Inspired by my previous post about BFFs and the novel Your Perfect Life, I thought I’d share a little “Throwback Thursday” story about some of the co-authoring my BFF, Jenna, and I did back in junior high.
Jenna and I were considered “gifted and talented” students, at least in the realm of Language Arts (known to most adults as “English Literature”), so we were placed in the more advanced track along with our small group of fellow nerdlingers. Much like Lisa Simpson’s A+++ pulling up the score of her entire elementary school in “Lisa Gets an A,” we were viewed as the magical unicorns tasked with keeping the district funded and therefore stocked with such dispensibles as Home Ec, Industrial Design, and even the Band and Orchestra (yes, we had both!).
As a result of our geekitude, we had an encouraging teacher who frequently allowed us to draft some totally absurd stories and present them to the class as video projects, rather than turning in traditional essays. Many of these videos were modernizations of classic tales, including a particularly hilarious take on Steinbeck’s impressively depressing novella The Pearl.
I’m not sure why, but I swear I read this book at least three different times throughout my educational career. It seemed to be a favorite in our middle-to-upper-class school district, perhaps because it’s about the negative results of coming into wealth. Yet we were never assigned any other Steinbeck books, such as his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath, or even the drama crowd-pleaser Of Mice and Men, which I find perplexing.
Anyway, in our “updated” version of The Pearl, instead of capturing the largest pearl ever spit up by an oyster, our downtrodden family discovers a magical genie lamp in a junk shop, and receives three wishes. Naturally, they wish for a huge lump sum of cash, to immediately end their monetary difficulties, but the byproduct of the wish is that the IRS shows up on their doorstep demanding more than half of it in taxes. A pretty cutting economic commentary for a bunch of 13-year-olds, no?
Things quickly spiral out of control for the family, with a similarly unhappy ending (no spoilers, in case YOU haven’t read this thing three times by now), but the real kicker was my inexplicable cameo as The Terminator, in which I wear aviator sunglasses and hold a Super Soaker, intoning “Ahhhhh’ll be bahhhk!”
Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger.
Despite what you’re probably thinking, this wasn’t even our craziest book-to-video adaptation. No, that credit goes to our take on the mythological musical battle between Greek god (and lyre enthusiast) Apollo and flute-playing Pan. Just picture a tinfoil lyre, represented by the strains of a Casio keyboard; two girls in bedsheet togas (one of which may or may not have been a printed sheet with Smurfs on it); my beginner flute-playing skills; and a dirty-blonde pageboy wig thenceforth dubbed “the Apollo wig” for use in all future productions, and you’ll get the gist.
In addition to our cracked modernizations of classic tales, we also penned a few original stories, including “1, 2, 3, GO!” — the story of a girl who grows to loathe this ubiquitous phrase and demands that her parents and teachers replace it with something else, only to discover she misses it once it’s gone. Awww.
Obviously, these are juvenilia probably better left in the attic to gather dust, but I still think my BFF and I could come up with a pretty awesome book if we thought about it. After all, we grew up in the 80s and have watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Clue about 9,000 times apiece, two films that’ll teach you just about everything you need to know about successful screenwriting. Surely something good must come of that?