Have you ever talked yourself out of a right turn and into a wrong one? Sure you have, probably more than once! Writing is sort of like that, a series of right and wrong turns as you weave your toward something worthy of the time you've spent and the ink you've used, and ultimately, worth sharing. If that sounds frustrating to you it’s because it is! Rewarding though, especially when you reach the end. That’s when you sit down and read your project for the first time as a reader instead of as the author. It’s the moment when you pour yourself a sip of good Irish whiskey or a proper pint of Guinness, and settle into your favorite spot to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If you’re there now, congratulations, you survived the process! And make no mistake; writing is a perpetually contradictory process and not an exact science. Forget the “how to” books and advice from “the experts.” At the end of the day all they can provide is a way to get started, beyond that it’s all on you! So, into the soup you go, to simmer and to boil your way to a word-dish you can plate and present to the world, and hopefully, meet your goals and expectations.
Expectation is a dangerous word in any context. And, it is a key variable in the “writing equation.” It can literally (pun intended) be the difference between sanity and insanity, happy and sad, fulfilled and crushed. If your goals and expectations are not in balance going into the process, then chances are the result will be negative. But, if you’ve set goals with realistic expectations you have a running start at finishing on the positive side. What he heck does that mean? It means that the smart expectation should be to finish, period! For peace of mind that needs to be enough because 99 times out of 100 that’s all there is. Finishing must be the goal and the expectation.
Take this story for example, “KK Undercover.” Seems like an easy enough project, a kids story for goodness sake, a notch above a pop-up book, simple right? No, not really. The story, the plot, the characters may not be complicated but the writing cycle is the same. Whether you’re writing a pop-up book or a novel, the process is the same. Every author must start and finish. Those are the axioms we must apply in order to solve the literary equation. Everything that occurs in between are variables to factor and balance. This is the writing framework, no exceptions. Beginning, middle, and end, literature’s triumvirate, get it, got it, good, the optimist’s mantra, waa, waa, waa, the pessimist’s aria, faith, hope, and love, the tools of the righteous.
To quote CBS sportscaster, Jim Hill…“keep the faith!”
Okay, now the final chapter of:
“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”
Mrs. Ryan’s 5th Grade Class: Yo Bandito, you’re toast!
It was the longest morning ever! Mrs. Ryan started with thirty agonizingly slow minutes taking the roll (all 30 names) that’s one minute per name! I watched all 1800 seconds tick by one at a time on the large County issue clock on the wall, praying for her to get to Connie Zephyr’s name! Language was first up for the day, ticking off 30 minutes, followed by 40 minutes of yucky Math then 40 more of Health & Science. Mrs. Ryan was usually pretty perky and upbeat, but she must have been having one-of-those-days cause she droned each lesson in a painful monotone, one long syllable after another, until mercifully, the snack bell finally clanged and she dismissed the class.
“Alright kids, let’s see if we can make through this recess without a visit from the Fire Department, okay,” Mrs. Ryan said half joking.
The kids started out slowly for the door but as soon as they smelled the freedom of outside air they ran out of the room like a jail break and headed for the playground. That’s when we put our plan in motion. If the Lunchito Bandito was going to strike, it would be now, before lunch and while we were all outside. Claire helped me get to the benches, while Winnie and Daniel scurried ahead to claim our usual spot.
“Okay Winnie, you and Claire scan the playground and call off the kids you see,” I ordered.
“Check,” replied Winifred and Claire together.
“Daniel, you cross off the names on this list as they call them out,” I added, handing him the roll sheet I had made the night before.
“Check,” he replied.
One by one they identified our classmates as they spotted them running or chatting around the playground and adjoining grass field. I mentally counted noses while Daniel crossed off the names on my list. Five minutes later we finished.
“I don’t get it, everyone is out here, there isn’t anyone missing,” Claire said scratching her head?
“That means the Lunchito Bandito isn’t one of us,” added Winifred.
“Mrs. Ryan is still in the room,” Daniel observed, studying our faces.
“You don’t think…” he asked?
“Nah couldn’t be,” I answered, not realizing that I was speaking out loud.
