Wright State University--
Volume 1, 1999-2000
For this first story contest sponsored by Wright State UniversityĖLake Campus, we received almost 90 stories from high school students throughout Ohio. We are encouraged by this response and hope for an even greater response to this next yearís contest.
The twenty stories included in this inaugural issue of Ohio Story treat a broad range of topics and styles, from stories obviously drawn rather closely from personal experience to stories pointedly composed in various popular and more serious fictional forms.
The prize-winning storiess, Mandi Gorensteinís "The Bowl" and Ken Goinsís "Dream Sequence" demonstrate the range of the submissions, in terms of both their topics and their styles.
As always, I would like to thank Dan Evans, Dean of the Lake Campus for his continuing support of this literary journal, as well as a significant number of other publications. His commitment to the arts on our campus has been consistently enthusiastic and extremely generous.
Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to my publications assistant, Kay Louth, who has contributed so much to the design, production, and distribution of this journal and of all of our various contest publications that I can no longer imagine doing all of it myself.
Wright State University--
High School Story Contest
Submissions are being solicited in two categories: those from students from about 40 high schools within (or near) the Lake Campus' service area in West Central Ohio and those from students attending any other public or private high school in Ohio. (Home-schooled students are also eligible to submit stories, whether they live within our service area or in another region of Ohio.)
There will be one prize-winner in each category and a total of eighteen runners-up. The prize-winners will each receive a $50 savings bond. The winners and runners-up will receive framed certificates and two copies of Ohio Story, which will also be available online at http://www.wright.edu/~martin.kich.
There are no restrictions on the subjects or styles of submissions. The stories should be between 500 and 1250 words (or two to five typed pages).
Submissions must be cleanly typed or computer printed, double-spaced with standard margins. To facilitate the notification of prize winners, each submission should include, on the story itself, the following: the student's name, home address, home telephone number, grade level (9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th), high school, and English teacher.
Teachers can submit bulk submissions, as long as each entry includes the appropriate information.
Submissions to the 2000-2001 contest must be postmarked by 01 June 2001. They should be sent to:
High School Fiction Contest
Wright State University--Lake Campus
7600 State Route 703
Celina, OH 45822
I will accept e-mail submissions [firstname.lastname@example.org], either within the mail message itself or as an attached Word or WordPerfect file. Electronic submissions must include the same information on the student as the print entries include.
Because submissions will not be returned, SASE's are not necessary. Inquiries can be made to me by regular mail, by e-mail, or by calling 419-586-0374.
In the autumn, notifications of the contest results will be mailed to all students who have submitted work and to all high school English departments in the state of Ohio. In early December, a reception and reading will be held at the Lake Campus to honor the winners and runners-up of our poetry, essay, and short-fiction contests, as well as contributors to the Grand Lake Review.
Bexley High School
Darby High School
Bexley High School
Bexley High School
Troy High School
Christopher J. Manley
St. Edwards High School
Bexley High School
Grand Valley High School
Bexley High School
Bexley High School
Out of Region Prize Winner
Bexley High School
Liberty Christian Academy
In Region Prize Winner
Lincolnview High School
Mt. Notre Dame High School
Mark D. Snyder Jr.
Liberty Christian Academy
Bedford High School
Bexley High School
Perrysburg High School
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
2:59 am (Lily's floor): Yawn. Just woke up sweating bullets and now I can't fall back asleep because the air is so thick it's hard to breathe. And to top that off, I'm lying on my sister's bedroom carpet, as my room is occupied by Grandpa Geoffrey and Grandma Louise. I'm still pretty mad about that. Grandpa and Grandma are OK people, I guess, but they drool in their sleep and are liable to wet the bed. Yuck. I probably won't even want to set foot in my room when they leave. Not to say they ever will. They, along with a storm of other relatives, have invaded my home. There's Grandpa and Grandma; Grandma's brother, Great Uncle Floyd; Dad's brother, Mark; Mark's stuck-up wife, Angela; Dad's sister, Patty; and Patty's husband, Joe. Oh, and there's Alex. I guess Alex is my step-cousin, because he's a product of Uncle Joe's first marriage. Anyway, Alex is a nightmare. I've only met him once, but you can tell someone is all bad when they walk into one of our family functions smiling from ear to ear. Yuck. I hate the Fourth of July.
8:28 am (Lily's floor): It feels sacrilegious to be up this early during the summer. But then again, it doesn't feel that early as the sun is blazing in through Lily's open window and it is sweltering outside. I can't believe they're going to make us march in this. Maybe my trumpet will melt. Maybe I'll melt. Maybe... oh, Mom's calling me. Mom conversation went like this:
J: (Iíll abbreviate Mom with a 'J' for Judy): "Maggie, why are you not in the shower yet? You have to be at the parade in a half-hour!"
M: "Well, I WOULD be, but Angela's been in for over an hour!"
J: "Maggie, do not use that disrespectful tone about act like they're only in your way! Now, I want you to wait patiently for your aunt to finish using the bathroom and not another word out of you!"
All this was said in one of those really intense-whisper-voices moms use when they really want to be screaming but don't want to embarrass themselves. It's not like I'm not used to this, though. The same thing happens every year. Family overruns my house and I have to spend the whole three or four days they're here listening to patriotic stories about shooting down enemies during "The War." On top of that, the Fourth of July always happens be the hottest, most humid day of the year, AND the day our air conditioning decides to break down. Oh goody... I think Angela is out of the bathroom (after 1 hour and 30 minutes). It's now 8:42 and I have 18 minutes to shower and get to the parade. Yuck.
12:04 (Hammock in back yard): I am finally back from the parade. The temperature is 98 degrees, the humidity is 97 percent, and the air conditioning isn't fixed. I just got out of the coldest shower I've ever taken, and I still feel like I'm about to evaporate. All I want to do is go to Paul's house where the air conditioner works. Instead, I'm stuck here with a houseful of relatives who keep lecturing me on the importance of a free country. As if I didn't already know. It's important to have a free country because... whatever. I don't want to get into it, but I know why. Oh no, here comes Alex. Yuck. Alex conversation went something like this:
A: "You well this morning."
M: "Thanks. I hate those songs, though."
A: "Oh. I like them. Do you want to come talk to Uncle Floyd with me? He's telling some good war stories."
M: "Oh that's OK. I've heard them before."
Yuck. Ooh, phone.
It was Paul. He told me everyone was going to the pool and he really wanted me to come. Tragically, after pleading with Mom, I had to tell Paul no, I have to spend the day with relatives. I was so desperate to go I offered to take Alex or Lily, but Mom said no again, I would only abandon them as soon as I saw my friends.
1:19 (bathroom): I have just managed to get away from everyone by saying I feel sick and need to go to the bathroom. Though it was quite obvious that Mom and Dad wanted to argue with that one, they must have realized it would seem pretty callous. Anyway, I needed some time alone after the ordeal I was just put through. Just as I thought Uncle Floyd had told all of his war stories to Alex, he remembered another one and Lily and I were dragged to the foot of his chair to join Alex in listening to the story of Uncle Floyd liberating city after city in France. "Oh, you kids don't understand how blessed you are to live in such an amazing country. You probably won't either until you see the faces of people who have never known the kind of freedom you take for granted." Honestly. I know I'm lucky. If I didn't, I would be pretty thick because people remind me of it all the time. Shoot. Mom's calling. I'm probably in trouble.
Yuck, yuck, yuck. Mom picked the only five minutes of solitude I've had in two days to tell me at Alex and I have to walk to the park together. "You need to get to know your relatives. You and Alex probably have a lot in common." First of all, Alex isn't my real relative. Secondly, we have NOTHING in common.
3:52 (Alex's cot in basement): Hmm. Maybe Mom and Dad have a point when they talk about not judging people from first impressions. The walk to the park with Alex was actually kind of fun. It turns out he's not so bad after all. For the first five minutes or so of the walk, it was kind of awkward, but then we started talking about Great Uncle Floyd. Who knew Floyd could be such an interesting topic! Alex conversation went something like this:
A: "Your Uncle Floyd is a pretty interesting guy."
M: "Oh, God. You've got to be kidding. He's probably one of the most boring people I know."
A: "No seriously. I liked his stories. Especially the one about finding that poor German kid in the rubble. I mean, can you imagine what you would do in that situation? It would be pretty tough to deal with."
M: "Yeah, I guess. I guess it's just that I've heard so many stories exactly like them from him and a bunch of other old guys. They just get kind of old."
A: "He has had a pretty full life, though. And you really get the feeling from those stories that he knows how lucky he is. He knows how terrible life can be if you don't have freedom, and I think he wants to make other people understand that, too."
You know, as long as I've known my Great Uncle Floyd, I don't think I've ever really thought of him as more of an annoyance. Alex is not such a nightmare, either. Actually, he's pretty far from one. But I've got to go. Alex and I are going go swimming (too bad my friends won't be there anymore, but that's OK).
2:59 am (actually, it's July 5 now)--(Lily's bedroom floor): It's weird to think that twenty-four hours ago, I was lying here thinking how much I hate the Fourth of July. Now I wish it weren't already over. Thankfully, it's cooled down a bit. Lily's window is open, and there's a nice cool breeze wafting through along with the scent of fireworks, left over from several hours ago. Speaking of the fireworks, they were incredible. There was just something about lying on the warm pavement, listening to the same patriotic songs I hated this morning, and watching the fireworks explode that somehow seemed more spectacular than ever before. Hmm. Maybe Great Uncle Floyd is right. Maybe I take the freedom Iíve never lived without for granted. But maybe Iím on the way to finding out how lucky I really am.
Darby High School
Teacher: Mrs. Bower
Betty the Bully was the biggest, meanest and scariest six-year-old on this side of the swing set. She was a million feet tall, and she weighed infinity plus two pounds. Betty had matted brown hair with curls, crimps, waves, creases and a bald spot on the back of her head. She wore the same pair of dirty overalls with big brown mud stains on the knees every day. On special occasions, she would wear a different colored shirt underneath. Everyone else called her the Monkey Bars Monster because she would always rip me off the monkey bars and throw me into the mud. I would stand, up covered in mud, and everyone would laugh hysterically at me. I never got it though. I would try to sneak quickly across the bars, but she seemed to turn around just when I started. She would dart over and toss me into the mud every time.
Betty stole my milk money, kicked me during nap time and even gave me pseudo swirlies in the drinking fountain. I wish she had just left me alone, so I could have had a normal childhood. She was only mean to me, and I wasn't exactly the child prodigy of Amold Schwarzeneger. I was Willie the Weakling to her. She picked on me so much that all the other kids were petrified to talk to me, or else she would steal their lunch box. If she hadn't picked on me so much, I could've had friends. I guess you could say she was my only "friend."
One day, I lined up to go to lunch as usual, but this would be no usual day. I was at the end of the line, so I had to turn off the lights. I told you I was no Arnold Schwarzeneger; well I was no Shaquille O'Neil either. I despised being at the end because I had to haul a chair over to the light switch to turn it off. You'd think they would make them lower, but nooooo! I finally got the lights off and the chair back to my desk. I even had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the doorknob, but I did it. By this time I was exhausted and I was stumbling down the hall toward the bathroom for the cattle call hand washing. I found my class lined up outside the bathroom ready to go to lunch, so I hurried to get in the back.
Uh oh, I saw Betty out of the corner of my eye, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the GIRLS' bathroom. The legend was right, there were no urinals in there, and it smelled rank, like it was clean. Gross! The smell made me sick. What was she doing now, a wedgie, ahhhhhhh! The pain was indescribable. It felt as if someone was trying to cut me like a block of cheese. I wished it would just split me in two, at least then it would be over. I started crying; she was going to hurt me even worse. You know that little hook on the inside of the stalls that is always broken off? Not this one. Apparently Betty was inventing a new use for it. A use where I was going to be the guinea pig. She lifted me up like I was a sandwich, but she didn't eat me. She had super human strength, like Hulk Hogan. Then she tossed me onto the hook by my underwear and ran out to lunch.
It wasn't over yet, believe me, it had just begun. There was one girl in the entire class that I had a crush on. Her name was Veronica Love and she looked like she was 10 whole years old. I would always run away whenever I saw her because I was so nervous. This time I couldn't exactly run away. I heard Veronica and her best friend Marissa come into the bathroom gossiping like crazy. They were coming closer and closer until I felt the handle on the stall door turn.
My heart stopped beating and my lungs shut down. I was gasping for air that I couldn't get. I started moving, and my nose smacked into the side of the stall. It really hurt, and I let out a small yelp that was absorbed by the continued gossip. I saw Veronica with my peripheral vision, and my teeth started to chatter like a drum roll. She shut the door and looked straight into my eyes. For a split second there was an eerie silence and then a piercing scream. You know what, it wasn't Veronica, it was me. I screamed until there was none left in me and then longer. Veronica swung open the door with a powerful fury, and my nose crashed into the wall again with twice the pain. Then she slammed the door behind her with the same strength as before, and I went flying backward until a sudden stop. Then I started falling but not for long. I stopped again suddenly.
My underwear had ripped clear through. Now I was hanging like a kitten by its neck. The elastic of my Fruit of the Loom was caught on the hook and under my arms. My feet were still not touching the ground; I told you I couldn't even reach the light switch. Betty had really gotten me good this time...
Betty's pranks and humiliation continued throughout elementary school, into middle school and even till the day of graduation. I was used to being punched, kicked, given wedgies, swirlies and anything else you can imagine.
Betty was getting to be nothing more than a nuisance. I was doing five hundred sit-ups a day to account for the punches in the gut. I wore shin guards most days to relieve the shots in the shins. I cut my underwear so they would rip easier when she tugged on them. And for the swirlies, I just wore more gel and hair spray so that nothing short of a tornado could even affect my hair.
My high school graduation was the worst day of my life because of Betty. Once again the story starts out as a normal graduation day, whatever that is. I was sitting on the football field with the rest of my class waiting for my name to be called. Betty was sitting right next to me, so I was on edge for the entire ceremony. She turned to me and said, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" I asked, thinking of a thousand things she could apologize for.
"For everything I have done to you. I have finally realized that I've made your entire life miserable, and I'm sorry," said Betty, with a sort of smirk on her face. I couldn't tell if she was trying to be funny or if she meant it. This was the most serious thing she had said to me in her entire life.
"That's ok, don't worry about it," I said, wanting to strangle her for everything she'd done to me. I was really confused, and I didn't know what to say or do. I gave her a big nervous hug. Trying to end the conversation, I turned back around because it was almost my turn to walk onstage.
As I heard my name, I felt Betty's hand on my shoulder, but I ignored her and started to stand. It felt strange, something was wrong. The chair was attached to my robe. I heard Betty talking but couldn't understand her. Again, I didn't know what to do. I just started to bumble my way to the stage to get my diploma, trying not to notice the chair dangling from my rear. The entire stadium erupted in laughter. I couldn't go on, I ripped off my robe and ran out...
For the first time in my life I hated Betty. Never before did I truly hate her until that precise moment in time. I could never forgive her for that, and I never did. It was my turn to be the bully, I didn't know how or when, but it was my turn.
Ten years later, I got a letter from my high school alma mater for the ten-year class reunion. I knew Betty would be there, and this would be my chance for revenge. I had to think of a plan that could pack more than ten years of bullying into one night of humiliation...
The happy day is now at hand, my ten-year class reunion. This would be a night Betty and I would never forget. I had one big prank lined up that could give me closure after all these years.
For the first time my story didn't start out as a normal day. Betty was very late to the reunion party. I wondered why, but it didn't matter as long as she was there and ready to be humiliated. I had it arranged with the class president to be seated next to Betty during dinner, so I could see first hand what my mischief would cause. I waited and waited for her to come, and then someone sat down next to me. It didn't look like her, but her nametag said very clearly in red marker "Betty." I looked at her and I said, "Hi, Betty..."
