The following is a fictional short story that I wrote to help 6th grade students see how they should attempt to pull readers into their narratives by using dialogue and action. I also tried to poke fun at the “pedestrian” activities that writer’s are supposed to avoid, (beginning a story when the main character awakes or having the main character do laundry, etc…) Don’t know if I was successful, but they liked the story so I will share it here.
“You need to do the wash today, Junior!” mom shrieks from upstairs, shaking me from a really good dream.
I roll out of bed and look at the monstrous pile of towels and bedsheets beneath the laundry chute that drops straight down from the upper floors of our motel. My name’s Olsen, by the way. I live in the basement. My mom pretty much makes me do EVERYTHING around here.
The sun’s not yet up, but I’ve got school in a bit, so I decide to get a few loads done before I have to go, otherwise I’ll be up ’til midnight doing the work. We have one giant washer and dryer. Mom calls them “industrial,” though I kind of don’t know what that means. I guess it means that these things are so big that you can wash eight rooms worth of stinky towels and disgusting bedding at a time. I honestly don’t know what some people do in their rooms sometimes!
I throw in a load and as I do I hear a clanging sound at my feet. I look down and I see a large, round object with a chain connected to it lying on the floor. It’s a necklace. The round part sort of looks like one of those coins that pirates were always looking to dig up or bury on deserted islands. What I’m saying is it’s pretty cool looking and it’s GOLD! My heart skips a beat and I suck in my breath. I look around, though I know I am alone, and I reach down and pick it up. It feels cool and smooth in my hand. I glance up at the laundry chute and I put two and two together fast.
Some guest must have forgot to put his valuables in a safe spot and when the weekly cleaning crew came through the necklace came down the chute with the dirty sheets and towels.
“Finders keepers,” mom always says, but I sort of don’t agree, though I’d never tell her. “These people are losers,” she sneers. “That’s all our guests are, that’s why they stay here at The Last Chance Motel!”
I guess she’s right, but I never felt like taking their things, even when they lost or forgot them, was right. I knew we had an old guy who just came in last week on the third floor so I went up to see if maybe the necklace was his.
I trudge up the stairs. At this time of day no one is ever up and about, usually. Today, though, I bump into a man in a long coat on the landing of the second floor. His shoulder nudges me as we pass.
“Excuse me,” I say, politely but the man just grumbles and continues on. A lot of our guests are not really morning people. They spend a lot of the night drinking what ever it is they can afford from the corner store, so they’re not really conversationalists. Anyway, I arrive at the thrid floor and I try to remember which room the old guy’s in. I walk to the left, but then I realize his room is at the other end, behind me. I spin around and walk in the opposite direction.
I am almost to the old guy’s room when I notice that there is some stuff on the ground outside his room. It’s not unusual to see trash lying around, but this looks like glass, a few pieces of clothing, and, right in the middle it looks like a, a hand!
I wait, frozen in place, staring at the hand.
In another moment, I see the fingers twitch and I realize there is also an arm attached which extends inside the door. I run the last few steps and flop on the ground. The man is lying face down in the doorway. The side of his face, that I can see, is kind of bloodied and bruised. It’s the old guy and it looks like he’s been beaten up pretty bad. The good thing is that I can see that he’s breathing.
“Are you alright?” I ask, rolling the man onto his back so he’s sort of propped against the door. His eyes flicker open and go wide. He’s trying to say something. “Shh,” I say. “It’s okay. I’m going to help.”
He keeps trying to talk, but I don’t listen. I reach into my pocket and I grab my cellphone, feeling the necklace brush against my fingers, reminding me of why I was there in the first place. I forget about it and dial.
“Mom!” I blurt when she answers. “This old guy up here got messed up bad. Call 911!”
“Fine,” she sighs. “I’ll be up in a minute.” I turn back to the old guy.
“My mom’s calling for help,” I tell the old guy. He’s reaching out for me. “You’re gonna be fine,” I say. He scoots forward all of a sudden and grabs my shirt. Despite looking tore up he’s strong and he pulls me toward his mouth. His jaw is going, but nothing is coming out. It just sounds like: buh, buh, buh, buh.
“Be…” he finally whispers.
“Be what?” I ask.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
He pulls me closer. His lips are literally touching my ear, which is gross, but I really want to hear what he has to say. And now I do. In the faintest, horror-movie kind of croak he’s repeating the same words over and over and my spine goes cold.
“Behind you,” he’s saying. I shiver and he must know I’ve heard him, because he lets go. I stare at him and he smiles sadly, like he’s a little sorry that we now share the same knowledge. I straighten up and then I hear it.
I slowly turn my head and at first I just see the feet, dressed in big black boots, but as I raise my eyes I see that it is the same man with the long coat that I bumped into on the stairs. He’s looking at me and he’s holding a large bat in his right hand. We stare at each other for a moment. I am confused. My mind is blank. It’s like I’ve never had a thought in the world.
“Give it to me,” the man growls and it’s like my brain is switched on again. I know what he wants. It’s the necklace in my pocket. It was the old guy’s and this goon with the bat wants to take it. It’s all so clear. “I’ll count to three, little boy,” the man with the long coat spits as he raises his bat. Like an oven timer a thought pops–ding–into my head.
The man hasn’t started counting yet, but I spring forward and hit him right in the belly. He slams against the stucco wall and I am running. I hear the whoosh of his bat as he misses my head, but it breaks a window and the glass showers my back. I lunge to the right and into the cleaning closet. There’s all kinds of cleaning chemicals and tools, but that’s not what I want. I leap right at the hinged metal panel on the wall. It hit it and in an instant I am falling.
The laundry chute dumps me back in the basement. For once, I am thankful for that big pile of stinky towels. I roll off and I am just standing up when I hear the footsteps on the stairs. He’s coming. I open the industrial dryer, thinking maybe I could hide, but it’s too late.
“Stop, you little moron!” he yells. “There’s no way you win. Give it to me now.”
I turn and face him. His face shows no sign of pity or compromise. All I know is that if I give him the necklace in my pocket it’s over, but if I wait, maybe mom will get here or the paramedics and cops will show up.
“No,” I say with a shaky voice. And then, because I feel like I’ve got nothing else to lose (and because I am so scared that I can’t contain myself) I start cursing at him. I spew the most horrible and profane words I’ve ever heard guests or my mom use over the years. It is a torrent of filth and I honestly don’t know where it comes from, but it stops him for a moment. But only for a moment. Then he just shakes his head and stomps toward me, which turns into a run. He’s got the bat raised over his head like a Samurai and I am a Sesame Street pinata.
Unbelievably, he trips. He sprawls headlong at me and all I do is step to my left and he lands in the dryer. Without thinking, I reach out and slam the dryer door shut and mom is standing right there.
“Good move,” she says as I blink in surprise. There’s an industrial latch on the industrial dryer, so mom flips it closed with one hand. Her eyes don’t leave mine. “The cops are on the way. Go upstairs and wait.” I’m so confused by everything that has happened that all I can say is, “OK,” and I start up the stairs.
“We’ll talk about that potty mouth of yours later,” she calls. I just shake my head and go to the motel office to wait. When I get there the old man is sitting at the counter with an ice pack on his face. I reach into my pocket and pull out the necklace.
“Here, I was trying to return this,” I say. He reaches out and takes it.
“Thanks,” he grunts, stuffing the necklace into his own pocket.
“What is it, anyway?” I ask. He looks at me with a twinkle in his eye, but just then the paramedics burst into the office. The cops are right behind them and I sort of know that I’ll never know the story.