I would like to thank The First Line writing journal for including my story, Untethered, in their winter issue (Volume 12 Issue 4.)
The First Line offers writers a chance to create diverse stories using a common first line. Here is the 2010 Winter’s prompt and an excerpt from my accepted submission.
Until I stumbled across an article about him in the paper, I never realized how much Walter Dodge and I are alike. First, we are both trapped in this one-horse town. The biggest difference is only my students and a handful of waitresses know me, but everyone knows Walter. He’s their very own Boo Radley. Walter, in all his Boo-ness, wanders the streets dressed in a yellow slicker and green hip waders, even on the hottest days of summer. If all you see in passing is a burned dome of scalp, a permanent yarmulke, sitting in the center of his dirty gray hair, you know its Walter. And there’s not a stronger smell in town, not even when the wind catches the pungent odor of the Burton pig farm a mile out of town. Yet everyone in Stockbridge, full of birth-born Christians who have never doubted in their shared God, treat the eye-sore as if he’s the second coming.
The bad economy, in tandem with the controversy spurred on by the close-minded parents at my teaching job in Chicago, has forced me to seek employment any place I can. I called my old boss the day I got the job and told her she was wrong—someone would touch me with a ten-foot pole. I didn’t mention that it’s teaching tenth grade English to farm kids, most who have never finished a book and will never see the inside of a university. I would’ve told her that it was a step below Hades if I hadn’t feared her laughter.
My first spring in Stockbridge was my induction to planting season. Not a boy was present for six weeks. When I counted them absent, Mr. Bird, a fist-cousin to the infamous Larry Bird, a fact he shared during my interview, pointing to a large portrait hanging above the desk of his family at a reunion, the basketball player positioned in the center, made a visit to my classroom to explain how things work in a farm community.
“We tend to look the other way during planting and harvest season. The daddies need them to help out, drive the tractors and such.”
“Then how do they learn the material?”
“More times than not, they don’t. Just do your best to catch them up. And don’t worry about including the assignments when it comes time for grade cards.”
“How’s that fair to the others?”
He shrugged. “Most of the other students are from farm families, so they understand and don’t make a fuss. I know it’s not really on the up and up, but you of all people should understand how that works.” Mr. Bird held my gaze until I looked away. It was the first time my situation had been mentioned since the interview and I’d convinced myself that it had been forgotten…