On our first day back from vacation Mr. Brown asked the 8th grade English class to write a report called What I Did This Summer. The title may be elementary, but for good reason.
“I don’t want to hear that the assignment is unclear from any of you,” he said. Mr. Brown knows us well.
I thought I knew him well, too. I took a chance. I wrote an accurate account of my terrifying summer.
He gave me a D.
“It’s not a creative writing assignment. You were supposed to write about what actually happened, Shirley.”
“I did,” I say, louder than I mean to. I’m tapping my pencil on his desk. It’s a nervous tick I have.
“No. You gave me a gripping account of that stolen painting fiasco at the museum that I read about in the paper.”
“Yeah, I spent a whole week solving the case,” I say. “ I mean, I knew it was the curator’s wife within minutes but I needed proof.” He thinks I’m kidding.
“Be grateful you got a D. I didn’t give you an F because it was well-written. Next time, check the attitude at the door and do the assignment. That’ll be all, Shirley.”
This is how it is to be Shirley Link, the best detective in the world, if I do say so myself. I can spot a lie like most people spot a zit. I see connections where they hide best. And I get in trouble every time I try to tell people what I do with my free time. Only a handful know about my talent. I usually prefer to keep it that way. But when I trust someone, well, I just feel like telling them the truth. Is that wrong? I guess Mr. Brown has provided the answer to that mystery.
I’ve always had an eye for what evades us. My mom likes to tell the story about how the family got lost in one of those haybale mazes that Mr. Jones builds on his farm every Fall. Unfortunately, a twister suddenly whipped up that day. We could hear it beating hard on the corn crop nearby. It made sense to me that if we hugged a wall, headed right and traced one path then we’d find the exit. Mom caught the whole thing on her video camera by accident. It was dangling from her wrist so you can’t see much of what’s going on, but you catch glimpses of me walking with a big smile on my face even as the tornado came down on us. You see Dad scoop me up and run for the shelter when we escaped. Mom posted the clip to YouTube. It got two million views last I checked. Search for “3 Year Old Saves Her Family From Twister!”
So, the good thing is that I can always help Dad find the TV remote. The bad thing is I have to pretend to be someone else to fit in.
I don’t blame Mr. Brown, though. It’s my fault. I should have known better than to tell the truth about my life in a class paper.