By Aggam Sudan
You will never guess what happened today. Let me tell you what happened. today in the morning I was practicing soccer in my backyard and i hit the ball extra hard against the wall. A strange green thing started coming out of the ball and started forming a blob with 2 eyes. It started screaming at me about how I was disturbing its sleep and how I hit the ball so hard that he flew out of bed. I told him that I was sorry, but I did not know that he lived in there. So he told me that a lot of aliens build their homes in humans furniture and that He accidently chose my soccer ball to live in because all the other furniture was occupied i asked him on whether that meant aliens lived in my house and if they could come ou to talk to me and he said yes if they wanted too. He also reminded me to shut the door and fridge door carefully because his friends lived there. Next time I will be careful in closing the doors and i will see ask them if they want to come out and talk to me.
Robbery in Chicago
By Elle Scheflow
On a cold dark stormy night, a robber was dressed in black ready to strike. This was going to be a night in Chicago no one will forget. He slowly emerged to the police officer’s view. The street lights suddenly went black, but when they went on again, the police officer was no where in sight.
And the next day when a new police officer went to guard the World Series Trophy, it was gone. Police officers spent night and day looking for that cup. Until on January 13th they found something suspicious. Mr. Wilbur’s house had a note saying he was on a 2 week vacation, but the cat was still in the house. The door was also unlocked. So, they opened the door and inside they found a tied up Mr. Wilbur! That’s not all they found though. The World Series Trophy was sitting aside him. Once the police officers turned around for one split second, they saw no person in sight. They checked the whole house, but no person was in sight. With that, the police officers set up security cameras and left.
A week later though, one of the officers was monitoring the security cameras and caught something. A robber was putting the World Series Trophy in a safe. Right away, the police station was quiet. Everyone was gone and at Mr. Wilbur’s house. At exactly 2 hours later, Mr. Wilbur was free again, the robber was in jail, and best of all, the World Series Trophy was back where it belonged.
The Mysterious Manor
By Anwita Balaji
"This house always gives me the creeps" said Priyanka as she and Dan passed the blue house on the corner. They walked by it every day on their way to and from school. Nobody had lived there in years.
"My brother says it's not a house at all," said Dan as he ran his fingers along the iron fence that surrounded the yard. "He says it's really a magic portal."
"Do you really think if you walk in the door, you can be transported to another place and time?" asked Priyanka.
Just then, the door on the house burst open and...
Priyanka said, "We should go in there to see if it is really a portal." 'O-okay" said Dan in a scared voice. So they went in and something weird happened; they felt dizzy and they went back into the stone age. When they saw a mammoth, they wanted to run away but the portal traveled them to a horror mansion and there were bloody faces all around them. A horrifying bloody ghost came in their way. They kept trying to run, but the ghost held them back. But they soon escaped, running as fast as they can. They ran for their lives but the portal traveled them back to the creepy house. "That was a Wild Trip!" said Dan.
The Conference Incident
By Trishtaa Parthasarathy
“Get your head out of the clouds and come downstairs this instant!, hollered a shrill voice a million worlds away. Even though I was already a million worlds away on my soft throne of down and cotton, the voice was enough to bring me back to the present. “ Why can't we do this nuisance of an activity any other day?”,I moaned. “ Come down this instant, you insolent child! I will not tolerate your nonsense anymore!” called my mom. I moaned and inwardly thacked myself for my rudeness and insolence. I sprang upwards and out of my soft happy place which is better known as a bed and got ready as if I was a ray of light. Even though It was only 7 am, I got my heavy backpack on and trudged towards the car as my worn ripped boots sunk into the muddy slush on the driveway. The crisp winter air chilled my bones and filled me with dread and anticipation. I had to go to parent teacher conferences now. If my teacher had negative comments about me, my mom would scold me harshly and would be very disappointed with me. I never wanted to make my mom disappointed. Conferences were an epitome of fear for me. A pin drop silence filled the car as we drove towards the school building. As we pulled in, I glanced at my watch and let out a cry of dismay. It was 5 minutes to the conference! We bolted into the school, through the hallways, and into the classroom. The teacher was waiting for us with her laptop, a folder, and a grade binder. Our school’s conferences had always been student-led from day one. I walked my mom through