If at first you don’t succeed, revise, revise again.

Below the cut is a story that I wrote in about forty-five minutes, after looking over what the class discussed when we looked at our inspiration picture. I put the story up on the screen in our classroom, and asked the class to help me revise it.  They came up with some great suggestions.  Everyone agreed that the ending wasn’t very good, and they made some great suggestions for how to think of one.  Vanessa came up with the great idea that the guy could be in rehab.  This is an example of how a peer editor can make you rethink the entire piece.

 

There were a lot of logistical suggestions – how does he breathe?  where does he go to the bathroom? – and some really great tone suggestions came out of that discussion.  For example. Jasmin argued that the food should be the same each day, so that the man’s loss of time would make more sense.  Leslie argued that the man should get through to someone on his cell phone, which would add some serious mystery – the other person could hang up on him, for example.

 

After we revised the piece below, we also worked on Raquisha’s most recent High School post, which she was brave enough to put up for critique in front of the class.  I was really excited about the criticism she received, since it was really constructive.  There were positive comments, some expressions of confusion, and suggestions for improvement.  A really great class, all around.

 

The story:

He had lost count of the days.  It couldn’t have been that long, he thought, except that there were fingerprints layered on fingerprints on the glass, blurring his view of the trees outside.  Were they all his?  He didn’t know for sure.  At first, he kept track of where he had pressed his hands, but now he couldn’t tell which were his and which could be someone else’s. 

He stood up on his tiptoes and peered past the handprints, out at the trees.  It was late, but not too late, and he could just make out the outlines of the leaves, the way they swayed in the wind.  His breath fogged the glass, and he wiped at it irritably, smearing on more fingerprints.  “Damn it,” he said, and stepped away from the wall.  He paced around the box, counting the familiar distance in his steps.  1-2-3-4…

Days, maybe weeks ago, he’d had a dentist appointment.  It was a routine check-up, just a biannual cleaning.  There had been a tiny twinge in one of his front teeth that he was going to ask Dr. Baraka about, but it hadn’t concerned him.  Now, his tooth throbs in time with his steps.  He curls his tongue against it.  How long until it breaks, until it rots through?

17-18-19… he smacks his palm against the fourth wall, hard.  20. 

 His wallet, his keys, and his cellphone are in one corner, and he goes over and crouches down next to them, flips open his phone, even though he knows the battery is long since dead, and he doesn’t get any reception out here anyway.  He tried, when he first woke up here, tried standing and crouching in every part of the box, but the bars refused to appear. He doesn’t even know who he’d call, or what he’d say if he could reach them.  I’m sorry?  I didn’t mean to?  Come get me? But where is he?  What could he say other than I’m in a box, in the woods, somewhere, I don’t know where.  He’s grateful, somehow, that the phone didn’t work. He starts pacing again, even though he’s long known the dimensions of the box.  It gives him something to do, keeps him from going too crazy.  On the fifteenth step, he catches movement up in the sky, and tilts his head back. The lights of a plane move from one corner of the ceiling of the box to the other.  He was like, I never thought of walking diagonally.  He tries it, and comes up with about seven.  He does the math in his head, and it seems about right.  He tries it again, just to be sure. 

A light comes out of the darkness, and he whirls around, walking over to the glass and pressing his hands against it again.  The guy always comes around at the same time.  The flashlight he carries reflects against the glass.  He squints, and waves, like he always does.  “Hey,” he says, though he doesn’t know if the man can hear him.  The tiny door in the side of the box opens, and a plate is shoved through.  He waits until the man walks away, watching the beam of the flashlight bobbing away, before he crouches down and begins to eat.

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