We talked and talked for the entire night. After the reunion we went out for coffee. It seemed like we talked forever. I finally got to know Betty without her trying to humiliate me. She told me she was truly sorry for being such a bully to me, and she wanted to make it up. She told me so many things about her, and I wish she would have told me sooner because we would have been best friends. She even told me that hand on my shoulder was hers trying to stop me from getting up at graduation. She admitted it was her that glued the chair to my robe and even that she would have given me hers to stop me from going onstage. I found after all these years that she was sincere when she told me she was sorry at graduation. I found out other things too, that she wasn't married or seeing anyone, that she still lived in town like me, that she went to college and that she was a guidance counselor at our old elementary school
I didn't want the night to end, and I didn't let it end. I saw her the next day and the next and so on. We moved in together a few months later and now we're married. I felt so ashamed that I would do anything to her so I never told her my plan at the reunion. Our relationship was kinda like that quote from Romeo and Juliet, "My only love, sprung from my only hate." I never thought it would end up this way, and I'm sure you didn't either...
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
We were driving. I don't remember where we had come from. All I cared about was that we were going home. I saw was the endless stretch of highway before us. The consistent repetition of the dashed yellow lines down the middle of the road lulled me into a pacified state. It was desolate. We had left the general stores and cheap motels of the last town and were coasting through desert. I searched for the mirages in the road and fixed my gaze upon them until we were close enough so that they melted away. Sweat from the back of my thighs made them stick to the plastic-y seats so that there was a sucking sound whenever I moved. The air conditioning was broken and I had my window down, but the sticky sweet breeze from outside only made us hotter. I reached to turn the radio on.
"Leave it. I have a headache."
We were always leaving. Traveling, she liked to say. We were here to see the world. For her, it was escaping. For me it was that even though I hated her, I knew I could not exist without her. We were an odd sort of team. She thrived on attention. She fed off of it, savoring it and when she used it up, going somewhere new to find more. She turned heads walking down the street, but she wasn't that beautiful. She had red hair that was big around her head, like a fiery halo that made her half devil, half angel. She wore a lot of makeup, but it wasn't that she was too showy. She pulled you in. She was the kind of person you either loved, or you hated, but even when you hated her, you loved her still. For some reason, she just radiated energy. Not like me. I looked like my father. I had his light eyes and light hair. I was beautiful. Beauty spoiled me. All I had to do was ask, with my baby blues, and turn my pink little mouth into a pout and whatever I wanted was mine. But I had always been quiet. At home, I would climb trees with the boys and stand in the lake, catching trout with my bare hands, the whole time not saying a word. Chase lived next door. He was my best friend and he taught me how to be tough. She was always disappointed when I came home with dirt in my hair and skinned knees. It wasn't ladylike, she said. But I would still be allowed to go out and play with the neighborhood kids. All of us would be out the door, to go and run and play, and get dirty, and spend our childhoods together.
We were driving, in the heat and all, when the car stopped.
"Dammit." She looked at me, as if I'd had something to do with it. As if by wishing I was somewhere else, I had overheated the engine. "Well, get on out. We're gonna have to flag us down some help. Stand by the car and look cute. No one's gonna want to help a woman with a bratty looking daughter."
She stood in front of our ten-year old, yellow Sedan, and waited, ready to wave to the first passing car. That car didn't come for thirty-five minutes, and when it finally came, it drove right on past us. Finally, a trucker slowed down in the shoulder of the road and stepped out. He was tan and had a blond streaked ponytail peeking out from under a baseball cap.
"What seems to be the problem, ladies?"
"Well, I just don't know! Me and my daughter here, we were just out for a ride and the car here stops on us!" Her voice was high and sweet and unnatural.
"It's the engine," I said. "It overheated." She nudged me, hard in the side, telling me to keep quiet.
"You suppose you could help us sir? We don't know nothing about cars and all..." She was looking up at him.
"Well, let's have a look." I went and sat on a rock in the dirt while he fussed around under the hood. I could have fixed it, and she knew it. Chase had taught me all about cars. When he was done, she followed him back to the truck, shaking and moving her hips, laughing all loud and silly. She was smiling when she came back to get me.
"Come on, hun. We're ready." She pulled me up and wrapped her arm around my slender waist. "Now that wasn't so bad? I know you coulda done it, but now we got a new friend. He's from Nevada. Maybe we should go there, next time? I've always wanted to see the west. He gave us his address. I told him me and you like to travel. He said we should look him up if we're ever around."
"He said you should look him up, Mama, not me."
"No, he liked you too, he said. He said he couldn't believe that I was your mother, that I looked young enough to be your sister."
That was a lie. We got back into our car. I curled up in my seat. She let me turn the radio on. She was in a better mood now, and she hummed along. I hated that. I wished that we were home already. Gramma would be waiting for us. I wished Chase was there, waiting for me to go outside to catch fireflies, or walk down to the lake with the others and have a bonfire, or sit on the roofs and smoke cigarettes, flicking our ashes off the edge. Instead, we stopped off at a diner where we both ordered hamburgers and onion rings.
"So do you think they'll be glad to have us home?"
"You know, I really thought that Seattle was going to work out, hun. I guess you just never can tell, can you?" We had spent the summer in Seattle, while she was working as a lawyer's assistant at some obscure firm. The firm went bankrupt in mid-July, sending us back to Montana. That sort of thing always happened to us. We finished eating and got back: in the car. We didn't have enough money for a motel, so we folded out the back seat. She curled up next to me, pressing against my back and wrapping her arms around my middle. She liked to sleep close. I always hated that closeness and felt like she was smothering me. We lay there in the dark, headlights from the occasional passing car illuminating our makeshift motel room with a white light. We needed each other in the night.
They weren't expecting us for a couple more days, but they had been expecting our return all along. It was embarrassing, returning home after our lives messed up, but it was comforting just the same. As we rounded the sharp curve just before our driveway, she woke me up.
"We're here, hun." She was half-smiling. It was fake. She hated coming back. Gramma had baked us pies. They were blueberry. Chase was waiting for me.
"You grew," he said. "You look more like a girl." We went up onto his roof, and he handed me one of his Marlboros. We didn't talk much. When it got late, he went and got a blanket, and we fell asleep as we had so many times, on the roof, entwined in each other's arms.
The next day, Mama was gone. She had taken our Sedan, a picture of me from the sixth grade, and a piece of blueberry pie. I knew that she had gone to Nevada. I also knew that she couldn't be coming back. I wondered if she was the wrong mother for me, and me the wrong daughter for her. I didn't share her wanderlust. I was happy here in Montana with Chase, and Gramma, and blueberry pies that smelled like home. But still sometimes in the night, I grow lonely for her and I wonder where she is. But I know she can't be far. She always needed me in the night.
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
"I never knew about barbers! I found out about them at the age of seven. Seven years old and I didn't know what a barber was. Unbelievable, impossible! No, no, it may sound quite odd, but very true. How was I to know of men who would actually cut your hair for a simple, paltry fee? I had never been to a barbershop for one reason and one reason only. My popa always cut my hair! I never knew you could go somewhere and pay a stranger to do it for you. Ever since I could remember, about once every couple months, we would get an aged, wooden stool from the kitchen, and I would plop down, preparing to sit quite still for a good half-hour. Then, my father would hack away like a John Deere lawnmower, slicing and dicing until either he was too tired to continue or was satisfied with the new design my hair had happened to morph into. His ever-present melamine toothpick, identical to the thousands upon thousands of picks stored in a ragged maroon suitcase hiding in the dark corners of our basement, would rattle around between his molars like a tiny yacht at sea caught in a monolithic storm.
He would do what he could, working patiently, precisely snipping and clipping, shaving and combing, until finally, as if a work of rare art had been contrived, he would proclaim "sledushi skazal na Ihedushi!" That's "who's next?" in Russian, of course. During these minutes of intense concentration we always managed to find time for us to jaw, chat about the latest concept cars, or Gilda Radner, or who had won the basketball game yesterday, or anything else on our minds. As the years went by, the haircuts grew more and more interesting, the conversations more and more deep. We talked about everything and left nothing unsaid. Our feelings slowly trickled into the talks, as did our emotions, igniting an eternal flame, which shed light on all of our conflicts, issues and positions. Our pure honesty allowed these intercommunications to swell into more than just meaningless chatter. Religion, God, disease, relatives, anything we needed to work between us, we did it then.
As I think back I begin to realize that those haircuts were more than just some dull scissors and a pile of dark- brown clumsy hair piled on the ground. My popa and I had talked about everything, solved problems, discussed math tests, and planned out entire vacations and the list goes on and on. No, the haircuts were much more than my dad doing the best he could to make my hair look swank, they allowed us to really talk to each other, get to know each other more than a simple relationship like most of my pals and their fathers had throughout the years. As I reminisce, I realize I really loved those old times with my pop. It was those precious moments I learned who my popa really was, a real guy, a role model, too ... I accidentally called you pop last time I was here, don't you remember, Harry?"
"That's okay, you can call me whatever you want, buddy. Looks good, eh?" he said as he quickly flashed the mirror before my sunken, tired eyes.
"Sure, thanks." I handed him the money and walked out the door as the cacophony of the traffic invaded the mellow serenity of the fresh spring aurora. The invigorating aroma of the birds and the bees was nowhere to be found, seemingly lost forever, replaced by the nauseating scent of eighteen-wheeler truck exhaust blending with the steam from the near by sewer that stank of sewage.
"But not as good as my dad used to do it, Harry," I mutter to no one in particular. The cool, relaxed wind begins to take control of the rebellious, young trees with their eager branches; the breeze slowly persuades them to stop flailing around through the air like untamed beasts, just like popa and me at my first haircut.
Troy High School
Teacher: Mrs. Noble
Sarah looked around, searching in vain for some familiar sight. Everywhere she turned, anywhere she looked, she could not find the familiar sign. She guided the old jalopy to the curb. She took out the map and opened it wide. The map unfolded to cover her and the entire front seat. She glanced to the street sign and then to the map again and again.
Sweat beaded on her forehead. "It must be one hundred degrees out there," she muttered, wiping the sweat away. She looked at the map again, trying to make some sense of the symbols and lines.
"Hey, lady! Need some help?"
She turned her eyes to the man who spoke. He was tall and dark. A baseball cap was pulled low over his eyes. The shadow from the bill covered his face. The features barely seen were harsh and masculine. A scar ran from his chin to a point covered by the hat. His build was hard to discern due to the baggy clothes he was wearing.
"That's okay! I'm just fine," Sarah called out the window.
He gave her a shrug, as if to say it's your funeral. She quickly leaned over and rolled the passenger window up, even though she would almost die from the heat. She looked at the map again.
"Finally, I found it! There I am! If only I could find where I want to go," she said.
Sarah turned her car back on. She drove a few blocks still looking for the sign. She drove left then right. She was hopelessly lost when she turned the car off and looked up.
Sarah noticed a gas station sign. She turned the car back on and drove the block to the station.
The gas station was well out of its prime. The door hung crooked and two of the windowpanes were missing. The remaining panes were covered in so much dirt that you couldn't see through them. The two pumps stood side by side twenty feet away from the building. On one, a sign said "out of order".
Sarah got out of the car and walked to the door. Peering through the torn screen, she could see the empty shelves that once had been full of items to purchase. Some sort of bug crawled across the shelf. A shudder ran through her body. Cautiously she opened the door and walked inside.
Behind the counter, there was a man. He was older than the oldest rock on earth.
His shoulders sagged with the weight of many reckless years before. The little hair that he had left was sticking straight up. His jumpsuit, covered in oil, hung limply on his thin frame.
"Well, well. You're the first customer in this here station in ten years, little lady. Yup, I do reckon it's goin' on ten years."
"I need some help. Could you, by chance, help me out?" Sarah said, annoyed.
"Well, that just depends ... " he trailed off, seemingly to anger her.
"On what?" Sarah asked impatiently.
"On what help you want," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Please. Just tell me how to get to Mulberry Avenue," she said through clenched teeth.
"You go left outa here. Drive straight until you get to the second light. Or is it the first light? Let me see...no, it's the second. Yes, turn left at the second light."
"I turn left at the second left," she repeated.
"Right. At the second right ... no, left ... no, I was right the first time. At the second right, turn right. No, it's left."
"No, right. That's Mulberry.
"Thanks," she said. "I think."
Sarah turned and walked out. On her way out the door, she felt a shudder go through her body, just like when she walked in the station. She walked to her car and got in. She started her car and drove away from the store. She looked to the second light, but somehow it seemed different to her. Everything seemed different.
"I should turn the air down. I'm getting kinda cold," Sarah mumbled to herself. She looked up and saw the familiar sign. She shook her head in disbelief. How could she have missed the huge green sign before? She drove to Mulberry Avenue. Then, she found her sister's house. As she was walking up the sidewalk, she caught sight of a tall man. He was the same man from before. She smiled at him and thought how friendly he looked. He seemed to be strolling along. He had no sinister aura like he had before.
Sarah stopped suddenly. She watched him walk away from her. She stood until she couldn't see him anymore. She shook her head at her momentary silliness. She walked up to the door and knocked. She had not seen her family in ten years. They had disapproved of her choices in schooling. She had wanted to go to a college far away and major in a field her parents did not approve of. They wanted her close by and doing what they wanted her to. The argument had caused a canyon to form between Sarah and her sister. Her sister had sided with her parents. This was the first time in ten years the family had even talked.
Her sister, Hannah, hadn't changed a bit. Hannah was still youthful in appearance and almost identical to Sarah. Sarah suddenly hugged Hannah, wrapping her arms tightly around Hannah's neck. Hannah just stood still. Then, she seemed to realize what was happening and hugged Sarah back. They walked through the door and disappeared inside the house.
Back at the gas station, the old man sat on the stool behind the counter. He smiled.
"Yup, right about now. I do reckon right now is when that little lady has gone through the change. I sure do hope that little beauty knows how good she has it," he said to himself.
Another customer walked into the gas station. A man in his early twenties had walked in. The old man looked at him and smiled from ear to ear.
"Well, well. You're the first customer in this here store in ten years. Yup, I do reckon it's been ten years..."
Christopher J. Manley
St. Edwards High School
Teacher: Brother Joseph Chvala
"Well, we can't let this go on."
"I know, I know."
A long pause.
"We've gotta do something."
Another pause, longer this time.
"I know you don't want to hear this," said my father, "but maybe that house just isn't the safest place for him."
"Whaddaya want me to do?" my mother snapped. She breathed deeply, staring into the table at which she sat. Quietly now, almost pleading. "How can I put my own father in a nursing home?"
"We're running out of options."
That winter held a sorry state of affairs for my family. My grandmother had recently committed suicide in the wake of my grandfather's declining health. He was now left alone in the house they had shared since marriage.
The two had always kept a vegetable garden in the backyard. Grandmother would decide what went where; Grandfather was given the task of keeping it orderly. He tolerated nothing. Once he caught a cat scrounging through the bell peppers and shouted, half in English and half in German, "Get the hell outta here, or I'll hang you up by your toes!"
The cat slithered away.
He was determined to keep up the garden after his wife died, and watered it day in and day out, regardless of need. But time had taken its toll. He mistook a gasoline can for the watering can and found all his plants dead the next day. Spying the nearby empty gas can, he realized his mistake and furiously pulled everything, his tears almost watering the parched soil.
Then things really got out of hand. He put a glass bottle filled with water in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. The water froze and expanded, leaving shards of glass throughout the freezer.
Later his scruffy beard betrayed the fact that he had been shaving for several days without a blade.
My family came over to make a routine check of the place. Walking into the kitchen, my father heard a low hissing sound. Grandfather had made soup the night before and left the gas jet on all night. Dad dashed about the house, throwing up the sashes of all the windows.
My parents could be sufficient watchdogs no longer.
And so on a frosty day in January, my grandfather was remanded to the care of the Altenhiem Skilled Nursing Facility.
