Write Said Ted

by Kristen Bealer

Ted was just approaching his Language Arts class one afternoon when he was startled to see Daria Morgendorffer leaving the classroom. The surprise wasn't because he didn't expect her to be at school, or because he didn't think she took Language Arts, or because there was anything particularly startling about Daria Morgendorffer.

The surprise was because, despite the high probability of running into any given classmate at the school during a given span of time, he had virtually never seen her in the couple of months since he'd started attending. They'd become something like friends at the time, and yet it seemed like their paths never seemed to cross anymore.

He said her name and began to walk toward her, but she just kept walking as though he wasn't there. She passed right next to him in the hall, still oblivious to his presence, and that's when he noticed that she looked distracted and even a little...unhappy? From his experience with her, it was hard to tell when she was in a bad mood or if that was just her normal expression, but she definitely seemed less pleased than usual.

Ted tried to tell himself that she was just distracted by whatever was bothering her and not deliberately ignoring him, but the fact that he was invisible to yet another fellow classmate still stung. Just as it always did.

The first thing Ted saw upon entering the classroom was a list of books written on the chalkboard: George Orwell's 1984, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and many other books that he'd read in the past. In fact, looking over the titles again, he realized that he'd read every single one of them at least once.

"Hey, I liked reading those books!" he said to Mr. O'Neill, smiling. He didn't always agree with the teacher's ideas or even understand him much of the time, so he thought it would be nice to compliment the man on one of the few things he and Ted seemed to be in agreement on.

"You mean you've read them all?" the teacher asked with a slight frown. Ted nodded. "Oh dear, not again," Mr. O'Neill murmured, looking very worried. Ted briefly wondered if the teacher had for some reason listed several books he disapproved of. It wouldn't be the strangest thing he'd done, after all. Before Ted could try to take back the compliment, the man continued, "Well, I suppose an alternate assignment might be in order here, too, then. Listen...Jamie?"


"Right! Would you be interested in writing a story with moral dimensions?"

"You mean like a news report on morality?" Ted asked. He was sure he could get an interesting interview from his parents for that, although he was sure he'd have to edit it for length...and language.

But Mr. O'Neill was shaking his head. "No, I mean a fictional short story."

"Fiction?" Ted blinked at his teacher. "Well, I suppose I could try it." His fellow classmates were coming in now, and he followed them to his desk to sit down for class. "It's easy to read fiction, so I can only assume it's easy to write it. But where do I even start?"

By the end of the class (which he'd learned from experience to not pay much attention to), he'd decided to turn to his usual standby: research. He went straight to the library after school and looked up "fiction" in the dictionary.

(noun) something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically: an invented story

Ted stared at the definition for several minutes, trying to connect it in some way to something he could understand. Imagination? he thought. I know what that is, but...how does it work? Do I have one of those?

Feeling overwhelmed already, he trudged back to Mr. O'Neill's classroom. On the way, he made up his mind to ask his teacher for an alternate alternate assignment. Perhaps one involving gum in some way.

"Hello, Ted!" Mr. O'Neill greeted him as he entered. "Have you decided to enroll in my self-esteem class? Volunteers for the class are always welcome," he added quickly, continuing under his breath, "if nonexistent."

"What?" Ted looked around and saw that there were several students sitting at the desks. "Oh, I didn't realize you had an after-school class in session. I just had a question about my assignment."

Mr. O'Neill turned to the other students. "I think this would be an excellent time to practice visualizing your fully-actualized self!" The kids all closed their eyes and began visualizing, although Ted was pretty sure he heard some of them snoring as they visualized. "What was your question?" Mr. O'Neill asked, turning back to Ted.

"Well, it's just the idea of making up something that didn't happen. While I enjoy reading fictional accounts, I'm not sure I'm capable of coming up with something that isn't based on facts."

His teacher looked confused for a moment, but then his face cleared and he nodded vigorously. "I think I see what you're saying! You mean that you feel like making up a story is too similar to lying, which puts you in an ethical dilemma!"

"Actually, that's not--"

"Which means that by asking you to write a story with moral dimensions, I inadvertently put you in a situation where you yourself are struggling with morality!"

"I really don't think you--"

"Don't worry; I have the perfect solution for you!"

Ted shrugged. "I suspect that's not true, but please go on."