projects we did this trimester, my goals, and etc. Finally, the dreaded moment arrived. My grades were going to be revealed. The teacher announced that in most of the subjects, I had a grade of 4. Our grading system is based on a scale of 1-4 with 4 being exceeds expectations and 3 being meets expectations. These were the grades that every student had to work for. My spirit soared high in the sky with this news. All my earlier fear was forgotten! “ But, she does have a grade of 2 in literacy.” the teacher continued. With this word my stomach sank. My fate was sealed. I would definitely get yelled at. After we walked out, my mom and I maintained a long silence. I was waiting and watching, not daring to utter a word. “You did good this time!” exclaimed my mom. I was taken aback very much. “ wh-what about the literacy grade? I thought that you would yell at me for that'' I asked with a puzzled tone. “ At least you improved from last time's grade of 1. You have the wrong perception of me. All I want is for you to try your best and improve from last time which I saw happening.” A permanent burden was lifted off my shoulders. I now knew what I had to do. Suddenly, a popsicle with slobber and dirt dripping from it hit me right on my knee. A couple of girls ran away laughing. I sighed and moved on. I was used to people pelting me with popsicles. People often pelted me with their half eaten dirty popsicles as a reminder of an incident that happened a year ago. A half eaten popsicle had slipped from my mouth onto the dirt but I still picked it up and ate it. The popsicles were for a school treat day. All the kids teased me and called me dirt-sickle from then onwards. A dirty popsicle was thrown towards my feet now. “ Are you gonna eat that dirt-sickle?” Teased a girl . She and a couple of her cronies shrieked with laughter at their little pathetic joke. Normally I was used to this sort of behavior but this time I got really mad. Suddenly, the wind started to blow wildly and many trees were uprooted because of the force. Many people ran for shelter but the girls who teased me got caught in a gust of wind that pushed against them. I was still seething with rage at them. Whenever I felt angrier at them, the wind started to blow fiercer and would be directed towards them more. Even if they ran for shelter, the wind would not escape them. Suddenly, I felt a strange peace and calmness and the wind started to die down. This strange newfound peace did not last for long. My anger returned and I was madder than ever. A tornado funnel started to form at the very top of the sky. A purple lightning bolt flashed in the sky and my surroundings disappeared into a sunlit meadow. A strange voice sounded telling me to control my new gift carefully. As quickly as I disappeared, I returned to my old and familiar surroundings. The wind died down and everything returned to normal In a blink of an eye. People were shocked from the sudden tornado and were removing the uprooted trees. As we drove home, I kept thinking of the voice in the meadow. What would happen next?
Orion Catterbury, a twelve year old genius, was stuck in Basic Chemistry at Edison Elementary School. He was bored out of his mind. He had to endure the lesson on atoms instead of learning organic chemistry. He started to doodle on the back of his notebook. First, a black hole. Then, his name in bubble letters. Suddenly, the room vanished, and Orion was falling. “Aaah!” Thump! He landed on a soft plushy white pillow.
Wait! That wasn’t a pillow! That was a cloud! Yikes! Where was he? Orion looked around. This was like a dream. Clouds stretched as far as he could see in any direction and the sun shone brightly in the sky. A sign suddenly flew into his hands. On it was written: TO RETURN HOME, DEFEAT THE NIGHTMASTER. The Nightmaster? Who was he? Well, if he wanted to return home, he had to start walking somewhere. If he panicked, he would never return home. Another sign flew into his hands: DEFEAT THE NIGHTMASTER IN 2 DAYS. Great. He had a deadline. With a sigh, he continued walking.
Choo Choo! A train whistle blew loudly. A voice rang out through the sound”Welcome to the Train of Thoughts! '' Orion looked up. This could help him go where he wanted. He quickly boarded the train, which was shaped like thought bubbles. The voice came again “The fare is one memory! All memories will go to the Memory Bank” As he passed to the back, he suddenly couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast this morning. He spotted a cabin and went inside. Two people were there. A girl and a boy. They introduced themselves as Delia and Casper. Orion told them his name and sat opposite to them.
After a moment, Delia spoke, “So who do you think will win? Daydreamers or Nightshades?”
“Who?” Orion asked.
“So you’re new here, huh? It’s always a little hard to get used to.” Delia replied
“What do you mean?” Orion questioned.
“You’re new to Dreamland. Some people get trapped here, and can’t leave. We also got trapped and have been stuck here for months. The only way to get out of here is to defeat The-Person-who-should-not-be-Named '' Casper whispered “The Nightmaster”.
