Monday, January 7, 2008

Rose Lerma

Pulling A Rabbit Out Of A Hat

Before I tell you about that magic trick, I have to tell you about my strange quirk. When I get nervous or frightened, I laugh. Not a good thing to do when you’ve done something you shouldn’t have. As a kid my mom always knew who broke the ‘thing’ because of this failing. As an adult, her second question to me when she found out I’d been told—at gunpoint—to lie on the coatroom floor during a restaurant robbery was, “Did you start laughing?” Her first question had been, “Are you alright?”

So with that background we get to the point. When I decided to get serious about writing, I took a “Writing To Sell” class. The teacher was very organized. She’d begin the class with a lesson, read an example of her own published work that illustrated that lesson then the remainder of class-time was spent with us students reading aloud the assignment she’d given the previous week.

On this particular day, the lesson was about “the thin red line” that connects the story, that makes the ending plausible. In other words, the author has dropped subtle hints so when the reader gets to the solution, he/she will believe it. Without that thin red line, a solution is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

I was horrified to realize that’s exactly what I had done in my assignment. I said a silent prayer that the readings would start on the other side of the room and class-time would run out before coming to me. It wasn’t to be. Apparently, embarrassment also triggers laughter. It started building inside when the first person read aloud. It grew in silent intensity during the teacher’s critique and comments from the class. I was second.

Trying really hard to control myself, I read the first sentence with just a slight tremor in my voice. Then it was downhill after that. By the third or fourth sentence, I was incoherent, laughing so hard tears rolled down my cheeks. I didn’t dare look at anyone or I’d be rolling on the floor. I just handed my paper to the person behind me and put my head down on the desk, biting the back of my hand to stifle the chuckles.

The teacher’s critique was a simple one-liner. “Perfect example of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”