My Worst Writing Ever
What you are about to read is terrible. I know it. The people who have read it know it. I’m posting this as a confidence booster, of sorts.
The following is a very short story I wrote as part of a practice TAKS exam. Or was it TAAS? Or STARR? The state of Texas’s standardized testing that was in place in 2003. I wrote it for my sophomore year English teacher. I wrote it knowing she would love it. She did. I wrote it knowing it was bad. And it is. Very, very bad.
I figure I can only go up from here:
The French Fry Ghetto
Sarah was a popular girl: rich, smart, gorgeous, and a cheerleader. Boys chased her; girls either adored her or hated her with a passionate envy. In the eyes of many she was placed on a pedestal since birth, adored and admired by all. Everyone at Jefferson Preparatory School, the elite and prestigious school Sarah attends, considered her perfect, and she thought no less of herself.
One day, during a class Sarah particularly hated, Sarah’s teacher announced that extra credit could be obtained before the next test. All they had to do was meet their teacher, Mrs. Bittersweet, at the corner of South Maple and Wellington Boulevard on Saturday at nine.
“Pretty simple,” thought Sarah, “she probably just wants us to collect bugs for a science project. I’ll just show and let Smelly Shelly collect my share.”
The next few days passed with no abnormality, then Saturday sprung upon Sarah. Sarah received a call early that morning from her best friend Renée.
“Are you going to that extra credit thing?”
Sarah shot over to her desk and flipped open her planner, stuffed full of numbers and notes. Her finger dropped onto a note she had scribbled for this morning. “Oh, I totally forgot! Could you give me a ride there?”
“Sure. See you in a few.”
“Bye.” Sarah sat the phone down. She filed her nails until Renée came.
* * * * *
On the road, Renée could not find the corner where they were supposed to meet their teacher. Sarah fished a map out of the glove department. Sarah unfolded the map with a slight struggle, then ran her finger along the black lines, searching for the word “Maple.”
“Ah! here it is!” grinned Sarah. But here grin dropped into a frown. The corner Mrs. Bittersweet selected was in the neighborhood behind the McDonald’s. Families that lived there were not so well off. The popular kids like Sarah called it the French Fry Ghetto, and they ridiculed the kids that lived there.
“South Maple and Wellington Boulevard are in the French Fry Ghetto,” whined Sarah.
Renée pulled the car over to the curb. She turned and looked at Sarah, disgust and worry stricken through her face. “Do you still want to go?”
“Yeah.” Sarah’s head dropped. “I really do need the extra credit.”
So they made their way to the French Fry Ghetto. It took them awhile to find the actual corner. They passed broken houses with peeling leaden paint and lawns decorated in Toys’R’Us rejects. They even drove by the house where Amanda Jenkins, a girl they knew, lived. She stood on the lawn with a small child balanced on her hip. Amanda wore a frumpy Goodwill sweater and dirty torn blue jeans. Sarah and Renée snickered as they passed.
When they finally reached the corner, they saw Mrs. Bittersweet grinning from ear to ear. She stood in front of a dreary, frowning building with a crumpled wood sign hammered haphazardly into the lawn. Sarah glanced around; they were the only students there.
Renée parked the car along the curb in front of the sad building. Her hands dropped into her lap. “You sure?”
Sarah looked down her nose at Renée. “Yes. Seriously need the extra credit.” She pulled the door handle, and slid out the car. She started walking towards Mrs. Bittersweet, but turned back to Renée.
“Better lock the car,” she said, gesturing to the car with her thumb.
* * * * *
Mrs. Bittersweet guided them inside the building. The floor was lain with cheap linoleum, once white, but now creamed with overuse. Crumpled families sat on the dirty linoleum, wearing soiled rags one might call clothes. There was a small table in back were a small woman stood stirring a large pot of thick chunky stew.
Sarah’s jaw dropped. They were in a homeless shelter. She had volunteered and was one of two volunteers — she couldn’t escape now. What would the cheerleaders say when they found out that she had worked in a grimy homeless shelter?
Mrs. Bittersweet turned and grinned at them, more cheery than she had ever been in biology. “All you have to do today,” she instructed the dumbfounded girls, “is to visit the families and bring a little cheer into their lives.”
“What am I, a clown?” thought Sarah. But she wouldn’t say that aloud, not with all the homeless people staring.
Renée shrugged and wandered off to chat with a younger woman that held two babies. Sarah gasped. How could Renée leave her like that?
Mrs. Bittersweet gave Sarah a little push. “Go on.” Sarah meandered over to a small family: a man, woman, and a little boy.
“Hi. I’m Sarah.”
The little boy looked up grinning. “Hi Sa-wah!” he exclaimed. “I’m Neal!” Then he promptly went back to rolling the tiny truck he grasped across the floor.
“Hello, we’re the Fosters,” the man extended his hand. Sarah quickly shook it limply and let his hand drop, discarded. “My name is John, and this is my wife Linda.” There was an eerie silence until Sarah asked, “Ummm, …how did you… end up here?”
Linda smiled at Sarah’s naivety. “We both worked at Enron. After their financial collapse, we lost our jobs. All of our savings were in Enron stock, so we lost everything.”
Suddenly, Sarah realized that the people sitting on the floor were not the dirty beggars she believed them to be, but actual people. She chatted with the Fosters wildly, then hopped up and ran around, asking people about their stories. She ran amongst the people, a buzzing social butterfly, amongst ex-Enron employees, and ex-dot-comers. She discovered people, real people, and it shocked her into the real world.
Renée suddenly pulled her aside. “Can we please get out of here?” she whined.
“Why?” Sarah replied, puzzlement on her face.
“They’re dirty and ugly and poor!”
Sarah took a good look at Renée. She realized those words once came out of her mouth, but they were not true. She had sampled from the French Fry ghetto, and she found the fries as succulent as the potatoes au gratin that she was accustom too.
Having shared that atrocity, I feel much better knowing that what I write now won’t be the worst of my work in existence.