Buzzkill

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Welcome to another Friday Freewrite. Some days I just need to sit down and write. Some Fridays I share what I’ve written with you.

When the buzzer sounded, one half of the room got up and moved to the next chair.

“People please!” Rachel called out over the scraping sound of metal chair legs against linoleum floor tiles. “I know this is a practice run, but we need to give our customers good advice. Run it again.” She raised the stopwatch in her right hand and jabbed her thumb down on the button labeled START.

Savannah groaned as Griffin slid easily into the curved plastic chair across from her.

“Oh now, come on,” he said. “Don’t act so happy to see me.” A slight teasing smile played on his lips. Then he got serious. “Umm…So…I, uh.” The words dangled on his tongue. He bent the pads of his fingers back and forth, nervously testing out the span of his uppermost knuckles. His eyes were big and full of worry. He was nailing it.

“Hi, my name is Savannah. What’s yours?” She forced her voice to sound peppy and kind, even though this was the thirteenth simulation the group had run today. Every time Savannah had to remind herself to be welcoming. Non-threatening. Now her voice just sounded fake.

Griffin ignored her weak tone. It was his job to act like the student and her job to practice the role of the tutor. They’d been at orientation for six hours already and everyone in the room was feeling it. Griffin’s pretend concern was weaker than her attempt at a greeting.

“My teacher said I should come here,” he said cautiously. “I need help with interjections. I just don’t understand them.”

Savannah swallowed a yawn. She folded her hands on the table in front of her. “Okay, sure,” she said before launching into her explanation. “Well, here’s the run-down first. You see, interjections show excitement. Or emotion. They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point. Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.” She made herself awkwardly pause in the wrong places as she spoke. The lyrics sounded jagged and incorrect to her ear.

Griffin looked up, all traces of his façade gone.

“You’re fucking with me, right?” His coy smile was back. “You little cheat.”

Savannah didn’t know if it was from the monotony of all the practice consultations she’d endured over the last hour and a half, or from the oppressive layer of balmy heat that congested the air inside the all-purpose room. She cracked up laughing.

“It felt so wrong to stop where I did. Part of me wanted to go on and start singing.”

Griffin wiped the tears from his eyes. Then they both quickly bowed their heads and pretended to be very concerned with the imaginary assignment on the table between them as Rachel passed by on her rounds, observing the consultants’ tutoring methods. When she was gone, they both looked up.

“You can’t really give out tutoring advice from Schoolhouse Rock,” Griffin said, calling Savannah out once and for all.

Savannah leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. “You’re the one who came in here to work on interjections,” she countered.

“What else you got?”

“Well,” she replied. “We can work on what constitutes a noun or I can talk you through the difference between a subject and a predicate. Take your pick.” She held her palms facing upward and moved them out over the table, advertising his options.

Griffin shook his head. His eyes were warm now. He was no longer pretending to be a student. “No,” he said. “We’ve been stuck in this room for an entire day and, so far, you’re the first person who’s made me laugh. I don’t want to talk about parts of speech anymore. I want to talk about you.”

Savannah smiled. A faint blush colored her cheeks. She opened her mouth to speak, but just then Rachel’s stopwatch went off, sending another buzz through the room.

“Darn, that’s the end,” Savannah said, locking eyes with Griffin as he stood to go.

She managed to survive the rest of the day at orientation picturing how he’d bent his head back and laughed all the way to the next open table.

 

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