Sunday, April 7, 2013

90 minutes later...

My wife is a grade school librarian who is a little annoyed with me right now.

It started when she asked for my help with a writing project for her students based on author Candice Flemming's method for teaching children how to write stories. As it turns out, Ms Flemming was a writer in residence at my wife's school some time ago and now my wife uses that method for her students.

Here is a picture of my wife in our shared home office, holding up the notes for the story which she asked me to collaborate on.
I won't share Ms. Flemming's method here, as it really is Ms. Flemming's property and its pretty brilliant.

I will share why my wife is annoyed with me. The project requires stories for the children to illustrate, based on their outline, characters, and situations. She and I started writing stories at the same time on different outlines. She is not that happy with hers, and is envious of mine. It's her competitive nature. The fact that she is envious of mine lets me know it's good.

So, here, after 90 minutes of work, is the resulting story, based on the outline and characters provided to me by my wife's first grade students.

King Penguin Finds a Mate
a story by Edward Varga, created with the combined imagination of first grade students at Lake Bluff elementary School.

Everyone knows that penguins mate for life.

That means for each girl penguin there is only one boy penguin that she loves. And for each boy penguin there is only one girl penguin that he loves. One boy penguin plus one girl penguin equals one happy pair of penguins, for life. It is a rule that can not be broken, the “Penguin Fact of Life” rule.

Every penguin knew that one day they would find their one true mate for life. What they did not know is when they would find their one true mate for life. King Penguin asked himself the question of, when. You see, King penguin was old and he had never found a mate. With his feathers starting to turn gray, he became anxious.

He heard about a new way that penguins were meeting each other,, the dating website for flightless arctic birds.He uploaded his profile information and a picture of himself when his feathers were not quite so gray. Almost instantly, he had an email offer to meet an older, distinguished girl penguin who liked long walks on the ice and eating fish. She didn't sound that exciting, but he decided it was too late in his life to be choosy.
They agreed to meet at a new sushi restaurant that was about to open. Penguins love sushi. After all, it’s made with raw fish. At 6pm, King Penguin arrived at the restaurant with freshly preened feathers and a small flower for his date. Unfortunately, King Penguin looked exactly like the sushi chef hired by the restaurant manager, who was late for work.

When King Penguin walked through the door, the manager penguin grabbed him by the collar and yelled, “Where have you been? Get in the kitchen and start cooking!” He threw poor old King Penguin into the kitchen and locked the door behind him. The manager squaked, “You stay in there until you make all the orders for my customers, then I will let you out! Now get to work!”

King Penguin tried to push the door open, but the lock was strong and the doors wouldn’t move. He decided if there was any chance for him to go on his date, he would need to finish all the orders of sushi and fast. He set to work.

First he threw fish heads and tails into balls of sticky rice. Next he wrapped sardines from a can in seaweed and placed them on crackers. Finally he used a pencil sharpener to grind avocados and carrots into a paste he served in old oyster shells. When he filled enough plates of food for all the customers, he banged on the kitchen door for the manager to come.

“Quickly!” the manager yelled at his waiters. “Get the food and serve it to my customers!” After the plates were served, the manager looked at King Penguin and said, “The customers better like your sushi, or else!” King Penguin tried to explain that he wasn’t a chef and he was just there looking for his date, but there was no time.

Almost instantly the customers started complaining. “Yech!” “Terrible!” “What in the ocean is this?” echoed from the restaurant dining room. “They hate it!” yelled the manager. “I warned you, now out you go!” The manager grabbed poor old King Penguin by the neck and threw him out of the restaurant and onto the ice. He was thrown so hard that he slipped and skidded until finally he landed in a hole that led to the ocean below.

Sploosh! He hit the water and sank quickly. Sure that now there was no chance he would ever find a mate, he swam slowly away to be by himself. As he swam farther he thought he could hear something in the distance.

It sounded like another penguin, a girl penguin. It also sounded like she was in trouble. “Help, help!” she cried. King Penguin swam quickly to where the calls of help came from. Through a trail of bubbles he spotted a girl penguin being chased by a shark!

With strength of a penguin half his age, King Penguin swam along side the girl penguin and motioned for her to swim with him. He turned and she followed. The shark also turned, lured by a meal twice as large as it was before. Side by side the two penguins swam with the shark following close behind and closing the gap.

King Penguin was smart. He knew he could never beat the shark under water so he was leading him back to the hole in the ice. When he spotted the opening, he led the girl penguin quickly upwards toward the surface. The shark followed.

At the same time, both penguins breached the water and slid quickly away on the ice surface. Unable to stop, the shark followed the penguins out of the water and onto the ice surface. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, the three continued sliding, heading for the new sushi restaurant which was now empty except for the angry manager.

When he saw the three speeding in his direction he yelled, “Stop!” They did not stop. They could not stop. Through the doorway the penguins sailed, pushing the manager with them.  

Breaking through the doorway came the shark, whose body and fins tore apart the front wall of the restaurant. Chairs, tables, and ocean themed decorations flew about as the massive shark’s body came to rest in the dining room of the new sushi restaurant.

King Penguin reached out and felt the flipper of the girl penguin. They stood up and brushed off the bits of restaurant they were buried under. They heard a voice. It was the manager yelling, “Bravo! Bravo! Look at the size of this shark you brought me! We’ll have enough sushi for a year!”

King Penguin smiled and looked at the girl penguin whose flipper he still held in his. She looked back at him and smiling said, “Thank you for rescuing me. How can I ever repay you?” King Penguin thought for a moment and said, “Well, my date for the evening didn't work out. Perhaps you and I could go for a cool drink?”

She said yes, and the next night they went out for ice cream, then the movies, then ice skating, then to watch the northern lights, and before they knew what happened, King penguin had found a mate.