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The Assignment

"Did you write all of this, Rhonda," said English teacher Jim Walsh, "or did you have some help in writing 'Ode to a Rice Cake'? The reason I ask is because, well, the writing isn't that consistent."

Rhonda said, "My mom suggested the title. She likes rice cakes."

"One thing we do teach is that when you're beginning to write creatively it's often best to write about what you like. You like rice cakes?"

"No," said Rhonda, "but my mom and me eat them to keep our weight down."

Walsh said, "This paragraph: 'Rice cakes taste so good. So good that their good good.' Apart from the spelling, I think you could be a tad more definitive than 'good good'. Then there's this paragraph: 'The increasing marketing thrust of rice products to western industrialized economies has enabled Asian rice growers to increase exports and to be able to afford the results of research into hybridization of fast growing with disease- resistant strains thus improving rice quality for western customers.”

"Yeah, well, my dad wrote that. He's in marketing."

"Rhonda," said Walsh, "what did you write?"

"I wrote a whole bunch of stuff but my mom got mad when she read it because I said that rice cakes taste like dried cat barf and even when you put peanut butter on it it still tastes like dried cat barf but this time with peanut butter on it. She said that if I didn't like rice cakes then I would be a fat slob and shouldn't come running to her when my jeans didn't fit. She said that if it wasn't for rice cakes I would be a real porker. So mom ripped up the page and went into her bedroom for a sulk. That's when my dad said that he'd help to punch it up a bit."

Walsh said, "Well, you did persevere and you got it done. That's one thing. Why didn't you write about something you know more about than rice cakes?"

Rhonda said, "I couldn't think of anything. That's why I asked my mom. You said we could write about anything we wanted about something that affected our lives. I wanted to write about Johnny Depp but my morn got all gnarley and said that I should write about something real rather than a creep with scissors as hands and anyway I liked it but mom said that if it wasn't for rice cakes she'd be 300 pounds. That and cottage cheese which I said tasted like wet cat barf and if you added fruit to it it tasted like wet cat barf but this time with fruit mixed in it."

"Maybe looking at some of the other writing may help a bit," said Walsh. 'Here's Richard's. ‘The Motorcycle'. It's a little long at 5,000 words and it's largely technical..."

"His older brother works at a motorcycle shop," said Rhonda. "Bet you Richard just copied stuff from the tech manuals. He's like that."

"Then there's Alicia. She wrote 'Death Is Too Good For Her'. A mite too graphic with the bit about clawing the eyes out of someone and stomping on 'her blue orbs until they were squished flat' but her use of adjectives is, well, fulsome."

"Richard broke up with her and he's now giving rides to Janice," said Rhonda.

"I figured it had to be something like that," said Walsh. "But back to your writing. Why didn't you write, say, something on dieting rather than rice cakes?"
"I hate dieting," said Rhonda, "so does everyone I know. Who wants to read about it? Mr. Walsh, dieting is the goddamn pits. Can't eat this, can't eat that. If it tastes good then it's bad for you. Once I got so hungry that I had a dream about diving into a pool of gravy and picking up meatballs from the bottom. My mom was the lifeguard and tried to keep me from going in. But she fell in and I had to save her from drowning. But I didn't save her. I ate the whole pool up and then went into the changing room and dressed in a chimichanga outfit. When I woke up I could smell Mexican food.

"My mom has this chart, like, you know, on the back of her bathroom door where she writes down her weight every morning? She drove a ballpoint right through the door panel once when she weighed herself and for the next several weeks all we had was rice cakes, cottage cheese, and wimpy salads with no dressing. Mom works in a real estate office and she says that if you're fat then you can't sell houses. When morn started there she didn't sell a house for a month and she skinnyed down to about a hundred and ten. She had a whole case of rice cakes in the back of her car and that's all she ate for a month. Nothing else.

"My dad usually stops on the way home from work to have a burger because he says that mom's dieting makes him tired. I spend most of my allowance on hot chimichangas at the 7-11. Mom says that we're sabotaging her efforts to make us a healthy family and that we don't 'appreciate my desire to have a slim, healthy, happy, cheerful family'. My dad says that all this dieting is dysfunctional. I think they're going to split."

"I hope they don't," said Walsh. "It isn't always easy to write when there's disturbances. Some writers, however, some of them famous, wrote good work in the most trying of circumstances."

"So?' said Rhonda. "They didn't have shitty rice cakes. My morn buys them by the caseload from Costco. We have enough rice cakes for a hundred years. Morn and dad had this great big fight where to put them and my dad suggested mom cover his side of the bed with them because he's not going to sleep there anyway."

"Okay, Rhonda," said Walsh. "In the light of all this I guess you could write on something else than the next assignment. I had planned on the subject of favorite meals but that seems a quagmire for you at this time. You can choose your own subject."

"Well," said Rhonda, "I could write about chimichangas.”

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