10 minute free-write followed by 20 minute clean-up.
Thirst one in class again, Sarah walked quickly to her desk. It was messy again. Out of the whole sixth grade class, her desk was the only one that threatened to spew and spill all over the unraveling carpet. Well, Sam’s was a wreck, too. Really, Sam's was worse because of the dandruff that scaled his desktop and the floor around his chair. But you wouldn’t expect Sam’s desk to be clean, and so he hardly counted. She thought maybe, you’d expect hers to be clean, and she hoped she counted.
The other kids came in. They wandered around the perimeter of the class like sheep avoiding a stock dog. No one said hello to Sarah. Scooting her chair in until her tummy pressed against the desk, she worked her left hand into its open front in search of her pencil box. It was in the back left corner. She knew this.
But she also knew that to avoid death by mortification - the sure side effect of anything spilling out of her desk and onto the floor - she would need to navigate a dried river of glue (from when she’d left the Elmer’s on it’s side) that meandered between and under pencil shavings, rubber worms left after fits of erasing, worksheets craggled into themselves, pink felt scraps from last month’s Valentine’s craft, and the curling, darkening rind of an orange her teacher had given her when she’d been too tired to go out to recess again. These were just the things she could remember. She hadn’t had the nerve to look directly into the maw of her desk for weeks.
She had to pull a few papers out in order to get to the box. They balanced on her lap except for one rumpled piece of blue construction paper that fell down next to her shoe. She took out her pencil and eraser, shoved the pencil box back into its corner and crammed the contents of her lap in after it. She kept her head above the desk and faced forward while her hand darted down to pick up the rogue blue paper and poke it back into place. This head-forward/stretch-down move seemed like the least obtrusive position to take while squirreling away her shame.