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Not a Chance / Mark Rogers

Illustration by Mark Rogers

I think a teacher can sometimes take a visceral dislike to a student. As a freshman in high school, I had an English teacher, an old woman named Mrs. Phillips who looked to be past retirement age. She gave us an assignment to write a short story.


At that time, I was steeped in the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs: Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars, At the Earth’s Core. I’d been a heavy reader since I was six—my second-grade teacher wrote on one of my report cards: “Mark is a good student but he reads too much.”


So, I sat down and wrote a story about a sailor castaway adrift in a rowboat. At the time, my mother worked as a clerk in a hospital and she typed it up for me. I handed the story in and a day later Mrs. Phillips handed it back, saying, “You didn’t write this story. Do you know what plagiarism is? It’s a serious offense.”


I told her I wrote the story.


She shook her head. “You didn’t write this story.”


A week later was parents’ night and Mrs. Phillips made a point of telling my parents I had lied about my assignment. I think my mother and father made a feeble defense. They knew the story was mine.


A few weeks go by and we’re given the assignment to write a haiku. Mine was:


The warrior wears a cuirass of bronze


He goes into battle




I drew a picture of a warrior—at that time I was also into comics. It was a good drawing but I’m sure the anatomy was insane, with lots of extra muscles.


I handed in the assignment.


Mrs. Phillips handed it back a day later.


“You didn’t draw this.”


This is the story I wrote that my teacher thought was plagiarized:




I woke up in a cold sweat. The nightmare I had been through was horrible in the extreme. The Black Baron of the Seas was about to deliver the death sentence.


“Marooned in a boat with no food or water,” cried the sinister voice.


Then I mercifully woke up.


But what was this? My hand was resting on damp wood. With terrible speculation, I realized I was adrift in a boat. After pinching myself I determined I was awake and quite sane. But I don’t know how sane I shall stay under these conditions.


It has been three days since I’ve been floating around in this accursed boat. One gets tired of eating barnacles and talking to oneself. I think I will end it all. I have extracted a nail from the battered prow of the boat. It shall be the suicide weapon.


As I pierce the skin of my throat and the blood trickles down my chest and stains my shirt, one tortured thought runs again and again through my brain.


How the hell did I get in this boat anyway?


From the memoir in progress, Fort Rosarito






MARK ROGERS is a writer and artist whose literary heroes include Charles Bukowski, Willy Vlautin, and Charles Portis. Rogers lives in Baja California, Mexico with his Sinaloa-born wife, Sofia. His award-winning travel journalism has brought him to 56 countries. His crime novels have been published in the U.S. and UK. Uppercut, his memoir of moving to Mexico, is published by Cowboy Jamboree Press. NeoText publishes his Tijuana Novels series and Gray Hunter series. You can reach him at

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