"This is gonna be your new home, Dad." Mother overdid her pretended cheeriness, and Grandfather stared sullenly at the floor. My parents unpacked his belongings and organized the few pieces of furniture. Occasionally he would turn and gaze forlornly out the window.
When time came to leave him for his first night in his new home, we said our good-byes, my mother departing last.
"Bye, Dad," she whispered. "I'll see you tomorrow -- early okay?" After a soft kiss on grandfather's cheek, she swallowed hard and hurried out of the room.
Grandfather pleaded with his empty cell. "I want to go home"
From then on, my grandfather despised that nursing home. Sometimes he would walk about the compound in search of an "EMPLOYEES ONLY" door or a laundry chute or something through which to make his escape. On every occasion he found himself caught in the act. Sympathetic nurses would lead him by the collar back to his room.
November came. My family decided to treat Grandfather to a good home-cooked Sunday meal of roast pork, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Mother longed to let him savor all his old favorites, but too soon time came for him to return to the Altenhiem.
"Can't I stay just a little while?" Grandfather whimpered.
Now into June and summer, my grandfather's health took a noticeably bad turn. Repeatedly he would plead, "Why can't I just die?"
He waited until early winter.
Stepping into the room that had been his prison for the past two years, I was overwhelmed by the evident culmination of his decline. Bound to his bed, he now lay in a motionless fetal position, drawing his last gasps from an oxygen machine. For some time he had been taking nearly no nourishment and had dwindled to a pathetic shadow of himself. This iron man, who had spent a brief episode of his life diving into foxholes, shrapnel nipping close at his heels, was now so gaunt it appeared as though a whispered "I love you" would reduce his frailty to nothing but shards of bone.
Taking his hand, I recalled the eerie sensation of once grasping a mannequin's hand. His fingers were cold and lifeless. I tried ever so gently to brush the hair away from his eyes. The texture was no longer that of human hair but fine gossamer, as though a mere shuffling of papers might blow it away like dry leaves in the breeze. His cheeks, still their characteristic rose color, shone in deep contrast to the pale whiteness stealing up the bridge of his nose.
For as long as I live I will remember his eyes. One never had any problem discerning his mood from those eyes. Once crystal blue, they were now glazed over with a shadow of ice.
Breathing became increasingly erratic. Inhalations became short gasps. Exhaling was forced. Durations between breaths lengthened. Each gasp, it seemed, would be his very last.
Suddenly his unfocused eyes came to life, and the head that had lain lifeless on its side rolled slowly over. He stared me directly in the face and I felt him say, "It's time." His eyes, wider and brighter than ever, froze for an instant. A religious man would swear he was peering with joy into the welcoming reaches of heaven.
I waited tensely for him to exhale. It did not happen. I think just then his tortured soul rose from its ashes to supreme relief.
Grandfather's long winter was ended. As I knelt there, I imagined my maverick galloping off into the green fields of an eternal springtime.
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
It's a funny thing, loneliness is. I spent most of my life wishing that I had more time to myself because I have always felt so stressed I was always involved in my work, with my family on the side. My wife never complained, because she loved me too much and thought that I enjoyed everything that I did. But the little free time that I had I devoted to my beautiful princess, Adrienne. She was your typical daddy's little girl hugging me the moment I walked in the door from work. That phase eventually passed, but her devotion to me never did. My wife died two years ago, and my daughter didn't think that I could take care of myself. My intelligent, kind princess sent me to this "home." She lives in a different state with her job that takes up most of her personal time. I think that she's lost that devotion to me. I fear she'll let that take her over and then she'll be left alone, just like me.
My neutral colored room wakes me up every morning. Luckily I have the sun's warmth to hold onto me and give me the will to get up in the morning The nurses rush around to get everyone together for breakfast, bright and early in the morning. I'm lucky to not be dependent upon a wheel chair or anything of that sort. I've just slowed down a little with my age. So I hobble down the drab corridor to the lifeless dining hall. I'm seated alone awaiting the arrival of my best friend Henry. He stays down the hall from me and we share stories together at every meal. I sit for an especially long time this morning, and my meal is already delivered I notice that nothing has been left for Henry and I fear the worst. I firmly grab onto Nurse Wendyís arm and shake it as I ask, "Where's Henry" She stares for several seconds with empty eyes at my bewildered face and then replies, "He passed away last night. Very peacefully, in his sleep." He had no one. No one but me, and I had no one but him. We would sit out on the patio and play checkers for endless hours and laugh until the nurses stared at us through the window. I knew this day would come. I just hoped that I would be the one to go first, or that we would go together.
Well, this morning I won't totter out to the patio. Actually I will and just think of the two years that Henry and I spent together. He's probably waiting for me anyhow. He always was quicker than I am. We were never suppose to eat between meals, but Henry had a nurse friend who always got enough candy bars for each of us for an entire week. We used to stick seven Snickers bars into our pockets and just whistle as we walked down the hall. He always started to laugh though. But I guess I'll have no candy bars this week. It wasn't so much the candy bars that I loved, but how each Sunday we would act like nine-year olds.
It's mid-morning and I gaze out at the street, filled with cars, hurrying to work so that people can be trapped inside their offices all day. I don't have to hurry to feel trapped. For the first time I notice the chain link fence surrounding the musing home property. They must think that we'll out run them if we try to get away. The sun has risen, but has hidden itself among the trees and the clouds that rest on heaven's window. My once hopeful emotions are now hidden as well by the disappointing morning news. The clouds fade away and the sun reveals its golden rings stretching forth to enclose me. I smile at the sun and its invitation to become my new best friend, and I accept.
I leave my new best friend and retire to my room for a while before lunch. I turn on the television, although I know that I won't watch it. Voices down the hallway catch my attention. I hear the voice of a small child and two young adults. I take a glimpse at the doorway as they pass my room. The little girl has chestnut hair with little curls holding it down at the ends. She wears a calico dress with a large white ribbon embracing her tiny little body frame. I notice her hand firmly grasping her father's as she covers her eyes with the other. I leisurely stand up and slide my feet over to the doorway to peer once again at this some-what amazing little girl. She holds my attention until she turns the corner. I pray the three have made a mistake and will return once again to see me, to be my visitors. I pray that I would be able to wander down these halls with my eyes closed and not absorb the barren walls. I pray that I could cover my ears to block the wailing cries of some of the dependent ones. I pray that I had someone's hand to hold to guide me through the halls, reassure me that everything would be all right, and tell me not to be scared But the family does not turn around and I never see them again
I drag the slippers on my feet back to my easy chair and think about how hard it is to be alone. I turn my head and stare at the pictures that I have on my dresser. They're mostly of my daughter. Adrienne, age six in a fairy princess costume, age ten at her piano recital, age eighteen at her graduation. Her gorgeous smile makes me break down and cry. I grab hold of one of the pictures and pray that she's coming to see me today, that she is coming to take me away for good so that I can always be with my princess. When Adrienne moved away, I thought I just wanted to stay in town, but now it doesn't matter, now that I have no one I know around. Now that I am stuck in this "home." I leave my memories to go have my lunch alone.
I go back to my room after my companionless lunch, but then I exit my room once again to visit my new best friend out on the patio. I bring along only a smile that widens once I see the sun straight-ahead in the sky. I take a seat on the picnic table and gaze out at the freshly blossoming tulips in the side garden. I notice how the sun showers the flowers with warmth and love. It tends and cares for them and leaves them alone for only a short while. I know that my new friend will have to leave me for a while, but will be waiting for me as soon as I wake up. I know that it will always be there, and will never leave me alone.
I peer at my watch and notice that it is time for evening chapel. I had never been a very religious man, but always a faithful member of my church. Henry and I used to walk down to chapel together and sit in the back together. We would laugh at some of the people around us like we were teenage boys. Now that I have no one to sit with, I sit in the second row by myself. For the first time, I look around at the faces of those around me. Everyone seems new, as if I have never been here before. A little woman dressed in her best is wheeled up next to me. She smiles and says hello. She seems to be one of the more sane people here. She is carrying her Bible on her lap and reads along with all of the readings. Then she sings as loud as her collapsing lungs will allow. After the service she smiles revealing her crooked teeth and she says in a raspy voice, "See you next week." I smile and watch her wheel herself out the doorway. I thank God for my new friend.
I walk past the long window and say good night to the sun. I enter my room and begin to sit down but I am interrupted by a knock I am frightened because I never get anything but bad news when someone knocks. "Mr. James? Hello?" A young deep voice questions.
"Yes, that's me, can I help you?" A beautiful, young, teenage girl enters the room and approaches me. She reminds me of the little girl who I saw earlier today because she has long, shining, almond-colored hair. Both sets of her perfect teeth gleam at me. Her rosy cheeks bunch up at her deep-set eyes. Her kind heart shines through her blue eyes.
"Hi there, I'm Danielle. I go to Canton High School. Are you busy? I just came by to visit," she explains to me as my heart jumps for joy. She extends her hand and I raise mine as it trembles.
"Please, call me Ben. I'm sorry I don't have a nice place for you to sit, but you are welcome to my chair right there," I explain nervously.
"Oh, don't worry about it why don't we go out on the patio. It's rather warm outside tonight. Do you play checkers?"
I smile and pinch myself, thinking that I am hallucinating. "I love checkers, how did you know?"
"Well, honestly it was on your profile that I received I'm in a school club that associates with local nursing homes to visit with people. I thought one of the nurses was going to let you know that I was coming, but I guess I was wrong. Are you ready?"
"Of course," I say and I begin to follow her to the patio. She begins to talk telling me about herself, and her family and friends on our way out. She continually turns and smiles at me with her huge grin. We reach the patio and sit down. I notice that my best friend has not left me quite yet. It still peeks over the horizon a little bit, but illuminates an amazing amount of the sky. We start our game of checkers, though we each begin our stories and never finish a game. For someone so young she has many things to tell.
We chat until the sun disappears, then she says, "Well, I had a wonderful time, but I have to go now." My heart sinks, thinking that our time is over. "Can I plan on coming back next week?" I sit in shock for a few seconds because I had not even dreamt of her saying that. I smile at my new best friend and accept her invitation. I feel it in my heart that she will always comeback.
Grand Valley High School
Teacher: Gary Baker
The first time I saw her she was standing next the drinking fountain outside the door of thegymnasium. She was all alone and was crying probably from loneliness but maybe from fear. I was not alone but was also crying because once again I was being taken to have my now seemingly regular visit to the principal's office. As my teacher yanked me past her, we locked eyes, just for a split second but it was enough. I was forever changed.
From that day forward we had a bond no one could break. We found in each other a best friend. She was someone to giggle with someone to sing with, someone to share Oreo's with. We were inseparable. All through elementary school and then junior high it was impossible for anyone to come between us. Everyone knew that where you found me you would find Halle and where you found Halle you would find me. Life was great.
The fall of our freshman year of high school was like none other I had ever known. I stood in front of the massive building and took a deep breath. Slowly and mechanically I ascended the concrete steps and walked into a cold and impersonal world, all alone.
It had all started that one summer day. She and I were staring our very first summer job at an amusement park in the nest county over. We were ticket takers, which basically meant that we stood at the gate of the amusement park and scoped out all of in coming visitors and smiled at them. We were so excited and were even more stoked to be experiencing this together. Of course how else would we have done it'!
Halle? Halle, where are you?"
Her light and delicate laughter echoes around the room.
"Halle were gonna be late if you don't hurry."
"Come and find me. Jen." Her voice teases from a secret hiding place.
"Halle stop being so immature. We're adults now. With a real job. Come on we're gonna be late."
I take a few steps backwards and look impatiently under the bed. She jumps out from some where behind me and touched my shoulder. I scream startled, and fall to the ground.
"Ha. I gotcha You're such a dork Jen," she laughs as she helps me up off the floor, "we have plenty of time. Besides, the park is only a half an hour away."
"Yeah, but the way my mom drives it'll be mom like an hour."
"Whatever, come on I'm ready."
Just like Halle said we got to "Rapid World" right on time. Our new boss Mr. Wilder gave us our "Rapid World" uniforms and took each of us to our own ticket booths that would soon become our home away from home. Halle and I had booths right next to each other. We could look across and see each as we sat back in our plastic chairs grinning with from ear to ear with pride.
There were guys everywhere. They were constantly coming through the gates and were always smiling. Even some of our co-workers were a treat to look at. Halle and I were in heaven, always someone to drool over and even better always someone to gossip about. Strangely enough Halle's booth seemed to be a really popular hottie hang out. There was always a guy or two standing around and talking to her.
That was the first time I ever noticed the difference between Halle and I. Halle was pretty. In fact she was beautiful. She was slender with long wavy strawberry blond hair that hung at her shoulders and was constantly falling across her face. And her eyes. Her eyes were the most brilliant shade of green I have ever seen. They sparkled like the top of a quivering lake and were the color of fresh morning grass, wet with glistening drops of dew. Admirers flocked to her and were thrilled with the chance of even talking to her.
I on the other hand was nothing special to look at. I was a little thinner than she was and had lifeless mud brown hair. My eyes were brown; no other word could be used to describe them except for brown.
Occasionally a boy would wander my way. He would come up to my booth and usually whisper something into my ear along the lines of "Hey, do know who that girl is in the booth next to you?" or "Does that girl over there have a boyfriend?" I wasn't jealous though. I would always answer their questions and smile as I did so.
There was this one boy in particular, which Halle was unusually fond of. His name was Ryan Fredricks. He also worked in the park but was a lifeguard at one of the water slides. Ryan was 17 and soon to be a senior in high school. He had the body of an Adonis and loved to show it off, especially to Halle. At least once everyday Ryan would just happen to walk past the ticket booths on his way to the employee lounge and would accidentally forget to wear a shirt. He would walk past with his head held high and his golden body glistening in the sun. Every time, almost mechanically, he would turn and smile at Halle or at least in her direction.
She was constantly talking about him. She would gush about how beautiful he was and how his smile was perfect and how she knew he had checked her out. Halle believed that she was in love. In fact in her eyes he was perfect and that's precisely why she was so excited when he asked her out. One day he just walked his ripped little body up her booth and popped the question. She was so excited she would speak of nothing else. As for me, I had always thought Ryan was kinda creepy. He had this persona, this vibe about him, that just breathed danger, but unfortunately I seemed to be the only one that noticed it. I brought it to her attention a couple times but she didn't even acknowledge it. After a while I just wrote it off.
The night of the big date was a just a week before school started. Halle and I were sitting in her room fixing her makeup. She looked great. Her hair, which had been lightly highlighted by the summer sun hung long and beautiful at her shoulders. She had on this short strapless dress the color of her eyes that curve delicately around her slender body. Her hands were shaking when the doorbell rang. She scampered to the door; her faced twisted in a nervous smile and turned the doorknob. There was Ryan. He stood on the front stoop a sly grin on his face. I don't remember what he was wearing but I sure as hell remember that smile.
She looked so beautiful, so happy. She started to walk out the door but stopped and turned towards me.
"Eve Jen. Thanks for your help."
I smiled and watched her walk out the door, the scent of her perfume still lingering in the air.
That was the last time I ever saw Halle. At least the last time I ever saw her alive.
No one knows what happened that night. No one except for Halle and Ryan. The next morning their car was found over turned on the side of an old dirt road. The police did an investigation and it was determined that there was alcohol in Ryanís system but none found in Halle's. She was clean. What they did find on Halle was bruises. There were some on her inner thighs and arms as well as on her stomach and back. Mysteriously there were scratches on the back of Ryan's neck. It was never determined how those marks got on their bodies but everyone has their own theories.
I didnít cry at the funeral, but I swear to God that nearly the whole school showed up to say goodbye to our fallen friend. Halle was a great person and I donít think it was possible not to like her. She was my best friend.
