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Crossing the Bridge (from archives)

Friday, 9 December 2022, home

I will always remember the advice given me by my 6th grade teacher at the end of the school year. Said Mrs. Bostrom, "No matter what you end up doing with your life, Glen, never stop writing. Maybe you'll get published, maybe you'll just write in a journal - but whatever you do, keep writing. You have a talent."

Except for my first few years out of college, I followed her advice - and have a file full of efforts to prove that. From grade and secondary school, through travel articles and bizzare Christmas letters, to 30+ books, I've enjoyed putting words to paper.

Once piece I think of fondly dates back to my high school days.

The class: Extemporaneous Writing

The assignment: Write a one-page story/essay beginning with the phrase, "Crossing the Bridge"

The catch: Not my class, not my assignment

I showed up for work (managing the Basemar Twin Cinemas) Monday evening, expecting a slow night. As I got the theater ready for opening, I idly chatted with the girls working the concession stand. Sharon was lamenting homework she'd yet to do, with a looming deadline in the morning. "... and it has to begin with 'crossing the bridge'. I don't know what to write! I'm no good at this!"

She paused, smiling at me. "You're a good writer. Would you write something for me, that I can turn in tomorrow?"

Sort of defeats the purpose of the assignment, wouldn't that? I politely declined.

Of course, that didn't end it. She asked again a few minutes later, and I again declined. But she continued asking, cajoling, pleading, begging. Exasperated, I finally gave in. "Tell you what. After the shows start and it calms down, I'll go into my office and write a story for you." Joy lit up her face, and she thanked me.

Need I say I resented her leaning on me? In the office, I grabbed pen and paper and started in the with first theme I thought of. Given that the Viet Nam war still raged, I began, "Crossing the bridge, with mortar rounds exploding around me..." Violence and warfare followed.

An hour later, I handed Sharon the finished product. Moments after she began reading it, her face crinkled in disgust. "I can't hand this in! The teacher would know a girl didn't write this!"

I hesitated, then with a big sigh, acknowldeged her complaint. "You're right; I apologize." I took the sheet from her hands, crumpled it into a ball and threw it i the bin. (It must have been truly awful if I didn't bother adding it my writings file.) "Tell you what: After the late movies start, and I lock the doors and finish the accounting, I will write a story that a girl would write." Not knowing how long it would take, I promised I'd meet her in the morning before class with the result.

She searched my eyes, wondering if she could trust me. Finally - with little other choice - she agreed. "But you have to give it to me by 7:30, so I have time to copy it in my own handwriting!"

I now had my honor on the line. After contemplation, I came up with a less-masculine story line, and let my creative juices flow. The next morning, at 7:30, I met her and handed her my second effort.

Crossing the bridge that led away from our cottage, I felt an intense sadness. I turned back once more to look at what had once been my happy home, and as the rising sun caressed it with its soft light, I felt tears starting to roll down my cheeks. With a sob, I turned around and tried to walk away. My feet were reluctant to move, and before I knew it, I was once again facing the cottage, my face covered with tears. I knew that John would be waking up soon, and it would probably be much harder for him to accept the fact that I was gone, finally leaving him after five years of endless devotion. I knew it would be best for him if he didn't see me go, so once again I tried to continue on my way. As I walked down the beaten path, I noticed the morning paper. John would be down for it soon, and as he took it, he would somehow sense that I had been by. He would try to follow me, but it would be no use. As I passed the final turn of the driveway, my transportation was awaiting. I hopped in the back seat of the car, and my mother soothingly said, "You'll like your first day of kindergarten, darling. Don't worry, we'll take care of John-dog."

Sharon looked wary when she began reading, but a smile quickly bloomed on her face. "This is great! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!" With that she whisked off to transcribe it before class.

Come Friday evening, Sharon arrived at work with another immense smile on her face. "The teacher returned our assignments today, all graded. But before she did, she said one student wrote a story that she had read to all her classes - a shining example of what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. She read your story to all her classes!"

Oh, great. Now what will Sharon do when her next assigment comes up, and it doesn't hit that same creative mark? Will the teacher suspect something? I had no desire to continue writing homework for a class that I didn't take.

In the end, things worked out. Sharon decided Extemporaneous Writing didn't interest her, and she dropped the class the next week. For my reward for helping out, I now had a new entry in my writing file.

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