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Word Writing Workshop Wednesday – “Spelunking on the Moon”

June 12, 2013

 Spelunking on the Moon

John and Carissa Peoples wave their daughter on as she climbs the steps onto the school bus. She turns around at the top of the steps and waves as if she were trying to shake the fingers right off her hand, then disappears down the aisle with the other students. The loud screech from the parking break sounds and the bus rolls off, disappearing around the corner. John pulls Carissa in for a hug and kisses her on the top of her head.

They feel a fear dig under their skin as they head back into the house. She’s gone, released into the wilderness of the public school system. A fish among sharks. “We can’t do this,” Carissa says, swinging her body around back toward the empty street. “We’ve made a mistake. We can homeschool her. I know people who can help – ” John grabs her and pulls her in. “We made our decision,” he said.

She pushes off his chest and looks back out at the street. Her face is red with panic. “What if she’s corrupted? She could get in with the wrong crowd and – kids are getting into sex and drugs younger and younger – or what if some wacko loses it and shoots up the school? What if she wets herself on her first day? She won’t know how to handle the embarrassment. The kids will tease her mercilessly.” “This has all been discussed,” he says with a clenched jaw. “But she’s all we have,” Carissa cries.

Sitting at the kitchen table and drinking a cup of tea to calm herself, Carissa imagines Olivia as an adult. She’s standing on a sward overlooking the Oregon Coast; beautiful in a white trousseau she stitched herself. Her smile still has the same innocence as when she waved from the bus. “Thank God,” Carissa mutters. “I hope she never loses that precious smile, that precious innocence.” Olivia’s humming to herself, looking happy and content as can be. But then, a tall wonk of a man walks up to her and kisses her in the breeze. He looks horrible with his sloppy dress, patchy facial hair, and squinty eyes. She can see the things he’s shown Olivia. Things she’s never wanted to think about concerning her daughter; sex, vodka, cigarettes, drugs, who knows what else? A tear drips from Carrissa’s eye and lands on her hand clenched to the handle of her teacup. “Please God,” she says. “Have mercy on Olivia’s poor innocent soul.”

The sound of a chair screeches back at the other side of the table and John sits down. Studies her. “We have to have faith,” he says through his chomping mouth. “If exposing her to other people and other ideas of safety, and goodness, and evil is going to be her detriment, she didn’t stand a chance anyway. None of us ever did.” “The world is a scary place,” Carissa worries. “Olivia is too good for it. I don’t want it to sweep her away. All I want is to protect her.” “Me too,” John says. “But, she also has to learn how to protect herself, and the younger she does, the better.”

– – –

“What is spelunking?” Olivia asks fearlessly. Her class made up of twenty five kids her own age all stare at her. It’s the most her own age she’s ever been around.

Mrs. Wilson smiles warmly at her and says, “You didn’t give me a chance to explain, Olivia. It’s when you go exploring caves. We did some spelunking when we went to Australia this summer, my husband and I. Now, let’s go around the room and each of you can share your favorite part about the summer.”

A little boy, James, starts the class off by telling about getting a trampoline for his birthday. Then, Claire shares her family’s summer on a resort in Mexico and scuba dived with the fishes. Olivia feels inadequate for the first time her life. Her family didn’t go anywhere cool like Mexico, and she’s always been too afraid to jump on a trampoline.

“Olivia?” Mrs. Wilson says when it’s her turn. “What’s your fondest memory of the summer?”

She looks down at her hands rubbing together, too afraid to face the twenty five curious faces staring at her. “It doesn’t have to be anything fantastic,” says Mrs. Wilson. “It can be something simple like a food you ate, or a movie you watched.”

Olivia looks up, suddenly filled with a rush of excitement. She was lost in her own head and didn’t hear Mrs. Wilson’s attempt at encouragement. “I went spelunking on the moon,” Olivia says. “But, I got separated from my parents and was lost all by myself in the dark. And it was wet too. But, I was able to find a trampoline, cause trampolines all over the moon, and I bounced, and bounced, and bounced until I couldn’t bounce anymore. But, I bounced high enough to bounce out of the cave and I landed where my parents were standing outside waiting for me. And they grabbed me and hugged me and asked where I wanted to go next. So, I said Mexico and we went there and swam with fishes and I rode on top of a shark named Jasper. He introduced me to a giant turtle who told me to have fun and how school’s an adventure, and then he introduced me to Gabe the eagle, and Gabe flew me back to my house just in time to meet the bus this morning.”

“You have quite the imagination Olivia Peoples,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Hold on to that.”


sward \swawrd\, noun:

1. the grassy surface of land; turf.


spelunk \spi-LUHNGK\, verb:

to explore caves, especially as a hobby.


trousseau \TROO-soh, troo-SOH\, noun:

an outfit of clothing, household linen, etc., for a bride.


wonk \wongk\, noun:

1. a stupid, boring, or unattractive person.
2. a student who spends much time studying and has little or no social life; grind.
3. a person who studies a subject or issue in an excessively assiduous and thorough manner: a policy wonk


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