30: My Great Escape into Writing

30: My Great Escape into Writing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

My Great Escape into Writing

An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts.

~Juvenal

The crack of the nun’s hand against my face stung mightily but, unlike my five eighth grade buddies, I refused to cry. Stupidly, I laughed. “You think that’s funny?” my diminutive principal shouted in my face as she slapped me again, harder this time.

I finally realized that standing in front of eight rigidly straight rows of fellow students for a very public reprimand was not very amusing.

My crime? Avoiding the cafeteria hot dogs by sneaking off campus to Taco Bell.

My punishment? A 500-word essay on my misdeed on top of the public flogging.

Contritely my pals etched out painfully dull confessions promising never again to break school rules. Me? I started with a title, “The Great Escape,” and just managed to get my second wind somewhere past the 500-word mark.

I started out with a vivid description of the cafeteria hot dogs, noting that their remarkably rubber texture made them a perfect substitute for a four square ball if you were in a pinch. I hinted that there was an unnatural chemical makeup in the wieners and that my exit from the school grounds was all in the vein of self-preservation.

Instead of simply walking out the unmonitored side gate, I praised my squad for successfully dodging a rain of bullets from the nun-guards in our church’s bell tower. In the clear, I had us shimmying under the “barbed wire” fence for our first taste of freedom in over three hours.

I went on to say that we were constantly looking over our shoulders to see if we were being “tailed.” Unlucky for us, we should have been looking ahead because when we arrived at our Mecca… Taco Bell… the school secretary was leaning against her ugly brown station wagon and motioning us to get in. We’d been busted without even one bite of a crunchy taco shell for our troubles.

Needless to say, my composition was not accepted. In fact, our principal, Mother Slap-You-Twice, was outraged by my defiance.

I was taken out of class and marched to the pastor’s office in the rectory. In a loud voice, the cranky nun described first my group escape and then… much worse… my insulting essay. Finally, she pulled me roughly by the upper arm to stand before the priest I’d confessed a fair share of my sins to over the years.

In a much kinder voice than that of his female colleague, he asked, “Did you write this?”

Without much remorse, I nodded in the affirmative. Exhibiting my first sign of caution since the Taco Bell epic began, I consciously avoided the utterance of even a single sound lest I dig my ditch a bit deeper.

“She should be expelled for such insolence!” Mother hotly suggested.

“Let me read it first,” he replied.

He began reading and started chuckling. Turning the page, he burst out laughing. By the conclusion of “The Great Escape,” tears ran down his now very red cheeks and his eyes were filled with mirth.

This appeared to bode well for me. Mother, however, was not grinning. She snatched my essay out of his hands and demanded that something be done about my rebellious attitude.

Composing his features a bit, the priest tried to conceal the silly effect my melodramatic story had on him. At last he lifted one hand and I wondered if he was giving us a blessing or just trying to get the principal to calm down.

“No, we don’t want to expel her. She’s our best chance at winning the essay contest.”

And so my new punishment seemed painless, even intriguing, to me. I was supposed to write an essay entitled “Why I’m Proud to Be an American.”

Words of freedom and individuality, two concepts I fervently embraced, flowed effortlessly from my pen. My sentiments must have touched a positive nerve with the judges because my essay took first place for the city of Sacramento and then for the State of California.

Suddenly I was a heroine instead of a hellion. I’d brought honor on my school and my principal valiantly tried to block out our prior run-ins when she greeted my parents under these most auspicious circumstances.

I must confess that I will always be grateful to my confessor who forced me to continue writing instead of hiding both pen and paper from one whose imagination easily treks to the moon and back during the space of a single lunch recess. Once I had a taste of the joy… along with the glory… writing could bring me, I couldn’t be stopped.

~Marsha Porter

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