The girl had heard about him from a friend and emailed him: "I'm writing my college-admissions essays. Do you help with this sort of thing?" In fact, it was one of his specialties, so he wrote back and told her so. They agreed to meet over Zoom to talk about it.
"No charge for this conversation," he wrote. He told her, and he believed, that what he wanted was for her to work with the right person for her. "It it's me, great. If it's someone else, that's fine."
They connected the next day. He could see a row of clothing on hangers behind her and a New Year's poster showing a multi-colored fish. "It's the back of my parents' laundry business," she explained. "Full Moon Cleaners." Eyes lowered, she smiled, revealing a missing tooth.
He laid the groundwork for his tutoring approach. "You're telling stories about yourself," he told her. "Our job is to identify the stories that say the most about you."
She began riffling through her memory, searching for stories. She paused, looking out over the camera on her laptop. Then she said, "My grandmother. She lived with us, and I hardly paid any attention to her. Then one day, I sat down with her and she began talking about her life. Turns out she was a teaching nurse in China." The girl, reticent up to that point, talked for twenty minutes about their conversation. "It changed my life," she said. When she stopped, he noticed something, a tear on her cheek. She was motionless. If he hadn't looked closely, he wouldn't have noticed that she was crying.
How much do you charge?" she asked. He told her. "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't afford it."
"Tell me how much you can afford," he said.
(Prompt: Write a story than includes the words: moon, fish, tooth.)
(Word count: 298)