CW_Stories_Collection_2009 by niusheng11

VIEWS: 145 PAGES: 275

									  The Climb,
& Other Stories

   Creative Writing
       Period 1
     Spring 2010

    Mr. Zervanos
                                       Marina Crouse

                                         The Climb

       ―Can‘t we just take I-95 south to get there?‖ Paige asked her friend, Lauren, as

they stared at an unfolded map of the east coast. Lauren shrugged and combed her hand

through her hair.

       ―I dunno, Paige. We could but then again, this is a road trip, so we should just go

with the flow. Take back roads. That sort of thing.‖

       ―True. But, I don‘t want to go into this thing blindly. Let‘s make up a list of towns

we want to stop in and things we want to see,‖ Paige suggested as she flipped open a

notebook marked ―road trip 2009‖ to a fresh page. In neat block letters she designated a

space for cities and another one for attractions/activities. It had always been this way.

Paige was neat and organized and Lauren was messy and carefree. That‘s why they

worked so well together – they could balance each other out. Their road trip was a perfect

example of this, neatly carefree. That‘s the way things would always be, even as they

moved on to separate colleges and different lives. They would still be balancing each

other out in some way or another, because Paige would make sure Lauren was going to

class and doing her homework, and Lauren would most definitely call and check on Paige

and her social life. Lauren always brought out the best of Paige. Together they were like

yin and yang, push and pull, give and take.

       ―…there‘s always going to be another mountain, I‘m always gonna wanna make it

move, always gonna be an up hill battle…‖ Lauren began to belt out as they decided

where they wanted to go. She wanted to stop in Tennessee.
       ―…sometimes I‘m gonna have to lose. Ain‘t about how fast I get there…‖ Paige

sang back to her, in a soft voice.

       ―…ain‘t about what‘s waiting on the other side…‖ Lauren joined Paige and they

crescendoed as they reached the end of the chorus. ―…it‘s the cliiiiiiiimb.‖

       They ended the song in a fit of giggles and red in the face.

       ―Hey, Laur, remember when we came up with the idea to do this?‖

       ―It was your idea, Paige. You had just gotten your permit and your dad was

driving you nuts with all of his fake-brake stomping and shouting of ‗give it gas!‘‖

Lauren laughed as she recalled Paige retelling her driving experiences each morning in


       Paige smiled at the memory of it all, two years ago, when she first decided she

wanted out. Her dad was a hardass and a stickler for rules. Everything she did had to be

perfect or she‘d have to start over and try again. Driving was really tough at the

beginning. She hated that her dad would yell the entire time in the car, shouting at her to

use her turn signal, to speed up, to start stopping sooner, to turn right. Just because he

was yelling didn‘t make her hear him faster. If he wanted her to turn her signal on forty

feet from the stop sign, she would, all he had to do was tell her calmly. She knew she‘d

eventually remember that when approaching a stop sign, she should turn on the signal

forty feet prior to stopping. Yelling just made her more nervous in her dad‘s big hulking

mass of metal that he called a pick-up truck. One particular day, it had been raining and it

was the first time she‘d ever driven in the rain. It was pouring and her dad was trying to

tell her to turn into an empty parking lot to wait it out, but as the rain thundered against

the windows and her wipers flew back and forth, her heart rattled and pounded in its
cage; she was freaked out and her dad‘s stern voice was just nudging her closer to the

edge. She hit the gas and turned the steering wheel and almost hit another car as she

entered the exit of the parking lot. She parked, if you could call it that, roughly between

two lines far away from any other car, and rested her forehead on the steering wheel,

between her two hands.

          Her dad yelled some more about how she should be more careful and pay better

attention, while she just listened. The next day, she announced to Lauren that she never

wanted to drive with her father again, and as soon as she could, she‘d get her license. To

celebrate, they would go on a road trip and drive however they wanted, wherever they

wanted, whenever they wanted.


          Days later, Lauren was sprawled across Paige‘s bed reading a magazine while

waiting for her toenail polish to dry. Paige was browsing her closet and pulling shirts off

of hangers and throwing them onto the pile of clothes that accumulated next to Lauren‘s


          ―Laur, are you all packed?‖

          ―Uh, not quite.‖

          ―So, you haven‘t started yet.‖

          ―Bingo!‖ Lauren exclaimed loudly has she brought her toes closer to examine the


          ―Lauren, you‘re so predictable!‖ Paige huffed and bent to pull her suitcase out

from under her bed. Lauren smiled sheepishly and went back to her magazine. Paige

watched her flip through a few perfume ads and stop to smell one. She threw a balled-up
sock at Lauren and ducked behind her suitcase. Once Lauren retaliated, a full-on clothing

battle ensued and ended with half of Paige‘s clothes lying on top of her fallen over

suitcase and the other half strewn about the room.

       ―Okay. I‘ll help you clean up and pack, and then you come back to my house and

help me. Then we can cross packing off of your big to-do list.‖

       Hours later, after the two girls had finally finished packing up Paige‘s stuff, they

drove to Lauren‘s house and began packing. Paige started to organize Lauren‘s clothes

into piles: clean, dirty, take, don‘t take, cute, and don‘t ever wear again. Lauren

rummaged around her room for a big duffle bag and then searched for her memory card

to go with her digital camera.

       Paige shuffled papers around on Lauren‘s desk trying to organize it or at least

make it seem less cluttered. She threw a few empty envelopes with their tops torn off into

the trash and lined up a pile of post-it-notes all in a row so that they‘d be easy to read.

She came across Lauren‘s calendar and stuck it onto the bulletin board with a pushpin.

On the calendar were Xs counting down to a circled day. The circled day, however, was

not the day they were leaving for their trip. In fact, the trip wasn‘t even marked on the

calendar. The day encircled with bright red sharpie was July 10th. Two days after the day

they were supposedly leaving. On July 10th, however, Lauren was apparently starting a

new job at Fisher & Fisher Publishing.

       ―Lauren, what is this? Who are Fisher and Fisher?‖ Paige pointed to the circle on

the calendar.

       ―Uh, Paige, let‘s go eat some ice cream! Packing makes me tired and my mom

just bought some Rocky Road!‖
       ―Seriously, Laur. What is this? Why isn‘t our trip marked down? Why didn‘t you

tell me you were getting a job? Did that not work out or something? Did they not hire

you? What‘s going on?‖

       ―Paige,‖ Lauren sighed as she sat down. She paused for a moment, as if to gather

her thoughts. ― Mr. Fisher did hire me. I am starting a new job. I – I haven‘t started

packing for our trip because…because I‘m not going.‖ She picked at her comforter. ―I

didn‘t know how to tell you this because I know you‘ve been planning this—‖

       ―I‘ve been planning this? No, Lauren, we’ve been planning this. Or did you forget

the last three weeks we‘ve spent looking at maps and making lists.‖ Paige paced across

the floor and turned towards her friend. ― I thought you wanted to go on this trip. Why

did you lie to me this entire time?‖

       Lauren stood and threw her hands up. ―I did want to go on this trip! I just can‘t

go, okay? I‘m not allowed. I have to start my job!‖

       ―Then you shouldn‘t have started to plan this trip with me! I can‘t believe you!

This is so typical, you flaking out on me at the last second and only doing what you want.

You‘re so irresponsible.‖

       ―Irresponsible?‖ Lauren was seething. ―Irresponsible? I‘m not being irresponsible.

Not everyone has the luxury to gallivant across the country freeloading off of her parents

all summer!‖

       ― I‘m not freeloading off of my parents! Once we convinced our parents to let us

go on this trip, I convinced mine to give me money for it as a graduation gift! It‘s not my

fault you didn‘t do the same thing!‖
       ―This isn‘t about money. This is about how you‘re still leaning on your parents.

You’re the irresponsible one!‖

       ―Shut up! I‘m not irresponsible! If I were irresponsible, then I wouldn‘t have

gotten straight A‘s or a 4.0!‖

       ―Yeah. Because following Daddy‘s rules on being perfect is really responsible.‖

       ―God, Lauren. Why are you being such a bitch? You know how I feel about my

dad and his ridiculous standards!‖

       ―At least your dad has standards! At least he hasn‘t given up on you and his

dreams for you!‖

       ―What? Laur, what are you talking about?‖ Paige‘s rigid posture softened slightly

as her friend choked on the last of her words.

       ―I have to pay for college. That‘s why I got this job. I guess when I didn‘t win any

scholarships or whatever my dad finally realized I‘m not a super genius and I‘m not

going to be a doctor or something unrealistically clichéd like that. He told me that he

wasn‘t going to ‗pay my way through parties and beer‘ so I‘d better get a job if I want to

go to school. He doesn‘t believe that I‘ll work hard. He doesn‘t believe in me.‖ Lauren‘s

shoulders slumped as she said this, as though she gave up on herself as well.

       Paige regarded her friend for a moment. It was unusual to see Lauren so self-

conscious and insecure. Usually she was brighter than sunshine, confident and not shy

about anything. ―Lauren,‖ Paige said softly, ―it‘s okay. We can work this out. We‘ll show

him! I know how hard you can work and I have faith in you. Show him our plans for the

trip! He‘ll have to be impressed with you after that. We‘ve worked so hard to map out
routes and budget our money and find safe places to stay. And after we get back and you

start your job, he‘ll –‖

        ―Paige, stop!‖ Lauren interrupted loudly. ―I can‘t go on this trip. This job is more

important. I have too much at stake. I‘m sorry.‖

        ―But, Lauren, your dad will see how hard you‘ve worked. He‘ll let you go!‖

        ―Paige, this is about me proving to him – and myself – that I can do this. I have to

earn his trust back and some silly little plans aren‘t going to do that. I appreciate what

you‘re saying but this isn‘t something you can help me with.‖

        ―I can help you. Just let me try! Just tell me what to do! We can still fix this and

make everything work!‖ Paige pleaded desperately with Lauren, her eyes frantically

searching for something to prove her point.

        ―No, Paige. You can‘t fix everything. You can‘t control how everything goes! I

have to do this by myself. It‘s important to me, now more than ever, to stand on my own

two feet. We‘re both going to college next fall in separate cities in different states. It‘s

time for us to grow up a little bit. We can‘t always rely on each other to solve our


        The two girls grew silent. Somberly, Lauren wiped her face and tied her hair back

into a ponytail. She stood up and looked around the room.

        ―I start my job tomorrow.‖

        Paige nodded quickly and stood up. She grabbed her purse and slung it on her


        ―I should be going then. You need to get a good night‘s sleep,‖ she said quietly

and slipped out the door without saying anything else. Lauren stood and watched Paige
close the door, and a minute later she watched her exit the front path and get into her car.

The tires squelched against the newly wet road, and Lauren realized it had been raining.


       Paige used her legs to rock gently back-and-forth on her ancient porch swing. The

crickets were out and she listened to their melodic chirping as she sipped on sweet tea. It

was just after dusk and a slight breeze waved through her hair and chilled her skin. Two

weeks had gone by and Paige and Lauren had barely talked. It‘s not that they were mad at

each other; when they spoke they were civil but quiet. The spark in their conversation had

died and there was no laughter, no amusing words or quips. The aftermath had left only

distance. Each girl was hurt by what happened; Paige was hurt because for once in their

history of friendship, Lauren hadn‘t told her something really important –her first big job.

For once in their friendship, Paige couldn‘t fix it. It hurt her to hear those words, ‘You

can’t fix everything. You can’t control how everything goes!’ She hadn‘t realized that she

turned out just like her father. An eager Mr. Fix-it who tried to control the world. She

didn‘t want to be like her father, constantly yelling, pushing, disagreeing. All of that

confrontation and conflict made her sick to her stomach and she didn‘t want to be

nauseous for the rest of her life. ‗I have to do this by myself.’ Paige didn‘t want to be by

herself. She and Lauren had been inseparable since the sixth grade, when they stood up to

Tori Spencer, the meanest girl in their homeroom. They‘d done everything together

because that‘s how they worked best. They were strong as a team.

       The dusk filtered into dark, the sky filled up with stars. The chains that held up

the porch-swing creaked as she pushed back. Her glass was empty now, just left with

half-melted ice cubes and bits of tea leaves.
        ‘It’s time for us to grow up a little bit. We can’t always rely on each other to solve

our problems.’ Lauren was right. Next year Paige couldn‘t count on having Lauren there

when she was upset. Sure, she could call her, if Lauren weren‘t busy, she‘d pick up the

phone, and Paige could cry and tell her what was wrong, and Lauren would listen, but

things wouldn‘t be the same. There would be less giggling and random phone calls and

fewer late-night sleepovers where they would stay up, painting their toes while sharing

their secrets, hopes and silly dreams.

        It wasn‘t that their friendship was over - it was just changing. Each girl had to

face new fears and new demons and be able to handle it without the other. They could

make new friends, and share their new friends and new stories. They‘d work it out. But

first, they had to stand alone.

        Paige put her foot down to stop swinging and picked up her glass. She opened the

screen door and walked into the kitchen. After putting her glass in the dishwasher, she

made her way upstairs. She was going to look at her map again – but this time, she wasn‘t

going to have Lauren to help her read it or suggest places to stop. Paige was going to

circle her house and her college town and leave the rest unmarked so she could discover

the best path, on her own.
Ashleigh Donovan

Short Story

                                        Tina‘s Life

       The rain was the only thing hiding her from the car. It had been slowly drizzling

all day but the moment her mom escorted her into the alleyway behind Mr. Pizza‘s Pizza

Palace it started to pour. Tina Goosen could just barely see the black sedan idling ahead

and she knew what was expected of her when she got into that car. The young girl of only

fourteen glanced up at her mother with what she wasn‘t sure was tears or rain in her eyes

and saw only a cold expression. She felt like a little kid again and she couldn‘t help but

want her mommy to just throw her arms around her and say, ―I‘m sorry, baby girl. How

about we just go home and I‘ll fix you some ice cream,‖ but Tina knew that this was

impossible. There was no home anymore because they had recently been evicted.

       Luna Goosen used to be the type of woman that could make you smile the

moment she entered the room. Luna was Tina‘s sunshine and Tina was Luna‘s little

angel. At one point the two of them had one of the best mother daughter relationships

despite the roughness of their life. Luna met Tina‘s father in a local McDonalds, and for

Luna it was love at first sight. It only took them a month to leave town, without so much

as a goodbye to their families, and upon arrival in Las Vegas they eloped. It took only a

few weeks for Luna to realize that her beloved Arthur was a devout gambler and they

were almost drowning in debt. Luna spent the next three years moving from trailer park

to trailer park until she discovered she would soon be a mother. By the time Tina was two

Luna and Arthur both had steady jobs and they were living in an okay neighborhood right
outside of Reno. Tina was eight when Arthur started abusing her. Over the years Arthur

developed a love for alcohol, crystal meth, and his daughter‘s flesh, and Luna felt herself

slipping farther and farther away from her beloved husband. Tina was eleven when Luna

first discovered what was happening, and for the love of her husband, she turned her back

and slipped into a severe depression.

       Tina watched her mother the best she could through the curtain of rain as Luna

walked up to the car. She saw the window slowly lower and heard the muffled sound of

―how much?‖ Tina realized this would be the perfect moment to run, but she couldn‘t

find the strength. Tina was aware that her mommy needed her to do this, and she would

do anything for her mommy. Luna walked over to Tina with a perverted smile on her face

and gave her shoulder a squeeze as if everything that was happening was normal and fine.

As Luna guided Tina into the front seat of the car she lowered her lips to her daughter‘s

ear and whispered, ―Make me proud, baby girl.‖

       Tina sat as still in the front seat as possible and did her best to hide her chattering

teeth and her slow nervous breathing. She promised her mom she would be brave, but in

all honesty, she was terrified. Her mom told her that if she could do it with her dad, then

she could do it with anybody, but Tina knew that wasn‘t true at all. She knew her daddy

loved her and this man was just some stranger she had never met before. She took a

chance and looked over at the man while he drove to find a spot to do this forbidden act

and her breath caught in her throat. This man did not look gentle at all. He looked old

and haggard. A cigarette hung from the man‘s mouth and his face was rough looking and

stuck in a scowl. Tina couldn‘t stop staring at the man and did not even notice when the
car finally stopped behind the local supermarket between two big tractor-trailers. ―How

old are you?‖ the man said in a rough scratchy voice.

       ―I‘m twenty-four.‖ That was the age her mom told her to say.

       ―You certainly don‘t look twenty-four; you don‘t look a day over sixteen.

Honestly, though, miss, I don‘t care how old you are, but you better make this worth my

while.‖ In one motion the man unbuckled his seatbelt and undid his zipper. Before Tina

could even say a word to protect herself, the man cupped his hand on the back of her

head and started to bring Tina‘s head down towards her future.

        After what seemed like an eternity of random hard slaps all over her petite body

and a very painful cramp in her face, the man finished, and with a rejuvenated grunt he

grabbed Tina‘s hair and threw her off of him. The man didn‘t say one word to her the

entire ride back to the alley, and when they arrived, all he did was lean over to open the

passenger door, then shove Tina out of the car. The stunned girl sat in the puddle she fell

in with rain cascading around her and tears swelling in her eyes. She just kept replaying

in her mind all that just took place. The man threw a twenty-dollar bill onto her, and

before slamming the door and speeding away, he said with a sneer, ―Don‘t spend it all in

one place.‖ Once she was sure the man‘s car was gone and not coming back, she crawled

to find shelter. Tina huddled in a doorway half in the rain and half out of it. She pulled

her legs up to her chest and sobbed harder than she ever had in her life. It wasn‘t the first

time she was forced into doing that foul act, but there was a very distinct difference: her

daddy loved her.

       It was like being electrocuted. One minute Tina was dead asleep and the next, like

a bolt of electricity, she came to life in a mixture of body spasms and a scream. She

screamed for what seemed like an eternity; she screamed until her throat ached, her jaw

ached, and her whole body ached. Finally, she couldn‘t scream anymore and she

collapsed back down onto the beat up couch with her whole body shaking. Tina looked

around at all the bodies lying around her. How did she not wake them up? Soon, she was

overwhelmed with panic, what if she was lying in a room with dead people. What if she

too was dead, but then how was she moving and breathing? She walked over to the

person closest to her left and bent down closer to her; it was a girl, probably around her

age, seventeen and she was breathing; she was asleep. Tina sat down on the floor; she

now knew she was in Dante‘s apartment, but how long had she been here? She sat on the

mildewed floor for what felt like hours just trying to remember what happened but the

only thing she could remember was Dante‘s gentle hand inserting the needle into her arm

and a kiss on her cheek as she was lifted higher and higher away.

       She was fifteen when she first met Dante. Tina had slowly been working the

streets for three months and could barely make enough money to afford one cracker; she

was becoming desperate. She had not seen her mom since the night this all began and she

had not had a decent meal for even longer than that; all her mom cooked in the end was

dry cereal, raisin bran. It seemed like she would do anything for at least one bowl of that

flavorless cereal, it would sure beat the second-hand food she had been getting out of the

dumpster and she would also do anything to just see her mother again one last time. She

could forgive her for doing this if she just could see her. Lost in thought, Tina wandered

around the dark streets and was almost oblivious to the man in a dark coat hurrying in her
direction until she slammed into him at full force. Tina was getting ready to start yelling

at this stranger for not watching where he was going, until she saw his face in the

streetlights; he was gorgeous. The man standing in front of her had the total package; he

was tall, young, built, and breathtakingly handsome. He had a dimple in his chin and his

right cheek, his eyes were a sparkly blue, and even in the dark she could tell this: she was

in love.

           A few weeks after she met Dante, she had started to stay with him in his little beat

up apartment in one of the worst parts of town, which didn‘t matter to Tina, for with

Dante she always felt safe. Dante was one of the leading drug dealers in the city, dealing

crack cocaine, meth, heroin, and a variety of prescription pills. He slowly rose to the top

at the age of nineteen and he was no one to mess with. It was there in his little blue tiled

kitchen that Tina sat in the middle of the floor and snorted her first line of coke. The

sensation she received on her first line is why she became instantly addicted. All of

Tina‘s problems melted away faster than a moving train, and all her bad thoughts were

replaced with no thoughts as she let herself escape into the feeling of Dante‘s lips on her


           She was in that same kitchen now, only it was no longer blue; the tiles were so

dirty from lack of care that they were a greenish brown color, and there was such a thick

layer of dust that you could not enter the room without choking. Her headache was at full

force now but she was trying her best to ignore it and focus on what happened. Tina still

could not remember how long she was passed out for, and she needed to know where

Dante was because she knew he would be furious. She kept silently looking around, but

she didn‘t want to move, she was frozen in fear and she wasn‘t sure why. Tina just knew
that something was wrong in the room around her, she just couldn‘t figure out what. She

started to stare at a vomit stain near the pale blue dirt-smeared refrigerator when she

heard a creak from the floor boards behind her, and instantly a sense of panic arose

within her. As she started to turn and face the mysterious guest, an icy hand wrapped

around the back of her neck and her face impacted with the counter top. The last thing

she saw before her vision went fuzzy was the sadistic smile of Dante.


       When Tina awoke in the wooden rocking chair, it was different than when she

woke up earlier that day because now she was completely aware of what was going on.

Her head was pounding more than ever, and she was sure her nose was broken and her

jaw shattered, but everything was surprisingly clear for her. Suddenly, Tina could

remember everything from her past; the first time her father put his hands in her panties,

her mother‘s frequent looks of disgust and hatred towards her innocent daughter, every

line snorted, every hit taken from the pipe, every needle inserted into her veins, and every

strange man inside her. She hated herself and she hated everyone in her life. She was

going to change it no matter what it took. She would get away from all this and never

look back, and she would start right now. The moment she stood up to prepare for her

journey, a strong fist slammed into her right cheek and she was thrown backwards,

flipping over the chair and landing with her arm twisted behind her back.

       Dante stood above her shaking body, continually kicking her and yelling, ―Get up,

bitch. Get the fuck up before I make you get up.‖ With all the strength Tina could muster,

she got to her feet, only to be thrown back onto the rocking chair and slapped across the

face. ―Where‘s my money, hoe?! Do you realize what your drug binge cost me exactly,
you bitch? You have been messed up out of your mind for six days and passed out on the

couch for four of them. Now, explain to me, you dirty smut, how am I going to get the

money you owe me?‖ Dante continued to deliver painful blows to her chest and face as

he screamed in her ear. ―You won‘t screw with me again you little bitch. I‘m going to

teach you.‖

       Tina kept her eyes glued to the 9mm pistol Dante was removing from the waist of

his jeans and watched as he lifted it towards her face. Tina never could have imagined

what would happen to her on this night because of the complete and utter horror of the

events. In one moment she went from staring down the barrel of the silver and gold

finished gun to feeling the cold surface being drug from her cheek to her chest and

showing no sign of stopping. Dante brought the gun down to Tina‘s knees and slowly

started forcing the gun up her skirt. Tina could feel the smooth surface of the gun on her

thighs, and all she could do was clamp her eyes shut and pray. Soon, without hesitation,

the weapon was inside her, ripping the flesh as it traveled in and out. Without opening her

eyes, Tina felt around her for anything to help her get free from what was happening to

her and felt the pointy end leading up to a syringe. With all the power she had left inside

her, she wrapped her fingers around the body of the needle and thrust the point into the

front of Dante‘s neck and let the heroin seep out into his Adams-apple. Tina opened her

eyes just in time to watch the look of sick pleasure drain from his face and panic rise on

it. Dante let out a yelp and jerked back with gun still in hand. Dante tried desperately to

grab the needle out of his throat, but it was deeply penetrated and the pain was too much

for him. As Dante collapsed backwards he let his finger squeeze the trigger of his gun.

One single bullet pierced Tina‘s left side and a scream escaped her lips. She began
slipping in and out of conciseness and knew she had to get out of this room and as far

away as possible. She knew that if she stayed she would be dead; even if Dante didn‘t

survive, she would still be marked for death and someone somewhere would kill her to

avenge him. With her legs wobbling and the blood oozing down from her stomach and

between her legs, she walked to the door. Taking a last glance at the man she looked to

for the past two years and now on the ground gasping for air and tripping from the heroin,

she walked out the door and into what she thought would be a start of a new life.

       She had never felt so low. Tina had been through so much over the last seven

hours that all she felt like doing was lying down on a bench and never waking up. She

simply just could not understand how such a miserable life could possibly get worse, but

it did, and how exactly could she keep living like this? Tina always knew that she had no

choice, she was thrown into this life but she has done it for so long she couldn‘t imagine

doing anything else. She continued to walk down Valley Road, and she couldn‘t even

imagine how horrible she looked to a normal person but what kind of decent human

being would be out at this hour? As she walked past the local dry cleaners she caught a

glimpse of herself in the window. She looked absolutely haggard; although the bleeding

had managed to stop between her legs, the pink skirt her mother had bought her all those

years ago was now so shredded and stained that it was a miracle it was even covering her.

Her favorite black tank top had the whole bottom ripped off and was tied around her to

help with the bleeding in her side, and she was missing one gold high heel. She took

awhile and just stared at her outfit when the sharp pain sounded in her eye again. She was

afraid to look at her face; she felt the swelling, she could tell there were bruises, and she
knew she did not want to see it. Tina used to be beautiful. She was daddy‘s little princess.

What would daddy think of her now?

        She walked for what seemed like days only the sky never changed colors and the

cold never ceased. She passed her old corner where she would pick up the men and the

motel she would bring them to. She passed Dante‘s alleyway where she would buy her

drugs and bring them back for her and Dante to use. For Tina all these memories felt

normal, like childhood hopes and dreams, and she knew that the memories would be

disgusting to others. She couldn‘t help but laugh when she thought about her childhood

because all that happened to her back then was fun compared to what Dante had done to

her; at least daddy was gentle. She needed to find somewhere to go, somewhere to hide

until the heat died down, and then who knows, maybe she could turn her life around. She

took a break from walking to think, but she could not think of any place to go. All her

friends were prostitutes and they all wanted to hurt her. She had no family and no money

left. She tried to think about the last place she felt safe.

        Tina turned right on East Ashvan Road and began looking for the bright windows

of the St. Paul‘s Church. She roamed that road for an hour trying to find it, but with one

eye have swollen shut and all the lights on the entire street turned off, it was very hard to

tell what was what. Suddenly a feeling crept up on Tina; she had to pee and there was no

holding it. She wobbled over to the closest bush she could find and started to pull down

what was left of her underwear. For Tina, peeing in a bush was as low as she could go.

She had vowed when she was younger that she would never pee outside, and no matter

how bad things got in the past, she never had. Tina felt more violated than she ever had

squatting in that bush, exposed, but she couldn‘t deny that despite the burning and the
pain, the relief her bladder got from peeing helped ease her. Once she stood up and pulled

up her torn panties, she started again on her walking journey to the church.

       She started to walk up the church steps but had to stop half way when the pain

kept her from moving any farther. Although she fought as hard as she could, she felt

herself collapse on the church steps. Tina‘s breathing became so heavy it was hard to

catch her breath; she reached a hand down to the bullet wound in her side. She still could

not believe she made it as far as she did, and she knew that all she needed for her

salvation was to call for help. Tina opened her mouth and was about to yell when a

thought stopped her; maybe things would be a lot easier if she just gave up and died. She

knew that if she survived Dante would never stop looking for her, and where could she

even go to try and get away from him? She also knew that there was no chance to turn

her life around. She never made it through high school, and the only thing she was good

at was pleasuring strangers. Tina shifted her attention to the sky where the sun had just

begun to rise. She searched around in her purple bra for her very last Newport Menthol

and her blue crack lighter. Tina lit the last cigarette she would ever smoke and inhaled.

She was ready for the next step in her life, the last step. Her mother used to tell her that

dawn, when the sun rose, was the only time you could glimpse into heaven and see the

beauty that awaited you. Tina sat on the church steps watching for the sunrise trying to

find her heaven hidden in the clouds. For the first time in years, Tina smiled. She was

alone on those steps waiting for her fast approaching death and she had never felt so

happy and safe. For the first time in Tina‘s life, everything was okay.
Melissa Butkus

Short Story

                                       Friendly Fire

       I woke up to a bright room with a splitting headache. It was quiet, aside from the

beeping of a monitor next to me. I looked around and then I realized where I was.

       I was in a hospital.

       But how did I get here? I couldn‘t remember anything. I tried to sit up in the bed,

but it just hurt too much, so I gave up. Why was I in so much pain? I looked down at my

hands. They were covered in scrapes. Did I fall down the stairs again? I tried to lift my

arms to get a closer look but excruciating pain shot through my left arm when I tried.

What happened to me?

       ―Gunshot wound,‖ a voice said.

       I sat there in silence. Questions started running through my head at a mile per

minute. I was shot? When? I don‘t remember it. Why was I alone? Where were my

parents? Where was Jake? I wouldn‘t think he would be here; he is always there when

something goes wrong like this. I looked at the man, the only other person in the room,

standing in front of me with a puzzled face.

       ―A woman found you on the ground on 5th street Saturday night. She saw you

lying there and you were bleeding pretty badly. She called 911,‖ the man told me.

       ―Who are you?‖ I asked, barely able to get the words out.

       ―I am Detective John. I am trying to find out what exactly happened to you. Do

you remember anything that happened to you that night?‖

       ―No,‖ I whispered.
       ―Do you remember how you ended up on 5th street?‖ he asked me.

       I shook my head no.

       ―What were you doing earlier that night?‖

       ―I don‘t really remember,‖ I answered.

       ―Okay, well, I can see this is going to take a while. I am going to get some coffee.

I will be back,‖ he told me.

       I just nodded my head and tried to comprehend what I was just told. I couldn‘t

remember anything that had happened on Saturday night. I tried again to get a good look

at my hands, this time lifting my right arm. It hurt, but not as much as the left. Before I

got a look at my hands, I saw the bruises in the shape of a hand on my arm.

       Everything became clear in my mind.


       It was about 8 o‘clock on Saturday night when I got to Jake‘s house. I was home

for the weekend from college and I hadn‘t seen my boyfriend in over a month. I was so

excited to finally see him. As I turned to corner onto Peach Street, my happy mood

suddenly changed into a disappointed one. Parked outside were a bunch of cars. I should

have turned around right then, but I went inside anyway.

       ―Well, there goes our romantic night together!‖ I told myself.

       I continued up the path to his front door, the music getting louder with each step. I

opened the door to see Jake and all his friends sitting on the couch, each of them with a

drink in his hand. I went and sat next to Jake, he wrapped his arm around me. For the

moment I was perfectly content sitting there next to him.

       Around midnight, however, things started to change.
           One of his friends pulled out some weed.

           ―Get out of here!‖ the voice in my head was telling me. I ignored it at first, but

then the mood in the room started to change. Things started to get a little bit hostile. They

started pushing each other and it was getting really rough.

           ―All right, that‘s enough. I‘m out of here,‖ I said as I stood up and started walking

toward the door. As I was reaching for the doorknob, I felt something grab my arm very


           ―Aw, come on, Norah. Don‘t leave! The fun is just getting started,‖ Jake slurred.

―And I never get to see you anymore. Don‘t you want to spend time with me?‖

           ―Not if you are going to act like that,‖ I told him.

           ―What are you talking about?‖

           ―This isn‘t you Jake, What the hell are you doing to yourself?‖ I asked him.

           ―This is me, Norah. And don‘t talk to me that way,‖ he yelled back at me as his

pushed me hard into the door.

           I just stared at him. For a moment I didn‘t know what to say. This was not my

Jake. I didn‘t even know who this person was.

           ―I am out of here,‖ I said as I turned back toward the door.

           ―This isn‘t over and you are not leaving!‖ he yelled as he grabbed my arm again

and pulled me closer to him.

           ―Get the hell off me!‖ I yelled as I pulled my arm from his tight grasp. I turned

again and ran out the door toward 6th street.

       I was still looking at the bruises on my arm when Detective John walked in. He

had a cup of coffee in one hand and a notepad in the other. He pulled up a chair and sat

down next to my bed.

       ―Where did those bruises come from?‖ he asked me.

       ―They are from before I got shot,‖ I told him.

       ―Do you remember what happened?‖


       There was silence between the two of us.

       ―Well… what were you doing?‖

       ―I was at my boyfriend‘s house,‖ I told him.

       ―What‘s his name?‖ Detective John asked.

       ―Jake…,‖ I said hesitantly.

       ―And did Jake give you those bruises?‖

       ―Yes. But I don‘t think he meant it,‖ I told him.

       ―Why did he do that to you?‖

       ―I didn‘t like what was going on at his house, so I was leaving. He didn‘t want me

to leave.‖

       ―What was going on at the house?‖ he asked me as if he already knew the answer.

       ―They were drinking and getting high,‖ I told him as if there was nothing wrong

with that. Obviously, it meant something to him because he was scribbling notes

furiously on his notepad.

       ―So what happened when you left the house?‖

       ―I don‘t remember.‖
       ―Try. Do you remember where you were walking? You were found on 5th Street.

Why were you there? How did you get there?‖

       Everything clicked again. I was once again watching a replay of that night as if it

were a movie in a theater.


       It was dark and cold outside. I slowed to a walk as I turned the corner onto 6th

street. Tall buildings lined each side of the street, unlit windows decorating the walls.

There was no light except for the flickering streetlight at the end of the street.

       As I walked, I thought about what had just happened. This wasn‘t the first time

that Jake had snapped. He‘d gotten physical with me on other occasions as well. He got

pissed at me one time and broke my arm. It didn‘t matter though. I knew that Jake and I

belonged together and nothing was going to change that.

       ―I‘ll talk to him tomorrow. Let him cool down a bit. It will be like nothing even

happened,‖ I told myself. Just like every other time Jake became a jerk, I would forgive


        I wasn‘t too thrilled about walking down this street alone in the dark. All was

quiet except for the sound of footsteps. More than one set of footsteps. I turned around,

but nothing was there. I started walking faster.

       Suddenly the crack of a gunshot broke through the silence. I turned around again,

but still nobody was there. I began running. Another crack slashed through the silence.

       ―Where are you going, Norah?‖ a voice said through the darkness. It was a

familiar voice. I had heard it before. Several voices started laughing. He wasn‘t alone.
       Another gunshot. This time I fell to the ground. I was hit. I wanted to scream out

in pain, but I didn‘t. I lay on the ground silent. I opened my eyes to see Jake and his

friends walking toward me. A gun was in Jake‘s right hand.

       ―Now she can‘t run away from you,‖ one of his friends laughed.

       They all started laughing.

       ―That‘s true,‖ Jake said. ―Let‘s get out of here.‖ He said, and they turned and

walked away.

       As they walked away I touched my arm. It was bleeding really badly.

       ―I have to get home,‖ I told myself as I tried to get to my feet. I was only about a

block away from home and I thought I could make it. I stumbled down the street. I was

really dizzy, probably due to the loss of blood.

       As I turned the corner onto 5th Street everything started spinning. I fell to the



       ―Do you remember what happened to you after you left your boyfriend‘s house?‖

Detective John asked me, pulling me from my trance like state.

       ―Sorry, what?‖ I asked.

       ―Do you remember what happened after you left your boyfriend‘s house that

night?‖ he asked me again.

       ―No,‖ I stated as if it were true.

       ―You don‘t remember anything?‖ he asked again as if he knew I was lying.

       I had to keep up the pretense, ―Nothing,‖ I said without looking at him. ―All I

remember is leaving his house and then I woke up here.‖
       ―Okay. I will come back tomorrow and see if you remember anything else,‖ he

told me. He put a card on the table in front of me. ―I will leave you my number. Call me

if you need anything or remember anything else.‖

       ―I will,‖ I told him as he turned and walked out the door.

       I put my head back on my pillow and stared up at the ceiling. I tried to think of

something else besides the current situation. I didn‘t want to think about it anymore.

       ―Norah?‖ a voice said from near the doorway. I knew this voice. I‘d heard it

almost every day for the last two years. It was Jake.

       ―What?‖ I asked. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling.

       ―How are you feeling?‖ he asked me. His voice was a whisper.

       ―How do you think I feel, Jake?‖ I said, finally looking at him. ―You shot me!‖

       ―I‘m so sorry, Norah.‖ Jake said as he started to walk across the room. ―I can‘t

believe I did this to you. I hate myself for doing it. It was stupid. I shouldn‘t have invited

all those people over Saturday night, and I shouldn‘t have listened to them when they told

me you should pay for talking to me the way you did. Can you ever forgive me?‖ he

asked me. I could hear the pain in his voice.

       ―Seriously, Jake?‖ I yelled back at him. ―You are asking me to forgive you?‖ I

asked him.

       He just stared at me and I stared back at him.

       ―Are you going to tell them that it was me?‖ he asked me.

       I paused. I didn‘t know what I was going to do. I loved him enough not to want to

ruin the rest of his life. Seeing Jake rot away in a jail cell would kill me. I couldn‘t do that

to him. But at the same time I knew that he had gone too far this time.
       ―No,‖ I stated.

       ―Why not?‖ he asked me, confusion marking his face.

       ―Because I don‘t want to watch you rot away in jail,‖ I told him.

       ―Oh… Thanks.‖ Jake said without looking at me. The relief I was expecting to see

didn‘t come across his face.

       It was quiet for a few moments, both of us thinking about what we should do next.

I knew what I had to do. I also knew that it might kill me doing it.

       ―I don‘t want to see you anymore, Jake,‖ I told him, looking him in the eyes.

       ―What do you mean?‖ he asked me, trying to sound confused, but he knew

exactly I meant.

       ―I mean, I want you to stay away from me, Jake. I don‘t want to see or hear from

you ever again,‖ I told him without looking at him. I didn‘t need to look at his face to

guess his reaction. ―If you don‘t stay away from me, I will tell them that it was you.‖

       ―If that‘s what you really want,‖ Jake said, reaching for my hand. I pulled it away.

       ―It is what I want,‖ I told him with tear filled eyes.

       ―Ok. Then I will leave,‖ He said. I could hear the pain in his voice as he said it.

―Just know that I am really sorry about everything and I love you,‖ He told me in a

whisper. I leaned my head back against the pillows and closed my eyes. Tears started

running down my face.

       ―Don‘t say that,‖ I whispered.

       When I finally opened my eyes, he was gone.
Anna Lee Donahue

Mr. Zervanos

Pd. 7


                                     Saying Goodbye

        You sit on the hardwood floor of your bedroom, holding your favorite black

lighter and a pack of Marlboro menthols. Gently, you take out a cigarette and pop it into

your mouth, inhaling as you touch the small flame of the lighter to the tip of your cancer

stick. You blow out a white puff of smoke, feeling a wave of relief as the nicotine

stimulates your brain. Casually, you glance down at your arms, which are covered with

cuts and bruises. You‘ve grown accustomed to Marcus‘ drunken beatings. Initially, you

wanted to call the cops and have him incarcerated for domestic abuse, but without

Marcus where would you go? Besides, you‘ve found ways to release the pain and

depression of your new life.

        It seems like you‘ve lived here for years, but you know it‘s only been a few

months. You remember the night Marcus found you well.


        You stumbled across the trolley tracks pushing your hands deeper into your

jacket pockets in a useless attempt to stay somewhat sheltered from the pouring rain.

Lightning illuminated the dark night sky allowing you to read the rusted station sign.

―Morton.‖ You‘ve made it to Chester; the only question is ―where to now?‖ Your mom is
still at home in Barbados, your aunt and uncle kicked you out months ago, and you‘ve

been asked to leave all of the houses that you‘ve crashed at. You don‘t have any money,

and you‘re exhausted from walking all day without any food. Just as you‘re about to plop

down on a bus bench and embrace death, you see a man with an umbrella approaching


       ―Are you all right, miss?‖

       ―I‘m f-f-fine,‖ you stutter, teeth chattering.

       ―No, you‘re not. You‘re soaking wet and you‘re so cold you‘re shaking. Do you

live near here? Or do you at least have a place to stay?‖

       ―I‘m fine. I‘m just gonna lay down for a little while.‖

       ―Come on, you can stay with me for as long as you need to. I just have one

stipulation. I‘ll give you food, clothes, a bed, anything you need; all you have to do is

work for me. Is that okay?‖ the man says, giving you a warm smile.

       All you manage to say is a soft ―mmhm.‖ You know this seems crazy, but he

seems nice enough. Besides, your only options are to trust the kind, seemingly caring,

stranger or die out here on the streets, and you can‘t die yet.

       ―By the way, my name is Marcus,‖ the man says softly, as if he‘s telling you

some dire secret that he doesn‘t want anyone else to hear. You don‘t say anything as the

man wraps his arm around you, sheltering you with his big, black umbrella, and walks

you down the street.


       ―Genna…Genna!‖ The sound of Jasmin‘s voice whips you back to the present.

       ―Huh? Oh, hey, Jasmin, I was just…uh…‖
        ―Daydreaming?‖ Jasmin suggests. You don‘t respond; you just smile at her

sweetly. ―Come on. We have to get ready. It‘s almost eleven.‖

        ―All right, all right. So, what do we have in the way of drugs for this evening?‖

you ask inquisitively.

        ―Coke or smack. Take your pick.‖

        ―Hmmm…,‖ you mutter, tapping your index finger gently against your lips. ―I‘m

gonna have to go with coke...we did smack last night.‖

        ―Works for me,‖ Jasmin replies cheerfully. Carefully you pour out a small pile of

coke from the miniature bag, while Jasmin grabs a razor and two pieces of straw. Slowly,

you cut the pile in two and form two thin lines, each about two inches long, in the center

of the night table. You lower your head, placing one end of the straw up into your right

nostril and the other directly above the white line of coke. You press your finger against

your left nostril, holding it closed as you snort. Then, you slowly sit back, as the drugs

begin to take effect, and wait for Jasmin.

        ―Ready?‖ you ask her after a few minutes of silence.

        ―Let‘s go,‖ she nods in response. Jasmin jumps up and grabs your hand, pulling

you to your feet. You grab your fake Coach purse and stumble down the stairs and out the


        It‘s a warm, clear night, perfect weather for prostitution. You make more money

when the sky is clear and you can see the stars. You stop under a street lamp and decide

to make it your post for the evening. Jasmin is down the block on the other side of the

street. She‘s been doing this for the last year, so she has a set of regulars. Somehow they
all seem to know where to find her, even though she covers a one-mile radius. You‘ve

only been doing this a few months; you have a few regulars but not many, so you don‘t

make as much money as Jasmin, but you make out well on nice nights like tonight.

       You‘ll never forget the first time you went out with Jasmin. You were terrified;

all you could think about was the fact that you were getting paid screw strangers. At first

you felt dirty and worthless, but gradually you‘ve grown accustomed to the idea of

trading sex for money. Most people would rather die, and it is an all time low for you, but

on the bright side, you do get paid quite a bit. Besides, most of the guys aren‘t that bad

looking; they‘re just lonely. In some ways they‘re a lot like you, lonely drug addicts who

are full of pain; they just want to be accepted and loved for who they are.

        A car coming down the street slows as it approaches you. The window rolls down

and a familiar voice greets you.

       ―Hey, Genna. How‘s it going?‖

       ―Hi, John. I‘m good. How are you?‖

       ―I‘m peachy,‖ John replies as he leans over and pushes the passenger door open.

You just smile at him as you climb into the car and he hits the gas.

       You arrive home around four, tired and feeling drained. Marcus is waiting for you

in the living room. You hug and kiss him before handing him the money you earned. You

don‘t see Jasmin, so you assume she‘s already upstairs.

       ―Is this everything?‖ Marcus asks you while counting the money.

       ―Yeah,‖ you reply in a bratty voice. Marcus looks up and smacks you hard, across

the face. Your cheek stings and the pain seems to radiate through your face.
       ―Don‘t give me none of that damn attitude.‖ He glares at you, letting his anger

subside. ―You gotta nice face; it‘d be a shame if it got ruined.‖

       ―Sorry.‖ You try to sound sweet and sincere.

       ―Four hundred. Not bad for a Tuesday night. You know, Genna, you got the

makings to be a great whore. Stick with me and in about a year you‘ll be making a

thousand dollars a night,‖ Marcus whispers to you, gently caressing your face where he

hit you just moments ago. ―Once you get a little more…experience, we can get out of this

dump. We‘ll get a place in New York and get you a job as an escort for rich lawyers.‖

       ―That sounds nice,‖ you whisper back, trying to sound pleased.

       ―Now, why don‘t you go on upstairs and get ready for bed. Put on that little red

dress I love. I‘ll be up in a few minutes.‖

       ―Okay, sweetie,‖ you say, walking slowly towards the stairs.

       You sit outside the Acme taking the last few puffs of your blunt, while Jasmin

makes faces at the puppies in the pet store next door. You used to spend a lot of time

here; you got your first job here working as a bagger and later as a cashier. You have

another job now; a less respectful job, but a better paying job. You haven‘t come to

revisit the past, though; you‘ve come to say goodbye to two friends. You flick the end of

your blunt into the street as Jasmin makes her way over to you. Then, you pull yourself

up off the bench and follow Jasmin into the store. The inside of the store looks about the

same as when you left it.

       ―Genna!‖ you hear a girl exclaim and look to see Zoey checking out a customer.
         ―Hey, Boo!‖ you call back as your run towards her. You practically knock her

down as you jump on her.

         ―Where have you been? I‘ve missed you. I came back from the beach and you

were gone.‖

         ―Hey, I‘ll be right back. I gotta grab a few things and then I‘ll come through your


         ―Okay, Boo,‖ Zoey replies cheerfully. She‘s so happy to see you. Jasmin is

standing in front of the banana table, so you walk back over towards her.

         ―Who‘s that?‖ Jasmin asks, gesturing towards Zoey.

         ―That‘s Zoey. She‘s my boo.‖ Jasmin gives you a questioning look, but you

ignore her and continue walking towards the back of the store. You scan the seafood

counter, searching for Rob. He‘s the only guy you ever truly fell in love with. You want

to see him one last time, to say goodbye to him, but he‘s nowhere to be found.

