NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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At the end of the school year, I challenged some of my 8th graders to help me with some columns over the summer. They gave me the first and last lines of a potential fictional short story. My task was to take those lines and write the middle. I was given seven ideas from the kids, so that’s the plan for the foreseeable future! This week’s lines were provided by Kendall Johnson.

One day all my teeth fell out… at least the three that were loose did. What were the chances of having three teeth loose at the same time at the age of 14? Most kids had finished losing all their teeth a couple years earlier, but I’ve always been a bit behind the curve, no matter what it was.

My name is Dmitri; I’ve always been smaller than the other boys in my grade, and wearing big-framed glasses has never helped my popularity. However, my family doesn’t come from much money. My parents moved to the United States from Russia before I was born and have struggled to make ends meet. But they tell me it is nothing compared to how difficult it was in Mother Russia.

My name means earth lover, and that has held true. I love to be out in the garden with my mother, picking weeds or harvesting fresh strawberries and raspberries. I enjoy hiking in the woods just south of town and having a campfire before falling asleep under the stars. I’d much rather be communing with Mother Nature than sitting at the kitchen table working on my school work.

And that was a little bit of a problem. If I had to hear, “We moved to this country to give our future children a chance at a successful life,” one more time, I might scream. I knew it was important to get a good education, but a part of me asked just how important it was. I seemed destined to work outside, and who needed to solve advanced math equations or write essays while exploring streams and rivers?

But my science teacher, Ms. Randomsky, set me straight one day. “Dmitri, I know you love nature, but we need you to focus harder on your studies,” she told me. “It might not seem important, but just think about it from a science perspective. People study all these things in nature, but they have to be able to write about what they discover eventually. Math is important in understanding so much of science. If you truly want to work as a scientist or anything to do with nature, it’s imperative that you have the knowledge we’re trying to funnel to you.”

That made sense, I guess. So I worked a little harder to do my work for my classes. I wrote those essays, read those books, and finished most of my homework on time. I just couldn’t get the hang of algebra. Just tell me what the number is instead of put an x in its place! Still, I did the best I could.

Anyway, back to my teeth. The reason I had three loose at the same time was a fight I’d been in. A few of the Neanderthals in my class liked to use me to get their kicks. I was easy to pick on because of my size and the fact that I never fought back. However, this time was different; I’d had enough of them over the past two years and lost it when one of the apes grabbed my glasses while another knocked my books to the floor.

I can’t see well at all without my glasses, but I could make out the big shadowy shapes that resembled my tormentors. I screamed and flung myself at them, flailing out and trying to punch and kick them into submission.

It didn’t work. They were able to anticipate and sidestep most of my attacks and laughed as it happened. Sure, I got in the occasional shot, but I’m sure it didn’t have much impact.

Finally, I heaved myself one last time. One of the gorillas was holding my glasses in his hand (at least I think it was my glasses), and I charged. Like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, he pulled them away at the last instant, and I smashed cheek-first into the drinking fountain. Blood gushed from my mouth, and I could feel some of my retral teeth wiggling around. There had been three back there that were still baby teeth, but it was inevitable that they wouldn’t be in there much longer; in fact, before my mom came to pick me up, I had spit them all out into the garbage can in the nurse’s office.

The two bullies got suspended, but so did I because of fighting back and defending myself. We each got three days out of school. The problem was that I received zero points on all my assignments during that time. I had been working hard to get my math grade back into the passing range, but those three assignments erased that chance. I had finally started to get my work done and had finally stood up for myself, and that’s how I flunked my algebra class.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is retral, which means located at the back, as in, “When given a choice, many students choose the retral seats farthest away from the teacher.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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