On that first of my freshmen year I stood alone. Something I hadnít done since that first day I met Halle. I looked from face to face around the crowd of kids in the hall and started to cry. None of them had tears in their eyes.
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
My best friend. Everyone always said we went together like peanut butter and jelly. You must have been the peanut butter because you meshed well with almost everyone and everybody loved you. I on the other hand, was a shy, introverted ten-year-old. I had few friends and my best friend had just moved away. I was the jelly. It's ironic that people compare us to peanut butter and jelly because that is exactly what we ate the day we met. It was a hot, sticky July day and I was sitting on my front steps, in the shade, trying to stay as cool as possible, when I spotted you, riding your purple ten-speed bike. You were skinny, with stick-straight chestnut brown hair, which was in need of a cut and was a complete mess. You wore a lime green T-shirt and black soccer shorts. Frankly, you reminded me of a boy. Instead of riding past me you stopped, got off your bike, and introduced yourself. You grinned and said,
"Hi, I'm Liz, what's your name?"
"Eve." I replied, confused as to why this friendly little tomboy had approached me.
"I just turned nine, look what I got for my birthday!" You pointed to your shiny purple ten-speed bike, which I had been admiring ever since I had laid eyes on it.
"Cool, wanna see my bike?" I asked.
"Sure, lets go!" you shouted, as you ran off toward my garage.
"Wow, itís the coolest bike I've ever seen. It's even cooler than mine." you said the second you saw it. You marveled at the gears on my azure bicycle, which you called my "car bike" because the gear looked like a stick shift.
"Thanks, I got it for my birthday too, only I'm ten, and my birthday is in March. But I like your bike better.
You werenít listening and you immediately changed the subject.
"Boy, I'm getting hungry...l have an idea! Let's pack a picnic and ride to the park!"
"Ummmm, ok, lemme ask my mom." I was rather taken aback by your spunky outgoingness, but I ran into my house as fast as I could to ask my mom. She was in the kitchen watering the pansies in the flowerbox, when I skipped in, bumping into her and spilling the contents of the watering can all over the floor. My basset hound, Oliver, trotted over and licked up the puddle of water.
"Mom!" I shouted, jumping up and down, "There's this girl outside, and she lives around the corner, and she's nine, and she wants me to go bike riding with her, can I, can I, can I? PUH-leeze?"
"Whoa, slow down, do I know this girl?"
My head drooped. "No," I said glumly. I perked up. "But she's really nice and we're only going to the park. Please, Mom, please?"
"Oh, ok, but be home for dinner!" She shouted after me.
Since you loved my bike and I loved yours, we traded bikes and rode excitedly to your house to make sandwiches for our outing. You made us PB&J on white bread, cut diagonally, thick on the peanut butter, with a thin layer of jelly. I hated peanut butter and jelly. So did you. But it didn't matter what we ate, we were both happy to be together.
We rode bikes all day, not even feeling the 90-degree heat, until we saw the blazing sun swimming on the horizon. As we sat on my front porch watching the magnificent summer sunset and shooing away hungry mosquitoes, we both knew we had made a friendship different from all others. We were sisters.
That summer, you and I were inseparable. We rode each other's bikes (always secretly returning them to their respective garages each night), went swimming, had sleepovers, and earned our nickname, peanut butter and jelly. It stuck.
Over the years, our friendship grew, and we became a part of each otherís family. You even went on a trip with me to visit my relatives in Brazil. We had a bond that was so great that it amazed even our parents. And, although we both hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whenever the other felt down, we would bring each other PB&J on white bread, sliced diagonally, thick on the peanut butter, with a thin layer of jelly.
Soon, I started high school. I made new friends and was more into movies, music, and theater than "partying." You began high school the year after and you were more interested in "partying" than movies, music, and theater. We grew apart. Now, we only saw each other occasionally, when you came over to my grandparent's house for Chanukah or other Jewish holidays, or if I went to your aunt's for Christmas. We had both made new friends, and neither of us realized that our peanut butter and jelly friendship was being pulled apart until it was too late. Although we weren't as close anymore, some of you had rubbed off on me. I was less shy and had more friends. I was no longer just the outcast jelly. I was a little peanut butter, too.
That summer, when I was fifteen and your fourteenth birthday was just around the corner, I went to Brazil. This time, without you. I had to see my grandpa, he was dying of cancer. You couldn't even come to the airport to say goodbye, but you wrote me a ten-page letter and packed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the plane ride there. Then, the day before we were to depart, the unthinkable happened: my 71 year-old grandfather passed away. For the first time, you weren't there with a hug and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There wasn't even time to call you and tell you what had happened.
Soon after the funeral, it was time to leave Brazil. I was crushed. Losing my grandpa made me realize that I was losing you too. I thought about nothing else all the way home and dreaded going back home and having to face that fact that our friendship was crumbling, just like an old, unwanted PB&J sandwich.
A cool, misty drizzle was falling when we landed. It was the same day that, five years back, I met you. It was July second, the day before the Independence Day parade, which was held every year on the third. We always laughed about that although neither of us knew why. This year, the sun was not shining on our anniversary. I got off the plane and craned my neck looking for someone who had come to greet us. No one was there. We descended to baggage claim, to pick up our suitcases. As I was searching for my bag I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I spun around, knowing it was you. There you were, just as tear-stained as I, dangling a crumpled brown bag and a note in front of my face.
"Liz, oh my god...my grandpa...
"I know." You wiped your tear-stained eyes on your sleeve. "Here, I got you something." You said between sobs. You thrust the bag in front of my face. I opened the bag and found exactly what I had been craving the entire trip; a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced diagonally, thick on the peanut butter, a thin layer of jelly.
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
I knew it was going to be the best day of my life right when I saw his car pulling in. I, attempting to stay nonchalant as I rocked on the swing of my porch, could no longer pretend, and as he stepped out of his black, shiny car holding the beautiful corsage in his hands, I ran towards him in my lavender dress ecstatically. I embraced Jack Mason, the tall, blonde boy that had been my dream date ever since elementary school. As I held him close for that brief second, the sweet scent of his cologne reassured me that the night was going to be perfect.
My Mother, like every other upper-classman's that night, took her fifty-thousand photos, smiled at the couple, and wished them a great evening. As we began to drive away, I started thinking about how long I had been waiting for this event, how long I had tried to win this boy's heart; how long I had been ignored by his varsity football teammates, and how long I had been ridiculed by his friends and peers. I had been so shocked and honored when he had asked me, Janet Willis, that, on that fine day, I was on the brink of tears.
Jack continued to drive and I finished reminiscing as we pulled into the parking lot of my favorite restaurant, Georgio's. I couldn't have imagined a better choice on his behalf. We walked in to find all of his football teammates with their dates (the varsity cheerleaders, of course) sitting at a large table which the busboys had constructed by putting the smaller tables together. Surprisingly enough, his friends welcomed us with large smiles on their face. All of a sudden they were accepting of me, even friendly to me. I couldn't believe it.
After dinner, everyone went to the dance. As if by magic, my anxiety over dancing was relieved. I felt like a new person. I had confidence. I had style. I had the courage and strength to feel equal to my partner. At that amazing night, I had it all. Everyone who had made fun of me in school came up to me with respect and complimented. I was never a fan of flattery, until I was the one who began receiving it. I had gone from "brace-face" and "four-eyes" to "beautiful", "gorgeous", and even "hot!" Guys were asking Jack if they could cut in and steal me for a dance. It was the most attention I had ever received in my life.
The end of the dance was near, and it was time to announce the From King and Queen. With admiration, I wondered which of the cheerleaders would be queen, but I had no doubt Jack was to be king. Well my hunch was reassured when Jack Mason was called up and given the crown. Oh, how I wished to be queen, but I knew such things could only happen in my dreams.
"And the Queen for this year's Almond High School prom is. . .drum roll please. . ." as the MC spoke my heart sunk. "Give a big round of applause toÖJanet Wó"
"Janet, Janet, Janet Wallis!" my English teacher shouted as the entire classroom filed with the roar of harsh laughter. "What are you doing sleeping in class?" I felt my face flush with mortification. And as I turned to see Jack next to me, pointing and laughing, my face flooded with tears.
Bexley High School
Teacher: Mrs. Molly Hoey
All thirteen of us would sit there on the floor in a large semi-circle, our legs crossed Indian-style and our heads leaned back so we could look up at the enormous Morah Minah. Morah, means teacher in Hebrew. Morah Minah was my Hebrew language teacher. All the kids in my class really disliked her. She was a rather large woman, whose behind would shift up and down side to side, like a robot when she walked. She always wore these long floral skirts that hung down to the floor. I had always wondered if I were to peek under Morah Minah's long skirt if she would have metal legs with many buttons all over them.
Day in, day out she would stand stiffly before all thirteen of us singing her songs in a loud, quite unpleasant voice. To put it nicely, her voice reminded me of an old cow giving birth. Morah Minah, however, despite her suffering animal moan and robotic waddle, had managed to teach us all a lesson we would never forget. All thirteen of us, only in the second grade, after many hours of hands on experience had come to learn one thing very well; we knew the true meaning of boredom.
I did feel somewhat sorry for the poor woman (even though she was extremely mean and probably was a robot) because we all came to her class straight from gym. Oh to have to sit perfectly still for a whole forty-five minutes after a period where we were able to roam free, leaping and jumping, was just absolute torture. My gym class as far as my peers and I were concerned was a gift from god. Mr. Everheart, our gym teacher, was a very kind man, the type that was always smiling. He was the only teacher who ever let us get drinks from the water fountain and go to the bathroom whenever we wanted.
In gym we played all sorts of wonderful games like kickball, dodge ball, red rover, and sometimes we climbed on the tiger rope. Mr. Everheart had introduced me to one of the most amazing things I can recall from my entire child hood. I can remember the very day that Mr. Everheart brought out the amazing gift to share with our gym class.
For an entire month, Mr. Everheart had been putting up gold sticker stars on a chart for our class whenever we were good. He told us that at the end of the month if our class had earned twenty gold sticker stars he would have a special surprise for us.
By the time the end of the month came we were all very anxious to receive our surprise. We had earned twenty gold sticker stars so on that day we all sat in the big circle in the center of the gym floor and waited for Mr. Everheart to bring us our surprise. I clearly remember sitting there watching Mr. Everheart emerge from the back room with the enormous rainbow colored cloth--it was beautiful. " Okay guys, today we're gonna play a new game that involves this rainbow parachute. Everyone up for it?" he asked. Everyone responded with excited cheers and from that day on, at the beginning of each month, if our class had been good, Mr. Everheart brought out the rainbow parachute and we got to play his special game.
It was April 1,1992 that the worst day of my life began. Now, I am a strong girl, and I can handle bad days, but what made this day the worst, was that it was a sneaky bad day. This, of course, was not just your ordinary, sneaky bad day, but a humiliating, terrifyingly, sneaky bad day.
I rode the bus to school that morning completely free of any inconveniences. The April morning air was not too hot, not too cold, but just perfect. The cloudless sky was a bright blue and I was wearing my favorite blue jeans. April 15 seemed to be the start of an absolutely perfect day.
My morning classes went by fairly quickly and for lunch they were serving my favorite lunch--lasagna! My friends and I were all enjoying our lasagna and looking forward to next period where we knew we would get to play the special game with the rainbow parachute. The bell tone sounded ending the lunch period and my friends and I all rushed to the locker rooms to change for gym class.
Mr. Everheart, as promised, brought out the rainbow parachute, and we formed a large circle, each of us holding a section of the brightly colored cloth. All thirteen of us silently anticipated Mr. Everheart's count off, "One, Two, Three..." on three we all threw our section of the cloth up in the air and ran under the parachute. The rainbow cloth floated over our heads and when it began to sink we all sat on the inside edges of the parachute. The air held the parachute above our heads like a dome and we all sat inside of it rolling a red ball back and forth to one another. The light that filtered through the colored cloth was amazingly beautiful. Under the parachute it was like a whole different world, made up of my friends, Mr. Everheart, and me.
As we sat under the parachute nobody could move from his or her spot or the dome would be destroyed for everyone. I sat firmly on my edge of the parachute and ignored, as best I could, the water in my stomach from lunchtime. I had to go to the bathroom extremely badly, but I would never voluntarily leave the parachute dome, and if I did everyone would be upset with me for cutting the game short. I sat there firmly and held all that water inside of me.
The bell tone sounded and everyone stood up from their places inside the parachute, letting the dome collapse on us. I adored the first of the month. I was a little upset with myself for decreasing the fun of the parachute game because I had "peeing" on my mind. I practically ran to Morah Minah's class which was extremely odd for any second grade kid to do.
"Morah Minah, can I please go to the bathroom! Pleeeeeeeeeeease?" I begged.
"No, Mandi. You should have gone in lunchtime!" she said firmly in her thick Israeli accent. How could she do that to me? I had to go so badly!
"Oh! Please, Morah Minah! I'll be so quick!" I pleaded. Morah Minah glared at me from behind her bifocals.
"Fine, go, GO!" she bellowed, "Hurry, Mandi." I didn't take another look at Morah Robot. I bolted out of the room like lightening and ran down the hall to the kids' bathroom. I tugged on the door, and to my absolute horror discovered it was locked! Oh, God wasn't going to make it. I bolted down another hallway towards the office.
Hopping up and down trying to control myself I yelped, "Ms. Szatmary, Ms. Szatmary, I have to go to the bathroom sooooo bad and it's locked!" I wailed.
"Oh, that's right. There was a flood in there. Is it an emergency?" she asked calmly. I nodded profusely. "All right, well you can use the teachers' bathroom, but only because its an emergency." She led me into the back room where only the teachers could go. Normally I would have been honored to go back there, but at the moment I just wanted to pee.
It may sound ridiculous but for some odd reason I had always been somewhat frightened by toilets. Most small children are, and I was extremely small. I hopped into the teacher's bathroom and was almost killed by the sight of the huge, gigantic toilet. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen. There was a metal bar on the side of the wall too. It was really odd. I struggled with the button on my favorite jeans and was about to end the turmoil of my distressed discomfort when to my absolute horror, I stumbled--SPLASH- --Plop! I had fallen backwards into the enormous toilet.
I was in complete shock. My knees were pressed up against my chin, my bottom was completely submerged in water and the back of my neck was painfully pressed up against the back of the bowl. I had completely fallen into the toilet bowl. I had tripped on my stupid shoelace and had fallen into the teachers' enormous toilet, which was scary enough without me being stuck in it. As a second grade girl, stuck in a toilet, I did the only natural thing one could do--I began to wail and cry and scream, "HELP! Help! I fell in! Oh, Please someone help me!" But there was no reply to my desperate calls. I was alone in the teachers' bathroom and no one could hear me. The toilet water was extremely cold and I still desperately had to pee. I certainly was not going to pee all over myself, so I painfully held it in.
My body was curled up in a ball inside of the toilet and I couldn't push myself out. I began to sob miserably. After what seemed about an hour someone heard my shrieking cries. It was an eighth grader who was fetching papers for her teacher. I begged for her to come in and pull me out of the cold wet toilet bowl, but she began hysterically laughing. This only made me sob even louder.
"Look, little girl. I don't know how you got yourself into that mess but you're going to have to hang on for a few minutes because the door's locked so I'm going to have to go get the janitor with the keys," she said in between hysterical laughter. I heard her walk away. I tried to reach for the large heavy wooden door but I couldn't. My neck was wedged up against the back of the bowl of my toilet cage. I sobbed.
Finally the janitor came and tugged me out of the toilet. It was extremely painful and I had bruises on the back of my neck and behind my knees for the rest of that week. April 15,1992, a day that will never be forgotten by me or anyone that was in the school building that day. Since then, I can proudly say I have more than tripled my size and am safely able to go into public restrooms.
I did learn one valuable lesson from my experience that Jimmeny Cricket was always trying to teach Pinnochio (my childhood heartthrob) and that is to always expect the unexpected.
