12+ "Roses are red, violets are blue, I spend my day, thinking of you."
Davey reviewed the poem in his exercise book. "Thinking" is what you did at school. It wasn't romantic enough to attempt Mission Impossible with the girl of his dreams.
That's it! "I spend my day, dreaming of you."
Davey sighed. "Dreaming" sounded soppy. Did the poets they studied in English struggle like this?
The "girl of his dreams", Harper, was new to the school. She was pretty and always one of the first to raise a hand to answer the teacher's questions. Unlike the class brainiac, Elizabeth, who competed with her for first-hand-up, Harper was popular with other girls. And all the boys had a crush on her, especially Davey.
He crossed out his ending and wrote, "I spend my day, longing for you." Davey flushed red and carefully tore out the page, crumpling it into his pocket. That line was too embarrassing.
Davey hadn't been interested in girls before this year. But returning to school after the long summer holidays, he noticed girls in his class had developed breasts. Davey tried hard not to think about them because if he did, he felt stirrings within that were pleasant and unsettling.
Boys and girls in his class had also started "going out" and holding hands at school until the headmaster gave a stern talk at assembly. Davey felt more stirrings when he thought about "going out" with girls, and these grew stronger after Harper arrived. Finally, he'd plucked up the courage to invite her to the annual Fair on the weekend.
But rather than ask Harper in the playground, Davey had decided to write a poem. He'd won a prize for Creative Writing and thought poetry couldn't be that hard. Davey sighed and tried again.
"Roses are red, violets are blue, I'd really like to go to the Fair with you." Yes, he'd found the right words! Davey tore out the page and folded it.
Passing notes in class was a time-honoured communication method. You handed it to the kid beside you, whispering the recipient's name, and they passed it on, repeating the recipient and sender's names without reading the contents. But Davey had forgotten about Max, sitting in front of Harper.
Max greeted smaller boys like Davey in the morning with a punch on the arm. Now Davey watched in horror as Max opened and read his note. And then, instead of passing it on to Harper, Max smirked and passed it to ... Elizabeth!
Share and showcase your writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — as a Guest Writer on Tall And True.
Davey slid down in his seat and burned bright red when Elizabeth read his note. But he needn't have worried. Because they had a fun day at the Fair, and crashing into Harper and Max in the bumper cars was a highlight worth the punch on his arm.
And after walking Elizabeth home, when she kissed him on the cheek, Davey felt a surge of pleasant stirrings. And he promised to ask her out again and to write a better poem.
© 2023 Robert Fairhead
A Better Poem was my July 2023 short story entry for the Australian Writer's Centre's Furious Fiction monthly writing challenge. The brief for July was:
- Each story had to include a CHILD (16 or younger) as its main character
- The first sentence had to contain two colours
- And the story had to use the words BUMPER, PRIZE and IMPOSSIBLE.
The beginning of the first line, "Roses are red, violets are blue", popped into my head almost immediately, satisfying the second item in the brief. The the childish poetry and the need for a young protagonist transported me back to my awkward pre- and early teenage years when I discovered girls and passed notes in class.
So once again, I drew on my memories and imagination to write this story, which I'm proud to say was longlisted for Furious Fiction July!
A couple of other points of interest:
- The title was initially "Stirrings" until I changed the last sentence on a final edit, ending with Davey's promise to ask Elizabeth out again and "to write a better poem". A light bulb went off in my head, and I retitled the story, A Better Poem.
- The story I submitted to Furious Fiction was missing a word in a key sentence (despite dozens of proofreads AND using the Grammarly app!): "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'd really like to go the Fair with you." Did you spot it? It should be "... I'd really like to go to the Fair with you."
Of course, I spotted the missing "to" the next day! Oh well, I'll follow a friend and fellow writer's advice in future and use a pencil to point at every word as I read them aloud.
Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.
Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.