Mallyree Hirtzel wants to be a writer. And, she’s going to be a famous one. I can tell because she has great taste in subject matter: namely, me.
Mallyree is a student at East Ridge High School in Clermont, Florida. She wrote to ask if I would answer a few questions. She had been assigned a project that dealt with “colomnists.”
My first thought was that Mallyree had been asked to write a paper on “colonists” — and her teacher would be surprised she had found a live one to interview. I may be over 40 but I don’t recall ever living in the Jamestown Settlement or Plymouth Plantation. (Just to make sure, I searched an online list of the passengers from the Mayflower but didn’t find my name.)
Mallyree assured me her paper was on “columnists” not “colonists.” She said it was ironic that her spelling is terrible because English is her favorite subject. I could relate. In high school, English was my favorite subject and my spelling was terrible, too. But look how I turned out. Today, I am the subject of high school English papers.
I was a little suspicious of Mallyree’s request. What if her e-mail was one of those Internet scams that begin by saying they want to write a paper about you and end by asking you to wire $50,000 cash to the Cayman Islands? Somehow, I had to ensure that Mallyree was a real teenager. So, I asked her the following questions:
Have you ever owned an 8-track tape of the Loving Spoonful?
Have you ever called anyone “Daddy-o” or “square?”
Did you attend game seven of the 1967 World Series?
Mallyree assured me she had no idea who the Loving Spoonful were and added, “I go for CDs thank you very much.” She admitted never calling anyone “Daddy-o” or “square” and thought she would get “weird looks and glares” if she did so. Regarding the 1967 World Series, Mallyree said she wasn’t even born yet.
Convinced she was a genuine high school student, I regaled Mallyree with trivia about my life. I told her how my career as a male model ended after a trench coat mishap at the Wilson’s Department Store “back-to-school” fashion show in Greenfield, Massachusetts. (I was five years old and unable to unbutton my own coat.) I told her how my great, great, great grandfather had been killed by a cow and that I went to high school (Deerfield Academy) with a prince who is now the King of Jordan. While all of these things are true, I suspect Mallyree thought I was kidding. Most people don’t trust humor writers.
I was curious why Mallyree picked me as her subject. Was Dave Barry unavailable? Perhaps he was planting corn with the other colonists and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Mallyree was brutally honest — a great trait for a writer. “I had no idea who I wanted for my project,” she wrote. “But when I saw that you were a humor columnist I gave you a shot.“ Mallyree’s got moxie.
Perhaps Mallyree will get extra credit for having her subject write about her. Perhaps she will get extra credit for having me say that her English teacher is brilliant for assigning such a paper and can borrow my Loving Spoonful 8-track.
Now that I’ve answered Mallyree’s questions, I await a copy of her finished product — and grade. In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me busy. All of us colonists are having a meeting tonight to plan the first Thanksgiving dinner. And, since Mallyree is going to be a famous writer, she’s invited, too.
© 2004, Timothy P. Bete
Tim Bete (pronounced “beet”) is married with three children. He has ten combined years as a dad 70 in dog years which makes him an expert at answering the questions, “Are we there yet?” and “Why?” To subscribe to Tim’s column or read more of his work, visit his website at www.timbete.com.