Iowa Writes

ROBERT ROOK
The Silent Counter


     Miss Hogan scans the room, feet firmly planted on the ground, pivoting at the waist. Her left hand on her hip and her right hand in a fist, except for her index finger which she gently taps on her lower lip: thinking and deciding. "Let's see," she says.
     Trying to avoid eye contact, I catch glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye. I try to null the growing tension by focusing on the gaudy, Crayola inspired posters on the wall. "READ!" The posters scream, the "R" in "radical red" the "E" in "jungle green" the "A" in "laser lemon" and the "D" in "robin's egg blue." An extremely diverse group of kids sits scattered around the letters. The black girl holds a red book. The Asian kid in a wheelchair shares a bright green book with a cute blonde girl, and everybody smiles, ridiculously.
     "Bobby, why don't read that paragraph on page 47?" Miss Hogan says, now pointing her index finger directly at me. My face swells up in "radical red." I wasn't making eye contact, but I also wasn't hiding from her. Why did she pick me?
     Suddenly I become distinctly aware of the amount of saliva in my mouth and take a loud, nearly cartoonish gulp. I notice everyone looking at me especially Michelle Seeds, the girl I like, but she likes Nathan Freyman, the smart kid that volunteers to read out loud.
     Stammering, swallowing, and butchering averaged sized words, I eventually finished the paragraph, and tried to ignore the scattered giggles that came after my performance. Nathan read the next paragraph in flawless perfection, and afterwards there were no laughs, but rather he and Michele Seeds shared a smile, not unlike the smile that Asian kid in the wheelchair and his cute blonde girlfriend shared from the poster that got me in this mess.

     Miss Hogan scans the room, feet firmly planted on the ground, pivoting at the waist. Her left hand on her hip and her right hand in a fist, except for her index finger which she gently taps on her lower lip: thinking and deciding. "Let's see," she says.
     Trying to avoid eye contact, I catch glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye. I try to null the growing tension by focusing on the gaudy, Crayola inspired posters on the wall. "READ!" The posters scream, the "R" in "radical red" the "E" in "jungle green" the "A" in "laser lemon" and the "D" in "robin's egg blue." An extremely diverse group of kids sits scattered around the letters. The black girl holds a red book. The Asian kid in a wheelchair shares a bright green book with a cute blonde girl, and everybody smiles, ridiculously.
     "Bobby, why don't read that paragraph on page 47?" Miss Hogan says, now pointing her index finger directly at me. My face swells up in "radical red." I wasn't making eye contact, but I also wasn't hiding from her. Why did she pick me?
     Suddenly I become distinctly aware of the amount of saliva in my mouth and take a loud, nearly cartoonish gulp. I notice everyone looking at me especially Michelle Seeds, the girl I like, but she likes Nathan Freyman, the smart kid that volunteers to read out loud.
     Stammering, swallowing, and butchering averaged sized words, I eventually finished the paragraph, and tried to ignore the scattered giggles that came after my performance. Nathan read the next paragraph in flawless perfection, and afterwards there were no laughs, but rather he and Michele Seeds shared a smile, not unlike the smile that Asian kid in the wheelchair and his cute blonde girlfriend shared from the poster that got me in this mess.
     I didn't like reading, out loud or to myself. During silent reading, I counted to 150 then turned the page. I even hated the way a book felt in my hand: the smelly, old, rotting paper and the constant wrestle with the binding. My hands ached between my thumb and index finger from the constant pinching of stubborn pages. My friends, like Nathan, had cute girls crushing on them, attended the "gifted" classes, and grew up enjoying the Harry Potter series, while I attended the handwriting improvement classes and preferred counting to reading.
     Years later, against all odds, I would find myself at college as an English major. At parties I might approach a girl from one of my classes, and it might look something like this...
     "Hey" I say.  "You are in my rhetoric class, aren't you?" The girl nods her head then continues to try and ignore me. "What's your major?" I ask, but then forget to listen to her answer.
     "What about you?" She asks back.
     "English, with a creative writing emphasis," I respond, and flaunt it proudly, well knowing it is a "smart" kid major.
     "Oh, cool!" She responds. "So what kind of things do you write?" Her eyes are now engaged in the conversation and I confidently respond saying.
     "Anything really, short stories, poems, essays, screenplays, you know..."
     "Awesome" She says, moving her hand to my shoulder, "I'd love to hear you read your stuff sometime..." She says back.
     I suddenly become distinctly aware of the amount of saliva in my mouth and take a loud, nearly cartoonish gulp. My face turns "radical red".
     "Um, I'd rather not read my stuff" I say. Then I watch her leave our conversation, and I count to myself, silently.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


ROBERT ROOK

Robert Rook is from Libertyville IL, a Chicago suburb. He currently studies Creative Writing and Cinema Studies at the University of Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on July 27, 2011

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