When it was Joanie Hayden’s turn, she strode proudly to the head of the classroom with her school writing assignment written neatly in cursive in blue ink on lined loose-leaf paper. Despite her confident posture, she looked a bit of a mess. She was noticeably thinner and paler since last semester, and her hair wasn’t quite as neat, her dress was on the rumpled side, and her patent leather shoes lacked their normal shine.
Nevertheless, she stood straight-backed, feet shoulder-length apart, cleared her throat, and read her assignment in a voice loud enough to be heard in the back of the room, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”
Familiar with the rules of engaging the audience, rather than remaining stationary, she moved while speaking, walking around the open space and using active hand gestures to show how passionate she was about her topic.
She told a story of being locked in the cellar, nearly starved to death and having to survive on the cheese taken from rat traps, as well as enduring the occasional beating in silence so that she didn’t make her mother’s new friend mad, whenever he came around to visit.
The last page of the assignment she held up so that her shocked teacher and classmates could see. It was a detailed map done up in colored pencils, indicating where the bodies of her mother and her new friend could be found.
A girl could only take so much, after all.
Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys