After discussing in media res in class last week, this morning we used a prompt for an in class writing exercise that would start us in the middle of things. Here are two we liked:
She dropped the mask and everyone gasped. They hadn’t expected her to actually do it. It was a joke; everyone dared each other to drop their masks all the time but no one actually did it. Until now.
She looked at them, her soft eyes set above purple bags that suggested how tired really was and an indentation from where the mask had sat ran across the bridge of her nose. She pulled the pins from her hair one by one, setting them on the table beside her until a small mountain had accumulated. And then she smiled. Everyone gasped again but this was not out of shock, but awe.
The masks were supposed to make things easier, make everyone beautiful but they had been wrong. This one girl, with an ordinary face and wild hair, was more beautiful than any mask. She was brave and happy, and when she smiled, you could see it. One by one, the others pulled the masks from their faces, pulled the pins from their hair, and then they smiled. And they were so beautiful.
She dropped the mask and everyone gasped. The mask was porcelain, and heavy. Its glaze was cracked in places and dots of color were just barely visible crowning its brow. When she dropped it, she thought for just a moment how beautiful it was, and how long it must have taken someone to make. She’d promised her mother–promised– that she’d be careful with it. Now that it lay in shards on the floor, she was surprised to find that she wasn’t thinking about what her mother would say. Only about someone’s hands bending the mask into a shape, taking pleasure in its form. And, she remembered a doll she’d had when she was five. Susan had come over, and of course, sh’d had to show the doll to Susan, who always wore pink skirts and barrettes covered in plastic gemstones. The doll’s face had caved in when it slipped from Susan’s hands, and Susan had just stood there, looking at it.
That was how she felt now. It didn’t matter that the mask was from a rare collection and that her mother had to bend the rules to get it for her for Show and Tell. It didn’t matter that it was worth over a thousand dollars, and was over a thousand years old. when she looked at the split pottery, all she saw was her own five-year-old face, tear-stained, as Susan must have seen it. Somebody had made this mask. Somebody had loved this mask. And it was broken.
The teacher rushed in with a broom and dust pan and tried to salvage what was left. She just stood dumbly in front of the class. The teacher handed her the fragments in a Ziploc bag, and, quietly, she sat down.