Teacher’s Write: A Prompt Response

Today’s prompt on Teachers Write was about characters and using music to get to know them. I worked on two characters using the prompt. This is the first response.

Name: Chance Mateer

Location: Lakeview, Wisconsin

Physical: Darkening red hair that falls in his eyes, impish grins,

External Music: Animaniacs Theme Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz-5dqnrXeQ

Internal Music: Lean on Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR0NZqu6igg&feature=related

Chance threw his calculator hard onto his bed. The impact wasn’t nearly loud enough but better a muffled sound than having to raid his allowance to pay for a new one. Again. What he really wanted to do was tear his homework to shreds, but they were all out of tape from yesterday’s invention building. Who knew that Bob had a thing for Rube Goldberg machines? Chance had thought his mom was the only one and now her new boyfriend did too. It wasn’t faked either. The man could do wonderful things with a flyswatter.

“Focus,” Chance ordered himself. The stupid worksheet had to get done if he wanted to go on the stupid math fieldtrip with everyone else tomorrow. Those were the rules. He slid off his desk and paced. He had to figure these problems out without his mom. He didn’t want another accusation of his mom doing his homework. She made him do all the work. He just sometimes dictated it to her, but the math sub they were stuck with all week didn’t get that. Chance hated math subs because then all the behind the scenes agreements fell out of place. He was probably the only one who couldn’t wait for his real teacher’s jury duty to end.

He sat down again only to get up right again to rescue his eraser from inside one his shoes. He erased all his work, thankful he didn’t tear the paper or start a fire. There was that much to erase. His fingers coated in pink rubber shavings, he stared at the sheet of problems. One page. Everyone else had been glad to only have one page but for him it may as well have been a mountain. Reading the instructions alone gave him a headache. The decimals and divisions were worse. Throw in the logic problem at the bottom and he was toast.

He kicked his desk. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered. He wanted to yell, but that would only make things worse if his mom came in.

Chance somehow trudged through the first few problems. He wasn’t sure they were right but at least they weren’t so obviously wrong as the first three times he did them. He could feel time rushing by. The ticking of his old robot clock had started to sound like an executioner so he’d pulled out the batteries. Now the logic problem stared back at him with all its names, clothes and washing machines. Chance’s eyes stung trying to keep it all straight.

“Are you planning to take over the world?”

The sixth grader jumped at the interruption. He rubbed his nose hard before glaring up at the man in his doorway.

“No,” he answered Bob sullenly.

“Looks complicated enough. You’re sure you’re not working on world domination?”

“I couldn’t take Lakeview with this,” Chance said. He shoved his math under some sketches and crossed his arms. “What do you want?”

“Just saying hello,” Bob said, hands raised in innocence.

“Now you have.” Chance knew he wasn’t being fair, but he didn’t like people seeing him upset.

“I know it can’t be easy—“

“I’m not mad you’re over for supper again,” Chance blurted out.

Bob looked at Chance, the desk, the almost dead eraser. “Homework?”

“Leave me alone.”

The man stepped into the room. “What’s wrong with the homework?”

Chance snatched back his paper. “It’s not the homework. It’s me. I’m what’s wrong.”

“You don’t understand it?” Bob was trying to help, but it was making everything worse.

“I can’t read it!” Chance shoved away from the desk, still clutching the homework in one hand.

“I could read the directions for you,” Bob said. He held out a hand.

“It’s not the directions. It’s the words. The numbers. Everything,” Chance said in a rush. “I’m dyslexic,” he said in a quieter voice.

“Why don’t you let me take a look at the homework anyway?” Bob said after a long moment. The way he said made Chance realize his admission didn’t surprise the man. What had his mother been telling about him?

Chance passed over the paper without saying a word. He braced himself, expecting Bob to say something about the scrawled work on the paper.

Bob studied it. “Do you have any Legos?”

“Yeah. Most of them are in a marble obstacle course. Why?”

“We’re going to build this problem. Then you can see it.”

Maybe Bob knowing his problem wasn’t so bad. Maybe.

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3 thoughts on “Teacher’s Write: A Prompt Response

  1. You had me from the very first line! Truly, I think you have something here. I feel like I really know Chance. What you did very well was show us who he really was. So many writers would have started with him complaining about his dyslexia, but you pulled us into it with masterful ease. I’m hoping that you continue with this character. I’m certainly wondering where this story is going.

    Keep writing!


    • Thank you for reading! Chance shows up in a couple of my projects, but this was a new spot I was exploring for him today. I enjoy it when prompts let me learn more about my characters.

  2. Eika

    Love it. Chance is awesome, as I’ve told you before. And I really like the idea of using legos to help with math.

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