After breathing nothing but canned prison air for two years, August Dillon's first breath outside the concrete and razor wire confines tasted sweet. Then he tasted the heavy reek from the nearby smelting plant, wrinkling his lumped and often broken nose in disgust. Good old New Mexico, home of the world's biggest charnel houses and smelting capital of the USA.
Ignoring the thunderously frowning prison guard inside the kiosk just outside the parking lot, August threw his paper bag containing a few old books and an unused bar of soap out into the desert that creeped sandy fingers into the cracked blacktop where his girlfriend Jessie waited.
She was still the same tall, rangy girl he'd been forced to leave after getting busted for a robbery. Her hair had gotten longer and was tied over one sunburned shoulder in a ponytail. A scar across her forehead was the only new thing he could see.
And of course, Jessie was leaning up against the Olds Toronado. That old jet-black spider who could haul ass and take quite the licking. They didn't make many mean machines like the car anymore.
It was an absolute beast. Herst shifter, 355 Hemi engine, supercharger, and dual exhaust thrown in just for the hell of it. In other words, it was the traditional American muscle car. Pretty ironic that a car designed for family use had become such a monster that Jessie's Toronado had.
They'd been through some pretty wild times in the old creature. As a matter of fact, the robbery that August got thrown in jail for used the Tornado as the getaway vehicle. Only a fleet footed patrolman had stopped Dillon's escape. Jessie fortunately, was far enough from the main action to avoid capture.
Anyway, that was all in the past. It was time to look ahead to bigger and better things.
August stepped forward and embraced Jessie, mindful not to jab himself with a corner of the pistol protruding from the waistband of her jeans.
The Toronado roared animalistically, eating up New Mexican miles and blowing them out the tailpipes. Jessie shifted, putting the car to ninety-five.
"So," August said conversationally, cracking open a beer. "What've you been up to, my dear?"
"Got a new job," Jessie spoke in short, tough sentences, saying no more than what was needed to be said. "Running stuff over into Texas."
"What kinds of stuff?"
Jessie shrugged. "Guns mostly, but drugs too. That kind of thing."
"How much do you get a trip?"
"Five grand," she grinned over at him. "Want in? Fifty-fifty split."
"Count me in," he wouldn't have to worry about cash now. "Who're you running for?"
"The famed up-and-coming gun smuggler?" Dillon was impressed. "Holy crap."
"Yup, that was my reaction too," Jessie reached into the back seat quickly and procured a police issue nine millimeter automatic pistol identical to the one she carried.
"Are we expecting trouble?" he asked, putting the gun carefully in one jacket pocket.
"Ever hear of someone named Cortez?"
"Nope." August drained his beer, tossing the can indifferently out the window.
"He's a hitter for the Vitto family in New York, but has been working for a Southern mobster with Vitto connections." Jessie explained. "I've been horning in on Mandrake Stark's turf. Rumor has it that he's put a price on my head."
August blew out an exasperated breath. It was almost too much to handle. Guns, the Italian Mafia, namely Stark, for Christ's sakes. That old bulldog was mean as a striped snake and packed twice the venom in his bite. A gun smuggler, like Medici, with ties to the Vitto family. An extremely dangerous man, and that was an understatement.
It seemed to Dillon that this time Jessie had put her foot into something warm and brown.
"Did you ever think this little operation is just a tad over your head?" he asked uneasily.
"Stark is someone who's toes you don't want to step on."
"Sure I thought about it," she spat. "but I need the money. So do you."
"The job has risks. That's a given, sweets," Jessie shrugged again. "Besides, I'm just one chick in a world of two zillion. How could Stark find me?"
The doors of Medici Supply Co. opened to a plank faced man with a slim build. When asked what the hell he wanted by the door guard, this interloper shot the man twice using a silenced automatic pistol.
This stranger walked quietly inside and pushed the red button that opened the big gates to the loading dock on the south side of the building, admitting a white panel truck into the fenced area. The truck rolled up to the loading dock, stopping two feet short of the dock's concrete ramp.
Ejaculating great curses and mutterings about, the workmen at the dock walked around the truck, looking for the driver or a passenger. Neither were to be found.
Then finally, they broke the padlock holding the huge rear door shut and began to pull it open. A short, stubby shotgun barrel poked out at them. Those closest were vaporized as the man with the weapon pulled the trigger.
Mandrake Stark's twenty bulldogs, all wearing ATF jackets and ball caps, stormed out of the truck. Each held a sawed off riot gun.
With bogus shouts of "Raid!" or "Hands up!," Stark's men cut down the ill armed and unprepared workers.
The short fight left seven workers dead and twelve others wounded. A second team of Stark's men entered from the rear, cutting down those who tried to sneak out the back door. Those souls who survived the bloodbath were herded out into an office beside the upstairs toilet. The thin man with the emotionless face, who'd avidly participated in the skirmish, was waiting inside, a drawn knife in his hand.
One at a time, the prisoners were admitted. The others pondered their fate, hearing nothing from the closed door other than a quiet, intense voice that said;
"Open your mouth."
Cortez came out of the office with a bloody bucket of severed tongues in his grasp. The ordinary kitchen knife dangled from the other paw, dulled.
The three bulldogs left to guard the prisoners made quick eye contact with the assassin and Cortez nodded in reply, wiping his sullied hands on a dead man's shirt.
"I know where she's going." Cortez said, taking a quick sip from the hallway drinking fountain.
"El Raye?" one of the strong-arms asked.
"El Paso. Medici is waiting for her." Cortez grinned. "But I don't think we'll have to deal with him. Stark is handing that bugger as we speak."
"So what's our next move?"
"Call Mandrake. Tell him what we know." Cortez began to walk down the stairs quickly, spinning his car keys on one short finger. "I'm going after the bitch."
The absolute last thing in the world Roberto Medici expected on the blaringly hot September afternoon was Mandrake Stark's limo to pull up to where he and seven of his best men were waiting for Jessie to bring the next shipment of Russian made machine guns.
It was an unpleasant surprise, but Medici was young enough and stupid enough to believe that he could take an old time hardcase like Stark. The up-and-coming mobster had enough guns to blow Godzilla into cat chow, let alone erase Mandrake Stark from the slate entirely.
But what Medici didn't have was brains. He thought that Stark was wanting to cut a deal or something like that.
So you can imagine Medici's surprise when Mandrake jammed an over-and-under double-barreled shotgun into his stomach and blew the minor mobster's guts out his back.
Then the five men in Stark's limo opened up on Medici's men with American M-16 carbines. Most of Roberto's thugs didn't even get their weapons unholstered.
When the machine gun haze dissipated, all eleven of Stark's Mafia stood, reloading rifles and waiting for Medici's rabbit.
August Dillon, now only five hours out of jail, began to get really nervous when he saw the Arai 355 tailing them in the rearview mirror.
He knew that Jessie had taken on too much this time. They were screwing the mob, not some backwoods hillbilly pot farmer who didn't know his butt from a hole in the ground.
The Arai pulled up behind them, humming with cool horsepower under its tiny red hood. Jessie frowned and tramped on the gas, but the Japanese speedster matched her.
August wasn't really shocked to see the small car catch up with the Toronado. He'd read in a magazine somewhere that the Arai Company made racing motors with the supercharger built directly into the engine right on the assembly line. The cars they made for the domestics could go around one hundred-seventy miles per hour flat.
"Jessie-" Dillon started, but the passenger side window of the Arai cranked down, and a thin man leaned out with an automatic rifle in hand. He could see the pencil thin laser light mounted under the long barrel switch on as the assassin touched the trigger.
"Duck!" he shouted, dropping down into his bucket seat as the rear window shattered. Bullets tore through the Toronado's steel body and let in a high pitched stream of air that whined piercingly. The taillights exploded, the truck's latch popped open and spilled out the precious contents that Jessie had bet her life upon.
"Dammit!" she roared, slamming her foot onto the brake pedal. The Toronado had been doing about ninety, and when the Arai tailgating it hit the solid frame of the muscle car at around the same speed, the result was the same as if the small Japanese car had been dropped into a trash compactor. Cortez and his driver were reduced to gory stains on the leather seats of the Arai. Jessie and August, their seat belts clenched out of sheer habit, merely received gashes on the forehead and one barely running Toronado.
Jessie goosed the pedal a little. The big car putted forward, less than three hundred yards from the rendezvous point Medici had preordained.
"Are you okay?" August asked, wiping sticky blood from his forehead. He was dizzy, but otherwise fine.
"Good," Jessie answered, silently begging the Toronado to go just a tiny bit further.
"Lots better than my machine, though."
"It can be fixed."
The Toronado reached the place where they were supposed to meet Medici, and died. Jessie pummeled the steering wheel with her fists. She began to cry.
Through the windshield, Mandrake Stark was holding Medici's severed head in one brutal fist and a sawed off shotgun in the other. He dropped the gory relic, raised his weapon, and stalked towards the trapped couple.
August drew Jessie close to him. She pressed her face against the side of his neck and cried, whispering "I love you, August." as Stark drew a bead on them.
"I love you too," Dillon said, a split second before Mandrake, his reign now unchallenged, shot them both dead.
Liberty Christian Academy
Teacher: Rebecca L. Ramsey
Peering over to his left, Sergio sensed imminent danger. Countless Austrians attempting to claw their way through the Italians' trenches were swarming the division on his company's flank. Suddenly a blaring shriek rose up from the melee, "Retreat! Get out!" A feeling of invigorating panic bolted through Sergio's veins. In textbook maneuver the Austrians swept over the trenches to hit Sergio's position. His commander, perceiving the perilous situation, ordered that the white flag be drawn. However, an Austrian sniper fired a bullet through the flag bearer's neck, the flag dropping to the ground. Before a replacement could be found, the Austrians sprinted toward the Italian line. Seeing the huddled masses of savage Austrians work their way to the Italian line sent a desperate dread throughout Sergio's body. Immediately his military training kicked in. If he ran straight back he would be engulfed in a tidal wave of enemy infantry. If he ran to his left his fellow Italians in flight would trample his body. If he ran to his right he would be caught in crossfire between the attacking Austrians and the few Italians standing their ground. However, a hill a little more than a thousand yards out loomed in front of his position. He saw the hill as his only option besides the unthinkable option, surrender. Sergio crept out of the trench and started into a dead run toward...
"Crack...thud. " Sergio had tripped over his newly wounded companion.
Focused, Sergio jumped up and started his run afresh. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a lone Austrian infantryman detect him, and the race began. A forest three hundred yards in front of him surrounded his primary objective, and would give him some form of cover. He threw off his jacket to decrease wind resistance. He looked back and assessed the angle at which his opponent pursued, estimating eight o'clock. He urged his tendons and muscles to move him along at ever-increasing speeds. An adrenal charge overcame his body that focused all of his energy, all of his thoughts, all of his bodily resources into his lower limbs. While dashing forward he eyed the trees, a mere hundred yards away. His eyes enlarged at the thought of safety and security he would...
A faint whistling noise echoed behind and grew progressively louder. He shrugged it off as a flare of some sort until its tone turned from a whistle to a loud, high pitched shriek, and then he knew...
The shock of the explosion forced his body sideways, yet he attempted to keep his upward posture. But the push threw his left ankle to a horizontal position behind his right knee, kicking his knee and slamming him facedown in the green grass and yellow dandelions. A ladybug scampering past the tip of his nose diverted his attention for a fraction of a second. The ladybug, frightened by his presence, fled the scene. He resolved to do the same. He managed to get to his feet and continue his mad scamper toward the forest. He wove his way up a slight incline and found himself within ten feet of the forest. Then he heard a resounding gunshot go off and watched as dozens of minuscule bark fragments disconnected themselves from their host tree and let gravity slowly coax them to the ground. Looking at the tree, he thought he saw a red blot on the tree. Yet when he moved slightly sideways the blot moved too. Pressing his index finger to the corner of his brown, bushy eyebrows he felt distinct moisture clustered above his eye. He examined his finger and saw a maroon smear with an auburn tint and realized he had suffered a cut when he struck the earth. Regaining his composure, Sergio maneuvered his way into the forest. He sneaked a glance back and quickly calculated the distance separating him from his adversary. He estimated thirty yards. Now Sergio slowed into a light jog so that he could focus and find out where the large hill was. He located the hill: 500- 600 yards straight ahead and somewhat to the right. After seeing the hill, Sergio sped for his objective. While dodging the underbrush and foliage Sergio was startled by a yell from behind him. Sergio stopped for a few seconds and heard the Austrian swearing vehemently, having fallen to the dirt. Undaunted, the Austrian stood, saw Sergio, and raised his rifle to destroy Sergio. Sergio lunged to the right. The Austrian had aimed for the chest, but the bullet ripped a hole in Sergio's sleeve, exposing part of a scar Sergio had received in a trench-digging accident. Luckily, the bullet caused no damage to Sergio's body. He got back to his feet and tore across the underbrush towards the hill. Sergio ran in somewhat of a zigzag pattern to reduce his predator's ability to get off a fair shot. During the course of his sprint, Sergio heard a hissing sound in front and to the left of him. He stole a quick glance towards that direction and noticed a minuscule green creature of some sort staring back at him. When turning his sights back toward the hill, he saw a tree trunk jutting out one to one and a half feet from the ground. He thrust his body upward by using his hamstring and calf muscles in his right leg. As a result, the lower portion of his right leg formed a ninety-degree angle with his right thigh. While focusing on the protruding tree trunk, however, Sergio completely missed the fully-grown tree four feet in front of it. Thus Sergio's thigh smashed into the side of the trunk with astounding force. His upper body, formerly in upright posture, kept moving at the sprinting pace thus grossly overextending Sergio's hip flexor. In this position Sergio's body crashed to the earth. He knew, however, that he must get up and make it to the hill as fast as possible. Sergio got to his feet and continued on his way, ignoring, to the best of his ability, the torturous pain in his hip. He looked up and saw the hill, a mere two hundred yards from his current position. The frustrated Austrian was firing more shots at Sergio, though none of them were within thirty feet of striking him. Sergio kept his pace and encountered a sharp decline before him in front of the hill, forcing him to shorten his stride in order to maintain his footing. The discomfort in his hip increased with the further strain of additional strides, yet he compelled himself to reach the hill.
Meanwhile, the Austrian footman struggled to keep Sergio within visual range. Born, raised, and trained in open countryside, the Austrian had difficulty avoiding the dangers of the forest with which his enemy was better accustomed. Fearing he would lose sight of his foe on the approaching decline, the Austrian sped up. Indeed, Sergio's head disappeared from view. Now the Austrian summoned all his energy to the chase so that he would be able to see his enemy again.
While his adversary searched for him, Sergio began his ascent up the hill. Attempting to lose his foe, Sergio took a path slightly to his left to make it up the hill in different direction than what his opponent would be expecting. He worked his way fifty yards up the hill and to his delight discovered an overgrown bush to his right.
For the first time during the whole pursuit, Sergio 's thoughts turned from being the hunted to being the hunter.
Crouching behind the bush, Sergio surveyed the terrain from which he had just came. He couldnít have asked for a better position to put himself. A wave of relief splashed over his senses at the thought of not...
There he was, tripping and trying to find his way toward the hill. Sergio knew it was time to get to work.
The Austrian, meanwhile, still felt confident he could destroy his prey. He eased his way down the decline and halted at the bottom of the hill. He spied some motion from the top of the hill, about a hundred yards up, and reckoned that it must be the hated Italian. He decided to pursue.
At the same time, Sergio waited. He noticed the Austrian glance upward and start climbing. He figured that the Austrian had seen an animal and thought it was Sergio.
However, the only important thing to Sergio at this instant was the Austrian's movement.
He watched as the Austrian worked his way up the hill and traverse into a small clearing on the hill. Trained as a sniper, he knew that his exceptional marksmanship could level the Austrian. He raised his British-made 1913 model and checked his sights. He pondered over why the Austrian stood motionless.
