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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write something suitable for CHILDREN (05/31/07)

TITLE: A Lesson Learned
By Steve Uppendahl


I try desperately to sneak out of class without her noticing me. Two steps from freedom I hear her voice.

“Tommy, I told you to stay.”

I wince and stop in mid step. The other kids laugh as they leave freely. I sigh and turn around and try to get out of what’s coming.

“Mrs. Hunter, I tried-“

“Don’t even start, Tommy. You’re continuing to choose not to work and to disrupt the students around you. I think it’s time we bring your parents into this…”

I try to hide my smile and tune out the rest. Call my parents? Go ahead. It’s not like anything will happen. Last time, my dad believed everything I told him and even yelled at Mrs. Hunter right in front of me. Good stuff.

She picks up the phone and pauses. I knew it, she’s faking. She turns and calls out next door.

“You can come in now.”

Time stands still, my eyes bulge. No way. The dividing wall is pushed open and both my parents stride in. Neither looks happy. Not good.

My dad just glares at me without blinking, his number one sign that he’s really mad. My mom walks up to Mrs. Hunter, but looks at me when she speaks.

“Mrs. Hunter, would you excuse for a few minutes?”

She clears her throat and replies, “Certainly. I have a few copies to make.” Mrs. Hunter blindly grabs a yellow folder and leaves quickly.

After a full minute of them just staring, I decide to try, “Mom, Dad, I-“

My dad booms, “Don’t! I am so mad right now I can barely speak.”

I wish. I close my eyes and sink back into my desk. Another few seconds of silence force me to open my eyes. My mom is mouthing something to my dad, perhaps to calm him down. It doesn’t work.

“Let me guess. You didn’t want to do your assignment, so you decided not to. Am I right?”


“Answer me!”

“Yes, alright? I hate poetry. There’s no point to it. I’m never going to write poetry, so what does it matter if I do it now or not?”

Feeling I’ve made a strong argument, I sit up a bit straighter. I’m a bit surprised when they don’t answer. Maybe they understand. After all, I’m not lying. Poetry is dumb. My dad shakes his head and walks over to the window and places his arms on the furnace.

“’No point to it…what does it matter’? That’s your explanation? You don’t feel like doing something, so it’s okay not to do it. That about sum it up, Tommy?”

When I don’t answer, he turns around and walks towards me and glares again. “Yes or no. Which is it?”

“Uh, yes.”

My dad smiles slightly and looks at my mom. They seem to talk with their eyes (I hate it when they do that), because they both smile and nod.
It’s been two hours and I’m hungry enough to brave an entrance into the kitchen. Dinner must be done by now. Strangely, nothing’s been cooked. But, I can smell lasagna; my mouth waters and my stomach grumbles. I look in the refrigerator, microwave, oven, nothing. Suddenly, a thought hits me. I look in the garbage and see two empty boxes of frozen lasagna. I check the freezer, nothing but frozen veggies. No way, no how. The pantry is filled with nothing but bran cereal and low fat crackers.

“Mom! Where’s all the food? I thought you said you were going to the store today.”

My parents walk in from the living room with raised eyebrows.

“What was that, honey?”

“Why didn’t you go to the store?”

My mom just shrugs, “I don’t know. I didn’t want to.”

“Very funny, Mom. I get it, alright? Now, where’s the food? I’m starving.”

My parents exchange puzzled glances. My dad jumps in this time.

“Get what, Tommy? We didn’t feel like cooking you dinner, so we didn’t. You’re twelve. You can feed yourself.”
I do not enjoy my weekend. To make things worse, Monday is a holiday. Three days of my parents “not wanting” to cook, or do laundry, or take me to my soccer game, or let my friends come over, or let me leave, or use the phone, computer and I-pod. Three days.

On the plus side, I get an A- on my poetry booklet. Apparently, my writing was “inspired and emotional”. Whatever. It’s still dumb.

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This article has been read 899 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 06/07/07
Oh, the turbulant waters of the pre-teen! There's a good moral to your story which your main character, grudgingly, gets. I confess to wanting him to act more enlightened, but your version is probably the most realistic!
Sally Hanan06/07/07
Now this one was definitely written from experience .. let me guess, it was either you as a kid, or something you've wanted to do on your kid for a while :)? Very realistic.
Joanne Sher 06/08/07
I may just have to steal this in a few years! I loved it - but I'm curious what a child might think of it. Great detail.
Mo 06/11/07
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/12/07
This is a well-written story that kids will enjoy, but they won't tell their parents about it!
Teri Wilson06/14/07
Oh Steve, you poor thing. When I saw your brick I just had to come read your story. #1 - because your brick was so late I thought maybe no one would read it and #2 - your first entry in Masters! Yay! I remember my first entry in Masters - I slaved over it like my life depended on it. I felt as if I were going to be eaten alive.

I like your story. You have no idea how many times I've been tempted to use this tactic with my 15-year old. You do have one tiny typo which should not make a difference. If you don't know where it is, PM me and I'll let you know so you can fix it.

Throughout you have the perfect "voice" for a middle schooler. But then again, you probably already knew that. :)

And the last paragraph is perfection. A wonderful ending.

Love and blessings, Teri
Rita Garcia06/14/07
Well written and the ending is perfect!
Kristen Hester06/14/07
Tommy has the perfect voice. I've used the line on my kids so many times: "Well, I don't feel like cooking for you or washing your clothes, etc." when they say they don't feel like doing something (chores, homework, etc.). Of course, I always give in and do cook and wahs for them. Maybe If I didn't, they would learn. Great story!
Sara Harricharan 06/14/07
Not too bad. A little predictable though! I liked that he did get good marks for the poetry assignment after all. Great story!
Loren T. Lowery06/14/07
First wanted to stop by and welcome you to Masters and to thank-you for the comment you left on my kid's article last week.
In your "Lesson Learned" I think you captured the teen's "voice" so well. I sensed a good kid hiding inside and the parent's did a good, and honest job in bringing this out. Keep up the good work and look forward to reading more of your challenges.
Edy T Johnson 06/16/07
Good show, Steve! You're obviously in your element, Master's wise and story-wise. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll be Best of the Best, yet.

I enjoyed reading your story, and the tension between the boy and his united-front parents. Great object lesson, learned!