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Old 11-26-2016, 06:18 PM
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Dealing with third graders is annoying, but the parents can be just as annoying—if not more so. Jacqueline Marqaud is definitely one of the more annoying ones. She enters the room for her parent-teacher conference and shrieks, “How dare you give my Jocelyn a C in math!”

“It’s the grade she earned, Mrs. Marquad.”

“It’s ‘Ms. Marquad,’” she hisses. She slaps her daughter’s report card on my desk. “I want this travesty remedied right now!”

On the scale of “travesties” I’d put her daughter’s math grade slightly above a paper cut. “If you’ll have a seat, Ms. Marquad, we can discuss your daughter’s work—or lack thereof.”

“Are you saying my Jocelyn is lazy?”

“No, ma’am—”

“Don’t ‘ma’am’ me,” she snaps. She pats her shoulder-length black hair. “How old do you think I am?”

I would put her at about forty-five, but I shrug and say, “About my age, I would guess.”

“I’m twenty-eight, if you must know. I was a young mother when I had Jocelyn.” I manage to keep from laughing at this assertion. Tears bead up in her eyes; I reach for some tissues to mop at the mascara that has begun to run. “My husband died shortly after she was born. That’s why she’s so precious to me. She’s all I have left of Peter.”

The play for sympathy is obvious, not to mention over-the-top for a C in math. “Would you like something to drink, Ms. Marquad? Coffee? Water?”

“I’ll be fine,” she says with a sniffle. She finally sits down on one of the children-sized chairs. She dabs at her eyes. “Thank you for offering.”

I hope her next trick isn’t to try seducing me; she’s not bad-looking for her age, but I don’t need to deal with her brand of crazy any more than I have to. I take out my grade book. “Jocelyn is performing in the bottom ten percent of the class. In a class of thirty students, how many do you think are doing better than her?”

“I’m not here for story problems,” she grumbles. Obviously Jocelyn inherited her math ability from her mother.

I stand up and grab a piece of chalk. “We have thirty students. Ten percent of thirty is three. So there are at least twenty-seven students better at math than Jocelyn,” I say as I work out the problem for her.

“Are you trying to tell me she’s stupid?”

“Not at all. I think she’s plenty bright. Her problem is with paying attention. Just yesterday I had to scold her for having her phone out during class. The next time I catch her doing that, I’ll have to take it from her and then we’ll be meeting again for another discussion.”

“I think the real problem is obvious: you’re not making your class stimulating enough for Jocelyn. She’s a very special girl. She needs special attention.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Marquad, but I have to devote my time equally among all my students. I can’t play favorites.”

“That’s why she’s struggling. She’s a very creative little girl. She draws such beautiful pictures.”

“Yes, I’ve seen some of her artwork,” I say. I reach into a drawer to take out a sheet of paper. On it is drawn a girl with dark hair and a pink dress. There are stink lines radiating from the girl and the caption, “Shelly Stinkmeyer.” I let Ms. Marquad get a good look at it. “I took this from your daughter a couple of days ago. I don’t think I have to tell you Shelly was not very happy with this portrait.”

“What proof do you have that my Jocelyn drew this? It could have been anyone.”

“There are others. She could have a great future as a caricaturist.”

“Really, Mr. Ridley. I can see now that you’re dead-set against my little girl. What happened: did she reject your advances, you pervert? Or is it because of her superior genes and breeding?”

It’s because she’s a spoiled brat, I want to say, but then I’d be in trouble with the headmaster for sure. “I’ve never made advances on any of my students. As for genes and breeding, I don’t take that into account.”

“I doubt that,” she says. “Now, are you going to grade my daughter fairly or not?”

“I can’t change grades she legitimately earned,” I say. “I can recommend a tutor if you’d like.”

“A tutor? Why on Earth would my precious Jocelyn need one of those?”

“A tutor would be able to give her that special attention I can’t.”

“Oh, I see. You want me to pay someone to do your job. Aren’t I already paying enough in tuition?”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Marquad, but the tutors charge their own prices. I have seen it help a number of children.”

“Yes, well, my Jocelyn doesn’t need tutoring. She just needs you to do your job.” Ms. Marquad shoots to her feet. “Or maybe I should talk to the headmaster about finding someone who will reach her.”

“That’s fine, Ms. Marquad.” I get to my feet and hold out a hand that she refuses to shake. She bustles out of the room, probably to go bawl out the headmaster’s secretary. I don’t envy her at the moment.

The next conference goes much better. Ms. Frobisher bounds into the room bearing a plate of brownies. “I thought you might like a little treat,” she says. “I made them just this morning.”

“Thank you,” I say. I probably shouldn’t accept the brownies—Ms. Marquad would lose her mind if she saw me taking a gift from another parent—but I’ve been at this for two hours and my stomach is rumbling.

Ms. Frobisher sits down on the chair Ms. Marquad vacated. She could actually pass for twenty-eight, though she’s probably older than that by a couple of years. She’s petite to the point of looking delicate, except for the breasts that will probably give her back trouble when she’s Ms. Marquad’s age. Her bright pink dress matches her shoes and lipstick; I have little doubt that’s on purpose. Her brown hair is bobbed short with a headband on top that also matches her dress, shoes, and lipstick. If it wouldn’t get me fired, I’d ask her out for coffee.

All I can do is take a bite of a brownie and nod. “These are really good. Homemade or a mix?”

