Donatello's Essay By Red Turtle

This is a new story that just popped into my head recently so I decided to go ahead and get it out. I don't know what influenced it, but probably the authors Splinter and Streetwyse and probably the other stories here about the turtles and young-uns because I've never had a story from Splinters' point of view like this. The whole plot though, I never really read anything quite like it, and I wasn't even thinking about ninja-turtles or homework or anything, like I said it just up and popped into my head. So here it is (they are twelve years old in this story):

Besides Ninjitzu training at the age of five, Splinter had attempted to make sure his young wards were educated in at least the basics of math, history, writing, ect. He knew he couldn't send them to school, so it was up to him to instill this knowledge on them. But unlike Ninjitzu, Splinter himself was not a scholar. He had to teach himself how to read, write, add, ect. before he could pass it to his sons, and it was hard to keep up with learning, teaching, and also foraging and all manners of things that one must do when one has children. He could barely keep a step ahead of their level.

However, he enjoyed learning very much, so it wasn't too much a burden. And he enjoyed teaching; passing his knowledge gained to others and seeing them apply it. He also appreciated their different styles of learning.

From the old, warped text books and worksheets gathered from garbage he gave them lessons, and generally they were pretty good about completing their homework as requested and all seemed to learn at an even rate. Splinter had to rely on whatever lessons he could find to give them, he didn't quite have enough of a grasp of everything himself to try and invent his own lessons. But the text books tended to be pretty standard issue, very much just having them repeat what was written down elsewhere. Even the math word problems were pretty boring. The only questions allowing for creativity were history essay questions, and these were what brought out the true level of his sons, just how well they were interpreting and applying the lessons.

Leonardo was always good for about a page. He usually displayed good knowledge of a few concepts, and if he didn't know something he managed to interweave however little he did know into a well-worded bit that effectively convinced Splinter that he deserved at least a C. With his studies Leo wasn't as perfectionist as he was with Ninjitzu, so a C didn't bother him as long as he passed overall. Splinter detected a bit of a swindler in him in his tactics.

Raphael never wrote more than a basic paragraph, his ability with written words didn't seem to match Leo at all. If he didn't know the answer he wrote "I DON'T KNOW", instead of trying to play it off. He tended to be precise in the exclamation, not sweating it at all. For this his average was B.

Michelangelo had two styles of answer, either correct or hilarious. On rare occasions he was able to combine the two for a correct and witty answer, which earned him an A. But usually he was at D. Splinter gave him credit for trying to appease him with the jokes and such he wrote, usually relating somehow to the subject matter. He just wished he could process the information better. Of all the students he was most in danger of failing, but when he did grasp something he was truly enthusiastic, and Splinter loved that in him.

Then there was Donatello. Donatello just didn't answer the essay questions at all.

This had been going on for years, and Splinter just couldn't figure it out. He had started the essay exercises when they were nine year old, and at first thought Donatello just didn't understand the question or know the answer. But he quickly dismissed that notion. Donatello had the character of appearing at times almost dumb, yet his intelligence was beyond Splinters comprehension. Many times he had made the mistake of underestimating him, such as when he didn't speak the whole first three years of his life, when he didn't play with games the way the instructions were written but invented all new intricate ones, the way he put puzzles together with the picture side down, using only the shape of the pieces. And with this, Splinter knew that Donatello could read better than any of them, better than Splinter himself, and had a much broader vocabulary, so certainly the problem was not being able to read the question. And he almost always got As on all the other questions, he obviously knew the information. He was as diligent in that as Leonardo was in ninjitzu. So why wouldn't he write an essay answer?

He had taken Donatello aside from time to time and tried to address it with him, and got no satisfactory answer. In fact what Donatello did say was that he didn't understand what Splinter wanted for an answer. No matter how Splinter broke down the question or presented examples, Donatello just couldn't seem to grasp it.

Now another of these times had come, to sit down with Donatello and work on this mystery.

"Donatello, please come into my den", he called out.

Shortly after Donatello appeared and sat at the other side of Splinters little table he used for grading papers. He had just finished grading their latest history papers, so Donatello's blank form lay on top.

