Prompt: Use these seven words in your story: aptitude, slog, manifest, persnickety, capsule, lovesick, teaspoon.

    As Mr. Sloan slogged through the latest batch of disappointing essays, he wondered how he was ever suppose to inspire the teenagers of his sophomore English class. Their aptitude of finding any means to not do the work amazed him. In his opinion, it took more effort to cheat their way through an essay assignment than it did to manifest the words on their own. He didn’t want to sound so persnickety about their work, but reading paper after paper that lacked personality was starting to take its toll. Arthur was starting to hate his job.    Putting aside the papers that were lulling him to sleep, Arthur rose and escaped to the kitchen. A kettle was put on for tea while Arthur fished out the bottle of Tylenol from the top cabinet. He swallowed down two capsules and pinched the bridge of his nose in anticipation of an oncoming migraine. He had to be doing something wrong in his teachings. There had to be a way he could inspire these kids to at least try and find their own voice. Was he placing too much pressure on the grades, so they didn’t want to take a risk only to be rewarded with a mark of failure? It was never easy accepting a loss, but if they didn’t first try, there would never be room for growth. There wouldn’t be any room for Arthur to teach.
    The kettle whistled, drawing him out of his spiraling thoughts. Arthur poured himself a fresh cup of tea, adding a teaspoon of honey for taste before he returned his desk and the foreboding pile of papers in need of grading. He sat, sipped, and stared at the uninteresting words before him. His eyes refused to focus on the printed words, conspiring with his mind to assure him that it was not worth the read. Arthur closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair and decided to take a short moment to try and enjoy his tea.
    There had to be a way for him to inspire creativity. Trying to get them to read the work of established authors wasn’t going to do him any good. Teenagers felt like they had better things to do with their time than read. They were entirely self-absorbed in their daily life. Arthur tilted his head to the side as he considered that fact. Perhaps he could use their narcissism against them. If he were to make the effort to write a short story about each of them, then turn it around and ask them to either correct it or continue it, maybe he could get honest work from the kids.
    He knew each of his students well enough, from the OCD one in the front, to the joker in the back, and the quiet one lost somewhere to the middle. Over the past months he had come to understand their individual characteristics and their constant struggle to find a place among their peers. He knew their names and by default most of their families because he had grown up with their parents. He had a good memory of his own days in high school and he could add in what their parents were like during those days. No doubt those very parents might have a fit about it, but it did bring a smile to Arthur’s lips.
    Pushing aside the stack of essays, Arthur opened his laptop and set about writing a series of short stories that starred his students. He would start with Kelly, the lovesick girl in the front row..



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