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Essay in the Style of Kurt Vonnegut - by Megan Estey

In a Creative Writing classroom in Mount Abraham UHS, in the town of Bristol, in the state of Vermont, in New England, in the United States of America, in North America, in the Western Hemisphere, on the planet Earth in the Milky Way galaxy... in this classroom, there was a rug.

A rug, you say? A rug? But goodness, there are rugs all over! In churches, restaurants; they're in gas stations, for Pete's Sake! That brings me to my next point:

Who is this Pete character? I picture him as about 5'8", ruddy-complexioned, a little on the chunky side. His hair is blond, the yellow-blond that people with his skin color tend to possess, and he wears it in a crew cut. But this is just my idea. The fact is that nobody seems to know who he is, and yet he is mentioned so often. In fact, his name is practically an obscenity!

However, this does not change the fact that the man who installed the rug in this Creative Writing was named Steven. Did I fool you? That's something a writer always tries to do: trick the reader. People who do not like to have their brains monkeyed with should not read-- at least not books or pointless essays such as this. They should stick to poetry.

Steven loved poetry.

In fact, Steven wrote poetry himself. He spent hours hunched over a linoleum tray table, scrawling words that he remembered from his days before leaving school at age fifteen. Coincidentially, that is the same age with I am now. Steven filled several small journals with these poems, the type of journal that students in the Creative Writing class were using the write their final exams in.

Steven's wife used to lean over him when he wrote, wearing a low cut evening gown that exposed most of her cleavage. She tried to distract him with her cleavage, as many of my former best friends do to males that aren't their boyfriends. She wore her hair up, and a sparkling necklace that drew attention to her chest. The dress was her favorite color. The dres was a bluish-gray.

So was the rug in that certain Creative Writing class that I mentioned earlier.

Steven's wife had a lovely name. It reminded some people of the Mattel toy called a "Barbie". Barbies have been found to cause every type fo insecurity that the American woman faces. Scientists recently published a story that said 8 out of 10 American women would become Barbie if they had the chance, despite the fact that there is no room for internal organs in her petite frame and her breasts would cause her to fall over constantly. American women don't care about things like that.

Steven's wife's name was Melanie. It is a curious coincidence that the teacher who taught in that Creative Writing classroom was also named Melanie. Her students were not allowed to call her that, because of a strange cultural custom. This custom deemed that once a man or woman reached the age of 30, their first name changed. Since Melanie the Creative Writing teacher was past that age, her name was not "Ms.". Had she been male, her new name would be "Mr.". Women had more choice when they reached 30, though: they could also choose to become "Mrs." or "Miss". Naturally, things got a little confusing now, because people had the same name. This problem was avoided by allowing people to keep their last name.

This all seems straightforward enuogh, but the twist is that people who were 30 or older were allowed to call other people 30 or older by their original name. For example: if Melanie the Creative Writing teacher met Melanie, Steven's wife, they could both call each other "Melanie", and not bother with the "Ms." or "Mrs." business. However, if a student of Melanie the Creative Writing teacher who was only fifteen spoke to her, the student would be obliged to refer to her as "Ms. Backus". Not weird, but different, childen. We mustn't criticize primitive cultures.

Steven was also a "Mr.", and had been for some time. Since I am fifteen, I should courteously refer to him as "Mr.". But one of the advantages of being a writer is that no matter how old you are, you have the authority to call your characters whatever the hell you feel like calling them, because they are just that: yours. You created them, you named them, and now you can choose what happens to them. A good writer is nothing more than a slightly schizophrenic reclue who likes to play God.

Since a writer can do whatever they want with their characters, they often abuse this power. That is why so many people die in stories. The temptation is too great. So maybe you won't be too shocked when you read this next line:

MELANIE, STEVEN'S WIFE DIED! That's right. She died of pancreatic cancer, which is what my grandfather died of. She died three years ago today, in fact. At the time, I was preparing to go to sixth grade promotion.

Nobody had ever been very sure whether Steven's wife was actually old enough to be a "Mrs." or not, because she would never reveal her actual age. At the funeral, they found out that she had been a "Mrs." for TWENTY YEARS, and he never knew it! Melanie had been having yearly plastic surgery, and that was what the mysterious $1700 bills on Steven's credit card had been.

Plastic surgery was one of the ways American women tried to look more like Barbie.

A common piece of advice for teachers to give to their students is to "write what they know". Maybe that is why the two male characters in my story have the same names as the two brothers of one of my friends, Kate McEvoy. Kate was a nice girl. She's graduated now. I miss her a lot. If she was a character in one of my stories, I might cause her to fail Creative Writing, just so she could stay here with me.

Another tendency of writers is to ramble. The better ones learn how to control it. The less talented simply go with the flow. I'll leave it to you to decide which I am-- just remember that this all started with the rug.

June 1999