Miss Picone. Indian Valley Junior High School. Ninth grade.
My first class of every day was English with Miss Picone, and as fate would have it, she was also the teacher of my second class, Spanish. There was one other student that received the same awkward schedule as me, and that was Tony J, who would go on to become my best friend, but more on that later. I couldn’t believe I had to start every day with two classes by the same teacher. I was not looking forward to it.
Miss Picone was somewhat feared. She was overweight and some students referred to her as one of the meanest teachers at the school. Sometimes they teased her about her weight, but never in front of her. They also called her “Miss Pine Cone.” I have to say that sometimes she was a tough teacher, but she never let a student cruise through her class, and was never mean. She was one of the kindest people I ever met, and I always look back at her as the best teacher I ever had. Miss Picone ran her English class with creative writing exercises, and this was my first real opportunity to put my ideas on paper. We kept a daily journal and she often had us write entries that she called "streams of consciousness.”
After a few weeks, my double stacked schedule with Miss Picone was the highlight of my day. She was the first teacher to show interest in my writing. It started with the journal entries and continued with larger exercises. For one assignment, she instructed us to write a short story about anything, so I wrote a piece called Paperboy. Not only did I get an A+ as a grade, she read my story out loud to the class - twice. I wasn’t used to that kind of attention, but it made me want to write more and more.
Miss Picone inspired me in a way that changed my life forever. During my first year of college, I stopped by her classroom at the end of a random school day and surprised her with a visit. I gave Miss Picone a copy of my first screenplay and thanked her for the support she gave me as my teacher. She began to cry and said I didn't know how much that meant to her. I would go on to visit her many more times, until one day, a substitute teacher was in her room. I found out she became very sick and passed away.
When I went looking through an old yearbook for her picture, I found this note she wrote to me, in Spanish, from 1988. Thank you, Miss Picone. I think of you often. This is the book you spoke of in your note.
Here is the original short story I wrote for her English class titled Paperboy:
My name is Johnny Schmid. I had just "inherited" my neighbor's paper route for two weeks while the true owner of it, Pete Leonard, relaxed on the sandy beaches somewhere on the eastern coast of Florida. The pay was twenty-five dollars per week and the paper was to be delivered every day. In order to display to Pete the difficulty of completing this task, I have written the following, which is an account of how smoothly each day had gone.
The first day of my paper delivering career went fantastic. The immense bundle of forty-seven papers were piled onto my front porch. I folded them and carefully stacked them in Pete's paper bag. I had some trouble riding my ten-speed bicycle with a bulky bag by my side at first, but I got used to swaying side to side, swerving into the road and getting beeped at by every car that passed me. I delivered to all the houses on the list which are scattered throughout two roads and an apartment complex.
Today I learned my first lesson in why papers shouldn't be thrown. First, I lost control of my arm and slung a paper straight at an elderly man, who was lounging on a beat-up chair on his porch. He didn't see it coming, it slammed into his forehead and he rolled over. An ambulance was called by a feisty woman across the street who witnessed the incident. He was conscious by the time it arrived and there was nothing wrong with him. I apologized for the situation and handed him the paper. It was getting late and dark, so I really had to hustle through. I was in such a hurry that the strength of my arm had increased a great deal and I was beginning to throw the papers harder, faster and farther. I first noticed this when my ear was pierced by the shattering of a window. Nobody was home, so I pedaled down the road, all red and shaking.
My pay of fifty dollars at the end of the two weeks was suddenly decreased to twenty dollars. I became aware of this when I received a complaint along with a slip of paper reading, "minus thirty dollars off pay for broken window" which was stuck in my bundle of papers. Besides this, the day went okay.
DAY 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8
This seemed, to me, the first time it ever rained for five consecutive days. This meant it was time to get out the plastic baggies that Pete gave to me for rainy days. It started to rain after I delivered the papers on day four. There was no sign in the sky that there would be a thunderstorm. I got many complaints on day five and another slip reading, "minus five dollars for soggy papers.”
Today was the worst day yet. After resolving to stepping off my bicycle and setting the paper at front doors, I was targeted by a drooling, full grown German Shepherd lunging at me. I ran through gardens, bushes and high grass until I came to an unlocked cellar door somewhere down the street. I slung it open and darted inside while losing my balance, and the door slammed behind me. I tumbled down the stairs and forced a locked door open which triggered a burglar alarm to go off. I immediately stood up in shock and in pain as a flashing red light and roaring siren went off. The police came to my rescue and understood what had happened as well as the owners of the house did. I returned to the house of the dog only to find that my bicycle had been stolen and I now had to deliver approximately thirty chewed up papers in a torn apart bag. I kept myself from crying, but a single tear fell down my cheek out of anger.
I was now walking the paper route while delivering in a large Glad trash bag. Today I also received another "minus five dollars for ripped papers" and I am now down to earning ten dollars. Today I delivered backwards by starting at the top of one of the four story buildings. I couldn't bear to carry the heavy load of papers up the stairs, so I took one paper, set the trash bag down and made my way up the stairs. When I came back down, I started to become dizzy and light headed, for my Glad trash bag full of papers had vanished. I slowly stepped outside to see a garbage truck pull out of the parking lot.
DAY 11, 12, and 13
My mom did the paper route in her car the next three days while I stayed home with every symptom of the flu and common cold. She handed me a pile of complaints which I had no desire to look at and a slip reading "minus ten dollars for not delivering forty-six papers.” I got nausea just at the sight of it. Now, instead of receiving fifty dollars, I owe the company five dollars.
I was feeling better, but my mom drove me around just in case I should feel sick to my stomach. It was easier and I refused to collect the money from the customers. I left that for Pete. Besides, why would I have the desire to collect the money when I was already out five bucks?
(Day 15 should not be listed here because Pete Leonard has returned from Florida, but I find it unique to make this day notable).
I gave Pete back his torn apart paper route bag, the remaining four plastic baggies, the list he gave me and a black eye.
It is important for me to mention that the last line of the short story is the original ending. When I talked about sending it out to magazines, Miss Picone suggested that I change the ending from a “black eye” to “an IOU for five dollars.”
This arcade game definitely had an influence on my short story: