The Great Mother: A Storyteller's Appeal
Natalie Merizalde, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s1d2

Lounging vibrantly in the back corner of Ms. York’s literature class. I let my eyes rove over the desks of squinting and growling teenagers as they struggle to put words to paper for the creative writing assignment due in just under an hour. I smile down at the printed text in my palms, running my fingers along the warm ink and losing myself in the rhythmic drawl of Jesse Ruiz as he relates his mother’s passing in bitter and loving detail. The story I chose was an old one, a piece that I had written more than a year ago while fiddling with a new app on a Floridian beach with a name like an old maid. My thumbs were coated with sand and white lotion as I tapped away an American tragedy with the screen set to full brightness. It had been the perfect place for me, I remember, and I grin as I imagine the agitated and barely-focused teens in the seats around me trying to write a story with the sun chanting war cries in the sky and children screeching incoherently as they traipsed the muddy border between ocean and sand. I realize that they would either go nuts or surrender themselves to the lazy heat.

This is how we are different: while they relish the tepid silence of room A114, I write best in the chaos of lapping waves and infant cries.

I cannot sit still and in silence when writing a story. The words will shy away into the fractious corners of my mind and curl up into a tight ball, afraid of the deaf ring at the forefront of my mind. I must lure the words forth with music, a siren song to my paperback child. I must stand up and pace, raising my plushy underside from the sinking desk chair and scissoring my legs in a constant circle until the words run to catch up to me like a boy rushing up to his mother’s side. I must escape from the cool darkness behind closed windows and step out into the sunlight, the spring air filled with startled chirps and seeds that twirl to the ground like fallen airplanes that crunch against my heel. I press my bare feet into the soil and close my eyes so that I can trick the words into thinking that I am not a soft-spoken storyteller but a brave and broken man grieving over his mother and rocking by her grave, his shoes in hand and his socks puckered with dew in a vain attempt to connect with her through the murmuring earth. Jesse’s trick may not work but mine flushes with victory. The words come rushing forward and embrace me with their passionate curiosity.

While the agitated boys and girls at the front pew of Ms. York’s coveted classroom compare themselves to machines, bent double over lined pages and churning out measured speech in clipped and simplistic tones, I write like a mother. I do not polish the words like a shoeshine boy scraping a boot but rather I wash them free of their imperfections as would a woman to her infant. I draw up the bathwater and marvel at the words’ fetal grin. I stew in the warm pool and close my eyes. I am no longer a young girl floating on clear water but the memory of a sick woman scrubbing the bubbles from her son’s ears as he slaps at the frothy film of rosy suds. His name is Jesse and in that moment I am a trinity of mother, son, and storyteller. I try to imagine the sleepless students in room A114 doing these things. I close their eyes for them and place them on the soil, in the water, and against the curling spine of the sand. I command them to pace, to sing, and to wash. I dare them to create children within their hearts when they are but children themselves. I press their feet into the soil and pray that they can feel the gentle judders of Jesse’s mother as she twitters out a laugh within the softened earth. I plead with them not just to see but to feel. I cry out in the voice of Jesse, mother, and girl yet all they hear is my gentle tapping as my fingers glide against the keys and drift onward with my boy cradled beside me. My eyes are closed and I hum an old lullaby under my breath to choke the mindless silence of the classroom’s back corner.
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