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Updated: May 25, 2021

Almost 10 years ago, I took a creative writing class. I typically write non-fiction, but I also love to read fiction, so why not write fiction? Oh, sweet logic. Well, I spent more lesson time trying to come up with ideas for stories and characters than I actually did writing stuff. I will stick to writing non-fiction.

Our big assignment for class was to write a 500 word (not one word more) short story. This is my story submission with some feedback incorporated. It is creative non-fiction, because even with 8 weeks to come up with a story idea it didn’t happen.

We each had to read our stories out loud in class. Our teacher was a self-professed hippie who had published a book on being part of a girl band in the 80’s. After I confessed to this being based on a true story, she exclaimed, “Imagine that, a musician on drugs!”

Let me know what you think!


The program is crumpling in my hands from wear. Timmy, John, Alice and then my group. I seek some distraction, but no windows break up the yellowed walls. The air hangs with the smell of carpet dust as ancient as this ritual. The drone of the judges’ commentary creates a tortured hum over the polite silence of the room. I shift on the hard metal chair and it squeaks back in protest.

I glance over at my mother, intent on the proceedings. This is her world. I read the program again. Little Timmy Thompson hefts his bassoon on his hip as he shuffles to the front. It must be at least a foot taller than him.

“Let’s go warm up.” Liz whispers to me.

I pop a reed in my mouth as I follow my petite sister out through the warren of rooms to the practice area.

“Here,” Liz says, handing me half a tiny pill. “Take this.”

“What is it?” I ask.

“It’s Valium.”

I stare at the pill.

“Just take it.” She says. “The doctor gave me some to help me relax.”

I swallow the little white crescent without further hesitation. I place the reed on the clarinet and tighten the ligature. I blow a note and run a couple of scales. Liz sits at the piano and we rehearse the intro to Spanish Concerto before returning to our seats.

Janet Jones starts our competition. Her piece is flowing, complex and then she squeaks. I sigh in relief, because everybody squeaks. The program says it’s my turn.

Liz heads for the piano and I step into the light as I place my music on the stand. The adjudicators wave at me to proceed. I am strangely calm.

I give Liz the nod. She begins and so do I. The intro is tricky, but I see each note clearly on the page, one after another. My fingers respond with their playing. I know this piece. The music flows through my breath. I am suspended in the sound, the playing becomes the feeling, becomes a performance.

Applause fills the room. Liz is patting me on the back. My mother beams at me. The adjudicators are even smiling. I float to my seat, relaxed and satisfied. I finally played the way I knew I could.

“Young lady,” the head judge approaches me. “That was the best performance I’ve heard this festival. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” I reply. I can feel my face reddening.

“I want you to come back for the exhibition gala. I’m nominating you for most promising student.” He smiles and shakes my hand.

Finally, it’s me who got the call back, not Liz. I’ll carry the bouquet of roses home to mom. All I have to do is repeat my performance.

Riding home from the gala, I remember Liz’s brilliant playing and my squeaks and squawks, my dry throat, the large crowd, the stage empty and bright. My trophy sits like a memory beside me, of triumph or valium?

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