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Short story: <i>Happily Ever After</i>

“Cinderella,” Tess Darcy spat, “Is possibly the stupidest story in the world.”

A few heads nodded in agreement around the circle.

“Okay,” said Ms Tracy, eagerly leaning forward from where she sat cross legged on the floor, wearing loose cotton pants and a light shirt. Her glasses were slipping forward on her nose slightly, but she didn’t notice. She loved getting the kids impassioned about something, even when it was something they hated. “Let’s talk about why.”

“Right,” said Tess. “Well firstly, she’s a complete drip. She’s not in charge of her own destiny. She just sits around, snivelling, in the cinders, and waits for somebody to come and rescue her—some kind of damsel in distress syndrome—and in this case it’s her fairy god mother, who does all this stuff for her, for no real reason, and then she spends the whole time chasing after a man! What a waste of time! Why didn’t she tell the fairy god mother she wanted to save the forests, or run away and learn a trade, or something? It’s a stupid play and I don’t want to do it.”

Ms Tracy was feeling faint with excitement. And actual student, ACTUALLY engaging, in a reasonably intelligent and succinct way! Now she just had to figure out how to play this one, keep the discussion going, keep the kids interested, and do it for another twenty minutes. Then it may qualify as the first actual instructive and successful teaching she’d managed in five years on the job.

“Okay, that’s great, Tess!” enthused Ms Tracy. She pushed her glasses back up her nose. “Does anyone else want to weigh in on the topic of Cinderella? Obviously, if you all object, we can choose a different play, or even”—it was like the synapses firing in Ms Tracy’s brain were working overtime today—“re-write the play to suit a more contemporary audience.”

The students stared at her blankly.

“I mean, make Cinderella and her story cooler, more up to date.”

The students relaxed slightly, although a couple looked a little dubious about the idea or re-writing things. It was all very well to have half-hearted thoughts, to hate things, to not want to perform a stupid play. It was entirely another thing to actually have the sorts of ideas and thoughts that went into being constructive.

“Right!” said Ms Tracy, jumping up in her stockinged feet and padding across to the white board, which still had “kevin noll is a dickhead” scrawled across the bottom in indelible ink. They couldn’t get it off, they couldn’t afford another whiteboard, and as Ms Tracy reflected as she pulled the cap off the pen, Kevin Noll was a bit of a dickhead. “Let’s talk about the new Cinderella story, the modern one, OUR Cinderella story!”

For the next twenty minutes she scratched enthusiastically at the whiteboard with her blue and red markers, which should have been replaced weeks ago, but weren’t considered of budgetary importance. The students were actually fairly enthusiastic once they realised that all they had to do was shout out the improvements they would make, and Ms Tracy was willing to do the actual, physical writing. And Cinderella blossomed in watery pale red and blue, coming out brave, and daring, and achieving great feats and successes, going on to become prime minister, possibly becoming a lesbian (although Ms Tracy wasn’t sure that the parents would want to come and see a play about Cinderella the lesbian; she may have to negotiate a sort of implied bi-sexuality instead). Fairy god mother? Pah. Who needs her? Cinderella is forging her own way. She’s on her way to the top and she doesn’t need anyone else.

Ms Tracy was thrilled. Not only were her students participating, but they were doing it in such an enlightened way! After last bell, Ms Tracy was standing in the blustery car park, waiting for her Aunt May to come and pick her up. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tess Darcy step up to the curb.

“Hi Tess.” said Ms Tracy. “I really enjoyed you speaking up in class today and prompting that discussion. It was excellent, and I think that you really got some of the other girls thinking about things. Thanks for being so interactive.”

Tess nodded distractedly. She was darting her eyes around the carpark.

“Are you waiting for someone?” Ms Tracy asked.

“Yeah,” said Tess. “My boyfriend.”

“Oh right.” Ms Tracy responded. Tess seemed to have something on her mind, but Ms Tracy didn’t want to push.

“Kevin Noll,” said Tess, and then blurted out, “I really want to move out of home, Ms, because my dad’s such a bastard, and I didn’t know what to do. Anyway, I’ve been seeing my mum a bit now she’s out of rehab, and she’s been really nice to me, helping me and that, and she really wants me to be with Kevin, so she told me that’s she’d buy me a really hot dress, and I’m s’posed to take Kevin out tonight and tell him I’m pregnant. She reckons that’ll hold him for sure. But she reckons if I play hard to get with it, and tell him I mightn’t want it, he’ll come after me and probably propose or something. And Kevin’s going to own his dad’s garage soon, it’s a good business, and it means I won’t have to be with my dad. And I quite like Kevin. He doesn’t hit or anything.”

Ms Tracy was speechless. Tess didn’t notice, she just looked glum.

“So that’s why I really want Cinderella to get off her arse. Because she doesn’t have my parents holding her back.”

This is the result of a thirty minute writing exercise. This week I have taken one of the seven plotlines (theory being, all stories spring from only seven plots) and a random location. Today’s plot and setting were: "Rags to riches" and a high school theatre.

Image courtesy of J McKnight Photography.

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