Students were then asked to fictionalize that anecdote into a story - based on true events. Remove the first person narrator - flip it into the third person. Empathize and tell the story from your significant others point of view. Embellish. Paint a cinematic scene for your reader.
My students challenged me to share my own story. And I reluctantly accepted the challenge to write my own fictionalized story. What if...Scottie Fitzgerald met his Golden Girl... in fourth grade...in Ohio... in 1984? Here's what I wrote...
The New Girl
He watched her from afar, not in a creeper-stalker-way, but in that nine year old, fourth-grade, innocent, shy boy way. She was the new girl in their small class of fifteen students. She had gone to a private girls school, but transferred over the summer. Suddenly, that September, he discovered girls were not as annoying as they used to be.
At recess, he played soccer with the boys like he usually did, but his eyes would float from the field to her fair skin and smiling face. He’d make a play or a pass and glance her way to see if she was watching.
Like usual, she was in a huddle of girls and boys, some older, all laughing. He’d run faster and kick the ball harder. Then look again.
She didn’t seem to notice.
He scored a goal and ran down the sideline. The bell rang and recess was over. Friends high-fived and hugged him. He felt like Pele - arms raised in victory.
Then he looked her direction again. She was gone. Walking arm in arm with friends, she strolled towards the double doors of the elementary school. Trailing her, the boys tripped over themselves.
She didn’t see his goal.
In class, she sat in the front.
He sat in the back, even though his eyes were changing. He could no longer see the blackboard. He would squint and nod like a bobble head. His eyeglasses were broken; somehow they were accidently, and conveniently, crushed by his little brother’s Big Wheel. He had refused to wear them. Now his parents were angry, but they could not afford new ones. He rather be blind and cool. She would never like him if he wore glasses. His grades were slipping because he couldn’t see and his heart ached.He soon learned she lived at the end of his street. He thought of countless ways to talk with her, rehearsing what to say.
One day, as they lined up for recess, she cut the line to talk to the girl in front of him.
He stood there speechless, talking to himself.
Talk to her.
She glanced over her shoulder with a flip of her hair - a wave of her perfume washed over him and he was caught in its undertow.
She smiled and no one ever looked so good in braces. Her dad was an orthodontist and it seemed like everyone suddenly wanted braces. This girl made headgear seem more popular than Air Jordans.
“Uhhh, you live on my street,” he blurted. Did he really say that out loud?
Was that the best he could do?
Was that the best he could do?
“No, you live on my street.”
He stood there. She waited. Silence.
She shrugged and ran down the hall with the rest of the cool kids.
On the pitch, he felt nothing like Pele. His legs were heavy. He could barely bend his knees as the ball seemed to bounce around him like a pinball.
In her huddle, she glanced over her shoulder again - and in his direction. She had that move down. He wondered if girls practiced the hair flip at home in front of a mirror.
His feet grew light. He felt like... dancing. He raced after the ball like the Tasmanian Devil. With the ball at his feet, he ran towards the opposing goal as the swarm of bees trailed in his wake. He pulled back his leg with visions of ripping the net and being mobbed again.
And she would notice this time.
But more like Charlie Brown, he swung his leg forward and an unfortunate bounce...
He missed not just the goal but the entire ball. His momentum landed him on his butt in the dust. The goalie picked up the ball and punted it.
He could feel a thousand eyes on him. He could hear laughing. With his head down, he refused to look to the sidelines.
The bell rang. Recess was over.
Looking at his shoes, he waited with the throng of other kids to push through the double doors.
“Can’t win them all, Pele.”
He looked up.
Standing in front of him, she was inches from his face. She smiled.
Her braces had pink rubber bands.