The Five Hundredth Reason
The problem with Neoschool is that the teachers don’t ever take into account what you want to do. I don’t want to run ten laps around the gym. I don’t want to multiply lemons by lemons. And I don’t want to help write a list of five hundred reasons why writing is fun. Namely because writing isn’t fun at all. Unfortunately, Ms. Sherwood didn’t care that I didn’t want to do it, because she assigned it anyway.
She said that we were doing it because the five hundredth issue of the Neopian Times was coming out soon, and what would be more appropriate than a list of five hundred reasons why we enjoyed writing?
“There are twenty-five students in our class,” she told us, “so you will each have to come up with twenty reasons. These are due in one week.” She twirled the pencil in between her purple Mynci fingers for a moment before calling on Brian, who had his hand raised. Brian, by the way, is a nerd. He loves everything about school, and I haven’t got a clue why. School is so boring.
“Could we submit it into the Neopian Times when it’s finished?” he asked excitedly. There was a chorus of cheers and “Yeahs!” from the class after he said this (though definitely not from me – I never read the Neopian Times, anyway), and Ms. Sherwood smiled.
“Of course we could,” she said, “provided everyone turns in their share of the work. That means it’s extra important to bring in your reasons – understand, now, class? If just one person decides not to bring in their reasons, we won’t be able to submit it.”
I may not be the top student in the class, but I knew that this meant I should bring in my reasons. I could see Brian grinning from ear to ear, pumping his Camouflage Blumaroo fists with a loud “YES!”
Time to get to work, I guess.
It was a Friday that Ms. Sherwood gave us the assignment, and by the next Monday we had one hundred and twenty reasons already turned in – by the six overachievers in the class. Ms. Sherwood wrote them all out on a new piece of paper, beaming with pride.
“Great job, everybody!” she told us enthusiastically. “We’re more than a fifth of the way there, and we still have plenty of time left. Just don’t put it off, okay, class? We don’t want a sloppy list that we put together in a hurry.”
You can imagine, of course, exactly what I was doing: putting off coming up with my twenty reasons why writing was fun. But really, I had good reason to put it off. Between other homework (mostly math), chores, and playing games, I hardly had time to even think about it.
By Wednesday of that week, all but four of us had turned in our reasons. Naturally, I was among those four. I hadn’t gotten around to adding anything to my list other than my name and the title of the assignment. It wasn’t a big deal. I still had Wednesday night and Thursday night, right?
“Writing stretches your brain. Writing helps us to discover new worlds.” Elijah, a red Korbat, was dictating one pet’s reasons to Ms. Sherwood, who was writing them neatly on our full list. It was several pages long now, and almost ready for submission.
“Is that the last one?” she asked after she had written it, and he nodded. “Thank you, Elijah. You were very helpful. We’re still waiting on forty more reasons, so only two more people.” She gazed around the room at us. “Remember what I said – if only one person forgets, we won’t be able to submit this.”
It was Thursday night. But I’d promised Angela that I’d go to see the play she was in tonight. She’d gotten the starring role. Well, I’d just finish it after the play. There would be time.
“I’m really glad you came, Mira.”
It was after the play, and Angela was taking off her makeup to reveal the striped coat underneath – the same as mine. We were both striped Shoyrus, and sometimes we told people we were twins. I nodded.
“Hey,” I said, “no problem. You did really well.”
“Aw, thanks. Hey, my mom said we could get pizza if you want to come over. How about it?”
I grimaced. “My owner won’t let me. I have to do homework.”
“Oh, the reasons why writing is fun?” she asked, and I confirmed it. “Well, I’ll help you with it. Come on. Let’s go.”
“Sure. Why not?” I grinned.
After an evening of fun with Angela, I got up the next morning with a feeling of dread. Angela and I had tried really hard, but we’d only come up with eighteen reasons out of the twenty that I needed. I tried to persuade my owner to let me stay home from Neoschool, but the answer was “absolutely not.” And so I went, dragging my feet, hoping that Ms. Sherwood had somehow forgotten about the assignment. Of course, no such thing happened.
“We still have two more students who need to turn in their reasons,” she said after morning announcements. “Let’s see.” She peered at her list. “Andrei and Mira, will you come up here, please?” She held our list of reasons in front of her.
Andrei, a green Eyrie, and I made our way up to her slowly, clutching our assignments. While Andrei read out his reasons, I thought furiously but was only able to come up with one more reason. That wasn’t enough!
“All right, Mira. It’s your turn.” Ms. Sherwood nodded at me. No! I didn’t have the five hundredth reason yet! But it was too late. I cleared my throat and read them, slowly, as she copied them onto another sheet. The class listened with bated breath – we were going to make it to five hundred! And maybe we’d even be in the Neopian Times!
“All right,” Ms. Sherwood said, finishing up reason four hundred and ninety-eight. “Two more.”
“Writing is always different,” I told her. “Like, no two stories are the same.”
“Very good, but that’s only four hundred and ninety-nine.” She looked at me. “What’s the five hundredth reason we like writing?”
“Um.” I bit my lip. “Writing can take you places?” I volunteered weakly.
She shook her head. “No good. We’ve got that one already. Reason two hundred and eighty-six.”
I’d thought it sounded familiar. “Err... it can be about anything you want?” I fumbled, expecting her to reject it.
She wrote it down.
“Wonderful work, everybody!” she called out to the class. “Simply fabulous! We’ve finished our list! Five hundred reasons!”
Everybody cheered. Ms. Sherwood turned to me.
“The five hundredth reason was very good, Mira,” she told me. “It’s true. Writing can be about anything you want – anywhere, any time, with any plot. I’m impressed.”
I shrugged, and when she read the list of five hundred reasons out loud, I was completely silent. I wanted to hear every last one.
“The five hundredth issue of the Neopian Times is out!” Ms. Sherwood exclaimed one day as we walked into class. Instantly, everyone was crowded around a big table.
“Did we get in? Did we get in?” Brian chattered.
“Let’s see.” She paged through the articles. “I’m afraid we did not,” she said after a moment, and everybody groaned. All that hard work for nothing! Then she said, “Wait. Look here, it’s a short story...‘The Five Hundredth Reason, by Mira.’ By Mira? I thought you hated writing. Different Mira, right?”
I shook my head no.
“That’s fantastic,” Ms. Sherwood said warmly, still a little puzzled, “but...why, Mira? I’m so confused. You complain so much about writing. Did hearing our list change something?”
“You know what you always say, Ms. Sherwood,” Elijah piped up from the back. “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?”
I just smiled.