Still not listening, Mr. O'Neill continued, "Instead of writing a completely fictional story, why not write a story based on something that happened to you in real life!"

Ted considered this. "You know, that might work."

Mr. O'Neill beamed. "A Day in the Life of Thad DeSmet-Clayburn!"

Confused, Ted asked, "I thought I was going to be writing about myself?" But Mr. O'Neill had turned his attention back to the self-esteem class and was no longer listening to him. Taking that as a hint, Ted left the classroom.

"Excuuuuse me!" rang out an authoritative voice. Ted turned to see Ms. Li striding toward him, looking very stern. "Visitors are required to sign in at the principal's office upon entering this school!" she informed him, crossing her arms and glaring.

"I beg your pardon, Ms. Li," Ted stammered nervously, "but I'm not a visitor. I'm a student here. Ted DeWitt-Clinton."

"Is that so?" she replied, arching a skeptical eyebrow.

Sighing, Ted, pulled his student ID out of his backpack and handed it to the principal. She inspected it closely, then handed it back with a look of surprise. "It seems I was in error," she said.

"It's all right," Ted assured her glumly. "It happens all the time."

Ted woke up at 7:00 AM like he always did, although some days he woke up earlier. On this day he definitely woke up at 7:00, though, because that's when his alarm went off and he remembered hearing it go off that morning. So he woke up at 7:00 and got up to get ready for school. He picked out a dark beige pair of pants and blue shirt to wear, but then noticed the blue shirt was a little wrinkled so he decided to go with the green one instead. He got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast, where he had a half a piece of grapefruit and some granola. No, quinoa. Wait, maybe it was granola after all.

To be continued.

Putting down his pen, Ted went downstairs and found his mother in the middle of dialing the phone. "Did I have granola or quinoa for breakfast yesterday?" he asked her.

Leslie DeWitt blinked at him, looking both confused and slightly frazzled. "I don't remember. Why?"

"I'm writing a--"

She waved him off and finished dialing. "Can this wait?" she interrupted. "I'm trying to organize a boycott of Mr. Frigid."

"The ice cream shop?"

She nodded and held the phone to her ear, shaking her head in disgust. "Can you believe they only serve one flavor of vegan ice cream? It's a disgrace."

Before Ted could reply, the person on the other end of the line picked up and his mother launched straight into a tirade. He shrugged and went back to his room to work on his story. He reread what he'd written so far and sighed before crumpling up the draft and pushing it aside.

"I seem to be getting bogged down in all those details," he said as he took out a fresh sheet of recycled paper and picked up his pencil again. "Perhaps if I just stick to the basics this time...."

Ted woke up, got dressed, had breakfast, walked to school, went to his classes, ate lunch, went to more classes, walked home, did his homework, ate his dinner, read a book, brushed his teeth, and went to bed.

He reread what he'd written. "Er...that might be a bit too basic. At the very least, I suspect Mr. O'Neill would appreciate a story that's more than one sentence long."

He contemplated trying again, but decided it might be better to take a break from writing. "I've written fewer than two hundred words and I already feel exhausted. Hey, I think I'm experiencing my first ever writer's block! How exciting!"

Ted sighed and set aside his writing for the night. "Who knows? Inspiration may strike during school tomorrow."


"Head's up!" The warning came too late, as the football had already slammed into Ted's back and nearly knocked him over. He rubbed his back and picked up the football as Kevin Thompson trotted over to retrieve it.

"That's not the kind of inspiration I was thinking of," Ted said, wincing slightly.

"Huh?" The quarterback showed no sign of recognizing Ted from his attempt to join the football team a few weeks before, but that was nothing new to Ted. No one ever seemed to recognize him from anything, and he was starting to get used to that. He still didn't like it, but he was getting used to it.

"Nothing," Ted said with a sigh. "Just having trouble with a story I'm working on."

"Hey, I know how that is," Kevin said, nodding sympathetically. "It wasn't so bad when it was just Dick and Jane running and stuff, but these days teachers expect you to read stuff with big words and chapters and, y'know, plots!"

"I mean a story I'm writing, not reading," Ted clarified. "It's just not... interesting."

"Oh, yeah, stories definitely have to be fun," Kevin said, turning the football around in his hands. "Like, do you read Ratboy?"

