Mrs. Herzog, the senior English instructor, handed Amy Foster her essay on patriotism. Anticipating her usual A, she unfolded the sheets of paper. C stared back at her in bold red ink. Insulted, she shoved it into her folder without even glancing at the comments.
The bell rang indicating the end of school. Amy tore out of the room, threw her folder in the bottom of her locker, and slammed it shut.
“What’s up?” Kati Simons slid up beside her best friend.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Amy snapped.
“Sorry I asked.” Kati slowly backed away. “I guess I’ll catch you later.”
Amy felt a little guilty about snapping at her friend but was in no mood for apologies. She rushed out to her car, hoping to avoid contact with anyone else.
She stewed and fretted most of the evening, short and cross with her family, and on the verge of exploding. She dialed Kati’s number.
“It’s me. Sorry about this afternoon. You got a minute.” Without giving her friend a chance to reply, Amy plunged ahead. “You know what that old bag Herzog gave me on my essay? A C! A C, can you believe that?”
“You’re the best writer in the class,” Kati defended. “Did she give you a reason?”
“I was so mad I didn’t even read her comments.”
“Maybe you should. At least you’ll know where she’s coming from.” Kati told a quick joke. They giggled, then directed their conversation to another topic.
The next morning, Amy arrived early at school and pulled the folder with her essay from her locker. She headed for the library to read it in a private study cubical. A paragraph of red ink beckoned her. “You are a good writer, but you could improve by choosing words to fit the subject matter. I doubt the patriotic military men you discuss would use the poetic phrases and complicated sentences in this essay. I suggest you go out to the military base and observe them in action. If you’re interested, I’ll give you another week to complete the assignment.”
Amy bristled, insulted by the red daggers. She calmed herself then reread her teacher’s message, admitting the possibility of truth in the criticism.
She walked into Adam’s Marine Base later that day and explained her mission. A drill sergeant’s short, direct commands to a batch of new recruits captured her attention. Their precise, staccato-like movements sharply contrasted with the flowing sentences of her paper.
Over the next couple of days, she honed her essay, replacing the flowery descriptions with concise, direct statements. She could almost visualize the marines marching through her words.
Mrs. Herzog smiled as she place the paper on Amy’s desk. “I knew you could do it,” she whispered.
Amy turned the essay over. “Wonderful job! A+,” leapt from the page.