The boys were fishing and my creative writing students were supposed to be writing. It was a surprisingly gorgeous December Day, balmy.
We were discussing plot. This is tough to teach, especially for me. I like to meander in my writing. For guidance I consulted my trusty NaNoWriMo young writers’ curriculum guide. There, the teacher offered a suggestion to start the discussion of plot with a viewing of the final few minutes of an episode of SpongeBob Square Pants. Apparently, SpongeBob does plot well.
But instead of watching the cartoon, we went for our neighborhood walk to our secret spot in Central Park, a most beautiful little cul de sac where rock meets pond meets beauty.
This is where we met our young fisherman.
They hooked a big fish.
My eight Middle School writers stood in a circle around the two little fishers. They reeled a fish in. It was a mighty big carp.
I would not have known the kind of fish, but one of the boy’s babysitters told me.
“How old are the boys?”
“Eleven,” she said.
We watched the boys pose for camera phone photo shots with the fish. The fish seemed to be tiring.
One of my writers yelled, “Throw it back!”
“We will,” the boy said.
And he wrestled with the hook in the gaping mouth.
“I’ve never seen anyone fish before,” another of my writers said.
“Hurry! Throw it back!” the girl said.
“We will!” The boy was getting angry. The hook was not coming out of the downcast mouth.
Up to this point, students, you are witnessing, in literary parlance, “Rising Action.”
Now, we have reached the moment of “Climax.”
My creative writing kids yelled, “Throw it back!” I offered to help remove the hook. Thank God, the boys ignored me. But the boys could not ignore the yelling. And one boy, attempting to remove the hook from the carp’s mouth, looked up and spit out a load of curse words at my students, including a line about how my kids were making his life “a living hell.”
Then he went back to work, finally freeing the fish from the hook.
He set it free. The fish wagged itself back into the murky Central Park lake or pond.
The boy asked the nanny for a napkin to clean his dirty hands. She had none. I handed him a tissue from my pocket.
“Thank you,” he said, “And I’m sorry I called your kids so many names. I apologize.”
“It’s okay,” I said. (And I later told my kids that he’d apologized.)
Now, students, this part of my story is, “Falling Action.”
The boy set to baiting another hook.
“He’s very polite,” I told the nanny.
“Yes, he has some anger issues, adopted from Russia and all, but he’s a good kid.”
“Yes,” I said. And I was thinking, he’s a good teacher too. He has taught me and the kids about rising action, climax, and falling action.
And he did it far better than even SpongeBob could.