Friday is my NaNo deadline. Speaking of deadlines, I am also supposed to turn in a short story for English. We are studying the short story form in English now and Mrs. X wants us to write one.
“We have been studying the elements of the short story and we have read many fine examples. It’s now your turn,” were her instructions to us before announcing we needed to turn it in by Friday. How am I supposed to squeeze in a three to five-page story when I still have around 4,000 words to hit my NaNo goal?
At first there were about five of us doing the NaNo extra credit challenge in Mrs. X’s class, dwindling down to three by the second week into it, and now it’s only me. Although it looks like no one is doing the EC challenge because I stopped adding my progress stickers when I become the only NaNoWriMoer. I didn’t want to look like an overachiever. Wait–if I do get my word count in eouldn’t the X factor have a fit if I dropped the 150 or so pages on her desk and say: “Umm, sorry I couldn’t get the short story in–will this do instead?”
As I was dwelling on pulling off my NaNo coup, Mrs. X was busy squelching the sounds of protest of having to write the short story. Yes, even though the X factor is scary, we sometimes do rise up to rebellion, even though it is a small one. At the minute grumblings, she did her trademark hand thing. She will hold up her left hand like a traffic cop as if she is trying to stop the undesired behavior. The strange thing is that is actually works. She is scary. Have I mentioned that?
“There is nothing wrong with having to write this story. It will give you something to do besides update your Facebook profiles and wear your fingers out playing Guitar Hero.”
When she says stuff like this we toss around surprised looks at one another. For being someone so decrepitly old, what she does know in terms of what’s going on continually amazes us. She even uses a cell phone. I saw her walking out to her car actually texting to someone. That just doesn’t seem right. Isn’t everyone over sixty supposed to be technologically illiterate?
I had a difficult enough time coming up with an idea for a novel, now I have to come up with an idea for a short story? Actually, I might have one.
The other night I babysat Timmy. He absolutely would not go to sleep. Sometimes he gets fretful when his parents go out at night. Kid fears. I remember getting them now and then when I was his age. He wasn’t interested in any of his books.
“Tell me a story.”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“Both,” he said.
“I’m not very good at making up stories. Really. That’s the truth,” I told him.
“I won’t be able to go to sleep without one.”
“You aren’t even a little bit sleepy? Not at all? Not even a tiny bit tired?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Not a bit,” although I thought he rustled down a little bit snuggier under his sheets and blankets.
“Hmm, that reminds me of a story I once heard about a little boy who couldn’t sleep.”
“I want to hear it,” he yawned.
I tucked the blankets around him and began:
“Once there was a little boy, he was a prince, in fact. He lived in a wondrous castle with his mother the queen and his father the king. He had servants galore. One servant helped him dress in the morning. Another buttered his toast, while another taught him his ABC’s, numbers from one to ten, and where Pago Pago was on the big map that hung in his study room. Besides having servants the little prince had stuff. All the kinds of stuff every little boy would want, be he prince or not. He had balls, bats, bikes, boats, balloons, oh my and more, and that was only some of the B toys. He had a pony to ride whenever he wanted to ride a pony. One for each day of the week, in fact. He had not one, but three pools to swim in. One for when he was hot. One for when he was cold. And an empty one when he didn’t feel like swimming at all. He had a huge library filled with books to read whenever he wanted to read.
Yet, with all these things the little prince did not have one thing he wanted and needed so very much. That would be a good night’s sleep. Night after night he would try to sleep, yet night after night he would close his eyes only to toss one way and then toss another. It wasn’t any use. It wasn’t possible for him to fall asleep. He wanted to sleep. He really did. He wanted to close his eyes and dream sweet dreams of places to see and people to meet and new things to try and do. Yet sleep simply would not come.
His mother the queen would read him story after story and the little prince would simply say, “Please read me another, dear Mother the Queen.”
Then the father would say, “I will tell you a story that will surely put you to sleep, so you will dream sweet dreams all through the night.” He would sit in the chair next to the bed and spin a story that lasted and lasted yet the little prince would not shut his eyes, though his mother the queen was quite fast asleep.
The little boy prince would say, “I liked that one ever so much, dear Father the King. Do you know any more?”
Many remedies had been tried to absolutely no use. Cocoa, soft pillows, dreamy lullabies sung, snuggly stuffed bears to hug, and downy blankets to cozy under. Nothing worked nothing worked at all.
Then one night when the little prince again tucked into bed could not sleep, the time had come to say “enough is enough.“ For by now the king was getting cranky and the queen would sniffle and weep and the servants were nervous and the kingdom became concerned.. No one, no, no one at all knew what the matter could be, and solutions tried and failed. The king announced, ‘Half my kingdom to the one who can come with a plan for my son to have a good night of sleep is what we all need.’”
The little boy prince sat up in bed and announced, “Father my king you can keep your kingdom for I have all I need, but I think I have the solution. It’s true, I think I do. There is one thing that must be done. One thing I believe that would do it, I think.”
His father the king was speechless, his mother the queen stopped her sniffing, and the servants stood at attention waiting for the command. They all listened and waited, wanting to know what it could be.
“If it pleases you all,” the little prince declared. “I know I need a good night’s sleep and that will start with a ‘good night’ is all.”
“That’s all?” they all declared.
“Yes,” he nodded. Every night with the stories, books, cocoa, comforters, stuffed bears and such, I thought it all too much. All I need, and I am sure you will agree, is a simple, ‘good night’ and then I will know it’s time to sleep.
Such a simple solution from one so young amazed and astounded all who heard it, and it was done.
“Good night, sweet Prince, good night.”
The little boy prince fell asleep upon hearing those words, and the soft little snore became the sweetest snore ever heard.
The most amazing dumb story in the world is what I told Timmy, yet it worked. I probably bored him right into unconsciousness. I’ll write that up and see what the X factor says. Or I might just drop my NaNo certificate of completion on her desk with the excuse, “Sorry I didn’t get to the short story assignment, but I was busy finishing my novel.” That would be worth the laser eye. I believe it would be.