Some of the classes that Stephanie Starr takes in “Downcast” are actual classes I took at my high school, including European History, and Honors (or rather, A.P.) English.
It was in A.P. English that I first read Jonathan’s Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and Volataire’s “Candide.” These two satires resonated very deeply with me, as I had finally found words that saw the world the way I do – with its beauty, hope, and hypocrisy.
The assignment that came with these books was to write our own satire.
I wrote a piece called “The Quest.” It got an A+++ (I’m not kidding. That’s literally the grade it got).
So, for your satirical enjoyment, here is the masterwork from 17-year-old Cait.
It all began with an innocent quest for the answer to the ultimate question: where can a girl buy a pair of run-free pantyhose?
Honors realized how critical run-free pantyhose are for a first impression and vowed never to rest until she found the answer to this question and freed all woman-kind from the bondage of worrying about their pantyhose running.
For days, Honora tried to think of the answer to the ultimate question, but, alas, she could not find it. She then tried to think of how she could find the answer. She thought for many days and many nights, and finally found a solution.
“I must find a place where there would be people who would know where a girl can buy a pair of run-free pantyhose,” Honora thought to herself.
Being the bright girl she was, Honora sat and pondered until, in a burst of inspiration on the fourth day, she concluded that fashion-sconscious young girls would probably know where to get run-free pantyhose. The inspiration lasted long enough for Honora to realize that young girls are usually found in high schools.
Honors hopped into her car and sped (not literally, she was too honorable to drive faster than the speed limit) to the nearest high school. She walked in determinedly and put her nose in the air. The highly sensitive organ soon caught the smell of heavily fried foods and sugary deserts. Honor’s nose led her straight tot he cafeteria where she found clusters of students anxiously bent over sheets of paper.
“Excuse me,” she said to the nearest table of kids. “Are you students here?”
A student looked up and said scornfully, “We are seniors, not students. Furthermore, we are currently involved in enjoying our high school career, so will you please state your business succinctly or go away.”
Honors was taken aback, but not to be deterred.
“What are you doing?” she asked politely.
All the students looked up at her, each with an expression of absolutely terror and confusion.
“We’re filling gout college applications for colleges that we have to go to, or else our prestige and position in the world will be forever affected negatively!” said a panic-stricken student.
“Oh,” said Honora, not really understanding, “But what will happen if you don’t get in?”
But her question was lost to the students who had returned to filling out their applications.
One student spoke to himself as he checked off boxes on the application.
“National Honor and Sobriety Society President, Spanish Club President-” the boy was interrupted by a girl going for his throat with a her pen, yelling “I’m the Spanish Club President!”
A short, bitter fight ensued which ended quickly because both students killed each other rather efficiently. Four students from the Environmental Club came and took the bodies away for recycling. They gave Honor to understand that this was a fairly common occurrence, and that they had a special bin outside just for senior bodies, and another one for junior body parts (the juniors were not as violent yet; they were just practicing for the real thing).
The scornful student blinked and remarked, “Actually, I’m the Spanish Club President.” He then went back to his work.
Honors pondered this strange turn of events for a few moments, then embarked on another round of questioning.
“What do you put on your college applications?” she asked.
A harried-looking student looked up and said, “Everything we’ve ever done that was important, and if it’s not important, they have classes here that teach you how to make it sound important. For example, I have 16 scholarships, 27 extracurricular activities, two part-time jobs, and I do 10 hours of community service a week.”
Honor was astounded.
The student continued,” I also have a 5.23 GPA out of a 4.0. I have taken all the A.P. Classes there are.”
“What intelligent people these students are!” Honor thought to herself in awe.
“Who wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and what kind of writing is it?” Honors asked. She had always wanted to know about it, but nobody had ever told her. Honor figured that these brilliant students could tell her.
The student looked sagely at her.
“Ahhh, that was a paper I got an ‘A’ on, but I do not remember.”
“Oh dear. Well, can anyone tell me the answer to the ultimate question?” Honor cried.
A girl looked up and said, “If I can, I can put on my application that I answered the ultimate question!”
“Where can a girl find a pair of run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked.