Disappointed, you trudge back over to Jasmin, who is still staring at you, waiting for an

explanation. ―Let‘s go,‖ you mutter. Jasmin follows as you rush towards the door, not

wanting to have to say goodbye to Zoey. She‘s a sweet girl and you know she‘ll always

love you, but you can‘t bear to say goodbye, to see the sad, puzzled look on her face, nor

to hear her confused questions.

         Marcus isn‘t there to pick you and Jasmin up yet, so you tell Jasmin to wait for

you there and that you‘ll be right back. She just shrugs and plops down on the bench you

were sitting on earlier. You walk the familiar path that leads from Acme back to your

former house. You only lived there for two years, but it was like your second home. Your
mom had sent you there to live with your aunt and uncle so that you could attend a

―decent‖ high school and get a ―better‖ education. You resented her for it at first. You

didn‘t want to go to the states, the so-called ―land of opportunity.‖ More like the ―land of

judgmental people.‖ You‘d never even met your aunt and uncle before, but once you

moved in with them, they started to grow on you.

        You stand out front of your house, contemplating whether or not you should

knock. You want to see them one last time. Give your cousin a hug and tell him to stay

strong and never stop being himself. You really loved them and you thought they loved

you, until they showed their true colors and kicked you out. You‘re still not sure why

they kicked you out. Maybe you went over on your texting one too many times, maybe

you partied a little too much, or maybe it was because you decided to stay in the states to

go to art school rather than going back to Barbados.

        Whatever the reason, it doesn‘t matter; you‘re not their problem anymore and

tomorrow you won‘t be anybody‘s problem. ―Soon this will all be over,‖ you say quietly

to yourself as you turn away from the house and begin down the familiar path back to


        You sit quietly on the floor in the living room with your back up against the sofa.

Jasmin and Marcus are seated on the couch on either side of you. They‘re both quite

drunk, but you‘re just buzzed. You crawl over to the television and pop your favorite

movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, into the DVD player. As the previews play you

go upstairs and grab two needles and a lethal dose of heroin from the medicine cabinet in

the bathroom. You go downstairs to find Jasmin and Marcus passed out on the sofa. You
return to your place on the floor between them and fill the needles with heroin. As the

movie starts you sing along with the characters, tapping your veins and preparing

yourself for death. Carefully you pierce the vein in your arm and push the drugs into your

bloodstream. Once the needle is empty, you pull it out and insert the second needle. Once

again you push the drugs into your bloodstream and then pull the needle out, laying it on

the floor beside the first needle. You lean your head back as the drugs rush through your

body. Finally, you let your eyelids fall and surrender to the unfamiliar darkness.
Alex Fabris                                                                   May 15, 2009

Short Story                                                                        Period 7

                                            The Lottery

       Anthony woke up to knocking on his car window. He opened his eyes and was

blinded by the light for a second and sat up to see what was going on, only to feel the

worst headache he had ever felt. Anthony saw that there was a cop knocking on the

window, and when he looked down, he saw a bottle of champagne on his lap that he

quickly threw to the ground, hoping the cop had not noticed it.

       ―Excuse me, sir, you‘re going to have to get your car off the side of this road and

keep moving,‖ said the officer. ―Oh and one last thing, you might want to get rid of that

bucket of fried chicken cause that‘s looking pretty gross.‖

       Anthony rolled his window back up and was so surprised that the cop hadn‘t said

anything about the champagne. Anthony was close to arriving at his mom‘s house and

thought that it would be sanitary to brush his teeth to hide the smell of alcohol. He

grabbed his toothbrush, which was on the floor, and cut his finger on his disposable razor

that was also on the ground.

       ―God damnit!‖ Anthony exclaimed. His finger was bleeding pretty badly and he

needed to stop it. Anthony was trying to look as good as possible for his mom, and so far

things weren‘t looking too good. He grabbed his New Year‘s Resolutions paper and

wrapped it around his finger to stop the bleeding. He knew he would probably never

achieve any of those resolutions, so he didn‘t care that he was using it as a band aid. After

he brushed his teeth, Anthony found two paper cups to rinse his mouth out with, but

realized that he didn‘t have any water, so he poured some champagne in the cup and
rinsed his mouth out with that. Anthony grabbed his zipped up gym bag with the few

clothes that he owned and put it on his lap just as he pulled into his mom‘s driveway.

Anthony stepped out of the car and walked up to the door. He slowly opened the door and

looked around. The last time Anthony had been here was when he just up and left about

three years ago. Anthony walked around the house looking for his mom but didn‘t see her

anywhere. The phone had a message on it, so he played it to hear his mom‘s voice saying

that if Anthony arrived before she got home, there was food in the fridge and to make

himself feel at home.

       ―I‘m not a kid anymore; I don‘t need her to tell me things like that,‖ said Anthony

to himself. He felt like shit so he went upstairs to the empty bedroom and passed out.

       All throughout the day Anthony would look up at the clock, counting down the

time until he got to leave. This job sucked to begin with, but having no customers

whatsoever made it even worse. There was still an hour left of this boring work and he

just wanted to get out.

       ―Yo, Anthony, there‘s nobody here so you can leave an hour early if you want,‖

said his boss Mike.

       ―Are you sure?‖ Anthony asked.

       ―Yeah, it‘s fine. If somebody comes in, I‘ll be able to handle it cause it‘s so slow

today,‖ said Mike.

       Anthony walked out of that god-awful store, happy to be outside. He had to walk

to work earlier because his mom was still asleep and the damn car wouldn‘t start.

Anthony passed a drug store on the way home advertising the lottery that had grown to
one hundred and sixty million dollars. He thought that there was absolutely no chance

that he could ever win the lottery, but he decided to buy a ticket anyway.

       ―What‘s the worst that can happen? I‘ll lose like five bucks. Who cares?‖

Anthony walked into the store and asked the cashier for five tickets. He left the store

thinking about how cool it would be to win the lottery, but didn‘t let himself get too

excited because he knew that winning it would never happen.

       When Anthony got home about an hour later, he gave his mom a big hug because

this was really the first time he had seen her since he arrived at his mom‘s house


       ―Hey Anthony, how have you been?‖ asked Anthony‘s mom.

       ―I‘ve been all right I guess. Work kind of sucks, but whatever. At least I‘m

actually doing something now. Has everything been good around here?‖ he asked.

       ―Yeah everything‘s fine,‖ she replied.

       They talked for a while about many different things. Anthony looked over at the

clock to see that it was five o‘clock, so he turned on the TV to wait for the lottery

numbers. After about ten minutes of lying on the couch waiting for the numbers, he fell

asleep and woke up to be able to see the winning number on the screen for only about

five seconds. He quickly tried to memorize the five numbers and grabbed a pen and paper

to write the numbers on. Anthony checked his tickets and the last ticket he checked had

the exact same numbers as what he had written. Anthony had no idea what to do. Before

he could get too excited he started second guessing the numbers he wrote down and

thought he could have possibly messed up when recording the numbers. Anthony quickly
jumped into his mom‘s car and drove to the store where he bought the tickets. When he

saw the winning numbers, he stood there in shock. He had actually won the lottery.

       The next morning, Anthony woke up at the crack of dawn, and he and his mom

drove to the lottery commission center. The initial jackpot was one hundred and sixty

million, but after taxes and all of the other deductions that were probably added just so

they didn‘t have to pay as much money, Anthony received ninety-seven million dollars.

It‘s a lot less than Anthony thought he would receive, but winning ninety seven million

dollars was still sufficient. On the way back home Anthony was thinking hard about what

he was going to do with the money.

       ―So I guess you‘re not going to be living with me anymore?‖ his mom asked.

       ―Yeah probably not. I think I‘ll be able to support myself for a while,‖ Anthony

said. His dream had always been to live in a big penthouse in the city, close to

everything. The good thing about it was that money was not a problem anymore.

Anthony didn‘t even care how much a penthouse would cost because money was not

really an issue anymore.

       Two weeks later, Anthony was officially an owner of a home for the first time in

his life. He had already said goodbye to his mom and was driving to his very own

penthouse in his new BMW M5 Sedan. Even though Anthony‘s mom told him not to, he

planned on sending her some money every month or so just to make sure that she was

never in financial trouble. Anthony stood at one of the many windows in his penthouse

and looked down at the city. There were bars and strip clubs all around, and he knew
what he was going to be doing that night and probably every night for the next month or


       For the next few months, Anthony would go to strip clubs and bars almost every

night. He started drinking a little more heavily than before because he was always in that

kind of atmosphere. The people he started to talk to on occasion were drug dealers and

mobsters. Although he went out every night, he became lonely not having a family or

even a wife of his own. To compensate for his loneliness, Anthony would hire prostitutes

and blow a great deal of money on drinks and at strip clubs every night. His drinking

eventually lead to experimenting with drugs, and soon Anthony was making deals with

his friends and buying cocaine and mushrooms.

       Anthony never questioned what he was doing, until one night when he was

driving home from a club. He got into his eighty thousand dollar car and started driving,

although he was hammered drunk and pissed off from gambling away twelve thousand

dollars in less than two hours. He was way too drunk to be driving and couldn‘t

concentrate because of how angry he was, so he didn‘t see the couple walking across the

street at the upcoming traffic light. Once he was about twenty feet away, he noticed the

couple, but it was too late. He slammed on the brakes but not enough time elapsed for it

to make much of a difference. Anthony‘s car hit the man and the woman, propelling both

of them thirty feet or more, and causing Anthony to lose control of his car and hit a fire


       ―Holy shit,‖ said Anthony as he sat there in shock. After about a minute of just

staring out the window, he realized what just happened and stumbled out of his car,

looking for the people and to see if they were all right.
        Anthony opened his eyes and was on a bed inside of a hospital. He had no idea

what happened from when he hit those people to now. Anthony was still drunk when he

woke up, but at least he was able to function. He looked around and saw a few cops

inside of his room and a doctor talking to them. One of the cops noticed that Anthony

was awake now and so they approached him.

        ―How are you feeling, sir?‖ asked one of the cops.

        ―Uh, I guess I‘m all right. What‘s going on?‖ Anthony asked the cops.

        ―I‘m sorry to tell you that hit two pedestrians while driving. We would also like to

inform you that we have evidence that you were drunk while driving and driving way

over the speed limit,‖ the cop said. The only thing that was going through his mind at this

point was hoping that he didn‘t kill either of the people because he would be going away

to jail for a long time.

        ―How are the people that I hit?‖ Anthony asked.

        ―One of them seems to be doing pretty well, just a few broken bones. The woman

is not doing so well. She‘s in critical condition right now, but it is looking like the doctors

will be able to get her into stable condition. You‘re lucky, well in the respect that you

didn‘t kill anyone,‖ they said to Anthony.

        Anthony didn‘t know what to do. He knew he was going to get in a lot of trouble.

        A few weeks later Anthony was in court for his DUI, speeding, and reckless

driving charges. He was sitting near the front of the room with hand cuffs around his

wrists. Anthony turned around and saw his mom in the back of the room with the most
dis-heartened look on her face. He could tell that she had been crying and that‘s when

everything hit him. He couldn‘t believe that he let his mom down so much. One week

prior to his court date, Anthony had to take a drug test, which he knew he would fail

because up until the accident he had been heavily using many different drugs. He looked

down at the desk in front of him and tears came to his eyes.

        ―Ok Anthony let‘s get started. You are being charged with DUI, speeding, and

reckless driving charges,‖ said the judge. ―The two pedestrians you hit while driving

were somehow lucky enough to still be alive. Had they not been so lucky you would be

looking at ten to fifteen years in jail.‖

        The judge looked down at some paperwork and started flipping through a few

folders looking for something. Anthony started to think about how awful it would have

been if he had killed one or even both of the pedestrians. He had been given the

opportunity to do something good in his life, and temporarily through it away.

        ―Ah, here it is,‖ said the judge. The results from your drug test are back and you

tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and many prescription pills. You can either choose

to go to rehab for six months and then serve your year in jail, or just go straight to jail.‖

        Anthony knew that he needed the rehab but he wanted to get his life back on track

as fast as he could. He decided to go to rehab because his drug problems were getting out

of control.

        At the end of Anthony‘s trial, it was decided that he was to go onto probation for

a year after rehab for six months and a year in jail, pay multiple fines, and pay for the two

pedestrians‘ medical costs. After Anthony started going to rehab and started getting his
life back into line, he realized how stupid he was. He had always been pretty level-

headed, but after he got all that money, everything went downhill.

       In a weird way Anthony thought that hitting the two pedestrians helped him out

greatly. The woman that he hit wouldn‘t ever be able to walk again because she became

paralyzed from the waist down, so Anthony sent her two million dollars, trying to make

up for what he did. He started supporting and joining groups and organizations against

drunk driving. Also, for the first time in his life, Anthony held a job for a while that he

liked. He worked at a rehab center, helping people with drinking and alcohol problems

similar to those he used to have. Winning the lottery was the best thing that ever

happened to Anthony, but it took him a while to become responsible enough to handle it.
John Flowers

Short Story

       It was just another routine day for Jimmy. He‘d get up at six, brush his teeth, get

dressed, eat breakfast, and then catch the bus. He had been accustomed to this routine for

as long as he could remember. In forty-five minutes, he would be standing outside his

house, pacing back and forth, waiting for the school bus. Giving himself plenty of time to

get ready wasn‘t a bad idea, for Jimmy often times moved at an iceberg‘s pace and

always seemed to take longer than the rest of his family.

       Jimmy woke up at six o‘clock; the same time he woke up every morning.

Sluggishly, he rolled out of bed; he was extra tired today. His physics test the night

before kept him up until well past his average bedtime. It took him five minutes just to

walk to the bathroom across the hall. He reached the sink after what seemed to be

forever, turned on the hot water, and began to get ready. He brushed his teeth, washed his

face and hands, and then dressed. He began heading down towards the kitchen, being

careful not to trip over himself on the steps. His almost-closed eyes altered his view him

as his attempt failed and he was at the bottom of the stairs quicker than he anticipated.

        ―Damn it!‖ he yelled.

       Startled, Jimmy picked himself up off the floor and finished his walk to the

kitchen. His breakfast his mother made was waiting for him, as always: two scrambled

eggs, a blueberry muffin, and a glass of orange juice.

       ―I‘m starving, ― he said to himself.
        He wiped it down in five minutes. Looking at the clock, he realized he only had

ten minutes before his bus would be there, so he quickly stood up from his chair and

kissed his mom goodbye and headed for the door. He closed the front door behind him

and walked to the end of the driveway. Five minutes later, the bus pulled up. He started

towards the bus and suddenly realized he forgot his backpack in his room. He was angry

at himself and at the physics test for throwing off his routine.

        ―Hang on for a minute. I forgot my backpack,‖ Jimmy told the bus driver.

        By the time the bus driver made an annoyed reaction, Jimmy was already opening

his front door and running up the stairs.

        Jimmy ran up to his room as quickly as he could. He didn‘t want to keep everyone

on the bus waiting. He went into his closet and turned on the light. He began to dig

underneath his dirty laundry to look for his backpack. When he found it, Jimmy threw it

on his back and closed his closet door. Before it was completely shut, he caught sight of

something out of the corner of his eye.

        ―Hurry up! I can‘t wait for you much longer!‖ he heard from outside.

        This something was shining brightly through his dirty laundry. Forgetting about

the bus waiting outside, he began to explore the depths of his closet, searching for the

light. He continued to explore until he found the cause of the light. He had no idea what it

was, so he carefully pulled it out from underneath the clothes. It was a knife and there

was blood on it, still wet.

        ―What the hell is this? It‘s still wet!‖ he exclaimed.

        He heard the bus engine rev and pull away. He had no ride to school and was

stuck home for the day, but for once, he did not care that his day wasn‘t routine.
       Jimmy tried to go back to bed, but for the first time he could remember, this was

not possible, not after what he saw this morning, anyway. He sat in his bed for what

seemed like forever, just thinking about what to do. If he kept it to himself, there was the

possibility of his solving this mystery on his own. There was also the possibility of his

parents finding out somehow. They would eventually find out anyway, just hopefully not

by someone else. This was why he had to consider his other option. He didn‘t want to

create any extra problems, which is what would probably happen. He would have to sit

on it for a while, but for right now, he would try to get back to sleep.

       Jimmy woke up to the sound of the front door closing. It was his mom. The

television was still on from earlier this morning. He looked up at the clock hanging from

the wall, and it read three thirty. On a normal day, he would have already been home

from school, so he knew that his mom had no clue about him skipping school. He had

been asleep on the couch for nearly five hours before being woken.

       ―Hi Jimmy. I‘m home. How was our day at school?‖ his mom asked

       ―It was okay. I‘m just really tired now,‖ he answered.

       Jimmy tried not to act too suspicious; he didn‘t want her to know anything just


       Jimmy‘s mom was a nurse at the hospital down the street. She only worked for a

couple of hours each day, but it kept her occupied. His dad was a lawyer, on the other

hand. He had his own firm in the city and was very successful. He had taken part in

some of the biggest cases in the last twenty years, including several murder trials. Jimmy

knew he would be able to do something about the knife he found in his closet earlier; he
would know what to do. If there was one person that would be able to find out how the

knife ended up in his closet and where it came from, it was Jimmy‘s dad.

        Dinner tonight was fried chicken and mashed potatoes, his favorite. As Jimmy,

his mother, and his father sat around the dinner table, Jimmy listened to his mom and dad

talk about each of their days. Jimmy tried not to get into this conversation because he

knew that if he said one thing out of line, he would have to tell them the rest of the story.

He chipped into the conversation where he could so that they didn‘t think there was

anything too out of the ordinary going on, but at the same time, he didn‘t want to say too

much. As he was talking, Jimmy could see from the corner of his eye his mom staring at

him. It was the kind of look where she knew that something was wrong, but he wasn't

saying anything about it. As soon as he looked at her, she asked, ―How was your day,


        He hesitated for a second, but recovered quickly enough to save himself from any

further trouble.

           ―It was good. Nothing really interesting happened. Boring as usual,‖ Jimmy


        He could feel his nose growing longer by the second. He wondered if they knew.

He couldn't keep the secret from them any longer; he would have to tell them. He was

feeling way too much pressure right now and if he didn't tell them, he would feel guilty

for holding something this important back from his parents. What if someone actually

broke into the house and left the knife in the closet? There was always the possibility

that this was just the beginning of several things to come, as much as he didn't want to

believe it.
       Jimmy took a deep breath and began to tell them all about his day. The sooner he

told them and got it off his chest, the better. At least that's how he felt. He told them all

about skipping school, finding the knife in his closet, and how he had been keeping this

from them. He was glad that he told them; now he didn‘t have to worry about it

anymore, or at least feel that it was all his responsibility. Something wasn‘t right,

however. His parents didn‘t seem to show much interest. They were usually the type of

parents who, if something was wrong, would be the first ones to try to fix it. This was

different, though. He didn‘t know what, but they just acted differently around him after

he told them he found a knife in his closet. They didn‘t seem like they wanted to talk

about it too much, so he let it go. He finished dinner and went up to his room to work on

his homework. By the time he finished his homework, it was getting late. Three hours of

homework was a bit much. He turned on his TV, went to lie in bed, and started watching

SportsCenter again. He was asleep within minutes.

       Jimmy was once again awoken by a noise. This time, it was not his mom. It was

coming from his closet. He was scared. He looked up, careful not to move any other part

of his body except for his head. He didn‘t know who it was or why they were here, but

the more he looked at the figure, the more familiar it became to him. Whoever it was,

they were kneeling in the closet looking for something. For what, he had no idea. The

figure got up and turned around. Jimmy could see a knife in his hand. It was the same

knife that had been there the morning before. Jimmy noticed something else that he found

strange. They were walking with a limp. There was only one person he knew that

walked this way and it was his father.
       That morning at breakfast, Jimmy decided to ask his father about the knife.

       ―Dad?‖ Jimmy asked. ―What were you doing in my room in the middle of the

       night last night?‖

       His father was slow to respond. Surprisingly, his father didn‘t deny the fact that

he snuck into Jimmy‘s room. In fact, he was completely open to talking about it. ―I

didn‘t know you saw me. When I walked in, you were still sleeping, so I tried to clean up

the rest of…‖ His father stopped. Jimmy sat up in his chair. He suddenly grew very

curious and wanted to know what his father was talking about.

       ―What is the rest? You‘re telling me you know where this came from? Why

haven‘t you told me?‖

       The only thing his father could think to do was to tell him what had really been

going on. He hesitated for a while, contemplating on whether or not t tell Jimmy the

truth. After a long pause, he began. ―I‘m actually in the mafia. I‘m a lawyer, yes, but

I‘m also the leader of the mafia. The knife came from me. I had nowhere to put it, so I

threw it in your closet until I could find somewhere else to put it, thinking you wouldn‘t

go there.‖

       ―What!‖ Jimmy exclaimed. ―What the hell are you thinking? Why would you

ever do something so stupid?‖

       Jimmy was not ready for anything like this. At the most, he was expecting his

father to admit that he was in his room, but not all of this other stuff. He didn‘t know

how to deal with it right now. He was shocked, surprised, and scared all at the same

time. Maybe after a while, all of those feelings would settle down.
        ―This isn‘t the first time I‘ve killed someone. I‘m only telling you this because I

was already under the impression that you suspected that I was involved somehow. I

want you to be able to trust me and not look at me any differently. You‘re still my son

and I‘ve never done anything to hurt you before, so why would you think otherwise right


        ―You‘ve been hiding this from me for all of my life! What else are you hiding

from me? This is ridiculous. I can‘t believe it. I don‘t know what to say.‖

        The truth was that Jimmy had plenty of reason to think otherwise. His father

turned out to be the leader of the mafia; he was responsible for the murders of several

people and has been hiding this from Jimmy for all of his life.

        ―I didn‘t want to tell you yet because I didn‘t think you were ready to know,‖ his

father told him, ―but since you found the knife and saw me in your room, I figured I had

to tell you at some point.‖

        Once again, Jimmy couldn‘t fall asleep. This time, however, it wasn‘t because he

was scared to go to bed. It was because he couldn‘t stop thinking about his conversation

with his father earlier that morning. In a sense, Jimmy knew his father was right. Why

would he treat Jimmy any differently now if he hasn‘t been for the last sixteen years?

Jimmy couldn‘t think straight anymore; there were too many thoughts running through

his mind at one time. He wanted to maintain a close relationship with his father, but

would this still be possible? Jimmy would try.

        When Jimmy woke up, it was Saturday morning. He woke up extra late today,

eleven o‘clock. Today would be a long day. He needed to figure out how to deal with

his dad and just try to get through the day. His dad was off from work today, so he
expected to spend the day with him. When Jimmy woke up, he didn‘t want to go

downstairs, so he stayed in his room and watched TV. Not long after, his father knocked

on the door.

       ―Can I come in?‖ his father asked from the outside of Jimmy‘s door.

       Jimmy didn‘t answer, so his father just walked in.

       ―I want you to come out to breakfast with me,‖ his father told him. ―I want to

show you that I still care. Just telling you I care doesn‘t really do anything, so I want to

show you; I want you to trust me again.‖

       At lunch, Jimmy sat across the table from his dad. It was awkward because

Jimmy didn‘t want to say anything, but his dad wanted him to talk to him.

       ―Talk to me,‖ his father begged him.

       That was the icebreaker. Something needed to be said by either to loosen the


       ―I don‘t know what to say. I‘m confused,‖ Jimmy told him.

       Jimmy realized that he had no other option but to talk to his father. It was the

only way Jimmy would be able to trust him again. As Jimmy started to talk to his father,

he could sense the trust rebuilding between them. Hopefully, they would be able to get it

back to what it once was just a couple of days earlier. To Jimmy, it wasn‘t so much

rebuilding the trust between his father and him. Jimmy wanted his father to be more like

a typical father: one that he could talk to if he needed, one that had a normal job and one

that didn‘t hide things from him.

       This morning was Monday morning. The weekend flew by. Jimmy began his

routine all over again. He got up, brushed his teeth, and got ready for school. He ate his
breakfast: two scrambled eggs, a blueberry muffin, and a glass of orange juice. Today

before he left for the bus, he was sure not to forget his backpack.

       ―Bye, mom. I love you,‖ Jimmy told her.

       He set out for what he hoped to be another routine day.
# 14 / best scene

Allison Grosenkemper

The story machine


Burning shirts

                                         Their Spot

  He is amazed how quickly her shirt was engulfed. He stands just watching. That‘s all

he could do. He feels the heat from the burning blood-covered clothing. She was younger

than him, David Spencer thinks with tears in his eyes. He just watches the orange yellow

flames grow into the dark almost completely black cloudless sky. He thinks back to this

morning. it had been the last time he saw her alive. She was still in the clothes that lay

burning in a pile. There now melted to her burnt skin. The smell of burning rubber fills

the air, and standing on the side of the highway, he sees the fire trucks and ambulances

coming to put out the wreck. By the time they get here it was too late she is gone. Before

the ambulance speeds away, he takes one last look at his love. As the trucks pull away he

says, ―Goodbye, I love you.‖

   He stands where minutes before he had watched the firefighters rip the huge SUV‘s

door from its hinges while attempting to save Etta. The mangled car still sitting there in a

pile of burnt scrap metal twisted around the tree. David slowly walks to his silver Malibu

and cautiously pulls away, as the tow truck pulls up to clear the mess. He can‘t bear=2

0staring at the wreck any longer. He drives back toward to their home; the usual ten-
minute drive seems to take about an hour. He drives through the little town where they

had spent their life together.

He starts off driving slowly down Main Street and stops as he arrives at the front of

Bryer‘s local high school where he had first met her. It was tenth grade and David had

just moved to Washington State from Colorado.

―David Spencer?― the older woman standing in the front of the classroom-taking roll said.

 ― Here,‖ he replied softly. The class turned and examined their new classmate. He tried

to act cool, trying not to show that he saw the entire class had turned around to look over

at him. Suddenly he heard a tiny ―Hello‖ that came from his left. He looked up from his

desk to see a beautiful bright blue-eyed brown haired, gorgeous girl looking over at him.

―Hello?‖ she said again

―Hi,‖ he replied

― I am Etta.‖

―David,‖ he said, still feeling shy from all the eyes burning holes in the back of his green

Colorado State University sweatshirt.

  ― Oh just ignore them,‖ she said, seeing that the other students were making him

feel uncomfortable. ― Where is your first class?‖

  ― Um…‖ He scrambled through his uncoordinated stack of papers given to him by the

office within the fi rst ten minutes he had walked through the front doors. ― Science with

Mr. Fredrick.‖

  ― Me too! Would you like company walking there?‖ she asked with a spark in her


  ―I‘d love one,‖ he replied.
  David finds himself sitting in the parking lot of Bryer‘s High School with the same

smile that he had that first day that he laid eyes on her; ever since that day they had been

inseparable. He puts his car back in drive and pulls down the road, heading towards the

local theater. This was where they shared their first date. He parallel parks in the same

spot he had that night.

―She was so beautiful,‖ he says to himself as he finishes parking the car.

  ―Two for Forest Gump,‖ he said to the girl at the window. They walked into the theater

as her flowered pink sun dress blew in the warm humid spring air. There was a storm

blowing in, and by the time they left the theater the heavens opened up and there was a

downpour of warm rainwater. He took his jacket off and wrapped it around her slender

body, attempting to keep her as dry as possible; they ran to the car, where they sat for

about an hour waiting to the rain to die down. Once he thought it was safe to drive he

started off slowly down the road being cautious of the wet road that he was driving on.

  As David sits in front of the now=2 0closed theater he thinks of her Forest Gump

would later become their favorite movie and they watched it on this anniversary every

year. He can‘t picture watching it without her there next to him holding his hand just as

she had that day. He remembers his bright blue Chevy truck riding down that same road

where he had found her earlier that day. His mind flashing between images of those

wonderful years and her beautiful smiling face. He only thinks of the happy memories.

The next second his mind flashed to his last memory of her, her SUV wrapped around the

tree. Her body lay lifeless and only looked as if she was just sleeping and would awake at

any moment.
  He starts the car and drives a mile down the road to their driveway. He pulls in to find

that her Ford SUV is not parked there. Then it hit him,― She is really gone!‖ The thought

hits him like ton of bricks. His eyes swell up. He remembers those days walking through

the doors of their home and seeing her beautiful smiling face, which always seemed to be

waiting for him. He cannot imagine walking in to an empty home, the warmth will be

gone their life together is over.

  He pauses in the driveway, his foot still stomped hard down on the break petal the

engine still rumbling, the head lights illuminating the house where they had raised their

children, grew old together, spent most of their lives in, where they were always together.

The tears streaming down his face,=2 0showing no signs of letting up, ― I can‘t do it,‖ he

thinks to himself. ― she was everything, she was my world, and now she‘s gone, stolen

from me.‖

  David sits there in his driveway for hours, sitting and crying remembering their lives.

The sun is coming out now. ―The neighbors will be up soon. I can‘t bear telling them

about where she was or what has happened.‖ He turns the car off and steps slowly out of

it. He takes small slow steps dreading getting to that front door. He pulls out his key,

sticks it in the lock, and slowly starts turning the key. He listens to the slow clicking of

the key turning in the rusted lock. He stopped half way. ― I can‘t go in!‖ he says as he rips

the key out of the lock. He collapses on the front step, his hands clung to his face wiping

the tears from his eyes.

  David then leaves and drives south, not knowing where he is heading or what he might

find, all he knows is that he is away from this place, their place. All the know is that he is

away from their place and that will never return.
I.     Main characters Steve and Mark are planning out their weekly fishing trip.

II.    Driving in car jamming out, smoking cigarettes, dressed in camo, and getting

       all the noise out of them before they reach their secret spot.

III.   Arrive at secret location, named ― Lakes Mouth.‖ The secret spot is highly

       patrolled by the gaming commission and it is posted that there is NO

       Trespassing! NO Hunting! NO Fishing! And NO Trapping. Violators WILL

       be prosecuted!

IV.    The two men begin their 20 minute trek through the woods till they hit the

       crossing spot. The river is about 5 feet deep at the tops of the boulders, and

       another 3 to the soft sand below.

V.     After the crossing, the guys sit down to enjoy one of the ―Cancer Sticks‖ as

       Ma‘ called them. They arrange their gear and string up their lines. After tying

       off the perfect fisherman‘s knot, Steve picks up a giant 6 inch night crawler

       and squares it onto his barbed fish hook. They behind to hike

VI.    The two men come to the point of which they call ―bass beach.‖ This one

       spot has pulled out some of the biggest fish either of the boys have ever

       reeled in. Large Mouth Bass, Catfish, Coy, rainbow and brown trout. Then

       there were the nonsense fish like sunfish, crappies, and carp.

VII.   After reeling in a few big ones, Mark sees something that he knows will get

       Steve‘s heart pumping. A giant Common Snapping Turtle. Steve dives into

       the murky water and grabs onto the beast. He wrangles the 20 lb turtle onto
        the shore and they both are amazed with the turtles prehistoric look. This was

        common of Steve to do. Mark gets chomped and kills the 10 year old giant.


VIII.   The two men set up camp, eat dinner, tell old campfire stories, then plan out

        the following day and lay down in their sleeping bags. God damn bugs.

IX.     Sunrise. The men stir up the fire and open a can of baked beans and pick at

        the turtle shell and pack up their gear.

X.      The two men start their adventure by heading up a new trail. Stong odor gets

        the mens attention. They explore around and find a thick, giant patch of

        thornbushes and thin nothing of it. Mark notices some plastic soda bottles cut

        up. Find pot field, cut plants in amazment.

XI.     Leave scene of the plants and begin to hear voices. Furious, the farmers begin

        to shoot scream and they are heard running through the woods. The two

        brothers scramble through the woods with a pack of freshly snipped nuggets.

        The boys heats race as they hear gunshots behind them. They take cover.

XII.    Farmers walk right by the two men, with their thousands of dollars in

        marijuana. The men don‘t know what to do with the ―grass‖ and they begin to

        get their bearings and try to find their way home.

XIII.   Along the walk back to the bass beach, they laugh in amazement. Money!

        The two men found out that they love being adventurous and daring more

        than they could have ever thought.
                            Doing Right, by Doing Wrong

                                                            A Fictional Story by Nick Hetland

    Brothers Mark and Steve are packing their camping bags as they prepare for

another weekend at Lakes Mouth. This journey is not a new one to them, it has been

taken often. Summertime is when the two brothers are free again and they return to

the wilderness. Mark is 23 and Steve is 20.

    ―Hey, Mark! You all geared up, man?‖

    ―Yeah, I‘m ready to go.‖

    ―All right, we‘re gonna hit up Lakes Mouth then hike to Bass Beach. We‘ll set

camp at Bass Beach.‖

    ―Sounds good, bro‖

    After driving for thirty minutes and getting all the noise and excitement out of

them, they arrive at the spot. They park the car where they have previously removed a

―No Parking‖ sign. The brothers quickly get their stuff together. Lakes Mouth. The

secret spot is not highly patrolled by the gaming commission, but it is under strict

rules. They have never been busted down there, and it has been a great spot for

fishing, hunting, swimming, and just chilling. It is posted that there is NO

Trespassing! NO Swimming! NO Hunting! NO Fishing! NO Trapping. Violators

WILL be prosecuted! They pay no attention.

    Steve leads the way through the thick forest as he ducks and hops over sticks and

sticker bushes. It‘s about a twenty minute walk down the riverbank to where they

have to cross the river. The two brothers remove their boots and take their socks off.

They look at the water. It‘s moving pretty fast, but it is still crystal clear. The brothers
begin to unbuckle their belts and turn slightly away from each other as they drop

trow. As they step into the water, they let out their cries and moans as the freezing

cold water takes hold of the men‘s bodies. They hold their gear up above their heads

as they step across the five foot deep water, carefully stepping on the giant boulders

below making sure not to sink to the bottom of the river. This is the most logical

place to cross taking into consideration that the river is at least seven feet deep and

these boulders are good stepping stones.

   As they come to the shore on the other side of the crossing, the two brothers jump

out of the water back onto the sun-warmed sand. They dig their feet into the sand and

take in the ninety-five degree weather. They sit down and spark up one of their

―cancer sticks,‖ as their mother called them, and take notice of the weather.

   ―Such a beautiful day,‖ Steve says.

   ―Yeah. What kind of bait are you going to use today?‖

   ―Think I‘ll stick to the night crawlers, plain and simple.‖

   ―I don‘t know what lure I‘m going to use yet.‖

   ―Hopefully, they‘re biting today.‖

   ―I know, right.‖

   The brothers assemble their fishing rods and begin to string them up. They

carefully pull the twenty-eight lb. test through the poles‘ holes. After they both

simultaneously tie off the perfect fisherman knot, making sure that it was tight, they

turn the weights. The boys don‘t mess with bobbers or anything like that, even though

they work. They‘re more into the basics and the essentials. Anyways, they start their

hike down the river, heading toward the spot they call ―Bass Beach.‖
    On arrival at their spot, the two brothers see all sorts of wildlife. Red eared sliders

and painted turtles line the riverbank and begin to slide abruptly into the water. The

two men watch the turtles swim on top of the water. They pop their heads out of the

water to take one last deep breath before diving to the bottom of the river to feed.

Almost a year ago at the same spot they are headed to, Steve caught the biggest fish

he has ever caught in his life. It was a three and a half foot coy fish. It was gold,

white, and black. It took the two men twenty-five minutes to reel the monster fish in.

Mark had to dive into the river and wrestle the clunker before he snapped the line.

The giant weighed in at forty-three pounds and the men only fish with twenty-eight

pound test; it‘s a miracle that his line didn‘t break. They‘ve pulled out large mouth

bass, small mouth bass, stripped bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, coy, catfish, perch,

crappies, and worst of all… sun fish.

    ―I‘d rather catch no fish than sun fish,‖ says Mark.

    ―Same,‖ replies Steve as he grabs a five inch night crawler and feeds the hook

through the worm.

    The men cast out, while sparking cigs up. They sit and occasionally give the rod a

little tug and reel it in a foot or so just to get the worm moving again. Mark using one

of his favorite minnow lures, watches it bob on the surface of the water and wiggles

as he reels it in.

    ―FISH ON!!‖ yells Steve as he is overcome with joy as he fights with the fish.

    Almost at the same time a giant bass comes to the surface and swallows Marks

lure with a big gulp.

    ―Ohh, yeah!‖ shouts Mark as he begins to fight with his catch.
          The guys laugh and joke while they fight together, side by side, bringing in the

    clunkers, as they call them. When they finally got them on shore, they see that Mark‘s

    bass is bigger than Steve‘s catfish. The catfish was cooler, though. Releasing the fish,

    they cast out again. One fish after another, they keep reeling them in. Big, small,

    giant, medium sized, and then just god damn huge! The catch was enormous.

    Laughing harder and harder, rods bending and reels winding, Mark screams…

    ―Snapper! Right there, Steve! You see him?‖

Steve immediately starts getting undressed down to his boxers with no hesitation. ―Where

is he?‖

          ―Right there next to the fallen down tree.‖

          ―Got him‖

          Steve jumps into the water in a split second and begins to swim after the monster.

He dives, disappearing into the depths below. Bubbles start floating to the top like a pot

of boiling water. After about forty-five seconds of this hectic battle, Steve comes bursting

out of the water with a giant common snapper turtle. It fights and snaps at Steve as he

struggles to get back to the shore where Mark is standing.

          The turtle is old and prehistoric like a dinosaur. It is covered by a layer of black

and green muck that has been growing on its shell since it hatched. It smells like the pond

scum and attracts flies and other little insects that love that stuff. The beast is pissed off.

It growls and hisses at the men as they stare above it. Mark picks up a stick and begins to

poke fun at the snapper. He lets the turtle bite hold of the stick as they watch with

amazement as the turtle snaps the stick like a toothpick. Steve picks up his knife and

starts scrapping his initials into the large animal‘s shell. Tracing over and over again,
until the initials are to his satisfaction. He is about to finish and about to let the exhausted

turtle go, when Mark picks up the knife and begins to scrape his initials into it. As soon

as he has the ―M‖ done, the beast lunged to the left and chomps onto his forearm. He

screams as the turtle pulls his arm into the giant protective shell. Steve doesn‘t know how

to react to the situation and stands there watching his brother scream in agony. Steve

knows that if he tries pulling the turtle off, he may damage his brother‘s arm for the rest

of his life. Almost as soon as this happens, it was over. Mark had taken the knife that he

was initialing with, and stabbed the turtle way down in its shell. He severed its spinal

cord saying…―snapper soup anyone?‖

        Later that night after the fire has been lit, and camp set up, Steve brings over the

turtle that he has been cleaning for the past hour. The turtle probably weighed twenty

pounds. Now having been cleaned and gutted, they were looking at about six pounds of

meat and plenty of bait for tomorrow. Putting the turtle shell onto the fire, and using it

like a pot, Steve dumps the turtle meat in, followed by a trout and a 16 inch catfish. Steve

doesn‘t mind doing the dirty work like cleaning the fish and getting the meal ready. Mark

reaches into his pack and pulls out 2 lemons, garlic, onions, peppers, and an assortment

of spices topped off with a half can of beer. As the guys sit around the fire, they spark up,

inhaling deeply, just enjoying the moment.

        ―So where we off to tomorrow?‖ asks Mark as he gazes at the stars.

        ―I don‘t know, man. I was thinking about taking a new trail or something. I kind

of want to explore a little. We could walk down to Devil‘s Rock and rock climb up to the


        ―Yeah,‖ Mark says as he takes another drag.
       ―I always wondered what‘s up there. We definitely got to do that. Are you up to


       ―I‘m down for whatever.‖

       After about an hour of watching the food simmer in the turtle‘s shell, dinner was

done. They take out their sporks (a spoon and a fork at the same time) and dig in. The

snapper has a spicy taste to it, but it‘s good meat. Somehow, catching your food for

yourself and then preparing it only seems to make it taste better. The smell from cooking

the food has attracted many animals. They hear fox crying; it almost sounds like a girl

getting raped, it‘s a very scary sound when you‘r not familiar with your surroundings.

The raccoons as well, made an appearance.

       Mark turns around and sees a big ‗coon not ten feet away from them ―fearless

little bastards. I wish I had my .22‖

       ―Yeah they wouldn‘t be within a hundred yards of us right now if we did.‖

       Continuing to chow down, the men settle back. Steve lays back and loosens his

belt buckle. After kicking off his boots and removing his socks, he looks over at his older

brother. Mark was passed out with a cigarette still burning in his lips. Steve walked over

to his brother and gives him a good smack.

       ―You better get to bed, man. I‘ll take care of the fire. Catch you in the morning,

and you‘re making breakfast!

       There‘s a thud as Mark falls onto his sleeping bag. Steve stirs the fire up while

picking at turtle meat.

       The next morning Mark catches breakfast before the sun came up. He cleaned the

fish, got the fire ready, and opened a can of baked beans. Mark wakes his brother and
they eat together like always. After the meal, they strip down and jump in the cold water;

they call this their ―Polar bear swim.‖ It shocks their bodies and gets them ready for the



       ―Ready to go?‖

       ―Hell, yeah.‖

       The brothers start their trek down the river. They don‘t do too much talking. It‘s

   all business. They check out their surroundings, making sure not to miss anything,

   which also includes keeping an eye out for snakes, turtles and other wildlife, Steve

   picks up long straight stick, and as they walk, he begins to sharpen one end. His

   brother does the same as he sees the weapon that was made.

       ―All right...‖ Mark pauses. ―We‘re here.‖

       The men look up at the giant cliff that they call Devil‘s Rock. They call it this not

   just because it is huge, but because it is deep red with dark veins in it. It looks like it

   rose straight out of hell. Steve, being the more adventurous one, gets up close to the

   rock and checks it out. They have never climbed Devil‘s Rock, but over the years, the

   two brothers have become more and more daring and adventurous.

       ―There‘s definitely some good footholds on this thing.‖

       ―As long as you climb it first then give me a safety rope, Ill do it.‖

       As soon as those words are out of Marks mouth, Steve dropped his pack and

   began to scale the nearly vertical cliff. Once he reached the point of no return his

   brother shouted up some word of encouragement.

       ―You got it, man! If you fall now, you‘re done!‖
   Steve grins, knowing that his older brother is just breaking his balls, but he

continues scaling up the cliff with ease. Steve knows the danger that he is in. He‘s

about forty feet off the ground and he‘s almost at the top, at least that‘s what he tells

himself. He doesn‘t think about the chance of him dieing. Steve isn‘t afraid of much.

He‘s more afraid of his older brother than anything else in the world. Steve doesn‘t

like disappointing people so he pushes on until he reaches the top. As he crawls over

the top of the cliff, he‘s in unknown land. He ties the climbing rope to a tree and

throws the other end to his brother below, hoping that it is long enough.

   After both the brothers reach the top and managed to get their gear up, they begin

to explore. This is completely new to them. The walk about fifty yards and come to a

dead end. There is a wall of thorn bushes that seemed to be never ending. Walking up

and down the trail there seems to be no way around this. Mark kneels down with a

puzzled look on his face.

   ―You smell that?‖

   ―Yeah, I smell that‖

   The smell that the two brothers are talking about is the smell of marijuana. This is

not the smell of burning M.J., this is the smell of freshly growing marijuana. They

both know this smell, it is very distinct.

   ―You go that way, and I‘m going to go check out this side.‖

   ―All right.‖

   The men split up, determined to see if their noses are correct. Steve sneaks around

looking for the forbidden crops, while being aware that farmers could be around. This

could be bad… really bad. Illegal farmers are usually heavily armed and ready to do
battle to protect their precious crops. The brothers meet back up and they discuss

what they saw.

   ―It‘s a giant ring of thorn bushes; we got to get inside there.‖ Mark looks to the

sky and notices that there is a hole in the canopy of the forest. Staring into his

brothers eyes, they realize exactly what they have found, and also knowing what they

have gotten into.

   As the two brother‘s army-crawl through the thick thorn bushes, getting cut up

and stuck every two seconds, they see the light up ahead, glowing green, the smell

only gets more and more pungent. Excitement overwhelms the two brothers as they

crawl faster and faster, until they finally pop out the other side of the natural fence.

They stood up.

   ―Holy shit.‖

   There must have been over a hundred cannabis plants that were all as tall as the

brothers. The brothers run into the circular field and come to realize again what they

have found.

   ―This is big, real big Steve. Get the knives out of the bag, start cutting, we‘ve got

to get as much as we can!‖ Mark exclaims.

   Steve throws his brother the same knife that was used to kill the turtle the night

before. Mark begins hacking the buds off the plants and continues to throw them in a

pile. Minute by minute, the pile gets higher and higher. The two brothers giggle as

they run around this pot field and harvest someone else‘s plants. They stuff their bags

with as much pot as possible and slowly come back to reality. As soon as they put the
last bud in their bag, they hear something; it is a deep voice coming from outside the

natural fence. The sound of a razor sharp machete slashes through the thorn bushes.


    The brothers scramble to get out of the open as they watch the 6‘7‘‘ man come

barging through the sticks right next to them. It takes him a minute to take in what he


    ―FUCK! You cock-sucking little bastards! Where are you!?‖ screams the burly

man. He is furious as he runs into his field to assess the damage.

    Mark hands Steve his bag and tells him to take it and run. Steve hesitates but he

knows what he has to do. He takes the bags and begins to make his way through the

thicket. As Steve approaches the end of the fence, he hears something behind him. He

looks and sees his brother scrambling toward him.

