Holly set down her pencil and shook her hand to loosen the cramp. She looked down at the open notebook before her, its every faint-ruled blue line crammed left to right with large cursive handwriting—neat enough to be legible, but messy enough to keep up with the flow of inspiration. Most of her classmates were only just learning cursive; Holly had learned it two years ago. She picked up her pencil, set her elbows on her desk, and re-read the last paragraph. The gentle scratch of twenty-two busy pencil tips on paper surrounded her: it was music to her ears. The clock ticked; the silver chain bracelet on Miss Harvey’s wrist jingled each time she reached over her desk to take a new test paper from the pile to mark; from outside, down on the football field, Holly could hear the faint yells and squeals of the grade two kids learning soccer. She didn’t mind those noises. They seemed to lull the methodical, regimented part of her brain to sleep, allowing her creative, intuitive thoughts to rush forth like water through open floodgates. She could do without the whispering, though. Kids at the back. Shannon, Kelly and Jonah. She turned around and glared at them, but they just smirked and threw a paper ball at her. So long as they kept their conversation to whispering, Miss Harvey would let them talk.
Holly nodded then flipped the page. A quick sharpen of her new Faber-Castell HB Graphite pencil, then she set it back to work, gliding and looping across the paper like a figure skater over the ice. A glance at the clock. Eight minutes left. Normally she wouldn’t rush to finish. Normally her teachers let her take her stories home to complete. But this was a new teacher, at a new school, and Holly wanted her to form the correct impression from the start.
Words swarmed the page like an invading army. Two thirds of the page conquered, Miss Harvey announced there were five minutes left. She gave some follow-up instructions about what to do if you did not complete your writing task within the time allowed, but Holly tuned her voice out—those instructions would not apply to her—she would finish her story, and finish it well. Page completed, she moved to the adjacent one and kept writing—no time to edit. Most stories needed a touch-up: some better word choices, a few lines re-written, a few scratched completely. Every now and then, though, a story would spring up from within, near perfect in the first draft. When she wrote those stories, she almost didn’t have to think: it was like a voice in her chest was dictating to her. This was one of those stories…
A boy is shipwrecked on a remote island—home to the world’s last dragon. The boy and the dragon, after overcoming some misunderstandings, become friends. The boy draws pictures on the sand of cities and people and animals, and the dragon realises there is a whole world out there beyond the island. The dragon teaches the boy to ride on his back as it flies, and the two plan to leave the island and fly to the boy’s home. As they make preparations to depart, a ship arrives at the island, manned by pirates. When the pirates attack the dragon, it realises it will never be accepted in the world. Believing the pirates to be the boy’s family, the dragon gives up the fight rather than torch them with its fiery breath. As the boy sails away, now slave to the pirates, he watches smoke rise over the island from the dragon’s smouldering corpse, and mourns the death of his only friend.
The bell rang. “Okay, pencils down,” said Miss Harvey, over the noise of eager students already packing up their stationary. “If you didn’t finish your story, put your book in your desk and you can come back to it tomorrow. If your story is finished, bring it up here and leave it on my desk as you go to lunch.”
Holly packed up slowly, ensuring she would be the last to leave. She filed out behind the stragglers and placed her book on top of the others on the teacher’s desk, setting it down with a slap; Miss Harvey looked up from her marking. She smiled. “I saw you furiously scribbling away there, Holly. You must have come up with a good story. I look forward to reading it.”
Holly smiled as she left the classroom.
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