A CLASSROOM – ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
A row of empty desks. Almost. At one desk sits a BOY, six years old, thin as a pennywhistle, with brown hair poking out beneath a cap labeled UTAH JAZZ. At the front of the classroom, fifteen other children sit Indian-style on the ground beneath the chalkboard. Standing next to them is MS. KING, a young teacher who is tapping her foot impatiently.
We’re waiting, Matt.
CLOSE ON THE BOY AT THE DESK, who is busy scribbling frantically on a scrap of lined notebook paper. His young, thin face is contorted, stressed. Sweat beads across his brow.
MATT BAILEY, the one kid who didn’t do his writing assignment.
Matt! We’re waiting!
Matt scurries to the front of the class, clutching the paper in his hand. He begins reading a story, something about tigers. PAN OVER other children. They have heard fifteen other stories already, and are waiting for the recess bell. But slowly, their dull, disinterested expressions begin to change. Interest, perhaps? Excitement?
CLOSE IN on Matt again. Now his brow is knitted in concentration as he reads from the paper…or pretends to. With one hand, he discreetly covers the bottom third of the paper in order to hide the fact that NOTHING IS WRITTEN THERE. He never finished the story, and is making it up as he goes.
And as the tiger surveyed the smoking ruins of the city, it threw back its head and roared. But this roar, unlike the others, was no roar of pain, fear, or even anger.
It was a roar of victory. The End.
CUT TO the other children. They are standing, each and everyone, clapping as they have never clapped, cheering as they have never cheered. The sound is rapturous, deafening. An ovation more suited to Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma than for a simple fantasy about a tiger.
CUT BACK to Matt. He smiles shakily. Disaster averted. But as he takes in their applause, a sudden gleam appears in his eye. Perhaps it is only a trick of the light…or perhaps something has woken inside of him.
He can write.
He must write.
He WILL write.
Okay, it didn’t happen exactly like that. There was no standing ovation. But I did make up a story for my 1st-grade class, and I do remember getting a lot of compliments for it, and I still remember how I felt afterwards. What I don’t remember is what the story was about. (It probably had a tiger in it, though. I loved tigers back then. Still do, actually.) All I know is that something did wake up inside of me that day, and from that point forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I knew what I wanted to be.