    ―Get back here you son of a bitch!‖ The angry farmer had seen Mark in the

bushes and begins cutting his way through the thorn bushes. Steve hunkers down next

to a rotting log and makes eye contact with his older brother. They both know what

will happen if the farmer catches them. As Mark comes barreling out of the thorn

bushes, the farmer is right behind him. Steve sees the event unfolding right in front of

him. He needs to act. Steve looks down at the ground for some kind of protection.

The only thing in sight is a log about the size of his leg. He grabs it, holds it tight and

prepares to do battle with the oversized, pissed off, farmer. Mark stops and begins to

plead with the angry farmer.

    ―Where‘s my shit!?‖ screams the farmer at Mark.
   As soon as the words come out of his mouth, Steve stood up behind him. With

blood in his eyes, he looks at his brother from behind the giant farmer. The farmer

yell, ―Where the hell are my buds!‖

   Mark slightly nods and gives Steve the signal. The farmer is puzzled. Steve winds

up right as the farmer is raising his machete. He swings with all his might; THUD!

The farmer takes a blow to the top of his cranium, falling instantly to the ground. The

brothers scramble and begin to run back down the trail, repel down the cliff, and take

off down the bank. As the two brothers begin to run back to their car, Steve

remembers something.

   ―The rope! If that guy wakes up, he is going to know which way we came.‖

   ―Just leave it.‖

   ―No, if he knows where we came from, he‘s going to know about our spot. Who

knows, he might even wait for us to come back. We‘ll never be able to come to our

spot ever again.‖

   In an instant, Steve runs back to Devil‘s Rock. He begins free-climbing the cliff

with intentions of cutting the rope. He gets a little more than half way up when he

hears the farmer groaning in agony. Steve slices the rope and begins climbing back

down like a monkey. Once he meets back with his brother, he breaks him the news.

   ―I couldn‘t get all the way to the top. That guy is going to know that we came

down here.‖

   ―Shit. Well, whatever, man, we got to get the hell out of here.‖
   The brothers looking down the river bank at Devil‘s Rock, see the farmer standing

at the top of the rock looking for them below. Steve pushes Mark into the brush, and

they take cover. Steve takes out his binoculars and takes a look.

   ―Ohhh, no.‖

   ―What‘s up?‖

   ―He‘s trying to climb down the rope! I don‘t think he knows it‘s cut.‖

   As they watch the farmer attempt to catch them, he reaches where Steve had

sliced the rope. Without noticing this, the farmer keeps descending hand over hand

until he reaches the end of the rope. He panics and lets go of the rope, falling about

thirty feet onto sand. The brothers think about the situation for a second. They look at

each other puzzled, then look back at the man just in time to see him moving.

   ―I got an idea!‖

   Steve takes out his cell phone.

   ―Hey, 911, I was about a mile upstream from Husky Bridge, there is a man in

need of help, I think he is seriously hurt.‖

   The 911 dispatcher informs Steve that help is on the way so the brothers take off.

   When they get back to their car and get on their way, they begin to laugh, looking

up into the sky seeing a helicopter trying to find the hurt man.

   ―I hope he‘s all right‖ says Mark

   ―Yeah, at least we got away. And we got all his crop!‖

   The two adventurous brothers laugh with joy and excitement as they take the

drive home once again. After watching the evening news, the brothers find out that

that farmer was doing a lot more than just growing pot. Rescue helicopters saw
strange fields of light green plants and called in the Drug Enforcement Agency. When

the DEA was called to the scene, they ventured back into the woods and found four

more fields and a meth lab. Apparently, this man had been doing his fair share of drug

trafficking, but for now, he‘s going to jail. As for the two brother‘s, life goes back to

normal. They still take fishing trips every week, but they will always remember the

adventure up Devils Rock.
                                      The Kali Monster

       I sit in the back seat, hands shaking, nervous of the task ahead. I should have a

settled stomach because I have done this before. I‘m a monster hunter, and I have

recently gotten a contract with Animal Planet. I cuff my hand in front of my mouth.

       ―Are you okay man?‖ The cameraman asks me in a thick Hispanic accent.

       ―Just feeling a little car sick, this isn‘t exactly a paved road.‖ I lie to him. The

cameraman nods his head and falls for it. How would it look if the man believed to be

afraid of nothing is nervous? This could cause hostility in the group. ―How long will it

take to arrive at the town?‖ I ask.

       ―Very soon,‖ the guide replies.

       My crew and I are in India driving to a small town located along the Kali River.

The case that I‘m trying to solve is of the Kali Monster. The Kali Monster has been

terrorizing to town. The monster has already taken two children, a twelve-year-old boy

and a nine year old girl. My initial thought was it was probably an alienated alligator, but

studying the river current proves a gator was highly unlikely. So, going in I have little to

no guess the true identity of the monster.

       All my life I have been fascinated by unexplained happenings. At age ten I left

my family on a hike on the Appalachian Trail. I didn‘t want to go down the dangerous

trail. Four hours later I met back up with my family. They had been looking for me the

entire time. I never went to college rather toured the world for three years. My parents

always wondered why I never turned out ―normal‖ like them. This always made for a

strenuous situation with my parents. I had lost contact with his parent after I became a
bounty hunter. I have come to realize most of what I accomplished is to gain the respect

of my parents. I have always wondered if our relationship would ever improve.

       We arrive at the town at nine. The town is dead, but with no men out on watch I

got the sense that the town must have been safe. I would have been a little worried if they

had been because it would have been a land monster. I‘m willing to bet it is a river

monster my specialty.

       ―Set camp along the river,‖ I said.

       ―If this is an alligator couldn‘t it attack us?‖ a cameraman replied.

       ―We will have a watch all night, but if I had to guess I would say our monster is in

the lake. Besides I need to get close to the monster if I‘m going to catch it,‖ I replied.

       After an uneventful first night, we made our way into the town. This poor fishing

town is connected by a strong culture base, and I fell I must be careful not to disrupt any

of the emotions of the town. With my guide as my mediator, we went house to house

asking about the monster. All the townsmen pointed us to the two families of the victims.

I knew I had to be incredibly sensitive because the deaths were only two months ago.

       ―Are you here to kill the monster,‖ a little towns girl asked me through the guide.

       ―Well I promise you I will try my best to find out what it is,‖ I replied

       As the guide and I entered the first victim‘s house, the nine year old boy, I got

chills running up my back. I felt like I was going to throw up again. This is what I hate

most of this job. Also, the lack of sleep, and constant camera in my face is bothersome.

For a second my mind wondered off into possible retirement for bounty hunting, but then

we were greeted by what I would expect, the boy‘s father. His mother was cooking in the

tiny kitchen. We went outside of the tiny shack to ask questions so as not to upset the
boy‘s mother. The guide began to talk to the father. I couldn‘t help but get that stomach

cramp I can only remember getting at a funeral. The father begins to cry, and I can‘t help

it and I begin to as well. The guide gives me a stare of disbelief. It just hit me that my

team holds me to this superhero stature. If only they knew of the feelings I have had only

one day into this trip. The father shakes the guide‘s and my hands, and then goes into the

hut. We started to walk to the second victim‘s home. On the way the guide explained to

me what the father told him.

       ―The father was a fishermen like most of the men in this town. He was fishing one

day while his kids were swimming in a calm section of the river, when all of a sudden he

heard screaming. He rushed to the river. What he saw was a little unclear, but basically

he saw a pool of blood, and the while he was pulling out his other kids, he saw the


       ―What did it look like?‖ I fired at him.

       ―That was a little unclear, but basically it looked like a shark. It was giant too. He

said the massive size of the monster thrashing in the water created a whirlpool of sorts

causing the water to get even murkier. The town had a search party in the water only

thirty minutes after the attack. They were unable to find anything.‖

       The rest of the walk was silent. The next attack was the same story different

victim. We went back to camp to discuss our findings.

       At camp I gave a video blog of what happened at the town that day. After, I

walked over to the fire where I met my team.

       ―What are we dealing with, man?‖ Steve, who is the head cameraman, asked.
       ―Well, we have an idea, right? It is a fish of some sort. It is probably not a shark

because this is an impossible living environment for them, but it can be mistaken for a

shark. Do you have any idea, Jamaal?‖ I had just learned the guide‘s name is Jamaal.

       ―Um, well, I agree that it is not a shark, but logically there is no fish in this entire

river that would have the size to eat a human,‖ he says.

       ―Okay, well, I‘m thinking the fish must be about the size of a human to take down

one. I will throw out a line tomorrow where the two attacks were committed.‖

       ―Realize we have about four days before the monsoon season begins. If we don‘t

get out by then the roads will be not drivable. We could possibly be stuck here for


       The next day I set out my line with a live fish, which only a large predator would

be able to consume, and played the waiting game of fishing. I sat on a rock for what

seemed to be hours, thinking about how I hated this place. Also, that this isn‘t the legacy

I want. Suddenly, the line began to move. I jumped off the rock and began to reel in. The

fish was massive and it began to swim up current. Almost as suddenly as I hook it the

line snapped under the immense pressure. I tossed down my rod in disgust, and at the

same time I heard a screech. Upstream there was another attack. Only this time it was no

child, but our guide, Jamaal. He must have been washing himself when he was attacked.

By the time I got there, I saw the beast. The monster was a giant catfish called a goonch,

the local bottom feeders. I froze in fear. My research led me to believe these fish can only

grow to three feet max. That is why I didn‘t suspect them, but this one was a man size

goonch. As the team dragged out Jamaal, I stood at the bank speechless. His leg was
shredded off. He was bleeding all over the sand as the goonch swam back into the deep

murky waters of the Kali

       ―Mother of God.‖ It was all I could get out.

       The funeral was two days later. At the request of Jamaal‘s family his body was to

be burned by the Kali River, which was tradition if possible in India. At the funeral, I

couldn‘t even look at Jamaal‘s mother, whom I had met about a month earlier. I had

never witnessed a fire funeral before. It seemed barbaric to light the body on fire. I

couldn‘t stand the sight, but I watched out of respect for Jamaal. I found one thing

interesting about the funeral. They don‘t burn the body to ashes. They throw the burnt

carcass into the river after about an hour of burning, which, the more I thought about it

makes sense because to burn a body to ashes the temperature must be in the thousands.

       We had not hunted the monster for the previous days leading up to the funeral.

We are sitting by the camp fire pondering the risks of this hunt. ―Well we have one last

day before the monsoon season. My vote is to pack up and go home tomorrow morning.‖

I broke the silence knowing there were others who thought the same.

       ―You have got to be kidding me. Jamaal‘s body is floating down the river, and

you just want to cut our losses and leave. No way. I vote to stay until we capture this

thing. This could consume an entire town. I don‘t care how long it takes, even if we have

to stay in the town until after monsoon season,‖ Steve announced.

       The team shook their heads in agreement with Steve. I was in too deep. There was

no way to leave now. I had to do what I do best, investigate. ―Well, we know the monster

is a goonch, and it is human size.‖

       ―How is that possible?‖ the team asked.
       ―Well, that is a good question. The goonch is a bottom feeder that usually is about

three feet long. The one that attacked Jamaal was six to seven feet. I understand how the

town‘s people could have believed it was a shark. It looked very much like one. I believe

the more immediate question is how many of these monsters there are?‖ I said.

       ―You‘re telling me there could be more than one of these things?‖

       ―It‘s a possibility that this is a mutant fish, but I would suggest not. The other

attacks with the kids suggest this fish must be at least ten feet long with probably a three

foot wide mouth. So I believe that all the goonch in this area grow to be in that range of

eight or nine feet in length.‖

       ―Still doesn‘t answer how they could become this big,‖ Steve said.

       ―Bottom feeders can become immense in size as long as they have a food source

that they can survive on. Much like people suspect that Big Foot is not possible because

where they are sighted there is not a large enough food source for an animal that size to

live on. So how are these fish getting that big?‖

       ―What are the sizes of the fish around here?‖

       ―Not big enough. It has to be something else.‖ My eyes wander over to the burnt

wood, which was Jamaal‘s funeral bed. ―That‘s it,‖ I exclaim. ―This town is giving them

the food to grow. These monsters are getting big off of human bodies. The people just

drop the bodies, and these fish finish the job.‖

       ―That‘s pretty gruesome,‖ the team replied.

       ―I bet that the kids were attacked maybe a day or two after a funeral, and that is

why they were attacked. These fish are not typically predators. They feed literally off the

         ― Well, why did it attack Jamaal?‖ Steve asked. There was a pause, and I felt like

the team was thinking just as hard as I was.

         ―The fire!‖ I yelled. ―These fish are attracted to the fire we have because they

believe there is a meal to come. Jamaal was attacked only feet from the fire. I guarantee

right now that these fish are attracted to the fire as we speak. Okay, I‘ll catch this thing

under two conditions; we leave tomorrow and no one goes into the water.‖

         I cast out the line as soon as the sun broke. I figured there would be little time

before the first bite. I cast the line right next to the fire. I thought to myself that I‘m

partially to blame for Jamaal‘s death. I decided to camp right by the river and not the

town, which consequently lead to the fish attacking him where the fire was and where he

bathed. Suddenly, the rod begins to bend. This fish is more powerful than the first fish I


         The fish must have been huge, and it began to run upstream. I was going to lose

him again. I had to do something drastic, or it was all for nothing. I hesitate, but before I

think over my actions, the fish pulls me into to the river. I let my adrenaline take over,

and I finally have no fear. My feet skim the rocks on the bottom of the river. I ramp up

the shore, fish still on the line. The current is weaker, and I begin to reel the monster in.

As I‘m reeling the team is knee high in the water to pull the fish onto the beach. I see one

member of the team grab the tail of the fish. It is massive. It takes four men to bring it up

to the beach. I‘m speechless. This goonch is massive. No one talks. We just get to work

weighing it and measuring it. The goonch is seven foot nine, and two hundred and ten

pounds. We took pictures, and videotaped our monster before putting it back into the

        ―So what is next on the list?‖ Steve asked while we were driving away from the


        ―This is it for me,‖ I confessed. ―This work is not for me. There must be

something better out there for me to do.‖

        ―This has to be a joke,‖ Steve replied.

        I didn‘t answer, and kept my mouth shut for the long ride back. My team

wouldn‘t understand. It would be the last time I ever talked to any of them. All I can

think about is how I could be responsible for a man‘s death, and how I have to change

who I am before my life is over.
Nicole McClennen                        Short Story


  It was about two months from her senior prom, Riley still didn‘t have a date. She

wanted to go with her ex, Anthony, whom she was still madly in love with, but she didn‘t

think that would happen anymore since Anthony had a girlfriend now named Kaylee

whom Riley wasn‘t very fond of. Anthony and Riley had been together for about a year

and six months and they were both now seniors in high school and were ready to

graduate, but little did they know Courtney, Riley‘s best friend, and Vince, Anthony‘s

best friend, both had something up their sleeves because they were both tired of hearing

them talking about how much they missed and loved each other.

  Riley and Courtney hung out every weekend with each other to figure things out for

prom and whom they were going with. But one Friday night changed everything. Riley

and Courtney were sitting on Courtney‘s bed talking and all of a sudden there was an IM

from Vince.

  Vinceman3487: Yo court what you doin next saturday night?

  XoCoUrToX3649: umm I think prob just hanging out with riley why what‘s up?

  Vinceman3487: Bc im havin a party and u and riley should go. Ant will be there and

maybe him nd riley can talk bc I didn‘t invite kaylee I don‘t like her ha ha.

―Ry, Vince wants to know if we want to go to his party next Saturday night.‖

―Are Anthony and Kaylee going to be there?‖
―Vince said that Anthony is going but he‘s not inviting Kaylee because he doesn‘t like

her,‖ Courtney said to Riley while she started laughing.

―Yeah, let‘s go; I wanna hang out with Vince and Anthony like the good old days,‖ Riley

said while she started smiling.

―Yeah, they were some really great times; we always had fun together all four of us

always laughed so much.‖

―Yeah, we did. Do you remember that one day when Vince and Anthony dressed up as

girls and we went to the mall?‖ Riley said as she started to laugh.

―Oh my goodness, yes, I remember that and everyone was looking at us like we were


―Yes. They were it was the greatest.‖

Vinceman3487: yo u there

XoCoUrToX3649: yea srry im here. I was asking riley if she wanted to go.

Vinceman3487: nd?

XoCoUrToX3649: yea we‘re gonna come, it should be fun.

Vinceman3487: ok cool nd na it will b fun lol

XoCoUrToX3649: ha ha right

Vinceman3487:iight well im out ima go tell ant that riley is comin and we‘ll see wat


XoCoUrToX3649: ha ha okay by vince

Vinceman3487: late

Riley was so happy about how she would be able to see Anthony again and Kaylee

wouldn‘t be all over him like she was every day in the hallway, especially when Kaylee
saw Riley walking down the hallway. Riley just figured that Kaylee did that because she

knew that what she and Anthony had was nothing like what Riley and Anthony had. Just

by the way that Anthony and Riley looked at each other, you could tell that something

was there, something different then from the way that Anthony looked at Kaylee.

Everyone said it was because Anthony still loved Riley deep inside but didn‘t want to

admit it to anyone except Vince. The only way that people could tell was by the fact that

Anthony always talked about Riley or asked how she was doing and what she had been

up to and stuff like that.

Riley and Anthony really did have that connection with each other; they were like the

high school sweethearts type. They barely fought or if they did they made up minutes

later, and they had this little thing where it seemed like they knew what the other one was

thinking. Riley could be talking about a topic and no one could tell where she was going

with it, and then Anthony would just pick up right where she left off, talking about the

same thing, or better put they finished each other‘s sentences.

The next couple of days at school seemed a little weird, just for the fact that Riley knew

she and Anthony would be with each other at the party. She was already getting nervous

for some odd reason. She didn‘t know what to expect since it had been so long since she

and Anthony actually had a conversation with one another since they broke up months

ago. Her feelings were a mix of excitement and nervousness. Courtney and Vince both

told her to just relax because she had nothing to worry about and that everything would

be fine. She just needed to take things slowly and see what would happen and hope for

the best because at that moment that was the only thing that she could do.
Vince had talked to Anthony about Riley one day at the gym and Vince wasn‘t shocked

at all with some of the things that Anthony told him. He told Vince how he still loved

Riley so much and he didn‘t know why he went to Kaylee. He thought it was because at

the time Kaylee was the only one that acknowledged him since Riley was upset with him

for breaking up with her. But he told Vince not to get him wrong, that he did like Kaylee

and everything, but she just wasn‘t Riley. Riley made him a better person; she always

made him smile even if he didn‘t want to. She knew the right things to say or do. And it

wasn‘t so much big things either; it was mostly the little things that proved to him how

she really did care about him.

That Friday at school Riley and Courtney were standing outside of Riley‘s locker talking

about where they would go shopping to get new outfits for the party tomorrow night.

While they were standing there, Anthony and Vince walked by and Anthony looked and

smiled at Riley and gave her a head nod. She smiled and waved back to him with a shy

look to her. She didn‘t want to come off too strongly, but she wondered why he was

acting like that because he had always ignored her after the breakup. She didn‘t seem to

care much, though she was actually happy that he finally noticed her again. But she

thought it was strange that the day before the party was when he came out of his shell

with her.

At two o‘clock the bell rang for the school day to be done. Riley and Courtney went to

Riley‘s car and they found a note underneath the windshield wiper. Riley grabbed the

note and opened it with the biggest look of shock on her face.

―Court, it‘s from Anthony!‖

  ―You‘re kidding me! What does it say?‖

  I know we really haven‘t talked much in awhile but I wanna start again. I can‘t wait to

see u at vince‘s tomorrow night. I really have missed that big smile of yours. The party

will be so much better now that your gonna be there. I‘ll see you tomorrow night.


  ―Wow, that is a shocker,‖ Courtney said to Riley.

  ―I know, right, but what do you think this could mean?‖

  ―I have no idea.‖

  ―Hey, I‘m really not complaining though; it‘s actually nice, I think. This was such a

surprise, ya know?‖

  ―Oh yeah, I know.‖

  The girls got in the car and headed to the mall and went in and out of many stores to

find the perfect outfits, but when they were just getting ready to leave they both spotted

these really cute ones in the window of DEB. They both went in and found their sizes of

the skirts and tops. Courtney got a dark pink top with a jean skirt, and Riley got a baby

blue top with a jean skirt also.

  The time finally arrived for the girls to head over to the party and Riley had more

butterflies in her stomach that she had had in a long time. She was so nervous again. She

tried telling herself that everything would be okay, but now that the time had come, the

nervousness came back and wouldn‗t go away.
  When the girls got to the party Vince answered the door and told the girls that Anthony

was in the living room. The girls headed to the living room to see Anthony, but when

they walked in he was standing there flirting with some girl that Courtney and Riley

never saw before. But when Anthony saw Riley were there he gave one of the girls a hug

and a kiss on the forehead then headed over towards them. When he went over to Riley

he gave her a big hug. As he hugged her, her face lit up with a big smile and all of the

nervousness went away to a point. She was now concerned about that other girl and who

she was and what Anthony thought of her. Riley was thinking being in his arms felt

normal again, somewhere that she had missed so much, somewhere she had loved. But

the one thing that surprised her was when they pulled away from each other; they just

stared into each other‘s eyes like the old times and they both liked that. But there was

something that was eating Anthony up inside and he needed to get it out in the open.

  ―Riley, will you go to prom with me?‖

  ―Wait. What about Kaylee?‖

  ―I don‘t want to go with her. I want to go with you.‖

  ―Well, of course I‘ll go with you. But aren‘t you guys still together?‖


  ―Since when?‖

  ―Since earlier today. I knew I wanted to take you for the longest time so I told her how

I still have feelings for you and I said how I thought it would just be better if we were just


  ―Wow, you did all that for me?‖

  ―Yes, babe, I still care about you a lot . I never really stopped.‖
  ―Aww, I never stopped either,‖ Riley said with the biggest smile on her face.

  ―So then you won‘t get mad if I do this?‖ Anthony said as he leaned in and kissed


  ―No, I didn‘t mind that at all,‖ Riley said with a big smile on her face.

  ―Good, well get used to them again because your finally mine again,‖ Anthony said as

he leaned in for another kiss.

  ―Who was that other girl that you were flirting with earlier though?‖ Riley said in an

innocent voice.

  ―Oh, Jenna? She‘s like a sister to me. Our moms grew up together. Babe, remember I

used to talk about her? She is the one that went away to college and now she‗s home for

the weekend.‖

  ―Oh yeah. I remember her now. Sorry, baby, I was just worried that you liked her or

something and you were going to end up with her.‖

  ―Of course not, baby. There is only one girl in this world that I want and that‘s you and

only you,‖ Anthony said as he leaned in for another kiss.

  Riley was so happy that she was speechless for a couple of minutes. She always

thought in her heart that they would get back together, but she never thought that it would

really happen. But now that it did, she was more excited about prom than she had been in

the last couple of months. She was so even more happy due to the fact that she and

Anthony got back together and would be going to their last prom with each other.
Emma McNamara                                                         May 13, 2009

Mr. Zervanos


        When he woke up, he was walking. He didn‘t know how long he had been

moving before he came to. He looked down at his shirt. There were two smeared

handprints and red splatter on it. There was a splitting pain on the side of his face. He

continued to stumble down Fourth Avenue, vaguely aware of the shocked faces of those

who passed him. He caught his reflection in a car window. He bent down to look at his

face. Only then, did he realize he was holding a t-shirt up to his nose. Apprehensively, he

lowered the shirt in order to assess the damage. His eyes were practically swollen shut.

His face was covered in blood from the cuts on his forehead. LeRoy gasped in horror as

he saw his nose; it was completely parallel to the ground.

        ―Don‘t be a hero, son,‖ he heard an old man yell from somewhere behind him.

Being the boy full of pride that LeRoy was, he straightened up, held his head high, and

tried to walk as proudly as he could home.

        This was the tenth fight LeRoy had gotten into this month. Only this time it was

in Fishtown. As he walked the twelve blocks back to his own neighborhood, he tried to

piece together what had happened. He remembered walking down the street with his

girlfriend, Natalie, and her friend Jackie. He saw the group of guys up the street towards

         ―Get out of here,‖ he told the girls. His palms started to sweat. He knew he was

going to have to fight this one alone; there was no way his crew could make it there in

time. He braced himself as the crowd circled around him. He saw the first fist fly towards

his face. He remembered trying to stay standing, but it was so hard when they hit him in

the stomach. He dropped to all fours. He felt feet and knees smashing into his side and

head. Then everything went black.

         LeRoy pulled the now blood stained shirt away from his face; his nose had not

stopped bleeding for blocks.

         He fell to the couch, exhausted. Tim leaned over top of him.

         ―What the heck happened to you?‖

         ―It‘s nothing, man. Don‘t worry ‗bout it,‖ he whispered. All LeRoy wanted was


         ―Dong, tell me you didn‘t go to Fish today.‖

         ―Tim! Shut up! Say anything to anyone about this and I‘ll beat your face in.‖

         Tm was LeRoy‘s best friend. He tried not to be too mean to Tim, but sometimes

he really deserved it. Tim had a good heart, but LeRoy had tough skin and didn‘t need

anyone to take care of him. They had been best friends since grade school. Tim was the

one who fed LeRoy didn‘t have any food. Tim took LeRoy in when his family got

evicted when he was ten; LeRoy‘s mom spent all their rent money on drugs. They had

done everything together, from play backyard basketball, when they were eight, to

joining AJ‘s gang, when they were sixteen.
       Heavy footsteps stomped up the stairs. LeRoy stopped breathing. AJ. The door

swung open with a swift kick. AJ was powerful, strong, intimidating. All the guys knew

not to cross him. AJ was built like a fighter, covered in tattoos and scars. His eyes were

permanently mashed together in a glare. He wore his usual black shirt. LeRoy noticed the

slight bulge on his right hip where his gun hid. When AJ walked into the room, the boys

stiffened a little. They wanted his respect more than anything because respect was


       ―What the…?‖ AJ laughed, ―What happened, Le?‖

       ―It‘s really nothing, honest. J-just g-got into it with some kids,‖ he quivered.

       ―Who?‖ AJ‘s joking tone started to face.

       ―Andre‘s gang,‖ Tim blurted out.

       ―WHAT?! Andre‘s gang? From Fishtown?‖

       LeRoy nodded his head, fearing the worst from AJ. He had been warned not to go

back to Fishtown, but he couldn‘t help it. Natalie lived in Fishtown.

       ―You‘ve got to be kidding me! You got a death wish, kid? You know Fish don‘t

like Port, simple as that. You know what we gotta do now.‖ AJ reached into his back

pocket and pulled out his cell phone. In one swift moment, he was sending out the

message. LeRoy had gotten AJ‘s group messages before. They were always short and to

the point. When you got the text, you obeyed. Leroy‘s phone buzzed in his lap a few

seconds after AJ shut his.

       It read, ―HOUSE NOW EVERYON.‖
       Ten minutes later, the previously empty apartment was packed. There were about

thirty guys trying to fit in a room only big enough for ten. AJ stood up when everyone

was there. The chatter stopped dead.

       ―Yo, LeRoy, stand up, man. Show ‗em what Andre did to ya.‖ LeRoy did as he

was told. He was still dizzy from the fight and the blood flow from his nose had just

started to slow. No one made a sound.

       ―Ya‘ll know what we gotta do. I can‘t be going around looking like a chump. My

crew – our crew – can‘t let Andre get the last hit. He‘s tried stuff before. His boys got

some of you already, but none this bad. This is it. He‘s gonna pay.‖ AJ moved closer to

LeRoy. He put one hand on LeRoy‘s shoulder. ―We gotta do it for Le here. He‘s family.

Family don‘t let nobody hurt family.‖

       Revenge. It was the sweetest word LeRoy had ever heard. Family was the

prettiest. He ad never belonged to anything before. He never had anyone who truly had

his back. LeRoy had been passed around from relative to relative most of his life, pretty

much taking care of himself since he was eleven. His dad bailed when his mom was

pregnant with LeRoy. His mom was too into drugs to care about him. Being in AJ‘s gang

gave him a home, a family, a place to belong.

       The plan was set into place. The gang was going to have a drive-by of four cars.

They would wait until Andre and his thugs walked outside their house and then let fire.

Andre left his house every Friday at nine o‘clock on the dot to go patrol the

neighborhood. AJ wanted to get Andre, to prove he was more man. Killing was the only

way to prove that you were best in this war.
       The bus doors opened with a hiss. He looked her up and down. She was the

prettiest girl he‘d ever seen. He loved everything about her. Her long brown hair, her

haunting green eyes, the way she looked at him. She had the build of a dancer, strong legs

and lean arms, although she never liked dancing much. She and LeRoy were complete

opposites. They disagreed on most subjects, but they complimented each other perfectly.

He was a thug and she was a good girl. She told him when he was being an ass, and he

told her when she was acting crazy. They loved each other. She was his angel. Sometimes

he swore she glowed.

       She stopped at the last step and smiled his favorite smile.

       ―Hey, big man.‖ She jumped off the step and wrapped her farms around him. The

feeling of her in his arms made his mind go blank. Other than the gang, Natalie was the

only good thing he had. He had liked other girls before, but this was different. LeRoy had

never been a believer of love, or ―the one,‖ but the first time he kissed Natalie, he knew

he would do anything to be with her forever. She stoked his face where his cuts were

starting to scab. She kissed his cheek and sighed. Something seemed weird. She looked at

him strangely, not because his face was smashed in, she was used to seeing that, but

because something was on her mind. LeRoy didn‘t know what was wrong but he knew it

couldn‘t be good.

       ―Le, we have to talk,‖ she whispered when they were alone in his room. He hated

those words. They meant he was about to get a lecture about something stupid he did.

       ―Oh god. What did I do now?‖
       She looked away, ―I‘m late.‖ The words meant nothing t him for a few minutes.

Then it hit him, like a ton of bricks. He stared at her, his mouth slowly falling open.

       ―LeRoy, I‘m pregnant.‖ She wouldn‘t look at him. Natalie‘s body slumped as if

all her energy had been sucked out. She looked helpless. LeRoy had no idea what to say,

do, or even think. He was numb; only the words ‗LeRoy, I‘m pregnant,‘ floated around in

his head.

       He slid closer to her and pushed her head onto his chest. Her body started shaking

as she cried.

       ―What are we going to do?‖ LeRoy knew the answer. He knew where Natalie

stood on abortion.

       ―I think I‘m going to keep it,‖ she whispered. LeRoy‘s heart dropped. He was

going to be a father at eighteen and there was no getting around it.

       LeRoy didn‘t know what to do, or whom to talk to. So he turned to AJ. LeRoy

looked up to AJ the way a boy looked up to this older brother. He walked up to AJ‘s

door, hesitated, then slowly knocked.

       ―Yeah?‖ a sleepy voice answered.

       ―Uh, AJ, it‘s LeRoy. Can we talk?‖ The door opened and LeRoy walked in.

       ―What‘s good, homes?‖

       ―Nat‘s pregnant. I don‘t know what to do. Like, I want to take care of her and the

baby, but I‘m crazy scared and I don‘t think I can do it.‖
       ―Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up. Don‘t be jumping ship because one chick got

knocked up. If I did that, I would have been tied down for a long time now. I‘ve got a few

kids floating around. It ain‘t no big deal.‖

       ―But I think she‘s the one.‖ LeRoy looked away, embarrassed.

       ―Please tell me you don‘t really believe that! There ain‘t no such thing as ‗the

one‘. I thought this one girl was the one. She got knocked up and I was going to marry

her but right before I bought the ring I found out that the hoe was sleeping around. The

kid probably isn‘t even mine.‖

       ―I just don‘t know man. I love her.‖

       ―Just remember Le, girls can get up and dick you over any day but your family

will always have your back.‖

       LeRoy was stuck. He sat up all night looking at his gun. Family. Revenge. Love.

Family. The words floated in LeRoy‘s mind as he contemplated what he was going to do.

LeRoy wanted to take care of the baby and Natalie, but he knew he couldn‘t turn his back

on his crew. He knew that if he went on the drive by tomorrow, he could get locked up or

killed, then Natalie would be all alone to raise the baby. But if he didn‘t go with his gang,

he would be kicked out or killed.

       ―Family doesn‘t turn its back on family,‖ he asked himself, ―but what family is

more important to me?‖
       LeRoy slid into the driver‘s seat of his car. It was unnaturally dark on busy city

block. His hear thudded heavily in his chest. Tonight was the night. His heart was torn,

take care of his gang or Natalie. Run with the gang or run away. He knew what he had to

do, and there was no avoiding it.

       Fishtown. He pulled off the road, in front of the house. His hands were coated in

sweat; he had to wipe them off before he could grab the key and twist it. The engine

sputtered to a halt. He waited, nervously. He knew that the next few minutes would

change his life forever. He would either get away with it or not. It he didn‘t there would

be extreme prices to pay.

       The door creaked open. One black silhouette appeared in the doorway. LeRoy

reached into his pocket. This was it, nine o‘clock on the dot. The figure walked slowly

down the stairs, towards his car. LeRoy‘s eyes were locked on the face. The silhouette

looked up, saw LeRoy staring, and stopped.

       ―Hey, big man,‖ her velvety voice filled the gap between them. Natalie climbed

into his car and kissed his cheek. ―What are you doing here?‖

       ―Eh, nothing really. I, um, just have a, a question for you.‖ He reached deeper in

his pocket, the pocket that should be holding his gun, the pocket /that new held the ring

box. His sweaty hand opened the small box. Natalie‘s eyes stared into his as the emotions

changed on her face, confusion, shock, then finally and most importantly, extreme

happiness. LeRoy knew, no matter what the repercussions he was definitely about to face,

he had made the right decision.
Final Copy                                                                   Matt Milling

Short story                                                                  4-14-09

       It seemed like forever ago that Jaiden had left to go to the Wawa. I was getting

scared because it was right down the road and it had been over twenty minutes. I picked

up my lighter and grabbed a Newport from the open pack sitting on the coffee table. I lit

it and began to inhale the smoke. As I took my second drag my phone began to ring. My

phone said that the number was private, so I didn‘t pick up because it is usually just

someone playing a prank on me. I proceeded in watching the television and my phone

vibrated. It said that I had one new voicemail. As I picked up my phone to check it, my

phone rang again. It was the same private number, so I answered. ―Hello?‖ They

answered back and said that it was the Middletown Police Department and I was

speaking with Officer Carmichael. I asked what the problem was and he said that there

had been an accident. I dropped my cigarette in the middle of Jaiden‘s living room and

sprinted out of the door. I pulled up to the Wawa and saw Jaiden‘s car, which had

tumbled a few times into a telephone pole. I pulled up to speak with the officer and he

began to question me, asking if my friend had been drinking or been doing any drugs. I

replied that he had a few beers before he had left. He asked if I had anything to drink or

any drugs. I told the officer that I had in fact been drinking some Budweiser and I had

smoked a marijuana cigarette. He told me to sit in the back of his car and I told him I

wanted to see my friend first. He told me no, everything would be fine. I heard someone

radio in to the trooper, saying that they had a fire emergency on Bloomer Street. This

seemed strange because I had just come from Bloomer Street. The officer jumped in his
cruiser with me in the back and raced down the street back to where Jaiden lived. We

pulled up to Jaiden‘s house and I couldn‘t believe what I was witnessing. His house was

up in flames with fire pouring out of each and every window.

          ―Oh my god, that must had been from my cigarette I had thrown,‖ I thought to


          The officers ran out of the car up towards the house and waited for the fire

rescuers to get there. They took only about three or four minutes to get there and

immediately began spraying water onto Jaiden‘s burning house. I felt so bad because I

couldn‘t help but think that this was entirely fault.

          While I was inside the cop car, I heard someone yell, sounding like they were

very anxious to get ahold of the trooper. I heard them say that the kid in the accident

wasn‘t doing so well and they were going to transport him to the nearest Philadelphia

hospital by helicopter. This is not what I expected to happen. All we had done that night

was normal kid stuff, or so I thought.

          I had to spend a night in a jail cell by myself behind a giant, sliding, titanium door

with only one small window. In the morning they came over to my cell and said that my

parents had arrived to bail me out so that I could be a free man until my court date. When

my parents arrived they looked a lot more upset than angry. They told me immediately

that Jaiden was in a coma and they did not know when he was going to come out of it, or

if he even would come out of it.

          The officer took off my shackles and made me sign a whole bunch of paperwork

before they would let me leave with my parents. The papers said that I would report back

for court in about seven or eight weeks.
       This was all happening so quickly I didn‘t even know if it was reality or not. I felt

like everything in the room was spinning and I was going to wake up from my horrible

dream any minute. But, no, as much as I would like this to be a dream, this was reality.

The car ride home was mostly silent except for my father lashing out at me because I had

let my friend drink and drive, and for drinking and driving myself. We pulled into a

driveway that didn‘t seem to be mine. We were now at Jaiden‘s house, or at least what

was left of Jaiden‘s house.

       ―Now get out, walk up to the front door, and apologize to Jaiden‘s family,‖ my

father screamed at me. I hopped out of the back seat of my parent‘s Volkswagen Taureg

and slowly paced up to their brown and white front door. I rang the bell. Soon enough, I

heard a woman‘s footsteps. I took a deep breath. The door slowly opened and it was

Jaiden‘s mother. She stood there staring at me and tapping her foot with her arms


           ―Well…‖ she said with a sigh. The cordless phone she had in her hand began

ringing. The phone only went for half of a ring and she picked it up. She seemed to get

wide-eyed when she answered the phone. She must have been on the phone for only five

seconds and she dropped the phone and passed out. My parents jumped out of the car and

ran up to Mrs. Benson. My arm shot down for the telephone. I answered it and asked who

I was speaking with, and they said they were from the hospital and they had just got the

news that Jaiden wasn‘t doing well on his respirator and had passed away. Now I was

wishing more than ever that this could be a dream but sadly enough, it wasn‘t.

       I was lost for words. ―What did they say, Evan?‖

       ―……I‘m not really sure…. Jaiden is dead,‖ I replied softly.
       There was nothing but silence. It felt like everyone in the world had stopped

talking for one moment in time and there was nothing but an utter silence that almost

chilled the skin. We had to stay until Mrs. Benson was revived from her deep,

unconscious nap. She was out cold for a good twenty-five minutes. She woke up with a

blank expression on her face, and it didn‘t really look like she knew where she was or

even who she was. ―My poor child...dead. Why me? First my house and now my child.‖

I didn‘t even want to bring up the fact that I had been responsible for their house burning

down also. I had no idea what to say to the woman. I was so upset over Jaiden‘s death

that I seemed to convince myself that he wasn‘t really dead so I wouldn‘t break down in

front of my parents.

       Once Mrs. Benson started to feel able to work, she sped off to the hospital where

her husband and son were. We went along with her just in case she had another nervous

breakdown or fainted. We all arrived at the room where Jaiden was lying, and his father

was sitting next to him in a computer chair holding his cold, lifeless hand. ―What the hell

were you thinking letting him drive, Evan! Look what happens!‖

        I didn‘t respond I don‘t think I could even talk at the sight of my dead friend. I

had to get out of that room. I was feeling sick to my stomach. My parents figured that

they would leave Jaiden‘s parents to be with their son. We got out of the room and

walked to the car. It was the most quiet car ride I‘ve ever been in with my parents. The

silence was eerie and unnecessary. I couldn‘t even think of anything I could possibly say

to lighten the mood, so I just kept my mouth shut. We pulled into the driveway and there

were several state troopers parked with their lights off. Godamnit, I thought to myself,
they were definitely here to question me. I got out of my backseat and one officer walked

up to me and asked if my name was Evan Holmes. I replied that yes, in fact I was.

       ―Get on the ground!‖ the cop yelled at me with his gun drawn.

       ―What did I do? What did I do?‖

       ―Don‘t ask questions, scumbag.‖

       After several cops got on top of me and beat me senseless with their nightsticks,

they jumped off and the same officer, Officer Carmichael, grabbed my hands and cuffed

them tightly and threw me in the back of his car. ―Where are you taking my son?‖

The police didn‘t respond and they took off with me in the back of the car. Being that I

was eighteen, my parents really had no say in what was going to happen to me. I knew

something was up the second I got to the station because several detectives immediately

started questioning me about the arson at my friend Jaiden‘s house. I told them that I was

a little shaken up about the loss of my friend and I would prefer to talk later, but they

wouldn‘t take no for an answer. They told me that they had enough evidence against me

to put me away for a few years. They said that I had a mandatory three months in jail for

my DUI and if I got charged for arson, then I would be doing five months upstate or three

years in a juvenile corrections facility. I wasn‘t looking forward to either, but I figured

that I would just admit that I was responsible for my friend‘s house being damaged. I told

them the story of my entire night, and they wrote it all down and made me sign the

document. They told me that I could go home around 3:15 in the morning. I called my

parents for a ride home, but nobody answered. I was forced to walk three miles back to

my house at three in the morning. I finally got back to my house and laid down for some

much needed rest. I sat in my bed and stared at the ceiling. My best friend was dead. I
couldn‘t believe all this had happened so fast. Also, I was a wanted criminal. I never

thought I would see the day.

       I woke up the next morning and flipped over on my right side and stared at the

alarm clock: 4:56 A.M. It was still really early, but I couldn‘t sleep. I kept having

recurring dreams about different ways I could‘ve stopped all of this from happening. It

hadn‘t even kicked in yet that my best friend‘s funeral was soon to come and I was

probably going to get some jail time. I turned over on my left side and fell back asleep. I

woke up to a loud yell coming from my kitchen.

       ―You moron, I got the call from the police station. If you get charged with arson,

it is coming out of your paycheck.‖

       ―Obviously Mom, just stop yelling. You don‘t think I‘m worked up enough over

losing my friend.‖

       I walked downstairs and poured myself a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, my favorite

cereal, and sat in front of the TV and put on whatever corny, MTV reality show I found.

It was around 11:45 and I could hear a knock at the door. I was afraid it was going to be

the police, but I walked over to open the door anyway. I opened the door and was

pleasantly surprised. It was only the mailman. He had a package and said it was for

Dianne Holmes. I was relieved.

       ―Oh and here‘s the rest of your mail.‖

       He handed me several envelopes. I flipped through each one to see what was

there. I got down to the last envelope and it was addressed to me. It said it was from the

Pennsylvania Corrections Department. My heart sank. I opened the envelope to see what

they were going to charge me with. I read through the first several pages about pleading
guilty, my rights, and all the time I had. Once I turned to the page with my charges I was

taken over by a stream of pain running down my spine. It said on the paper that they were

giving me a DUI, failure to cooperate with an officer, arson to a residential building, and

involuntary manslaughter. I was thinking to myself, why would they even want to charge

me with manslaughter. It was my best friend. I was shaken up enough. I couldn‘t believe

this. I was so mad I wanted to punch the mailman in the face for giving it to me. My court

date was rushed because I was charged with several crimes and I only had four days until

my sentence. If I didn‘t show up I would have a bench warrant and a mandatory two

years in the county prison. I was hit hard hearing this because Jaiden‘s funeral was also

on that day. Court was at 9:30, and the funeral was at 11:30.

       Four days passed and I had already gone to several of my relatives‘ houses to say

my goodbyes just in case. I woke up at 7:30 A.M. I had all of my dress clothes sitting out

and ready to go. I hopped in the shower and got dressed and I was ready to go at 8:15.

Court was at 9:30 so I had some time. My mother made me a bowl of Fruity Pebbles

since I might not be eating Fruity Pebbles for a while in my future. I couldn‘t even eat my

food I was so nervous. Thirty minutes passed and my mom and I went out and sat in the

car, both of us seemingly lifeless; not a word was said from our house to the courtroom. I

was in courtroom 3A. ―The judge won‘t be here until 10:30,‖ the lady at the desk

informed us, just have a seat and be patient.‖ I could not sit still. I was nervous. If I went

in and they sent me away, I wouldn‘t be able to go to my best friend‘s funeral. My lawyer

said if I got placed on house arrest I would be able to go, but that was the only way. We

were sitting in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity, but finally Judge Harris

showed up.
       Me, my lawyer, and my mother entered the courtroom and we took our seats. ―All

rise for the entrance of Judge Harris.‖ I gulped and it felt like I had just swallowed an

apple. I had never been in this kind of situation before. ―Looks like you were at the

wrong place at the wrong time, Mr. Holmes,‖ said the judge. My lawyer stood in my

defense and talked with the judge to figure out some sort of agreement. I was surprised

that the judge was so nice. He said that charging me with manslaughter was very unfair.

Everything seemed to be going great until the arson charges were brought up. Even if I

didn‘t intentionally do the crime, I still had to do the time for it. The arson I had

committed was a year prison sentence, plus the DUI added six months. This had turned

from what I thought was going to be a good outcome, to one of the worst days of my life.

If this had happened before I had turned eighteen, everything would be fine, because then

it would not be stuck on my permanent record. My mother began to cry. ―I‘m sorry this

had to happen, Evan,‖ said the judge. ―Come this way.‖ They shackled me up and put me

on a van with bars over the windows. This was the start of my new life. My bet friend

was dead, I had no friends, my family was disappointed, and I was a wanted criminal

who was going to spend the next year and a half behind bars: all over a couple beers.
Matt Munin

                                       Train Tracks

       My name is Parker Bond, and my dad is in jail. We were about to be evicted from

our nice suburban home, so he went out doing everything he could for us. It‘s not his

fault, anyway; his friend betrayed him, set him up, told him everything would be fine,

and all he had to do was stand there and watch the transaction. For the favor, he‘d get just

enough money to save our house. It turns out his friend was working with the cops. My

mom, faced with a dire crisis, did what she usually did and drove to the liquor store.

       But I‘m done with all that bullshit. It‘s always bullshit. Earlier today, my friends

whom I used to consider family ditched me in the city so they could get a ride. I guess

there weren‘t enough seats in the car for everyone. Bullshit. So I call up my mom to try to

get a ride home. But she‘s drunk and still on probation from her last DUI. Bullshit. My

phone died after that call, and I didn‘t have any money. I had to rip off a taxi to get home.

