Red Pen Rebel

April 10th is my good friend Michaeleen’s birthday. She was killed in a car accident almost 20 years ago, but I still miss her. We became friends in Grade 3, and remained good friends up until her death at the way too young age of 21 (2 months shy of turning 22). 

Interestingly enough, in my dreams, she hasn’t remained the age she was when she died. She got older, married, and the last time I dreamed about her she had been working as a writer for the CBC. I know that’s a little weird, but I have found it comforting throughout the years.

If she had lived, I’m sure she would have been a writer of some renown by now. She had just had her first published piece in her college writing collection and she was planning to do more classes in creative writing. When we were in high school we were in different classes and often would spend a boring class writing a note to the other, which we would then exchange in the hallways as we changed classes. It was entertaining and a great way to prevent oneself from falling asleep in history class. I kept all her notes to me because, well I’m sentimental that way, and her writing even at the tender age of 16 was so good. And here I share with you one of her masterpieces (I want you to remember back to high school when one had to use blue pen (not black) in English and pencil (not pen) in Math. Ah, the years of petty rules.

To Cluck [ed note: my nickname was Cluck, hers was Muck, as in MuckCluck, get it?]

This is a terrorist threat. If you don’t hand over $1,000,000 you will be sorry. Put the money in an unmarked lunch bag and place it in Rm 21 on the third desk in the row closest to the window. (I realize you must be tired after that sentence, but do it anyway.) If the money isn’t in my possession by lunch time tomorrow life will become very difficult for you. Your Snap album will mysteriously disappear. Your ghetto blaster will be set in front of a herd of raging elephants. And you might as well say good-bye to FRED [ed note: Fred was my large stuffed duck which was something of an ongoing inside joke]. Even I’m too squeamish to tell you what will happen to him. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. These directions had better be followed OR ELSE.

Love always,

The Mafia

Life is tough eh Cluck? [ed note: you know we’re Canadian right?] Oh well, don’t work. You have to logically list your problems and then solve them. What could possibly be wrong with your life beside Xavier [Ed note, boy I had a crush on, not his real name], school, and a terrorist threat. Look, see it’s not so bad.

Instant and automatic change to pen to make your world a little more blue. Not blue in the sense of feeling but blue in the sense of colour. Since everything in this school is blue [ed note: Catholic girls’ school with Navy Blue uniforms] the pen might as well be too.


Well back to the same, old, boring blue pen. A b rebellion can only last for so long.


Well, must go. The bell.

Love Muck,


See what I mean? That was written with only one scratch out–she had started to spell rebellion with a b.

I love the idea of the red pen rebel. On the surface so nice and polite, acquiescent and compliant. And then very quietly doing your own thing anyway. ‘Cause sometimes the rules are stupid.

So, here’s to you my Red Pen Rebel. I miss you.

Tell me about your Red Pen Rebel friends, or perhaps some of your own red pen rebellions. Or just let me know that you too want to sign up to be a red pen rebel. Maybe we can start a little movement in her honour.

About Tentative Equinox North

Theatremaker, Homemaker, Thoughtmaker. Great hair, Probably looking forward to my next nap.
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3 Responses to Red Pen Rebel

  1. Nicole says:

    Thanks. That note was classic Michaeleen. Made me cry. I miss her too. It’s funny. In my dreams she is still 21, never changing (and I am usually 21 with her). But in my daily life I see her everywhere in women of different ages. I will look at them and think “I bet Michaeleen would have looked a lot like that if she had lived to 50 (or 30, or 80. I wish she had lived to be 80).

  2. Colleen says:

    I can hear Michaeleen’s machine gun laugher.

    You made me cry. 20 years. How wonderful that you kept all your notes. Must be a pisces thing. I have all of mine from high school too. None of them are poetic like Michaeleen’s, though.

    I am the worst example of a Red Pen Rebel. Rules are always meant to be followed. It’s what you do. It’s how I was raised. It keeps me in my happy place. It keeps my anxiety in check. It’s the catholic in me.

    In Michaeleen’s honour today, I will write with a red pen in my journal. I will use a red pen with gusto as I write out my lengthy to do list.

    And I will write down one rebellious thing to do today, even though it’s making my stomach hurt. And I will drink a fuzzy navel in her memory.

    Cheers Michaeleen.

  3. Dina says:

    Oh my gosh, that is so weird…….I have been thinking about Michaeleen so much last week because I came across a tape of some demo commercials we did at CKNW/CFMI during our work experience in grade 12. I had no idea it was her birthday.
    Christine thanks so much for sharing and helping me remember our Dear Michaeleen.

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