Ted was perplexed. "I'm, er, not familiar with that author."

"Naw, it's a comic. Really great stuff, too. Last issue Ratboy grabbed this dude's ears and pulled them apart until his head split in half! The other dude's head, I mean. Not Ratboy's. But it was awesome! Like, BAM! SPLOOSH! Brains everywhere!"

Ted stared at Kevin in fascinated horror. "I'm not sure that's physically possible," he said, "but that does sound, well, pretty cool!"

"You bet it is!" Kevin slapped Ted on the back, hitting the bruise left by the football only minutes earlier, then jogged off down the hall.

"Excitement, huh?" Ted mused. "I think that's just what my story needs!"

Ted woke up and got dressed! Boom! Then he had breakfast and walked to school! Pow! He went to his classes and later he ate lunch! Wham! He went to more classes and eventually walked home! Crash! He did his homework while listening to music! Zap! He ate his dinner and then read a book! Bang! He brushed his teeth before he went to bed!

No one's head was torn in half during the course of this day, but if that had happened then that, too, would have been terribly exciting! Wow!

Rereading his latest draft, Ted tapped his pencil thoughtfully against his chin. At last he shook his head. "It seems like it should be exciting," he told himself slowly, "but somehow I don't think it quite reaches the same high standards as Ratboy."

Putting down the pencil, Ted stood and left his room in search of his father. He found him in the living room, putting the finishing touches on one of many protest signs. Ted noticed "Mr. Frigid" mentioned multiple times. "You're helping Mom with her ice cream project?" he asked.

Grant Clinton looked up in surprise, as though he'd forgotten Ted even lived there. "Oh, is she protesting Mr. Frigid, too?" He clucked his tongue. "Did you hear they're adding more vegan flavors to their menu? It's just like a corporate giant, trying to muscle out small businesses like Frosty Tofu or Soy Dream!"

"Uh huh," Ted said, eager to ask his question. "Listen, I could use some help with--"

"Hey, have you seen my thesaurus? I'm trying to think of more words to use for corrupt.'"

"I haven't, but since you brought up writing, could I just--"

"What do you think looks better written across the smiling ice cream cone?" Grant was still studying his sign. "'Depraved' or 'obscene'?"

"I...don't know." Ted gave up and returned to his room, leaving his father on his own to figure out the best way to do battle against the ice cream shop.

The next day, Ted made a quick detour to the boys' restroom to ask his friend Talking Toilet for advice, but came up with nothing useful. He felt depressed as he entered his Language Arts class, and not for the usual reason this time. He took his seat, and Mr. O'Neill approached him right away. "Hello, um, Robert!"


"Of course. I was wondering if perhaps you've been struggling with your assignment like Da--um, like some other student might."

Ted looked at his teacher in surprise, unaccustomed to witnessing actual insight from him. The experience was actually slightly worrisome. "As it happens, yes, I am!" he said hopefully. "I just can't seem to--"

"Might I suggest that you add a card game to your story?"

Life suddenly made sense again; Mr. O'Neill had yet again completely missed the point. "Card game?" Ted asked. "I didn't play a card game on the day I'm writing about."

Mr. O'Neill's smile only widened. "Oh, that doesn't matter. This is a fictional story, so you can include features that didn't really happen."

"Ah." Ted thought about this. "Oh!" An epiphany had struck--Ted could make up things to put in his story. "Thank you!" he said to his teacher, and for once he actually meant it. Mr. O'Neill's face lit up and he practically danced back to the front of the room to start class. Ted immediately tuned out the teacher's lecture as usual as he began planning the next draft of his story.

The school day ended before he came up with any solid ideas, but he felt optimistic as he left. On his way out the door, he noticed Kevin standing outside. The boy appeared to be trying to balance a pencil on his nose, but judging from the bruises on his face he had somehow managed to poke himself in the eye with it multiple times.

"Thanks for your help yesterday!" Ted called to him as he passed.

"Sure, no problem!" Kevin called back. The pencil fell off again, and he looked at Ted as he picked it up. "What help?"

"With my story?" Ted offered, trying to prompt his memory. "You suggested adding action and excitement?"

Kevin, if possible, looked blanker than usual.

"Like Ratboy?"

Kevin's eyes lit up at the mention of Ratboy, but otherwise he still showed no recognition of what Ted was talking about.