The Austrian felt utterly confused. The figure at the top of the hill just stood there holding an Austrian flag. He now remembered that his military had stationed an observation post and small medical team on top of the hill. Where had the Italian gone? He stood still in bewilderment.
Sergio, on the other hand, knew exactly what he was doing. He placed the crosshairs at the point where the jugular runs through the neck. He pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced his jugular yet missed the Austrian's vocal chords, allowing a jarring discordant shrieking noise from the infantryman.
While the Austrian and Italian were engaging in a game of cat-and-mouse, the Austrian patrol atop the hill was suffering through a routine day. Its commander had sent them to the top of this specific hill to look out at the Italian line and search for weak points. After the initial assault succeeded and the Italians vacated the battlefield, these
Austrians expected to join the action and pursue their foes. Their commander, however, had ordered them to stay in place. Since their main focus was on the battlefield far away from them, the scenario unfolding in the woods below had not caught their attention until a member of their patrol had seen the Austrian infantryman slowly making his way up the hill. Then, without warning, a gunshot rang out from a bush and slashed its way into the infantryman's neck. As the patrol witnessed this spectacle, the Austrian crumpled ever so slowly to the dirt astonished that his prey had killed him, the predator.
While his fellow countrymen stared in disbelief, one of the patrolmen, a veteran of fifteen years, immediately sprang into action. He looked at the bush where the gunshot had originated and saw the Italian sniper standing up from his crouched position. From the way the Italian acted it seemed as if he had no idea that the Austrians were atop the hill. This patrolman could not have dreamed of a more advantageous position.
Meanwhile, a sensation of irrepressible excitement encompassed Sergio's being as the burden of his seemingly dire fate and hideous circumstances escalated into infinity. Yet was the Austrian dead? Sergio crept out of the bush and walked over to where the Austrian lay in a pool of crimson liquid. The Austrian lay on his torso, face down in the grass with his arms reaching up to his disfigured neck. Suddenly a wrathful vengeance seized Sergio. He launched a swift and powerful kick to the Austrian's side, followed by two more to the ribs. Sergio fell to his knees and used the butt of his gun to viciously strike his deceased foe's back. In this kneeling position Sergio lifted his arms in the air and released a wild and barbaric roar, discharging all the frustrations and fear of the situation into which the Austrian had put Sergio. He paused for a moment to catch his breath, then prepared to scream again.
The patrolman was infuriated as he watched this crazed Italian humiliate the Austrian corpse. He watched as the Italian lifted his arms and screamed. He lifted his rifle up to his shoulder and focused his aim. He thought of a place to put the bullet, and decided on the abdominal cavity. He lowered his aim, and placed his finger on the trigger. Now was the time.
The Italian regained his breath and let out another howl, this one of a victorious champion who has just successfully completed the ultimate challenge. His voice rang out through the wilderness.
The patrolman pulled the trigger. Flame and smoke billowed forth from his weapon of destruction. The lethal agent sped away from the gun and journeyed toward its target.
Sergio's scream came to an abrupt halt. His immediate reaction was to place his hands over the wound. Then he looked down and saw his intestines slithering around in his hands. The substance of his life flowed freely from his body in a miniature scarlet waterfall, mixed with the various juices issuing forth from his organs. He squeezed his fists as tightly as possible in muted despair, forcing the blood to spray in multiple directions. He turned his head in order to see the top of the hill and found the patrolman standing there with his gun to his shoulder. He was Sergio's ambassador of death, delivering its message efficiently. He silently screamed at the man, asking him why such a fate would befall him. He begged death for an acquittal, knowing he would not get one. His torso fell over, landing at a perpendicular angle to the Austrian below. Their bodies created an "X" in the clearing on the hill. Sergio's eyelids sluggishly lowered themselves. He saw an ant trudging along a blade of grass. He watched as the ant climbed up the blade and full. The ant landed in a tiny puddle of Austrian blood. He could see the ant kicking and fighting for survival, slowly drowning in the dense liquid. Inevitably the ant stopped kicking. Sergio's eyelids shut.
Teacher: Leslie Altman
All the other men used to tell me how alone they felt. Many of them would spend their nights staring at pictures of their girlfriends back home. Pete Starkey used to take handfuls of dirt and rub them on his face. He told me it reminded him of his garden back in Connecticut. David Carroll, before that mine got him, used to stare at a pressed flowers from home. The wildflowers in Oregon, he used to say, are more beautiful than any woman. More beautiful than a thousand sunsets over here.
I never felt alone. If anything, I felt smothered with company. Not the men, the jungle. The jungle was like a million men. It breathed and slept. It ate too; it ate David Carroll. It ate Lee Babson, but did not swallow him for forty minutes. Lee just lay there, whispering the names of his mother, father, and two little brothers over and over to himself. The jungle cried. Sometimes I would wake up and the jungle would be weeping.
Mist would wind through the trees, and the softest rain would fall. I could hear the jungle moan. The leaves on the trees shook very softly. And the smell. It smelled of sadness those times. It smelled of tears. The jungle screamed too. All the men knew this. On some mornings when we woke, we knew the jungle was screaming. We never spoke of this to each other, we just knew it. On those days, somebody would die. I think the jungle was telling us to leave.
I knew the only way to survive was to become a part of the jungle. Most of the men separated themselves from it. They tried to stay clean; brushing their teeth, wearing deodorant, combing their hair. They walked like they were not a part of it. They marched like soldiers, upright and powerful. I always crept. I stayed low. I tried to act like the snakes which hung from the trees; silent, smooth, and coiling. When I walked I tried to move with the earth. I let my body grow dark with soil and moisture. I slept on beds of leaves, vulnerable to the insects' bites. When we had to kill, I knew the jungle would help me. I slid on its surface, and it never betrayed my presence. It even let me slip silently behind men. They never knew I was coming. Like the serpents on the trees, I bit quickly, and my venom was deadly.
The enemy was the worst part. They were young boys. Not even old enough to be out of high school. They were thin and short. They had these huge black eyes which would stay in your mind for days. I remember my first one. It was my fourth day, and he just jumped out from behind a tree. Purely as reflex, I raised my rifle. Those eyes. I remember those damned eyes. He was all alone. Nobody in our platoon knew why that boy would be alone, and if he was, why he would jump out in front of a full platoon. Those boys all wrote poetry. They would have dozens of scraps of paper with poems and drawings. They carried pictures too. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, girlfriends. One boy had a little book with photographs of other places in it; Paris, New York, Madrid. Those damned eyes.
hile I never really felt alone, I missed home terribly. When I was walking, on those days when we went miles and miles, I missed home. I always missed home when I woke in the morning. The upper lip of the sun would be peaking above the canopy, and rays of sunlight would shine through cracks in the foliage. It reminded my of the sun sweeping across my father's fields back home. I would never remember specific moments like birthdays or holidays, only brief images. My mother walking up the driveway. My father's hands. The woodpile behind the garage. Sometimes, my mind would carry me home for an instant. One moment I would be sitting in a foxhole, artillery exploding all around me, and the next moment I would be sitting on my back porch, staring at the sunset. The waves of color arching across the sky. The fireflies beneath the oak tree in the yard. One second later, I would be firing my rifle.
I had many good friends in the platoon. Herman Clifford came from a town ten miles away from mine. He was a stage actor, and would sing show-tunes when we marched. He and I would often sit and talk about food. God, we missed food. Steaks and lobster, donuts and brownies. Itís funny what you miss sometimes. Herman lost his legs one day, and was sent home. I remember Vance Cargile, from Detroit. He would always tell jokes. Always. If a man of ours was shot, the next second Vance would be telling a joke. At first, most of the men got angry at him. Later, we all grew to appreciate it. I do not think Vance could have stopped telling those joke if he tried. Whatever gets a man through. One day Vance was telling a joke, and an instant later he was dead. I was standing right next to him. I often remember those who had no friends. There was Clinton Cooper, who would cry himself to sleep every night. There was Michael Berman, who wet his sleeping bag. I always think of little Jamey Murphy. He never talked, ever. When he was shot, he couldn't stop. For an hour, while we waited for the chopper to take him, he talked and talked. He told us about his family, his old school, his girlfriend, his dog, even the brand new Ď69 Chevy that would be waiting for him when he got home. He didn't make it.
I left the jungle on a Sunday. It was about noon, and we were stopping for lunch. We were eating out of our mess cans when they began firing. I was the first to get hit. The first shot hit me beneath the ribs. The second shot got me in the neck. The third blinded me. I stayed for a few seconds, just long enough to tell one of the men that I wanted to be buried beneath the oak tree in the back yard. Then I was being carried away, down a long path. It felt like the air itself was carrying me. Above, I could see the sunset from back home. It was more striking than I had ever seen it before. Ribbons of orange and red spiraled across the entire sky. I turned my head, and to the side of me was the jungle, passing by quickly. I could see panthers sitting erect next to every tree. Snakes hung from branches. A blue nimbus of light radiated from every tree. I knew it was wishing me well. I had been one of its children for nearly a year. Of all the men, I had understood it the best. As time passed, the jungle foliage turned to fields of grain. I knew I was going back home. Eventually, my body slowed. I came to a final field, with vibrant, healthy stalks of grain. I could see my father in his big straw hit sowing grain. I turned my head, and I could see my mother hanging clothes out to dry on our laundry line. I passed my house, small and white, flanked by a garden. I saw my little brother sitting on the back porch staring into the sky. My body came to the big oak tree in the backyard. The tree stood with lush green leaves tumbling like rain from its branches. Fireflies glowed a soft green all around the tree. As my body softy sank into the moist earth beneath the treeís roots. I knew I had come home for good.
Lincolnview High School
Teacher: Greg Leeth
He winced in pain as the robber shoved the gun barrel harder against the back of his neck.
"I said NOW!" He screamed.
Alex's hands refused to cooperate. He was numb from the brain down. He couldn't believe this was happening to him. He somehow managed to keep his cool.
"Do you WANT to die today, Mr. Brodek??" The masked robber yelled. His voice echoed in Alex's mind.
"N-n-n-no, sir," he replied meekly.
"Then OPEN the safe!"
He felt the robber nudge his head with the gun, this time with more force than before. "What am I waiting for?" He asked himself, "I am no hero."
"NOW!!!" The robber screamed.
Alex reached into his pocket and searched through all the junk to get out his keys. He selected a small key on the key chain and unlocked the first door of the huge safety box, only to see a second secured door. This door did not have a keyhole to unlock it. Rather, it had a large combination dial with which to enter the combination code to unlock it. He forced his brain to recollect the combination which he had entered every week for the past six years. He turned the dial slowly as he entered the code: 19-32-10. He pulled the lever up and yanked the door open. His eyes fell upon a third and final door. This door was opened only by a typed code and a retinal scan. The scan only recognizes and allows a member with a Level 3 security clearance. This door is the only reason the burglar hadn't killed him yet.
"Are you deaf, Mr. Brodek?!?" The aggressor screamed into is ear, spitting on the back of Alex's neck as he bellowed.
Alex didn't answer. He pressed in his PIN code, and waited for the computer to clear him to start the scanning.
"Welcome, Alexander T. Brodek III. Please place your chin on the chin plate to begin scanning," the automated voice instructed him.
Alex was hesitant to place his eyes on the scanner, but the robber shoved the gun into the back of his neck. Alex did as the computer said.
"Scanning sequence beginning, please wait..."
A long laser light passed from the top of his eyebrows to the bottom of his nose, then back again. Alex squinted slightly, hoping to cause the scan to fail and deny him access.
"Scanning complete," the automated voice said, dooming Alex's future forever.
"Good, now get those notes out," the burglar told him.
Alex did as he said. He pulled up on the lever to unlock the door, and pulled it open slowly. Time seemed to stand still as he reached into the safe and drew out a blue, three ringed binder with a lot of papers stuffed inside of it, many not even attached to the rings.
A piece of paper slipped out of the binder onto the ground. As Alex bent over to get the paper, an idea struck him. I have worked hard for this, no way am I giving it up that easy," he thought to himself.
Alex bent his knees as to pick up the paper and lunged at the assailant, barely moving him. But he moved enough.
Alex grabbed the binder and ran through the door. He didn't bother looking back to see if the robber was pursuing him. He had only one thought going through his mind: RUN!
"Give me that binder, Mr. Brodek!" The robber called at him. "You don't want to make this difficult!!"
He heard the footsteps coming after him. Alex ducked into the hallway to the left, and then into the next. He ran through the seemingly endless hallways of the complex until he felt he had lost the robber.
He went into a dark, empty room to catch his breath. He bent over, hung his head and placed his hands on his knees.
Click! He heard the robber pull the hammer back on his gun, and at that instant he knew he wasn't alone. He also knew he had lost.
"Hand me the binder, NOW!" The man bellowed at Alex.
Alex fell to his knees. He knew when he was beaten. He handed the burglar the binder and hung his head in defeat.
"Such a wise decision. Too bad you have to die now."
Alex became wide-eyed. The robber placed the barrel of the gun against the top of Alex's head.
The last thing Alex heard was the ringing in his ears.
"Good-bye, Alex," a voice yelled up the stairs.
"Alex, can you hear me? Turn off that stupid alarm clock," the voice said. "I'm leaving. You have to be at the lab in an hour. Good-bye, Alex."
Alex reached over and shut his ringing alarm clock. It was four after eight. He is scheduled to be at the lab at 9:00. Noting this in him mind, he dragged himself out of his bed.
Alexander Trevelyan Brodek III was born in a quaint little hospital in Sacramento, California in 1964. He grew up in a loving home, with no siblings and a lot of imagination.
He was always told he could be anything he wanted to be. He could anything he wanted to do. He could do anything if he just put his mind to it. But he couldn't shake his love for the Sciences. His mother always said he was born with a chemistry set in hand and a dream in mind.
At ten years of age, he was mixing Hydrochloric acid and zinc in his beaker at home. And yet he didn't quite get good grades in school. He was always too bored in class and always seemed to yearn for three o'clock to come so he could go home and try a new experiment.
Now 36, Alex may have discovered the experiment of his life. If he was asked to sum up his work for the past ten years, he could do so in two words. Cold fusion. And he had it. Alex discovered the formula to safely turn two hydrogen atoms into one helium atom with real world temperatures. Now, if he could only keep it a secret until he unveiled it.
Suddenly, the phone rang. Not being in the state of mind to speak to anyone now, he decided to let the answering machine get it.
"Hello," it started, "you have reached the home of Alex Brodek and Catalina Brodek. We're not able to answer the phone, so leave a message after the beep." BEEP!
"Alex, you there?" It was his good friend Jakob Reed. "If youíre there, pick up... Oh well. GE canceled their appointment and rescheduled it for tomorrow. They apologized. Listen Alex, I don't think they are good for you, but that's just my opinion. As your friend, I beg you to reconsider. Come by the lab today, we'll talk about it. Good-bye Alex."
Good-bye Alex, those words froze in his mind. He remembered his dream last night. He sure didn't feel like going to the lab today, but he needed to talk to Jakob.
Jakob is a heavily built, African American male with the strength of a champion boxer and the agility to match. He looked like the exact opposite of a genius chemist. But that is exactly what he was.
Jakob was excellent in school. He scored a perfect score on his ACT test the first time he took it and he scored a 1400 on his SAT. Jakob was the best in everything he ever did. But brains and brawn wasn't all he had. Jakob had a "disease" that many men would sell their souls to have. Women flocked to him. He has never gone anywhere without at least getting some looks and winks from several women, and, sometimes, even men. But Jakob has never settled. His love for the Sciences is too strong.
As Alex entered the lab, he saw Jakob fiddling with a Bunsen burner and a test tube. He saw Alex and put away everything he was doing.
"I'm glad you came, Alex. I need to talk to you," Jakob said.
