Little Leni Riefenstahl, named after her uncle Trent’s favorite filmmaker, sat at her desk pondering how to do the homework assignment. Her third grade teacher’s assignment had her stumped. She was sure she had copied the assignment word for word from the blackboard. “Write a story that you have never read. When you read it in front of the class that should be the first time you are reading it.” “What was the point of this assignment?” little Leni thought as she rested her head on her upturned palms. She began to sob, and was frozen in a writer’s block so severe she couldn’t even hold her pencil.
She had been sitting at her desk for three hours now. The hum of the electric alarm clock was all she could concentrate on. Even though her room was full of her stuff, it felt empty and very lonely. Everyone else in the house was fast asleep. Her brothers, Xerxes and Ajax, finished their homework assignments about an hour ago. They opened her door and said goodnight before they retired to their rooms. She thought it was nice of them to check in. The thought that they were rubbing in the fact that they were finished with their homework never even entered her mind. She only thought good things about everyone. Even when confronted with irrefutable evidence of evil she only looked at the good side. She refused to believe that anyone was less than good.
“How am I going to write something without reading it?” she thought. The little voice deep in her head was exasperated. It wanted to go to sleep, where it usually makes its way up from the depths of who Leni is. During a particularly deep sleep sometimes the voice could actually take over Little Leni’s entire existence. The voice isn’t as optimistic about human nature as Leni. The voice tried to get Leni to give up on the assignment, but Leni didn’t believe in quitting.
Just then a thought flashed onto the movie screen in Leni’s brain. She remembered hearing something about Dali and Bunel and how they edited Un Chien Andalu. It might be an apocraphyl story but it just might be the key to this homework assignment. They put pieces of the finished film into a cloth sack and then started pulling them out at random. They weren’t sure what would come out. Then they pieced the film together in the order the shots were pulled from the sack. “This might work,” thought little Leni.
She pulled the dictionary from her bookshelf and quickly opened it up to a random page. She began copying words at a fevered pace. She wrote each word on its own little slip of paper. After about two hours of turning dictionary pages and writing down the various words, she was feeling even more exhausted. The inner voice was whining about how tired she was. But little Leni didn’t listen. She was going to complete this assignment, even if it meant she would be up until sunrise. A couple of hours later she finally felt like she had enough words written down. She transferred the stack of words to a plain brown paper bag. She shook the bag with all her third-grade might, making sure the words would be pulled from the bag completely at random, with dream logic being the only guiding force.
She stuck her hand into the bag and pulled out the first slip of paper. She would not read what the word was, because then she wouldn’t be fulfilling the assignment. She placed the slip of paper with the word face down on her desk. She continued pulling words from the sack and placing them face down on the pile. After about an hour she pulled the final word from the sack, placed it face down on the stack and breathed a sigh of relief. She was free to go to sleep now. Of course she only had 45 minutes until the alarm was set to go off, but she was very happy. Even the inner voice was a little less pessimistic about things.
The alarm sounded and she popped out of bed. She felt good about herself and her assignment. She couldn’t wait to get to Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali’s class. She had butterflies in her stomach; not from nerves but from the pleasant feeling of anticipation. She wanted to read her story. She wanted to know what she had written. She wondered if it was good, but that was secondary. Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali didn’t say write a good story, just a story that you had never read before. This she had done and done wonderfully.
The bell rang and Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali stepped to the front of the class. She asked for a volunteer to read their story. No one in class raised their hand. In fact all of the kids except for Little Leni Riefenstahl were frowning and trying to avert their gazes from Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali. It seems that no one but Little Leni Riefenstahl was able to complete the assignment. So Little Leni raised her hand and volunteered to read her story. The butterflies in her stomach had turned into a booming heartbeat. She was now very nervous. She thought for sure that every one in class could hear her heart beating. A little ball of sweat began to form on her nose as she walked up to the front of the class with her stack of words in her hands. Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali asked Leni to begin reading.
Little Leni Riefenstahl stood behind her teacher’s desk. Her shaking hands deliberately undid the rubber band holding her stack of words together. She looked at the upside down stack of words. She knew once she turned the stack over her story would begin. She reached down and flipped over the stack of verbiage and read the first word. “Little.” A good start she thought. She figured she was going to have to read pretty fast now if she wanted the story to be anything more coherent than a stack of random words. She licked her fingers and then began in earnest. “Leni,” was the next word. “Riefenstahl,” came next. She was going to try and speed up. She didn’t want to be interpreting as she read. She just wanted it to flow. She wanted it to make sense, and she knew that these introspective pauses were doing nothing for the continuity of the story. Mrs. Butrus Butrus Gali stood at the side of the room with a big smile on her face as Little Leni Riefenstahl began to flip over the next word. “Named.” Her heart was no longer pounding; she was beginning to find her rhythm. “After, her, uncle, Trent’s,” she was humming now. This was going to work. She proved to her inner voice that the world was a good place, and people made sense. “Favorite, filmmaker, sat, at, her, desk, pondering, how, to, do, the, homework, assignment.” Everything was going to be all right.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/homework.html]
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