Dave had gone forth invigorated, ready to transform the young writers of today into the crusading postmodern figures his old professors lauded. That phase of his career had lasted two weeks. Two years later, Dave counted himself lucky if his students wrote in readable English, and his tongue was red and swollen from biting back the urge to tear into the kids and rip their work to shreds.

This is not to say that Dave thought there were no good writers, that the young generation lacked artists of the caliber needed to belt out fine prose in the tradition of Faulkner or Hemingway. It’s just that those people did not take writing courses. Over the years, Dave had found that most of his students conformed to a few archetypes, all of which were represented in his current group.

For example, some see the writing workshop for what it really is: a captive audience. These are the kinds of people whose friends and loved ones have long since developed defense mechanisms to deflect or escape, things like faking death of feigning illiteracy. Lucy fell squarely in this category: in every way except her considerable girth she looked like a refugee from a Tim Burton drawing, and she loved nothing more than inflicting bad emo poetry on her classmates (this despite the fact that it was explicitly a prose class).

“My piece is called Better Off Dead,” Lucy said. “It’s a commentary on the crushing despair that infests every hollow moment of modern life.”

“Wonderful,” Dave said. The idea that Lucy might need professional help had occurred to him more than once, until he had seen the folder the girl used for her writings–a Lisa Frank piece featuring a pastel unicorn flying through space with a pod of smiling dolphins.