Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ghost Writing

Ghost Writing

It started with my sister.  She had an assignment from her Junior High class in, I think, English.  The assignment was to write about a pressing issue in our society.  She hadn’t a clue what to write about.

I was just sitting there listening to my sister and mother trying to come up with a topic.

“Have you got any ideas?” they asked.

As it happened, I did.  “Yes,” I said, “leave it to me.”

“You’re not going to do something stupid are you?” my mother asked suspiciously.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “she’ll get an A”.

I was pretty confident I could write a successful paper for a Junior High level English class.  After all, I was in College.

I wrote a great essay on a real problem in our Society: “Why can’t they invent a way to get the toothpaste cap back on the tube?”

The essay was funny, well written and addressed a problem common to us all at the time.  I thought it was very good and worth at least an A.

My mother was a little wary of what I had done.

“Do you think this is what the teacher had in mind?” she asked.

“Well, it is a problem, don’t you think?  Besides the teacher wasn’t very specific and left it up to the student,” I replied.

“If you get her a failing grade, I’ll kill you,” she warned.

“Don’t worry,” I said.

To her credit, after a little hesitation, my sister went along with my essay.  She copied it over in her handwriting and submitted it.  She got a “B”

I was mad.  “What do you mean a “B”?  I think we should talk to your teacher about this.  Don’t tell me some Junior Higher can write better than me!”

“Don’t you dare do anything, you want the teacher to find out you wrote it?” my mother said.

My sister was getting nervous.

“Ok, maybe she (the teacher) has no sense of humor,” I said.

I actually thought I had done a great job, and the idea of somehow attaching the cap to the tube so it wouldn’t get lost or separated from the tube was, I thought, genius.

A few years later, the toothpaste companies actually did what I had proposed.  I often wonder if that teacher knew someone who worked for the toothpaste companies and sent them my idea.

A few months later, I was over my friend Bob’s house, when Mark came in.  We were all supposed to go somewhere and Mark was the last to get there.  Mark had a problem.

Mark had a report to write on a short story for his English class at Hofstra University.  The problem was, Mark hadn’t read the story and the essay of about 500 words was due the next morning. 

Besides Mark, Bob and myself, there was Marvin Murray, a very smart guy.  He was becoming an Electrical Engineer at Northwestern University.  We figured we could knock off this essay in a half hour.

We asked Mark, what the essay was supposed to be about.  He gave us a sheet of paper with 6 Themes on it.  He told us the essay had to include all 6 Themes.

“Are you sure?” I asked.  “Six is an awful lot for only 500 words, and it is only a short story”.

Mark assured us that all 6 had to be in the essay.

We quickly read over the story (it was short) and each took a theme to write on.

We had a hard time keeping it at 500 words (it couldn’t be longer according to the instructions).  When we got to the last theme, something about the significance of the window (the story was about a guy in a cell), we could only devote one partial sentence.

Mark typed it up on a typewriter (no computers back in the dark ages) and we all went out.

Mark’s professor was quite impressed with how Mark (we) had got all the themes in.  However, he noted that it was supposed to be a 500 word essay on ONE theme.  Something Mark had misunderstood.

My next and last encounter with Ghost Writing was for my friend Bob  At Bob’s house that night was Marvin, Mark, Kenny Ruben (a very smart guy who couldn’t stay away from the horses and consequently wore shoes with holes stuffed with cardboard) and me.  There was also Bonnie, the daughter of a guy Bob and I worked for in Catering.

Bob needed a report on the how the transportation system affects the society it serves.  He needed help.  We agreed to give it a try.

We broke it down into areas of discussion and research (he had a book), and we each took an area and wrote about it.  We made up research and studies, and made it sound very technical and sociological.

As one of us would finish our assigned area,Bonnie would type it up.  She was able to put it together so it seemed to make a coherent whole.  It took us most of the night.

I believe he got a good grade; he still talks to us, so maybe he did.

A month or so later, I and Bob were at Bonnie's house to pick up paychecks from her father.  Her brother Steve who was in Junior High at the time needed a report on an historical figure who created change.  I advised him to write about Lady Godiva, which we helped him write.  I don't know how he did, but he didn't ask for our help again.

A few years later, Mark and his future brother-in-law Joel, came over to my house.  They had been given an assignment by Ellen, Mark’s wife.  She needed research done for her Master’s Thesis and had asked Mark to do some for her.  She was busy preparing for her teaching assignments and needed to get this done. She had specific items in mind. She made a list. Mark felt it wise to go along with this.

Joel was visiting Mark at the time so he was dragged along.  They took one look at what Ellen was asking for and realized they hadn’t a clue.

Their answer to their problem was me.  

They dragged me out and I took them to the College Library.  Amazingly Mark had no idea it was there even though he had attended the college for a couple of semesters.

We got the work done, Mark was a hero and Ellen got her Master’s.

It was kind of fun writing those reports.  We all had a good time doing it. 

I would never let my own kids get away with something like that. 

It was the 60’s, things were looser then. What can I say?

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