"So do I. I had the weirdest dream last night," Alex started. "It was freaky because it was so--"
"That's wonderful Alex," Jakob interrupted "We have a little more of a problem right now. The security guys said someone was in here last night and tried to get into the safe. I think it was those GE punks. They aren't good for you, Alex. You have worked way too hard to give it up to them."
"W-w-wait. You say someone got into the safe last night?"
"No, they tried. The guard said they got tripped up at the retinal scanner. Which means that they weren't from the lab."
"Oh my god, it's my dream." Alex paled at the idea of someone getting his notes.
"What is it about your dream? You know dreams don't mean anything. All the stuff about a premonition through dreams is a lot of bull. But telling you that is like yelling at brick walls. Listen, just forget about it, and weíll do lunch later, ok?"
"Ok," Alex replied.
"Great. Iíll see you about seven then?" Jakob asked.
"Yeah, seven is good."
"Good, see you then." Jakob said as he left through the lab door.
Alex didn't want to work on anything right now, he just wanted to make sure everything was in order in his binder. He got the notebook out of the well-secured safe and sat down at the table in the corner of the huge lab room. He opened the notebook and straightened some of the papers in it. Everything seemed to be in order. Alex sighed with relief as he saw the only page that really mattered; the page with the formula on it.
Suddenly, the fire alarm rang. Alex looked around to find out what was going on. Apparently, Jakob left the burner on and it somehow tipped over and caught the table on fire, which set a few lab coats aflame. The smoke was getting thick and Alex was having a hard time seeing.
He searched for the fire extinguisher to put out the flames. He found it, but it was on the other side of the fire. The room was now very much covered in flames. He chose to abandon the thought of saving the lab and decided to serve himself. He was about to go to the door when he remembered the notebook.
Alex felt a rush of fear flash over him. He ran through the fire and dove for the notebook. He grabbed it and turned around, only to see that he was completely surrounded by flames. He tried to run back through, but the fire was too hot. He gave up.
He knew when he was beaten. He fell to his knees and hung his head in defeat.
A voice echoed in his head. At first the voice was very low and too quiet to understand, but soon he knew what it was saying: "Good-bye, Alex."
At that moment in time, the stopper on the tube that Jakob was working on popped under extreme pressure and shot at the hung head of Alexander Trevelyan Brodek III, knocking, him unconscious. The fire kept burning, the flames got closer, and the alarm kept ringing.
The last thing Alex heard was the ringing in his ears.
Mt. Notre Dame High School
Teacher: Mrs. Purdy
Think watching paint dry, the leaves changing their color, a spider spinning its web: time. How slowly it moves through the eyes of me, a teenage girl living in Clarksville, a decent size city. All around me action lines the streets. Outside, the bustling businessman takes in stride the rhythmic cracks of the sidewalk, allowing him to keep pace. In his world time is money and money is time. Coming in to open the floral shop, Mrs. Gredies flips the wooden sign over which reads "OPEN." The mail truck swings by the local drop off box, right on time.
Staring at the glowing red digital numbers overhead, I lurch across my bed and leap to stop the dreaded madness of the alarm clock. Oh, how I cringe at the sound. Every day is the same. Dull. Nothing exciting ever seems to happen to me. My body just seems to go through the motions of time. I had to get moving. The sound of the school bell would be here before I knew it. Heading downstairs I flip on a light, illuminating my way. Those who have been in my house claim it is eerie, especially in the morning, probably due to the chill in the air, the creeks in the floor, and the silence. The only soul lurking around is Miss Boring, me. Since my dad passed away, my mom took on a night job, one, for the money and two, for the non-social interaction. She tends to close herself off from the world. When my dad left, a part of mother left with him too. We don't really talk anymore. She's changed in ways even I can't fix. That eerie, lonely, feeling some sense in my house is really just emptiness. It's that emptiness I feel when I'm standing outside in the dark and the cool air gently tugs at the hairs on my arms. Or that moment of silence when you're lying in bed and you know you're the only one still awake. I get used to it, emptiness that is. Just as I got used to my mom not really being there, I got used to the coldness of the house, not ever having my friends over, and the...well, you wouldn't really understand.
"Ding...ding... ding!" The bell sounded and I headed for my first bell class: painting. This was the one time during my day that I could fall, just let myself go. The air hurling past my ears and my eyes lost in my mind during this free falling, I thought of whatever I wanted to. This was my world, I was the boss, and I had the control. This world was a place I could forget about everything. All the questions in my head leaked out as thoughts instead of tears. In this world I saw my dad as only I could see him. No, the blood of that night nor the police cruiser lights reflecting off the cold pavement didn't surround him in my mind. Instead, he was planting flowers with me and helping me be the top cookie seller in Brownie troop 4507. He wasn't crazy, just unlucky caught in the unthinkable.
Mixing my paints, the canvas spoke of imaginative beauty. The texture, strokes, and tones of the painting were in short a summary of my mood today. The minutes ticked by so quickly, that the students around me had already started clean up. I placed my painting back in the corner as I always do, so others didn't snoop or bother it. I didn't want to share myself with others, or at least not that side of me. My friend Star, called my name. Star is a great girl, she knows me better than anyone else. Star understands that sometimes the one thing that I need the most is a listening ear. She doesn't ask me a million questions and doesn't expect me to answer a million either. Star and I walked to our next class. The day crept along and I found myself back in the "eerie house" before I knew it, alone.
The emptiness, the coldness, and, well, that other thing dripped through my pores. It never escaped me and always found me. Brushing the numerous eraser snubs off my marred math paper, the torture ended along with the completion of my homework for the night. Heading towards the kitchen and passing the bathroom mirror, I saw it again. The reflective bounds of the mirror portrayed a shadow, but no source. Retrieving my steps I examined the mirror, this time the only image witnessed was my own somber face. Nearing the kitchen, I began to collect my paints, brushes, and cup of water. The canvas stationed in the place that I had left the day, the month, and almost a year before stood awaiting my touch. Every night I found a little time to dwindle on my masterpiece. Funny as it seems, I don't know what I'm creating. The colors dark, shapes elongated; day by day a piece is added to this puzzle. The figure looks like a face, seen by others but unrecognizable to me.
Shining in through the front window, blues and reds painted the walls of the house. Police sirens filled my ears and screams came from the canvas in front of me. The screams were not of children but of men. The murky gray paint water, became a puree of crimson red. Catching my feet, I scrambled to look out the front windows. Nothing. The emptiness of the house had a visitor. Often I would see shadows, but I assumed it was nothing. Pictures of my dad, gory from the night's task, raced through my mind. No one saw it coming. Reaching for the phone I began to dial for Star, but realized it was too late and she would have already been sleeping. Time is something I loose track of, when I am the only one ever coming and going. Hanging the receiver up, I walked back to my canvas and decided there must be someone trying to tell me something within the bounds of my painting. My painting was trying to communicate a message of some sort, but what?
The more I looked into my painting I saw it. I saw the image of two people. A man was screaming and some women stood motionless, as if in a trance. She couldn't move and her body felt numb. The kitchen felt cold as if someone left the door open, but my mom wouldn't be home until morning. Shadows flashed before my eyes and whispers consumed my ears. Intently listening, I could make out the word "die". "Die....die ....die...na...na.. .DIANNA!" My mothers name! What did my mother have to do with all of this?
Taking a step back from the painting, I reexamined my state of mind. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before; maybe I was just really tired. The lights, the shadow, and voices, they had seemed so realÖit had to be real! Gripping my paintbrush as I had once to my baby doll, Lou-Lou, I clutched its wooden base. I was ready, ready for the truth to my father's death.
The canvas energized began to appear three-dimensiona. Colors swirling, paints splatting, voices whining, my eyes, which were intently focusing became dizzy. Image after image flashed before my spinning eyes. I soon felt myself slipping to the floor, but a shadowy image pushed my back upright. The shadow kept gesturing toward the painting. My dad's face was becoming clear. His body was bobbing up and down, he was walking. Blacktop reflected night while my dad sauntered across the street. Screams showered like raindrops. Scanning the blanket of black, a window is glowing down the street. Blood oozed down the painting and the crimson red cup of muddled water began to boil, steam, and shake. I was ready to see this, wasn't I? My dad's heartbeat pounded to an unknown rhythm. "Help, no, no!" His legs began to turn over and he hit a sprint toward the noise.
Out of breath he arrived at the house of unexplainable terror. Turning the icy knob, he was held by vengeance. Frozen. His fleshy skin was coated in red and the world seemed to diminish like sands slipping through the pinch in an hourglass. His body was pierced by gunshots. "Die...die...die... na...NA...Dianna, DIANNA!" Pictures of his beloved wife, Dianna, began to mix with the thought of death and a fatherless daughter.
Swimming through the broken bottles, he pulled the tormented women under his wing. The attacker had lost interest or the alcohol finally seized his brain. Passed out he slept in some sort of plastic peace. Gripping the phone, he dialed 911. The young women had lost it. Crying, her heart seemed to escape her, along with her angelic innocence from the night's events. Starring into her eyes, I saw clearness only known to the thoughtless. She couldn't handle the pain any longer. Stepping in the way of fate, my dad had saved a life meant to die. Those eyes, so clear, so lost. Stumbling to her knees, she grabbed the cool revolver from her attacker's hands, hands she knew too well, for too long. Sitting in his own pool of blood, my father for one time in his life was helpless. His muscles, numb, were as good to him now as his shampooed tresses of hair. Grinning, the tears had stopped, her face looked refreshed, she knew what her next move would be.
My canvas, washed anew, was now a plain white.
Her arms felt an intense sudden burst of strength, the bullet was released and now the drunken man would never awake. A bastard for a man, he could no longer hurt her. The young woman withdrew the revolver and connected it's barrel with her temples. Too badly damaged, she could not face life any longer, joy or pain. Smoothing her hair, her lips formed the letters S-O-R-R-Y to my dad. With nothing left to do my father left the women with one last thought, "You are beautiful and God loves you." Her eyes were filled with substance for the first time. She saw a path unfolding before her, but her spirit had given up and the slight connection she had just made leaked on the floor as my father's blood did. BANG! The witness of three shots and two deaths, his was to be the third. Police lights flashing blues and reds through the open door, he slipped away. Rose petals showered the room of death. Three souls had left a room of mismatched fate.
A rose of immense beauty appeared on my canvas and I finally understood the night that changed my life through the bounds of a painting.
Mark D. Snyder, Jr.
Liberty Christian Academy
Teacher: Rebecca L. Ramsey
Returning from a movie one dark and cloudy night, Mike's car broke down on an empty stretch of a route 661. Old and worn out, Mike's car had finally given in, leaving Mike and Libby stranded sixty miles from home. The oncoming storm interfered with Mike's CB and he couldn't contact anyone. Mike and Libby had passed a house a few miles back, and they decided to walk back to it because in this area, houses were few and far between.
When Mike and Libby reached the house, they discovered it was abandoned. Cautiously, Mike entered first. "Hello," he yelled, but there was no response. To test the strength of the floor, Mike walked very slowly. The house was dirty, and it was obvious no one had lived there for years. The two went inside just as it began to rain. Screaming and howling the wind and rain battered the old house. Lightning lit up the skies and cast eerie shadows around the house. Libby jumped when she was startled by a crash of thunder that shook the house.
"You better get used to it, Libby," Mike said from the top of the stairs. The radio said this storm was supposed to last all night." Suddenly the sound of glass breaking split the air. The noise had come from the basement.
"Iím going to go check it out. Are you coming or staying here?" Mike asked.
"I'll come," Libby replied. "I really don't want to be alone in here."
"Well, come on" Mike said excitedly.
"Youíre enjoying this, aren't you?"
"You bet I am."
"But I'm scared, Mike."
"Why? It's an empty house, there's nothing to be afraid of, just trust me." He smiled, then opened the basement door and went down the stairs. Libby followed reluctantly. The basement was a scene right out of a classic horror film. It was damp, dark, and dreary. Cobwebs were everywhere. The one single light in the center of the room flashed repeatedly, illuminating it momentarily, then fading to darkness again. Bookshelves covered three of the four walls. The third was occupied by a workbench, covered with books and empty wine bottles.
"Well, I think we found our noise" Mike said as he pointed to the broken wine bottle on the door. "But what caused it?
"Don't ask me," said Libby.
Libby noticed a mirror over the workbench and began to admire herself in it. She reached up and gently brushed her soft brown hair away from her beautiful blue eyes. Just then the light flashed again revealing what looked like a wolf behind her. She screamed in horror and spun around. As she did so, she hit the light, breaking it. They were in the dark, and they were not alone. Mike got his lighter out of his pocket and quickly lit it, but the room was empty. Suddenly a shout came from upstairs. "No!"
Mike and Libby raced up the stairs only to find themselves staring at the largest wolf they had ever seen. The wolf stood, with fire in his eyes, baring his teeth. Mike stepped in front of Libby instinctively. Then he realized the wolf was staring right past him into the room beside them.
Fog filled the room, when suddenly a ghostly old man entered brandishing a wine bottle. "You blasted mutt," he cried. "Out, get out." Just then the wolf lunged at the man, missing Mike by inches. The two stumbled back into the fog-filled room. Mike and Libby could hear the scuffle. Suddenly the man fell through the doorway. He looked up and reached toward Mike. "Help me," he begged. Mike grabbed for the man's hand, but the old man was dragged back into the room before Mike could reach him. They heard the man began to scream in pain. The last ray of sunlight broke through the window and all was silent.
Mike and Libby walked out the front door. Libby turned to him and asked, "Did that really happen?"
"I don't know, sweetie, I really don't know." He put his arm around her and the two walked back to Mike's car. With the storm gone, Mike was able to get in contact with a sheriff on the CB. He was there within minutes.
On the ride home the sheriff asked, "So where did you two stay last night?"
"At that house a few miles back."
"You mean the Wilson house?" the sheriff asked surprisedly.
"I guess...why do you ask?"
"Well. That house has been said to be haunted."
Mike and Libby looked at each other. "What happened?" Libby asked.
"Well, the story goes that Mr. Wilson came home in a drunken rage and found his son trying to hide a pet wolf. He took the boy to the basement and punished him by breaking a bottle over his head then went after the wolf. But the wolf got him. The police found him a few days later. They found the boy huddled up with the wolf. But they had to kill the wolf. People say that the spirits of old man Wilson and the wolf relive their battle on stormy nights. But if you ask me, anyone who says that they've seen it is just looking for publicity."
As they got out of the car, Mike asked one more question. "So what happened to the boy?"
"Oh, he grew up and joined the force" the sheriff said as he shook Mike's hand.
Mike read the name on the sheriff's tag:
Bedford High School
Teacher: Mr. Donovan
There was a darkness everywhere, lurking in the walls and hiding behind the sky. If only I'd reach out and peel it back, it'd be right in front of my eyes to see. But I was too afraid to look. I hid under my blanket in fear and tried not to see out my bedroom window into the dark void beyond, for fear it might suck me in.
This night was the same as a thousand before it. I was stuck in a Mobius strip of time. The night sky collapsed onto itself and imploded, leaving me stranded, without escape, and not because I couldn't find the way out, but because an outside no longer existed. I didn't want an outside to exist; all I wanted was to forget.
The room was perfectly still, threatening in its silence. Blank off-white facets of space stared at me, pretending to be walls even though they didn't register as anything to me. After a person is confined to a single room for long enough, it changes from a physical place to an abstract entity. My room had become an idea; it had infested my mind until I could no longer see beyond its yellowing wallpaper and curtains that were forever closed and dusty from neglect.
An idea is more formidable than any army.
Crickets buzzed softly outside, muffled by the barrier between them and me, but I didn't hear them. I didn't even realize they existed. The air stretched for miles between every inch, and everything I looked at felt equally distant. In the extreme darkness my vision flickered like bad reception. Gray and green spots danced through the nothingness and I was desperately trying to keep the loss of focus that I had so valiantly fought for. I couldn't sleep, of course, and after having spent a few frustrating hours lying in bed, I crept outside my room to look for diversion. I never felt like I was moving when I walked somewhere. Things that required awareness were foreign to me: time, space, people.
