In the first grade I had an assignment to write three sentences about the stairs in my home. Pretty cut and dry, right? Well . . . not for me. Because the stairs weren’t just stairs. And they weren’t made of just boring old wood, either. They were made of golden fish scales. If you stepped on the third stair, a secret slot opened. And in that slot, there was a key . . .
Of course a story this grand needed illustrations. But not just pencil drawings, oh no. Color. This required lots and lots of color. Happiness spread over me, like the taste of the perfect pb&j. This feeling was euphoric, even much better than when I got to tie the pretend cardboard shoes! The world faded away, like I had my own rectangular eraser.
Until Mrs. Winowitch happened by.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Although the name Winowitch sounds about as welcoming as rickets on a pirate ship in June, this was a teacher who was exemplary. I always think of her with the greatest fondness and know without a doubt that she cared a great deal for me.
However, the way she looked down her nose at me that day is forever brandished in my mind. Surprise crossed her features as she stood beside my desk. And then a look that bordered on constipation. I was being very naughty. Very naughty, indeed. She promptly snatched my paper away and held it in front of the class as an example of what not to do.
I’ve often thought about this incident, and what I would say to Mrs. Winowitch if I could. It might go a little something like this:
Dear Mrs. Winowitch,
I’m still very naughty. Very naughty, indeed. I’m afraid “the incident” all those years ago had the reverse affect. Allow me to confess—I tell lies for fun and profit. That’s right. I write fiction. And it’s so much fun. You see, when I’m bored I use this clever instrument called imagination. It’s so helpful at times. Like when I’m standing in the post office line and I imagine everyone’s hair spontaneously falling out. And how that would look, all those different colors on the floor. But the best part would be the cries of outrage. And when the guy who used to have the mullet slipped on the poodle-permed fro. Tee-hee . . . I digress.
This thing called imagination usually serves me well, except those times when I’m the only one laughing in the room. I do tend to have the oddest black-outs sometimes. The rectangular eraser comes back and suddenly I’m in England or Jerusalem or Abu Dhabi. Yes, people do grow weary with me. Especially when they’ve been talking to me for five minutes and I have no idea what they’ve said. But, hey! That’s just the hazards of the profession. Regardless, my sincerest thanks are due to you. You inadvertently set me on the writer’s path.
What about you? What’s been your weirdest flash of imagination?