Neil smiled a wooden smile as story after story followed the same pattern. The children did not know how to come to an ending. They wrote themselves into corners. Half of the stories ended when someone woke up. The rest of the students used Hemingway’s habitual solution and killed off their main character. The stories all seemed to come from the horror movies the kids watched. Neil could not quite be sure, since he did not watch those kind of movies himself, but the kids seemed to recognize movie scenes as they were repeated in the stories.
All in all, they were a sad batch of tales. Oscar’s was by far the best. Elanor Romero’s was more typical.
It was Halloween night. Elanor and Lauren went out to trick and treat, and they were going down the street, and it was dark, and they suddenly came to an old house. It was dark inside and they went to the door and Frankenstein opened the door. They screamed and ran home.
When the bell finally rang, it was more of a relief to Neil than to the kids who had feared to read.
# # #
Afternoon was a repeat of morning. His afternoon class had already heard that he was going to read a scary story to them, so it did not have quite the effect that it had had in the morning. The kids complained less about having to read aloud. They had already heard about that, too.
None of the stories were up to Oscar Teixeira’s standards. Most of them were more like Elanor Romero’s. One in particular story sent cold chills up Neil’s spine. Lisa Cobb had written:
One night three girls went out trick-or-treating and two of them got lost. The other one went to this old house and went in. It was dark and she was all alone. She walked down this long hallway to a room and it was a bedroom. She was all alone there when someone came out of the closet and pushed her down. She tried to scream, but he had his hand over her mouth and she couldn’t do anything.
Then she woke up.
Neil thought, Please, God, let her be remembering a movie, and not a scene from her own life.
# # #
Neil stayed after school to correct the Halloween stories. He took Oscar’s first. It had sounded good when Oscar read it, but on paper it was a mess.
It was Hlloween night. Three boys named Oscar, Richard, and Rafael were going out trick-or-treating. The had costumes on. Oscar was dressedlike Dracula. Richard was dressed lik gostbusters. rafael had on a Freddie Kruger mask He also had popsickle sticks taped to his fingers to look like long claws.
they went to this first haouse and got candy. Then they went to thi second haouse and got more candy And some gum. they went to this thrd house and nobody was home, so Rafaelsaid, “Let’s eg it.” “We dont’ hive any egs, dummy,’; Richard said, Well maybe their are som chickens in that little house oaut back,” Oscar said
they all went out to the back weher there ws this old shack. Ricard said he could heer chikens, but Rafeael said he was Nuts. The Oscar found a nest with 3 egs in it undder a rose bush.
“You can’t eg a house with only three egs, Richard said,. But Rafael threw his anyway. It smashed against the front door and ran down the front door like slime. Richard yelled, “I’ve been slimed and held his throat. Rafeal thought that was pretty funny. Then richard threw his eg and it ran down th front the same way. Then Oscar decided to throw his eg againt the window, but the window broke and the boys decided to runaway. But before they could turn around a big tall dark guy said, What do you think youre doing.
What’s it to you Oscar yealled, and they all ran away. more tomorrow
ASIDE: If you think I’m making up the quality of a good paper in a low performing sixth grade, in California, in the late eighties — I wish I were. SL