Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Detective Work

After reading books like Peggy Parish's Clues in the Woods, I too wanted to become a child sleuth. So in third grade, I started up my own (perhaps slightly unwelcome) detective business. The following are some case notes from my Detective Notebook. The same notebook was used to track the testicular destruction reaped by the USA Crushers, to record my friends' vital statistics for matchmaking purposes, and to keep track of homework assignments. All very top secret.

The first page is blank except for Detective written across the top.

The second page contains a drawing of a girl with two right hands who's about to perish of ennui, or—even more likely—be smothered to death by her own hair:

Page three finally brings us to our first case:


I was so excited about my big case that I momentarily forgot how to spell detective!

Indian Pencil

Someone's Cleveland Indians pencil had gone missing, and I was determined to find the criminal mastermind behind it!



I believe the checkmarks denote Sherron and Hesham as my prime suspects.

Sherron liked it.
Had one
Sits near

Sherron is the theif
Witnesses: Aja

I remember we confronted Sherron about the pencil and forced her to give it back. Did I ever stop to think that there could possibly be two people with Indians pencils? Clearly not, because mystery solved! On to the next case!

Oh, except that page four features a lovely mountainous landscape:

On the fifth page, we're back in crime-solving business.

Jessica's slide for microscope is gone



Holy crap! Everyone's a suspect!


Ryan kept looking at Jessica and the slide. Jessica looked at teacher. Had to take it? Why? Tell all rooms it is gone. Good Idea! Dena went to bin a few times.

Why would someone feel the need to steal a microscope slide? That's an excellent question—and one that never gets answered, as the final outcome was:

Found by Ty's seat in L.A. by

Note how even though it's obvious that Jessica accidentally dropped the slide at some point during Language Arts, I'm still highly suspicious of both Ty and Ché. A detective can never let her guard down!

Page six is blank, but pages seven and eight contain "notes." Although I'm still slightly concerned with wrongdoing on page seven, by page eight the whole thing has disintegrated into gossip and catty remarks.


Shonda took chalk from Tacie's desk.

Aaron thinks his pink and blue markers have been stolen. Scissors too.

Ryan has Katie K's pencil.

Someone broke Latonya's pencil.

Jessica's slide is gone. p. 5

Sherron, Sarah B, and Casey are writing a story.

Ryan is always with Kami.

Dena is being nosey.

Mrs. Turner
[our lunch monitor!] is nosey.

Nathan J. is always talking.

Matt should do his work.

It was only natural that all of this real-life investigative work would have an influence on my writing. I give you Exhibit A, the following short story written when I was in fourth grade. It boasts an unflagging commitment to realism not glimpsed in my other works. Unfortunately, it also means the story totally sucks.

Lisa's Adventure of the Missing Ballet Shoe

Note how it's deemed an "adventure," not a mystery. I would actually argue that it's neither, but I will concur that there is absolutely NO mystery involved here.

Hi! My name is Lisa Bartet. This is my story.....

The phone rang! I picked it.
[Note: I'm assuming it should say "I picked it up," but it really does just say "I picked it."] "Hi."

"Hey, Lisa, it's me." It was Daphne.

"Hey, Daffy Duck!" I answered.

"Ha ha! You'll never believe what happened in ballet class. I lost my ballet shoe! I have to have it by tomorrow for my next class. Can our team find it? I mean I know we can find it. But by tomorrow... I'm not so sure!"

That's right, the big "mystery" surrounds a misplaced shoe. And it takes an entire team to track it down.

"Sure, Daf, we'll do it. Let's see, it's 3:00. O.K. I've got it. I'll meet you and the rest of the gang at your house in 15 minutes, O.K.?"

"Sure, Lisa. See ya! In 15 minutes!"

We met at Daf's house. We being: (Me) Lisa, Daphne, Janis, Cici, Patty, John, and Ted.

"O.K. guys, let's search the house!" said Janis.
"All right!" agreed Cici and Ted. (They are sister and brother) "I'm not so sure!" said Daf.
"Aw. Come on, Daf-knee!" urged Patty.
"Yeah. I mean just because it's your house doesn't mean we can't investigate!" cried John.
"Don't get any ideas!" shouted Daf.

She seems to think Ted and John are dying to rifle through her underpants.

We ended up looking around.

"Found IT!" called Janis. We rushed over.
"Oh! Why, it's the one I already have!" said Daf.

Shouldn't she have shown that to "the team" earlier so they'd know what they're looking for? Hacks.

"It's 4 o'clock." I said. "Let's check the 'Ballet Room!'"
"Yeah!" everyone agreed.

So, we went to the 'Ballet Room'.

"Is this it?" called Ted.
"No." replied Daf. "it's Jenny Sawyer's. My feet aren't that big!"
"Is THIS it?" called Patty in her oriental accent.

This story is not only devoid of mystery, it's also racist. Great!

Daf shook her head. "Looks more like the preschool class. 3 or 4 sizes too small!"
"What about this?" screamed John. "What about this?"
"Hmmm. Let's see." Daf tried it on. "Oui! I fits! It's mine!" Daf knows some french.

I seemed to think that my minimal knowledge of the French language might make up for how utterly anticlimactic this story is.

"I KNEW WE COULD SOLVE IT!" everyone yelled.


SOLVE it? If finding misplaced items of clothing is considered detective work, then slap a badge on me right now. Why just the other day, as I was folding my laundry, I noticed one sock was missing its match—and I returned to the laundry room to find it on the floor outside the dryer. Check me out, guys! I'm adventurous as fuck!

NEXT TIME: We'll travel to the Land of Lost Books, where all of my brilliant storylines that never came to fruition live.


Anonymous said...

My dream was to become a detective! That sizzled because there were no mysteries and I was not brave like you to confront people.
I think my first book I wrote for fun was a detectives story.

If this is a detective work well done, I must be one of the best detectives in my city. I've been solving mysteries without knowing it.

carey said...

i always wanted to write mysteries but could never quite figure out how to do it. i actually wrote one of my own about missing ballet shoes, but i never made it past the second or third chapter.

my detective clubs never had any interesting mysteries to solve. all of those notebooks are long gone, but i still remember exciting cases like "why does the librarian lick her finger before she turns the pages in a book?" and "why did my uncle leave the radio on?" fascinating stuff.

AC said...

My very first play (written circa second grade) was called "Triple Detectives" and ripped off a Nancy Drew book about...supermodels, I think?

I was also obsessed with Harriet the Spy and carried a "Spy Notebook" like hers filled with catty observations like "Ashley is acting like a Lady Hitler."

zanne said...

That is cute. I always loved reading mysteries but I don't think I ever tried to write one. Actually, back in elementary school, the biggest mysteries probably were missing pencils and ballet shoes! ha