“Homemade. The secret is using just the right amount of cocoa.”

“I’ll have to get the recipe. Not that I’m much of a cook.”

“I’ll have Ethan bring it in tomorrow.”

I nod to her. “Ethan is doing really well in his schoolwork. I’m more concerned about his interactions with his classmates—or lack thereof.”

“Oh dear. Ethan has always been a quiet child. Even when he was a baby he didn’t make a lot of noise. Sometimes I went into his room just to make sure he was still breathing,” she says with a lilting chuckle.

“Has he mentioned any bullying to you?”

“Bullying? No. Is someone picking on him?”

“There have been a couple of incidents on the playground and in the cafeteria. The boys responsible have been disciplined, but I’m worried Ethan might become more introverted if this continues.”

“What can we do?”

“I can recommend a therapist. She’s helped a few of my previous students. She could probably do some good for Ethan.”

“Is it expensive?”

“The first session is usually free. After that she has a sliding scale.” I reach into my desk for a business card. She takes it gingerly. “You don’t have to call, but I think it could help.”

She nods slightly. “It’s been hard for Ethan, especially after his father left when he was just three years old. I’ve done what I can, but a boy needs a male role model, you know?”

“I understand. Maybe just talking about his problems will help.”

“I hope so. Ethan is such a nice boy. And so smart too. I really don’t want him to be unhappy.” She pats my hand, her skin probably softer than her dress. “Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome, Ms. Frobisher.”

“You can call me Madeline,” she says.

“Phil,” I say, taking her hand to shake it.

“Well, Mr.—Phil—I should probably go. I’m sure you have other parents,” she says, her cheeks reddening.

“Yes, I do, but not for a few minutes. Would you like some coffee? They haven’t changed the filter in the machine as long as I’ve been here so you can probably peel the paint off your car with the stuff.”

She giggles at this. “As tempting as that is, I should go. Ethan’s at home alone. He’s a good boy, but there’s still plenty that can happen, you know?”

“Some other time,” I say. I wait until she’s gone to curse myself for my stupidity. I doubt she’ll go running to the headmaster like Ms. Marquad, but it’s going to make things awkward whenever we have to see each other now. I remind myself that besides having relations with a student, trying to date a parent of a student is about the worst thing a teacher can do.

I drop in my chair to devour another brownie. The richness of the brownies doesn’t help to improve my mood, but at least my stomach isn’t rumbling anymore.

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Old 11-27-2016, 11:28 AM
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very realistic, good conversation

but it had no pizazz, it would make a very nice lull in the action but if you were to extend this to a full story - it could get boring very quickly

I now understand your comments on my vampire story. I'll look and see if I can find a story I have posted like this one; to put us on even footing for further critiques

i'll get back to ya.

keep writing

if you're writing over your readers head - tum etiam, ut graece scribens --- the secret of success changes;the truth of failure remains constant; if you try to please everyone you will fail.
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Old 11-27-2016, 01:21 PM
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the post is 'excerpt from Fur Run' in the members only section, tell me what you think.
if you're writing over your readers head - tum etiam, ut graece scribens --- the secret of success changes;the truth of failure remains constant; if you try to please everyone you will fail.
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Old 11-27-2016, 01:45 PM
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This is very subtle. There IS some pizzaz, but I don't think a lot of people would see it. I wouldn't want you to spell it out in a telling sort of way, but I think if you're going to be this subtle you have to define the characters more intensely so the reader feels the tensions. That of course is the art of it and I'm not sure it can be taught. I'm not even sure if I could do it myself, but I know it when I read it. As an example: we have no reason to 'fear' the headmaster except in the stereotypical way which becomes a cliché. Also: the first mother is cardboard stereotype of ridiculous mothers everywhere. Give her some humanity.

Some of the first mothers conference felt obvious. The whole math problem thing was obvious before it happened, and failed to bring tension in a part of the story that could have really taught us something (not math), and been a great source of tension and release.

The attraction to the second mother came through, but it was subtle. I like my love a little seedier, and innocence doesn't translate into the bang I'm looking for. I'm not saying he should have bent her over the desk and raped her, but maybe a little more of what we're all looking for—that rich, warm, moist agitation that comes with real attraction.
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Old 11-28-2016, 05:16 AM
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The writing is fine. You know how to structure a sentence and make them all flow together nicely, and that's something.

The dialog flows nicely too, but for the most part, the first mother's dialog is a bit over the top. I think she either needs to be more subtly crazy or it just needs to be funnier. As it is, comes off as exaggerated and a little cliche.

Not a fan of "hisses" or "snaps." Not opposed entirely to "said" alternatives, but usually context is sufficient — and it is here.

I love stories where it seems like not much is going on, but there is a lot bubbling under the surface — uncertainty, fear etc. I was hoping for that here, but I'm not really feeling it.

Wondering what it would be like if there was more at stake for the teacher — if he was on probation or already embroiled in some controversy. Something you could just hint at without adding much in the way of backstory.

I just want to feel the potential for things possibly going wrong. You get close to that with the teacher's innocuous overture at the end, but I don't think it's quite there.


Figured out what might be missing. What's that Creative Writing 101 thing people are always harping about? Oh yeah — conflict. Just needs a bit more of the internal variety, I think.

Last edited by Myers; 11-28-2016 at 05:24 AM..
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