I made sure not to thank him. He deserves to think I‘m just some poorly raised

delinquent. Bullshit. My mom and I argued for a while, but she was too drunk to make

any sense. She just kept calling me a ―mooch‖ and a ―parasite.‖ I snapped. After putting

several holes in the walls of our apartment, I went to my room and started packing my


       I brought beef jerky, water bottles, toilet paper, lighters, cigarettes, and two

sweatshirts. It‘s a three-mile walk from my house to the abandoned train tracks. I didn‘t

waste any time.

       I‘ve been walking now for about a half-hour. These train tracks are amazing.

They‘re completely secluded from the rest of the world, extramural of society. There are
only a few spots where you can get to the tracks easily. It is really a beautiful scene. It‘s

one straight path that cuts through dense woods for miles. The tracks are hidden by

overgrown grass. Speaking of grass, I‘m pretty sure there‘s a group of kids smoking pot

up ahead. I‘ll keep my distance, though. I didn‘t come down here to get high and

socialize. I‘ll cut through the woods and come out on the other side of them.

       I‘ve been gone for about two hours now. Nobody knows I‘m gone yet, but they‘ll

find out soon enough. My mom will think I‘m at a friend‘s house. My friends will think

I‘m at my house or another friend‘s house. Allison will just think I forgot to plug in my

phone. They‘ll find out soon enough. Someone‘s going to mention suicide and everyone

will probably jump on the bandwagon. They‘ll call the cops, and it‘s going to be a huge

deal. Allison won‘t take it well if she thinks I killed myself. For all I know, she‘ll go

Shakespeare and kill herself. She‘s probably asleep now. My cell phone probably has

unread messages from her. Maybe she won‘t believe the suicide thing. Maybe she‘ll be

the one who denies it while everyone mourns. Maybe she‘ll get so sick of all the bullshit,

she‘ll run away. Or maybe she‘ll just get over me and move on. For me, at least, that‘s

the only choice.

       The sun starts to rise, and I think it‘s about time I try to sleep. It‘s not until I lie

down that I realize the tracks aren‘t as quiet as I had thought. I can still hear the low

rumble of interstates in the distance. Now that the sun is rising, the birds and insects are

starting to make a lot of noise. Sleeping is difficult, and I‘m constantly drifting in and

out. It‘s starting to get frustrating, so I just get up and keep walking. No sense trying to

sleep when I can‘t.
       I try to pass the time by thinking about stuff, but I usually get distracted and start

humming songs. After ten or so hours of walking the tracks, I decide that it‘s about time

for a change of pace. I veer left into the adjacent woods and start wandering wherever I

see a path. There‘s not much choice of where to go; I just follow the path with the fewest

branches in the way. I feel like an animal, relying on instinct alone to determine my path.

I‘m not following any roads, sidewalks, alleys, nature trails, or even train tracks.

       The world would be a very different place if people acted more like animals.

Everyone would be focused on his own survival. I imagine there would be steep

reduction in bullshit. Animals don‘t care about emotions and money and relationships

and love. If a wild animal went off to explore some train tracks, it wouldn‘t make a big

fuss about it. They wouldn‘t call the cops or cry. Animal mothers don‘t care for their

young out of love, but out of instinct. That means there‘s no strings attached. If a child

dies, there‘s no sadness. No matter what, everyone keeps on doing what it was meant to

do from the start. They don‘t let bullshit get in the way.

       I can only see woods in every direction. I‘m pretty sure I know which way the

tracks are, but I could be disoriented. The sun is at the top of the sky, so it must be around

noon. I still haven‘t really slept in two days. There‘s a small pile of leaves that looks

quite comfortable, so I think I‘ll try to get some sleep. It‘s dark and quiet in these woods.

I put down my bag and crash in the pile of leaves. I have no trouble drifting off to sleep.

       I‘m back in my hometown, at the local park. It‘s snowing on the ground. I walk

around and see a dog with her puppies. The animals look like they‘re freezing. I yell at

the dog, ―You need to eat or you‘re going to die! You need to leave and find some food!‖
The dog just sits there. I walk up to it. One of the little puppies tries to walk away from

the warmth of its mother, but the mother picks it up and puts it back. Her eyes close. I

turn around and see my ex-girlfriend and my elementary school principal making out.

       My eyes open suddenly and quickly, which is unusual for me. I have to remember

where I am. The sun has set already, so I must have gotten a decent amount of sleep. I

still feel tired, so I don‘t get up. I remember my dream really well, and I can‘t stop

thinking about that mother dog. I bet if she left her puppies she could have found some

shelter or food. Why wouldn‘t she just leave the puppies? She‘s not attached to her

puppies emotionally, so why didn‘t her instinct for survival take control? Sure it‘s also in

her instinct to take care of the puppies, but she still has the option… Does she have the

option? What if her survival goes along with survival of the puppies? If that‘s true, then

she was doing everything she could for her puppies.

       I stand up and stretch. I still can‘t stop thinking about the dog from my dream. It‘s

mostly just a jumble of random ideas, but I can‘t help but think that she did the right

thing by not leaving. I have to remind myself that dreams don‘t mean anything.

       My eyes go wide, and my breath stops. I can‘t find my bag. The same bag that

had another week‘s worth of food and water is not by my side. I get frantic. I start

digging up leaves in a futile attempt to unearth my lost lifeline. In my thrashing, I hear a

rustle that sounds out of place. Something is there. Something is watching me. I hear

another rustle. I turn around just in time to see a tall shadow move back into the darkness.

My instinct takes over, and I sprint after the shadow. I jump over logs, smash through
bushes, and endure many scrapes, scratches and bruises. I‘m following the figure on

sound alone, but I still haven‘t lost it. I hear a thud; the figure falls to the ground.

          By the time I reach him, he‘s screaming for me not to hurt him. I don‘t. He gets

up and brushes himself off. I haven‘t let my guard down. I can tell it‘s a man, and by the

sound of his voice, he‘s black. He‘s short and reeks of filth. ―Where the fuck is my

backpack?‖ I demand.

          ―Shit, man, I‘ll give you your backpack, man, but just don‘t hurt me.‖ He mutters

something intelligible, but I hear ―white people‖ in there somewhere. I haven‘t let my

guard down.

          ―Who are you?‖ My voice is not inquisitive. I‘m pretending not to be extremely


          ―Wizard. Your bag‘s back at the camp.‖ His voice sounds friendly now. ―Psh,

you‘re probably like, ‗what the fuck is this creeper doin‘ in the middle of the woods?‘‖ I

don‘t disagree. He starts laughing. ―Come on, boy, let‘s go.‖

          Wizard starts walking in the same direction he was running. I don‘t have a choice

but to follow him. He wants to chat. I don‘t.

          ―I tell you what, man, I ain‘t never thought I‘d find someone else out here. First I

thought you was a dead deer or something. You‘re lucky I didn‘t throw a rock at you

first. So what, you runnin‘ from the cops?‖

          ―You could say that.‖ I hope he thinks I‘m some dangerous criminal. He just


          ―Well, I won‘t tell no one you‘re here, if you don‘t tell no one I‘m here. You‘re

the first thing I‘ve talked to that ain‘t a tree or somethin‘. Yo, what‘s the date?‖
        ―October 3rd, I think.‖

        ―No shit! I‘ve been out here almost a year. Man, that first winter was bad, but I‘ll

be all right this time.‖

        I still haven‘t let my guard down. We arrive at his ―camp.‖ My eyes go wide as I

gaze upon Wizard‘s little haven in the woods. The camp is bordered on all sides by thick

thorn-bushes. There‘s a big fire pit in the center, next to a tent. Scattered around are

various piles of useless crap, the kinds of things you‘d expect a guy named Wizard who

lives in the woods to have. Next to the tent is a large barrel full of water. There‘s a log

next to the fire-pit to sit on. Wizard invites me to sit, and I ask for my bag. He grabs it

from inside the tent. I open it, and everything is still there except one of my lighters. I

don‘t say anything about it. I sit down on the log, and Wizard makes a fire. He pours

some liquid, probably gasoline, on the logs already in the pit, and lights it with a match.

His whole camp is filled with dim light.

        I can finally get a look at the man named Wizard. His face is scraggly and

unshaven, and his hair is long and matted. His teeth, however look white.

        ―So how do you like casa de Wizard?‖

        ―It‘s all right. You‘ve been here for a year?‖

        ―Just about. I‘m kinda surprised I made it this long. I figured I‘d be bear food by


        My adrenaline starts to wear off, and I realize the surreality of the situation. I‘m

sitting in the woodland camp of a skuzzy old black guy who stole my backpack while I

was sleeping in the woods. I‘m almost waiting to wake up. In the meantime, I know
eventually I‘m going to ask Wizard why he‘s here. I figure I might as well get it over


        ―So why‘d you come down to the woods?‖ I ask it casually, as if it were

something everyone talks about. I‘m sure the answer wouldn‘t be so causal.

        ―You goin‘ anywhere anytime soon?‖

        I shake my head no. Wizard starts his story immediately, and in thick slang. I try

to keep up, but it gets difficult at some points. Wizard grew up in the inner city. His dad

was an alcoholic, and his mom was usually at some other guy‘s house. His mom went to

other guys because his dad drank, and his dad drank because his mom went to other guys.

Wizard dropped out of high school when he was sixteen, and started his career as an

―independent pharmacist.‖ He was locked up for three years after selling to an

undercover cop. After getting out, he decided to turn his life around, so he cheated his

way through community college and got a job, wife, son, and house. Things weren‘t too

bad until his son started getting into trouble with the cops. First it was just a curfew

violation, but it became possession and shoplifting. His wife started getting on his case

about his not being a good role model. However, his son wanted nothing to do with him.

Any attempts to talk to the boy were met with anger and rebellion. Every now and then,

his wife would take his son to her mom‘s house for a couple of days. Things were getting

heavy for Wizard, and they got worse when he lost his job. When his wife wasn‘t yelling

at him, he was getting calls from every bank in the city. Wizard left for the woods the day

he got his eviction notice.
        I don‘t say anything, and neither does he. We both just sit there and stare at the

fire. I guess it‘s been a long time since he‘s thought about why he left. ―So what do you

think they‘re doing now?‖

        ―If I cared, I would‘ve stayed, man.‖ There‘s an awkward silence.

        ―So nobody knows where you went?‖

        ―Nope. They probably think I jumped off a bridge or something.‖ He cracks a

giddy smile. ―So they‘re not my problem anymore, so problem solved!‖

        ―That‘s a dick move, man. Things were bad, so you just abandoned them? So

your wife had to deal with your son, finding a job and feeding her family without you?‖

        Wizard cracks the same giddy smile. ―Not my problem, problem solved!‖

        This strikes a nerve. ―But the problem isn‘t solved! You just left the problem!

Your wife and kid are probably living the shittiest life ever, and you think the problem‘s


        Again, he cracks that toothy smile. ―Boy, you got a lot to learn.‖ His voice trails

off and he stares at the fire some more. I hold my tongue for a minute. I want my next

point to sting.

        ―So it doesn‘t bother you that the woman you married might be walking the

streets at night to feed herself and her son?‖ Wizard‘s smile goes away. His head turns

slowly towards me, and he makes eye contact.

        ―Listen up, boy. You‘re about to learn somethin‘. Life is full of bullshit, from the

beginning to the end. It don‘t matter who you are or who your daddy is. Most people let

that bullshit ruin their lives, and they die miserable assholes. So you got the choice: you

let the bullshit ruin your life, or you get the fuck out. Man, how do you think I‘d be doing
right now if I stayed with them? I‘d be working some bullshit job for some bullshit boss,

and my life would be shit. So I did something about it. I solved the problem.‖ I‘ve just

about lost it. I start to giggle, and it turns into a full-out laugh.

        ―You, you think you‘ve solved the problem? You‘re just a little kid, man. You‘re

acting like an immature little kid. I remember, this one kid from my old town, when we‘d

play baseball, would always go home when we started to lose. You‘re that kid. The other

team knocked in two runs to take the lead, so you just went home.‖ Neither of us says

anything for about a minute. I take the initiative.

        ―Which way are the tracks?‖

        ―Man, you gonna come up in here calling me out, and you think I‘m about to—―

        ―I said, where are the tracks?‖ I‘m not feigning anything at this point. I‘ve already

stood up and grabbed my backpack. Wizard just points his thick finger. I walk out, and I

don‘t say goodbye.

        My walk back is plagued with various thought-fragments of Wizard‘s family. It‘s

odd. He didn‘t describe how they look at all, yet I have an idea in my mind. I can picture

her wearing some brightly colored uniform behind a cash register. I can imagine him

lying to his friends about why they can‘t sleep over.

        I know it won‘t be long until I hit the tracks. I still don‘t know which way I‘m

going to turn. A right turn means I continue, and a left turn means I go home. Neither

seems like a good option right now. I can‘t imagine making those same mistakes as

Wizard, but going home means I‘m just a teenager crying for attention. Maybe I should

just flip a coin, since either way leads to more bullshit. It‘s always bullshit. Wizard
showed me that. Bullshit is just unavoidable, and running away from it doesn‘t make it

go away.
Patrick O‘Hara                                                                  Short Story

                                      Almost Summer

       It‘s disgusting, Groping hands and slewed eyes. They ensnare young girls hearts,

body‘s, cheating them out of their wits, sense, and dignity. I don‘t know why I come to

these places. The people, the food, it all sucks. Why spend every night wasted away, lost

in fake perception? When they wake up they will have no memories of this. All that will

be left is dead brain cells and a mess of past passions. It‘s lame.

       ―Jewl? Jeeeeewwwwll... my gosh, I knew you were here.‖ There was Stacey

Lanbern, the girl that only knew me through math class.

       ―Me too.‖ I paid no attention to her reaction. She was just one of those girls that

knew everyone but didn‘t know anyone. Besides, she was drunk.

       ―Oh, I just found out and was like, wow, I have to go talk to her.‖ She was

looking past my eyes, as if some halo shrouded my head. Then, just like that, the shit-

faced pep-girl stumbled away from the couch.

       ―I have to go pee.‖

       Great conversation... That‘s what these people live for. They intend to make their

nights more interesting by retarding themselves until their conversations allude to nothing

more than bodily functions. I wouldn‘t be here if it wasn‘t for Liza. She somehow

convinces me to come to these things to be more ―social‖.

       There is something genuine about this, though, something not fabricated or

conceived, something not debated or questioned. These kids do not stop and observe the
world around them. They just live. Maybe that‘s my flaw. Maybe this life isn‘t worth

questioning. Maybe I should join the crowd, get a drink, and see what happens.

       Spinoza‘s my favorite. I can read him all day long while I can‘t even spend a

wink on other philosophers. I put my philosophy book into my book bag.

       The bell rang for the start of lunch. People poured out of the classrooms in pairs,

side-by-side, chatting on about the bleak existence of classroom study. Sometimes, like

right now, when I walk down the hall people say hello to me and go out of their way to

compliment me. I never talk to these people and I‘m not very popular, so I don‘t know

why they continue with these gestures. I mean, I believe myself to be cute, but it‘s not

just boys who do this. My suspicion is that they‘re just trying to get props from the smart

girl so that they themselves feel as if they share some knowledge with someone who is

relatively successful. I walk to lunch.

       Chad and Liza were talking to each other.

       ―I‘m always grounded on the days when I‘m actually doing something.‖ She

noticed my presence as I passed by and looked up to great my smile.

       ―Your parents really suck‖

       ―Uh… duh, I know, but what am I going to do? Even if I sneak out, I don‘t have

the keys. I can‘t drive.‖

       ―So we‘re all screwed?‖

       ―Pretty much, unless someone else gets their license before Friday.‖
        ―I can‘t even back out of the driveway so…‖

        ―I know, Chad… I know.‖ I returned with my lunch and sat next to Liza.

        ―Jewl can drive!‖ Chad had a clever, intuitive, expression as he thought he had

found the solution.

        ―Uh, no, she can‘t. She doesn‘t have a license.‖

        ―She‘s got a permit.‖

        ―What are you children spittin‘ about?‖

        Liza turned to me and spoke. ―Chad wants you to drive to Greg‘s tomorrow‖.

        ―Chad wants me to drive?‖ As if I would ever even consider that.

        Chad and I worked at the local Wawa. The shifts were bad, but the pay and

simplicity made it a worthwhile job. We were currently at lunch break. Chad was

snacking on McDonalds, as he refused to eat anything from Wawa.

        ―So guess what I was doing last night?‖

        I didn‘t bother thinking about it; in fact, I never bothered thinking when talking to



        ―I was watching episodes of Ninja Turtles online!‖


        ―Remember Donatello! The one with the blue shorts!?‖


        ―Aw man, I‘ll give you the website if you want. You can watch too.‖
       I looked up at the clock, five more minutes of hell, then two more hours of


       ―What‘s the matter, Jewl?‖

       ―Nothing, Chad.‖ I went back to the cash register. Charlie Denton, my lab partner

in chemistry, was first up in line.

       ―Hey, Jewl, what‘s going on? How‘s work?‖

       ―Charlie! What are you up to?‖

       ―I‘m getting snacks for later tonight. You coming?‖

       ―Oh, yeah, that thing, no, I can‘t come.‖

       ―Why not?‖

       Personally, I didn‘t want. ―We don‘t have a ride.‖

       ―What time are you done work?‖

       ―Me and Chad are both done at seven.‖

       ―Well, I could pick you both up if you want.‖

       Damn. I didn‘t want this, but I saw Chad‘s encouragement from the deli. ―Yeah,

that would be great, but could you pick up Lisa too?‖


       ―Great, I‘ll see you at seven then.‖

       ―All-righty, have fun at work.‖

       Drumbeats, giddy gestures, and charity cups filled with keg-pumped beer

intercepted us as we walked in. There were a lot of boys there; each seemed to be
directing their eyes at us if only for a fraction of a second. Quickly I slipped by with Liza

through the kitchen to the patio, avoiding attention from those kids who sat around the

foyer. It was warm outside, a nice May night with a refreshing breeze, one of those nights

where the stars captured eyes and the fireflies winked for attention. I stood back with

Lisa, leaning on the rusted wood reminiscent of that on the boardwalk, peeking at the

kids who floated around. Charlie Denton stood across the way and waved to me. I gave a

small giggle and a gesture back.

        ―So, what do you think?‖

        Honestly I wasn‘t thinking about much. ―Eh, I don‘t know. It‘s okay‖

        ―You don‘t sound very enthusiastic…‖

        I was uncomfortable. ―I don‘t know. It‘s early and we just got here.‖

        ―True, well, lets go mingle with the crowds.‖ She raised her cup in the air.


        With a gasp, I took a sip of my cup which I so loosely gripped. This was the start

of the night. I told myself it was all for the better.

        Smoke escaped through the windows and doors. Joints were being rolled and

shipped out through the house. Lisa already hooked up with two different people, and I

was on my sixth beer.

        The kid stood in front of me, taking a step away from the crowd. I did not know

him, but it didn‘t matter. None of it mattered.
       He touched me, with groping hands and slewed eyes, hoaxing my heart, but

invigorating my soul.
       Adam Panichi

       Big Paper

                                               The Great Chase

       As John sat at his office desk looking down at the contract, many things ran

through his mind. How can his life change? What can he do with his family? Is the pay

increase really worth it? The sweat runs down his forehead and drips off. He is filled with

anxiety and uneasiness. John takes the pen and taps it across his forehead a couple times

hard enough to make little red bumps, but not hard enough to break the skin. After a

couple of minutes, sitting there and looking at the contract, then his wife, the contract, his

wife. John looks down and lightly puts the pen to the paper and lets it glide across the

line asking for signature. After signing the contract and making it official, John looked

over to his wife, and a smile from ear to ear came over not only her but him. John got up

from the table, knowing that he had made the right decision, and all his fears left him as

the pen touched the paper.

       John grabbed his wife‘s arm as they left their new training facility. He looked

over to her and said, ―This is going to be a big change; I hope you are willing to be along

for the ride.‖ She replied, ―I would have it no other way.‖ John gallops over to his

brand- new Ferrari and grabs the door for his wife. That acclimates an already big smile

bigger. He slams the door shut and waltzes over to his door. He gets into the car, situates

himself, and turns the key. As the key turns and the engine starts, the car screams to a
loud idle. John presses his foot against the clutch and slams the car into reverse. After

reversing he does the same thing to put it into first gear.

        Now on the street John lets the car unwind. He begins to rip through the gears,

going from first to second to third in a matter of seconds. While doing all this, John still

has to weave his way through the traffic. He looks over to his wife, whose smile has

disappeared, now to be replaced by a huge frown. John‘s smile turns even bigger as he

exclaims to his wife, ―This is why they pay me the big bucks, honey.‖

       His wife storms from the car after the shaky ride home and, John sits back and

wonders to himself how is he going to break the news to his children. Noticing his wife‘s

hairpin on the front seat, he picks it up and puts it into his pocket. He likes to keep his

cars neat. John leisurely gets out of the Ferrari and walks into his house. To see his

children, sitting on the floor of the family room, watching the newest episode of

Spongebob Squarepants. He walks up to the T.V. and turns it off, and exclaims to his

children, ― We need to talk for a minute, kids.‖ John then goes into detail about how he

had signed a new contract an he will be playing professional football in Philadelphia and

explains all the things that will change. He informs them of how they will need to move,

they will have to change their school, and the worst thing for any little child, they will

need to make new friends. This news sets off his children. They begin to complain and

whine about how unfair it is to have to give up all their connections for their father. The

whole situation turns worse and escalates into an argument. After ten minutes of arguing

John instructs his kids to go to their rooms, saying, ― I am the father and the boss; I can

do whatever I want to.‖
        After the argument John is very upset and mad at himself. He decides he has to

get away and do something. He dedcides to go for a boat ride. He runs upstairs to inform

his wife of his plan for the afternoon to cool down. He enters the bedroom only to find

his wife lying in a puddle of blood. John‘s reaction is too run to his wife and to see if

there is anything he can do. John takes her head and feels no pulse from her carotid

artery. At this point John‘s 6-foot, 3-inch bodybuilder frame is huffing a mile a minute.

With each breath every muscle in his body begins to flex. He looks from the corner of his

eye and spies the murderer running out the window to the deck. John, at this point, has a

smirk on his face (knowing that this guy will pay for what he has done.)

        John runs down the front steps of his house and out onto his deck. He still has the

man who has killed his wife in his sight. He sees the murderer jumping on the back of a

brand-new 42-foot Top Gun. After making a six-foot leap the murderer is on the boat; at

that point the driver slams the throttle into full gear. As that happens, the exhaust spit out

black smoke while the boat speeds away, making a screaming sound comparable to

nothing John had ever heard. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, John runs back inside

and grabs the keys to his boat. As he does so, his kids run down and start yelling for their

father. Knowing what had just happened, John decides it would be in the interest of his

children to come with him. He throws the life jackets their way and tells them they are

going for a boat ride and had better put the lifevests on very quickly. John hops onto the

boat and rips off the cover, the other boat still in sight but falling out quickly. He slides

the key into the ignition and turns it on. When the motor kicks on, the twin thousand-

horsepower mercs are rumbling a mile a minute. John jams the throttle and feels the boat

take off.
       Now the chase is on with the kids crying in the bolsters. John‘s son, Adam, is

bleeding; the murderer had hit him on the head with a stick as he was running out. The

blood begins to stain the bolster where the Scarab insignia is located. Today the water is a

little bit choppy. The condition didn‘t affect the murderers‘ boat because they had a

double-step hull. Johns boat, on the other hand, was a single-step hull and it didn‘t ride as

smoothly. With each wave he hit John had to let up on the throttle to make sure the

engines didn‘t blow up; if so, he would really be out of luck. In a matter of seconds, as

they passed from the ocean into the bay, the chop went away. With the smooth-as-glass

water now in front of them John knew he could kick it up a notch. John whales the

throttle all the way up, and his boat shoots out as a rock from a slingshot would. The

forty-five foot Scarab at this point is moving at upwards of a hundred and thirty miles per

hour. Each second that goes by, John was making it that much closer to catching up to the

murderer. He looks back to his once crying kids and sees them cheering their father on

and singing, ―Get him, Daddy; get him.‖ The look in their eyes is one of hope and


       As the chase heats up and the boat gets closer, John sees the murderer and the

driver pull into a marina and get off the boat. He follows behind them and pulls right into

the marina and to the dock, where he sees the gentlemen running away from him. He ties

his boat up and follows behind them, yelling at his kids to stay where they are. He

rummages through his pocket and pulls out hundred-dollar bills and throws them towards

the gas attendant, proceeding to tell him to keep an eye on his children. John sprints off

onto the main road and realizes that he might just be too late as the murderers are pulling

away in a brand- new Renntech Mercedes. With John‘s keen knowledge of cars he knows
he would never be able to catch up to the race car. With a feeling of failure, his heart sank

to his stomach.

       With a cloud of disappointment hanging over his head, he turns around to walk

back to his children, when he sees a brand-new Ferrari 430 Scuderrera. John, working off

his impulses, smashes in the driver‘s side window and hops into the car in a split second.

He takes the hairpin he has in his pocket and jams it into the ignition. In a matter of

seconds the car comes to a screaming loud rumble. John rams the car into first gear and

slams on the gas pedal and speeds away. He follows the guys on pure instinct, and a path

through the sea of scared drivers opens before him. His face is all smiles at this point just

because the chance of catching the murderers is still there and he is driving his favorite


       As John speeds up to get onto the highway and follow behind them, he clips a

water barrier, and it looks as if a geyser of water has just exploded. He still keeps the

pedal to the metal and continues pushing. He reaches upwards of 175 miles an hour.

John, thinking he is in the best position he can be, hears a ding go off in the car and to his

surprise he notices that the low fuel light has come on. John, very nervous now, knows he

is going to have to come up with something fast, or else he will fall behind and lose them

for good. He will never be able to find the killer of his wife. This thought kills him inside,

but in a matter of seconds and completely based on impulse, he puts his foot on the clutch

and downshifts to fifth gear and just launches off the line. He reaches speeds of over 200

miles per hour.

       With the speedometer climbing up the miles per hour like a squirrel up a tree, the

car begins to scream, and John thinks to himself, ―This is how you are supposed to drive
a Ferrari.‖ After about two minutes of driving at this speed, weaving through traffic like a

police car in a high-speed chase, John sees the Mercedes ahead of him. The killers for

some reason slow down, becoming almost even with John. John looks over, hoping to see

the killer‘s face, but the windows are tinted jet black. The passenger side window rolls

down and a face with a phantom mask pops out the window.

        ―I am the one who took your wife‘s life,‖ the killer says.

        ―Why the hell would you do that? Who do you think you are?‖ John retorted.

        ―I am your worst nightmare, and I will not stop until your whole family is dead

and you agree not to come and play in Philadelphia.‖

        ― You will never be able to get to my children. I love them to much and I will

never let you near any of them.‖

        Oh my god, my kids, I have just left them with a complete stranger. That is

horrible, only a bad father would do something like that. That is not the father that I want

to be. At that moment john slams on the brakes and does a complete one-eighty, and

speeds back to his kids. John leaves the men behind and thinks to himself that his kids are

more important them getting revenge right now. He stops at a gas station on the way

home and puts in ten bucks worth of premium.

        John drives all the way back to marina thinking to himself that he needs to change

his ways and become a better father. After driving for about another ten minutes he ends

up back at the marina and runs to find his kids. To his surprise they are still sitting in the

boat talking to each other with the gas attendant sitting, in a ratted old chair, right next to

them. The kids hop out of the boat and run towards their father. They begin to exclaim to

him how much love they have for him and how they never want to lose him.
       John proceeds to grab his kids up and bring them back to the boat after their sprint

to give him a giant hug. John looks down at his children‘s now smiling faces and

proclaims to them that they will be staying right here in San Francisco. John feels that it

would be unfair to take his kids away from the environment they have grown up in, and

move them somewhere completely different.

       The family then hops back into the boat, and the key turns and the engines comes

to a screaming roar that shook the dock from left to right. John grabs his son Adam and

tells him to take them on home. Adam sat on Johns lap the whole way home with Adam

steering and John controlling the throttle. The whole way home the members left of the

family rode with a smile from ear to ear on, even though they all knew that their mother

was gone and it will never be the same. They all knew that what they had left is better

then having nothing left at all.

       The lights streamed over the court. It was midnight and Terrence was still playing

ball. He was playing on the court right around the block from his home in the Bronx. He

could hear a few gunshots ring off in the distance, followed by the noise of the police

sirens. He figured it was one of the many gangs that has been running his neighborhood

for his whole life. One of the gangs came by his house last night trying to get him to join

their gang, and in the meantime they stole food and other items from his house. He tried

as hard as he could not to let this bother him. All he tried to do was stay focused on his

basketball. He was the best player in New York. He knew if he could just avoid the gangs

for one more year, he could get a scholarship and go play at a top-notch division 1

school, or just go right to the NBA. Just as he was thinking about getting out of this place

and getting to college, he heard the gang coming towards the court. He knew it was them

because no one else was out this late at night. He went to get his bag and get out of there,

but he was too late. The gang came around the corner and pulled up next to him. They got

out of their car and walked up to Terrence.

       ―Where you going, Terrence?‖ one of the gang members asked Terrence.

       Terrence tried to ignore them and walk away, but they blocked his path.

       ―You trying to ignore us?‖

       ―Just get the hell out of my way.‖ Terrence pushed one of the gang members out

his way, and began to walk faster.

       ―You messed with the wrong people, Terrence. We know where you live. We‘ll

be seeing you again soon.‖

       Terrence ignored them and kept walking home. Terrence didn‘t have much of a
home. He had two brothers and a sister, all-living with only their mom in a two-room

apartment. They barely made it by. His mom worked three jobs just to be able to get the

basic needs for them to live on. His only ticket out of this place was basketball.

       He unlocked the door to his apartment, and walked in. As soon as he closed the

door, he locked all three of the locks on the inside. All of the lights were turned off. He

set his gym bag down and got a Cup-O-Noodles out of the cabinet. He basically lived off

of microwavable foods. His mom had heard him come in and came out to talk to him.

       ―You know it‘s 12:30, and you can‘t afford to be late for school again. Another

lateness and you get suspended.‖ she said.

       ―I know, Mom, but if I want to get to the NBA, I have to practice my game.‖

       ―About your basketball, two more coaches called today. I think it was Kansas and

Memphis. They both said that if you decide to go to one of them, they would give you a

full scholarship. What school do you want to go to, Terrence?‖

       ―I don‘t know yet, Mom. I have to think about it more--―

       ―Well, you are running out of time to choose. You only have one month of high

school left.‖ His mom said interrupting Terrence.

       ―Just get off of my case, Mom. When I am ready to make a decision I will tell

you. Now just leave me alone.‖

       ―Is something bothering you, Terrence?‖

       ―No, Mom, everything is fine. Now just leave me alone for a little while.‖

       ―I do so much for you, Terrence, and you still treat me like crap. You could go far

with your basketball; you just have to stay productive in school and not get distracted.

You may not see it, but basketball is your only ticket out of here.‖
         ―How would you have me stay focused when there are gangs and drug dealers

running our neighborhood? The same ones that came to our apartment found me again

tonight. They said that they would be visiting me again soon.‖

         ―All I‘m saying is that you need to graduate high school and choose your college

soon, and don‘t get mixed up in all this gang stuff. It will ruin your life if you do.‖ With

that his mom left him alone in the kitchen.

         The next day Terrence attended school. All day he only thought about what

college he would want to attend next year, or if he wanted to go straight to the NBA. He

had his choices narrowed down to Memphis and Kansas. Both schools suited his needs.

They were both far away from where he was now, they were both offering him full

scholarships, and they would both give him full starting time on the basketball court. He

made it through the day with no trouble and his college choice still undecided. He wanted

to consult his best friend, Jamal, before making his choice. Terrence figured he would see

Jamal at the courts after school. After school he headed down to the court. The usual

people were there, including the normal team that he plays with. Terrence‘s team

basically never loses. People try and put teams together from all over the city, in order to

beat him and his team. Even some professionals have come down to take on his team. As

Terrence sat down, he realized that his best friend and long time teammate, Jamal, wasn‘t


         ―Yo, Walter, where is Jamal at?‖ Terrence asked another one of his teammates

and friend.

         ―I don‘t know. He hasn‘t been down here all day,‖ Walter replied.

         ―Well, if he doesn‘t get down here soon, we are going to have play with a man
down, or pick someone else up. Give him a ring and see if he answers,‖ Terrence told


          ―Terrence, Jamal didn‘t answer his phone.‖

          ―Something isn‘t right. Jamal never misses our games, and if he does, he

would‘ve called someone.‖

          ―Well, we got a game to play, Terrence, so we can‘t do nothing about it now.‖

          ―Screw the game. I‘m going to take a run over to his house to find out where he

is. I‘ll be back in a little.‖ With that Terrence left the court and began making his way

towards Jamal‘s house.

          As Terrence turned the corner on Jamal‘s street, he could see that there were a

few cops parked in front of his house. Terrence made his way up the front steps of

Jamal‘s house and knocked on the door. A police officer came and answered. Terrence

could hear Jamal‘s parents crying in the back. The police officer knew who Terrence was

right away.

          ―Look, Terrence, why don‘t you take a step down here with me.‖ The cop closed

the door and walked down the front steps with Terrence.

          ―What happened?‖ Terrence asked the police officer.

          ―It appears your friend Jamal was involved in some gang business, and it caught

up with him. He was shot by a rival gang member today and died instantly. Any

information you have on Jamal‘s gang involvements could help us greatly in the


          Terrence just stood there and didn‘t say anything. What could he say? His best

friend and teammate was dead. Terrence didn‘t say one word to the cop. He just walked
away and began making his way back to the courts.

       Terrence got back to the courts and went and sat on the bleachers. He didn‘t say a

word to anyone.

       ―Terrence, where is Jamal? What did you find at his house?‖ Walter asked.

       Terrence stared at him blankly for a few moments before he finally said, ―He‘s

dead, Walter. He got shot by a rival gang.‖

       No one said anything back. Everyone just stood there and didn‘t know what to

say. They all knew that Terrence and Jamal were best friends and that they were

considering going to the same college to play together.

       Finally, Walter asked, ―Terrence are you ready to play. We still got a game today?

We can‘t lose this one, either.‖

       ―Are you serious, Walter? Our friend and teammate died today, and all you care

about is playing this dumb game,‖ Terrence responded.

       ―Look, it‘s sad that he died, but there was nothing you could‘ve done. We can‘t

just sit here and cry for the rest of our lives. Now get up. We got a game to play.

Basketball is the only thing that will take your mind off what happened today.‖

       ―All right lets play,‖ Terrence said and got up.

       The whole game Terrence didn‘t think about what happened. Walter was right,

basketball was the only thing that could take the bad things off of Terrence‘s mind.

Terrence reminded himself that this still didn‘t take away what happened to Jamal.

       After the game was over, Terrence stayed at the courts. He knew who killed

Jamal; it was the gang that had dropped by the courts the other night. He had seen Jamal

fighting with them before. Terrence couldn‘t let them get away with it. Terrence went
home and grabbed his gun from his drawer. Terrence had never had any other us for this

gun other than to protect his family. This was the only time he ever planned to use it

without defending himself. Terrence hurried back to the court. Terrence knew even if he

turned in the gang that killed Jamal, they would probably get away with it because there

was no proof that they did it. Terrence thought about his uncle. His uncle was sentenced

to life in prison for murdering a rival gang member.

       Terrence‘s thoughts were interrupted by the yells of a group of people coming

down the street. It was the gang that was here the other night, the ones that killed Jamal.

Terrence quickly tucked his 9mm handgun into his waistband and stood up.

       The gang noticed Terrence and began to walk towards him. When the gang got to

him there was complete silence between them.

       One of the gang members finally said, ―It‘s a shame your friend Jamal had to get

in the way of our deal. Everything was going fine, until he showed up and screwed

everything up. If he didn‘t run his mouth so much, he might still be alive--‖ Terrence

dropped him mid sentence with a right hook. He quickly pulled out his gun and pointed it

right at one of their heads. They all quickly backed up and tried to tell him to put it away.

       ―You should have thought about it before you killed Jamal,‖ Terrence told them.

       One of them tried to talk, but Terrence told him to shut up. Suddenly, one of the

gang members rushed Terrence.

       A shot rang out and the gang member dropped to the ground.

       Terrence couldn‘t believe what he had done; he didn‘t think that he had pulled the

trigger. He began running. He heard more gunshots fire behind him, but they weren‘t

coming in his direction. Terrence looked over his shoulder and could see someone he
thought was Walter lying on the ground trying to get up. There were also two gang

members who were lying completely still. Terrence checked his gun. Not a shot had been

fired from it.

        Terrence ran over to Walter‘s side. Walter had been shot twice and was seriously

wounded. Terrence began yelling for help. No one was around to help him.

        ―Stop yelling,‖ Walter told him.

        ―Walter what were you doing here? I meant to handle this on my own.‖

        ―I saw them coming this way, so I went and got my gun. I knew you would need

some back-up.‖

        ―I got to get you to a hospital. I‘m going to help you get up.‖

        Terrence attempted to help Walter get up, but the pain was too much.

        ―Just leave me here and go and get some help.‖ Walter ordered Terrence.

        Terrence ran back past the courts and onto Jefferson Avenue, where he knew

there was a telephone booth. Terrence called 911, and the operator told him that someone

would be there shortly. By the time Terrence got back to Walter he was dead. Terrence

couldn‘t take the sight of his second friend who had died today. Terrence headed home.

        Terrence got to his apartment and realized he left his bag out at the courts. He

couldn‘t unlock the door to his apartment because his keys were in that bag. He sat down

in the hallway and began to cry. In one day he lost both of his best friends and hadn‘t

done anything about it. Terrence could here noises from downstairs. Terrence looked

down the stairs and saw three police officers coming up the stairs. Terrence figured they

were just coming up to question him, but what happened next really took him by surprise.

        ―We are going to have to take you into custody for questioning about a shooting
that occurred tonight,‖ said one of the officers.

       Terrence didn‘t question the officer. They handcuffed Terrence and took him off

to jail for questioning. They told Terrence he would only have to spend the night. Once

Terrence got into his cell he realized that he can‘t go to college. He realized that he has to

go right to the NBA and sign a huge contract, so he can get his family out of this place.

       In the end, Terrence made it out of the Bronx. He was drafted first overall by the

Philadelphia 76ers, and signed a huge contract. He used a lot of his first year‘s money to

buy a house for his mom and siblings outside Philadelphia. He also paid for each of his

brothers and sisters to go to a private high school, where they could get the best

Jim Resnick

Short Story

                                      Family Cuts

       I was about five years old when my father ran out on my mother and me. My

father had caught my mother cheating and was just fed up with her, so one day he just got

up and left. Although it seemed out of the blue for me, my mother, Mariel, seemed to be

expecting it. What I did not know is that they had been fighting over me for a long time.

My father did not want to deal with me and very rarely helped out in raising me. My

mother would never tell me anything that was going on, because like any mother, she did

not want me to blame myself. Like any other kid, my immediate reaction when I realized

what was going on was to kind of give up. I only had one older brother and just looked to

him for help. Our only source of income at the time was my mother who was a barber at a

local shop. I was about twelve years old when it really hit me that I did not have a dad. At

that point I had four younger siblings and one older brother who had just turned eighteen.

We were struggling to keep our family together. So that brings me to where I am now, a

twelve-year-old boy trying to help raise a family.

       My mom came home from work last Friday crying hysterically. My brother and I

had no idea what was going on and immediately asked. That is when she responded with,

―Them assholes down at the shop fired me.‖ When we asked her why, she quickly

snapped back with, ―Because they are inconsiderate jerks. They don‘t care about me and

what I want.‖
        So my brother and I, both wrapped up in our emotions, ran down to the shop to

see what was going on. When we walked in we were immediately met by the manager.

―Why did you fire our mother?‖ we both screamed almost simultaneously. The manager

then told us the full story of why he fired her. He told us that she did not show up for over

a week straight and when she finally showed up she tried to take everyone‘s business.

Any time any customer walked in, she immediately grabbed her and tried to cut her hair.

We explained to the manager that we needed the money, and we promised she would

work harder. He just walked away, caring very little about what we had to say. It was at

that point that we realized that there was nothing we could do about it. My mother was

jobless and we had to find a new source of income.

        So about a week went by and my mother still has not gotten off of her Lay-Z-Boy.

I am waiting for the bus with my brother Tyrone when I see a random middle aged man

walked up to him very cautiously. ―Do you got the stuff?‖ the man asked my brother.

Tyrone then handed him a small bag that consisted of some kind of green stuff. It was at

that point that I realized my brother was a drug dealer. When I saw this deal go down I

immediately ran inside screaming to my mother. When I asked my mother if she knew

about this she responded saying, ―Yeah, we need money wherever we can possibly get

it.‖ My mother has completely lost her mind. I tried to explain to her that drug dealers are

killed every day. She did not seem to understand how dangerous the drug dealer lifestyle

really is.

        After about three months of steady income via drug dealing, another disaster hit

my family. My mother received a phone call from the Miami Police Department. They

had just picked up Tyrone. He had been set up by one of his closest friends and tried to
deal to an undercover police officer. His friend told him that there was this guy who was

interested in buying anything he could get. My brother should have known right there

that it was some sort of set up, but Tyrone just ignored that and all he thought about was

the money in his hand. He walked up to the cop, handed him the bag, and just walked

away. When he was two blocks up the street he thought he was free, until a police car

came flying around the corner with a cop screaming out the window, ―Get down on the

ground!‖ Tyrone‘s immediate reaction was to run, and run he did. He full out sprinted for

about a mile with cop cars following him the whole way. Then out of no where one of the

cop cars released a tazer which instantly stunned Tyrone. It was all over; he dropped

straight to the ground and was temporarily paralyzed.

       When my mother received the phone call, she dropped straight down to her knees

and tears ran down her face. ―Why? Why? Why? Why do you have to keep doing these

things to us, God? Is this hell? Why must we suffer? Please just let us be!‖ My mother

cried for almost about an hour straight until she finally got up and said, ―We need to do

something big. Something needs to happen in this family.‖ My brother was, of course,

stuck in jail because we had no money to bail him and we had no idea how we would

afford a lawyer. My brother was in big time trouble and all because my mother just

wanted money.

       It was at that point that I realized I was the man of the house. I now had to do

something to support my family. At twelve years old it was my time to take over. I had

seen so many movies about this, so I figured it could not possibly be that hard. I went

right out to all the restaurants in our area and filled out job applications. After being shut

down by all the jobs I now I realized that I have to find something on my own. What is
one thing I love to do? I then realize that I love to cut and style hair. I have always loved

cutting hair, but was always afraid to come out and say something, because I feared that

all of my friends would call me gay or a homo. I never really had the chance to practice.

It was always my dream to become a hair stylist, and at this point I really do not care

what people think about me. All I and the rest of my family knew is that we need money

and we need it as soon as possible.

        So I start practicing on all of my siblings and because they were all under ten

none of them cared about their appearance. I was so nervous as my little brother sat

down. I felt as if I was standing on the sideline of the Super Bowl waiting for my chance

to make an appearance. It was like no feeling I ever had in my entire life. I knew that if I

was not good I was going to have to look for another profession, but this is all I wanted to

do. Cutting hair is my natural calling. I have never wanted to do anything so much in my

entire life until now.

        When I cut my first snip of hair it was like heaven had given me a calling. I know

it sounds kind of weird, but it was just the best feeling in the world to cut that hair. By the

time I was finished my first haircut I realized that I could actually do this. My brother‘s

hair was perfectly executed and shaped up in only five minutes. This was incredible. My

dream could actually finally become a reality. If I could do this for a living it would be a

real dream come true. I finished each of my family members, one after another, girl and

guy. After they were all finished my mom looked at me completely astonished. ―Where

did you learn to do this?‖ she asked.
       ―I guess it is just a natural gift. Either you have it or you don‘t,‖ I told her. I then

realized that I definitely want to do this and I will do whatever it takes to make it a

successful business.

       So I start to running my business in my very own living room. Business is tough

and I have not had a customer since I cut my brother‘s hair. This is not what I expected it

to be like in any way. That‘s when I am playing basketball with my friends and offered to

cut their hair for them. They all looked at me as if I had just had a monster pop out of my

head, but I just kept talking about my haircuts and ignored any looks they gave me. Then

out of nowhere my friend Sean says, ―Yeah sure, I‘ll give you a chance to prove

yourself.‖ Sean has always been the conservative kid who would never try anything new

and rarely even got a hair cut. I couldn‘t believe he was going to let me cut his hair.

       I hesitated then responded with, ―Are you serious?‖

       ―Yeah why not?‖ Sean said.

       ―Well, I don‘t know. I just thought, maybe, you were joking,‖ I said still stuttering

and shocked that anyone would ever want to do business with me.

       ―How much do you charge?‘

       Wow, money. I was actually going to make a profit off of cutting hair. ―I don‘t

know, five dollars?‘

       ―Okay, sounds good. I‘ll be over your house at seven.‖

       When I was walking home from the courts I could not stop smiling. I just could

not believe I was going to make a profit for doing something I love to do. When Sean

arrived at my house I showed him to my work station and went to work. When it was all

set and done, Sean stood up and said, ―Wow, this is better than my real barber‘s cut!‖
       This was one of the most satisfying moments of my life, and a moment that I will

never forget. I grabbed my little brothers and told them to go tell people about my

haircuts. I personally made signs and put them all around the town. I was doing anything

I could to try to gain some business. Before I knew it people were lining up outside of my

house waiting for their haircuts. The only problem was, most of them could only afford to

give me a dollar or two for the cut. This was not going to help my family enough to eat

and live.