Just then, Mrs. Ryan walked out of the class and headed in the direction of the teachers lounge. She swung her purse over her shoulder and smiled at us as she walked on by. We smiled back, and Daniel waived to her like a dork.
“Weird, that means the room is empty, but I know the Lunchito Bandito has to be in there,” I muttered.
“What are you talking about KK, nobody is left to be suspicious of, the room is empty,” sighed Winifred.
“Maybe,” I replied, tapping the end of my nose.
“But maybe not?”
“Look, we need to get in there and check it out before Mrs. Ryan gets back and recess ends,” I said, leaning heavily on my crutches and close to the others.
“So what do you have in mind,” Claire asked?
“Daniel and me will sneak back into class to see what’s what. Claire, you and Winifred go hang out by the teachers lounge and slow Mrs. Ryan down,” I answered.
“How are we supposed do that,” Winifred whined?
“I don’t know, you’ll think of something,” I shot back sarcastically.
“Yeah, right, come on Claire!”
Winifred and Claire scurried off in one direction while Daniel helped me make tracks back to the classroom. We must have looked like we were running a three-legged race as I held his arm with one hand and worked my crutch with the other. Daniel handed me back my other crutch when we reached the room and went in first. Just like a guy, always wanting to be first! Anyway, it was sorta nice cause I was a little bit nervous about what could be waiting for us in that empty classroom. Daniel was down on his hands and knees looking under all the desks.
“Nothing down her,” he whispered.
“Nothing back here either,” I replied from behind Mrs. Ryan’s desk.
He walked to the back and peeked into the cloakroom where all the cubbies and lunches were stored, as well as our cookie bait. He slowly disappeared into the room while I stood still and held my breath. Unconsciously I counted the seconds, one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. Before I got to one thousand four Daniel shot back out of the room and flew past me in a panic.
“YIKES,” he hollered as he went by me so fast he almost knocked me over!
“EEEEK,” I screamed involuntarily!
Before one thousand five would have followed, the source of Daniel’s terror appeared from the cloakroom. The empty bag that had held our cookie bait was now walking toward me down the center aisle. I stood there frozen; nobody was in the room to help me now. The bag crinkled as it slid on the ground slowly. My heart was racing and suddenly I was wishing Mrs. Ryan had never left the room. I wanted to run but the aisle was too narrow for me to safely turn around quick enough to out run whatever was under that bag! I held my breath and tried be as still as possible hoping that the thing under the cookie bag might change direction and give me an opportunity to escape. Suddenly the silence was broken by a familiar and I might add, irritating sound.
“HEY KK, what are you doing back in class? There’s still ten minutes of recess,” hollered Daniel’s BFF Ali?
“SHHHHHH! We’ve got the Lunchito Bandito cornered,” I hissed.
More curious kids gathered in the doorway and the thing under the bag started to more than a crinkling noise. It ran right up to my toes and I swear I felt it nibble at my shoes. I swallowed a scream and held my breath. Then, just as suddenly the thing scurried back into the cloakroom. I let out a heavy sigh and gasped for breath as Mrs. Ryan walked quickly into the classroom.
“KASANDRA DANG! What on earth is going on in here,” demanded Mrs. Ryan!
“We stalled her as long as we could,” bellowed Claire as she ran in behind our teacher.
“Honest, we did,” added Winifred out of breath, entering a step behind Claire.
“Well KK, I’m waiting, is there something you want to share with me,” Mrs. Ryan asked impatiently?
Near panic I drew in as deep a breath as I could and just let the words fly!
