Why write when you can rewrite?
I didn’t like the ending of the fable I wrote a couple of days ago (after my wife told me it was unsatisfactory).
I suspected I hadn’t allowed my reader (notice that it’s singular) to achieve the proper amount of empathy.
Here is a second attempt at it:
The Goddess, the Eel and the Blue Jay
I can’t believe I actually have a chance to write to you. It is literally the first available moment I’ve had in months. My Internet class, the one I began teaching two years ago, continues to grow. At last count there were over 10,000 students enrolled! Yes, you were correct to chide me and I’m finally pleased!
I am sad to report that fluffy is gone. Her time finally came. We miss her dearly, but she had a long life.
In a year I’ll be on sabbatical, but I’m ready for it now. Two classes last semester and one grueling early morning class this term. I know that probably doesn’t sound like much to you, but my editor is pressing me for rewrites and my dean insists on community service too. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll even come back from sabbatical. Then I remember how anxious I get when I’m not working.
But before I forget, I wanted to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened in class yesterday.
Do you remember me telling you about my composition class? The one from hell?
“Come to order, please,” I told them fifteen minutes into class (it was that bad.) I’d been trying without success to motivate them to use their writing skills to address the growing political climate of fear and intimidation in this country, but all my students wanted to talk about was some stupid Internet fantasy series.
I tried everything I could think of – all my best tricks acquired from a lifetime of teaching – but to no avail. Yesterday, for some reason, my entire class refused to cooperate. I was about to walk out – they probably wouldn’t even notice – when I had an idea that led me in a different direction.
“Today, class, I am going to begin reading Aesop’s fables,” I told them. I expected the same discourteous responses, but instead the room fell silent. Maybe they thought a fable and a fantasy were the same thing. It didn’t matter to me why though, I was encouraged and so I continued.
“A goddess, an eel and a blue jay are walking down a country path when they come across a river now bursting its banks with spring run-off,” I recited from memory. The class remained silent and I observed the kind of rapt attention I only wish they held for me. I wasn’t going to dwell on it, however.
“The eel jumped into the water without hesitation and disappeared from view. Then the blue jay took wing and I watched him fly to the other shore,” I told the class. “Not long after the eel emerged from the river and joined the bird.”
“But what about the Goddess?” Marjorie asked as she sat on the edge of her seat. Do you remember me talking about Marjorie? She’s the one who grew up here in Boulder. What a character!
“Yeah,” piped in Leslie who sat next to Marjorie, “what happened next?”
I turned my back to the students and waited (this was the part I liked the best – I’m so bad!).
Other students were now piping in, “Did she swim?” one student asked. Another said, “Enough with the suspense, already!” Yet another said, “I’ll bet she made herself invisible and then reappeared on the other side – Goddesses can do that you know.” (I’m pretty sure he just wanted to impress Marjorie because he never took his eyes off her the whole time he spoke.)
Finally, when I thought they were about as tense as they could possibly get (Do I know how to build suspense, or what?) I turned to them and said, “The Goddess would prefer you to focus your attention on your compositional skills instead of fooling around with cheap entertainments like Aesop’s Fables.”
It was a kind of crowning achievement, but I’m guessing they’ll get even with me next week – they always do.
Call me when you get a chance, even if it’s only a text message.