       As I was walking, putting up more flyers around town, a man in a shirt and tie

approached me. Not knowing what was going on, I said, ―Can I help you?‖

       ―Actually, I am here to help you,‖ the man responded.

       ―What? How are you going to help me?‖

       ―I am the head of my business which finds small businesses and tries to make

them bigger,‖ he told me.

       ―Are you lost? Do you need directions to a business or something?‘

       ―No, I am not lost. Actually, I have found my destination. Are you Jamal?‖

       ―Yes, I am.‖

       ―Well, I want to try to make your hair cutting business something official. I

believe that you have the kind of determination that you need to make it big. How does

that sound?‘

       I was speechless until I mumbled out, ―Thank you, sir. You might have saved my


       ―Good, well, I just need to see you cut, then I can get you off and going.‖
       I brought him to my so-called shop, where he met my family. Then I went to work

on my next-door neighbor. After only doing one haircut he told me that was all he needed

to see. He told me that he knew right away that there was big money in my future and if I

keep it up, the sky‘s the limit for what I can do. He then tells me to come up to his shop

the next week so we could discuss a business deal.

       So that Monday I went up to his business in Miami and it was like nothing I had

ever seen before. They had a water fountain in the front yard and a chandelier as soon as

you walk in. I just stopped as soon as I stepped foot in the building. I could not help but

just sit and stare at some of the things they had there. Then, as I took a step a secretary

asked me if I wanted anything to drink. This was the first time anyone has ever asked me

if I wanted something. My immediate reaction was to say no because I thought that it

would cost something. So finally I just told her I was here because I was going to start a

hair-cutting business. She brought me right up to his office where he was sitting, smiling,

in his huge wooden desk. When I walked in and sat down he handed me a contract. ―I‘m

not much of a talker. I usually really like to get down to business right away,‖ he told me.

       ―Yeah, me neither,‖ I responded nervously.

       ―So here‘s the basic idea of the contract. You sign it and it allows me to get your

business up and going. You will be given 100,000 dollars just for allowing us to do this.

After that you will receive any profit you make at the business. How does that sound?‘

       ―Th..Th..Thank you, sir. I can‘t believe this is actually happening. This is more

than I could ever dream about.‖

       ―No, son, thank you.‖
       So I walked out wondering if it was all real. I was just waiting for my alarm to go

off and me to move on with my regular, crappy life. As weird as it may sound I actually

pinched myself multiple times, trying to wake up before I got too into the dream. Luckily

I never woke up. It was all real and it was all great. I walked back into my house with a

huge smile on my face. My mother approached me, ―Well, how‘d it go?‘

       ―How does 100,000 dollars sound just for signing the contract?‖ I asked her. She

fainted right on the spot. It looked like a corny movie, but it actually was real. This was

easily the greatest thing to ever happen to my family. We were going to make it. We were

going to be ok. This was the greatest feeling in the world.

       I now own my own chain of barbershops called ―Family Cuts‖. I own four stores

in the state of Florida and currently am next-door neighbors with dolphins great, Dan

Marino. All of my siblings are making it well in school. As for my brother Tyrone, he

refused to move with us because he claimed he did not want to live off of his little

brother. Unfortunately the week he came out of jail he was shot and killed in a drive by

shooting. Money? Well let‘s just say that will never be a problem again.
Marissa Sharpless


        ―Ahh, not again!‖ I yelled with frustration.

        The car over-heated and we were now stuck on the side of the road in the middle

of nowhere. I could see Danny, my best friend and passenger, just as frustrated. But he

was used to it by now. We‘d been friends since we were in diapers and we always would

be. Whenever we would go out, I‘d drive my old pick up because he lost his license

before he even got it. This was a usual diversion on a long trip in the truck. I would get

out of the truck to pop the hood to see if I could do anything to get it up and running

since we had our New Year‘s party in an hour. Smoke was rolling out from the engine

and it hit me in the face. The sun was setting and it was becoming darker. I looked briefly

up the road to see nothing, then back down the road to see nothing again. I got back into

the truck.

        ―Is there anything we can do?‖ asked Danny.

        ―No, I think she is done for good now,‖ I responded, kind of upset that we would

be out of a car.

        ―Damn, what are we going to do?‖ I sat there thinking of what we were going to

do; neither one of us had a cell phone and it was almost dark; we were not about to go

hitch-hiking. The best friends and party people we were grabbed my zipped-up gym bag

from the bed of the truck and got ourselves two paper cups of champagne.

        ―Let‘s cheer to many more years of our crazy adventures together!‖ Danny

screamed with a following, ―Wohoo!‖
          We sat there in the truck, drinking champagne and eating the rest of our bucket of

friend chicken from KFC. We had always made the best time of a bad situation. Danny

was like the brother I never had, not just my best friend, my brother; he was family to me.

As we sat in the truck together we talked about everything and anything we could think

of. As we saw fireworks in the distance we knew it was the New Year. I found the receipt

from KFC and we wrote down our New Year Resolution‘s. My resolution was ―to do

well in college.‖ Danny‘s resolution was ―to live life to the fullest,‖ a typical response

Danny would say to anyone about anything. We stayed up all night and when the sun

came up we saw a police car coming up the road. I ripped my toothbrush and toothpaste

from my bag and started to brush my teeth without water. I thought to myself what a bad

idea this was as the officer came to the window.

          ―What a great way to start our New Year,‖ Danny said with a sigh of ―here it goes


           ―We got arrested together again,‖ I said as I looked over at Danny who was

lounging on the uncomfortable seating.

          ―Yeah, like the saying says, ‗Your best friend will be sitting next to you after all

the fun is over,‘‖ Danny said with a chuckle.

          I thought to myself what my parents would say about Danny and I getting arrested

again. My parents were always expecting me to be great at everything and be the all

American son. Instead, I had Danny who can talk me into doing anything with a little

convincing. The cop who arrested us earlier in the morning came to our cell.

          ―Let‘s go boys,‖ she said with no expression on her face.
        We both got up and walked down the long hallway to where my parents were and

Danny‘s mother. My parents looked very disappointed and Mrs. Jenkins, Danny‘s

mother, stood there with a half smile on her face.

       Ever since Mr. Jenkins died, she didn‘t care what Danny did; as long as he was

okay she was okay. My parents had such a look on their faces that I would rather be dead

than listen to them for the next month. When we finally met them at the end of the

hallway, Mrs. Jenkins hugged Danny, then came to me and gave me a hug too.

       ―You boys need to get hobbies, something constructive,‖ Mrs. Jenkins said in a

joking tone.

       ―It is good to see you again, but I wish it wasn‘t here,‖ my mother said as she

hugged Danny‘s mom.

       ―Yes, it was good to see you but we better be going,‖ my father said lightly,

pushing my mother before him out of the double steel doors.

       I followed behind them, not too close but not far away. It was the walk of shame

leading to hell. I hated whenever I would get these talks about how I needed to grow up

and get my life together. It was the same thing every time. I got into the back of my dads

freshly washed and waxed Cadillac. My father had money and he was proud of it. As his

son I had great expectations to live up to, but they were never me.

       ―So, what do you have to say about yourself now?‖ my father said in his

degrading tone.

       ―Nothing, I guess,‖ I said shortly.

       ―Steven, I don‘t understand why you keep getting in trouble like this?‖ my mother

said in a caring voice that sounded like she was about to cry.
       My mother was a very soft-spoken woman who always saw the best in people and

not the worst. She was the calm and collected one who never yelled. Whenever I would

get in trouble, she defended me. I had been the momma‘s boy growing up. It didn‘t

bother me because every one of my friends who met her understood.

       ―He is never going to get anywhere in life if he keeps this shit up.‖ My father‘s

voice was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

       ―Don‘t say that, Peter; he is just growing up and going through his rebellious

stage,‖ my mother‘s sweet voice said, almost calming.

       ―He has been going through this stage for almost three years now!‖ my father

said, yelling as he was looking in the rear view mirror at me.

       We never had a good father-son relationship. He was always hard on me about

everything. I could get a one hundred percent on a test and he would find something

wrong with it. When I realized that I was never good enough for him, I started to push

myself away from him. I looked at his success and money as a great accomplishment and

something I envied, but his poor characteristics over-powered the things I wanted. He

was a jerk and used people to get what he wanted. If it wasn‘t his way, it was the

highway. He was a very demanding person. It made it harder to live with him.

       ―Are you going to say anything, Steven?!‖ he said, yelling again like I couldn‘t

hear him.

       ―What do you want me to say? I‘m never going to be like you!‖ I was yelling

back not caring what I was saying.
         ―This conversation is over. Peter, he knows what he did was wrong. Just leave

him alone,‖ my mother said in a sweet tone. My father never stood up to my mother, no

matter what. He took what she said and ended the conversation.

         A couple of months went by without Danny and I getting in trouble. It was a

record for us, until Danny came up with a plan. Like always, it seemed good at the time,

but we both knew it was most likely going to end badly.

         ―I can‘t believe we already have warm weather!‖ Danny said as he was hanging

out of the passenger side window of my mother‘s Mercedes. We decided to go to my

beach house to sit back and relax. We were surprised that my mother let us take her car.

She is the only person I know who trusted Danny and me together. She also gave us the

key to the beach house. My father would never trust Danny and me in my mother‘s

Mercedes or in the beach house alone.

         ―I know. It‘s great,‖ I said, letting the warm salt-water air hit me in my face.

         We were almost to my beach house at the very tip of California. Danny and I

were mapping out what we were going to do first. We were going to go to the beach to

surf and later on throw a party since we had made friends with locals over the years.

         ―How about we invite that girl Sarah and her friends to the party tonight?‖ Danny

said with a grin on his face. He had always had a crush on her, and she never gave him

the time of day.

         ―Yeah, that sounds good. Maybe she‘ll finally talk to you,‖ I said, making fun of

him and his puppy love for a girl who has never talked to him.

         ―Whatever, man, she is hot,‖ Danny said, laughing and smiling an ear-to-ear

        When we arrived at the house, we jumped out of the car into perfect sunny, warm

weather. You could see the excitement on our faces because this was exactly what we

needed. We got into our bathing suits and went surfing for a few hours. When we got out

of the water, we ran into Sarah, the girl we were talking about on the car ride here.

        ―Hey, Sarah, what‘s up?‖ Danny tried to be smooth, but wasn‘t at all.

        ―Hi, Danny,‖ she said kind of shortly and harshly.

        ―Sarah, what‘s up?‖ I said, still laughing at Danny and his pathetic attempt while

giving her a little hug.

        ―Hey, Steven! How have you been? I haven‘t seen you since last summer.‖ Sarah

seemed happy to talk to me and seemed to ignore Danny. It was a shame because Danny

really liked her and he just wanted her to give him the time of day.

        ―I‘m good. I know it‘s been awhile since I‘ve seen you. How about tonight we get

together and have a little party; you can bring some of your friends‖. I was always so

much better with the girls than Danny would ever be.

        ―Yeah, that sounds great. I‘ll come by around nine.‖ She turned and walked away

without looking back. She was the type of girl who teased guys, like Danny. She knew

she was good looking and she made guys drool over her. I was never into her like that. I

had known her for a long time and she was a good friend to me, but nothing more.

        Later that night, Danny and I were sitting in the living room, waiting for everyone

to show up. Danny and I were tired so we sat in silence. I noticed that Danny was in his

usual attire, a plain t-shirt, khaki shorts, thong flip-flops, and his baseball cap that his

father had given him. He was a really laid back person and I envied that about him.

Growing up in my household, I was more scheduled and early for everything. I decided
to wear my usual outfit of a collared t-shirt, plaid shorts and perfectly white shoes. The

doorbell rang and we jumped up to race to the door. The party was about to start.

          Sarah had invited a lot of people. The majority of them were girls, so I didn‘t

care. We all went out back and started a fire. Danny and I had put it together with rocks

we had found early before the party. Sarah was walking towards me with a blond haired

girl at her side. She was a very good-looking girl and I liked blondes.

          ―Hey, Steven, what‘s up?‖ Sarah smiled and giggled.

          ―Nothing really, enjoying yourself?‖ I said to play it cool around this beautiful


          ―Yeah, of course I am. Hey, this is my friend Lauren.‖ Sarah smiled and walked

away. I watched her walk away to see where she was going and I couldn‘t believe she

ended up by Danny‘s side.

          ―Hey, I‘m Katie. Nice to meet you,‖ she said, with a perfectly white smile while

holding out her hand.

          ―Hey, I‘m Steven. It‘s nice to meet you too‖ I tried to play it cool around her, but

I couldn‘t. She was beautiful and I felt sweat start to form at the top of my forehead. I

held out my hand and it met with hers. She had a little grip on my hand, which was cute.

It actually made me say aww in my head. I actually didn‘t know what to do around a girl.

I was always the smooth one and I didn‘t know what to do. She was different than any

other girl I have ever met before.

          ―So, is Sarah interested in my friend Danny or no?‖ I became very nervous and

was trying to think of something to talk about without embarrassing myself or sounding

       ―I actually think she is.‖ She had a cute laugh; ―She only acts like that when she is

around a guy she likes.‖ She turned her head in the direction of them, and her scent was


       ―Are you shy?‖ Katie said while slowly losing her smile,

       ―No, not usually,‖ I said without realizing how terribly that came out.

       ―Oh, really.‖ She had lost her smile and I didn‘t know what to do.

       Later that night after mingling around with the other people at my house, I began

to think about Katie and our awkward conversation earlier that night. I hadn‘t seen or

talked to Danny all night. He was all over Sarah and she seemed to like it. It was weird to

be on the other side of things for a change. Danny was usually the one awkwardly

walking around a party because he wasn‘t smooth with the girls. I was usually the one

with girls flocked around me with no trouble at all. Everything was backward and I didn‘t

like it. I was upset about this; I was mostly upset about Katie. I couldn‘t get her off my

mind and everything went back to her. I started to look for her to make things right, but I

couldn‘t find her.

       The next morning Danny and I cleaned up the house and backyard then headed

home. We were still in school for a few more weeks and my parents hated when I missed

school. We didn‘t really talk much when we were cleaning up because we had woken up

around four in the afternoon and we were in a time crunch.

       In the car on the way home Danny talked about Sarah a majority of the time. I

was glad that she had finally given him a chance, but I was mad because I blew my

chances with Katie.
        ―What happened with Katie and you last night? I didn‘t see either of you much.‖

Danny tried to seem interested but I knew he didn‘t really care.

        ―I don‘t know I kind of blew it.‖ I didn‘t really want to talk about it. I tried to

brush it off, but of course Danny wanted to know what had happened.

        ―You blew it with a girl?‖ Danny seemed as shocked as I was last night.

        ―Yeah, she was different. I got nervous around her and didn‘t know what to say or

do.‖ It frustrated me to look back on it. I should‘ve put some moves on her like I did with

every other girl.

        ―Really? Well, we should come back when we get out of school in a few weeks so

you can try again and I can see Sarah.‖ Danny always made the best of a situation even if

it was a bad one,

        ―Yeah, maybe we will.‖ I didn‘t know about that because it was going to be weird

trying to talk to her again.

        A few weeks had past and Danny got the idea in my head to go back to the beach

house. At first I wasn‘t into the idea, but Danny being Danny talked me into it. In a few

days we would be in the car again and I would be the not so smooth talker. I hated the

idea and I was hesitant to even think about getting into the car.

        The weekend came. Danny and I got into my mom‘s Mercedes, and we hit the

road. I was nervous and he could tell. Danny and I knew each other very well; we were


        ―Steven, I‘ve never seen you like this before.‖ Danny knew I was thinking about

           ―I know. She is different from any other girl I have ever met before.‖ A little

smile came to my face.

           ―Well, then do something about it. If you wait too long, she isn‘t going to be

waiting around for you.‖ Danny looked serious and I didn‘t know where he was going

with it.

           ―What do you mean, Danny?‖ I was nervous to hear what he had to say.

           ―You know and I know you know she is the one for you…‖ Danny trailed off and

left me hanging.

           ―And…?‖ I couldn‘t wait to hear what he had to say because it was probably

something outrageous and stupid.

           ―Ask her to marry you.‖ Danny said it like it wasn‘t a big deal and a life changing


           ―Danny! I‘m eighteen years old about to graduate from high school!‖ I started to

yell and lose my mind. How could he even think I would do something like that. I was

the responsible one and he was the irresponsible one. That is something he would do and

regret it later.

           ―Whatever, man, I mean when you look back on this you‘ll probably regret it.

I‘ve never seen you like this with any other girl.‖ Danny never pushed me to do things.

He just gave me really bad advice that I usually listened to; for some reason I thought he

was right about this. I had never done anything spontaneous like this before. Danny was

the one who made mistakes and I kept his secrets. I knew he would do the same for me,

but my parents would freak out when I told them what I had done. Yet again, it wasn‘t

anything that bad. I would be getting married, not sentenced to ten years in jail.
       We sat in silence for the majority of the car ride and we passed a shopping center

that was on the way to my house. I knew there was a jewelry store in there, and before I

could even think twice, I pulled the car into the parking lot.

       ―What are you doing?‖ Danny had no idea.

       ―I‘m getting a ring.‖ I didn‘t look at him or anything to see his reaction. I just got

out of the car and walked into the store. I didn‘t know if he followed me; I assumed he

did. Danny always had my back and I knew he did now. It was his idea.

       ―Steve, you never do stuff like this. You always think about he pros and cons.

You think about what your parents think.‖ He made a good point but he knew I was set

on doing it.

       ―I know,‖ I said, short and sweet.

       We were in the store for about ten minutes until I saw the perfect ring. It was a

little pricy, but I took my mac card out that my parents gave to me for emergencies only.

To me it was an emergency. I swiped the card and walked out a different person. I was

molding myself into the person I wanted to be, not who my parents wanted me to be. For

the first time in my life I didn‘t care what they had to say.

       Danny and I drove right from the jewelry store to Sarah‘s house. Danny knocked

on the door. Shortly after he was followed by Sarah to the car. She had a shocked look on

her face. He told her and I don‘t think she could believe it.

       ―I hope you know, Steven, she hasn‘t been the same since she met you.‖ Sarah

was actually telling me to do it. I was shocked.

       ―Well, where does she live?‘ I asked Sarah so I couldn‘t talk myself out of it.
       Sarah took me to Katie‘s house and I was ready to do what I came to do. When

we got there, I put my car in park and turned it off. I hesitated for a moment but got out

of the car. I walked up to her front door and rang the doorbell. She answered the door

with a surprised smile on her face, like a little kid on Christmas. I knelt to the ground.

       ―Katie, I can‘t stop thinking about you. You are the only girl who has ever made

me feel this way and I know you‘re the one. You might think I am crazy for doing this,

but will you marry me?‖ I was so nervous that I couldn‘t breath.

       ―Yes, Steven, I will,‖ she said with no hesitation.

       Now it is two years later and I am standing at he alter with my best man, Danny,

by my side. Looking back on all the things we‘ve done, I am glad he was always there for

me. If it wasn‘t for him, we would never be here. Danny was my best friend and brother.

That would never change.
Margot Sica


Short Story

       ―Alex, God damnit, I could crawl into a hole and you would still bother me!‖ my

mom‘s shrill voice screamed as I asked her to hand me my eye drops from the bathroom.

I was used to this, her psychotic, verbally abusive personality. This was definitely one of

her most charming traits, especially first thing in the morning. I snatched the eye drops

from her hand and ran into my room. The old wooden door creaked as I shut it, a casualty

from my constant string of punches and sudden bursts of anger. I was afraid the thing

wouldn‘t hold up long enough to endure a few more hits. I guess I should start on the

wall next. I threw the little bottle onto my desk and rubbed my head. It was starting to

hurt badly. My phone suddenly started buzzing, and I looked lazily at the screen. My face

instantly lit up as I recognized the name; Norah was calling. Norah was the best friend

every guy wished he had. She was the , considerate, and easygoing girl who could always

keep up with the guys. Her soft voice cheered me up instantly, and I smiled widely when

she asked me to come over to her boyfriend John‘s, who was also my good friend. I got

ready quickly and opened my door to the back yard.

       I walked through the woods despite the muddy ground and the tremendous swarm

of hungry mosquitoes. The only bad thing about summer time is those nasty mosquitoes;

those things love me. John‘s house was about a five-minute walk through the woods

behind my house, and conveniently, the nasty wooded shortcut led right to his driveway.
As I emerged through the trees, John was waiting for me on his porch with a yellow-

toothed smile and a burning joint. Norah smiled at me and waved. John‘s arms tightened

around her waist as she started to move towards me.

       ―Hey Al, John has his mom‘s car and he wants to make a drug run‖

       Norah rolled her eyes at the word ―drug run‖

       ―Uh alright man that‘s cool with me…Norah you really shouldn‘t come with us‖

       ―She‘ll be fine man, it‘s just Chester.‖

       I scowled at John‘s answer. A beautiful girl like Norah should not be brought into

a drug deal with a Chester low-life.

       ―It‘s alright Al, I‘ll be fine‖

       Norah‘s smile still didn‘t put me at ease.

               I sat next to John in the passenger seat of his mom‘s Nissan.

       ―So, Ice said he‘ll meet us at the Sunoco in about ten minutes and we‘ll pick him

       up. You got the money?‖

       I looked at John and smiled at his question.

       ―I always have the money man.‖

       ―You know how he gets pissed when we don‘t, Alex.‖

       ―I said I got it.‖

       If anyone knew how Ice, the crazy Chester crack head and part time drug dealer

got mad, it was me. I wasn‘t messing anything up. Especially with Norah in the back seat,

I wanted to make this smooth and easy. We pulled around to the Sunoco and right on

time, Ice strode lightly across the parking lot and got in the back. His eyes were

yellowing around the edges and he was missing all but three teeth that dangled uselessly
in the back of his mouth. He was so tall he could barely fit into the back of the miniature

sized Nissan. He opened the door and sat next to Norah. She squirmed and moved as far

away as she could get.

       ―What you want boss?‖

       Ice said casually to John, his gums mouthing his letters.

       ―Two eighties,‖

        John replied, handing back the money.

       ―Actually make it three, man.‖

         I handed over the extra cash to John.

       As the exchange took place, I couldn‘t help thinking about when I finally got my

hands on the pill, I would feel so good. I glanced at Norah‘s uneasy face, why would

John ever bring her with us?

       After our little trip to Chester, we all went back to John‘s. Norah and I talked for a

while. She was holding a beer in her hand, but not really drinking it. Her eyes were bright

and clear as she looked into mine.

       ―Alex, can I vent for a little?‖

        I hesitated. I knew what this was about.

       ―Sure, Nor go ahead.‖

       ―Well John has been acting so weird lately, like he never seems to want to hang

out anymore, and he never even calls me back most of the time.‖

       John was a low-life druggie and the fact that Norah even liked him was something

astonishing. He was a jerk; I tried to tell her that from day one.
       ―Norah, I told you John is just like that. He‘s not really the best with girls. Plus,

you guys have been hooking up for only like two weeks now.‖

       ―So what does that mean?‖

         ―Nor, to be totally honest he doesn‘t keep girls around for long, so have your

guard up.‖

       I watched her face fall as my words sank in. Her beautiful mouth started to curl

downward into a frown. My thoughts turned dangerously on me. She was too good for

him; he didn‘t deserve such a good girl like Norah. She was just so sweet; she deserved to

be loved the right way. I shook my head at my thoughts. What was I doing? Norah was

my best friend! I finished my beer quickly embarrassed at my thoughts.

        By the time I walked home from Johns, it was about one thirty in the morning.

My stairs creaked noisily and I groaned. I had just woken up my mom. She was the

lightest sleeper. As expected, she staggered out of her room probably still as drunk as I

was, mumbling to herself.

       ―Alex, what the hell are you doing home so late?‖

        She wagged her finger at me and than stumbled into the bathroom. I thanked God

for this chance to escape, and then rushed into my room. Man, I hated her. I just wanted

to yell in her face what a real bitch she was, but then almost instantly; all my anger had

dissipated into fatigue. Just an overwhelming sense of being way too tired. My room

started swaying a little with the combination of beer and pills in my system. Suddenly, I

started to think about Norah. It is always dangerous when I‘m alone to think. I started

thinking about our endless talks and the way her face looked when I made her laugh,

really laugh. I fought for awhile but then I finally gave in to my thoughts, and let my
mind wander around Norah. I smiled as I lay on my bed, drifting to sleep with her in


        I woke up the next morning to find that I still had all of my clothes and my shoes

on. I was sprawled across my bed and man; I had one wicked hang over. My head

throbbed as I sat up and with difficulty. I tried to recall the events of last night. I

remembered my dangerous thoughts about Norah, and the way she looked when I told

her about John. I rubbed my head and looked at the clock; I realized I was really late to

pick up John.

        I showed up at John‘s right after twelve in my famous blue, 1999 Ford Explorer.

When my mom left for her water aerobics class, I took the old car out to make a much

needed beer and alcohol run. It was one of the most gorgeous summer days yet and even

better, it was a Saturday and John was having a huge party. I honked my horn as loud as I

could. All my windows were open, letting the sun seep through them. I blasted ―Forty

Below summer‖ and smiled.

        ―Come on already, John!‖ I said to myself.

        Then as if on cue, John came tumbling out of his house with the usual boys. The

boys consisted of Corey, Chris and Mike. They all hurried out behind John.

        ―Hey, man!‖ John said, slapping my hand after he took shotgun.

        ―Johnny, what‘s up, man?‖

        He smiled at me and said:

        ―Tonight will be a good time. Norah‘s coming and she‘s

        bringing one of her friend‘s; I think you know her? Sarah something?‖
       I smiled. Of course I knew Sarah, we had been in band together way back. She

was a really cute little blonde, conservative, and I couldn‘t really see her coming to any

of John‘s parties. I was mildly excited all the same; the scenery would be changing up a

little. I whipped the old Explorer into the Wine and Spirits parking lot and waited for our

first round of purchases to be over. I thought about Norah again as Mike lumbered into

the store. What was wrong with me?

       Later that day, I popped a couple tens and took a shower. I was more excited

about tonight than usual, though I couldn‘t really figure out why. I tried to pretend like I

was excited about seeing Sarah, but from what I remember she was way to shy for me. I

got out of the shower and hurried to put on clothes. I eluded my mom on the way out and

made my way through the muddy path to John‘s.

       I showed up at John‘s house a little after eight thirty. He had sufficiently built a

bonfire at the very beginning of his woods. The cleared off patch was out of sight and

perfect for us to bring our plentiful cases of beer, and bags of weed. The glinting fire

danced around John‘s face as he came up to me with a Natty in his hand.

       ―Hey, Al, it‘s about time‖

       ―Sorry man, showering and stuff…‖ John laughed at me.

       ―All right well, whatever, at least you don‘t smell so bad now. Sarah‘s here

       come see her. She looks real good.‖

       I walked closer towards the fire and saw my stupid friends doing beer bongs and

smoking blunts. I looked a little to the left and saw two girls standing close to the fire

despite the heat outside. I first saw Sarah, and she did look good. Her short blonde hair

was clipped up off her face and her nose ring glimmered in the luminous firelight. I
smiled and started walking towards her. I stopped suddenly as I saw whom she was with;


         ―Hey Alex!‖ Sarah said a little too eagerly. I could tell she instantly regretted her

greeting, and that her nerves got the better of her. I smiled and responded but her nerves

continued to be overactive, making her sink farther away from the fire; from me.

         ―Hey, darling‖ Norah stepped forward and gave me a huge hug.

         ―Hey, Norah! How are you doing?‖

         She frowned.

         ―Well I guess you didn‘t hear me and John ended it. It‘s not a big thing but it just

wasn‘t working out, I just came here tonight because nothing else was going on.‖ She

threw in her explanation quickly at the end, almost to justify herself.

         ―Well honestly Norah, I‘m glad. He didn‘t deserve you; he‘s a jerk with girls.‖

         I couldn‘t believe my own bold words. I smiled.

         ―Aw, thanks Al. You‘re the best.‖

         She hugged me tightly.

         ―Well, I‘ll let you and Sarah talk, I‘m sure you haven‘t seen each other in awhile.‖

         She gently pushed Sarah towards me, and then smiled. I looked closer into her

face and realized Norah was trying to make Sarah more comfortable around me, less

nervous. I smiled at her efforts, although Sarah seemed to shrink further into the

darkness. I really did forget how incredibly shy that girl is. Norah hurried away with a

smirk, and shoved Sarah closer towards me still. It really didn‘t make the situation any

less awkward.

         ―So Sarah what‘s up? How have you been?‖
She looked up at me, seeming to choose her words carefully, she responded,

       ―Oh, I‘m good I just got back from like a little family vacation…not too fun, you

know?‖ I nodded, trying to seem interested. I reached over next to her and grabbed a beer

bong and a forty.

       ―How about we do a beer bong to start the night off?‖ I smiled and held it towards


       ―Uh…I‘ve never done one before I don‘t know if I can do it!‖

       ―Sure you can! It‘s so easy just chug the tube until you get to the foam than hold it

straight up again.‖ She laughed and shrugged.

       ―Okay I guess I can try it!‖ I held the tube as she slurped down the Old English

and helped her stop it after the foam came back up.

       ―Wow that comes up fast!‖ She wiped the beer off that spilled out on her shorts.

       It didn‘t take long for Sarah to loosen up after a couple beer bongs. She quickly

confided to me that she was sort of with someone, but didn‘t want to be. I listened and

nodded but all the while looking at her lips. Suddenly, her phone beeped loudly. She went

for it but I snapped it up and smiled at her.

       ―Oh, a text from Norah! It says, did you get with him yet?‖

        I shook my head, at least I was drunk.

       ―Ah, oh my God, Norah! I‘m going to kill her!‖ She turned ten shades of red.

       I sloppily grabbed her face gently and pressed her lips into mine, all the while

thinking of Norah.

       About a week later, John had another party. Sarah and I had ended things the

same night we began them. Neither of us was interested, and that was fine by me, just
another drunken hookup. I had been hanging around with Norah so much lately. We were

always together. Our personalities just clicked effortlessly and we spent our time together

laughing and smiling. We took long drives in the summer heat together and talked about

everything from my summers spent in Maine to how the world was supposedly ending in

2012. We became inseparable; I eluded hanging out with my friends and hoped I would

spend the day with her. She made me happier than anyone ever had, she effortlessly made

me smile and laugh and I just loved it, I needed it, I was addicted.

        Towards the middle of the summer, Norah and I showed up to a party together.

We both walked side by side into this kid Steve‘s house. The backyard was lit up and the

pool water glimmered. It was a small crowd but by the looks of it, just as much fun.

Norah and I walked up to the bar and suddenly, she stopped and rolled her eyes. John‘s

arm was around a trashy looking blonde with a cigarette hanging out of her teeth. She

turned to me.

        ―John, can we just get out of here for a little? This looks a little boring.‖

        I didn‘t even hesitate to answer her.

        ―Yeah, I wanted to run to Wawa anyways.‖ I started towards my car and she

grabbed my arm, I shuddered. Her hands were freezing, and so soft. We both climbed

into my old Explorer and I started the car.

        ―Wait, can we just sit here for a little?‖ She asked quietly.

        ―If you want to, what‘s up?‖ She started to talk almost as soon as I finished my

last syllable.

        ―Alex, I just want someone to love me, to appreciate me. All I want is to feel

loved, is that too much?‖ My eyes got huge and I hesitated for a minute. This was it. I
couldn‘t believe I was hearing these words out of her mouth. The past few weeks brought

me to the irreversible conclusion that I liked Norah, so much. I had kept it quiet, never

expressing my thoughts, and just growing fonder of her every day. I didn‘t want to ruin

our perfect, effortless friendship but I realized, now was the breaking point. This was it, I

had to tell her. I took a deep breath, and then replied:

       ―Norah that‘s all I have ever wanted to give to you. From the first time we went

driving all I wanted to show you is real love, but we were such amazing friends, there

was no was I wanted to ruin it.‖

I swallowed hard. Finally, I said what I had been thinking since the first time Norah and I

really talked. Even if she didn‘t respond in the way I wanted, I finally said it.

       Her face lit up and she started to bite her lips with excitement, one of her cutest

traits. She responded confidently, taking my hands.

       ―Alex, all I want is to be with you! I never wanted to say anything to ruin our

friendship either!‖ She beamed and laughed.

―Alex, we are so good for each other don‘t you see?‖

I smiled bigger than I think I ever have. I felt infinite. I grabbed her hands too, and held

them so tight.

―Norah, we are so good for each other. Let me love you the way you deserve.‖

She smiled, and then her eyes suddenly flickered to the clock.

       ―It‘s eleven eleven, make a wish!‖ She suddenly said in true Norah fashion.

        I looked closely into her eyes and grabbed her chin lightly.
           ―I really did get my wish Norah, I don‘t need to make another one.‖ I smiled,

then pressed my lips into her perfect ones; she didn‘t know how long I had been waiting

for her.
                                         Period 2

                                      That One-Day

                                     By: Tyler Ardary

       I woke up that morning with the feeling of uncertainty. There was dried blood on

my hands and a small pool of blood on the side of the mattress. I had no recognition of

how that got there or what I did last night. The last thing I remember is being wheeled

through the emergency room doors with the chatter of doctors in the viewing room

looking at me with a glaring stare. When I woke up I felt like I was Bruce Willis from

Striking Distance and Harrison Ford from The Fugitive when they both found blood in

their rooms on their beds for that moment. There were a bunch of questions running

through my mind and no answers.

       I knew I was in my house, but I was confused more than that kid who had autism

that was in the Mercury Rising. I wondered to myself where I parked my car. What did I

do last night? What was the date? I felt scared, and confused and started to feel

claustrophobic in my own house. Not before long, I was thinking of something else.

Trying desperately to recall yesterday, only movies from the 1990‘s came to mind. If I

was confused about everything, there was one thing that I was certain about and it was

the fact that I loved my movies. I was obsessed with good films. Two of my favorite

movies of all time are Forest Gump, and the Shawshank Redemption. I can remember the

instances of when I saw both of them for the first time.
       It was August 13, 1994, when I took Emily Malis out to the local drive-in movie

theater where we saw the premiere of Forest Gump. She wore a short jean skirt and a

tight white shirt. She was so stunning that night that I could barely keep my eyes off of

her. I was such a movie fanatic that I refrained from making out with her in efforts to

watch the movie in its entirety. I have never shown more emotions during a movie than

that one. I was happy, laughing, and sad all throughout the movie. It was hard for me to

deny such a hottie, so as soon as the movie was over we made love in the back seat of my

El Camino for hours.

       There I was, in the same drive in theater when I saw Forest Gump but three

months later. It was a cold November night, but this time I was with Devin instead of

Emily. Emily and I did not last too much longer after our date to see Forest Gump

together; I guess sleeping with Emily‘s best friend on the red Ikea futon in Emily‘s house

was a bad idea. Who would have known? Well, ever since I met Devin, I have never been

happier. She is perfect. She and I sat through and watched Shawshank Redemption. We

both agreed it was a spectacular movie. Movies were the one thing that helped me dream

and think in solitude. Devin and I connected unlike any other girl I have met. She had

everything Emily did not. The more I hung out with her, the more faultless she became. I

would have never forgotten that night even if I tried. Everything about it was perfect. We

watched the sun set beforehand, saw an excellent film, and then had our first kiss in front

of her house before I said, ―goodbye.‖

       Those memories were always so clear to me. I can still picture them in my mind

as if they just happened, but I cannot recall what I did yesterday. I still contemplate about

that blood on my mattress and my hands. Was it my blood? Was it someone else‘s? Was
it something‘s? All these questions ran through my head but had no answers. I don‘t

know why, but I kept thinking of my past memories. Since I didn‘t know what was going

on around me at that moment I just looked at my past memories that brought me solitude.

       Devin looked stunning as she walked down her driveway to me with the air

blowing in her face, causing her light brown hair to flow freely in the wind as I came to

pick her up. It was as if for one second in the world, at least, all evil and hardships

seemed to disappear. I became locked with her eyes as she was walking down to me. No

matter how hard I tried, if I wanted to, I couldn‘t turn my head from her

incomprehensible beauty. She ran gracefully to me and jumped in my arms with just the

joy and excitement of seeing me. She climbed in the car and we drove west. It was hard

for me to drive with her clinging all over me, but I enjoyed it. We drove for an hour till

we reached a deserted beach with the sun shining brightly on our faces. Even her shadow

on the pavement as we walked to the beach was astonishing. As soon as our feet hit the

sand, we took off our sandals and felt the warm sand sizzle between our toes. We talked

for hours on that beach about everything; we talked about family matters and religious

philosophy to the joy of skipping rocks. We were deep in conversation until we realized

that the sun was a few minutes away from setting and a dead silence just broke out. That

was the most perfect night I have ever experienced.

       There was a brief smile that appeared on my face until when I got a glimpse of

reality and the smile soon faded. The whole blood situation was still so curious to me. My

house seemed a little strange. There were a few things that I had never seen before; there

was something on my table that was white and looked like a new laptop but very thin

with a bitten apple as the logo. I was not used to something that thin being a laptop; the
only one I remember having was a few inches thick with a dull 10‘‘ screen on it. I did not

touch anything. Walking to the kitchen, I saw two notes on the counter. One that read,

―Go to Dr. Graff‘s Office,‖ and the other was a note trying to tell me something. It was

not making much sense to me. The note told me that I had a memory loss problem, but

did not think much of it. It seemed like it was in my handwriting, but I did not recall me

writing any sort of notes. It felt as if I was in someone else‘s house. Confused, I

proceeded out to the driveway where I saw my old-faithful Mazda Protégé.

       There I was on the roadside of a late spring in 1999, sleeping in the front seat in

my Mazda Protégé with the moon radiance seeping in from the open moon roof. There

was an empty bottle of champagne on the passenger seat next to me with two paper cups

one of which was used. I had everything ready; there was a straw basket with a soft

blanket, sandwiches, a bucket of fried chicken in it, and even KY 2 in 1 warming body

massage gel in it, in the back seat. I was preparing for this moment for almost a year now.

My zipped-up gym bag had been sitting in the trunk next to a recently crumbled slip of

paper with ―new year‘s resolutions‖ written at the top. My top and only resolution was to

ask Devin to marry me. I did not know what to do with my recent rejection; all I could

think of was to drive. And driving is what I did. I didn‘t know what to do with myself.

Thoughts of suicide had run through my mind, along with running to Zimbabwe, where

my thirteen dollars I had in my back pocket would be worth billions in their currency. I

have traveled from Maine to Florida and everywhere in-between drinking endless bottles

of alcohol.
       I got in my Protégé that was parked under the large oak tree and drove to the

doctor‘s office that I have been going to for the past ten years. Dr. Graff could always tell

me what was wrong with me and had solutions for everything.

       There was one time when I was little, I was sick for days thinking to myself that I

was going to die, when I went to Dr. Graff, He diagnosed me with food poisoning and

prescribed antibiotics, and I was better within a day.

       I got in the office and not soon after getting there, I was called back to see Dr.

Graff. Dr. Graff pulled out my file and papers were overflowing from it. It was about 6

inches thick and looked like it weighed a ton. Dr. Graff sat me down on the table and

began to speak very slowly and firmly to me.

       ―Okay, listen very carefully Tom. You have Traumatic Amnesia,‖ he said.


       ―You got in a major car accident four and a half years ago while you were

intoxicated, and you have had memory problems ever since.‖

       ―I‘ve had this for four and a half years? How come I don‘t remember?‖

       ―Traumatic Amnesia is caused by a major blow to the head, in your case it was

your head slamming against the steering wheel going from 75 mph to a dead stop by

running into a tree. This type of amnesia causes short-term memory loss of everything

after the accident, but memory from before the accident should be very clear. Bleeding

from the nose at an intense rate may occur every now and then for you in the middle of

the night, you hav……..‖

       In the middle of his sentence, when he was about to tell me that I came to his

office several times a week for the past few years, I walked out and ran down the stairs
petrified and jumped in my car. In the front seat I pondered to myself, then looked in the

rear-view mirror and saw some old scars on my forehead. A flashback ran through my

head of me getting put on a stretcher and wheeled into the ambulance. I did not believe

what he told me until everything kicked together. The date on the green and white sign in

front of the TD bank said it was September 23, 2004. The last date I remembered was

that night in my car drinking heavily in 1999. I have not been living for the last five

years. I tried to think but the only thing I could think of was everything prior to 1999.

       I felt like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton portraying Tyler Durden with the multi

personality disorder. I could only try and imagine what I did the past few years but

nothing came to mind. I was like someone trapped in another body. I ran to my

trustworthy Citizens Bank ever since my childhood and withdrew some money for some

food on the way home. I got to the ATM, punched in my information, when the amount

that came up read ―$3,450,904.16.‖ ―What the Hell!‖ I thought to myself. I withdrew $50

then continued on my way back to my home.

       I walked in the door just to see my mother, who seemed much aged, with now

gray hair, from the last time I remember seeing her waiting by the kitchen counter

holding my mail.

       ―Hello, son,‖ she said to me in a calm voice.

       She sat me down on the sofa, and started telling me the story. ―You must be very

confused right now well let me explain. You were nineteen. That was about five years

ago now, and you had been drinking and driving due to your break up with Devin

O‘Connel. She was your soul mate, you said, and you couldn‘t deal with the rejection.

Well, anyway, you were driving down Rt. 34 when you ran into a large Maple tree. There
you suffered from major head injuries, giving you Traumatic Amnesia. When you were

in the hospital, the doctor prescribed Xanax because of your anxiety from the crash. That

drug, along with the Traumatic Amnesia, caused serious memory problems. You may

have seen a lot of money in your account, which is from us suing the doctor because of

him prescribing you those drugs that furthered your memory loss. You wake up each day

thinking it‘s the day before you got into your car accident. It has been almost five years

since, and you do not remember anything of that. I have been coming here every day for

the past sixty months explaining this story to you, just for you to wake up the next

morning to forget it. What do you think?‖

       Horrified, I pondered then came to the conclusion that all these things that people

were saying to me had been true. I still had the scars from the accident, and the only

things I remember are old memories now. My mom and I talked for a little, and she

basically filled me in on the headlines from 2000 to 2004, and I was stunned to hear that

we went to war with Iraq and all about 9/11.

       Before long I was getting tired and headed up to bed. I fell asleep within a few

minutes. I woke up the next morning with the feeling of uncertainty. There was dried

blood on my hands and a small pool of blood on the side of the mattress. I had no

recognition of how that got there or what I did last night. The last thing I remember is

being wheeled through the emergency room doors with the chatter of doctors in the

viewing room looking at me with a glaring stare.
Nick Barbieri

Short Story


                                    Heart of a Champion

        On October 6th, 2008, the Penncrest Lions football team was preparing for the

second biggest football game in school history. I couldn‘t believe our football team was

in fourth place in the Super Seven in the Daily Times with a 5-1 record. That Friday

under the lights on October 10th, 2008, at Lewis W. Scott Field, the Penncrest Lions

would take on the 5-1 hard-nosed, dirty Ridley Raiders. All of us knew what kind of

football team Ridley was, so we gathered together for a captains meeting (involving Rick

Bailey, Tyreek Kershaw, Chris Quintans, and me) Monday after school at 2:15 P.M. in

the football locker room.

        I was the first of the group to speak up, telling the others flat out, ―Fellas, all of us

here know Ridley is no joke, and that is why we must have the most physical up-tempo

practice we have had all year.‖ Chris Quintans, my best friend and a co-captain, became

extremely angry with me when I spoke first and stole his thunder. It was tradition for him

to speak first, but since I was so fired up, I just had to have the first word.

        The rest of the captains agreed, and Rick Bailey chimed in and quickly said

something before we headed out: ―Guys, we can beat this football team; it‘s a matter of

who makes the least mistakes and who controls the football.‖ The Lions football team, as
well as the captains, all looked at each other and said, ―Let‘s bring it in, have fun today,

and run a perfect practice.‖

         I told the captains when we stepped onto the practice field that we should start our

calisthenics before the coaches came out not only to impress them and show them that we

were ready for this week‘s game, but to have more time for play installation and

defensive keys and reads. Chris gave me a dirty look and called me a kiss ass as if I were

out to put him down or outsmart him. When the coaches trotted out onto the field they

saw the look in our eyes, and Coach Cun yelled, ―The Green Mystique (the Ridley

football nickname) does not come into our house and push us around. You all know


         I screamed in a very exciting, bone-crushing manner, ―It‘s go time, boys; bring it

in, and let‘s come out here, fly around, and have a perfect practice today!‖

         Usually Chris and I break the team down before we head in, but when I yelled for

him to break us down, he sarcastically said, ―It‘s all you, Captain Barb; you got it!‖

         This was by far the best practice week of the whole season we as a squad had yet.

Not only were our heads completely in it and focused the entire time, but we also got a

lot of work done and remembered everything that was coming our way on defense. We

installed new run/pass plays on offense to throw Ridley off guard. This week of practice

was so successful and up-tempo because we highlighted our best scout

defensive/offensive players, such as Matt Snow, Drew Snow Joe Bentevoglio, Mikey

Stephens, and Kevin Cosgrove, who mimicked their studs and lined them up against our

aces, such as Chris Quintans, Phil Barbieri, John Young, Jerry Boyer, Tyreek Kershall,

and me to better us for Friday‘s game.
        Friday was here; it was October 10th, game day. This was probably the worst day

of school for me because I couldn‘t focus on anything the whole day besides the game,

and my best friend/right-hand man on the football field was holding a grudge. I kept

having visions of myself making a game-changing play or one of my teammates doing

something spectacular. On top of the game Chip Olinger had put together a pep rally for

our school to get us all pumped up and rowdy for that night‘s game. It was so special

because all of the students and faculty I talked to throughout the day told me that they

would all be attending the game that night to see the Penncrest Lions whoop the Ridley

Raider‘s asses for the first time in fifteen years.

