Student Sample: Personal Writing

Michael Clark

Professor Jack Rawlins


I remember he used to take forever in the bathroom. Some mornings I could get up, eat breakfast, get ready for school, and leave without ever seeing him. I'd hear him, though: coughing, spitting, and gagging himself. Anyone else hearing him in the morning would probably think he was going to die. But he had always done that, and I figured it was just the way all grown men got up in the morning.

When he came home in the evenings you could tell he was glad not to be at work any more. It was always best not to ask him questions about anything or make any kind of noise. Mom would ask him a couple of things while she was fixing dinner. He'd answer her. Otherwise he'd just sit at the dining room table with his martini, reading the newspaper.

At dinner, Mom would make most of the conversation. He generally reserved his participation for when we kids got too lighthearted or proud or disrespectful or something and needed trampling.

When I played in Little League, he'd drive me. The Conservation Club was next to the park. He'd hang out there until practice was over. Once he ambled over a little early. He interrupted the coach and insisted on explaining the infield fly rule—not just once but three times. He'd have gone on like a broken record if the coach hadn't stopped him and thanked him and quickly dismissed the team.

I always hated riding home with him after he'd been at the Club. Winter was the worst. We'd take our trash to the town dump. The dump was also right next to the park, so naturally we'd stop in at the Club. We'd always stay past dark. On the way home I always wanted to tell him you shouldn't drive so fast on a day's accumulation of ice and snow, but I never did. The couple of times we slid off the road didn't convince him. He'd just rock the car out, get back on the road, and drive on as if nothing had happened.

As time went on, he'd come home later and later in the evenings. Often he'd come through the door all red-faced and walk straight into the bedroom, where we'd hear him moan a little and talk to the dog. Then he'd pass out and we wouldn't see him again until he came home the same way the next evening.

With my brother in the Army and my sister at college, I was the only one around to see that Mom was spending her nights on the living room couch. Though it didn't surprise me, the divorce came as kind of a blow.

I've seen him a couple of times since then. He's remarried. I think I called him last Thanksgiving.

Rawlins, Jack. The Writer's Way. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.