Saturday, March 4, 2017
1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Morrison-Taylor
Name: Kathi Morrison-Taylor
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Title: UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Kimberley Adams crossed the long line of minivans and convertibles, waved to her friends Dehlia and Jonathan (who waved back holding high their blue ribbon from Regional ScienceFest) and started her walk across the sports fields toward University Hill. Her friends knew better than to ask her to the pool. They knew where she was going. They knew they couldn’t stop her, not even on the last day of school. She had an academic appointment to keep, with her grandfather, Abu.
True, her homeroom teacher had, as Jonathan liked to put it had, “nipped her Elizabethan obsession in the butt,” quieting her bossy “Thou shalt invert thy fractions” and “Thou hath not simplified” in math workshop, and shutting down her Shakespearean knock,knock jokes. She couldn’t help but remind both Jonathan and her teacher that Hamlet is about obsession and she is all about Hamlet, earning a groan from Jonathan and a warning, although a playful one, from her teacher.
But that afternoon was the best afternoon ever. Free of school at last, Kimberley released her obsession, practicing lines from Hamlet’s soliloquy as she crossed her school’s soggy sports fields that led to the flight of outside steps up University Hill to Abu’s office.
Not the whole soliloquy, Abu had explained, but the beginning, “because you are a beginner,” said Abu, “no offense.”
“No offense taken,” Kimberley had answered. She had to admit she was proud of herself. And they were going to finish the play! They were going to read Act V, Scene II: today was the day.
“To be, or not to be. That is the question.” Kimberley began at the beginning the base of the stairs.
It had been a day of thunderstorms, and her white Keds were wet with green grass stains on her toes from her walk across the soccer fields. The soles felt kind of squishy, but she really didn’t mind.
She was finally going to finish the play! She and Abu were going to read Act V, Scene II together. Today was the day, thought Kimberley. Hamlet would finally make his decision, and the story would come to an end.
Hamlet had been Abu’s idea. Their next great read after Oliver Twist. He had introduced it to her with a question:
If you know your uncle killed your dad, and your dad appears to you as a ghost and asks you to take revenge, what do you do next?
“I don’t know...I guess I’d...cry? Or maybe I’d ask the ghost to prove he’s my dad, and if he is my dad then I’d have to ask him what he meant by revenge, so…I guess I’d have to talk to the ghost”
“What if the ghost disappears?” asked Abu. “What then?”
Honestly, she had been skeptical. Face-to-face with Abu’s Shakespeare work all her life, she could see how it energized him. But what if she didn’t like it? And worse, what if she didn’t understand it? Abu was never one to dumb things down. And if he were to make an exception for her, that would make her...dumb.
Ten steps up the walkway, Kimberley began again.
“To be, or not to be? That is the question.”
Kimberley liked questions. So did Abu. When would she learn that she never needed to doubt Abu? Hamlet was the absolute best thing they had ever read.
During this part, he was waiting for his girlfriend and wondering what to do about his murderous uncle. Little did he know, his uncle was hiding in the same room, spying on him.
Hamlet was the best, and they would finish it today. One side of the sky was blue with puffy clouds and the other side of the sky was a strange gray-cat green. The wind was pushing that side away.
The storms had left the stairway glazed with water and snails washed onto the concrete from the eroding hillside under the railing. Smelly, messy jacaranda trees. Kimberley placed her feet to avoid crushing them, but many shells were crunched from earlier, students climbing from the parking lot to their noontime classes.
“Whether ‘tis nobler in mind to suffer...to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”
As if snails had a choice, thought Kimberley. There’s no controlling foot traffic in life, as there’s no controlling murderous uncles in literature. Plenty of suffering, but how could suffering be “noble”?
That was something to ask Abu.
Suffering extended to others in her life who were not as fond of Elizabethan English. When Mama had found out that Abu was reading Kimberley “Hamlet,” she simply put her face in her hands. But the pain didn’t last for long. Mama put together put together a top 5 list of “pleasant” Hamlet takeaways and posted it on the refrigerator.
“For when the going gets tough,” said Mama.
“Show off!” Abu had scolded, but it was clear that he was pleased with his actress-daughter, although he’d always choose to ignore her warnings.
“She’s a brainy one,” she heard Abu tell Mama, “with less than half of your drama.”
(MAMA’S REFRIGERATOR LIST - imagine it illustrated with cartoons)
5. Neither a borrower nor a lender be...
4. “What a piece of work is a man! Act II (especially good while watching drivers stuck in traffic jams)
3. Knock, Knock.
Wherefore means who?
No, “wherefore” means “why.” How many times do we have to go over this?
2. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Something is rotten in the state of California. Something is rotten in the state of our kitchen…
1. This above all: to thine own self be true.
(END OF LIST)
They’d saved the last scene for that last day on purpose.
“A grand finale,” Abu said, “for a grand year, Kimber. Plus,” he added, “it’s never good to rush the Bard.”
“The Bard?” asked Kimberley. Abu’s cat?
“Shakespeare,” answered Abu. “A bard is simply a professional poet, a storyteller. Shakespeare is the best. Ergo, we call him THE bard”
“The Bard?” Kimberley repeated. She knew The Bard. He lived at Abu’s apartment, a fat tabby with a high voice, fond of catnip and carpet fuzz.
“David named him, you know” explained Abu.
Kimberley noticed how his hand went right to his watch, a gift from his friend David, who had, as Mama would say, “spent a whole year dying” when Kimberley was in second grade.
At the landing in the middle of the stairway, Kimberley stopped and finished the last bit of her lines.
“Or...or…or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”
They were five lines whole lines of Hamlet’s speech. It amazed her how they were really just one big ginormous question.
The Prince of Denmark talked like that a lot. Sometimes as she’d read the play, Kimberley wondered if Hamlet kept talking, and thinking, and talking about thinking to avoid answering questions.