        I was so happy that we were going to have a good crowd for the game, because

not only does it mean a lot to the players how much everyone cares, but it really makes us

play that much better when the school and the community come out to support us. About

four hours before game time I was heading home to go out to lunch with some of the

guys from the team. Mr. Olinger pulled me aside and told me that the game that night had

been sold out and that we would be having a packed house. I couldn‘t believe my ears

when he told me the news; I was almost in shock because I couldn‘t believe 1,300 people

would be coming to see one of the biggest games of the whole year played at Lewis W

Scott Field.

        I called my dad right away once I heard the news, and he only said one word,

―Woooooow!‖ I told him it amazed me how every year the Penncrest Lions have an

average record at best, like, 5-5 or 4-6, and other years Penncrest was lucky if we had

five hundred people come see us play. My dad told me in a serious football tone, ―When

the team plays well, people care, and they want to watch you guys play because the
Central League is a very competitive league and the community members love seeing

their team on top for once. That is why it is important for you to go out there tonight and

make a statement. Go show these fans, especially Ridley, what you and your team are all

about, and just have fun and go win yourself a football game tonight.‖ When I heard

those words come out of my dad‘s mouth, I had goose bumps shoot down my entire

body, which made me more and more anxious for the game. Right after I got off the

phone with my dad, the very first person I called was Chris. I called to fill him on the

news since he was always so interested about facts, news, and statistics. I unfortunately

got his voice mail and left him a detailed message about how sorry I was; I told him I

didn‘t want tension during that night‘s game.

          It was just about ten minutes before game time, and we all sat in the locker room,

dressed and waiting for the coaches to come in to give their final speeches before we

headed out to battle. I slowly looked around the room, containing a raging anger and with

an aggressive look on my face. I looked into my teammates‘ eyes and saw the war paint

that they had sketched on their faces, and I said to myself under my breath, ―We are


          The coaches came in, clapping their hands, yelling, and getting us hyped for the

game when Coach Graham said a phrase that caught our attention immediately: ―Heart of

a Champion, fellas, Heart of a Champion!‖ Since Monday‘s practice our quote or saying

for the week was ―Heart of a Champion,‖ and we all found it very ironic Coach Graham

said, ―If you have the heart of a champion, you will come out victorious tonight on that

field. We were all silent, kneeling down, bowing our heads, and praying the Our Father

before it was time to fight against the undisputed Ridley Raiders. Two minutes before
kick-off all I could hear was the stadium roaring like a pride of lions, excited and anxious

for the game to start, with butterflies flapping their wings in my stomach, making me

more nervous than I ever had been before. I was upset that my best friend, Chris

Quintains, still didn‘t look my way after I had apologized and left him a message telling

him I was sorry for my selfish act.

       The Raiders were set to kick off since we won the toss and chose to receive the

ball first so we could shove it down their throats on the first drive to really shut them up.

We really wanted to kill their swagger. On the first play we took the ball out to the

twenty-five yard line, which put us just where wanted to be, and Matt Atkinson, our

quarterback, faked veer and took off running down the center of the field, giving a head

fake to the corner back and taking the ball into their forty-five yard line. The stadium

screamed in amazement, and I looked to my partner in crime, Chris Quintans, and said,

―Holy shit, bro, I can‘t even hear myself talk right now; this is unbelievable!‖

       I saw him glance at me and smile, and he bobbed his head up and down, saying,

―We got this, baby; we got this. Let‘s just punch this bad boy in for six and shut them and

their fans up.‖ Right after he said that to me, a big question mark sat on the top of my

helmet. ―What made him say that to me, especially since in the locker room he didn‘t

even acknowledge me?‖

       On the next play Jerry Hammer Boyer was able to barrel himself into the end

zone to give us the lead, 6-0. Unfortunately for how hard our defense worked that week,

Ridley drove right down the field on us in eight plays and put seven on the board with the

score standing at 6-7, Ridley Raiders. As soon as the defensive unit trotted off the field, I,
as the captain of the defense, got a whole mouth full of criticism from our defensive

coordinator, Coach Cun.

       We had 1:00 left until half time, and the score stood at 6-13, Ridley Raiders, with

Ridley in our red zone about to punch it in again if we didn‘t shut them down. The worst

part about it all was they would be getting the ball again in the second half, so that meant

that the defensive unit that we needed to stop them here. The Ridley quarterback slung a

bullet into the stomach of Troy Foster, a 6‘1‘‘ wide receiver, and gave his team the

astonishing lead of 6-19. As a team we walked into the locker room, and I saw that some

of the guys had their heads down as if the game were already over and the Ridley Raiders

had come in and beaten the Penncrest Lions for the sixteenth year in a row. I screamed at

the top of my lungs in complete anger and said, ―LET‘S GO; THESE KIDS ARE NOT






HELL UP!!‖ After I yelled for a good three minutes straight, I looked around and saw

everyone staring directly at me as if my head were going to explode.

       Right after I said my words, Coach Graham came in and said, ―I overheard what

Barb said, and he is right; you guys are making too many mistakes, and they are

capitalizing on all them. This can‘t happen in the second half, so buckle down and come

out and smack them in the mouth as you did all week in practice, which impressed the

hell out of us coaches.‖
       Chris grabbed my arm before I walked out and said, ―Let‘s get this win, and we

will settle our problem after the game.‖ I gave him a high five and a little love tap on his

rear end and then trotted onto the field for the second half.

       The second half kick-off landed the ball on the fifteen yard line, and we came out

flying around, shutting out the powerhouse Ridley offense in three plays every time they

tried to drive on us. We got the ball back on our forty-five, and I told the offensive unit in

the huddle with apprehension, ―This is our time to make a statement and show how much

heart we have, boys!‖ We drove the ball all the way down in five plays, and Matt Bundy

scored on his famous straight away route, which he worked to perfection. During that

play a sneaky Ridley linebacker blitzed on Chris from his blind side and was about to

demolish him, since Chris was battling with the Ridley nose guard. I sprinted and laid out

right in the path of the Ridley linebacker, saving Chris before he had his head taken off.

Chris turned and saw out of his peripherals what I had done, and he said gratefully,

―Thanks for looking out, bro; I appreciate it!‖ The crowd roared in a frenzy, and the

Penncrest Lions were right back in this, 10-19.

       The third quarter had come to a close and the fourth quarter was just about ready

to begin when Coach Graham said, ―Keep your composure out there, and keep doing

what you are doing, because you are wearing them out and they are having trouble with

our run game.‖ In the second half it was our defense that was winning the game for us,

since we were shutting them out every time they received the ball, and there was nothing

they could do about it. With three minutes left in the fourth, the score remained 17-19

with Ridley on our forty-five yard line. Their high hopes that drive ended really quickly

when Tim Masterson, Ridley‘s quarterback, aired one out to Pat Mill and in the blink of
an eye Tyreek Kershall stole the ball in air as if he were robbing a bank. I had never seen

Tyreek jump so high in my entire life; for a quick second I thought Tyreek was Superman

jumping through the air and snagging the ball away from Pat Mills before he could even

get his hands on it. This play changed the game dramatically because not only did Tyreek

intercept the ball, but he also returned it to our twenty-five yard line with a lead block by

me, running people over like a tank along the way. I turned to look up at the crowd and

just pointed and saw the Penncrest fan base in a wave of black, red, and white jumping on

their feet, waving pom-poms and shouting.

       We were still leading 26-19 with two minutes left in the fourth, and Ridley had

the ball on their own thirty-five. Coach Cun immediately called time out to come talk

strategy in the huddle and let us know what to expect with two minutes left. Ricky Bailey

and my younger brother, Phil, told the team to think pass first and watch the screen play.

As we all knew, Ricky and Phil nailed it right on the button; Ridley tried to pass coming

out of the gate. It was fourth down and their last chance to make a play in just about

midfield before the Penncrest Lions would take the victory, 26-19, for the first time in

fifteen years. Masterson hiked the ball, and I sneaked off the edge into the Ridley

backfield like a bolt of lightning, sacking Masterson in the act of passing the football to

his number-one receiver, Pat Mills. The ball flew into the air in the backfield as I laid my

shoulder into the back of his vertebrae, snapping his head backward and chopping down

on his arm like an ax, making it look like a dislocated limb. That was it; the referee blew

his whistle, indicating the end of the game. I was amazed at all the people from the stands

emptying onto the field, because it looked like a giant flood just letting loose. Friends and

family were running right at players, giving hugs, kisses, and congratulations.
       The team gathered around in our end zone, as the coaches and captains said what

was on their minds at the end of every game, and the first individual to speak was Coach

Graham. The first phrase that ran from his mouth in complete excitement and happiness

was, ―That‘s heart of a champion, fellas. The second-half football I saw from this team

tonight was as nothing ever before. If you play football like you did in the second half of

this game for the rest of the season, you will be a force to be reckoned with.‖

       After all the coaches said their words of inspiration and congratulations, I was the

first of the captains to get up and say some final words before we walked off the field for

the night. I jumped up from my knee and just said, ―Clap it up!‖ and the whole team as

one big unit just followed my lead and clapped it up and gave a big loud Penncrest Lions

roar. After the team clapped, all I could say without crying in tears of sheer glory was,

―Thank you, guys, so much for pulling together and believing in one another and beating

an extremely physical football team tonight. Winning this game tonight feels as if we

have just won a championship, especially with all the fans and action that happened in

this game tonight.‖

       I was walking up the steps heading to the locker room, and Chris yelled from

behind me, ―Barb, wait up!!‖ I didn‘t know what he was going to say, but he told me he

was sorry for over-reacting and being selfish. I told him it was no big deal and just to put

it behind us so we could be best friends again. He gave me a friendly, sweaty hug and

said, ―You‘re my boy for saving my ass from that linebacker that almost ended me.‖

       One of the best nights of my life from a football stand point was coming to a

close, and as I walked off the field that night, filled with success and delight, I thanked

every Penncrest or Ridley fan who came to see us play. Just as I was about to leave for
the night, I saw Coach Cun walking to his car; I sprinted over with an ice bag on my

shoulder and just shook his hand and said, ―Good things are down the road; we just set a

high bar for ourselves.‖

        He replied in crazy state of mind, ―THAT IS WHAT I LIKE TO HEAR,



       I really felt as if I had the heart of a champion on the night of October 10th, and I

couldn‘t wait to wake up the next morning, feeling like a winner and seeing Penncrest

Lions football highlighted in big bold print all over the Daily Times.
Monica Bautista

                                   A Change in Her Live

        When Annie wakes up every morning, all she feels is sadness and emptiness. She

thinks that the best solution for her is being herself. It is not a good idea to tell anyone

about her problem, especially her family. She does not feel brave enough. She hopes that

everything will be okay, she will be happy again. She just needs more time to think,

maybe to forget. But, does she really want to forget? She avoids being alone with

someone in her family. They know that something wrong is going on with her, but she

does not talk to anyone, not even with her friends. She makes excuses. She says that she

has a lot to do; she is always busy. Annie has experienced a huge change in her life. She

can‘t stand it anymore. Five years have passed. All she has done is go to school. She

always thought that she was going to be able to handle it, but she was wrong. Now that

she is almost ready to work, all her fears have come back. It is always tough on her when

she has to make decisions. She likes to please everyone that surrounds her. She doesn‘t

want to hurt anyone. That is why it is always that hard for her when she has to make

serious decisions. Annie always puts people that she loves before her own happiness;

however, she needs a change in her life. If she never thinks about herself, she will never

be happy again. She wishes everything would be easier. Would her life be completely

different if nothing had happened? Does she regret her past?

        When Annie woke up, the first thing that she saw when she turned the light on

was the picture frame that was on the corner table of her room. She never used the table

to study; all she used it for was to collect things on it. All the junk that she wanted to
keep but she didn‘t know where to put it. She was so used to having million of papers and

thing on the table that she never looked at the picture. In the picture there was a tall boy.

He looked happy; a big smile showed his teeth. His name was Mark. Mark was one of the

tallest boys of the senior class. He was a good-looking teenager, a good athlete, and had

one of the most perfect smiles in the entire high school. But what made him stand out

from the rest were his eyes. He had unique green, almond shaped, big eyes.

       Annie stared at the picture for a couple of minutes before she got up. She was

tired, but she was also excited because she was going to see Mark at school. He had been

absent from school because he went to a tennis meeting and he missed two days of

school; he also was away for the rest of the weekend. That was the first weekend that

Annie didn‘t see Mark since they started to hang out together. She was having a great

year with him. They were together in Math and Physics classes and they usually helped

each other.

       They tried to find all the excuses that they could have to hang out. Sometimes

they said that they had to work on homework, some random days they went to have

dinner with their families, and even some days they stayed after school and Mark gave

Annie a ride home. In the beginning they were just friends; they talked about everything,

their families, hobbies, what they liked or hated, religion…. After some time they started

to feel stronger feelings, even though they didn‘t want to have a relationship.

       The problem was that Annie was there for a year and then she had to leave and go

back to her country. However, they couldn‘t avoid it. Annie learned English really

quickly, but she kept making some little mistakes. She said ‗on love,‘ and ‗esplain.‘ Mark

thought that it was really funny. That was the interesting part of their relationship;
everyday they had something new to learn. They hadn‘t grown up in the same country,

and they had a different culture. For that reason, they decided that they were going to

follow their hearts. Mark liked to tease Annie with her mistakes. Mark didn‘t have any

idea about Annie´s language because Italian wasn‘t a really important language. He could

take Spanish, German, or French at school, but no one could teach him Italian. Annie was

clear about something; she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, but that was

impossible. That´s why she decided that she was going to enjoy the time she had left and

spend the most time possible with Mark.

        Annie realizes that she cannot be happy until her situation changes. She doesn‘t

feel brave enough, but she needs to talk to someone. She cannot hold everything inside of

her. The person that she can trust the most is her older sister, Sally. She sees Sally every

Friday. Years ago they decided that they had to see each other at least once a week.

Because of Annie‘s state of mind, she hasn‘t had lunch with her sister for six weeks.

They always go to the same Italian restaurant, a little pizzeria situated in one of the most

beautiful places of Florence, the city where they live. After ordering their food, Annie

starts talking.

        ―What would you do if you have to make a decision, but you know that the

decision that you make would hurt a lot of people that you love and would make you the

happiest person at the same time?‖ Annie says, sounding confused. She doesn‘t want to

tell anything about Mark to Sally.

        ―Annie, I have been worried about you lately. You don‘t look happy; you don‘t

have any plans for your future. What are you thinking to do after you leave college? You
don‘t have a lot of time left and you should stop thinking about the others and look into

yourself.‖ Sally sounds sure of herself. She doesn‘t know her sister‘s problem, but she

knows that Annie needs her help and she is there to offer it.

       ―I am sorry for not telling you what my problem is. Thank you for being worried.

That means a lot to me. I only need a little bit of time to look at myself and make a

decision. I am going to follow your advice. Thank you, Sally.‖

       They have a good time together. Annie doesn‘t remember the last time she has

had fun talking to someone. Her sister means a lot to her and Annie feels hopeful again.

       When Annie gets to her house she starts to look for a job. She sits down with the

computer. She spends hours and hours, but she doesn‘t find anything that she really likes.

While she is in front of the computer, she remembers something that Mark told her once:

―I‘d rather do something that I like than something that I don‘t love.‖

       Annie has refused to think about Mark for two years. She thinks that forgetting

him and the year that they spent together would help her in her life back to Italy. She

needs to focus on her professional career. She has to study and forget all her dreams,

because she knows that none would ever come true. But she didn‘t know that she was

going to be miserable making such a decision. After talking to her sister, she starts

opening her mind, looking to other solutions, and thinking about Mark again. For two

years she has never been able to see or do anything that would remind her about Mark

and their great moments. But at this point, she feels brave enough to do so.

       She goes to her room. Behind her bed she has some boxes with memories. Each

box is labeled. Her eyes go through all of them looking for one. She reads them out loud,
‗Beach memories,‘ ‗High School projects,‘ ‗College applications,‘ ‗United States

memories,‘ ‗Family pictures…‘ ‗United States memories.‘ The second time she says that

one, she has a different voice; her heart starts to beat rapidly. She exactly remembers

everything she has in that box. She could never forget a second spent in the United States.

Each day was a day full of surprises, a new adventure, something different to live. Annie

starts to take the stuff out of the box. She has a bunch of maps from the cities that she

visited, some Christmas presents, birthday cards, notes, and an envelope with pictures.

She opens the envelope nervously, slowly. She remembers each one of the pictures that

she has there. They are not simple pictures; each one reminds her of a different whole

story that she lived. She knows that everything actually happened, and she feels that it

was real, part of her. She cannot avoid it anymore. She has some pictures with her

friends, her host family, a couple pictures of beautiful cities and places that she visited,

and many pictures with Mark. She keeps looking at them. Why did she let this happen?

She was forcing herself to forget something or someone that was going to be part of

herself for her entire life. For a moment she hates herself. But she is ready to change; she

is ready to be happy. She only has to wait for the right moment.

       “You know that I love you, right?‖ Mark said. He didn‘t say it loud. He was

almost whispering. They were really close so Annie heard it easily.

       ―Yes, I do…‖ She also whispered.

       After a pause of uncomfortable silence, Mark continued, ―I don‘t want you to

leave. You only have four months left and I am worried about the future, our future. I
can‘t help it. I think about this every day. It is really hard to get to sleep every night. I

hope to feel better talking to you about it.‖

        ―What do you want me to say? I feel the same as you do. We have talked about

this before. We are going to try, of course, but we don‘t know how everything is going to

end.‖ Annie talked honestly.

        ―Please, don‘t say that word, end. We are not going to have an end. Right?‖ Mark

was confused.

        ―Don‘t get confused. By end I mean a resolution. How is this going to be

resolved? I just don‘t know….‖

        ―What I know is that I would never be able to move to Italy. I don‘t know a word,

plus my parents…they would never support me with this idea. They want me to be

successful and go to college here in America. Believe me, I wish I could leave everything

right now and run away with you, because you are everything to me. I also wish my

parents were like yours. They would let you go.‖

        ―Are you saying that this depends only on me? Do you think that it is that easy? I

guess it is extremely easy to say: hey, leave everything you have for me because I cannot

do it for you, but don‘t worry, I still love you.‖ Annie started to raise her voice.

        ―Please, don‘t say that. You just misunderstood. I have just told you that I would

leave everything I have for you because you are everything to me, but the situation does

not let me do it.‖

        ―Okay, okay. Sorry. I always get frustrated with this. It is going to suck.‖

        ―If you decide to come back here to live with me, I promise you that no one will

ever love you as much as I will. And I will make you the happiest person in the world.‖
Annie didn‘t know what to say. She couldn‘t promise that. She wished everything were

easier. She knew that if she was supposed to spend her life with Mark, time would tell.

But she would have to wait.

         Two months haves passed since she opened the box. She has been thinking about

writing Mark an email. She hasn‘t talked to him for two years since she decided to call

him and tell him that it wasn‘t working. She literally broke his heart and hers at the same

time. But she was not coming back to live with him. That was for sure, or what she tried

to convince herself of. She told him that she didn‘t want to talk to him anymore. It was

the best solution for both. She had to forget him.

         The box and the pictures have given her a new solution for her life. She knows

that no one else can make her happy. However, she doesn‘t know if he is going to forgive

her. Maybe he doesn‘t want to talk to her, maybe he forgot Annie, or he is dating

someone else. But Annie knows that if she doesn‘t try, she is going to regret it the rest of

her life.

         Dear Mark,

         Probably you are wondering why I am writing you right now. Yesterday I was

cleaning up my room and I found a box where I had all my stuff from United States, our

pictures and stuff…you know. I just wanted to know if everything is going well. What are

you up to? Last time I talked to you, you were still at college, but I am sure that you are

done with school by now. I bet you have a great job. I really don’t know if you are mad at

me. Maybe you don’t even want to answer me back. And you don’t have to, but it would

make me really happy to hear from you.


        Annie decides to go for a run. She doesn‘t want to stay in front of the computer

wanting to see Mark‘s name in her inbox. She is not even sure if Mark is going to answer


        After running, she goes home. She still doesn‘t want to check her email. She calls

one of her friends to go out for dinner. She doesn‘t want to be at home.

        When Annie wakes up the next morning, she cannot move. She drank so much the

night before that she doesn‘t even remember when she got home or how. She remembers

that she had a lot of fun, but now she has a huge headache. For a couple of hours she

doesn‘t even think about Mark or the email. When she finally gets up, she goes to the

kitchen. She is really thirsty, but she doesn‘t want to drink anything. She feels like

throwing up.

        When she turns around, she sees her computer. Suddenly she thinks about Mark

and the email. She moves really slowly and turns the computer on. She cannot believe it.

Mark has answered her. She starts reading it.

        Dear Annie,

        I am so glad you wrote me. I really wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know how. I

remember that you said you didn’t want to talk to me anymore and you also wanted to

forget me…

        Annie is feeling really bad; she stops reading the email and runs to the bathroom.

She wishes she hadn‘t drunk the day before. She can‘t wait to read the rest of the email.

She is really excited but she really feels miserable. With all the energy she has left, Annie

goes to the kitchen; she takes one of her medicines and goes back to the computer.
         …I know that you made a decision and I am not going to change anything. I only

want you to know that no matter how much time passes, three, five, ten years, I would

never forget you. I will never be “on love” with another person, because I know that you

are the one. I really miss teasing you when you “esplain” things to me or say “I am in my

way home.” I haven’t heard that for a really long time. I just want you here with me, but I

know that it is going to be impossible. Maybe you were right and I should forget you, but

it is just impossible. I still love you and I will always love you.



         Annie is anxious and nervous at the same time. She doesn‘t know how her family

is going to react, but she has made a decision. It is time to follow her heart. After having

dinner with her family she is ready to tell everyone. She gets up saying that she has to tell

them something.

         She doesn‘t know how to start. It is not easy. She takes a deep breath and she

starts. ―You all know that these couple years I haven‘t been really happy. I was confused

about my future. First, I didn‘t know what to study. Once at school I was better, but still

sad because of the situation with Mark. I have tried to forget him so hard. And you all

have been witnesses of that. The reality is that it is not working. When I lived in the

United States, I had the best time of my life and I owe all to him. Mark made me happy;

he taught me English and the meaning of the word ‗love.‘ If I tried to forget that part of

my life, it was because I didn‘t want to hurt you. It was you or him, a tough decision huh?

Now I am clear. Finally I know what I want. I love you all, but I need something else. I

need Mark with me. And the only option is moving to America.‖
       Annie's father gets up and leaves he doesn't even look at Annie. There was an

awkward moment lurking in the room. Annie's mother is the only that talks to Annie, "I

really don't know what to say. We are your family, and we want you with us. Your father

doesn't really understand. I know your heart is split in two places. You know we love, but

it is also clear that Mark loves you too. I can't tell you what to do, but my only advice is

to follow your heart even if it is in America." Annie's eyes start to water, and she drops

her head. She slowly looks up to see her mother now in tears. Annie walks over and

throws her arms around her mom, now knowing that her mother truly cares.

       ―This is going to be a long day,‖ Annie says when she wakes up. She is going to

take a plane to Amsterdam from Florence. She has to wait three hours in Amsterdam. At

5:45 pm, the flight to New York leaves. She cannot sleep. She called Mark´s mom a

week ago to tell her that she was going to visit them. Mark´s mom didn‘t say anything to

him. It was going to be a visit and a surprise for Mark. But no one knew that a huge

surprise was coming up. This is the fifth time that Annie is going to United States. The

day is going too slow; she cannot wait to see Mark. How is he going to react? Will he

look the same? Will he have the same smile?

       They should be waiting for her at the airport; Mark´s mom probably told him that

she needed a ride to the airport to pick up one of her friends that was going to spend the

weekend with them. She told Mark that her friend had gone to Europe for a vacation and

she was coming to visit them from Amsterdam, the last place where she was.

       The plane should land in five minutes. Annie imagines Mark in the airport.

Maybe he is tired and he wants to go home because the plane is an hour delayed.
       Annie finally gets to the waiting room, where Mark and his mom have been

waiting. Annie can read Mark´s mind, the moment she spots her long-lost love, because

she feels the same way. They get closer and Annie runs into his arms. Both are crying.

Annie has never felt this happy before. Now she knows that she was right. She will never

regret what she just did, she will never regret leaving her family and everything she had

because she wasn‘t happy with that.

       ―I really don‘t know what to say. I am surprised. Seriously, you don‘t know how

much I love you. Thank you for coming to visit me. By the way, Mom, you did a really

good job. I completely believed you,‖ Mark says.

       ―So Annie, for how long are you going to be here?‖ Mark says, sadly.

―Well, that is something that I don‘t know yet. We have to talk.‖ Annie smiles.

Mark looks confused. After a pause she says, ―I hope you have room for someone

else…because I am not going back. I have been miserable without you. I thought that the

solution was trying to forget you, but that is impossible.‖ She says this crying.

With tears in his eyes, Mark says, ―I have been dreaming that you came back to live with

me so many times that I don‘t know if this is still a dream. I love you, Annie. I promise

that you will never regret this. I am going to make you happy.‖

       Annie knows that. After living the way she lived, she knows that this is what her

heart wants. She doesn‘t say anything. They both know what they feel. They hug each

other; finally after all the obstacles they are together. Love has changed their lives.
                                                                              Mike Feeley
                                                                                 Period 4
                                                                               Short Story
                                                                               Final Draft


       The alarm went off as I walked through the security terminal at 8:15 A.M.

Everyone around started staring at me with eyes like hawks, wondering what I had done.

The security guard pulled me off to the side into a small room. I was at the Philadelphia

airport with eight kids total, including me, and then two adults from my church. We had

our plane to catch at 8:48. One of the adults, Tim, said with confidence, ―Just go with

him, Mike. Everything will be all right. You‘ll be out in a second.‖ His assurance made

me less nervous. However, I didn‘t know why I set the alarm off.

       The security guard said, ―So, kid, what you got in here?‖

       I replied nervously, ―A DVD player, Sports Illustrated, ipod, and camera.‖

       ―That‘s the problem,‖ the guard said. ―You have to take the camera out of the

walk on bag.‖ I left the interrogation room relieved that it was nothing and I could get on

the plane with my seven friends and the parents from church. As I met back up with my

group I told them it was just the camera and everyone started to laugh that I didn‘t know

a camera would set off the alarm. This was only the third time Id been on a plane in my

life. The only other time was when I was three years old and my family went to Disney

World and seven days later came back on a plane. My dads a pilot in the Air Force and

flys C-130s, so he is used to flying on a regular basis and someone would think that,

being his son, I would have been on a plane more often. What I didn‘t know was that
setting off the metal detector at the airport was just one of the many crazy things that

would happen to me in the next seven days.

       I got on the plane and was just as excited for the plane ride as going to Puerto

Rico. I made sure I got a window seat so I could look outside and see how high up we

were. It was about a two and a half hour ride, and everyone except for me decided they

were going to try and take a nap. I would‘ve taken a nap, but I was too excited to even

think about sleeping. I was like a little kid the night before Christmas, waiting for Santa

and my presents. We were about five minutes away from taking off, and I dozed off into

a daydream thinking about how in two and a half hours, instead of being in the polluted

air of Philadelphia, I would be in tropical Puerto Rico where temperatures were in the

high 90s, twenty-five degrees hotter than Philly.

        The plane started to move and startled me out of my daydream. We were finally

taking off. The plane started to move faster and faster, and I felt the wheels take off from

the ground as I looked out the window. Everything began to look as if it was tiny, like

ants on the ground. First I was able to see the people, but then they vanished. Suddenly,

the cars that were once bigger than me were as small as my fingertips. Once we got up to

the clouds, there was nothing interesting to see. When you look out the window, all you

see is the white clouds. After being excited to fly on the plane, my level of adrenaline

dropped and I was able to take a nap for about half the ride.

       I woke up about thirty minutes before the plane was ready to land in Caguas,

Puerto Rico. I looked around to remember where I was. While I was asleep, I had a

dream about being back home, so it startled me to be flying on a plane when I woke up.

For some reason the person I was sitting next to on the plane was nowhere to be seen
when I woke up from my nap. It was an old man who looked to be in his 80s that had

disappeared. Tim, an adult from my church, came and sat next to me and started a


       ―You look pretty tired there, Mike,‖ Tim stated.

       I replied by just saying a simple ―yeah.‖ Tim then started to talk to me about the

plane, but we were interrupted by the pilot announcing that there was going to be some

strong turbulence ahead due to the aftermath of a hurricane and a storm developing over

Puerto Rico. I didn‘t think anything of it because I‘ve seen the pilot say that a million

times in movies. I fastened my seatbelt as the seatbelt light came on and pulled out a

Sports Illustrated with Brett Favre on the cover with a question mark over his head. I was

tired of listening or reading about the debate whether Favre was going to return to the

NFL. The NFL was by far my favorite sport to watch because football was the only sport

I played.

        I turned the pages of the magazine right past the pages about Favre and got to an

article about the Phillies, another hometown team, when suddenly the plane dropped

drastically and everyone let out a scream of horror. To make everything worse the

oxygen masks fell out onto everyone‘s lap. This caused everyone to panic and get out of

their seats to stir up more chaos. I looked to my left to see a couple flight attendants

trying to hold a passenger from entering the cockpit. The man looks familiar and I just

couldn‘t think who it was. He was about 6‖2 and over 300 pounds. Then in the blink of

an eye, I pictured this man standing at a podium being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was Broderick Bunkley, the Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive tackle. Bunkley was

huge and was moving two or three flight attendants like they were little flies. The plane
was still free falling due to the turbulence, when all of a sudden it started flying more

gracefully and began to rise.

       I sighed in relief that I was going to live and the plane wasn‘t going to crash. The

commotion on the plane settled down but was still more than normal due to the

Philadelphia Eagle, Broderick Bunkley. Bunkley finally calmed down a little and was

sitting in a chair being held by three men. I saw a burn that looked like a vampire bite on

Bunkley‘s shirt, and using common sense I figured it was a taser mark. I then noticed on

the side of one of the men restraining Broderick and saw a taser and a badge. This man

was a U.S. air marshal. He was a big African American man who was in good physical

shape. Besides the badge and taser, he looked like any normal passenger and had casual

clothes on. He made eye contact with me and started to make his way over to me, after

taking his hand off Bunkley. He said something to me and I wasn‘t paying attention, so I

had to ask him to repeat himself.

       ―Sure,‖ he said impatiently. ―Do you have any idea who that man I was

restraining is?‖

       ―Yeah. Broderick Bunkley, the defensive tackle for the Eagles, right?‖

       ―Yes. I‘m going to have to talk to you someplace secure, young man.‖ He led me

to the cockpit and there was a room connected. I went into the room and sat on a chair as

he said to sit tight and he would inform me shortly as to what was going on. I sat in the

room for about ten minutes with a lot of things going through my mind. I had no idea

why a U.S. air marshal wanted to talk to me in a secure area. I was still day-dreaming

when the door opened and the marshal walked in. However, he wasn‘t alone. He was

with a guy that I was pretty sure was Puerto Rican and looked to be very wealthy. They
started the conversation by telling me their names. The African American U.S. marshal‘s

name was Tyreke, and the Puerto Rican‘s name was Esteban. Then Tyreke asked if I‘m

eighteen and why I‘m traveling to Puerto Rico. I told him yes and that I was going on a

mission trip in Caquas with my church. They whispered something to each other and

agreed on something. Tyreke asked if I would be able to handle something pretty intense.

I told him with confidence that I definitely could. He came off as if he was pretty

confident in me and told me that what he was about to tell me was confidential and I

can‘t let anyone know. I agreed and started to become curious about what I was going to

be told. Esteban came off as the person that was all about business and that this was no

joke and was a matter of national security. Tyreke then filled me in and told me that for

three years they‘ve been investigating a drug cartel that had been importing drugs into the

United States. I also found out that Esteban wasn‘t just a normal Puerto Rican citizen. He

was a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). Agent Esteban then proceeded to tell me he has

been undercover for two and a half years and was deep inside their drug organization. I

asked them both why they needed me here because I‘m only a eighteen year old senior in

high school. They both said that I was their last resort and they needed me to help them

make the big bust to shutdown the whole drug organization. At first, I was nervous and I

thought there was no way I was going to do it. Then after thinking about it, I realized that

I was traveling to Puerto Rico to take part in a mission trip. I came to the conclusion that

I was going to try and help people in Caguas or I could help my country and save

millions of lives by helping to shut down a violent drug ring.

       I turned to them and told them both I agreed to help them anyway I could. They

took no time and started explaining to me that since Broderick Bunkley had been in
college, he had become a big part of them importing the drugs into the U.S. They

informed me that Bunkley had a twin brother that not a lot of people knew about. His

name was Reggie and most importantly he is identical to Broderick. Since college

Broderick has been taking trips to Caguas, Puerto Rico, to ―visit‖ his brother. The DEA

found out that it‘s been more than visits and every time he visits he picks up hundreds of

thousands of dollars in cocaine. Broderick then brings it back to Philadelphia and sells it

for double what he got it for, making millions. They needed my help because they need

someone who could recognize what Broderick looks like and someone the drug ring

won‘t expect to be an undercover agent. I agreed to help because I would be the last

person they expected to be a cop. I asked what I was going to tell everyone from my

church about where I was going, and they said that they would handle it and tell them I

had a family emergency. Broderick was arrested because he somehow found out that the

DEA was watching him and was with him on the plane so he was trying to get to the

cockpit to crash the plane, and get a parachute and jump off. The only problem about

arresting Broderick now was that we couldn‘t get his brother unless someone went

undercover. This is why they needed me.

       We came off the plane and they took me to their headquarters in Caguas where

this sting was being planned. It was brought to my attention by DEA agents that two

million dollars worth of cocaine was trying to be shipped on a regular commercial plane

like usual. We got there and right away I was being fitted for a wire and told the

procedure if anything happened. During this time Broderick was being interrogated for

any additional information that would be useful to the agents. Esteban made the call to

Broderick‘s brother about getting the two million in cocaine. Reggie seemed cautious
because he couldn‘t get a hold of his brother. Esteban told Reggie that he talked to

Broderick and everything was still supposed to go as planned, but Broderick wouldn‘t be

able to make it. Reggie agreed to still drop it off, but he was beginning to become


        There‘s an airport in Caguas, Puerto Rico and Reggie is one of those people that

load the passengers‘ luggage onto the plane. The DEA wanted me to act as the same

thing that Reggie is but to keep an eye on him. Tyreke told me that he just brought a bag

with him that was filled with cocaine and he puts it on the plane with all the other bags

and someone else just picks it up at baggage claim after they land. I thought about it and

that sounded almost foolproof. Tyreke said to just keep putting the bags onto the plane

and when I saw Reggie reach for his own bag to alert the agents. It was a rushed sting

because we couldn‘t change the time the plane was leaving, and it was scheduled to get

the bags on in about ten minutes. Esteban gave me all the clothes that those workers wear

and headphones that they usually wear because it‘s too loud, but mine would have a mic

connected to the DEA surveillance team. I was nervous at first, but my body was filled

with adrenaline. This was something that I was and still am considering doing after

college. I loved the rush that comes with being an undercover DEA agent. Now I got to

see how I like it before I made up my mind. Esteban and Tyreke dropped me off by the

plane where I would be loading the bags and wished me luck and said thanks for helping

them out.

       I was there for about five minutes when two men came to help me do the same

job. I heard through the headphones that one of the men was Reggie. It was easy to tell

which one because the other man was about 5 feet and 10 inches and was Caucasian. I
told them my name was Rick and that I was new on the job. They both greeted me and

told me their names. I could tell that Reggie had no idea what was about to happen.

Reggie‘s phone rang and I heard him say, ―Don‘t worry, Esteban, it will be on the plane.

You just better be there to pick it up in Philly.‖ This was how I knew that it was

definitely going to happen. I asked Reggie why he decided to get a job here and he

responded by telling me that he was abandoned by his father when he was only three and

his mother died when he was ten.

―I‘m sorry to hear that,‖ I responded. This tore me up inside because I felt bad for this

man and I was about to send him to prison for a long long time. I stopped feeling bad for

him when I just thought about all the lives that would be taken because of these drugs.

We started to put all the bags on the conveyer belt, and I noticed that Reggie reached

behind something and pulled out a black travel bag. He looked around for a minute, and I

whispered into the mic that something was about to happen. He put it on the belt and I

took off my jacket. This was the sign that the DEA agents came up with to show them it

was time to raid Reggie.

       ―Get down! Get down!‖ was all I heard, and no more than three seconds passed

before there were around twenty DEA agents all around Reggie. He had no idea what hit

him. I showed Tyreke the bag that I suspected had the two million worth of coke. He

pulled the bag onto a cement block and opened it. Inside was exactly what we were

looking for. This was one of the biggest international cocaine busts that the DEA had in

more than ten years. Millions of lives were saved from not having all these drugs on the

streets. I thought to myself that this was definitely what I wanted to do for the rest of my

life. I could save lives and make our country a better place by stopping criminals and
gangs trying to import drugs. I sat on a plane back to Philadelphia the next day and

thought to myself, ―Maybe if I didn‘t decide to help Tyreke and Esteban, then there

would be two million worth of cocaine on this plane.‖ I didn‘t have to worry about that

Hauser, Billy, To learn to learn

To Learn to Learn

I had always loved climbing ever since I was little. Most of the people in town didn‘t like

that I, John Snyder, was good at something. Maybe it was because of my constant laid-

back and non- caring attitude towards life. I really don‘t know why people always wanted

me to joke around and never be serious with anything. I always joked around in school

and never seemed to pay attention to the daily lessons, but for some reason I had always

been an honors student. My mom always said that I had started climbing at the age of two

when I fully climbed out of my crib and began to crawl around the house. I guess from

that day on I have been hooked on this free and open exploratory sport of climbing. I

knew that I was the best climber in the town. That‘s definitely not what Elliot, the pro,

thought. Elliot had been training to be a top-notch climber for his whole life. We never

really talked in school and I never really felt threatened by his climbing. The thing that

pisses me off is that the whole school counted me out when it came to climbing. They all

looked at Elliot when it was anything to do with my life and my dreams of climbing.

My friend Jack and I decided to go climbing one day. ―Jack, does Elliot seem like a jerk

to you?‖ I was climbing on the rocks at Simsbury State Park.

―Uhh, yeah, that kid‘s full of himself.‖ Jack was taking the easier route to the top of

Simsbury Cliff. ― He thinks he‘s all that, and a cup of piss!‖ We both erupted in laughter;

it was a joke we had said in Mrs. Boiler‘s class almost every day. Jack normally loved to
come climbing with me because of the amazing exploration that came with it. ―Everyone

thinks that kid‘s great at climbing, but in reality he ain‘t shit.‖ Jack had always supported

me and I have always supported Jack. ― All I know is that all that training and being on

the climbing team means jack shit. You got natural talent.‖ As I approached the peak of

the cliff, I saw that there was an awesome banyan tree for me to climb. Jack had already

reached the top of the cliff and was sitting on a log a few feet over in this dense forest. I

began to quickly to climb the tree. It was so much fun because of the immense difficulty.

I got about ten feet high and oddly slipped on what turned out to be some sap that I

couldn‘t see. I plummeted straight to the ground leaving me with a sprained ankle and a

strained back.

I lay there on the ground. ―Shit! It‘s broken, dude.‖ Jack‘s mom was an EMT and had

taught him some medical facts.

― Does this hurt?‖ He slowly pushed my ankle back.

―Yes. Yes!‖

―How about this?‖ He locked his hands on my ankle and swayed it side to side.

―Uhh, not really, actually, no, it doesn‘t hurt.‖

― It‘s just an anterior sprain of the Achilles tendon.‖ He was confident and I knew he was

right. His medical terminology always came out at the right times. I was so happy that I

didn‘t break any bones. I had fallen right into a pile of shrubs that somewhat relieved the


― I hope, dude.‖ I began to push myself up. ― Shit. My back, dude.‖ Jack began to push

on my back and found the spot that I had hit.
― So that‘s where it hurts, right?‖ I nodded. He began to feel around it. ― Dude, it‘s a

minor sprain.‖ He felt again. ― Yeah, don‘t worry about the back. That pain is as good as

gone come morning.‖

I woke up the next morning and felt incredibly sore. It hurt twice as bad as it did the day

before. As I arrived at school, I remembered that there was a huge climbing competition

that very day. Jack and I were in fourth period class when we were told that the school

was having a surprise pep rally. Everyone was ecstatic, including me. As Jack and I

approached the Peterson Gymnasium, we unusually noticed that they had a huge rock-

climbing wall on the center floor. Elliot, of course, was warming up and was feeling

popular due to the whole school having to watch him climb on this professional looking

wall. As talking tuned down and the pep rally started to get serious, I heard them

announce that the climbing competition would be first thing. They introduced Elliot as if

he was a rock star. He was in the first group of climbers. As the start bell rang he took off

quickly. I watched him climb. Every single move, method, and technique that he had

learned seemed so sloppy. When he made mistakes, the crowd would go crazy as if he

was going to fall and die. He was winning. I guess he was so careless and made so many

mistakes because he never free climbed. He always had a support behind him to save his

mistakes. When I would climb with Jack, I knew that we were in the wilderness and that

any mistake could mean death. Jack looked at me and said, ― Elliot does suck.‖

― Dude, I don‘t know how this kid is winning. Like, what would happen if we made those

mistakes out in Simsbury,‖ I said.

The final climb championship rolled around, and Elliot took off quickly. He ended up

winning again. He approached the small podium that our student leadership members had
made. They handed him the microphone. ―I would like to thank everyone in the school

for letting this competition grow so much. Also I would like to thank myself and my

muscles,‖ he chuckled.

I finally arrived home from school. Jack took the bus with me and we began to heat up

some Lean Pockets. My mom was already home and was waiting for me to tell her about

my day at school. ― Hey, Mom,‖ I said.

―Hey, hunny, how was your day?‖ She seemed to be in an amazing mood for some odd


―It was pretty fun. We had a pep rally that wasn‘t planned.‖

―Oh, really? That sounds fun.‖ Jack raised his eyebrows and looked at me.

―More like agonizing for John. He had to sit there the whole time and watch Elliot climb

like a complete idiot.‖ Jack knew somebody had to break the ice.

―Oh, John. What is with you and that damn kid Elliot?‖

― I don‘t know. I guess I just don‘t like his attitude, or maybe because he is recognized

and shit.‖ She shook her head. ―As a matter of fact, I‘m going to the school right now to

see if I can beat his time on the wall.‖

― Jonathan Snyder! You are staying home today, and you‘re in no condition to climb

today. You shouldn‘t even be walking after falling off of Simsbury cliff.‖

―Well, sorry, I‘m going.‖ Jack and I quickly left the house. We got to the school in less

than five minutes and walked straight into the gymnasium. As we approached the wall,

we saw that it hadn‘t been moved at all since the pep rally. I told Jack to start the timer

and began to climb.

―Dude, aren‘t you going to put the harness on?‖
―No, harnesses are for fags.‖ Jack was looking up as I was confidently grasping each rock

with ease. My ankle started to feel a little better because of the adrenaline. My body was

already dripping in sweat due to the high humidity and heat that always found its way

into the gymnasium. Maybe, it was due to the five hundred sweaty students that were in

there about an hour ago that made it feel extra muggy. I reached the top quickly.

― Dude, what the hell? You just got a 23.73.‖ Jack seemed happy about my time. ―Just

please make it down in one piece, dude, because Elliot‘s time was like a 27.‖

I had always loved everything about climbing. Whether it was something impossible to

climb or something easy to climb I would always try it regardless. I believe that my

attitude towards trying anything in climbing has made me much more natural and

embracing of my true abilities and weaknesses. I was always attracted to climbing

because of how free it was, how fun it was and how much skill I had towards it, but I

have realized that it has become a part of me. As I improve in my climbing, I feel like I

am improving in my entire life. Although the danger and the risk might make some

people not like the thought of climbing, I believe that the danger makes me improve

quickly and efficiently. I had always hated Elliot for his recognition and his attitude, but

there will always be one thing that we share. Both of our hearts are partly consumed by


I woke up the next morning and saw the blue skies and the thermometer outside that had

already reached 67 degrees. I felt amazing and must have slept for ten straight hours. I

desperately wanted to skip school and go into Simsbury. I took a perfect shower and felt

amazing. My ankle must have slept along with me that night. I walked into my mom‘s
room and politely asked, ― Mom, may I please stay home today.‖ She was sleeping on her

stomach and looked like a zombie after her second shift that ended at 1:00 AM.

― No, you can‘t miss anymore school.‖ She shimmied around in her bed and let out a

huge pissed off sigh. ― How can I get that through your head, John?‖ I turned around and

knew there was no room for a quick bribe or fuss.

I turned around and walked towards school extra early. I wanted to climb on the wall a

little before homeroom to make the best of the situation. Jack had met me at the main

entrance of the school. We parted ways after eating a Nutri-Grain bar. I sped to the gym

hoping that Mr. Jankowski wouldn‘t be there because I knew it would have been a safety

hazard if I began to climb. The doors to the gym were already opened, which was odd. It

was 57 minutes before homeroom and the doors were open. I peered into the gym and

saw that the rock wall was still in place. I was excited to climb. I walked towards the

front side of the wall and could tell that people were already there. It was Elliot. He was

all harnessed and had just begun to climb. I had never really talked to the kids that were

sitting there watching him climb. Come to think of it, I never even said a word to Elliot,

but there he was, in his own element and in his own little world.

