June 12, 2010
Dune Harrison walked into the 7th grade history classroom, taking a seat in the back. He sat there regularly, always afraid to sit in the front for having more of a chance to be called on.

The bell rang, and Mrs. Brown - a small old woman with gray hair and wrinkles - walked in. She was usually nice, but sometimes could be mean and annoying in Dune’s opinion – as she was doing now.

“Dune,” she said in her unsteady voice. “What is the name of the second state to be founded?” The question was simple. The class had spent the last week learning about the fifty states and their capitols. Yet, Dune didn’t know, and answered “Um…Vermont?”

The other students laughed. It was like an everyday routine for them. Everyone had already memorized all the states founding orders, and most of the capitols – all except for Dune. It wasn’t that he was dumb, it was just that something did not click in his mind. If Dune tried, he could actually be smart and not idiotic like his classmates said he was. Sadly, he didn’t seem to realize that.

“No Dune,” Mrs. Brown said with a sigh. “The correct answer is Pennsylvania.” Dune stared back blankly, spending the rest of the class period carving his name into the desk with a pencil. Already you could find his name carved into many back desks at Cloud Borough Middle School.

The rest of the day remained uneventful, except for the occasional wrong answer and the laugh that followed afterwards. Dune felt angry inside. It was the same thing repeatedly, always being teased and laughed at. No one else was laughed at if they missed a question. It had been like that for years, and he felt as if he was about to snap!

Dune walked home solemnly. It was still September; the beginning of the school year, and so far it wasn’t working out so well. He couldn’t concentrate. There was already enough problems going on at home for him.

Home – the very word was almost as dreadful as school was. A few years ago, his mother filed for divorce due to his dad being an alcoholic and drug addict, as well as abusive. Since then, his mother has been working three jobs. She is never home so his grandma, whom is very sick, lives with Dune. He takes care of her, as well as the apartment where they live, located in a rundown plaza. It was very dirty, and there was hardly any food in the house.

Dune unlocked the front door, stepping inside to his kitchen/living room area. After checking on his grandma who was sleeping, he started his homework. After a while, he started to lose concentration, and put random answers down while staring at the falling plaster on the ceiling, worrying. Everything felt wrong to him.

As he sat there, he remembered Mrs. Brown saying that she was going out of town for a day. There would be a substitute teacher called Mr. Howard. Dune went to bed that night hoping he wouldn’t be called on in the morning…

Dune walked into history class the next morning taking his usual seat. Mr. Howard sat at the front desk, looking over some papers. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, wore glasses, and was very tall. He also seemed to be clever, but Dune wasn’t sure. Aren’t all teachers clever, he thought?

Class began with Mr. Howard introducing himself.

“Good morning all! What a wonderful morning it is too. For those of you who don’t know my name, I am Mr. Howard.”

“Good Morning Mr. Howard,” said the class simultaneously.

He taught the material that was left for him very well. Dune liked him, especially since he didn’t call on him. That was… until the end of class!

“Dune,” he said. “What is the capitol of New Mexico?”


“Incorrect! That is the capitol of Texas. New Mexico is Albuquerque. You were close though,” he replied.

Then the laugh came. Mr. Howard stared with a frustrated look creasing at his brow. Dune wondered if he was going to do something to embarrass him, like a speech about the laughter.

“Excuse me class,” he said. “Why are you laughing? I find it inappropriate.”

Here we go, thought Dune.

One of the braver kids in the front said, “Oh that’s just Dune. He can’t answer one question right, so we always laugh at him. It’s sort of an everyday thing.”

Mr. Howard actually looked angry. Dune wondered why. It was like he knew exactly what was happening, as if he was recalling it from a past experience. Meanwhile, Dune sat as low as he could go in his seat, trying to disappear.

“Children, that is not nice at all. I prefer that you do not laugh again. I have always said that everyone is smart. In fact, every one of you are. Not one person alive in this world today is dumb. You can’t be dumb until your dead.”

His words rang in Dune’s ears. They actually made sense, and it seemed they made sense to the other students as well. He didn’t feel so embarrassed anymore, so he sat up straight again. Mr. Howard looked at him with a very concerned expression. “Now class, where were we,” he said. He acted as if nothing ever happened, and continued with what he was teaching.

That was the last time Dune saw Mr. Howard. He glanced at Dune with an encouraging look as he exited the class. Even though Mr. Howard had only said a short little speech, it had great effect.

After that, everything actually started to get better for Dune. It started out slowly, but it happened. He went from getting E’s to D’s, then to C’s and B’s and finally after about two months, A’s. In fact, his entire life seemed to get better. His grandma was no longer sick; his mother got a new job that paid well, and quit the other three jobs. She actually was able to be home now.

It seemed as if the cord in Dune’s brain had been struck. He thought positive, and maintained a good mindset. He excelled, and eventually went on to becoming a doctor. However, in all of his life, Dune Harrison never forgot Mr. Howard and his short little speech, or the one line that changed everything:

“You’re not dumb until your dead!”

Join the Discussion

This article has 11 comments. Post your own now!

KK2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 9:15 am

Interesting, a little trite, but interesting.

You appear to have a problem with tense though, because it went back and forth from past to present and back again.

Also, I don't think that you should have had Dune remember that he was coming, you should have had the teacher say that Mr H was coming in class the day before.


i.ll_be_fine_899 said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm
:) that was a really good story!! i applaud. it was very very well-written too
katie-cat said...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm
I liked this.  While I was reading it I was thinking, "This is pretty good, why did it only get a merit?"  It must be really hard to get a gold, because I thought this one was pretty good, actually.  Sometimes some of my stuff that I've written I absolutely hate and despise and people think that it's really good.  Example: if you go to a certain someone's Teenink page one of their favorite stories is entitled the "Monty and Evelyn" story.  I wrote it in seventh grade and... (more »)
jaredwriter19 replied...
Jun. 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm
lol thanks :)
gymbabe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm
This was very nice, no grammar mistakes that I could find(which was refreshing), very well-written.  Will you check out the pieces I've posted of the novel I'm actually working on and comment?  I just want to know what people think of it.
jaredwriter19 replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm
Thanks - this story wasn't a particular fav of mine, but I'm glad you liked it! I sure will! I also commented on Julia - that novel should be your next project after your current one :)
gymbabe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm
Yeah, I'm very interested in that one.  I have several ideas for novels running around in my head, but after I finish the one I'm working on, that'll be the one I start.  I just don't want to do two at once, it would be confusing, and since I've already gone very far in my current novel, I'm determined to finish it.
jaredwriter19 replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm
Yeah, I'm in a similar situation as you so I understand. Me and my friend just finished a novel which I'm currently in the process of editing and rewriting while at the same time I'm still working on another novel that I've been working on for 2 1/2 years! Not to mention I have about 30 pages of a 3rd novel...very overwhelming! Deffinately finish the one your currently writing because it's really good. :)
gymbabe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Thank you!  It's nice to have someone besides my friends and family tell me my writing is good.  They'll say it's amazing even if it's crap just to spare my feelings.
DancerBabe said...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm
That was great! I'm enjoying your stories very much!
jaredwriter19 replied...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 7:55 pm
Thanks again! I'm glad you're enjoying them, :)
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback