Here is a short story I wrote for my writing class that is loosely based on a Mark Twain speech.

“Gertrude!” a woman yelled up the stairs to her young daughter. A pudgy, young girl of short stature bounded down the stairs, taking each one as if falling from the one before. Her short brown hair waved around her head like swings on a carousel. Prior to her mother’s calling, she was stuffing her face full of sweets in the family’s attic. She had been doing this because she knew what day it was and that she would not have access to her much-craved chocolates for the rest of the day. This was the day that her mother had talked with much excitement about weeks ago. The whole family was going to attend a speech by Mark Twain. Gertrude hated Mark Twain and all his writing with the same passion that she reserved solely for chocolate, especially chocolate-covered marshmallows, of which she was rarely able to partake.

Gertrude’s sister, Liesel, who was always reading boring books with horrendous covers, had paid her in chocolate to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and she had regretted giving it a try ever since then. “Chocolate dissolves in one’s mouth and is gone, but words often stick in the mind forever,” she said bitterly to her sister, months after reading the book. In addition to this, she realized her sister’s chocolate was not hidden in a very good location, and the dog was too easy to blame. She stopped reading the book that day.

When they arrived at the place where Mark Twain was scheduled to speak,  Gertrude was huffing and puffing to herself about how she didn’t like authors; she didn’t like speeches, and she really wished she had secretly stayed home and raided her mother’s chocolate cabinet. Gertrude was a simple girl; she liked chocolate and dreaming about how she could get out of school assignments. She did not like speeches; she did not like books, and she did not like Mark Twain.

All of these troublesome thoughts came to an end as Mark Twain addressed the first point of his speech, saying, “Always obey your parents, when they are present.” This sounded delightful to Gertrude. All of her life, she had been told to obey, obey, obey, always and without question. “Don’t eat too much chocolate,” her superiors would say. “Respect adults,” they would advise. “Stop chewing on the corner of that book,” her mother had told her in one particular instance. Now… this idea that Twain was purporting made so much sense to her! Why would anyone obey their parents all the time? Surely it was more fun to do as you wish, eat chocolate as you may, and say whatever you like to teachers, rather than march around and be good.

Mark Twain continued to catch her attention, “If a person offends you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch for your chance and hit him with a brick.” For days, Gertrude had agonized over how to address what her friend, Patrick, had said to her, “I don’t want to play with you right now.” He wasn’t really that mean, but Gertrude was offended, and she needed a way to let him know. This suggestion from Mark Twain was perfect; she could wait for Patrick where he always went to read after school and drop the brick upon his head! This way, perhaps he would realize they weren’t on the best of terms, and then they would be able to talk about it.

The end to his wisdom had not come, and Gertrude listened more intently than she had ever listened to anything in her life. “Be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught.” Suddenly, Gertrude made the decision to lie only when she was absolutely sure that no one could find out. She had to build trust with people and be honest when she had stolen various goodies out of their cupboards so that when she desired to succeed in larger chocolate heists, they would not suspect her.

On the ride home, Gertrude could not stop thinking about all her plans, and how much Mark Twain’s words meant to her. Nevertheless, she would never read any more by him, because she hated his writing.

The next day, her mother asked her to dust the dining room, which would have been well and good had her mother stuck around to see her do it. Gertrude decided to walk to the park instead.  The walk was not too long, and the birds sweetly singing in the trees were not too great a burden on her ear. As she approached, she noticed her friend, Patrick, swinging slowly on a swing set near the large oak tree he always read next to. She soon realized it was a perfect moment to enact her plan. Swiftly, she looked around for a brick but then decided a rock would do. Slowly and quietly, she crept over to him. He was singing to himself and didn’t notice her. A few steps closer, and then, before she could convince herself to do otherwise, she flung the rock at him and ran away. The next time she asked him to play with her, he probably would. Of course, Patrick never knew who threw the rock at him, because the pain was too great for him to open his eyes and get up off the ground to see.

When she got home, her mother stood at the door waiting for her, a judgmental scowl on her face. This was problematic, for Gertrude had not realized her mother would be back so soon. “Where have you been, young lady, and why have you not dusted the dining room?” her mother yelled.

Gertrude thought for a moment, then remembered a good tool she had acquired from the speech that day. “Just after you left, a young girl, much younger than I knocked at the door and said her mother needed assistance, and I ran and helped them,” she told her mother.

“And which way did you go?”

“It was a new way I’ve never been, and we went so quickly, I didn’t really keep track…”

“I see,” her mother answered.

“So, I was able to help them, and I came back as soon as I could,” Gertrude explained.

“Well, go and dust the dining room before supper,” Mother instructed, and Gertrude quietly complied.

Throughout the following days, she continued in the academy of lying, revenge, and quiet disobedience. Just as Mark Twain had promised, she soon realized she had developed a moral code with much resemblance to those around her. She was still determined to never read anything written by Twain, even if she were paid all the chocolate of the world, but she would forever treasure his wise words for living given in his speech.

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  1. The speech that this is based on is one of my favorite speeches in the world. Mark Twain is one of my heroes, though perhaps not the best role model in the world. 😛 nice post!