Ophelia crumpled up yet another piece of notebook paper and threw it in the general direction of the garbage can. It missed by roughly five feet. Ophelia shrugged. Her cat, Butterbell, would find it eventually and hopefully also find a use for it. She focused her attention back on her notebook. It had started out with a hundred pages. It now had maybe thirty-six. She’d tried out almost every genre she knew of: sci-fi, historical fiction, tragedies, comedies, biographies, fantasy, comic strips and even realistic fiction, which she already knew she couldn’t write. Ophelia glanced up at the clock: 5:54. She would have to leave for school soon. Oh well. She’d write more during math. The teacher wouldn’t notice. She never did.
Ophelia was born to write. She had been named after a character in one of William Shakespeare’s great creations, though there were so many she didn’t know which one. She had always loved to write, though she hadn’t known that until who-knows-when. She loved to create characters and put them in strange, wonderful yet difficult positions, then save them at the very last minute. Lately, though, it had gotten harder. Maybe it always got harder to imagine when you got older. Either way, Ophelia spent every moment she could with a pencil and paper, or on the computer with Microsoft Word. Her ideas flew off the pages and came to life in front of her eyes. Even during math, when she wrote on scraps of paper with pencil stubs, or at least on her math paper. And fantasy was her favorite genre. And al- ways would be. Maybe.
“Ahem,” said Mrs. Pickle, the math teacher. “Now class, we will start with Parrrrtial prrrrroducts.” She always spoke like that. Don’t pay any attention to it. Ophelia smiled. A long lecture that made no sense. Perfect writing conditions. She rummaged around in her desk for any scrap of paper and anything that would make any sort of mark on that paper. She emerged with an old candy wrapper and a crayon. Marvelous, as the characters in old cartoons would say. Simply marvelous. By the end of math, Ophelia had filled the entire candy wrapper with miniscule writing and tucked it in the plastic container with the Little Mermaid on it, along with all the other old candy wrappers in it. She had started another story and given up on it. On each wrapper was a different story, and none of them were finished. Not one. There were stories about squirrels battling evil crows and owls, stories of a kingdom with an evil sorcerer intent on destroying all traces of good in the world. The latest one was about a girl with a very long name. Misericordia Caterina… no, Esperanza Caterina Cassandra Monica… no, Alexia… well, never mind, you get the point. Half the wrapper was covered in that girl’s name. Ophelia almost wished she had a name like that. But she figured it was close enough, because everyone called the girl Juliet, who was a character in another one of Shakespeare’s plays. Right?
At recess, Ophelia explained her writing predicament to her best friend, Harry. He just laughed. “Just don’t think about it,” he advised her. “If you don’t think about it, you’ll come up with something.”
Ophelia puffed out her cheeks. “I thought about that. The problem is, I can’t not think about something if I’m trying not to think about it, can I?”
Harry half smiled. “You’d be surprised,” he said, and the bell rang.
P.E. was after recess. “No hope for writing through that,” Harry commented.
“Obviously,” replied Ophelia, then, “but why don’t you try it?”
Harry half laughed. “Only someone stupid would not pay attention in front of Meatloaf.” Meatloaf, the P.E. teacher, was actually Mr. Metloff, but he was so large that even he called himself Meatloaf.
“ ’EY!” said Meatloaf. “You. Yes, you! Geddup here.”
T.D. Roosevelt stumbled slightly as his cousin Maria pushed him out of line. “Yyeah?” he murmured hesitantly.
“Don’t y- yeah me!” bellowed Meatloaf. “One-fifty, now! NOW!” T.D. dropped to the ground for his 150 push-ups. “Now,” said Meatloaf menacingly, “who’s up next?” Everyone backed away.
Next was writing. The woman who taught it had previously been a counselor but had been fired because all the students had been afraid of her. And for a good reason, too. “Now children,” she said in a dreamy voice, “every great artist starts at the seed, as does every tree.” Everyone had become extremely interested in either the ceiling or their desks, hoping they wouldn’t be called on to read aloud their homework, as none of them had done it. “Every one of you,” the teacher continued, “will become someone great.” Ophelia looked up. Maybe the teacher was crazy. Well, there was no doubt about that, but crazier than usual. “Each and every one of you. Whether you become an accountant or the president of the United States, each of you will be great in your own, individual ways.” After that, the speech droned on. Something about how important exclamation points were.
“Pretty crazy lesson, huh?” said Harry after class.
“Yeah,” said Ophelia. But really she was wondering about what the writing teacher had said. Every one of you will be great in your own, individual way. Every great artist starts at the seed. Immediately she was filled with that kind of feeling you get when you want to do something you would never do if you were thinking straight. She decided on the spot that she was going to give
realistic fiction one more try. The little voice in her head decided not to comment on the fact that she’d only given it one try in the first place.
She turned to the next blank and third-to-last page in her notebook. She set her pencil on the paper and tried to think of something to write. Her mind, as one’s mind usually is when you pick up a pencil, was blank. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Finally, she knew what she would do. She would write a story about deciding to write that story.
She wrote about everything that happened that day and beyond. She wrote about 5:54 and math and recess and P.E. and writing and everything in between. And here we are at the end.