The girl’s face went blank, then she turned back to her application and wrote under awards: “Finalist in contest to answer the ultimate question: Where is it physically and geographically possible/probably to employ capitalistic principles of free market to gain possession of nylon habiliments that are technically designed to resist the destructive action of action.”
Honora realized that she couldn’t find the answer here. Disappointed, but not discouraged, Honora got back in her car and went home to think of where else she could find people who would know where to find run-free pantyhose.
After five days of intensive thinking, Honora came up with an answer.
“Pantyhose are sold in stores, and store clerks have to know about the products they sell,” Honora reasoned, “Therefore, I must go to a store.”
Honors got in her car and sped to the nearest clothing store. The moment she walked in the door, a bevy of salesladies swooped down on her, all smiling, offering assistance.
“What lovely, friendly people!” Honors thought, “Surely I can find the answer here!”
The saleslady with the broadest smile and the most robust offers of help shooed the others away and turned back to Honora.
“Hi, my name is Betty. Can I help you in any way? My job is to make your shopping experience here better and better and better…” the saleslady said, firmly grasping Honora’s arm and propelling her into the middle of the store where Honora could get a complete view of the store.
“I’m looking for the answer to the ultimate question,” Honor said.
“In the great mix-and-match sales rack of life, aren’t we all?” the saleslady replied brightly.
Honors paused then continued, “I was wondering where a girl could get-”
“You can get everything a girl could want right here!” cried the saleslady, enthusiastically flapping her arms to indicate the whole of the store.
“And what’s more,” she continued, “I’m here to make sure you get it in a pleasant and efficient way. I just want to let you know that anything you ask me to do will make me ver, very, very,very happy.”
Honors was delighted. At last, she had found the place where a girl could get a pair of run-free pantyhose.
“Then take me to them!” cried Honora.
The saleslady looked blankly at her.
Honora looked at the saleslady, taken aback.
The saleslady coughed suggestively.
Honora, being the bright girl she was, realized the saleslady didn’t know what she had come for.
“Run-free pantyhose?” Honora said sheepishly.
The saleslady paused a moment, then said cheerfully, “We have everything a girl could want except run-free pantyhose.”
“Don’t they make run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked anxiously.
“Oh, probably not,” replied the saleslady, shrugging, then smiling in a way that would have made most people call for the men in white.
“Why not?” inquired Honora.
“Let me show you the latest in pantyhose technology,” said the saleslady happily, dragging Honora over to the stocking section. The saleslady rifled through packages until she came up with the one she wanted.
“This is the newest pantyhose style,” the salesleady announced, holding up a package of ‘Banes Worry-Free Pantyhose.’
“These pantyhose are specially designed to free women from the threat of getting runs in their pantyhose,” the saleslady explained ebulliently.
“How?” asked Honora.
“Simple,” continued the saleslady jubilantly, “The manufacturers recognized the problem women face each time they wear pantyhose. Since we, the women of the United States of America, in order to form a more stress-free life, demanded worry-free pantyhose, manufacturers made pantyhose with runs already in them. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting runs in your pantyhose because they are already there! Now isn’t that just peachy and marvelous?”
Honora looked dejectedly at the package of run-filled pantyhose and asked, “How much are they?”
“A real bargain!” cried the saleslady, “Only $37.99.”
Honora was shocked. “Why do they cost so much?” she asked.
“Profit, of course. That is the great blessing of the capitalist system! But let me assure you, dear customer, that we here in this store have the lowest prices of anywhere in town. And if we don’t, and you can prove it to us, we will all happily commit suicide and leave you the store in our will, just to oblige you,” replied the saleslady excitedly.
Honora realized sadly that she would not find the answer to the ultimate question here. She took her leave of the saleslady and the store, with all the salesladies sending her off with bright cheery calls of farewell and promises of making her next visit even better and better and better…
Honora left the store and went home, despairing of ever finding the answer to the ultimate question. Upon her return home, she found the latest fashion magazine waiting for her. She absently flipped through it. Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. There, on page 79 of the magazine, in big, bold letters, was the answer!
Honora read it carefully: “The new trend in fashion: Out with nylon pantyhose, in with cotton stockings and knee-high socks!” Honora reflected on this and finally came to the conclusion that it was the best, most convenient and sensible answer. After all, hadn’t she proved that a girl can’t get a pair of run-free pantyhose?