Olivia’s “Fear” Friday, July 30, 2021.
Olivia, my 13-year-old granddaughter, took part in Red Oak Writing’s summer camp during the week of July 26, 2021. Friday 30th was a culmination of the week where each of the eleven participants shared their creative writing works. Kim Suhr, the Director, offers classes to adults and school-age students in grades six through twelve.
Each student writes about a topic of their choice, and two college students studying English facilitates enhancing their creative writing effort, including input from their fellow participants. That benefits each student to learn from their cohort and the facilitator. Each day they select a different topic or improve on their earlier work.
Olivia’s presentation was three minutes and fifteen seconds; Olivia shared with the audience her selected work, “Fear,” this Friday. Writing has always been a passion for Olivia, with a potential career choice to be a writer. Olivia attended this workshop last year, but due to COVID-19, it was conducted remotely via Zoom. She enjoyed the personal connection and interaction this year more enthusiastically, including the fact that she attended with a few friends.
With COVID-19 concern due to the more virulent delta variant impacting society, the attendees at this workshop had to wear masks, as did we to attend the presentations.
Each of the participants displayed extraordinary talent in the quality of their writing. The topics were as diverse as the student. Stories varied from challenges experienced in war-torn London during the World War to interacting with aliens. If I had any complaints, it would be that the presentations and handing out certificates of accomplishments wrapped up in under an hour. What a thrilling time we parents and grandparents had to see our children confidently sharing their prose.
I reflected on the time when I was in high school, from 1959 to 1963. Our English teacher gave us the assignment to write a creative story. I recall how I went home with much enthusiasm and poured my heart and soul into my essay. After handing in my task, my teacher requested that I read my effort to the class. He added before I got started that he had never read such rubbish in his life. I carry that scar of insecurity to this day. I do enjoy writing, and the thirty-six blogs on my website are evidence of this fact. If only teachers could understand the power they have to build or destroy a student.
That background is why I thoroughly enjoyed what these young girls did during their summer camp, and naturally, I was bursting with pride listening to Olivia describing Fear. What a fantastic opportunity these young children must develop their writing skills further.
The first time I see him it’s a Monday. We’d already been in school for two weeks and my science teacher had decided to grace us with a group project. I was standing up in the front of the class, my back to the other members of the group. That’s when he caught my eye. At the time he’d barely been a shadow, nothing more than a wisp of a thought. Maybe that’s why I didn’t recognize him. My eyes met his and they didn’t leave. He raised his eyebrow, my mouth went dry. By the time I snapped back to my senses five minutes had passed. I had missed my cue, leaving the rest of my group to fend for themselves. We didn’t pass.
The next time I saw him I was in gym class. It was basketball day. I hated basketball. My teammate passed me the ball causing the opposing players to swarm. I looked around desperately, but there were no openings. I started to panic, everybody was looking at me and I had no idea what to do. I spotted him sitting atop the folded bleachers. He looked down at me and I could tell he had even less faith in me than I did. I smiled at him, he just stared, judging. Slowly, seeing no other option, I raised my arms and thrust the ball towards the hoop. My shot went wide. We lost the game.
Over the next few weeks, I began to see him more and more. He was at my house, in my classes, he even waited for me on the bus one time. A few days ago I saw him in the mirror in the girl’s bathroom. I’d been waiting to wash my hands, it had been a break so all the sinks were taken by gossiping girls. I flinched at their loud voices, wondering if they ever talked about me. I hoped not. It was only a passing glance so I wasn’t sure but he was starting to look more solid. More real.
An hour later I walk down the hallway. A passing teacher gives me a funny look, and my death grip on the hall pass tightens. To me, it’s a lifeline preventing my heart from pounding out of my chest. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as more footsteps echo behind me. A hand taps my shoulder and my pulse spikes. Hesitantly I turn around. To my surprise it’s him- or should I say you? Either way, I didn’t expect you to look like me. The only difference is your black eyes which stare unblinking into my own. You smile and hold your hand out for me to shake, exposing your sharp teeth and long claws- another difference.
“Hi,” you say in your low gravelly voice. “I’m Fear.” I reach out and shake your hand. You feel more real to me than anything else in this school, but don’t respond. I’m too terrified to say anything.