Death is the loss of all sensation.
I stumbled in a comatose manner down the stairs to the basement, where it was always pleasantly cool and only a little humid, even during hot summer nights like this one. I figured that I might have a better chance of falling asleep if I was a little more comfortable.
I collapsed onto the well-worn brown couch that'd been slowly molding over. After I was finally settled and at rest, I realized that the remote was out of reach. Reluctantly, I gathered enough strength to lift myself up. The remote was stuck in a dried puddle of Coke on the table, which wasn't that surprising since there were empty pop cans littered everywhere.
I started zoning out and drifting into some state resembling sleep even before I could turn the TV on. Flickering bullets of light shot across the backs of my eyelids. The black haze deepened in its intensity. A depressing song had been running through my head, and it suddenly amplified to fill the room, reverberating against imaginary walls.
Whispers, some recognizable, others completely alien, darted at me from left and right, getting louder and louder in volume. They were whispering my name. They were calling for me. I dared not answer, for I knew that they were after me, trying to capture me and tear my body to shreds and feed on the remains. One of them entered the room--I could feel its presence.
Fear is the mind-killer.
My eyes were shut, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not open them. My body was paralyzed. I could not move, no matter how much I wanted to. I fidgeted silently in screamless panic.
I began imagining what the evil presence might be. As I imagined, my ideas became real before my eyes, only a thousand times worse than I'd ever want them to be. A demonic beast lunged at me with impossibly long teeth. Its muscular figure was stretched, extreme, defying all physical possibility. Horrifying high-pitched howls that I knew were from it attacked from every direction. Death was quick but painful.
And then I was sitting on the floor next to my dad, who was working on the computer all night again. The only light in the room was from the cold flicker of the monitor. The room was filled with thick cigar smoke, making me cough. I reached up to cover my mouth, and my hand was covered in blood. There were missing fingers, there were gaping cuts in every part of my body. Every wound I had was mortal. By the time I noticed everything that was wrong with me, my blood had soaked almost the entire carpet. I tried to let out a tiny shriek, but all that came out was more blood. My lungs were gone too.
Turning his head around slowly to look at me, my dad said nothing. He never did. His face was perfectly blank. After a brief moment, he returned to the computer screen.
I recognized the presence again, terrifying in its intensity. A horde of tiny butterfly dragons slammed against the windows from the outside, dying on impact. Their insides bled through the cracks. I once again couldn't move. I felt myself rising as I remained immobile. My arms were limp, but they clenched my father around the throat, and a silent scream echoed across the radio waves. It ran through the wires, trying to glitch heartless circuitry and crash the machine. The rage swelled until it tore the room to pieces. The lights went out, and I was flying.
The dragons were larger now; they surrounded me so that I could not possibly fall. Farther and farther I went up into the night sky. The fear I once felt was gone.
Up above, the demons circled menacingly.
I screamed again:
"Why did you do this to me?!"
Bexley High School
Teacher: Molly Hoey
Right before dusk, Jacob pulled into the alley beside my house. Reb got out of Jacob's car, and walked to my door and rang the doorbell. I grabbed some money, said goodbye perfunctorily to my gaping parents, and got in the back of Jacob's car.
We cruised around Bexley, talking idly, trying to decide what to do. We gave up, and Jacob suddenly headed for the highway, completely of his own accord and to our astonishment. He drove toward Cincinnati, and told us we were going exploring. We saw the Greenlawn exit, and we all decided to stop and look around, because of the ominous penitentiary at the side of the road.
We drove past the penitentiary, where the gates were locked up tight, past Hank's Truckstop, and turned left after the trailer park. Almost immediately, we saw huge a green area, and a hill in its midst, with a gravel driveway looping around it. The hilltop was covered by an enormous building. It was made of huge gray stones that, although showing signs of age, seemed to be quite well preserved. Rising over the front door, a stone stairway went up on either side and met over the door, and there were two other doors over the door. "Holy shit!" said Jacob. The building was out of place in the middle of the trailer park, the truck stop, the penitentiary, the projects. There was a graveyard right next to it.
Outside, it was getting darker; the sun was setting behind the trees; the scene was scary and exciting, a relief from the crushing normality of Bexley life. Suddenly, Jacob swung into the driveway, all of us exclaiming, "What the hell is that?" and other profanities.
"It looks like an insane asylum, with those metal bars over the windows and door, and on top of that hill with the fence around it", I said in an awed tone. I felt anxious and worried but at the same time excited and curious, as Jacob wound slowly up the spooky drive towards the darkening scene. Although I was sure that I was too scared to get out of the car, I could only hope that my friends felt the same way.
As we rounded the curve of the driveway and stopped in front of the building, the light in the sky seemed to be dimming, and excitement was clear on the faces of everyone in the car. Always the first to master his fear, Reb swung his door open slowly, and began to take a step out of the car. He turned around to tell Jacob to keep the door open, and that if he knew what was best for him and his family, he wouldn't leave Reb there. This was because of the time-honored joke of leaving the one who gets out of the car. Reb took a step out of the car, straightened up and shakily approached the building, taking maybe two steps more. Evidently having had enough, he scrambled back into the car and we drove away, in silence, contemplating our lack of nerve.
We continued down the road in the same way we had been going, only to find more projects and the graveyard, neither of which were of much interest to us. So we strengthened our resolve, and turned our now shining headlights back towards "the Asylum."
The headlights illuminated the Asylum, but the sun still provided enough light to see rough edges and large objects scattered about the grounds. As we crept up on the building, I saw the inscription carved across the top of the front door: "Greenlawn Abbey 1917." We parked the car, and this time the fear seemed to have vanished from all of us.
Without any objections being voiced, we all got out. The doors stayed open and everyone was wary for about a minute, and then the fear wore off completely and we rounded the side of the building, and examined the front more carefully. After we were satisfied that there was no one there, we decided to figure out if we could get in. Reb was the first to figure out that the only way in was through the front door, because the windows all had bars over them, but the lock on the door must surely be almost rusted through.
Although we concluded that our only chance of getting into the building was to break the lock, we couldn't quite make up our minds to cross that line from looking at to vandalizing the old place. Instead, we were content (this time) to peer curiously in through the front door. The inside door behind it was stained glass and quite temptingly beautiful. Unfortunately, we could see no further through the stained glass.
We were all somewhat disappointed that our knowledge of the place was as complete as it was going to get. Upon realizing we weren't going to find out any more of the hidden secrets of the place, we piled back into the car and drove off the "Asylum's" grounds, even daring to play some music. Next time, we felt, we might find a lock that was all the way rusted through; next time, we would step beyond the stained glass door and reach the deep insides - of someplace.
We had discovered something more significant than an old Abbey that night. We had discovered real risk, real mystery, and real adventure. There will be other nights, and other adventures, probably more creepy and dangerous than the old Abbey turned out to be. No longer would the despairing words about our boring lives drop from our mouths. There was no doubt about it. With that old Abbey, our new lives had begun.
Perrysburg High School
Teacher: Mrs. Wise
Urania: (Waiting in the foyer) hmm hmm hmmmm la dida... Ah, there she is...
Urania opens the door and watches as a small, rather disheveled woman stumbles out of her car, a huge satchel in one hand and a purse in the other. She sprints up the steps, slipping in her overly high heels and is out of breath when she reaches the door.
Interviewer: Sorry I'm late...
Urania: Oh, no! You're just on time. Come in.
(A little nervous, the woman slips in. Urania shuts the door behind her.)
Interviewer: So...you're a muse?
Urania: Yes. I'm Urania, the muse of Astronomy...
Interviewer: (Skeptical) Yeahuh.
Urania: You don't believe me?
Interviewer: (Giggles) Well, it's rather hard to do so, I mean some lady calls, says she wants an interview with me...says she's a muse....I'm not exactly inclined to believe...
Urania: (Sighs) I understand. Oh, and that was my sister Euterpe who called. This way. (Leads her into the living room. Eight other women sit around, their conversation falling silent when Urania and the Interviewer enter.)
Urania: Have a seat, Ma'am. (Gestures to a chair, which the Interviewer takes)
Clio: So....how d'ya wanna do this?
Interviewer: Well....(Sets out her tapes and recorder) How about if I do you one at a time...and you can tell me who you are, what you used to do, and what you're doing now. Any boyfriends, lovers, scandals....the more of that, the better this'll sell...
Clio: Tell me about it! I don't know why it is, but to sell...hasta have smut....
Erato: (Scowling) How long'll this take?
Interviewer: ...I don't know...
Polyhymnia: Why don't you go first, sister....since you're in a hurry.
Erato: (Shrugs) You ready?
Interviewer: Go ahead.
Erato: Good. Well, my name is Erato. I'm the Muse of Lyrics. I used to work with Clio, Caliope and Euterpe to write great songs of the heroes and Gods... all of that. My poetry inspired all sorts...Virgil, Dante, Shelley...l gave their work its meaning, its soul! (She sighs) Anymore though, there are so few who care. The 70's...yeah, that was sweet, and everything had meaning, but now, people just don't care. They don't try to get in touch with their souls, so if it weren't for a few now and then who allow me to touch them, I'd be outta a job all together...
Interviewer: "Touch" them?
Erato: (Sighs) Yeah. It's how we inspire. When a mortal really is open to a suggestion... that's when we muses go to work. Moaning about it and wishing for us can't help. Got it?
Erato: Good. All I guess I can say then is that now I hang out with the Lillith Fair people, coffee shops...that sort of thing. College campuses too. Kids there tend to be more open than adults...and little kids too, but they're too hyper. Whatever. Ok?
Interviewer: Yes, but what about men....
Erato: Heh! I aint into love songs. That's Euterpe's stuff.
Interviewer: Who's Euterpe?
Euterpe: Me! (Grins) My turn?
Euterpe: Hi! My name's Euterpe, and I'm the Muse of Music! Like my sister said, I used to be a writer of ballads and such, but that's kinda outta style. I like making popular music, so right now I'm hanging with N'Sync, the Backstreet Boys... and of course, Ricky Martins!
Interviewer: (Thrilled) Anything of any interest....if you catch my drift....
Euterpe: ...Well, nothing I'm supposed to tell about... but....(whispering) if you really wanna know, gimme five grand and a time. You can get a real scandal goin....
Interviewer: (Nods enthusiastically) Ok! Great! Who's next?
Polyhymnia: I'm Polyhymnia...the muse of Hymns! I had my heyday back when Christianity started taking over. ..
Melpomene: And ruined us!
Polyhymnia: Yes.....well, um...l think it's pretty obvious where I come in, but nowadays, most the songs have been written, so I'm now a part of a traveling choir! I teach also, using all of the skills that Apollo taught us...back before he became an actor in San Francisco....
Interviewer: What exactly happened to the Gods anyhow?
Polyhymnia: Oh, it's a long story, but basically, when Christianity came in, the people stopped paying attention to them. Zeus got very depressed, and now he's living with Hades and Persephone underground, moping like Melpomene here about "the good old days"... (Melpomene shoots her a nasty look). The others....well, honestly I dunno what happened to them. I think Aphrodite became a showgirl in Las Vegas and Hestia is a co-producer of the Martha Stewart show... I haven't paid that much attention. (The other muses nod in agreement.)
Melpomene:I guess I'II go now, since Poly insulted me... (scowls) Anyhow, I was the Muse of Tragedy...when Tragedies still had meaning. I worked with Sophocles, Shakespeare...
Thalia: Me too!
Melpomene: And then...they no longer cared. Mortals wanted to be entertained, and Thalia's works became more popular. Nowadays, I wander the ruins, trying to find someone to inspire, but without luck! I have no purpose! (Begins to so melodramatically)
Thalia: Yeah, well, like she said, I'm Thalia...Muse of Comedy...and I was helpin' out Shakespeare, as well as Lissistratus and Woody Allen...and unlike my sister moping in the corner, I have plenty of people to inspire. Everyone likes a laugh! So, I hang out with the comedians...and I'm a co-writer for Politically Incorrect...and for George W. Bush! (Grins satirically) It's a lot of fun!
Interviewer: I bet! How about you?
Terpsichore: I am Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance...(Pauses for effect, gets none) Well, I've been studying Irish clog-dancing for a lark, and have with my work inspired a revival of that form of art with has become such a favorite...even with the (Hem), common folk.
Interviewer: You mean...you personally know.....
Terpsichore: Oh, of course, dahling! I've been friends with all sorts! Fred Astaire, Martha Graham, Salome, Bob Fosse, Ginger Rogers...such talent, such open minds!
Interviewer: Wow! Can I interview you more later too?
Terpsichore: Why, of course, dahling! (Holds out a business card) My number....
Urania: I'm next.
Urania: I'm Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. In the past, I was a teacher to the humans, and later I guided the ships of Sir Francis Drake with my teachings. Sadly though, astronomy has now become a lost art, so to speak. Of course, there are astronomers, but they no longer need me help....they have their Hubble Space Telescopes and such. I've been left as a bunch of superstitions..... .though now it is certainly better than in the middle ages! I had to flee to China during the Renaissance! (Sighs) Ah, but what a state I've come to! Nowadays, I'm a mere....psychic... because I can read the stars accurately...
Interviewer: A psychic...Wow! What a change.....
Thalia: She still's influencing me! I love psychic jokes...almost as much as mattress warning labels!
Urania: That joke died years ago, Thal.
Thalia: A good joke never dies!
Urania: Yes, well, Clio? You're going next.
Clio:If you say so..
Urania: I don't. The stars do.
Clio: (Rolls eyes) Anyhow, I'm Clio, Muse of History. I used to keep records and stuff for the humans and stuff, but that all got lost when they burnt the library of Alexandria. (Sighs) Now only the Fates know the past in detail...
Euterpe: And they a'int about to tell. (Sighs)
Clio: I did help a lot in the Middle Ages, inspiring the Monks and all to write stuff down, but what a time of it! So few were willing to write it down in its explicit truth! Now, with computers, and the people realizing the importance of my job...I've actually become very unimportant. Oh sure, every now and then I can get a person to start a record of his or her family history...but that's rare.
Caliope: She and I write non-fiction romances, now.
Interviewer: And you are....
Caliope: Caliope, the Muse of Epics. Yeah, I inspired Virgil and Homer...George Lucas... (grins)... but not many people are interested in that. So I come up with stories and Clio writes them down, using historical stuff...and I add the romance. (Grows sad) did love once...
Interviewer: (Salivating) Who?!
Caliope: ....That really doesn't matter. But I had a son...Orpheus... (Becomes angry) And then Hades wouldn't let him have his Eurydice so those bloody nymphs killed him because they were tired of him being sad...and! (Sobs)
Interviewer: ... huh?
Erato: It's a long story. And I have to go. Euterpe and Thalia: Yep! Me too!
Urania: (Stands up) The interview is done.
Interviewer: .... .it... IS?
Urania: Of course. Now, come. I'II show you to the door... (A few minutes later, she returns. Caliope has calmed down, but traces of tears still stain her cheeks.)
Erato: Well, great. Now what's that lady gonna do with all that? I don't think she believed us....
Urania: She's going to write a story based off of it.
Erato: Oh? And this is written in the stars too?
Urania: (Dreamily) It's all written in the stars.....not all at the same time, of course, so I can't tell the future completely....but enough..enough.._
Euterpe: I bet the book would be a success... Especially if we help......lf we ALL help...
Euterpe: Think about it.....if we're all together...then maybe our combined efforts will make this a huge success...just like the Olympiad Tour back when Oedipus was King....
Melpomene: .....You're right! We can reclaim our lost glory!
Grinning, the Muses vanish. They have a job to do...