Friday, January 8, 2010

Writer's Round Table

And you thought I had abandoned the RT forever! The assignment this week gave me a really great idea, however, I started late, and though I got the word count required, I didn't even get close to finishing the story. So, look for a continuation of what I have tentatively titled: Fred's Education.

But first, the assignment:

For Friday, write a passage of 500-1000 words dealing with a New Years resolution that succeeds, but with unintended consequences (timely, huh?). You may make these consequences good or bad, or some mix of the two.

Fred penciled the title at the top of the page, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration. He sat back and looked at his title. Something in the back of his mind told him that something was not right about it, but he shook the thought from his mind and went back to work.
That annoying voice in the back of his mind told him once again that the words he wrote were not quite right. Of course, that was kind of the point wasn't it? Fred was tired of people treating him like he was mentally deficient just because of the way he spoke and wrote. He knew he was at least as smart as the folks that came into his garage to get their cars fixed. It was easily apparent that he was smarter than his the guy who did his books for him. Even though Fred had no idea where to even start checking to see if anything was wrong with how he managed Fred's money, he was convinced that the garage made a lot more money than he saw in his bank account. That was another reason for Fred's resolutions.
Fred dropped out of school in the fourth grade when his Dad put him to work in his auto-repair shop. Fred had a natural talent for fixing anything mechanical, and his Dad had a serious distrust of the "brainwashin'" going on in the red brook schoolhouse in town. "I ain't never suffered for not going to school." He was fond of telling anyone who would listen. Fred's mother was the only reason he made it as far as the fourth grade, and once she died Lyle quickly took advantage of Fred's natural talent. Fred didn't entirely mind, he loved tinkering and what fourth grade boy really wants to be in school anyway? Twenty years later, Fred's reading and writing ability had not progressed much beyond what he had learned up to that point. He fully understood that as a result, there was an entire world out there that was utterly closed to him, and he was tired of wondering how to get in.
The auto-parts distributor in the next town had been a good friend of Lyle and Fred, and so he didn't mind putting forth the extra effort to look up the part numbers for the parts they ordered. However, when he retired and sold the business to a national chain, Fred found himself confronted by unsympathetic telephone operators who didn't know a catalytic converter from a hole in the ground. They refused to take his orders unless he came up with the correct part number, and so Fred had to hire another employee to order parts for him. Another person who looked down their noses at him as they pretended to respect him to his face but made jokes about his intelligence when they were getting drunk at Sherman's Pub on Friday nights.
Fred's list was complete. He sat his pencil down and picked up the paper. He knew he had a lot of hurdles to overcome to accomplish his goals, but he was determined to prove that he was as smart as anyone else in this crappy town. He was going to relish being able to prove that Duane was ripping him off, and he was going to take a picture of Susanne's face when he told her that he could order his own parts now.
The next day as Fred sat in the office of a guidance counselor at the local community college. She was examining the results of his placement test with a furrowed brow. "Fred, you say you haven't been in school since fourth grade?" April Summers was the kind of guidance counselor who was perennially disappointed by the narrow-minded bureaucracy of a small-town community college. She truly cared for her students, and did her best to give them the best advice she could, but the administrators of the college could care less what was best for the kids, they cared about their federal funding. And federal funding required students with high test scores. Not students like Fred.
"Yes ma'am, my Dad never sent me back to school after my Ma died, said I would learn better in a man's world. But I learn good, I mean quick, I mean..." Fred blushed. He knew exactly how he sounded, but he lacked the knowledge to sound any different. April looked at him sympathetically but shook her head.
"Well, you see Fred. We have to ensure that the students who sign up for our classes have a certain level of..." she paused, searching for a kind way to phrase this. "...ability. You understand that this is not a measure of your intelligence, or your worth as a person, it is just..." Fred interrupted her.
"Ma'am, you don't need to put me in the hard classes. I just want to learn how to read and write more so that I can manage my own shop. I am tired..." He paused again, not wanting to get angry in front of this obviously kind woman. She nodded in understanding.
"Fred, I completely understand. However, a college is not really the place for you to start. Let me give you the name of a friend of mine over in Lakeland. He teaches some free classes at the community center there for adults like you who just need a bit of help to improve their skills." April started writing on a sticky note but Fred stood up.
"Thanks ma'am, but I don't need no charity. I have enough money to pay for my schoolin'. I'll just..." April interrupted him.
"This isn't charity Fred. Just because it's free doesn't mean its for people without money. And I am sure that he would be happy to accept a donation to his program if that will make you feel better about it." She pulled the note off the pad and held it out to him. Fred considered it for a moment before hesitantly taking it. His pride and his self-doubts put up a mighty fight for dominance, but eventually were beat back by his desire for improvement. "OK ma'am. When I am finished there, can I come back and take your test again?" April smiled broadly and nodded her head.
"I am looking forward to it Fred!" She stood and shook his hand, then watched as he turned and walked out of her office.

(To be continued...)

© 2010 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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