Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
The Torture of Valentines DayMrs. Ellemayer rubbed her temples and sighed. It was that time of year again, and there had been no way to escape it. February 14th, with its silly parties, its bickering about who got the most and nicest valentines cards, and the weeping over who hadn't given who a card, had come at last, and exacted its torture on the third graders and their teachers. Now it was over.
Except it wasn't over for Mrs. Ellemayer. She sat at her kitchen table and stared at the pile of valentine's cards her third grade students had given her today. What she really wanted to do was throw them in the trash can, take two aspirin, and not come back to school for the rest of the week. But as surely as February 14th came every year, it was followed each year by February 15th, and on the fifteenth, all of her students would be saying, "Mrs. E, did you like my card?" and "Did you read my card?", and worst of all, "Can you read my card to the whole class?"
Because once you started down that road, there was no escape, and all the cards would have to be read.
But even though she wasn't going to read any cards aloud, she would need to be able to tell the children that she'd read their cards.
So she sat at her desk, sipped a cup of stale, cold decaf coffee left over from supper, and began rifling through the cards. "After you've been teaching for twenty-five years," she had explained to her husband, "there is a horrible sameness to the cards. It makes me want to scream."
The artwork changes from year to year, and the sentiments are worded in different ways, but at the heart of it, it's jus one cartoon character after another saying "Please be mine," or "I wuv you", or some other gut-wrenching (as opposed to heart-wrenching) sentiment.
Sure enough, there were cherubs, and Mickey Mouse (cheek to cheek with Minnie), Goofy (he's "goofy for you!"), Scrooge McDuck and the rest of the duck clan, and some identifiable character whose eyeballs had turned to heart shapes, and were extended at least a foot out of his head.
Then there were the more serious cards. These were the ones expensive enough that you didn't buy them by the box for a dollar; the children who gave these cards had a bit more money in the family, and probably had parents who hovered over them while they wrote "Love, Billy" and "Sincerely, Judith" at the bottom of each the cards they gave their teachers and friends.
At the bottom of the stack was a crumpled envelope stained with what could have been either ketchup or tomato soup, or - Mrs. Ellemayer thought ruefully - the aftereffects of a bloody nose.
She knew who this one was from. Micah Malone. He was tall for a third grader, and stocky, but without being chubby. He was bigger than all the other boys, and meaner, too. Two out of three complaints of rough play on the playground included the words "Micah" and "punched", mostly in that order. Micah knew more about standing in the corner than he knew about addition and subtraction.
He had come to school today with the same pair of pants and shirt he'd worn the last three days. He also came without lunch, and without homework. In class he alternated between throwing wads of paper (occasionally moistened with spit) at his classmates, and doodling with his blue ball point pen all over his English text book.
Mrs. Ellemayer flipped the envelope over. On the back side of it there was a single block letter scrawled across the back of it: "E".
Not even "Mrs." E, she thought.
She flipped it back over and saw that the envelope had been sealed with a bit of scotch tape that had dirty finger smears imprinted on the sticky side. She picked up a letter opener and carefully peeled back the flap of the dirty envelope.
The paper inside was equally dirty, and equally crumpled. It was a single sheet of lined paper torn from a spiral bound notebook, eight and a half by eleven, with the paper skrids from the spiral still dangling from the edge. It was unevenly folded into thirds; it was a wonder Micah had managed to fit it in the envelope at all.
Mrs. Ellemayer unfolded the paper, and studied the sentiment which had been printed on the card in very crooked, barely legible letters:
THNCYUO LOV MICAH.
She stared at the scrawled message for about forty-five seconds, her tired brain trying to make sense of that first word which, she finally realized, was actually two words. Then she shoved the paper back in its filthy envelope, and returned it to the bottom of the pile.
And yet, somehow, a few minutes later, that ugly little card found itself attached to the refrigerator door by a magnetic letter M.
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