N is for Norman

NI asked my high school writing class to complete a character draft, but I introduced a twist (I always introduce a twist). Each student received the worksheet with the same unfinished sentences. We began by filling out #1. Then we passed the paper to the right and filled out #2 and so on. What that yielded were 13 characters, each a Frankenstonian amalgam. I had the students name their characters and share the answers. At one point a student read I’m most embarrassed of the time I didn’t tie my swim suit tight enough. Can I tell you I almost fell out of my seat? These characters were so impossible, yet so delightful that I decided right then and there to have the students expand on them.

Double dipper that I am, I named my character Norman because I need an N-word. The answers I had to work with are in green. Only one of them is my answer. Can you guess which one? I’ll tell you at the end.Norman

  1. Three adjectives to describe my character are… devil’s advocate, cynical, salty.
  2. Three adjectives to describe my looks are… tall, cheerful, blonde.
  3. I love… Kalahari.
  4. I hate… Watership Down (the book we’re studying in class now).
  5. I would kill Peyton with my bare hands.(Peyton is a character from last session’s book, Alas, Babylon) 
  6. I would kill for… the children.
  7. I’m most proud of… my singing.
  8. I’m most embarrassed of… my father talking to people.
  9. I would kill for someone I love.
  10. If I could only do one thing forever it would be… live.
  11. My ideal job is… neuroscience.
  12. I’m afraid of… contracting lice.
  13. I’m confused by… stupidity.
  14. An extra fact about me is: I hate poetry with the burning passion of a billion suns.

Norman Fates

People tell me I’m cynical, but I’m a realist. In Cleveland, Ohio, the reality is that it’s cloudy 364 1/2 days a year. Add to that fact a body just washed up on the shore at Edgewater Park, one of my favorite haunts. No, I didn’t find it myself, but I heard he had blonde hair like mine, that he was tall like me, but perhaps no longer cheerful, being dead, like I am when I get to swim in my favorite lake. Winter in Cleveland for a water-lover is tough. If it weren’t for Kalahari, I don’t know… I’d have to move to Texas (which I may do anyway, especially if they secede).

With all the garbagy weather we get (again, not cynical, just keeping it real), I read a lot. Watership Down is a two-inch-thick story about… (you’ll never imagine) bunnies. Can you believe there could be even an inch about bunnies? I thought I might die before reaching the end of their quest. It was like Dostyovsky sprouted a cotton tail and pored his soul into copse and field descriptions. Gag. It’s one thing to hate a book, but I’d kill Peyton Bragg with my bare hands. She was a character in Alas, Babylon, a post-apocalyptic novel written in the 1950’s. Peyton was a child character, and even though I’d kill for the children, she’s excluded. She killed Phyllis’s pet goldfish and used them as bait. I mean, who does that? Don’t whine about you’re starving. Stealing is stealing.

Another way I keep myself from getting too salty about the Cleveland weather is by singing in my church’s choir. I’m in the soprano section at the United Methodist Church of Berea. Not actually standing there. But that’s where I sing, and I’m darn proud of it. My father, God rest his soul, embarrasses me when he talks to people. As if I can’t hear the voices. I hear them all the time. They whisper T.S. Elliot poems to me, which I hate with the burning passion of a billion suns. Poe, I like him. I once wrote a completely original poem entitled “The Craven.” It’s an enchantingly rhythmic, dark, and repetitive piece about my fear of contracting lice. I wrote it in response to a terrible experience I had at an Indian reservation. I was there for a short-term missions trip and we’d been warned to exercise caution with our hair. One of the students thought he’d be funny and put a baseball cap on my head, the same cap that had set on about a hundred Indian heads. Just in case I got lice, I had to cut him up into little pieces and flush him down the toilet. First though, I had to unscrew the base from the floor so I could fit his skull down the sewer pipe. That’s a free tip.


I’m most afraid of… contracting lice.


3 thoughts on “N is for Norman”

  1. Love this – like I love all your flash fiction! I wish my kids were still in your class – so much beautiful learning they are missing out on!

  2. Do we not have to use all the sentences?
    I really liked it. My favorite part was that you mentioned Cleveland and other places that really exist.
    I would suggest pitting more line breaks I it because sometimes it got confusing. For example when you were talking about singing in the choir then jumped to hearing voices. It just was hard to follow, especially because I wasn’t totally sure if killing peyton was a joke or not.

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