Boxing, Writing, and Mrs. Quinn

This is how I feel right now...

I took a boxing class once, learned the art of the jab, the uppercut, the hook. I even sparred with a guy, but he just played nice. He knew I didn’t pack much of a punch.

If he’d really fought me, though, knocked me out even, would I have gotten back in the ring to face him again?

Maybe. If I really loved boxing. But, I’m too much of a softy, and I’m a definite people-pleaser. Even if I did get him with my mean, left hook, I’d have been apologizing profusely in between subsequent ducks.

How does this relate to writing? A couple of Wednesdays ago, I let the day slip by — without saying a word. I’d planned on writing a flash fiction piece, taking on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day, whipping out a story from scratch to post here by midnight. I had an intro, had an idea, and spent the entire day (and then some) wrestling with the story, circling the first paragraph, looking for an opening.

But that story tossed me around like a rag doll and knocked me flat, so at 1am I called it.

It would be easy to take a little failure and turn it into a big sign, to throw that story to the curb and maybe even abandon word prompts all together. But, I love word prompts, and I love flash fiction (and, honestly, that story isn’t dead, it just isn’t finished).

So, I’m getting back in the ring.

Today’s word on Wordsmith.org:

stupefy. verb tr.: 1. To make someone so bored or tired as unable to think clearly. 2. To amaze.

PS. I spent all day on this story, and now I can barely see how it goes back to the word of the day. But, hey…it’s a story.

*****

Mrs. Quinn

Nicki fell in love with Mrs. Quinn on that first day of eighth grade Algebra. It was the way she wrote her name on the board that caught Nicki’s eye. Mrs. Quinn stood at attention – in her tight bun, stiff shirt, and a long skirt that hung just over the tops of her shoes – and let her hand draw out her name in a smooth series of hills and valleys and curliques.

Mrs. Quinn.

Even her algebraic expressions, with all those X’s and Y’s, showed flair. Never mind the way her skirt shimmied back and forth, to the rhythm of a song, Nicki was sure, during an intense moment of factoring.

But, she especially loved Mrs. Quinn because of the way she handled Jenny Baker, when she caught Jenny on exam day with a cheat sheet stuffed up the sleeve of her Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie. Mrs. Quinn drew a big, fat zero on Jenny’s paper and said “Aber and Fitch, as you call it Ms. Baker, has no place in Algebra, and cheating on a test gets you a visit to Mr. Harper’s office.”

“Mrs. Quinn,” Jenny held out her hands. “I’ll miss the football game if I fail this test! I’m head cheerleader!”

Mrs. Quinn ignored Jenny’s boo-hooing and showed her the door.

“Jenny’s pissed,” Nicki’s best friend Amy told her later in Study Hall. “She said she’s gonna have her mom call a lawyer.”

“For missing the game?” Nicki asked. “Serves her right.”

Nicki tried to push her hair back out of her face, but her Cerebral Palsy got in the way. Her hand circled in front of her forehead a few times, but it kept missing the hair. Nicki was tired after working through her Algebra homework and writing out her English assignment; her Cerebral Palsy never cooperated when she was tired.

“I got it,” Amy said. She tucked the hair behind Nicki’s ear and shook her head as she went on about Mrs. Quinn. “She’s cold-hearted, Nicki. I mean, it’s like she’s got no love. It’s Homecoming!”

Nicki didn’t feel one bit bad for Jenny, though, and she knew Amy was wrong. About the love part.

Nicki thought about how Mrs. Quinn looked her straight in the eye when she handed back her papers. She left pretty cursive notes on them that said “Great job!” and “You’re a natural with numbers!” and never wrote something stupid like “practice your penmanship.” She spelled out weekly homework assignments on the board like they were poems, rolling the letters together in delicious combinations and always ending the stream of instructions with a loose and curvy line underneath.

Mrs. Quinn loved math and she loved writing notes on the board and – according to Jenny – she loved Mr. Harper. Amy told her that Jenny said she saw Mrs. Quinn making out with Mr. Harper after school one day. Even though Jenny was a liar, Nicki imagined Mrs. Quinn writing him notes.

Filling the page with pretty letters.

Nicki wondered if Mrs. Quinn would sign them, “With love, Bethany.” If she would round off her Y with a flower or a heart or tease him with one of her smooth, curvy lines underneath.

* photo credit: jnyemb on Flickr

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5 Responses to Boxing, Writing, and Mrs. Quinn

  1. Nikki is a born writer, a poet. I liked seeing Mrs. Quinn through her eyes. I imagine nothing comes easy for Nikki and she understands the sense of justice that might make a person seem cold-hearted. Good story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    Nicki is a terrific character and this is terrific flash!

    Happy weekend, Christi.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Linda and Beth 🙂

  4. I love your opening line! I also love the “tightness” of seeing the opening in the ending — I find stories with that structure extremely satisfying.

    I can see Mrs. Quinn’s name written on the board, as well as her algebraic expressions. Great characters all around.

  5. This story feels so real and Nicki comes alive so well! I can smell the chalk (or is it the dry-erase marker?)

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