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Thursday, September 8, 2011

From "The Next Shakespeare" by Wanda Ernstberger

The Next Shakespeare
Astra just found out her best friend Tristan won the school's poetry contest...

I laughed as Tristan sneaked into class. He tossed me a muffin and dove into his rib sandwich. His period one teacher, Mr. Reynolds, had a strict “no food and drink” policy. The drama teacher, Mr. Pantazopolous, was more laid back. “What’s so funny?” Tristan mumbled around a mouthful of bread and meat.

“Tristan Gunner, the next Shakespeare.”

He stopped chewing, a sign that he was either thinking or upset.

“Chris is really ticked that you won the poetry contest.” I shook my head. “That guy! He wins five awards in math and science, but he’s crying because he’s not a poet.”

“I don’t care about that stupid award.”

“Why? It’s the first time you’ve ever won anything. You’re one up on me now.”

Tristan put down the sandwich. This must be serious. He wasn’t the kind of guy to talk about his feelings, so I had to take the subtle approach. “What’s your poem about, anyway?”

“Nothing.” He stuffed the sandwich in his mouth and after swallowing, he groaned. “They’re going to hand out that stupid poem to everyone on awards night. Aw, that stupid contest.”

I kept fishing. It was annoying sometimes, having to play these games, but if I asked him a direct question, he’d either shut down completely or make one of his goofy jokes. So I asked, “Mrs. Owala had your permission to enter it, right?” Mrs. Owala was Tristan’s grade eleven English teacher last year. She’d taught me grade ten the year before. She was tough, but always fair.

Tristan moaned. “Yeah, but I never thought it would win.”

I placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t stress over it.”

He smiled his lopsided grin, but it faded as he mumbled, “Stupid contest.”

We’d been friends since we were four. Few things ever bothered him, but he was as wound up as Chris about this award. Offering him the top of my muffin, I tried again. “So, what’s the poem about?”

Silently, he stuffed the muffin in his mouth.

“Don’t worry. No one’s going to laugh, and if they do, you’re the one laughing, because you won, right?”

“I guess.” He shrugged but didn’t look at me. He was eyeing the rest of my muffin. I handed it to him. Tristan rarely had anything to eat. As far as I knew, he never had.

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