“We try, but he’s too powerful with his army of Night-Knights and NightMares. Queen Daydreamia is weakened by his darkness. Will you help us?” Delia pleaded.
Orion exclaimed “Of course!” Suddenly a symbol glowed above his head. It was an image of a person sleeping. “Whoa! You are a dream maker. You have the ability to make what you want, reality.” Casper gazed at him reverently. “To harness your power, you go on a quest. We could defeat the NightMaster with your aid!” Orion spoke up”I will help you, but I do have one question. What quest do I need to do to harness my powers?”
“To harness your powers, you must obtain a crystal of light. You are allowed to bring two others to aid you. Would you consider us coming with you?” Delia inquired. Orion nodded. It was determined. They were on a quest!
After an hour, they arrived at the base of Mount Unrealistic, the highest mountain in Dreamland. This is where they would retrieve the crystal of light. As the party exited the train, harsh gusts of wind blew against them. The climb was tiring, and when they reached the top, a blue dragon was curled around the crystals. They silently crept to the bunch and Orion yanked one out of the multiple. Suddenly, the dragon awoke and blew a blast of ice at them. All of them ran down the cliff, the dragon flying after them. As soon as they reached the base, the dragon disappeared. Panting and out of breath, Orion certainly did not feel as if his powers had been harnessed. Then something started burning in his chest. Warmth filled his body, like an embrace would feel. He finally understood his power and how to use it. Orion had harnessed his power. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky and in a flash, the Nightmaster had arrived. “Ah. We meet at last Orion! I am the Nightmaster. Before you try and fight me, know this; thousands have fought me before, and none succeeded. Do you still wish to challenge me?”
“I can’t hear you!” the Nightmaster replied.
“YES!” Orion shouted. The Nightmaster called his steed, a glorious NightMare, as dark as the pitch black depths of the sea. Orion thought, and created a stallion, as bright as the noon sun. The battle started. The NightMaster shot black bolts of lightning at Orion, and in return he deflected the bolts with his shield. Orion created holes for the NightMaster to fall into, but he was too clever. Finally, an idea came to Orion. He turned into pure light and temporarily blinded him. With a gust of wind and a timed bolt of light, he pinned him to the ground. The Nightmaster had been defeated. Peace was restored to Dreamland.
As his friends, Delia and Casper cheered him, he started to float away, and returned to his classroom. His teacher, Mr. Hoover was staring at him, a frown upon his face. “Mr. Catterbury, so nice of you to join us. You seem to have dozed off. ” Orion was startled. It had all been a dream. Of course! It was called Dreamland after all! Orion was sad that Delia and Casper weren’t real, but at least the Nightmaster wasn’t real. All in all, it was a pretty good dream. “Okay class. Now that everyone is ready, let’s continue on our subject of atoms.” Mr.Hoover said. Too bad Orion still had to learn what he already knew. But he wouldn’t trade anything in the world for this.
The Forbidden Room
By Lauren Ellsworth
Believe me, I didn’t want to move. I liked our house fine. But, as my parents said “You’ll like Grandma May just fine, you’ll see.” So here I am, packing my shabby briefcase with the few possessions I owned. A couple of shirts, underwear, socks, some Jeans, and a few leather belts were thrown in, along with a picture of my best friend, Hugo. I hoped he would say good-bye to me before I left. I continued to pack. A few of my oldest, and most preferred books, and a small flashlight was all I needed now, and I carelessly put them in my briefcase. There was a knock on the door. I heard my mother saying, “Oh, hello Hugo, Theo’s upstairs. I’ll go get him. There were footsteps and my mother said, “Hugo’s here to see you, Theo, you’d better hurry up.” I slammed my suitcase shut and bounded to the door. Hugo was waiting for me. He was short, only 4 foot 11 inches, tanned, muscular, and had brown eyes and black hair. He was the opposite of me. I’m pale, eyes green, and dirty blonde hair. I’m thin, and almost 6 foot, and that’s pretty good for a 12 year old. I envied him, and I sincerely hoped he envied me. For a solid 30 seconds, we just stared at each other both over the threshold. Then Hugo broke the silence. “So, you’re going to your Grandmas?” I shifted back and forth, uncomfortable. “Yeah, I’m not too stoked.” I responded. But before Hugo could say anything else, a car pulled up to our house, and my dad stuck his head out. “Hey, champ,” he said. “Time to get in.” I sighed, picked up my briefcase, and headed to the car.
