Dear Mrs. Ethridge,
I apologize for my behavior this morning when you asked us to get under our desks. I understand that it's something we have to do, but I really don't understand why anyone would ever want to bomb us. Putting my fingers into my ears and nose still doesn't make a whole lot of sense, though. I asked my dad about it, but the look on his face was proof that I'd be better off not asking him any more questions.
He was probably more irritated about the long line at the gas station earlier. He's home this week, and mom told him that she hadn't went to see Ivan yet. He said a bad word that she says I'm not allowed to repeat and put me in the car. We have a Ford Falcon. It's a new one, this one's gold. The other one was green. We got a new one because mom ran over a fire hydrant on the way out of meeting my Little League coach. His name is Mr. Jones, too. No kin to us. Daddy says he's too tall. Mom yelled at me to shut up because I started laughing when she hit it. You should have seen it. I bet you would have laughed, too.
She said a cuss word, and that was even funnier.
She took the car to Ivan, and he said he didn't think there was much they could do about it. She tore something up underneath the car when she hit the fire hydrant. The silver metal thing was sitting down in a weird hole. She drove over the hole, and it caught the bottom of the car. It made a horrible smell. That might be what a bomb smells like and probably why nobody wants one. I think Ivan was trying not to laugh, too.
You know Ivan. He's that guy that runs the gas station down on the square. The Phillips 66 station. He always pumps the gas, then he checks your oil and uses that hand-rake-looking thing to make the windshield all clean. I don't understand why he does all of that with a bow tie on, though. Daddy called him a "good Ivan," and when I asked him what that meant, he told me that not all men named Ivan are nice. He said that there are men that live in a place called Rusher, and they aren't as friendly. I think those are the guys that made you put me under my desk, but so far, I don't see that they've hurt much of anything. I'm not sure what everybody's so worried about.
It took about an hour to get gas. It was a really long line around the block. Daddy wasn't happy and said another bad word about that President Peanut. I thought everyone liked him because he was from our state. Ivan looked tired, but he seemed very happy to see Dad. They talked about mom hitting the metal thing. Dad said, "Her comedy is getting a bit expensive," and they laughed again.
When I gave him your note, he just nodded and said I needed to write you this letter and make things right. So I'm sorry. And I'll get under the table now without fighting you about it. I don't want to get hit by a stink bomb. Daddy farts enough. Momma says I'm not supposed to say that word, so I wrote it.
The letter you just read was part of an assignment for a course I have been taking to improve a few specific writing styles. In this piece, the gist was to write a letter to a figure from your childhood, at the age you were at the time.
So I handpicked three snippets from the critiques I received and am placing them here. I don't mean this as any type of a diss, but more that I had forgotten the fact of being alive for a few more decades, as well as having a patently American experience in the Deep South.
It is clear that the writer is reflecting on school bombings.
I didn't realize Jimmy Carter was called President Peanut -- and there was apparently a bomb threat? I had no idea.
If there was a sentence or two about what the drill was supposedly about? The writer was confused as a child, and I get that. But there's a way to communicate that sense of confusion, without confusing the readers.
It was called a duck and cover drill, although we really didn't know or care about that at the time. All that we knew was that a bomb was bad and did bad things, and somehow getting under the desk resolved all of that. I'm not even certain we had the concept of death as it related to us specifically. Many times that lack of foreboding demise as a possibility is just a grace many kids had, during this period, anyway.
The concept of a school shooting as we know them today wasn't a card even on the table. I only saw a gun in a school one time in my life, and it had nothing to do with other students.
Part of the issue that those of us with more years under our belts have is the fact that so much has changed. Yet somehow, a quick read of the recent news appears that we are right back where we started then in a small Georgia elementary school.