "Looking good," he said.
"Good, at least the rest of me isn't a mess."
"Oh, no. Your hair looks awful. You just pull it off well."
"What!?" I exclaimed, rushing to the mirror. "Oh, right, I'm still nearly bald. Ha ha, great joke, Nick."
Nick beamed at me, satisfied with his joke.
"Yep, I'm ready, Nick. Do you have what I'm going to change into ready?"
"Yep, it's ready. You'll see it right once you walk in. Can't miss it."
Nick slapped me on the butt and said, "Go get 'em, tiger."
A small red light emanated from the stage. It widened slowly then vanished, being replaced by a pink light. A purple light followed, going by the same pattern. When the red began to fade once more, something pink and solid began to grow on stage instead of the light. First it budded, then it began to bloom. It was a flower, and in the middle of the widening pedals was your handsome host, holding a bouquet of pink and purple flowers. I was also wearing a bikini.
"Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely mothers out there!" I called, stepping out of the flower like Aphrodite from the sea. I put one hand on my waist and stuck my hip out to the side. "My mother would be so proud. Love you, Ma!
"Speaking of Ma, we recently went on a road trip. I think I mentioned it last week. We left town to run a marathon. Anyway, on the way back home, we stopped at this gas station because my Ma loves the place. No, it's not Casey's, the Midwestern gas station known for its great pizza (that I think is kind of overrated). No. It's Buccee's.
"Now, I've been to this place a few times. We always stop there on the way to and from Wisconsin. And I hate it! I absolutely hate the place.
"I'm anti-social as heck. Introverted to the core. The moment I walk into that place, I want out. There are people everywhere!!! The building is literally overflowing with people. It's like a pot boiling over. I just tuck my shoulders in, make a shark fin in front of me with my hands, and weave through the traffic, sweating like a pig. I walk into the bathrooms, and it's a room bigger than my house, filled with toilet after toilet. That's the only good thing about the place.
"Leaving is worse than entering the bathroom. And if you stop for lunch, you're better off going to a restaurant, because they expensive.
"I hate it with a passion." I pulled up the strap on my shoulder. "How do you girls wear these things? This is uncomfortable. And my shoulders hurt. Stupid little plastic things… I feel like Spider-Man in the elevator. Didn't make it myself, though.
"Alright, guys. Pen to the Paper 21 is here!"
A flower erupted underneath me, wrapping around me and forming a beautiful tulip.
At the bottom of the elevator, I stepped off the platform. I turned around to see Nick. "DON’T you even THINK about it!" I said, putting my hands over my posterior.
I met a guy at the store and we hit it off really good. He walked me home and we exchanged numbers. Later that day, a guy I started talking to as a potential boyfriend stopped by to chilled with me and watch a movie. We dozed off on the couch and cuddled up together, only to be
awakened by my sister and her boyfriend bringing their new friend to meet me, which was the guy that I exchanged numbers with earlier. AWKWARD. Needless to say I didn't hook up with neither guy.
Pen to the Paper 20: The Announcement
I hobbled onto stage. I groaned as I grabbed a hold of a rail in front of the microphone. “I feel like Michael freaking Morbius before the bat-serum,” I said. “Welcome to the announcement everyone! I ran my first marathon today! Why? Easy. I’m a masochist. What was that, Nick? Are you sure? Is there a second definition. Yeah, I mean the second definition, you sicko. Anyway, how are you guys? It’s May, and I am finishing the April challenge. Sorry for how late this one was. I’m tired and hurting, so I’m going to jump right into this, is that okay?
“In third place, The Power and Its Victims by ThatGirlAJ. It was a really fun read! Super creative. I enjoyed every second of it. Hopefully Sally learns her lesson.
“In second, we have Unplanned by Rosemandle. It was very heart-warming. It makes me smile every time I read it.
“Our winner won by a long shot. I want to read a book by this contestant. The story was magnificent. They didn’t hold back, either, so it was a ‘long’ post for Prose. Which is good, because we have a lot of short little stories here. I was hooked from the start and was sads to see it end. Our winner is… ME! Wait, I used that joke before. Oh, I see. There have been some technical difficulties. Although I may be listed as the winner, the true winner of Pen to the Paper this month is KoconutLatte with their post The Shaman!”
The crowd cheered.
“I’m serious, man. If you ever publish a book, hit me up. I’ll be your first customer.
“There were a lot of excellent posts this time, some of my favorites being by Uschibear, AlisonAudrey, Sanjana_S, and Raybug63. I suggest that those of you who like looking at the posts to check them out, and most of the others as well!
“Sorry for the low effort post this month. I’ll be back soon with a far better, much funnier Pen to the Paper 21!”
Where Are The Pigs?
Millipede millipede, let me in!
Not by the hair on my very thick skin.
Then I will crawl, and I will scrawl, all over your face
I'll make your beauty mark look like a disgrace.
I am a millipede not a French bulldog.
I have an a hard exoskeleton and I live under a log.
You ugly bird need to know your place
You don't know what I am but want to place me on your dinner plate!
Wait until I caught you millipede then you will know who I am
I am not a Dr Seus !
And I am not your green eggs and ham!
Look man, just scram, get out of here.
I guest you didn't see that chicken hawk swooping near.
Then let me in!
Do I look like I have a chin?
Pen to the Paper 20
I slapped the red balloon Nick was holding out of his hands. “What is this?” I asked as the ballon floated to the ceiling.
“A balloon! Don’t you think that today is worth celebrating?”
“Why? What’s so special about today?”
“It’s the twentieth anniversary of Pen to the Paper!” Nick exclaimed, pulling a noise maker from his pocket and blowing it in my face. I pushed the extended half out of my face and stared at him with an unimpressed look.
“Nick, that is not how time works.”
“Then explain to me how we can be on Pen to the Paper 20 and it not be our 20th anniversary.”
“Nick, have you been doing this for 20 years?”
Embarrassed, Nick hid the noise maker behind his back. “It—uh—it was just a prank.”
“Alright, dude. What do we have planned for the show tonight? You said that you had this massive thing planned for tonight’s event. Told me that I don’t have to worry about anything, blah blah blah. What’s the plan?”
Nick stuck his hand behind his head and laughed nervously. “I don’t think that you are going to like it.”
It was a calm day. The wind was almost nonexistent, there was not even a little bit of turbulence. I pulled the throttle out the rest of the way and pitched down a little more dramatically. Entering into ground effect, I pulled the nose up and let my plane slowly sink to the ground. I stepped on the brakes and slowly rolled to a stop across the platform in the middle of Pen to the Paper arena.
Coming to a complete stop, I turned everything off and stepped out of the small aircraft. “That was completely illegal and all Nick’s idea,” I said into the microphone. Fireworks went off behind me, displaying across the entire sky “20th ANNIVERSARY!!!”
I looked at the plane behind me. Painted on the side in gold paint was a big 20. “So, Nick thought that today was the twentieth anniversary of Pen to the Paper. Apparently, I am thirty-seven. Do I look thirty-seven? No! Your strapping young host is only eighteen! And he looks twelve! After all that Nick has done, you would think he would learn his lesson and stop insulting me. Maybe I shouldn’t have paid for his dinner last month…
“Anyway, we did not have time to plan a new event. We also spent a ton of money on it that we couldn’t get refunded. So, everyone, tonight, after the announcement, you are all invited to a banquet. What for? Well, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Pen to the Paper that is still yet to happen! And, yeah, the cake is a big twenty. Looks delicious.
“Well, you guys know what time it is! Pen to the Paper is back, baby, back, baby, back!”