I watched as the city bustled by me, and soon turned into countrysides. About a hour later, I got out of the car, and walked up the gravel driveway to Grandma May’s house. The house was made of wood, and the light blue paint was chipped and peeled in many places. When I walked in, I saw an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. There was 3 wooden chairs at the wooden table with a candle sitting on it. There was an old staircase crammed into the tiny kitchen, and to the right there was a second room. It was very dark in the kitchen, as there were no windows. There was a strong smell of burnt pie. Then Grandma May came in the room. She was short, and wore a handmade dress. She took one good look at me, and started muttering about my parents, and lead me to my room. “Losing their jobs, the idiots.” She showed me upstairs, and into the first bedroom to the right. It was nice, the bed was comfortable, but dusty. As Grandma went down the stairs, I heard her call, “And the second room to the right is forbidden!” As soon as she said it, I knew I had to get into that room.
That night I opened the door cautiously, flashlight in hand, and crept down the hall. I took a deep breath and opened the door. There was a huge dusty box. I tiptoed over and opened it. It was full of pictures. I picked one up and there was a picture of a young man sitting on a chair, smiling. The caption said, ‘Grandpa John’. All I knew about grandpa John was that he died when I was three. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind and the pictures flew out of the box, and swirled around me. I fell back, but not onto the hard floor. Instead, my butt hit dry dirt. Wiping my behind, I stumbled toward the nearest wooden shack. A young boy jumped out of it. “Hi! I’m John, what’s your name?” “I’m, uh, I’m Theo.” I replied.
Had I time warped? The young boy did resemble the man in the picture, and his name was John. I was excited at the thought of spending even just one more day with my grandpa. “Do you want to come in? We can play marbles.” My grandpa said, “Yeah”. I had never played marbles before, but I’d heard about it, and it didn’t sound so bad. So I was led into the shack, and we played marbles. I was actually pretty good. My grandpa’s mother brought us cookies and lemonade, and we played for about four hours, until the cookies ran out. Then we went to the woods, where we pretended to be cowboys, and we play-fought each other with our fists, and sometimes we even used sticks. As night rolled around we got settled in a tent that my grandfather had made himself to camp out for the night. We had just gotten comfy when I checked my watch. There was one minute to midnight. The minute came by, and I felt a rush of air blow around us, leaves began to spin, and I stumbled and fell, not landing in the tent, but in my grandmas house. My grandma was thumping up the stairs, and I hardly had any time to get into my bedroom and pull the covers over me before she came up. She walked right into the second room and I took a deep breath. I started to think. Those pictures must have contained some sort of magic, because you can’t time warp without magic. My grandma probably didn’t want to think about grandpa, or she wouldn’t have locked up the pictures. She also couldn’t have known about the magic either, or else she would have told him. When the sun rose the next morning, however, all of these thoughts were driven from my mind by the thought of breakfast, and the old house seemed to be better that day.
There Are No Stories Left in Us
By Madelyn Loiacono
As a struggling author in desperate need of ideas, I agreed to go on some extravagant ‘adventure’ with my best friend, Nadia. Usually, I’m not the audacious type, but today is different. I need a break from sitting in a dark room and staring at a blank page all day.
“How much longer,” I moaned to Nadia. My legs were sore, and my arms felt like noodles from moving the branches that blocked my path.
“Almost there!” Nadia yelled, marching on with an energetic sense. “You writers need to get out more! Your body will become a rock too heavy to move. I’ll have to roll you down this path!” Nadia strives to joke, although it isn’t very amusing.
“Hilarious.” I say sarcastically.” I need ideas. A spark of imagination. This best be moving,” I finished.
I looked down at the map Nadia gave me. Last night, we flew in from Japan to South Korea and rented a condo near this deserted coast. I just hope this shoreline knocks my socks off otherwise, this would be a big fat waste of time.
“You will be inspired like no other!” Nadia shouts, playfully. She tosses her arms up in the air, then halts. I stop too. “Whoa,” I mumble.
Before our eyes is a cliff that must drop hundreds, maybe thousands of feet into a great, but windless body of water. There are no trees to be spotted where we stand, the soft grass is now dotted with miniature pink flowers. In a small distance lies a traditionally styled Korean shack, just like in the villages.
