George Washington High School. Denver, Colorado. Early September 1961.
I’m sitting in my sophomore English class, waiting to hear the details of my weekly writing assignment. I am, as usual, nauseous.
Then it comes. I have been instructed to produce 500-word essays entitled “A Bird’s Eye View of Fall.”Whaaaaaa? It slowly dawns on me that I’m supposed to write a rhapsodic description of gently rolling hills dense with flaming red and gold, well, you know, trees. Maybe sneak in a few words about a meandering river that is sparkling in the sun like a million sequins. You know, your typical natural ribbon of reflection. Probably not a good idea to mention the bird pooping all over this bucolic landscape, which is pretty much all I can think about. I mean, hey, I’m no Edna St. Vincent Millay or whatever. Naturally, I procrastinated on completing the assignment. Actually, I procrastinated on beginning the assignment. But I finally buckled down and got to work. Problem was, I buckled down and got to work in the classroom the day the essay was due. The good news is that I finished the assignment and turned it in on time; the bad news is that what I turned in was exactly 496 words short of the required 500. Here then, in its entirety, is what I wrote: A Bird’s Eye View of Fall: "He doesn’t want to." Yep, that’s what I wrote, alright. "He doesn't want to." I got an ‘F.’ It was a really big ‘F.’ It was a really big, bright red ‘F.’ As Joseph Heller was fond of saying, “Go figure.”