When I was a senior in high school, my English class put together a collection of poems, musings, and miscellaneous creations in a small publication entitled “Inspiration.” It was just for us. I don’t think anyone outside that class ever saw the thin stapled document. While rummaging through boxes in my bedroom closet recently, I came across my old yellowed copy. It doesn’t look as fresh and impressive as it once seemed, but then neither do I. My contribution to the publication was a short fantasy about an alien investigation of my high school (old PNG). It was originally written as a class assignment to produce a satirical article. For what it’s worth, I guess you could say this was the first writing of mine to be published—well sort of published.
The materials have faded so much that the pages can no longer be accurately scanned. This morning I retyped the article into a Word doc exactly as I found it, resisting the impulse to edit what I had so hurriedly written long ago. So please excuse any mistakes that either young Norman or old Norm may have made. For those too young to remember the pre-computer days, each teacher at my school was required to fill out an absentee slip at the beginning of each class and post it on a clip just outside the classroom door. My article was inspired by a comment by Mr. Humphreys, my Social Studies teacher. Noticing a student standing just outside the door waiting for the absentee slip, he complained that it seemed like that was the only really important part of his job.
Purpose of School Attendance
After concealing my interplanetary vehicle in what appeared to be a huge collection of discarded metallic objects, which at one time may have resembled some manner of vehicles, I proceeded to carry out my orders. The assignment which I had received for the day seemed quite simple. I was merely to observe and determine why youthful earthlings spend so much time in this building known commonly as a public school. The fact that these beings spend a great portion of their short lives in such structures had aroused the curiosity of my superiors.
Therefore, with full intent to solve the puzzling mystery, I approached the passageway that led to a small room called “the office.” Inside the room were several people, most of them loitering about, seemingly awaiting the arrival of some great person. Across the tiny room at some sort of counter was an adult female earthling who seemed to be actively enjoying her hobby, which appeared to be the collection of tiny white pieces of paper. These interesting objects were brought to her in great number by an army of young assistants, who traveled the entire length and width of the building in search of the vital scraps of paper.
Upon following one of the assistants on her frantic search, I discovered the source of these invaluable tidbits. Apparently these little pieces of paper, referred to as “absentee slips,” sprouted from the facing of every door in the building. The able assistant merely snatched the paper from the door and hurriedly delivered it to the collector in the “office.” This deed, however, failed to rid the door of the plague, for within one hour another paper had grown from the exact location, and the door had to be pruned again.
This, I conclude, is the purpose of the great attendance in these school buildings. Without this large number of youthful assistants, the collector in the “office” could never control the growth of the little pieces of paper, and the building would surely be destroyed.
Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.