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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Fishing in the Fish Bowl
By Sheri Gordon


“James, you’re up next.” Mrs. Winshire peered over her moon-shaped reading glasses at the class of seventh-graders sitting in front of her.

Thirteen-year old James reluctantly slid out of his desk chair and shuffled his five foot, seven inch, stooped-shouldered frame to the front of the class.

Today was the first “impromptu exercise” day in Public Speaking class. The assignment? Select a random topic out of Mrs. Winshire’s fish bowl, “reflect” on it for ten seconds, and then speak to the class about that subject for thirty seconds. Mrs. Winshire used a stopwatch and rang a bell at exactly thirty seconds, at which time all talking had to stop—even if it was in the middle of a sentence.

“Okay, James, go fishing in the fish bowl.”

James had been nervous about this first class exercise, but after watching some of his peers stumble over topics such as snowstorms, pets, birthdays, and celebrities, he figured he couldn’t do any worse than they had.

At the sound of the first bell, James opened the slip of paper to read the topic and begin his ten seconds of “reflection.” Immediately, the suffocating feeling of dread overwhelmed him.

How in the world am I going to talk about this? What if I start to cry? That will be horrible. What am I…?

Ring-ring. James heard the sound of the bell and turned to face the class. He opened his mouth—he thought he was talking—but no sound emanated from his lips. Classmates began to snicker until Mrs. Winshire silenced them with “the look.”

“James, you need to start now…the clock is ticking.”

“My topic is ‘grandparents.’ I only have one grandpa left, and he has cancer. My grandma died last month, and my other grandma and grandpa died in a car crash.”

Mrs. Winshire hurried over to stand by James.

“Oh James, I’m so sorry. You don’t have to talk about this topic. Why don’t you sit down, and you can pick another topic later.”

James expelled a large breath of air and turned to his teacher.

“No, Mrs. Winshire, I want to do this topic. I think I might have something important to say.”

“Okay, if that’s what you really want to do.”

Mrs. Winshire returned to her desk and rang the bell again.

James swallowed exaggeratedly and sent a silent prayer to heaven. God, please help me do this without crying. I don’t want to look dumb. Amen

“Grandparents are very important, and you shouldn’t take them for granted, ‘cause you never know how long you’ll have ‘em. And, um, when they want to do things with you, you should do it, even if it sounds dorky, ‘cause the dorky things are what you’re going to remember when they’re gone.

“And, you shouldn’t be embarrassed when they wear funny clothes or hats to your baseball games and things, or when they stand at the fence taking lots of pictures of you, or when they want their picture taken with you, ‘cause one day you’re only going to have pictures to look at. And, oh yeah, when they get mad at you for stuff, you should remember that they’re just trying to do what’s best for you.

“And, um, when they ask you to help them in the yard or something, you should do that. It’s the nice thing to do, and they usually take you for ice cream or something. And you should feel lucky that they care about you so much and that they want to do things with you--like make Christmas cookies or take you fishing.

“And when they call you to ask how you are, you should take time to talk to them. And maybe you should even call them sometimes to ask them how they are doing. Grandparents like that a lot.

“Yeah, so, um, grandparents are very special, and if you have them you are very lucky.”

As James finished speaking, Mrs. Winshire rang the bell. James dropped his head, shuffled down the row of desks, and slouched into his seat.

While the next classmate was walking to the front, James felt a tap on his shoulder. The new girl, Mallory something, handed him a folded-up piece of paper.

James slowly opened the paper as the next speaker began talking about vegetables.

Hi. My name is Mallory Uhnrue. My grandma lives next door to us. She makes the best snickerdoodles. Would you like to come over and bake cookies with us?

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This article has been read 1185 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/10/08
As one who never knew one set of her grandparents, and barely knew the other set, I appreciate the message. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 04/10/08
You wrote James' impromptu speech so convincingly! His "ums" and his "'cause"s, things like that--exactly the way a 13-year-old would speak.

The snickerdoodle ending is charming, and has sent me off in search of cookies. A strong entry!
Chely Roach04/11/08
This was awesome...very creative take on the topic...and FYI, MY grandma made the best snickerdoodles:)
Joanne Sher 04/12/08
Love the ending - and a great job with the "impromptu" speech. Good job!
Glynis Becker04/12/08
I love it! The dialogue is fantastic and the whole idea so clever...great way to tackle this topic!
Peter Stone04/13/08
James shows a lot of wisdom that many should heed. So many precious memories there to be kept for later one, yet perhaps many grandchildren miss them due to life's hectic pace.
Merryl Vaughan04/13/08
I enjoyed Fishing in the Fish Bowl. Thank you.
Lyn Churchyard04/13/08
You had James' uncertainty and nervousness down pat. Very, very well written. I loved the ending. Super job here!
Kristen Hester04/13/08
I loved this for so many reasons. First, I may be teaching a speech class next year so I got a great idea for my class. The dialogue is so perfect and I felt I was sitting in the class listening to his speech. I just really love the concept of this entry. The ending gave me goose bumps. I just think this is totally great!
LauraLee Shaw04/13/08
This is so well-written. The flow is outstanding, and the dialogue is excellent. From title to end, this was extremely entertaining. Well done.
Dee Yoder 04/13/08
This is such a great entry. I love the class setting and the dialogue of the boy-very endearing and realistic at the same time. It makes me want to send my son to the phone right now to call his grandparents. Though they are quite stand-offish with him, I bet they'd still enjoy a phone call.
Leigh MacKelvey04/14/08
A very good take on writing a story about grandparents that isn't the same as all the rest! The fish bowl activity and the great dialogue was creative and made it interesting to read. This should do well!
Sara Harricharan 04/16/08
I like this! And I really like James! The ending made me smile with Mallory inviting him to join her and her grandmother to bake some snickerdoodle cookies! Sounds like fun-I loved his 30-second 'blurb'. This is special. ^_^
Loren T. Lowery04/16/08
This entry made my heart smile. So creative and touching and sincere. Wonderful job!
Debbie Wistrom04/16/08
Can't we all learn from this. We must make time for what is important. Great message and delivery.
Karen Wilber04/16/08
Excellent message, well put. Since I knew who wrote this when I read it, it was a little tough to get through. So I was right there with James in his discomfort and determination to speak to his peers.

I love the line "the dorky things are what you’re going to remember when they’re gone" How true.
LauraLee Shaw04/17/08
Congrats on your Editor's Choice, Sheri! Doin a happy dance for you!
Sara Harricharan 04/17/08
***Congratulations-I'm so glad this made it!***
Loren T. Lowery04/17/08
Sheri, I'm still smiling at the warmth of this piece. Congratulations on your placing - Loren
Sharon Henderson04/17/08
Congrats on another great entry. Wonderful story!!!
Debbie Roome 04/17/08
Congrats on your EC. This is a lovely, heart-warming story.