Saturday, March 7, 2015

On Your Permanent Record (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

A friend at college named Dirk was one of the most fortunate mining students we knew. Each summer, Dirk would vanish from campus, only to return in the fall with sufficient funds to pay for one more year at CSM.

One evening we were talking, and Dirk started telling us about his summer "job". His family owned a turquoise mine. He ran the family mine, extracting specimens and gem-grade turquoise, digging and building the mine structures, sorting and packaging the produce of the mine, and finally selling the material he had extracted from the mine to gain his tuition money and living expenses for the coming year.

Like most of us in the study group, Dirk was older than the average run of students at college. Some of us were veterans, and had spent a few years in the military between high school and college. Some were parents whose college careers had been slowed or intermittently side-lined by the need to support a family. 

One of us, though, was a precocious 17-year-old who remembered panicking when told that her decision to leave the group during a class field trip in order to visit a museum that wasn't on the agenda would go onto her "Permanent Record", and make it difficult for her to get a scholarship. She told Dirk that the geology exhibit at that museum had impressed her deeply, leading her to change her choice of study from anthropology to geology. This decision would ultimately bring her to CSM. 

She had been particularly amazed by a huge chunk of turquoise, nearly 20 pounds in weight, displayed in a case there. With quiet pride, Dirk told us, "That specimen is from our mine. I didn't find it. My grandfather did, and it paid his whole way through CSM. It's what started our family's practice of having us work the mine to pay our way through college." He laughed, and added, "Even my sister's two years of art school."

Like the other members of the group, I was struck by the synchronicity of a specimen from the mine of one inspiring the college aspirations of another member, and also by the failure of the "Permanent Record" to prevent a scholarship from being awarded to the gem-struck student.

This week's Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge set us the task of writing in a mood turquoise:

March 4, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) color your story turquoise. Color evokes emotion; turquoise blue evokes trust and strength. How can you play with that idea? How can color define a character or add to a plot? Saturate your story or add a drop. Follow the vein of turquoise to see where it leads your imagination.

Here is my twice-turquoise-inspired tale:

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On Your Permanent Record

In ninth grade, I encountered the terror-tactic of high-school principals, the Permanent Record. Bane of college-track students, it threatened to overturn plans for careers and prestigious schools by shackling us with the mistakes made as adolescents, so those choices would stain the rest of our adult lives.

Senior year, I colored my hair turquoise for Homecoming, only to find it wasn't washable dye. For weeks afterwards, my embarrassing hair was the same shade as my dad's Indian belt buckle.

But as the year went on, I realized the truth. Bad hair dye grows out. There is NO Permanent Record!