Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back to School - Creative Writing - Character Dev't

Daniel woke to the crooning of Air Supply from his radio again. He slammed the snooze button, cursing his sister for messing with his radio again before rolling over and burying his head in his pillow. Beyond his closed bedroom door, he heard the muffled sounds of his family's morning routine. Stacey and Ethan whined and argued unintelligibly for control of the TV remote. Random shouts from mom filtered their way from the kitchen, followed sometimes by silence and other times by the pounding of footsteps running down the hall to answer the request for hair brushing or clearing of breakfast dishes or collection of discarded pajamas.

Daniel rolled over and stared at the ceiling. Slits of sunshine pushed their way past his curtains and hovered ominously over the random collection of posters hanging on his wall. A spot of light shimmered just below Federer's kneecap. Daniel chuckled as he watched the blob of sunlight jiggle like a tennis ball waiting to be pounded.

He turned to look at his clock, realizing that the radio would be coming on before long and that his mom would probably call for him before that.

"Daniel!" Her voice broke the semi-silence almost on queue. "You'd better be up! I'm not letting you be late for your first day of school!"

Daniel grimaced and pushed himself to his elbows. Suddenly, Celine Dion started belting out something about love. He had the music off and was on his feet with far too much speed considering it wasn't even 7AM. Rubbing the remaining grogginess out of his eyes, Daniel shuffled along the side of his bed to pull a random T-shirt from his closet.

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine what this day would be like. Last year, school had been great. He'd kept his parents happy by bringing home good grades while also being able to play on the school tennis team and run on the track team. He had tons of great friends and was a member of three clubs: Spanish Club, Stargazers Club, and Student Council. He had survived being a lowly 7th and then 8th grader and was finally on top of the heap as a popular 9th grader.

This year, so much was about to change. Going into High School, he was back at the bottom rung as a 10th grader. He was sure he'd be able to get a spot on the Track or Tennis teams, but as a Sophomore, he'd spend most of the year trying to prove himself to the Juniors and Seniors who were leaps and bounds ahead of him.

His Junior High School was smack in the middle of the two local High Schools and more than half of his friends were going to the other school. He didn't have any friends in the upper grades, and of his two friends who were coming over from the Junior High with him, Daniel was the social climber among them. They would be expecting him to help them learn the ropes at High School. He wouldn't be able to count on them to help him wade through the social floods about to open before him. He would try his best not to let them down, but he wasn't sure if he was up to the challenge on his own.

"Daniel! Stacey, go make sure your brother is getting ready!"

The shouts from down the hall broke Daniel's thoughts and he wandered down to the kitchen.

"I'm up mom, don't worry."

The kitchen was a madhouse of activity. Daniel's mom stood at the stove in a baby blue bathrobe, her long brown hair frizzing up wildly around her tired face. She looked at Daniel through her fingerprint smudged wireframe glasses, another indication that she hadn't yet taken time for herself this morning.

"Thank goodness. Go get dressed. I'll have some pancakes for you in a minute."

She turned her attention back to the steaming frying pan, a two-toned pancake staring back at her, the right-hand edges blackened and the rest completely white and almost raw in places.

"I am dressed. I'll just run a comb through my hair."

Daniel started out of the kitchen towards the bathroom, trailed by the response from his mother.

"I'm not letting you go to your first day of High School wearing that ratty old shirt. Go put on some of the new clothes we got."

Daniel sighed as he stepped into the bathroom. Out of habit, he'd put on one of his favorite shirts, an oversized blue, black and white tee with a small hole forming just to the right of his belly button. The front had a squiggly bunch of lines, dots and swirls making a cool geometric pattern. The back announced his inclusion in the Stargazer club from Junior High and their motto of "helping everyone find their place in the Universe." He'd worn it every weekend since the middle of 8th grade when he joined Stargazers and started attending their star parties. Since the star parties ended late, he often slept in the shirt and wore it the next day. It was threadbare, but also super comfortable.

Still, he agreed with his mom. It probably wouldn't make the best first impression at High School. He didn't quite know what kind of impression he wanted to make. He'd figure that out after he saw what everybody else was wearing and how they behaved. After cleaning up in the bathroom, he went back to his room to change his shirt into something casually nondescript.

Back in the kitchen, he got an approving glance from his mom as she handed him a plate with a pair of hot-burned/raw-cold pancakes. Just then, Ethan rushed in from the living room screaming that Stacey had changed the channel in the middle of the show. Stacey was two steps behind proclaiming her innocence since Ethan had given up his TV control when he went to the bathroom. Within seconds, the two were on either side of their mother, stretching around her sides to poke and scrape at each other while she tried to subdue them with her free hand while balancing a half-raw pancake on the spatula in her other hand.

Daniel shuddered at the bedlam and worked his way to the table as Stacey and Ethan calmed down and walked towards their bedroom to get dressed. They still had an hour before school, but his mom insisted that since they had energy to fight, they surely had energy to get ready for school. Daniel drowned his pancakes in syrup and chased the sticky food with cold pulpy orange juice.

"You should just spank 'em into submission mom" he muttered through a half-full bite of pancake.

"You mean like I did with you? That worked so well after all." She grinned at him as she moved the frying pan over to the sink and set a plate on the table with three extra pancakes. "I'm going to go get myself ready. Can you help make sure everybody's ready to go in 10 minutes?"

Without waiting for an answer, she disappeared down the hall. Daniel raised his fork to eye level and watched a string of syrup try to stretch from the bits of bread back down to his plate. His stomach started to churn, the sugary sweet and the citrusy sour mixing violently with the anxiety he already felt about the day. He dropped his fork back to the plate and carried his cup to the sink for a drink of water. He slowly sipped cool water out of the Spongebob Squarepants cup and closed his eyes, willing his nerves to calm down and his stomach to stop swirling.

Pounding thumps sounded behind him and he turned to see Ethan and Stacey running back through the kitchen shouting some nonsense at each other about who had the better teacher and who would have homework after the first day.

Daniel walked back to his room and sat on his bed. He pulled his Junior High yearbook off his dresser and glanced at comments from the friends he wasn't going to see today.

I can't believe you're not coming to West with us. You seriously need to transfer--Aaron

Good luck being a Viking. We'll take it easy on you the first year--Jared

See you at the meets. I'll be the one beating your times--Sam

You'd better keep in touch. Come to some of our dances or something--Julie

Gonna miss you buddy. Don't worry, yer still part of the crew!--Eric

Shape those Vikings up. I expect a challenge when I play against you!Darren

Let's get together and do a star party sometime--Jake

"Time to go everybody!"

The call from Daniel's mom sent a flurry of footsteps down the hall in a stampede. Daniel set his yearbook back on his dresser and grabbed his backpack, empty except for a single notebook and a pack of pens. Taking a deep breath, he assured himself that he was making a big deal out of nothing; that today would be wonderful; that he'd make new friends and that today would be the start of a set of killer memories.

As he sat down in the front seat of the minivan, he was still trying to convince himself he was right.

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