"You hit me in the back with a football?"

"I did? Huh. Um, saw-ree!"

Ted shook his head in bemusement. "I beat you in a grip contest. I convinced you not to perform brain surgery on one of your fellow students. You ran away from me when I tried to join the football team. We had a lengthy conversation twenty-four hours ago!"

"Cool." Kevin grinned, then waved as he turned to leave. "Well, nice meeting you!"

"But we--" Ted stopped and finally gave up. "Sure. Fine. Nice meeting you. Again."

As soon as Ted got home that day, he sat down at his desk and prepared to write. He was all ready to write out another sequence of events, planning to add in exciting scenes like car chases and sword fights as he went, but before he could put down even the first word he set down his pencil again.

I don't want to write about a thrilling day full of adventure, he realized. That kind of thing is all right for Ratboy, but I'd be happy to just have a day where--

He stopped and began to smile. Inspiration had finally struck, and he knew exactly what he wanted to write. He picked up his pencil again and began to write furiously, without stopping.

..."Well done!" Ted's father exclaimed. He smiled at his son as he set aside his notes on his planned boycott of Pizza Forest.

"Absolutely!" his mother added, also ignoring her most recent project because she was content to just spend time with Ted. "We're so proud of you!"

He kept writing, finishing that scene and beginning a new one without hesitation.

..."Of course I know your name," Mr. O'Neill said with a chuckle. "Who could forget Ted DeWitt-Clinton? Especially after seeing all of the fine work you produce in class, which I completely understand and appreciate!"

The words were coming faster and faster, and Ted's pencil was barely able to keep up with his thoughts.

..."Hey, look! It's Ted!" called out one of his classmates.

"Oh, good! I sure like Ted," said another classmate.

"Yeah, Ted's definitely unforgettable!"

"Three cheers for Ted! We'll always know who he is!"

Ted's fingers were beginning to cramp from clutching his pencil so tightly, but he barely noticed in his excitement and eagerness to continue writing.

..."And so it is with great pleasure," Ms. Li announced, "that I declare this day National Ted DeWitt-Clinton Awareness Day!"

The crowd erupted into applause, and Ted stepped onto the stage to accept his award.

Almost panting with exertion, Ted finally stopped writing. "Hmm," he mused, rereading his ending. "Perhaps that's going a little too far." He started to cross the last scene out, then gasped. "Oh! I almost forgot!"

Leaning over the page again, Ted quickly wrote in a new ending.

"And so it is with great pleasure," Ms. Li announced, "that I declare this day National Card Game Day!"

So everyone at the school played card games. It might have been exciting, especially if Ratboy was playing as well, but that's not really important to this story.

The end.

"Whew!" Ted sighed, setting down the pencil at last. "That was close. I almost forgot to include the card game, and leaving it out would have made the whole story seem ridiculous!"

"Excuse me, Mr. O'Neill?" Ted asked his teacher after school the next day. He'd waited until after the Self-Esteem class was over, having spent an enlightening and pleasant hour chatting with Talking Toilet in the meantime.

"Yes, Corey?" the teacher asked cheerfully.

Ted didn't bother to correct him this time. "I was just wondering if you'd had a chance to read my story yet?"

Mr. O'Neill coughed nervously as he rummaged through the papers on his desk and pulled out Ted's story. "Ah, yes, as a matter of fact I did."

"And...what did you think?"

"Er...it was...interesting...."

Ted could see by his teacher's expression that he was holding something back. "But...?" he prompted.

"Well...I'm afraid I couldn't relate to the character you created. Um..." He stopped and glanced at the story again before continuing, "Ted. All he seemed to want from life is for people to know his name or for his parents to talk to him. Usually in stories the character has some sort of goal or desire that they want to obtain, but Ted doesn't seem to want anything except to be recognized."

"That's correct."

"But that's just not realistic! I mean, people don't simply get regularly ignored by other people, especially their teachers or their parents, do they?"

Ted took the story from Mr. O'Neill and put it into his backpack without a word. He turned to leave the classroom, but just before he walked out the door he paused. Without looking back at his teacher, he said, "Ask Ted Dewitt-Clinton next time you see him."

With that, he walked away, leaving Mr. O'Neill to shuffle through his seating charts in search of the unfamiliar student's name.