"You know why I have called you here", Splinter affirmed.

"Hai", Donatello replied.

"Donatello, you are twelve years old now. Surely you can write at least one sentence here (he pointed to the blank space). Even Michelangelo tries, even Raphael writes he doesn't know, but nothing, even though you know the material and it is a quarter of your grade."

Donatello looked down.

"Can you try to explain this phenomenon to me one more time?" Splinter asked.

"I don't know which sentence you want, Sensei", he attempted to explain.

"Can't you just pick one?"

"No...There's too many."

"There are too many?"

"Yes", he answered, looking down again.

"And you can't just pick one? It doesn't have to be long, my son. You just need to phrase the answers in your own words, instead of coping from a book."

"I can put it in my own words, but it would be longer than a sentence. If I only wrote one sentence, I would be leaving stuff out."

Splinter thought a second.

"Very well, Donatello, to make up for all the essays you haven't turned in, to save your grade which is very close to failing because of this one part, I will require you to write an essay on the History of the Japanese Language. You may use as many sentences as you deem necessary, but it must be turned in in one week. Understood?"

"Hai, Sensei", Donatello responded, and left.

He was pleased with the resolution here. Finally he would get a more in depth understanding of Donatello's thinking process. Splinter had chosen the topic because it was actually one that interested him immensely, and he figured Donatello would be writing a few pages on it.

For the next week, Splinter rarely saw Donatello outside ninjitzu practice. He stayed in his room, or took short trips with one of his brothers to the nearby dumpsters and returned with piles of pictures, books, and various materials that Splinter could only guess at their use, and would bring them all into his room. After a couple days Leo complained that the room he shared with Donatello was getting too crowded with Donatello's stuff. The books Splinter supposed might have related to the essay, but he was sure spending a lot of time building something else. Donatello was by now well known for his talent of amassing seemingly useless junk and turning it into tools for the family, something Splinter was eternally grateful for, except for now when he didn't appear to be working on this essay.

Still, he decided to hold faith in Donatello. He found himself looking forward to reading whatever he turned in.

Early in the mourning of the appointed day, Splinter rose from bed and as he stepped out of his room, loe and behold, there at his door was a packet of paper as tall as his hand. Splinter stared agape at it for at least a minute. Surely this was not Donatello's essay! He had thought five, ten pages at most, and that was an exaggeration based on what the average for the other three was. Surely Donatello did not write all this.

Still in awe, Splinter knelt to examine the packet and found it to actually be a bond book, bond in a very ancient Japanese method that Splinter remembered seeing some of the books in Yoshi's study bond that way. And the paper was unusual as well, it was not the random sheets of scrap paper they gathered for their studies, this paper felt different.

A small scrap of paper delicately attached with ribbon labeled the project as indeed being by Donatello. It said:

Sensei, These are all the sentences I came up with on the subject. Most of the history of the Japanese Language is best expressed using the letters of that alphabet itself, so I wrote it in Japanese characters, using the style calligraphy popular under Emporor Toba. I am sure you will notice the ink and paper also reflect different techniques of Japan, which contributed to the shaping of the language and how it was used by different sections of people. This will all be detailed in my report. Please consider these additional factors in my final grade. Please never ask me to do an essay again. -Donatello

Mouth still agape, Splinter took the note off and briefly examined the report. The cover was beautifully decorated with pictures. He untied the ribbon and looked over some of the pages. With a sigh he closed what could only be called a masterpeice now. It was indeed written all in Japanese, and although Splinter taught them to speak Japanese he knew very little writing. He had only taught them rudimentary symbols he had remembered from Yoshi's home, Donatello must have taught himself all of this. He also saw a lot of detail on the pages, pictures, maps and guides, all hand drawn and all using techniques of Japan.

Splinter picked up the book and resigned himself to not being able to read it for at least a while; he would have to learn the whole Japanese alphabet first. He carefully placed it in a trunk near his bed where he kept his most treasured items, because even though he couldn't read it, it was certainly an object of art. He wrapped it in a silk cloth to enhance its beauty, and took it out every so often to admire it.

And he excused Donatello from all future essays.