“Well…lastweek,ClairewastickedoffbecausesheshelostherlunchTwinkie,andthenWinifredsaidshewas missinghermoonpiethatherMompackedforthechinesenewyearandwhenIcouldn’tfindmypuddingcup wesaidAhhHAWell,wefiguredthatwehadbeenpunked,Imeanwesuspectedsomebodywasrippingoffour lunchboxes,sothenthenextdayAliwasmissinghisPB&J,andthenewkid,Danieel,wasmissingabagof Cheetos,so,wegottogether,ClaireWinifredDanielandmethatis,andhatchedthiscookiebaitplan tocatchtheLunchitoBandito,thatiswhatwecalledhimorher,whatever,thankstoDaniel’ssister, IforgethernamehecallsherSissy,madesomeslendoriforousScoobieSnacks,ummm,Imeancookiesso weplantedinDaniel’scubbieintheminthecoatroom,totempttheBandito,but,whenwecountednoses atrecesseverybodywasoutsideontheplaygroundsoDanielandmewentbackinsidetoseewhatwaswhat andmaybecatchtheLunchitoBanditoredhanded,and,therewasaspookynoisethatscaredtheboogers outtaDaniel,sorryDaniel,andheranoutoftheroom,andthecookiebagranafterDanielwhichmademe scream,andthatwaswhenAliandtherestoftheclassshowedupatthedoor,and,Itoldthemalltohush, whichwaswhenyoushowedupandthespookycookiebagscootedbackintothecoatroom,thoseareallthefactsuptonow!”
Mrs. Ryan didn’t say anything for a moment. Actually, nobody did. They all just stared at me like I had just farted in Church. Finally Mrs. Ryan broke the silence.
“Are you okay KK,” she asked softly?
“I don’t think you took one breath during all that talking!”
“He, he, yeah, I’m okay,” I replied giggling.
“Are you sure? NOBODY can hold that that long,” she said in wonder.
“Well, it’s a gift, what can I say,” I answered meekly.
“Oh yeah, we’ve seen her go a lot longer than that,” said Claire, tossing in her two cents.
Mrs. Ryan cleared her throat and then got down to business.
“Well, that’s all very interesting but let’s turn on some lights and see what it was that scared poor Daniel so much, shall we,” said Mrs. Ryan as she walked ever so cautiously toward the coatroom.
We all watched as our brave teacher peeked into the coatroom and then slowly disappeared from sight. Two seconds later the light came on in the room and one second after that Mrs. Ryan shrieked and ran back into the classroom white as a sheet! Before she could recover and warn us out came the cookie bag with legs. It moved quickly down the center aisle and right at me. I could hear everyone run for the door while Mrs. Ryan and me stood as still as we could. The cookie beast stopped right at my feet. Mrs. Ryan whispered for me to be still as she reached for a textbook to bash whatever was under that bag into the next dimension! The thing nudged my shoe and I thought I saw whiskers peeking out from under the bag. Curious now, I un-squinted my eyes and stared down at the cookie beast. Whatever it was began to make a funny noise. It sounded like the penguins I saw at the zoo last month. Suddenly it didn’t seem so scary, the noise was familiar. Mrs. Ryan put down the textbook and slid closer to me, careful not to frighten the beastie under the cookie bag. Slowly she bent down, placed her hand just above the bag and silently mouthed a three count. Then she quickly grabbed the cookie bag and unmasked the Lunchito Bandito.
“O-M-G, it’s Chester” yelled Claire!
Chester the hamster was the class mascot / science project, and quite a little stinker as well. Mrs. Ryan burst out laughing and started an avalanche of giggles as the rest of the class joined in. We laughed until our sides hurt and then, wiping a tear away from her eye, Mrs. Ryan set about restoring order. She picked up our pet rodent and walked him back to his cage, making sure to double wrap the rubber band holding the cage door shut.
“Alright kids, I think that’s enough, we’ve all enjoyed this revelation. I think we owe a big thank you to KK and her team for solving our little mystery,” Mrs. Ryan said, stopping to applaud Winifred, Claire, Daniel and me.
I felt my cheeks turning red and quickly made my way to my desk. Winnie and Claire did likewise, but Daniel took the opportunity to bask in the glory, bowing and waving to his new fans. Claire gave him the look as she passed him on the way to her seat. I guess Daniel got the message and took his seat as well. Turning around in my chair I winked at my team. It was a job well done I thought, and secretly I was glad that we didn’t catch a classmate in our trap. That would have been no bueno! Turning back in my seat I glanced at the clock on the wall above Mrs. Ryan’s desk. One hour to the lunch bell, I can’t wait, I’m starving! It’s really hard work being a spy!