This is a super short piece I wrote with the students at 916 Ink. The prompt was to write the same story from five different points of view.
"When Anastacia was six, a first grader at Ulloa Elementary, she watched a movie that forever shifted her worldview."
Five Points of View
When Anastacia was six, a first grader at Ulloa Elementary, she watched a movie that forever shifted her worldview. In Pollyanna, a young Haley Mills played an orphan with long, wavy blond hair. Sleek ribbons and bows adorned her hair and drop-waist dresses.
Anastacia longed to be that girl on the big screen. She determined to change her name to Pollyanna, believing that simple act would transform her. She beseeched Beatrice, her big sister, to write a note to her teacher, Miss Marie Rose, announcing the name change and requesting that she please inform the class that, “henceforth,” Anastacia was to be known as Pollyanna.
My ridiculous sister Anastacia routinely embarrassed me in front of my friends. When she had the goofy idea of changing her name to Pollyanna, it was golden, a chance to humiliate her in front of the entire class. I wrote the note for her, copying Mom’s signature, and I bet stupid Anastacia one whole dollar that she wouldn’t have the guts to give it to Miss Marie Rose.
Miss Marie Rose
When meek little Anastacia Turner slipped that crumpled note onto my desk, asking me to announce to the class that her new name was Pollyanna (just Pollyanna, no last name, like a pop star) I was torn. The poor girl was already the butt of many classroom jokes. Yet, she’d always been so timid. This bold move seemed a breakthrough, so I made the announcement with all the pomp and ceremony I could summon, forcing myself not to smile or laugh.
I was not pleased to be Anastacia’s assigned chair. If I’d had the skills to file a complaint or teleport myself elsewhere, I would have. That squirmy girl had more “accidents” than any other in my twenty years of classroom servitude.
When Miss Marie Rose (a beautiful woman with auburn hair down to her slender waist and wide skirts that tickled my legs as she passed between the rows) announced the name change, I prepared to be warmly and thoroughly doused. I felt that pitiful child’s wriggly bottom tense. Yet the anticipated flood did not materialize and there was no discreet summoning of the janitor during morning recess.
I had longed for higher things. To be a page in a novel, a gripping mystery, or at least a love letter. Instead I was a lowly forged note, a bad forgery at that, clenched in a girl’s moist hand, then thrust at the teacher as if I were radioactive.
One nice thing did happen. After the final bell, the teacher smoothed me flat and inserted me beneath plastic, in a binder along with other bits of memorabilia she’d collected over the years. As her soft, capable hands unkinked my wrinkles, she smiled and chuckled at what was written on my skin and I thought that perhaps I hadn’t been so poorly-used after all.
Dorothy Rice is the author of the memoirs GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK (Otis Books, June 2019) and THE RELUCTANT ARTIST (Shanti Arts, 2015). Her personal essays and fiction have been published in journals and magazines including The Rumpus, Brain Child Magazine and Hippocampus. After raising five children and retiring from a career managing statewide environmental protection programs, Rice earned an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, Palm Desert, at 60. She also works for 916 Ink, a Sacramento youth literacy nonprofit. You can find Dorothy at dorothyriceauthor.com, and on twitter at @dorothyrowena.