Noctilucent clouds are…some sort of weather thing that involves clouds and ice crystals and…and…

Nathan sighed and set his pen down. “I am so going to flunk.” He picked up his pen and scratched out that sentence. He tried again.

Noctilucent clouds are a natural phenonamon…penominnin….phenmonoamin…

He scratched out that line too.

Noctilucent clouds are clouds that are shiny and pretty and ice crystally and they never happen in this part of the world so whoopty-do about them! Mlah!

He crumpled up his paper and threw it at the wall. It bounced off and landed on his bed.

He sighed and slumped in his chair. “Why did I have to be given this assignment? Why couldn’t it have been given to one of the dumb girls? It reeks of girlyness. Crystals and clouds and all that dumb stuff that I don’t give a whoop for.”

He slumped lower. “But that don’t change the fact that I have to write about the dumb things.” He gave his research books a lackluster glance. The sight of those thick books all stacked on top of each other squashed his soul.

“How can they expect me to write about something I don’t care about?” An idea dinged in his head. “I don’t care about it. But.” He sat up straighter. “What if? What if I make it something I care about?” He grabbed the assignment sheet and read it over. “noctilucent clouds…essay…500-1000 words…”

“I can do this.” He opened the “Science Is Wonderful For Kids And Adults Too!” book and flipped quickly to the page he’d bookmarked.

“Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, are tenuous cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere of Earth. They consist of ice crystals and are only visible during astronomical twilight. Noctilucent roughly means “night shining” in Latin.”

He grinned and rubbed his hands gleefully. “I can definitely work with this.”

Nathan shoved the book aside. He didn’t need to do so. It just felt good to push it out of the way. He set his pen to paper and wrote, Noctilucent means ‘night shining’ in Latin. This seems like a pointless thing to point out. Kind of a whoop! Who cares? kind of detail. But trust me. It’s important. It’s important because that was the alien girl’s name…Noctilucent.


Nathan sat at his desk, nervously biting his lower lip as the teacher read over their essays.

I should have written it on mom’s fancy blue stationary. It would go against the rules, but at least I’d know where mine’s was in the whole stack. Is she reading it now? What is she gonna think about it? Is she gonna hate it? Is she gonna flunk me for not writing a serious essay? Or is she gonna give me extra credit for being creative?

Somehow that doesn’t seem like a teacher thing to do. She read my 2000 word essay and frown and flunk it. She’ll flunk it so hard people on Mars will hear the sound of her flunking it. It will punch a hole in the ecosystem or whatever it is that usually gets holes in it.

Nathan gasped as she reached the end of the stack.

She wrote a very long note on that last one.

Nathan watched the clock tick and tick and tick and she kept writing.

Please don’t let that one be mine. PLEASE! Don’t let that one be mine. I’ll be good all the way from now through the end of Christmas break if only that one won’t be mine.

She set her pen down.

Nathan could feel the doom radiating out of his classmates. Or maybe it was just him sweating.

She pushed her chair back and stood.

She picked up the stack of papers.

All of the students collectively stopped breathing.

Nathan, however, stopped breathing and stopped swallowing.

I’m dead.

I’m doomed to be flunked.

I’m dead. her comments are going to kill me and I will be dead.

She started with the front row of students.

Ruthie Allen.

Kevin Deffnerst.

Grace Peterson.

Angelo Aminici.

Freddie Enns.

They all received their report without any comment. None from the teacher. None from them.

Ruthie, Kevin, Grace, Angelo, and Freddie nervously looked over their essays as the teacher moved on to the next row.

Nathan watched and waited for the protesting howls of dismay.

There were none. Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe the teacher just gave them a plain grade without comments. That was a good thing. Any kid knew that was a good thing.

Jimmy Jarrelson.

Nancy Winetts.

Maury Vinney.

Zack Quarn.

Larry Dwenego.

They all got their essays back.

The silence somehow became thicker and darker as that row read over their essays.

It’s bad, isn’t it? It’s all bad news.

Nathan gasped.


The teacher finally reached Nathan’s row.

Frank Dohorr.

Frank Cyne.

Frank Sweeney.

Frank P. Sweeney (no relation).

And then.

There she was.

Standing at his desk

Standing at Nathan Deffnerst’s desk.

His essay trembled in her hand as if it had been thoroughly thrashed by her red ink pen.

Nathan couldn’t swallow.

I’m gonna die.

I’m gonna die, choking on my own spit all because I can’t swallow.

The teacher gave him an expectant look.

He cleared his throat, startling all of the other kids.

He took his essay back.

She nodded and returned to her desk.

Nathan set the stack of papers upside down on his desk. If he couldn’t see what it said, it didn’t really exist. It was just his essay — innocent white paper and plain black ink.  Not a drop of red ink anywhere on the page.

But he knew he couldn’t avoid it forever.

The four Franks looked his way. They were waiting to see his reaction, which made Nathan wonder what she had written on their essays. Probably something horrible and scathing. The four Franks weren’t affected by scathing comments. So, their facial expressions told Nathan nothing.

Nothing whatsoever. He was vastly unprepared for the horrors waiting on the front of his essay.

He scrunched his shoulders as if to protect his poor essay from further slings and arrows being shot at its paper thin heart.

He turned the essay right-side up.

He stared and gaped.

The teacher had written in that fearsome red ink all over the blank space at the top of his essay.

It took his mind a few minutes to process the red inked words, This is a very entertaining take on the class assignment. You did go over the 500-1000 limit. You slipped into passive voice quite a few times. See the marked pages for further notes on that matter. I also highlighted several grammar errors and spelling mistakes. See the marked pages for my corrections. 

On a more positive note, I liked the ending’s poignancy.

I gave you a grade of B+ for not following the listed instructions, but I do hope that you will flesh this idea into a full story, perhaps even a novel. This idea deserves to be turned into a novel. If you have any questions regarding my marked comments, stop at my desk after class.

Nathan grinned.

I am going to laminate this and plaster it on my bedroom wall.

September 2019 Writing Prompts

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