The Healing Horse, Ch. 22, Scene 4: An Impromptu Writing Exercise

image of illustration of a yellow pencilAs her Mama talks with Principal Stephie, little Karen struggles through a writing assignment in her classroom. Even though she has studied the subject, under pressure to write on demand she cannot remember what she has learned. School teachers now know much more about learning disabilities than they did in the 1950s and 60s. Back then, dyslexia and dysgraphia were not well understood at all. 

(Image by Dean M. Campos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scene 4: An Impromptu Writing Exercise

Meanwhile, Karen had returned to class. Without warning, her teacher gave an impromptu writing assignment—one page on Andrew Jackson, the seventh President. Kitten felt the muscles in her neck tense. Her strong right hand shook. Paralysis struck her left. Under her cotton dress, she felt drops of sweat roll down her sides, and she knew she was in for trouble. No matter how much knowledge she had about an academic subject, when her body tensed, her perceptual learning difficulty kicked in. At times like this, she acted as her own mentor, emulating the warmth and words of Mama and Pegasus.

Breathe, Karen, breathe. It’s only an assignment. You can do it, if you can calm down. Fear is the biggest barrier. Prove to yourself that you can do this, sweetheart.

Even though she had studied Jackson, under the pressure of the surprise assignment she could not remember anything about him. The wall clock showed that half an hour had elapsed. Her classmates were all busy writing, yet she had not put a single word on paper. She put her pencil into her hand and tried to string words together, writing whatever came to mind. Agonizingly, the words formed sentences. The wall clock ticked as the long hand moved, minute by minute. One by one, the minutes thundered in her head.

As she toiled with the pencil, she wondered what had happened to her starlight oath of strength. Would she ever find a happy purpose in life? Existential and nausea were new words she had recently added to her vocabulary, and she felt them coming to life in the classroom world of dreaded, extemporaneous writing.

Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.


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