Without preparation or harnessing, I began to do what I did best. I climbed, like I always

did. I took off on the expert wall that was right next to his. I made absolutely no mistakes

and leisurely approached his position. He began to hurry. I could see the white of his eyes

as he would periodically glare over at me. More and more people began to stop in the

gym as the word had quickly spread. After a few seconds of immense chitchat, the gym

finally erupted into people cheering. The cheering fed me to try even harder. I reached for

an extremely difficult part of the wall. As soon as my hand touched this rock, it broke and
flew down to the gymnasium floor. The kids were all there. It became almost silent. I was

hanging by the three fingers on my right hand and was slowly slipping. I yelled, ―Help!‖

Elliot looked over in shock and jumped over towards me. He used his harness knowledge

and techniques to fasten my belt loop on my jeans to his harness.

Elliot whispered, ― Just hold on man. Please don‘t let go.‖ He quickly lowered us to the

bottom. I was speechless. When we both safely reached the floor he said, ― That‘s what

harnesses are for dude.‖ He quickly got me off of his harness.

I looked Elliot in the eyes. ― Thank you, dude. You literally just saved my life.‖ I reached

out and gave him an embracive hug.

Elliot said, ― Now lets get the hell out of here before Mr. Jankowski catches us climbing.

Its almost time for homeroom too.‖ We began to walk towards the exit of the gym.

Jack followed me and said, ― You are a stupid ass.

― Dude, I just wanted to climb and Elliot was already here, dude.‖

― Liar, you wanted to beat that kid.‖ Said Jack

― I guess you could say that.‖ I said

― If you were doing it for fun, you would‘ve strapped in.‖ said Jack

― I was eager dude.‖ I looked over and saw at least fifty students leaving the gym.

Elliot was approaching the door and stopped. He looked at me and asked ― Yo, where did

you learn to climb like that, anyway?‖ Elliot asked.

― I‘ve been doing it my whole life. I‘m way more into free- climbing though.‖ I couldn‘t

believe Elliot wasn‘t this stuck up kid that I had imagined for the past year of my life. I

guess I just saw a different side of him.

― What‘s your number, so like we could climb sometime?‖
It was Saturday, finally, my day to be free and to enjoy. I ran down the stairs and picked

up my phone that was on charge all night. I saw five missed calls. One of the missed calls

we‘re from Elliot. Should I call him? I had no clue what to do. Right as I had made my

decision, my phone rang again. I rapidly picked it up.


―Hey, what‘s up man? It‘s Elliot. I was just bored as hell and wanted to go to some of

your climbing spots I heard of in Simsbury.‖

― That‘s where Jack and I were headed in an hour. If you want to come, we ride bikes

there, so you could meet us right at the entrance of the park.‖

―That sounds sick, man. You can count me in.‖ I hung up the phone and immediately

called Jack to tell him the event.

Jack came over and my mom made us scrambled eggs and sausage links. I felt perfect

again. The weather was perfect. We stepped on our bikes and began the fifteen-minute

ride to Simsbury. Each pedal made the day seem that much better. With the sun rising in

our eyes, we approached the destination. There he was. Elliot was sitting on one of the

big logs that were always at the entrance of the State Park. He looked up at us. I asked, ―

How long have you been here, dude? ―

He replied, ― Well, I‘ve been on this log for about two minutes.‖ He seemed like a

completely different person from the times I had seen him competing.

―Well, the trail is right here.‖ We locked our bikes and walked to the hardest cliff first.

We all climbed for hours. Each one of us was having a complete field day of fun. We

continued to move to different parts of cliffs that we saw and as soon as there was a
possibility to climb something we had already begun trying it out. I reached the top of the

most difficult cliff and saw Jack and Elliot talking as they both climbed. Other than some

few words here and there, most of the time nobody talked. We were each climbing with

110% of our potential. The small breeze had made it cool enough so that none of us were

sweating. I was surprised that Elliot hadn‘t said anything about not wearing a harness or

about the danger of free climbing. Nobody seemed to care about who was better. We all

just climbed and climbed until we were physically depleted.

From that day on, Elliot, Jack and I all became a best-friend trio. We would climb almost

every day, weather permitting. All of our competitive nature found a different route in

our lives. Rather than letting our competitive nature make us boastful, we learned to use

it constructively. This let us all improve immensely. After a few weeks of climbing with

the trio, I finally decided to join the climbing team. Elliot and I both began to improve so

much that we both made it to the state team. Although I was still better than Elliot at

climbing, we still both had found our places and worked with our natural abilities to

make each of us strive in the sport of climbing. That year I qualified for the nationals of

climbing and began to pursue it more as a career than a free- roaming sport. I thanked

Elliot for showing me a different side of climbing and being the spark towards my

improvement. Elliot also was thankful for all of the constructive tips and habits I showed

him through our friendship. As I look back, I now realize that grasping your surroundings

and staying focused will result in happiness.
Creative Writing                                                      Amanda Lombardi

       It was the beginning of a new school year, and Angela had been feeling lonelier

than ever. This summer had been the most heartbreaking out of any. She was always one

to stay in and relax but she didn‘t intend on it being her whole summer, but I guess when

you‘re in the midst of a heartbreak, you don‘t really feel like doing anything other than

being alone. It had all started towards the end of her junior year, one of her tougher years.

She was dating a girl named Kate for what would have been three years in the upcoming

December of her senior year. During the years they were together, Angela always thought

she was happy with her relationship and ignored all the things that had gone wrong

because she wanted this relationship to work out more than anything. Unfortunately for

her, one bad thing after another kept happening. It seemed like things with Kate were

going downhill for a while, but Angela constantly put it off.

       Her relationship with Kate ran deeper than it seemed. Not necessarily because of

how she felt about Kate, but because it was Angela‘s first relationship that was capable of

lasting over three months, and not to mention her first out relationship. Coming out was

hard enough, but dating someone publicly was even harder. Of course it was Angela‘s

decision to make it public because she felt like why should she hide her happiness after

wanting it for so long? Her relationship ended with Kate right before summer had begun.

Angela always had suspicions about Kate cheating because she had caught her doing it

before several times. Kate was always forgiven, until Angela reached her breaking point

the last time. When Kate and Angela met sophomore year, they were complete opposites
but as they got to know each other, they realized how alike they were in most of their

personality traits. Feelings started to unravel uncontrollably for one another, but there

was one problem. Kate had a boyfriend. She swore to Angela over and over again that

she was going to break up with him because she knew she didn‘t love him. To Angela‘s

dismay, it took her a year to finally break up with him. Before Kate broke up with her

boyfriend Angela got sick and tired of waiting around, promise after promise. It hadn‘t

been the first time Kate led Angela on though. Kate took advantage of how much Angela

started to care for her and underestimated her intelligence. Sure, Angela wasn‘t always

book smart but she had more common sense then most girls. At the beginning of Angela

and Kate‘s junior year of high school, Angela had stuck around for Kate who still had not

dumped her boyfriend. Kate constantly complained about him and talked about how she

wanted to break up with him, but didn‘t have the guts. Angela was used to hearing that so

she didn‘t think anything of it. Angela had started getting really upset and thought maybe

she was doing something wrong that made Kate not want to date her. Maybe they weren‘t

right for each other after all? Thoughts raced through Angela‘s head day by day about

those kinds of things. Kate constantly told Angela to ignore those feelings and that once

her and her boyfriend were over, they would be together. She convinced her over and

over she had nothing to worry about.

       Angela continued having those feelings, but no longer expressed them. It killed

her not being able to tell the person she loved about how she felt, but the more she held in

her feelings, the better things were between them because there was nothing to argue

about anymore. Kate started hanging out with Angela more than Jack and Angela loved

it, but there were still the few times Kate was with Jack and it killed Angela inside
because she knew it wasn‘t just ―hanging out‖. It was horrible knowing Angela was

sharing the person she loved with someone else, but couldn‘t stop. She was too

mesmerized by Kate‘s persuasion to stay. There is no doubt Angela loved Kate more than

Kate loved her because of the sacrifices Angela was willing to make that Kate was not to

make things work between them. When she started holding in her feelings about Kate and

Jack it hadn‘t been a problem in the beginning but as two months passed by Angela

couldn‘t do it anymore. It was like a switch went off in her brain. ―If she really loves me

like she says she does, and doesn‘t love him, what is taking her so fucking long?‖. When

she decided to verbalize it to Kate, she just didn‘t seem to grasp it. ―I do love you, I just

don‘t have the guts to dump him.‖ She would say over and over.

        A couple days after arguing with Kate terribly about it, Angela got an e-mail from

her friend Aubrey.

        It read. ―Hey Angela, well since you‘re out now I was wondering if you would be

willing to give some advice. Not to me of course, but my friend Mel recently admitted

she was gay to some of her friends and just would like to talk to someone about it, and I

told her about you. Do you mind if I gave her e-mail or screen name so she has someone

to talk to?‖

        I felt flattered. It was something she had never done before, helping someone out

with those kinds of issues because she had only come out a year ago. She had waited

around for an e-mail that night but nothing came. She checked throughout the week but

still nothing. Finally about a month later, she got an email.
         ―Hey, I‘m Aubrey‘s friend Mel. She told me I could talk to you about the whole

coming out thing haha. Sorry if it is kind of an awkward situation talking to a stranger

like this but I think it‘s cool you‘re willing to do it.‖

         A smile spread across Angela‘s face. It was going to be so nice to finally talk to

someone besides Kate about this stuff, it had never happened to her before. That night

she spoke to Kate on the phone, just like she did every night before bed, after she talked

to Jack of course.

         ―So my friend Aubrey told this girl Mel whose gay about me at her school, and

she wanted to confide in me about her situation with her family, friends, and girlfriend.

Isn‘t that cool?‖ Angela said as she continued to tell her the rest of the things they talked


         Kate replied sternly. ―Yeah that is cool. She had a girlfriend you said?‖

         Angela slowly said, ―Yeah, why?‖

         ―Just making sure she‘s not going to end up hitting on you or trying to get in your

pants.‖ Kate said with a serious tone in her voice.

         Angela hadn‘t thought about the situation like that in the least bit until Kate

mentioned it.

         ―She doesn‘t have intentions like that Kate, she has a girlfriend. We‘ve only

talked one time don‘t jump to conclusions right away like that. I barely even know the

girl.‖ She said in her defense.

         ―Barely know her? Angela you don‘t know her at all you‘ve talked one night. Just

be careful that‘s all I‘m saying, because I don‘t trust this girl, or you. You let people in

way too easily and are too easy.‖
       Angela got quiet quickly. She hated when Kate didn‘t ever try to be understanding

about her situations, or take the time to care, which happened often.

       ―I think I‘m going to go to bed now. I‘ll talk to you in the morning.‖ Angela said

quickly, trying to make it obvious she wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

Kate could tell Angela was upset.

       ―What, are you pissed off at me now because I wasn‘t interested in your

conversation with some random girl who probably wants you?‖ Kate said in a mean tone

of voice.

       Angela hung up the phone without a goodbye, and waited for a text from Kate

after the call was ended. It was routine for that to happen. Whether Kate or Angela started

the fight, one of them would always end up hanging up on each other then finishing the

fight through texts, which Angela hated. She would always try to call back and finish it,

but Kate was always too stubborn to answer the phone after something like that


       Like clockwork, Angela received a text, seconds after she hung up.

―I‘m sorry if I was being a bitch, I just don‘t want to lose you.‖ It said.

       Angela replied. ―Well you aren‘t going to make me stay by acting like that,

especially on top of the fact you‘re dating someone else.‖

       Kate responded with nothing but a sad face, and Angela wasn‘t giving in. It was

complete bullshit to her that even if Mel was interested, which she wasn‘t, why wouldn‘t

she be able to date someone else if Kate has been for a year?

       Angela continued talking to Mel despite the things Kate had to say. Angela was

finally getting a back bone and sticking up for herself. Her and Mel talked about their
relationships and everything wrong with them. It seemed as if there was more wrong then

right in the relationships for the both of them. They seemed to have a lot in common and

decided to meet up for dinner one day. They cracked jokes and told stories all throughout

dinner. Angela couldn‘t remember the last time she actually felt listened to. As dinner

approached it‘s end, Angela walked Mel to her car.

       ―Well thanks for coming out to dinner with me, I know you probably had a lot of

homework to do.‖ Angela muttered.

       ―It‘s no problem really, I had a great time with you.‖ Mel said as she made eye

contact with Angela.

       It felt so good to hear that someone liked spending time with Angela and Mel

could tell she was flattered.

       ―You know,‖ Mel started. ―you deserve someone a lot better than Kate. Maybe

not someone better than Kate, but maybe she just needs to treat you how you‘re supposed

to be treated.‖

       ―Oh yeah?‖ Angela looked up with a sarcastic expression. ‗How exactly am I

supposed to be treated?‖

       As Angela reached the end of her sentence, Mel reached out to touch her hand and

replied. ―You deserve someone who won‘t make you upset more than happy, and you

deserve to be told your beautiful everyday.‖

       Angela blushed and leaned her back against Mel‘s car. Mel looked down after her

statement with no reply from Angela, just a smile.

       Mel headed towards the drivers seat, not knowing what to say.
       ―Well I better get home. My moms probably wondering where I am.‖ She said as

she took a step forward.

       As she took a step forward, Angela reached out and grabbed Mel by her

sweatshirt, pulled her in, and kissed her. It was a soft kiss, not too intense since it was so

unexpected. When they pulled away, Mel looked stunned, but in a good way. Maybe Mel

did have intentions after all, but Angela didn‘t care. It felt good to be wanted for once. It

was the first time she had kissed someone else besides Kate in a year, and it felt good.

Kate rarely ever even kissed Angela. She said it made her feel guilty because of Jack,

although she could have sex with her. It hurt Angela bad and made her self conscious, so

she stopped trying.

       When Angela got home, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked to

see if there were any missed calls or messages. She had fourteen missed calls and eight

text messages, all from Kate. Kate knew that she was going out with Mel that night, so

was consistent on contacting her to make sure nothing would happen. Angela was

hesitant about calling her back because she knew she had to make up an excuse as to why

she didn‘t answer the phone. She didn‘t want to tell Kate they kissed because she knew

that she would freak out at her, even though she had no right to. She put off calling Kate

for about thirty minutes, then decided to call.

       The phone didn‘t even get through the first ring before Kate picked up.

       ―Why the hell haven‘t you been answering my calls?! She exclaimed.

       Angela was immediately racing through excuses to tell her why she hadn‘t

answered. ―I‘m sorry, I thought it would have been rude to pick up during dinner. I mean
it was the first time I met her and everything, I didn‘t want to be text messaging or on the

phone the whole time.‖

       Kate replied quickly. ―So you saw that I kept trying to contact you and just

ignored me? That‘s really nice Angela to do to your girlfriend. I would never do that to

you, I was so worried.‖

       Angela immediately picked out the two things wrong with that sentence. ―What?

You never answer my calls when you‘re with Jack, so you can‘t say you‘d never do that

to me because you always do that to me. Also, you‘re not even my official girlfriend

Kate. You never referred to yourself as my girlfriend until I met Mel. It‘s like you want

Mel to think we‘re official so she can‘t try anything with me.‖

       Kate got defensive. ―You say that like you want her to try something with you! I

don‘t get where all this is coming from. A simple ‗I‘m sorry‘ would have done.

       Angela was done. She wasn‘t going to argue against Kate anymore. It was time

for Angela to finally get what she deserved, and what she deserved was Mel. Angela tried

cutting off all communication with Kate, but Kate was persistent because she finally

wasn‘t getting everything she wanted. Angela ignored Kate as much as she could which

was good enough for Mel. It was the beginning to a happy, and healthy relationship.
                                                                              Kiera Lynch

                                            The Tree

       Conversation buzzed in Jackie Arwel‘s ears like an annoying bug, its wings

beating hundreds of times a minute. He was just one of many agent wannabes sitting in

the sunny courtyard of the academy. A tall man in a black leather jacket who had just

entered the courtyard from the far end caught Jackie‘s eye. The student agent‘s severe

green eyes followed the newcomer as he strolled gracefully down the path, eyes scanning

the multitude of young men and women as he went. Jackie‘s eyes darted to a flash of

color on the leather jacket the mysterious man was wearing. On the shoulder was a bright

red patch, in the shape of two interlocking diamonds. Jackie‘s eyes narrowed slightly as

he tried to get a better look at the man. He was an agent. The red patch on his shoulder

said it all. That would explain the man‘s graceful stride, the way he seemed to glide

across the ground instead of walking like the common person.

       A ball of tension fell in Jackie‘s stomach--the man was tall and skinny and didn‘t

seem like someone one would call a legendary warrior. Jackie knew better. Beyond that

man‘s placid, breakable exterior was a person who could take out a gang of bandits

without breaking a sweat. Somewhere on his person he carried a beam weapon that could

slice through the toughest metal. That was who Jack Arwel wanted to be.

       ―I think that‘s the youngest agent, Master Iin,‖ someone said with a light, airy

voice. Jackie‘s eyes shot to his left. How could he not have noticed someone standing

there? She was a petite young woman, with warm brown eyes and short black hair.
        ―He‘s sort of a celebrity, in the women‘s circles, anyway. They say he‘s one of

the best.‖

        Jackie looked at the woman for another moment without saying anything, taking

in every detail. She wore light clothing for training, as they all did. She had freckles

across the bridge of her nose and cheekbones. Jackie looked away, returning his bottle

green gaze to the agent—Master Iin.

        ―A popular agent? I don‘t know how you could do your job if everybody and their

grandmother knew your name.‖

        Jackie could feel the girl watching him. What did she see? The tough as nails

potential agent he wanted to be, or just a red-haired, green-eyed peasant boy who didn‘t

belong in the great academy? Jackie kept his eyes glued to the agent, resisting the urge to

look back at the girl as she looked him over. Cool indifference--that was what he wished

to portray.

        ―I‘m Liza Ulin, from Loret,‖ the small woman said, holding her hand out to him.

Jackie faced her, looking her straight in the eyes for a moment before taking her offered


        ―Jack Arwel, from Geeren. Friends call me Jackie.‖

        Liza Ulin gave him a small but bright smile, her teeth nearly perfect and pearly

white. Jackie fought back the urge to flinch—the contrast of the typical dark tan Loret

skin and the blinding smile was shocking.

        ―It‘s a pleasure to meet you, Jackie,‖ she said in her high, singsong voice. ―I‘m

sure you‘re aware that we‘ll soon be choosing training groups. We already have a group

of three, but we need one more. Would you mind joining us?‖
       Jackie followed Liza‘s hand gesture and saw two guys talking animatedly to each

other a few yards away. They were the same, in one way: both were giant men, piled with

muscle. However, other than that, they looked nothing alike. One was a dark skinned man

with tightly woven dreadlocks. The other was a black haired, blue-eyed boy with beach-

tanned skin. Jackie figured he was also from Loret.

       ―The blue eyed one is Andre Valen, and the other‘s Orion Forler. Andre and I

grew up together in Loret. We met Orion on the journey here. They‘re both good,

trustworthy allies.‖

       Jackie shot a sidelong glance at Liza. Apparently she could read him better than

he had first thought-she spoke of them as trustworthy allies, and not just good people.

Just being ‗good people‘ wouldn‘t have impressed him in the least.

       ―I‘ll join you, if you‘d like,‖ Jackie said coolly, surveying the two other members

of the group. ―You seem to know enough about the agents. Maybe I should pay more

attention to the gossip of women. Seems you can learn something from it.‖

       Liza gave a musical laugh and motioned for him to follow her, and then she

danced away, back to the two large men. Jackie followed cautiously, his eyes following

every movement the two larger men made. As Jackie came up to them, he felt like a child

looking up at two adults. He was only 5‘9‖, short for a man. These two both had to be at

least six feet tall. Jackie gave each a sharp nod when they introduced themselves.

       In the time between then and when the first training session began, Jackie learned

a lot about his partners. Orion had grown up on one of the many coastal islands-- Jackie

had seen them before, as his hometown, Geeren, was a port city. Orion was the oldest of

four children, and his grandfather had been an agent. He wished to follow in the man‘s
footsteps. Andre had grown up in Loret, born into a miner‘s family. He was often teased

as a child about his father‘s profession and wanted to prove his worth to his old village by

becoming a living legend. Liza had been friends with Andre since childhood, and decided

to become an agent in order to protect those like Andre from the wrath of others.

       Jackie listened silently, taking in every detail. He was prepared to stubbornly

refuse to tell his own story--the reasons for his actions were his own-- but luckily the first

training session started before his partners had time to ask. Thankful for the easy escape,

Jackie followed the others to their first training mission.

       An orange glow penetrated the inky darkness as Jackie crept forward from the

dense brush. Time seemed to slow as his stinging green eyes first caught the glimpse of

the flames through the thick, black smoke. The boy let out a fearful gasp as the

realization dawned on him--his house was engulfed in flames. Jackie lurched from his

crouched position in the shrubs and sprinted across the small clearing between the forest

and the burning building. He didn‘t even make it halfway across when he saw them, their

faces ashen and blue. The eyes he knew so well, that used to burn with life, were glazed

and dull, staring off at nothing. A strangled cry echoed off the giant forest trees…

       Jackie sat up in his bunk bullets of sweat trickling down his face. He clenched the

sheets in his fists and struggled to regain control of his breathing. He had that dream

constantly, and yet it still affected him like this. This wasn‘t the way an agent reacted to

little things like a dream. Jackie snarled at himself and slammed his fist against the bed

board. He had been at the academy for months now. The tests were growing more and

more rigorous and realistic; most of the young people that had striven to get this far had
failed long before now. He was part of only six groups of trainees still left fighting their

way to the top, four to a group. Soon the graduation test would be coming upon them, and

he was still letting dreams wake him in the night? Jackie let himself fall back and stared

at the bottom of the bunk above him for a moment before closing his eyes again. Control

of his mind would come in time.

       Jackie and Orion inched forward across the hard, dry riverbed. It was absolutely

silent—so far into the game, they didn‘t need to speak to communicate. Hand signals and

quick looks were utilized at times, but mostly they just knew what the other person was

going to do. A few loose rocks tumbled down the canyon wall, and Jackie‘s eyes scaled

the sheer cliff face, searching for the source of the disturbance. There was nothing there

that he could see, but that didn‘t mean there hadn‘t been something moments ago. Bottle

green eyes narrowed slightly in suspicion, Jackie resumed his silent trek across the dusty

red rock. Rock crunched behind him, and having a visual of Orion ahead of him, Jackie‘s

mind and body went into the mode of fight or flight. His hand clutched the smooth, dark

black handle of his personal Avien hidden in the folds of his jacket. As he drew the

weapon into the open, the glowing silver beam grew out of the black handle like a ray of

sunlight breaking through the night at dawn.

       Jackie swung around, his eyes meeting with the strange eyes of an enemy— a

bandit, a member of the particular group they were tracking through the canyon. As the

opposing man began to lift his own weapon--Jackie recognized it as a B-15 Phaser--

Jackie flicked his wrist, disarming the man and taking off his hand in the same smooth
motion. There was no blood; the Avien blade seared the wound shut even as it was

inflicted. The bandit fell back, staring at his severed limb in shock.

        ―Jackie! Bogies over here!‖

        Jackie swung around at the sound of Orion‘s deep voice echoing off the canyon

walls. Convinced the man who had attacked him wasn‘t about to get up and try again,

Jackie took off toward the sound of chaos, intent on helping his partner. There were three

targets using their numbers to bear down on Orion. Hoping to even up the odds a bit,

Jackie growled and leapt into the fray, engaging the man that had been attempting to

attack Orion from behind. Thrusting the Avien blade through the gut of the man, Jackie

let his eyes quickly flicker to a large shape behind the now neutralized threat, and time

stopped. His jewel colored eyes widened in a state of blank fear and stayed glued to the

giant, gnarled tree beyond them--a lone standing giant, the only one he‘d seen in the

canyon. From its barren branches hung four limp shapes, like giant misshapen pears.

Their eyes stared ahead, glassy and dead. Their bloated, blue faces stayed frozen in

expressions of peaceful rest--an eerie, misleading sight. Jackie stayed frozen in his half

crouch until he felt a thud and a sharp pain on the side of his head, then the brutal scene

faded to black.

        Jackie stared at the bland beige wall, his bandaged head throbbing. He didn‘t react

at all when he heard the door open and shut quietly behind him. The soft, familiar sigh of

his teacher didn‘t even bring him to look away from the dull color. He could see the grey

tree, dusted in red.


        He could see their lifeless eyes, still staring.

        Everything, he could see it in the neutral colored wall. They had failed that

hologram mission because of that tree, those corpses. They had failed because of him.

        ―Jack Arwel, snap out of it.‖

        Jackie tore his eyes away from the wall and gave Master Iin a sidelong glance.

        ―Sir,‖ he said blandly. What else was there to say? Master Agent Nalen Iin looked

at Jackie for a long moment silently, his intense blue eyes seeming to bore into the

student agent‘s mind. The silence grew until the sound of the agent‘s voice almost

startled Jackie.

        ―What happened back there, Jack? I‘ve never seen you let down your guard

before. Ever. Something spooked you back there, shook you to your core. What was it?

The tree?‖

        ―It was nothing, sir.‖

        ―It was obviously something…‖

        ―I said it was nothing.”

        Iin blinked in surprise at Jackie‘s snarled response. The boy had never been one to

show a lot of emotion, let alone the obvious rage in his response. Master Iin looked at

Jackie for another moment before sitting back in his chair and sighing.

        ―All right. Don‘t talk to me about it, but for your sake and the sake of your team

tell someone. Anyone. Let it out. Maybe it won‘t haunt you during the real test, not quite

like it did today.‖

        Jackie finally turned to look his master in the face, his severe green eyes meeting

Iin‘s intense blue ones.
       ―Yes sir.‖

       The evening was cool and comforting as Jackie sat in a tree above the

HoloCourse, the scene that had taken place there, only hours before, replaying in his

head. It was silent, too silent. The snap of a twig gave her away. He heard her swear

under her breath, and a small smirk slipped across his face.

       ―Better luck next time, Liz. Might want to avoid those dry sticks. Not the first

time they‘ve given you away.‖

       Jackie glanced down from his spot up in a tree and found Liza looking up at him

from the ground. She quickly swung herself up into a branch close to his. Jackie turned

his eyes back to the training course.

       ―Not my fault you have the senses of a wolf. How am I supposed to beat that,

with or without dry sticks?‖

       Jackie gave an amused grunt, his eyes never leaving the course.

       ―Orion and Andre?‖

       Liza followed Jackie‘s gaze down to the HoloCourse and leaned her back against

the cool tree trunk.

       ―Coming. Taking their time, as usual. What is it that you have to tell us anyway?‖

       ―Something I should have told a long while ago.‖

       ―Well then, Alpha, let‘s hear it.‖

       Jackie followed the familiar jester‘s voice to Andre, Orion only a foot or so

behind him. Andre perched himself on a rock overhang, jutting out above the cliff, and
Orion sat in the crook of the tree opposite Jackie and Liza. Jackie gave a long, shaky sigh

and closed his eyes, recalling the horrid memory.

       Jackie had gone into town, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the War Barges

before they left for Orez. By the time they had gone out of sight, the sun was setting.

Jackie had the dagger his father had given him—he wasn‘t worried about walking home

through the forest in the dark. He had done it hundreds of times before, after all. If only

he had known how different that night really was. It took him less than a half-hour to get

through the woods. The noise was what caught his attention first. The nine-year-old Jack

Arwel ducked into the bushes as a large group of loud rowdy men marched past, bundles

over their shoulders. They spoke of the pathetic fight their quarry had put up, and the

goods they had taken from the site. Jackie waited until their voices had faded entirely

before moving on--he knew nothing about the men, but he knew danger when he

encountered it. Whom had they hit? The only house this far out was…his own.

       Jackie saw the glow of the flames before he saw them. The smoke stung his eyes

as he stared, helpless as his house crumbled under the heat. Jackie lurched from his

crouched position in the shrubs and sprinted across the small clearing between the forest

and the burning building, knowing there was nothing he could do, but not wanting to just

stand there and watch it happen. He had to try. That‘s when he saw the tree-- the big,

ancient oak tree that had been there since he could remember and long before that. Four

lifeless forms hung there from thick ropes. Their faces were blue, from lack of oxygen. It

took Jackie a moment to realize who they were. There, hanging from the tree like ripe

fruit, was his entire family: mother, father, and two younger sisters. Jackie‘s world
toppled on him at that moment, as his knees buckled and hit the dirt. Through hot, salty

tears Jack Arwel vowed to himself and the souls of his family that he would get revenge--

he would find the people who did this and keep it from happening to others. Jackie cut his

family down and buried them alone. Then he vanished into the forest, turning and leaving

his home forever.

       Jackie used the dagger to cut a chunk out of the tree between his branch and

Liza‘s as he waited for some sort of response from his friends. It was a few more minutes

before Orion broke that silence.

       ―That‘s what threw you off today then, I assume.‖

       Jackie turned sharp green eyes to Orion before quickly looking away again,

returning to his whittling on the tree.

       ―Your assumption is correct.‖

       ―After all this time, it still burdens you so? You were nine years old, that‘s a long

time to hold that inside.‖

       Jackie growled roughly, stabbing the tree with his blade, burying it deep into the

ancient wood.

       ―How could I not? Being nine only made it worse! I‘m little as it is, think of how

I was when I was nine! I couldn‘t fight. I couldn‘t track, hell I could barely get up the

courage to wield my dagger, let alone use it in defense. I was a small, quivering, useless

lump of flesh, unable to do anything but watch my home burn and stare at the brutalized

bodies of my family. They took everything from me, those bastards. Everything.‖
        There was a long silence, which Jackie used to calm down. The rage and intense

pain he felt every time he even thought of his past rushed up, even as he tried to beat it

down. He felt a light touch on his arm, and his eyes snapped to his right. Liza laid her

hand on his arm, sympathy in her warm brown eyes.

        ―Jackie, I don‘t think you‘re seeing the real problem. It‘s not the bandits you‘re

really at war with; it‘s yourself. You‘re angry with yourself. You think you should have

been able to do something, to save your family and your home. The truth is, there was

nothing you could have done, Jack. You were nine. Even Master Iin wouldn‘t have been

able to do anything when he was nine. I wouldn‘t have, and neither would Orion or

Andre. Before you can control your feelings, you have to forgive yourself.”

        Jackie looked at Liza with dismay, knowing she was right. He couldn‘t have done

anything, even if he had been there. He just would have died with the others. He clenched

his eyes shut and let out a broken sob. Jack Arwel, the only survivor of the Arwel Family,

finally mourned.

        Four student agents crept across the dried riverbed. Jackie was immediately on

high alert--this is where everything had started to go wrong in the test run. He held out

his arm, stopping Andre before he rounded the bend. Jackie slowly peered around the

bend, with his hand having a white-knuckle grip on his Avien. There were eight of them

sitting around their makeshift camp, talking and joking loudly. So far, he and his group

hadn‘t been detected. Jackie began moving with his back tight against the canyon wall.

The others followed the unspoken command, sliding silently forward against the rock

         One of the bandits managed to catch a quick glimpse of movement in the

darkness, and the group of eight stood, phasers drawn, scanning the darkness with their

dark, cold eyes. The four agents activated their Aviens, and the battle began. Bandits

fired their phasers, and the agents blocked the shots with their Avien blades, rushing

forward at one time, in one, smooth movement. A shot hit Jackie‘s arm and jerked him

sideways, and that‘s when it appeared-the tree, the tree with the lifeless bodies hanging

from its branches. Jackie turned away, watching as his partners finished the last of the

targets. That hologram family was not his. This was not his house or the bandits that

caused him so much pain. There was nothing he could do about the past. He had to move

on to his future, and let his pain settle. Life would move on, with or without him. He had

to let it all go.

         Jackie looked at his peers, and then at their teacher. They were the only team to

survive the last challenge: Andre, Orion, Liza, and himself. Only four of them had

survived the rigorous training, the constant testing and deadly challenges. From hologram

matches to true battles, they had prevailed. Orion glanced at him and winked as they all

powered on their Aviens. The beams glowed brightly, and the air seemed to sizzle around

them. Weapons of ancient power, as Master Iin had said. Jackie looked at Master Iin as

he went through the motions of the ‗graduation‘ ceremony. The Master Agent laid out

four jackets, the jackets of Agents. Jackie looked at the one he knew was his.

         The jacket was tough, black leather, with only the red, hard leather patch on both

shoulders to mark him as an agent. He tore his eyes from the jacket and looked at the

glowing saber in his right hand. Twelve months. Had it only been twelve months ago that
he had been just an outcast? From outcast to agent. From pauper to king. His grip on the

weapon tightened. Ever since the attack, he‘d been dedicated to becoming an agent, to

fighting against those who had dared to invade his home and slaughter his loved ones.

Overcoming his pain, his rage at himself, had been the hardest task. One could not be an

agent if he had a heart full of fear. That had been the way before the creation of, and

during the reign of the Empire. It was still the way now. Jackie looked at Orion, Liza, and

Andre, and stepped up to the table with them. The four new agents donned their jackets,

and their training was over.
Andrew Mariani
                               The Boy Who Lived in a Shed

       Tommy often looked in the mirror while getting dressed. His face did not change

over the years. He kept all eleven of his school photos tucked away in his wallet to show

people at random. He used them for story material. He bragged about his youthfulness as

he pointed to each photo. Tommy loved telling stories and was really good at it, but the

problem was nobody wanted to listen. Tommy buttoned his jeans. He wore kid size jeans

because other jeans were too big for his thin waist. He wasn‘t tall, but he wasn‘t short. He

tried to comb down his hair that was mangled and red, and it almost looked like it

belonged on a doll. He quickly put his bland shirt on over his blinding white body.

During the summer days he didn‘t tan or burn much; he had a year-round pale glow

similar to a bright light bulb. The sun made him brighter which he thought was awesome

but the ladies didn‘t really like it. He didn‘t attract many ladies, but if he did he could

probably win them over with his sweet and sensitive personality. He slipped on his retro

Chuck Taylor converses, which were very off white with the occasional dirt and grass

stain. These shoes were his prized possession, not clean but very dear to his big heart.

Tommy grabbed his cologne and sprayed himself until his scent mocked an old man‘s.

He stole the cologne from his Dad to in order to emulate his father. He was getting old

enough for girls to notice him, but not old enough to have a job and buy cologne. He

wore a strong scent, but many of the 10th grade girls did not enjoy it. Tommy took one

last glance into the mirror and was off to school.

       Tommy was often excited for school. Just like every other high school student he

would rather be doing something else, but school didn‘t bug him that much. Today was
the day that everyone found out the parts for the school‘s play, Spiderman. Tommy

auditioned for Peter Parker, the lead role. He quickly jumped off the bus and scurried to

the auditorium. It was no short walk to the auditorium. There were a lot of distractions

along the way. He loved to stop and tell his friends about his latest and craziest ideas that

made no sense what so ever. Today, he stopped to tell his friend Mike about how he

linked his hand held Game Boy to a VHS camcorder to make it accessible to a video

audio input on all TVs. Mike didn‘t really comprehend any of his ideas, but he usually

shook his head in agreement and went on with his day. Tommy continued down the hall

where he passed piles of cliques. Tommy wasn‘t really into cliques; he was Tommy

Lampson, every day, all the time. A shining silver wrapper caught Tommy in his pursuit

to the auditorium. He watched as everyone walked by the piece of trash. Some kicked it,

while some totally blew it off. Tommy, however, maneuvered himself through waves of

people and picked it up and threw it out because his father always told him to be a model

citizen. He finally reached the school‘s auditorium, which was big and could fit over 700

people. There was a semi-circle of people around the chart barricading Tommy from

getting even a little glance. The minute bell screamed in Tommy‘s ear. He didn‘t have

time to look, so he ran to homeroom.

       Tommy sat at his perfectly square desk, frustrated with himself for not seeing the

parts. He slowly stroked the desk with his fingers to calm himself down. A fellow play

member approached Tommy without his knowing.

       ―Congratulations on getting the part Tommy!‖ Jenny said.

       ―Wait a second. What did you just say?‖ Tommy replied.
       ―I want to congratulate you for getting the lead role.‖

       ―So you are telling me I got it. You better not be pulling my leg.‖

       ―No, no, no! I wouldn‘t lie to you; you and I both have the lead roles.‖

Tommy sank in his seat at the thought of getting to work with Jenny. His pale skin now

matched his bright red hair. Jenny strutted off with a lot of confidence, and she had every

right to do so. She was the prettiest girl in the school with, her straight long blond hair,

her smile that let her perfectly white teeth light up the room, and her sea-blue eyes. That

is, the Caribbean Ocean, not the NJ Ocean. Tommy sat nervously in class and started to

daydream. He could not focus; everything his teacher said about physics had no meaning.

His life had meaning elsewhere now. He saw himself acting upon the stage. The dreaded

thought came to him: what if he had a kiss scene with Jenny? He had never kissed a girl

before. Tommy forgot about it right then and there and went on with his life. He never let

drama get to him.

       Tommy quietly opened his door to his house and gently kicked his shoes to the

side. Tommy‘s dad, Bruce was watching sports highlights on ESPN. Tommy peered over

and saw his dad on his left and his destination, the stairs, directly in front of him. He

tiptoed by his father as he sat mesmerized by the TV. Bruce was a stern homophobic nut.

He was as manly as man can get. Many people have mistaken him for a fit Colonel

Sanders. He was basically a sport-o-holic. He loved everything about sports and hated

everything about singing, dancing, and especially acting. Tommy ran swiftly behind his

dad and up the stairs. He only made it to the second step before his slick sock slipped.

Tommy fell forward like a quick-jetting spring. He forgot all about being quiet. He
couldn‘t help but laugh at himself for falling up the stairs. Bruce snapped out of his state

of trance and walked over to talk with Tommy who was giggling at the bottom of the


          ―So, Tommy, how was your day?‖ Bruce asked.

          ―Oh, all right, nothing out of the ordinary.‖

          ―Is that right? That‘s not what I heard.‖

          ―Oh yeah… I got an A on my Biology test,‖ Tommy said, trying to make up a

quick lie.

          ―That is not what I am talking about. I was on the computer today checking your

schools‘ online news, and I saw your name in that stupid gay play.‖

          ―It is probably a mistake, Dad. I am not trying out for any play.‖ It was not often

for Tommy to lie to his dad, nor was Bruce the most naive person in the world either.

This time, though, Bruce took the bait.

          ―Okay, well, that is good because I don‘t want you acting in none of them damn

gay plays. Only queers act, son. And if ya do, I will get one of your brothers to kick your

little gay ass.‖ Tommy had four brothers, and all of them were great well-known athletes

in the county. Three of them played football while one of them was a standout hockey

player. Tommy felt very out of place. He had the coordination of a newborn baby and the

build of a weak girl.

          ―Dad, I am fine. I am not gay; let‘s just watch some baseball or something.‖

Tommy said in effort to change the subject. Both Tommy and Bruce sat down to a heated

battle in a Yankees, Red Sox game. It was the 6th inning. Tommy had no clue what was

going on and sat confused. He was not sure if they were scoring goals or getting points.
He was getting frustrated because he couldn‘t even follow the faster traveling white ball.

He sat in front of the TV bored out of his mind, all in an attempt to gain his father´s

acceptance. Bruce, however, sat oblivious that Tommy was even his son. The two boys

didn‘t speak for the final three innings of play.

       School went by so slowly. Tommy was so anxious throughout the day for his play

rehearsal that nothing else mattered. Tommy marched into the auditorium. He was fifteen

minutes early for practice because he really wanted to get started. To his surprise, Jenny

was already there, working on her part. He approached Jenny and before he could even

think of what to say, Jenny interrupted him. ―Tommy! I am so excited to work with you.‖

       ―Wow! You are everything I ever imagined about Mary Jane,‖ Tommy said

without really thinking about it.

       ―Is that a good thing?‖

       Tommy got his composure under control and shot back with, ―Well of course,

Mary Jane is an incredibly beautiful character. Who else would date a guy like


       ―Aww, Tommy, you are a real sweetheart, Thank you.‖ Tommy took her words to

heart and went on with the practice. The entire practice he found himself unconsciously

looking over at Jenny. He was falling for her, and he didn‘t want to. He had heard stories

about Jenny during gym class, and they weren‘t stories Jenny‘s mom would enjoy

hearing. Tommy didn‘t want her to mess with his heart. Plus, he thought she might have

had an STD or two.
       Practice became a habit for Tommy. Weeks went by, and day in and day out

Tommy practiced his parts at practice and at home. He really wanted to do a good job.

Tommy often thought a lot when he sat up late looking over his parts, in his room.

Tommy was getting frustrated with his parts. He sat puzzled and wished he could go to

his father for help like he used to. This thought sparks back a memory from when he was

eight years old.

       "Hey Daddy am I doing this right?" Tommy questioned his dad on how to hit the


       "Well, almost, buddy! The key is keeping your eye on the ball." Bruce pitched

Tommy another ball in a gentle underhand motion. Tommy missed again and again.

Tommy was quickly getting upset, but Bruce was there to comfort him, "Hey, it doesn't

really matter. Just try hard and have fun."

       Tommy snapped out of his dream. He wanted his dad to help him like he used to.

He was confused, and he questioned his Dad's personality shift time in and time out. He

felt terrible for lying to his father, but he had to keep the lie going. He would never gain

his father's acceptance if he acted. Tommy just wished his dad would actually come and

watch him perform, and then maybe he wouldn't think it was completely gay.

       At dinner one night a couple of days before the play, Tommy sat with his mom

and dad. All his other brothers and sister were grown up and off into the real world.

Tommy‘s mom, Grace, knew about the play and was constantly trying to make an effort

to keep it a secret. Grace wasn‘t the most organized woman in the world, and it was only

a matter of time before she let the secret slip. Tommy sat and talked like he usually did.
He went on and on about his math grade and made up some story about how he enjoyed

football in gym class. After Tommy was done, Grace unconsciously turned his way and

asked, ―How was play practice today?‖ Tommy turned to her and just dropped his jaw.

Bruce finally caught hold of what had just happened and he went on the offense.

       ―Tommy, how dare you lie to me! First you act in that queer play! Then you lie to


       ―I am sorry, Dad.‖

       ―I will accept no sorry here, son. If you want to talk to me or even live in this

house, you will stop acting right away.‖

       ―But, Dad, this is what I love to do. You are just an ignorant prick.‖

       Bruce lifted his hand to swing, but Tommy had already run out the door. Tommy

ran, blinded by the darkness. He was deeply upset that he had disappointed his father, but

more importantly he had no clue what he was going to do. He had no true friends to go

to. Tommy had never seen his dad like this. Drops of water started to roll down Tommy‘s

face. He thought the drops were tears, but it was starting to rain. The hostile wind swung

open the shed door in Tommy´s back yard. Tommy ran towards the shelter before he got

soaked. The room wasn‘t really big, but it fit a lot of yard equipment. Tommy moved the

old Schwinn bikes aside. There was landscaping equipment everywhere. Tommy went

through the room and saw rakes, shovels, pickaxes, handsaws, and even oversized shears.

All of the tools were outdated with worn out wooden handles and rusty chipped iron.

Tommy organized everything to calm himself down. He left some space to place one of

his old beach chairs. The seat went back all the way to a lying position, but Tommy
found it more comfortable to set it half way. Tommy sat in the chair and dozed off to the

beat of the falling raindrops.

       Morning came and Tommy woke up to the sun hitting him in the face through a

tiny crack. He jumped up and panicked, but then saw the driveway was empty. His

parents were at work. Tommy felt good and enjoyed his sleep in his new little home. The

back yard was huge and was home to three sheds. There was one giant work shed and

two little tool sheds. These sheds were not the ordinary storage sheds. Tommy and Bruce

built them. All three had windows and doors with actual turning round doorknobs.

Tommy called his friend Mike. ―Hey,‖ Tommy said with joy in his voice.

       ―Why the hell are you calling me? I am in school, you idiot.‖

       ―Oh, well, I forgot, but anyway, guess what I am going to do.‖

       ―Make it quick before I get caught using my phone.‖

       ―I am going to make my shed into my own little shack.‖

       ―Tommy, are you on drugs?‖

       ―Absolutely not, I just want some freedom,‖ Tommy said trying to make up a lie.

       ―Well, suit yourself; nothing I say will change your mind,‖ Mike said with

basically no sympathy whatsoever.

       ―All right! Ciao!‖ Tommy hung up the phone and went to work. It was only nine

o‘clock; he had seven hours to work his magic. First, he started by clearing out all the

tools from one shed. Then he transferred them to his neighboring shed. His work was

organized at first, but after awhile he just started to throw stuff into the junk shed.

Tommy looked at the floor and saw piles of grass and dirt scattered around his new
house. He grabbed a broom and gave it a quick sweep. Tommy had a free laying orange

carpet in his room. He ran into his room and tightly rolled it. He put it over his shoulder

and transported it into his shed. Tommy sat in his naked shed and saw that it desperately

needed furniture. For the next three hours Tommy worked like a machine. He didn‘t stop

for food or even to use to bathroom. Things came together and Tommy was extremely

impressed with his creation. His work was done. The shed that his father and he put up

was made into a complete small bed room. It had electricity because years ago Bruce

taught Tommy how to run hard wire through walls. He put in drywall, a Futon, a radio, a

TV with a DVD player, and he even hung up some of his artwork. Tommy took a peek at

his phone to see what time it was. It was only 3:30, and he had enough time to get to

school for play practice. He strapped on his helmet and rode his motor scooter to school

for the final dress rehearsal for the play tomorrow.

       ―Tommy, you are going to knock the crowd dead tonight,‖ Jenny said.

       ―Why would I want to kill the crowd?‖ Tommy replied.

