Friday, July 18, 2008

A Spool of Copper Wire

My best school friend, Shelley, and I took all four years of our English/Literature classes together. One Friday our teacher, Mrs. Green, gave us a writing assignment that was due the next Monday. We were to write a creative short story, based upon some real incident - an incident that had a tragic side to it.

Immediately my mind went to an event that had been in the local news, two or three years earlier. It was the tragic story of a murder that had happened at the local garbage dump (the same one, on Thane Road, that I told about in THIS post).

The story was that a homeless man had taken up residence in a big shipping crate, there at the dump. He slept in the crate at night and spent his days rummaging through the debris for items of any value. He would then take his "treasures" to town (it was walking distance) and pawn them.

One day, another fellow showed up on the scene to see what he could salvage. One of the two men discovered a wooden spool of copper wire, which would have been worth a fair amount of money. A scuffle ensued over the rights to the spool, and it escalated into a fierce fight. The newcomer on the scene picked up a heavy object - it may have been a stone - and killed the man whose home was the shipping crate.

I went home and worked on the assignment, trying to recall the details of the news event, but embellishing the story with my own imaginative touches.

Monday morning, as usual, I walked downhill from my house to Shelley's. Shelley and I usually spent a half-hour or so at her house together before we left for school. That morning I remember asking Shelley what she had written for her short story. She told me her story was about something that had happened a couple years earlier . . . at the dump. NO, I thought. We couldn't have written about the very same thing! But we had.

All the way to school we talked about our predicament. Would our teacher think we had collaborated, or that one of us had copied the idea from the other one? It wasn't so! We hadn't discussed the assignment at all until that morning. We just knew that our grades would suffer.

Before the first bell rang, we went directly to Mrs. Green's class and found her there, alone. We spilled our tale of woe, pleading with her to believe that we had each come up with the theme of our assignment independently. Mrs. Green was a tough teacher, but she was also insightful and fair. She looked at our two short stories - vastly different in every way except for the event that they were both based upon. "Girls," Mrs. Green said, with a wry smile, "I'd never suspect either one of you of copying or cheating on an assignment. And I can tell by your creative stories that you each put in a lot of time and effort on them. Good work!"

Whew! Thanking her profusely, we left the classroom together, breathing a sigh of relief. And after the sigh, we looked at each other and broke into a chorus of giggles. Was it a gift or a curse - this strange ability we had, as inseparable best friends, to think, speak and write so much alike?

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