Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Better Writing Through Blackmail



By David E. Sharp














Toward the end of my Sophomore year in high school, I had a breakthrough in my writing pursuits.


It was the same year I completed one of the most challenging math classes I'd ever known. (Or ever would know!) The course was honors level Algebra II. My classmates and I were Guinea pigs for an experimental initiative that was supposed to make the math easier to grasp.





I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say that the initiative did not deliver on its promises. I later heard it skipped town with some bottle-blonde in a short skirt. And our math was as easy to grasp as soap slathered in baby oil.

My friend Sarah and I, exasperated and desperate, cooked up a plan. I produced a Polaroid camera. She produced her Algebra II textbook and a rope. We used large, black stick-on letters to hide our handwriting. The letter we wrote was as follows:

MOORE,


LEAVE TWO COMPLETED 

ALGEBRA 2H FINAL EXAMS

NEAR THE FOUNTAIN IN THE HALL.

NO TRICKS OR THE BOOK GETS IT.


-TWO STUDENTS.

NEITHER DAVID NOR SARAH. 



The words flowed like... something! Syrup over pancakes, maybe! It was a ransom note, sure. (Accompanied by a photo of her precious textbook tied to a chair, scissors and permanent markers looming ominously at the edge of the frame.) But it was more than that. It was art.

The plot didn't pan out, I'm sad to say. Somehow, Moore identified us. (I was confident we covered our tracks. I think the Geometry teacher squealed.) We had to struggle through our finals without any ill-gotten advantages. To add salt in the wound, a fire alarm went off during the exam, and we all took our papers outside where an itinerant Chinese Pug got a little too amorous with my test.
While there are no photographs, here is
an artist's representation of our principal's reaction.

As you can see, he was quite shaken.

I learned a vital lesson from this experience. I would never be a mathematician. 

What's the tie-in for all you writers out there? It's this. Be it ever so absurd, there is a time in your life that was made better from some writing and a little plot development. 

What's yours? I'd love to hear it.


Epilogue: The story evaded my parents for more than a decade. My father, working as a substitute math teacher, subbed for Mrs. Moore many years later. "You're not related to David Sharp, are you?" she asked, "Let me show you something."

What's the additional tie-in? Regardless of how much time passes, plot points always come back around.

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