       ―Oh Tommy, I am so glad I got the chance to work with you.‖

       ―It was a pleasure to work with you too, Mademoiselle,‖ Tommy said with a slick

wink. Tonight was a big night for him, but it was an experience he could only enjoy by

himself. Bruce and Grace never came to see Tommy perform. The play went according to

plan. Everything fell into place. Tommy swung around the stage singing and dancing.

Jenny followed his every move. They made a great team. Tommy occasionally peered out

into the crowd, but there was no sign of Mom or Dad. He never really got the chance to

kiss Jenny during practice. When the time came Jenny took the lead and planted one right
on Tommy. Tommy was proud of himself for not missing. Jenny, however, quickly

pulled back and left, what looked like, both of them wanting more. Tommy didn‘t know

if she was acting very well or if she was serious. The curtains fell, and the play was over.

Spiderman saved the day and kissed his girl. Tommy and Jenny both went out to bow. As

the crowd cheered, Jenny looked over at Tommy and whispered, ―Can we go back to

your place?‖

        ―Uuuuh, what are you talking about?‖

        ―You know, kind-a finish what we started.‖

        ―OH! well… I sort of can‘t.‖ Tommy thought to himself that if she knew he was

living in a shed, she would never do anything with him.

        ―Well… Why not?‖

        ―I got kicked out of my house.‖ Tommy didn‘t want to ruin things but he wanted

to be truthful with Jenny.

        ―So… where are you staying?‖

        ―For now I am living in my shed. I made it into a little house,‖ Tommy said with

hesitation in his voice.

        ―Wow! That makes things a heck of a lot easier.‖

        ―What exactly are you talking about?

        Jenny reached out and put her hand on Tommy shoulder. Tommy forehead started

to suddenly sweat, ―Just go home… ‖ Jenny said with a wink.

        Tommy was getting ready to spend his third night out in the shed. He was about

to open his shed door when his mother caught him off guard from behind.
         ―Tommy… ummm… What have you been doing?‖ Grace said in a confused


         ―Well, I am being happy.‖

         ―Well, your father isn´t going to be very happy.‖

         ―I… I… just need some time alone.‖ Tommy said as he slammed the door shut

behind him.

         Tommy lolled on his futon for about 30 minutes as he listened to his radio and

thought about Jenny. In his mind he pictured her dancing around the stage. He heard her

voice sing his name, ―Tommy….Tommy what the hell are you doing?‖ Tommy then

realized that this was no dream. He quickly shot up to answer the door.

         ―Wow, this place is really nice. How did you do this?‖ Jenny asked.

         ―Well I, was bored and the rest is just history, you know.‖

         ―All right… sooo…can I come in?‖ Jenny said with a plastered on smile.

         ―Oh, yeah, yes, of course. Come in, please!‖ Tommy opened the door and

gestured her to get comfortable.

         ―Thanks, Hun, you‘re a doll.‖

         ―I am no doll. I am Siderman!‖

         ―Is that right? What special powers do you have?‖

         ―I have spidy senses, and I can sense when a dangerous moment is getting ready

to happen.‖

         Jenny was done with the cheesy role play and almost tackled Tommy. Jenny

didn‘t waste anytime. She got right to it. She kissed Tommy again, but this time she

didn‘t hold anything in. She planted a long passionate one right on him. Tommy was not
experienced at all, but Jenny didn‘t really care. She wanted him, so she took the lead.

Jenny didn‘t hesitate and took her own shirt off without hesitation. Tommy never saw a

girl naked before and was surprised at first, but he quickly learned to get used to it. He

was really enjoying himself. He found himself learning very quickly. Somehow, Tommy

lost his shirt without having any idea of how it had happened. He was getting more

confidence and was ready to round the bases. He remembered seeing some guy

unbuttoning his pants in some movie. He didn't know the title, but followed and started to

unbutton his pant. The zipper´s teeth slowly detached one by one. Tommy was ready

release his man hood. He gave Jenny a quick look and she was shaking her head up and

down in agreement. Tommy was taking too long so Jenny started take off his pants. The

two of them look at each other now completely naked. Jenny´s hand started to head down

south as, the door quickly swung open. Tommy looked up and saw his dad with a

shocked look on his face. There was a moment of awkwardness in the room. Tommy

quickly covered up to hide himself in shame from his dad. Bruce nodded his head and

said, ―Now that‘s my boy! Thank God you aren‘t gay!‖ He shut the shed door and walked

back inside with a smile on his face.

       The following morning Tommy rolled over and saw Jenny asleep next to him on

his futon. He thought it was a dream. Tommy nudged Jenny to make sure she was really

there. She rolled over with a smile on her face. Tommy was excited that his father was

finally proud of him. He look and Jenny and said, "Hey did you see my dad last night, he

finally accepted me."

       "Tommy, are you kidding me?" Jenny barked.
       "What are you talking about? After all this time my dad never accepted me. I was

worthless. I was a nobody. I just wanted him to be proud of me."

       " Tommy take a good look around you. All of this...." she said as she pointed her

finger around the clean well designed room. "...You did this all by yourself. You acted all

by yourself. Your dad never helped once. Now, why in God's name would you need his


       "Well to tell you the truth, I don't really know."

       "Exactly, He just held you back from what you loved to do. You don't need that

Tommy. You got to continue to do what you love to do."

       "Yeah, you are right; I got Mary Jane, who needs Bruce Lampson.‖
                   A Perfect, Organic Circle
                                     ~~Christopher Parsons

       The sun was setting now. Or was it rising? I was only conscious that I was lying

on the cold metal hood of the 1992 Ford Mustang, a black machine adorned with thick

stripes of gold rivers, seen only by a bird‘s eye, down the length of the car. The icy steel

was a comfortable contrast to the desert‘s summer night. Staring off into the infinite

beauty of the sky, I was mesmerized; pink flamingos swirled through orange roses, the

thorns cutting into the pollution‘s flesh, spilling crimson blood across the azure

dreamscape, blending into wisps of saffron and double-helix ribbons of heliotropes and

amethysts. I had driven all day and there was practically no gas left in the tank, so I was

saving its transport until I was ready to return to sanity and have some sense of direction

and motivation. That‘s all I could remember, driving, driving, and then wham! …desert

and nirvana consumed me.

       I jumped off the hood of the car, trying to not lose sight of the sky‘s immense

perfection, and walk to the passenger‘s door; takes me a little while to fumble with the

handle but I get it open, then I fumble some more in the backseats and find the zipped up

gym bag. My hands sweat as they work with the zipper, until its intimidating teeth are

staring at me hungrily. Now I have the pair swimming through the deep waves of a

change of clothes, searching…searching. Finally, I grasp a small, glass vial—the pearl

from the sea. I also grab a plastic disposable razor and a smallish pocket mirror from out

of the bag.

       I lay these treasures out on the passenger‘s dashboard; I am the only passenger.

Life had gotten too much to handle back at ―home.‖ It was time to get away—this was
the start. I watch myself through the mirror—a monster lost in a life of chaos and the

unknown—as I unscrew the top to the vial, full of what seemed to be solid milk. I pour

all of the ‗milk‘ out onto the reflective surface; it‘s more of a powder than milk—pixy‘s

dust. My hands are rough and calloused; they work quickly and routinely helping my

body feed its craving. They struggle a bit with ripping apart the razor, separating the

plastic from the scarily sharp metal—I haven‘t actually shaved in weeks. Using the razor,

I hack at the mounds of snow or pixy dust; I can‘t remember what it was two seconds

ago. Now there are streaks of them across the mirror, like gunpowder running in rows

upon rows upon rows. There‘s a piece of paper on the dashboard, next to my workspace,

and I snatch it hastily. At the top, it reads: New Year’s Resolutions, but that‘s all that‘s

written; I suppose for a fleeting moment that this is my resolution. I roll the paper up into

a long, hollow straw and lean up closer to the mirror. My fingers are shaking, but they

manage to press the roll to the edge of a row. The other end is in my nose…I breathe.

       Fuck! It burns. It burns so bad—I always forget this part. But I‘ve also known that

paradise only follows sacrifice, and it‘s only momentary—one of the few truths of the

Bible. I move from one row to the next, barely pausing in between; use it all now, and

then there won‘t be any more—but that‘s exactly what I want, I want to stop—my dreams

are my reality and my reality, my dreams. It‘s unbearable. That‘s the plain fucking truth.

       Warping out of reality again, I catch a glimpse of memory. It is a woman—my

Lady Madonna. Even the brief image in my mind‘s eye instills a flooding in my face‘s

eyes, traveling down across the creases in my face. She was the only one I truly ever did

love; I remember it wasn‘t even that long ago—hours maybe— I tried to have her run

away with me. I thought she loved me just as much as I did her; we were perfect together.
But maybe that‘s why she was screaming at me. I had truly metamorphosed into a breed

of Mr. Hyde, and I was completely conscious of this change, but I was just as much out

of control. This angel loved me so much that she couldn‘t bear to see me like this— she

wouldn‘t do it. I remember telling her to forget planning for the party for the next day; I

had our own champagne in the car. She thought I was insane. At this moment, I peer into

the backseat; it‘s still there, unopened, with two of those red plastic cups leaning up

against it.

        With this sin of artificial heaven, comes blasphemous hunger. I reach under the

passenger seat and pull out a bucket of fried chicken that I was smart enough to pick up

as I flew the corrupted society that had discreetly surrounded me—ambushed by

guerrillas that had lost their sense of individuality. Everybody was wrong, their vision of

reality so distorted. That‘s why I first started doing this to myself, to see what their

problem was—but they were all born like this, or that was my understanding at least.

Humans couldn‘t understand, couldn‘t bring themselves to honestly understand and

accept, that reality wasn‘t for them—no matter how much they manipulated their

surroundings, they could never transcend the experience of humanity in all of its

boundaries—we weren‘t gods.

        In the bucket of chicken is a toothbrush, a weird combination, but I figured it was

probably my doing at some point. I don‘t bother with any details, the starvation is

manifesting; my stomach feels like it‘s eating itself. As I eat the mediocre foodstuffs, I

look up at the sky, the magnificent colors calling to my eyes.

        But instead, all that I can see is chaotic silver glints of metal scattered for eternity,

displayed on an infinite black emptiness. I am confused and I am angry. Shit! I must be
dying, this…is the end. I‘m sorry for myself; I could‘ve lived such a better life, I was

supposed to fix things after today. Hell was behind me, and now I‘ve come full-circle. I

keep anticipating my final moment, when do I finally stop thinking—can‘t be now…still

thinking. What is happening? Why is this happening!? I drop the bucket. Artificial

chicken rolls everywhere; I look down at the mess and see a snake kissing into my leg,

filling its mouth‘s open cavity. Funny, I don‘t recall feeling the pain that is now akin to

that of a thousand bee stings in one solitary moment. The bottom of my jeans are soaked

all the way through, but it‘s sticky and…not water. There‘s no water in the desert.

       I’m in the desert! My heart is pounding. I look down and see a snake coiled up

next to me, a golden, shrunken serpent—a goddess come to rescue me. I look up and

realize it‘s nighttime—stars strewn across the sky, all focused around a large, bullion

sphere of immense beauty. There‘s fried chicken all over the ground. The passenger door

is open. What the fuck happened? I feel light headed and…there‘s the smell of fresh

blood as I lay down. Maybe this is the end…if it is such, I take great comfort in knowing

that it doesn‘t hurt and, well... this would be a beautiful death, a romantic ending. I smile,

and close my eyes.

                                        *      *     *      *

       I'm being pulled— ripped in two. Something is physically removing my state of

being from the comfortable gravity of my subconscious; the reality—or surreality as it

is—is summoning me. Though...I can't seem to summon my senses. All I am is a single

car in a train of thought, suspended in nothingness. If I try to see, there's only a blackness
of infinite depths...darker than fear itself, but oddly, I'm unafraid. And through my ears I

hear the soothing sounds of the ocean that would pour out of the likes of a conch shell,

grooving into the nothing, completing the ambiance. I wonder if this might be death; a

collage of pseudo-senses that deceive my sanity— though the olfaction does not seem to

be present at all, providing no further clues.

       Then, almost sounding far off, there are shrieks of caw-caws. I picture hulking

beasts with ugly heads and sharp talons, balancing themselves with oblong platforms

protruding from their sides; the word for this creature eludes me. The pulling continues

and the shrieks…draw closer...

       Bright light pierces the darkness and extinguishes the images running in the

darkness of my mind. The sudden contrast from dusk to dawn antagonizes my head with

spikes of sharp, red pain. My eyes zoom in and out of focus like an inexperienced

cameraman at work, but eventually my vision becomes clear and I am staring up at a

clear blue sky. My other senses focus on their familiar settings— I am staring up into this

electric blue sky and lying on my back, on the ground. There are massive vultures

circling around me keeping a short, tentative distance and soft breezes kick up the desert

sand. I lift my head to get a better hold on my surroundings and present state.

                                        *        *   *      *

       The birds scatter and begin to slowly disperse, disappointed that their breakfast

must be found elsewhere. There's an empty fried chicken bucket on its side, rolling

circles in the wind. What's left of the chicken is scattered all across the ground; it seems
the vultures don't mind feasting upon their cousins as long as the cannibalism sustains

their intentions to survive another day. My Ford is parked off to the side of the road,

straddling the blacktop and creamy sand, looking like the Angel of Death gleaming in the

hot sun. I can also see that the passenger door is completely swung open, but I can only

wonder what exactly took place from the time I left town to…now…

       I decide to take further inventory and move to push myself off the ground as if to

stand. But as I go through these motions, I find an odd sensation, or lack thereof, in my

right leg. I lift my head and look down the length of my body. The bottom of my jeans

are soaked through— heavy and sticky. Instantly, the smell of blood reaches my nose and

tells all. I vaguely remember a golden snake, a probable cause for a lame, bloodied leg. I

crawl and squirm a bit to position myself next to the car, and from there, I pull myself

upright against the machine. Reality begins to take hold, thoughts are rushing through my

mind, overflowing— I can feel them overflowing out of my ears and eyes. the car...better than nothing. I move quickly, panicked, and lean

over the passenger seat into the back of the car and grab the cool, glass bottle. I also grab

a shirt out of the gym bag.

       Out of the car, I quickly unwrap the foil at the top of the bottle and pop the top

off. The popping echoes infinitely, ringing in my head. I take a few long swigs and set the

bottle down on the ground. The sun is so hot—I feel its rays flogging my back as I take

off my shirt and roll up my pant leg. I sit down and pour almost all that‘s left of the

champagne onto my leg1 caked in blood. Using my old shirt, I spread the alcohol over

the wound and watch the blood soften and melt into the ground.
                                         *     *      *      *

        Fuck! It burns. It burns incredibly—I hadn‘t anticipated this; the alcohol was

working to clean the wound. But it‘s getting the job done, so I keep going. I throw the

dirtied shirt into the backseat and pull a clean, lightweight tee over my head. My leg is

still paralyzed, but I decide to try driving back the way I came to get some help.

        Inside the car, I feel powerful. I make this heavy machine fly down the dirt road.

Cacti wave in the wind, pointing me back home— as I race by, they swirl into patches of

green, suspended and floating in the cyberspace all around me. As the vehicle exhausts its

supply of fuel, I seem to physically reabsorb the gasoline and let it fuel my intense

energy. Barreling down the road, I think I am getting closer and closer. I see an odd form

on the horizon—unmoving; I don‘t slow down. Dust is blowing in through the window

and I blink. Suddenly the shape that was ahead of me was right before me, on the road,

and not the horizon—I swerve off the road, my heavy leg refusing to move off the pedal.

        I zoom through the green, subhuman bystanders, losing the battle for control over

the vehicle‘s immense power. I manage to roll my foot off the pedal and onto the floor of

the car and use my good leg to hit the brakes—swerving and tearing up tornadoes of sand

as I finally come to a stop. There‘s no question the car‘s a little beat up by this point, but

there wasn‘t much I could do; I was probably out of gas by now anyway. I shut off the

engine and look in the rearview mirror to try and determine what that thing was on the

road. Well…curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought him back…I open the door and

step into the wall of settling sand.

                                         *     *      *      *
       The grainy silhouette is ahead of me. I have difficulty in trying to identify its

form. My leg is still fucked up, so I‘m freaking limping across the desert over to some

piece of shit I have no clue about—brilliant. The limping makes the trek seem like an

eternity—I watch my shadow grow as the sun gently sails off, into the night. I squint for

an instant trying to will my eyes to see through the whirling sand and dimming sun, and

in an instant I am standing right before a junkyard. It‘s the dirt road.

       Two cars mashed together, this coagulation forms one large heap of shrapnel. I

can smell burning—rubber, leather, and a few others. Shattered glass is everywhere—just

by looking upon this catastrophe, I feel queasy with the thoughts of my arm scraping

against the damage. It looks like the end of an intense battle. The two cars collided head

on, pitted against each other; there were no skid marks. I saw no bodies from my

standpoint, so I continue to move around this awful…masterpiece.

       As I turn around the trunk of one car—the one facing the direction I had been

going—I begin to hear a faint groaning. My heart rate picks up, and I walk a little faster;

this can‘t be good.

       Hanging out of the front, passenger door is the head and torso of some

humanoid— gender is indiscernible. I step closer tentatively and rest my hand gently on

the creature‘s back—no reaction. I move around to the other side, to see its face.

                                         *     *      *     *

       It is a man. An old withered, Indian man. He‘s dying; I can‘t tell if he senses my

presence or not. His face is pained yet calm; he knows that he is dying—accepts it—but
cannot escape his physical binding soon enough. The poor man can barely open his eyes,

but he lifts his head in direct line with mine and begins to speak softly. There‘s an

obvious, intended rhythm to his words and I realize they are incantations. As he speaks

he slowly lifts his hands up by his neck and pulls a curious pendant out of his shirt; it‘s a


       I watch him move through time, slowly…deliberately. And he‘s still speaking

through all this. I wonder where this man could be pulling his energy from. He pulls the

dreamcatcher up, over his head, and in one fluid motion, places it around my neck. I

don‘t even flinch, accepting his endowment. But, I do realize that after kneeling for what

has got to have been twenty, long minutes, my good leg has fallen asleep.

                I stand up straight, feeling the uncomfortable tingling in my leg, and try

and walk the circulation back into it. As I‘m pacing, the man‘s chanting is getting louder.

I look over and his hands are opened up to the sky— the sun is shining down upon

him…eerily. I‘m trying to take this whole scene in, make sense of what is going on. My

damned paralyzed leg doesn‘t help any as my pacing back and forth is more of a pathetic


       Suddenly, the man stops.

                                        *      *     *      *

       His eyes are open now, and all at once, he slumps against the ground—dead.

Clouds swarm the sky and consume the sun. The tingling feeling that was in my leg is all

through my body—I fear what is happening; I fear the unknown.
       I don‘t have any idea what I‘m feeling—it‘s not pain, but it‘s not comfortable.

Out of helplessness, I fall prostrate to the desert ground. The tingling does not let up—in

fact, it only intensifies. I close my eyes…

       Suddenly, I‘m not in the desert anymore.

       I feel like I am awakening from a deep, enchanted slumber. I realize I am, in fact,

lying down, my face floating upwards to the surface of the shallow sky. The sun is bright

and overwhelming, but after a couple of blinks, my pupils adjust. It seems I‘m still in the

desert, surrounded by the sea of green tridents and creamy grains of sand—Neptune‘s

Uprising. White whirlpools adorn the sky, summoning the kings of the sea—and waves

of light crash down.

       I sit up and try to grasp my present environment. First thing I notice is I‘m at the

rear of my car—deep black, and eclipsing the foreground of the sky. Its passenger door is

completely ajar and there‘s pieces of fried chicken scattered all around the front end.

There‘s also a bottle of champagne on the ground a little further down the road.

Confused, I instinctively scratch my head, trying to dig into my memory and will it to

recall what really happened. I come up with nothing, but the next thing I feel is a lack of

feeling in my right leg. It‘s stiff and heavy—immobile—and my shoes are a little bloody.

       It seems that everything was a bit of a dream of sorts. The car is exactly how it

was before I had ―driven‖ it and I vaguely remember walking easily with both legs, just

before my awakening. What of the Indian man? What of the car crash?

       I decide to stand up and take further inventory, propping myself against the

foundation of the car. As I begin to leave the ground, my neck feels heavy as well, just

like my leg, but not exactly unmoving. Now standing up, leaning against the car, I try to
roll my neck around to loosen any tension in the muscles. It feels good, but that weighted

feeling is still there.

        Slowly—curiously—I lift my hand to my neck, groping around for anything.

There! I feel it! There is a piece of thin cloth around my neck. When I pull gently on this

string, the weight subsides substantially. Now using both of my hands, I pull the string

around, anxiously, looking for the source.

        My heart is racing…I feel clammy and pale. The weight on this string is a

pendant…a dream catcher. A perfect, organic circle intertwined magnificently with

thousands of dark dreams, ancient memories, and even condemned souls. The feathers at

the end blow in the gentle breeze and the wood and stone beads glint in the sunlight—

winking at me. I put the Indian voodoo art back around my neck and rest coolly on the

side of the car. I try to clear my mind, make sense of things. My long hair blows in the

wind. I look up to the sky, where the gods would be watching…and I wink.
Doug Rosenberg                                                        Mr. Zervanos

                                    When The Sun Sets

       The last bell rang and all of the chairs screeched back as the kids all ran to their

yellow school busses, anxiously awaiting their arrival home to the freedom of the

weekend. The busses were full of excitement as I walked past them, starting on my long

walk home. I shouldn‘t say the walk is long because it‘s not. I‘ve made this walk every

day after school for almost three years and by now I‘m very used to the walk. Today was

somehow different; maybe it was the clouds in the sky, threatening to open up and

shower me with cold, wet rain. All of the trees lining the street looked sad today. The

normally joyful branches seemed to droop. Even the leaves looked paler than usual. It

just seemed like everything had been getting pale. I thought about what I was doing,

where I was going. Not just right now, but in life. Will I end up like my dead-beat, no

good father? Or maybe like my uncle, locked up in some prison with dirt on the floor and

cardboard flavored bread. I couldn‘t help but feel like I‘m destined to end up cowering in

the corner of some dark room, alone and afraid of the rest of the world. At that point I

knew that I wouldn‘t ever be able to see everything as bright and cheery as I did when I

was younger. All of the hope in the world seemed to have dried up, like a once

flourishing lake struck by a drought causing it to wither and shrivel and die. I think at one

point or another everyone‘s been caught in a similar kind of drought, but I can‘t help but

believe that no one has ever felt exactly the same, like there‘s no one that I can even

relate to anymore. Maybe the happiness and hope that is missing is just hidden in plain

view, entombed in the clouds, waiting for the event of rain to come back and shine some
light on the darkness and the emptiness of our horrible human hearts. I think doctors

would agree that there‘s some sort of chemical imbalance in my head, not enough

dopamine or serotonin or one of those neural transmitters that makes you feel happy, but

I don‘t really want to find out. Sometimes knowing things like this make it worse, if not

just more noticeable. I can‘t honestly say that I‘m unhappy with my life; I couldn‘t see

myself anywhere else doing anything different. I took my eyes off of the blacktop to see

where I was. I saw the old auto parts store, abandoned now because the owner couldn‘t

pay the rent for his shop. I liked to look at the shop. It has always reminded me that it‘s

only a few more minutes until I get home and away from the clouds that have been

stirring up my head all day. I place my eyes back on the blacktop, but there was

something obstructing my view, a small bag. I bent down to examine the bag on the

ground. There was a white pill in the bag, floating around with every miniscule

movement the bag made.

       I stepped onto my front porch, the small bag still clenched in my fist. I threw open

the screen door and walked into my house. I ran my finger across the bag in my hand.

What could this be? What would it do to me? What secrets could be locked inside this

tiny, white pill? The next thing I knew the bag had been opened and I was holding the pill

between my thumb and index finger. I opened my mouth cautiously—did I really want to

take this—did I really want to find out what ‗this‘ is? I guess that when it comes down to

it, any state is probably better than the state I‘m in now. How bad could it really get? I

opened my mouth and popped the pill inside. With one last second thought, one last shred

of hesitance, the pill was sliding down my throat. I don‘t know what it was that made me
want to take this pill. I had never taken any drugs before in my life. Even when doctors

gave me pills to take when I was sick, I would just pretend to take them and flush them

down the toilet. I always thought there would be more thought on my part, especially

when taking a mysterious pill. I sat and wondered about the possibilities of this pill, the

possibilities of an unknown chemical entering my bloodstream. After a few minutes of

thought I felt my stomach erupt into a frenzy of hunger. I had forgotten that I hadn‘t eaten

lunch today.

       I stood up from the couch that I had been sitting on and made my way to the

kitchen where I opened the freezer door and grabbed a box of Hot Pockets. I ripped open

the package and lazily shoved the Hot Pocket into the microwave. I waited the two

minutes until the timer dinged and opened the microwave. I took a bite of my Hot Pocket

and consequently burnt my tongue. It was too hot. I returned to the couch where I was

sitting before to watch television and enjoy my Hot Pocket. I flipped through the

hundreds of boring channels of on demand. I never understood why there were so many

channels of shit on TV. You‘d think there would be at least something decent on, but

there isn‘t. I managed to find some kind of kid‘s cartoon and fixed my eyes on the tube in

front of me. I watched for a few minutes, maybe thirty or forty, and I realized that I didn‘t

feel any different. No spiritual revelations, no feeling of calm and well being. Maybe the

pill was a placebo, a sugar pill.

       The phone rang twice before I got to it. ―Hello?‖

       ―Hi, is, uh, Tim there?‖

       ―This is me.‖
       ―Hey, man, it‘s Gerald. What‘s going on?‖

       ―Nothing, man, do you want to do something, maybe watch some TV?‖

       ―Yeah, that sounds good, man. I‘ll be over there in a few minutes.‖

       The phone clicked and I put it back on the receiver. Maybe Gerald could help me

to figure out what that pill was. Gerald‘s always been kind of into drugs. He smokes

weed just about every day. Even if he doesn‘t know exactly what it was that I took, it‘ll

probably be better to not be by myself right now. I sat back down on the couch and

waited for Gerald to arrive. A character on the television started laughing, and I‘m not

certain why but I did too. It seemed like the cartoons were so vivid and real that they

were popping out of the screen. Each character was standing on the television stand, but

the television wasn‘t there. I let my eyes wander and they happened to fall on the wall. A

normal, ordinary wall that I‘ve seen almost every day of my life. Today the wall was

strange. There were intricate patterns in the texture of the paint. The whole wall was a

huge shifting, repeating pattern.

       I heard Gerald roaring down the street in his Trans Am and pulling quickly into

my driveway. After parking, Gerald shorted the joint he was smoking and stepped out of

his car. He gently closed the door and walked up to my house. Gerald knocked thrice on

the door and patiently waited for my answer.

       ―Hey, what‘s up?‖ I said.


We walked down the hallway into my living room where we sat to watch TV.

       ―What‘ve you been getting into recently?‖ I asked.

       ―Nothing, smoking, you know.‖
       ―Yeah, that reminds me. I found this pill on my walk home today and I was

wondering if maybe you could help me to figure out what it is.‖

  ―No problem, where is it?‖

  ―Well that‘s the problem… I took it.‖

  ―That is a problem…. What did it look like?‖

  ―It was small and white. There weren‘t any markings on it.‖

  ―Shit… I don‘t know, man. It could be almost anything.‖

  ―Fuck. I think I‘m starting to feel weird. The paint on the wall… it keeps moving, man.

There are patterns on everything. How is this even possible?‖

  ―That sounds like acid. You said it was a pill, though, right?‖

  ―Yeah, a small, white pill.‖

  ―That must have been a microdot.‖

  ―A microdot?‖

  ―It‘s like hippy shit. Microdots are really hard to find and super potent. I‘m surprised

you can still like… function.‖

  ―Oh, yeah. I don‘t know…‖

  ―Well, how do you feel?‖

       I didn‘t know how to respond. There was so much going on inside of my head.

Everything I looked at seemed to be in its own world. I could tell what chairs were

thinking about, somehow, and the walls were breathing. And then the patterning took

over my head. My thoughts collided and combined, twisting and distorting the words that

were being projected over the loudspeaker in my brain. My thoughts came faster than

usual. A thought would begin and halfway through another would start. Conversations
that never had and never will happen with people who I‘ve never met before ran through

my mind. Had I gone crazy? Will I ever be the same again? What‘s even going on?

       I had forgotten all about Gerald and everything else around me. ―Whoa.‖

       ―What just happened, man?‖

       ―I felt like I had disappeared, melted into the wall. I was a pair of eyes sticking

out from the wall, only observing, not even existing anymore. All I could do was look at

everything. The patterns on the walls, the colors dancing on the floor. I could hear what

every individual object was thinking, speaking their thoughts to me.―

       ―Sounds intense. I‘m gonna get something to drink. Do you want anything?‖

       ―Just some water, thanks.‖

       I closed my eyes and patterns took over, at first just moving lines, contracting and

expanding throughout my field of vision. Then there was grass zooming below me as if I

was in a helicopter. Then I found myself walking on the grass, the sun shining

immaculately on the grass, creating a crystal-y, sparkling wonderland. The sunlight

danced over the blades of grass, dew illuminated by the reflection of the phosphorescent

sun. I continued to walk until I came to a green balloon suspended in the air, just hanging,

waiting for someone to take it. I took hold of the balloon‘s string and the balloon started

to float again. I could feel my body losing weight as the balloon lifted my feet off of the

ground and began to take me higher. I looked to the ground, hoping the jump would not

be too high to survive, and saw a chain wrapped around my ankles. I followed the path of

the chain to the ground where a girl with brown hair and eyes like the moon was

standing, holding the chain, keeping me in the atmosphere, holding me down to earth.

She never held me with my ear to the ground or let me float off like a birthday balloon
once the celebration is over, she gave me room to float while still keeping me attached to

the ground, so I had my stray dog freedom.

       I sighed in relief at the thought of not being guided to a fiery death in the sun. I

heard a sound and immediately looked at the chain, expecting the worse in the situation,

and as I assumed, the chain was breaking. The metal rings were cracking, bending apart,

and I was about to be shot into a hot and fiery doom compliments of the sun. I floated and

floated and floated until everything went white and I wasn‘t floating anymore. My

clothes were tattered and torn. The whiteness faded into a pink sky and an orange sun

hung above me, blistering heat encompassing my body, taking me over. I was in a

clearing in a thick forest. I could hear the sounds of animals moving, breaking sticks and

rustling leaves. I was trapped in this small opening. If I had gone in any direction I would

have certainly found myself lost. Just then a grey, furry squirrel ran into the clearing,

stopping only inches in front of my feet. ―What is your name?‖ I said, not really

expecting an answer, but looking for any kind of companionship in this wooded prison.

       ―Sal. My name is Sal.‖

       I didn‘t know what to say. Squirrels don‘t talk, let alone have names. ―Where did

you learn how to talk?‖

       ―I‘ve always known how to talk. All animals have always known how to talk. We

choose not to talk. We choose not to be bothered by humans, for the most part.‖

       ―Then why did you talk to me?‖

       ―I did not. You talked to me.‖
        And right after Sal said that, his feet started to move and he was flying through

the air and getting bigger, transforming into a soft, sullen, bearded man. ―How did you do

that?‖ I inquired in disbelief.

        ―I do not know how. There is no how. There is only what has been and what will

be done. There is no reasoning. There are only actions.‖

        ―What do you mean?‖

        ―I mean that there is no reasoning behind things that happened. You need not try

to find out why something happened. You simply must accept that what happened

happened and there is nothing that can be done to change that.‖

        ―What‘s the point then? If we have no say in what happens, then what the hell is

the point?‖

        ―The point is that there is no point. There is life, struggle, and death. There are no

rewards for being a good person, no prizes for making the most money or making the

most women. There is only a feeling of sinking sadness in the pit of our stomachs as we

wait for the day when we can finally be finished with this wretched place. But until then

you stay alive. You content yourself with the beauty of life, a beauty you have the option

to see or ignore.‖

        And before I had time to say anything back, he vanished, and I was alone again. I

fell to my knees and slammed my head against the soft, warm grass. I was lost, confused,

and alone in a place I‘d never been to. After pulling myself together I decided to take my

chances walking. I could stay here, but either way I‘ll die out here. I might as well try to

get somewhere. I watched the sun sink behind the mass of trees and leaves, browns and

greens, and headed north-- at least I think it was north-- through the thick cover of
ancient foliage. I passed trees with faces, eyes blinking and mouths chewing, trees full of

life. The sun had set by now and the detail was draining quickly from the forest. The

ground started to blend with the sky and leave behind a still, petrified blackness. I walked

and walked, straight on a path that was never there to begin with. It seemed like hours

had passed when I saw a light shining in the not-too-far distance. Discomposed, I ran to

the light

with all of the strength left in my body. I approached the light ecstatically, and upon my

arrival the light was lifted into the air by a gust of wind and letters were displayed in an

organized order similar to a sentence. I stared into the sky and the words ―what do you

see‖ were burned into my bulging pupils and taken away again by the wind. I considered

the words in the sky and honestly thought about what I saw. The truth is that I couldn‘t

see anything at all. Nothing.

        Behind me a twig snapped with a loud crack that nearly caused my bones to

break. I whipped around to find the cause of the sound and saw a man standing in a bush

with a dog. The man was smiling. His dog‘s tail was wagging. I made my way over to the

man and at three feet away he lifted his hand.

        ―I cannot allow you to come any closer.‖

  I stopped my feet in the exact spot they were in when he said the words and he stepped

out from his leafed castle and stepped in my direction.

  ―Who are you?‖ he said.

  ―Tim. And may I ask who you are?‖
  ―I am no one. I make all of the rules here, and the rules are that there are no rules.

Everyone here is to be as free as they desire. This is Encephalon. Here you are welcome

to stay for as long as you please.‖

  ―Everyone here...? There‘s no one here but you and me.‖

  ―Well, who else is there? I certainly don‘t believe that there is anyone else. I have been

here my whole life by myself, waiting for your arrival.‖

  ―How do you know who I am? How long have you been waiting for me?‖

  ―I have been waiting a very long time. You see, I am you. And you are me, although

you don‘t know it yet. I have been here since the dawn of your existence. I have waited

for you through all of your years. I‘m the one who speaks to you when you are alone. I‘m

the one who makes you do all of those things you got in trouble for in your life, all of the

things that made you do the things you did to get here. I am your entire life, as you are

mine. I want you to know that everything is going to be okay. After all, when the sun sets

it has nothing else to do but rise.‖

  And as the words left his lips a huge golden arch rose above what appeared to be the

earth. The sun was rising and there the earth lay, undressing itself, standing naked and

true for my eyes to see. I still don‘t know what it was, but I felt as though all of the

secrets of the world were revealed to me. All of the truths of the world, as they are, were

displayed for me to see. The suit and tie businessman with a fat pocket and a grim face

would laugh if he knew what I had just learned.

  ―All of the world is yours to keep. Truth is out there, waiting in the shadows for you.

All you need to know is that being lost is the best way to get found.‖
  My eyes shot open to Gerald sitting on the couch, glued to the television set.

  ―Gerald,‖ I said.

  ―What? Oh shit, I thought you were out, dude. I guess you closed your eyes, and then I

don‘t even know. You were there for like two hours. I‘ve been bored out of my mind,

dude. But anyway, what‘s going on with you?‖

  I told him about everything that had happened. I went into every detail, describing

every place and everything I saw there. I told him about the girl with the chain and the

talking squirrel. He sat there and nodded his head and laughed a little as I told him all of

this. He was a good listener. We discussed what had happened thoroughly, being careful

to comb through every detail and find its meaning. According to Gerald, sometimes even

seemingly irrelevant details are key to interpreting a trip. I guess our brains work like

that, showing us the tip of an iceberg, revealing only a subtle hint at what the full

meaning may be. Everything seemed to have fallen back into place. I walked outside with

Gerald, to his car and watched him drive away as I stood in my gravel driveway

wondering what had happened when I was inside. Now the trees were bright and cheery,

a deep green flushed the leaves and the world had sprung back to life.
Jared Tindall

I woke up and saw the blue sky spotted with clouds that looked like apostrophes and

other odd shapes. It took me a moment to remember where I was; I was on Deer Island,

and I was shipwrecked. I should probably start off with how I got in this position. It all

started when I was visiting a couple I knew in school. They lived in a town called

Huntsville, and they were high school sweethearts. All was going well when we decided

to go on a weeklong ocean voyage on the Pacific. For the first couple of days everything

was just fantastic. The company was good, the weather couldn‘t have been better, and we

were having a blast. Then, out of nowhere, a storm appeared. It was ferocious, throwing

us all about the boat and scaring the crap out of us. The last night I remember on the boat

was spent in fear. Right before we were going to try and eat, the wife of the couple was

thrown against a railing and broke a bone in her arm. Later that night I was at the steering

wheel when a huge wave came up. The color left my face as I was tossed overboard like

a rag doll. Immediately, I couldn‘t see the boat anymore. I swam for what felt like a

hundred years and finally washed up on a sandy beach. I slept for a long time and when I

woke up it felt like I had an ambulance roaring in my head. The day passed slowly as I

explored the beach and found out I was on an island. I looked around for any sign of my

companions. The only thing I found was a tennis ball from the boat. I fell on my knees

and wept. I have never felt so scared and alone in my life. I stayed there on the beach for

three hours, drowning in my self-pity. I slowly got up. I needed to do something or else I

might die there, alone on that beach.
         After three months on Deer Island, I hadn‘t seen any sign of life. I had built a

home for myself and caught fish from the sea. I was lonely so I started talking to my

tennis ball. His name is Billy. I got this idea from a movie I saw before being

shipwrecked. He was my only friend. We hadn‘t seen any ships, but we still had hope,

because that‘s all we really had left.

         Today I was bathing in a tide pool on the beach, and I heard a weird sound. It

sounded like something was slapping against a rock. I waded through the water towards

the sound. As I came around the rock, I found myself face to face with a huge shark. I

peed myself and yelled for Billy to run. The shark had been slapping against a rock trying

to get a fish. I, apparently, am far more appetizing. When he caught sight of me, he

immediately turned and started swimming for me. I, of course, started booking it. What

you must remember, however, is that I was in three to four feet of water and you can‘t

really book it in that situation. Needless to say, I was going to try. While the beach was

way to far away, there was a nice rock that I was nearby. It was going to be close, the

shark was way faster than me but I was closer to the rock.

         ―Hold on, Billy,‖ I yelled. I got to the rock and hoisted myself up onto it and

looked behind me. The shark thrust its head out of the water and tried one last grab. I

wrenched myself away and the shark missed.

         ―That was a close one, Billy my friend,‖ I said breathlessly. I looked over at Billy

and saw nothing there. I yelled his name and looked frantically around. I stood up and

turned in all directions. I finally saw him floating about five feet away, right next to the

       ―Billy, what are you doing in the water,‖ I yelled. The shark swam in agitated

circles as I tried to think of a way to get Billy out of the water. I was thirty yards away

from the beach, but I wasn‘t thinking of how to get there right now. I tried to reach out

and pull Billy in but the shark snapped at me and I had to retreat. The shark almost ate

Billy in his attempt to eat me, and I freaked out.

       ―Billy! Did you see how close that was? Get to the rock!‖ I screamed frantically,

not being able to comprehend losing my only companion. The shark swam around Billy

and hit him with his fin. Billy was knocked within two feet of the rock, tempting me to

reach for him. I stretched out my arm and the shark tried again. Startled, I fell into the

water. Panic flooded my mind. I looked over and saw the shark turning around to try and

formulate its attack. It had to swim around to get a good angle, and in that time I grabbed

Billy and climbed up onto the rock. I held Billy close and started laughing, disguising my

fear with the laughter. I stayed there, laying on the rock for a couple minutes, breathing

hard. I could hear the shark, splashing around, wondering how he would get his lunch.

After a while, I got up. Now that Billy was safe, I had to figure out how to get back to the

beach without being eaten.

       ―Hmm,‖ I said, wondering aloud.

―Well Billy, I think I could throw you to the beach, cause it isn‘t too far away.‖ I looked

at the beach and then down at Billy. It was the only choice, and I couldn‘t risk dropping

him trying to make a break for it. I decided to do it. It wasn‘t that far and I had gotten

stronger from the hard living. I stretched my arm out a little and then tried to get myself

ready mentally. I pulled my arm back and threw Billy high into the air. My stomach

lurched as Billy flew, and my eyes widened. Billy landed on the beach with a bounce.
Luckily, he didn‘t roll back into the water, but bounced up towards the top of the beach. I

sat down and started thinking of how I myself would escape. All of a sudden I got a crazy


―Hey Billy,‖ I yelled, ― do you think I could ride a shark?‖ I thought about the dangers of

hopping onto the sharks back and trying to ride it into safety. I decided that I was trapped

on an island and needed some excitement in my life. In the midst of my delirium, I forgot

about the teeth. I got ready to jump when he launched out of the water, mouth wide open.

I fell over and sat staring at all the teeth I had just seen. I now knew that jumping on the

shark was out of the question. Brought back to reality, I started thinking about how I was

really going to get back. After a long time of thinking and getting nowhere, I decided that

it was either jump or die. I would have to jump as far as I could or starve to death. So I

gathered up all my strength, fear, and jumping ability for the leap. I made the jump and it

was a good one at that. I don‘t know how far, but I was in the air for a while. I landed

with a giant splash and the shark started swimming towards me.

        Then we started the death race. If I won, then I survived. If he won, then he got

lunch. My prize was a little better. I could hear him getting closer, his tail splashing in the

shallow water. I started screaming, fear taking control of my body. My hand hit sand and

I started running. My strides were long and high as I tried to get to the safety of the

beach. I tripped and fell on my face in the water. I turned around expecting the jaws of

death to be there, but only saw the shark stuck in the sand. I had made it to shallow

enough water that the shark couldn‘t swim anymore. I crawled up onto the beach and just

sat there, watching the shark trying to get back into deep water. It was immensely
satisfying to watch. I had defeated the shark. I didn‘t think I could repeat the act, but I

had done it.

       Three days after the shark adventure, I saw a ship. It was far away, but I still

jumped and yelled as loud as I could. Hope had never been so close or so far away. I ran

over to my fire and lit it up. I threw green branches on to get the smoke going. I didn‘t

think it would get high enough for the boat to see, but I had to try. I ran around to get

more branches and things that would make smoke. I helped the fire for an hour but the

boat just kept going. It was sunset when I gave up. I collapsed and just started crying. All

the emotions that had been stored up from being alone, almost dying, and then almost

escaping, flooded out right now. My cries weren‘t silent either. They were loud,

emotional sobs. I sat up for after a little while and thought about the last time I had cried

this much. Not since I was a child, for sure. I thought about what my friends back home

would think of a grown man crying like a child. But it didn‘t matter. I had my own

society now and old rules didn‘t apply anymore. It was only Billy and me. And Billy was

pretty accepting of the different things I did.

       It had been eight months since I had arrived at the island and I had changed. My

hair had become long and overgrown, but I had it pulled back into a ponytail. I was

extremely tan from being out in the sun all day, and my body had become increasingly

muscular as I lived in the wilderness. The color had faded from Billy and he now was a

greenish-grey color. I had become comfortable on my island, but still hoped faintly for

rescue. I spent most of my time thinking of plans to escape, catching food, and exploring

the inner part of the jungle. During my explorations I discovered other animals on the

island. I don‘t know how they got there, but some of them were big and dangerous. I had
seen crocodiles in the river, jaguars in the trees, and spiders as big as dinner plates. The

spiders scared me the most because I had always been scared of spiders. The good thing

was that the animals didn‘t really come out to the beach; they mainly just stayed in the

jungle. One day when I was sitting on the beach, enjoying a particularly tasty crab, I

decided to build a raft. Now, you may be asking yourself why I didn‘t do this before, and

the answer is that I was scared of dying in the ocean. I had all the materials to make a

raft, even rope, because I had found a large amount washed up on the beach. So I got to

work. I rolled fallen trees together and then tied them up with the rope. I started gathering

up food as well. I couldn‘t really take meat, but I did take fruit and things to fish with.

After three weeks of hard work, I was finished. I had an eight by eight raft that had an

even possibility of success and failure. But I started out and prayed to God that if He was

up there, He would see me home.

       The first day went fine, the sea was nice and breezy and I even caught some fish.

But the second day, that was when I lost sight of the island and I could see dark clouds on

the horizon. I started to have flashbacks to a night almost nine months ago, when I had

been thrown overboard. I started shaking with fear and I lay flat on the raft, holding on

for dear life. Even though the storm looked far away, I was terrified. So I stayed there, all

day like that, frequently looking up at the clouds. It wasn‘t until sunset that they finally

arrived. They came with a torrent of wind and rain. The storm was just like the one on the

night I was shipwrecked. I held onto Billy tightly so he would not be lost in the storm. All

of a sudden, one of the ropes started to come loose and I dove for it. I got the rope but

Bully slipped from my hands and flew overboard. I didn‘t even scream; I just looked in

shock as Billy was swallowed up forever. I stood there, holding the two ropes, and cried
out. Then the ropes started to slip, and I was brought back to reality. I tried to hold on,

but they were wrenched out off my hands. The boat fell apart instantly and I fell into the

water. I was pushed under by a wave and I couldn‘t get up. I looked up and could see the

storm raging above. I kicked for the surface and tried hard not to panic. I broke the

surface and gasped for air. I looked up and got smashed in the face with one of the logs

from the raft. As I blacked out, I wondered if I would die, and that is the last thing I

remembered on the ocean.

       I woke up and saw the blue sky spotted with clouds that looked like apostrophes

and other odd shapes…

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