Except this one hangs off a cliff.
“What is that place?” I whispered, directing my finger over to the cliff house.
“That’s Miss Gone’s library,” Nadia says.
“A library? All the way out here?” I ask.
Nadia's grin expands. “Follow me,” she says.
Nadia marched up the stairs proudly with a bold look while I stared down at the cliff. We. Were. So. High. I felt like I could vomit. Stop thinking of falling!
When I finally stumbled up the stairs, a tall woman with dead flowers decorating her hair greeted us. She had a black robe on and looked like the woman version of the Grim Reaper. This wasn’t weird…at all.
“Welcome to my library! Pleasant to see you again Nadia… Who have you brought along with you?” She asked with some sort of European accent.
“This is Anya,” Nadia says, abruptly putting her hand on my shoulder. I jump out of my skin. “Japan’s top struggling manga artist has arrived in dire need of an idea.” Nadia said presenting me like her most prized trophy.
I just smiled and weakly waved. “Hey,” I said.
“Hay? You want hay? This is a library, not a farm,” The lady snorted impolitely at me. My grin dropped farther down than the cliff.
“Er, she’s an interesting person. Doesn’t get out very much. See! Now you have something in common!” Nadia tries to persuade me. If I have anything in common with this lady, then I might have serious issues.
Miss Gone’s Forbidden Library, she explained, was small, but the ceiling was higher than you’d expect for such a tiny shack. I was anxious, my palms were clammy just at the thought of being so far up. What if the library just flat out fell?
“In here are tales,” Miss Gone started. “Some true, lived tales. Some fictitious deeds of the human imagination. I must say, these are the Greats.” Miss Gone said, presenting her library.
I looked around at the books, but I didn’t recall any of them. I’ve read numerous books. All types of books. Books from home, books from around the world, books in different languages. Yet not a single book here that I’ve heard of.
“What are all these books?” I asked. “I’ve never heard of a single one.”
“That's because, Anya, they no longer exist.”
Miss Gone sat in a rocking chair, in the middle of the room near a wide window. I was confused. They look real to me, I thought.
“Books are human voices. The books, they live, they breathe with us. We write what we know, we write what we’ve seen, we write so others can hear. You’re a writer, I’m sure you understand, Anya?”
I nod my head, mesmerized by her speech.
“Books are fragments of each human soul sitting on a shelf waiting to be found. Mark my words, no human soul should ever be told their voice is too much, too strong, or too little and quiet. Most of all, no human voice should be forbidden, banned from society's ears, because of someone else's thoughts on the living, breathing voice living inside the pages.”
Miss Gone picked up a book, and started to flip through it, smiling.
“All these books in my collection were banned a long time ago in the early 2000’s. There are voices in here that are forever lost in history.” Miss Gone continued, staring at the floorboards. She shut her book. “Listen to me, and listen carefully,” she said, now approaching me.
“See the world around you. The people, they are selfish, wanting to be like everyone else. They are addicts to a digital world. Everyone is broken off, in their own little bubble. Look around, we are isolated, and mindless in the sense of our history. There are no books, voices left to speak our truth, and help us learn. There are no stories left in us. We are dead in the mind. Dead in the soul. Many souls keep dying to this way of life. Don’t let another soul die. One day, I want to open my library! Let people see the heroines and heroes of this world! Don’t let another voice go to waste. Don’t let another story die.”
Life of an Orange
By Jasmine Sudan
My name is Cora and I am an orange. You probably already know this but I am round and orange.
My home is a little fruit basket in the kitchen. I share my home with the couple other fruits, including an apple named Grannysmith, a pear named Sekel and a mango named Parrot mango. Each day a couple of us get taken away by a giant person called a human and never come back. The person has a ponytail and wears an apron over their clothes other than that the giant person also complains about doing something called washing the dishes in where she turns on a giant grey thing that emits water (and it is not a cloud) afterword she takes a round white thing with stuff on it and puts it under the water. The other thing the giant human does is apparently called making food in which takes something from the fridge and puts them in a bowl and then eats them. She complains a lot about doing both things. In the afternoon she talks to the plants which is really annoying because first we're right here she can talk to us and second the plants keep on giving us smug looks. Sometimes life can get quiet difficult being an orange. Some difficulties are not being able to move around and not knowing my fate and being powerless. on the other hand being an orange also has some benefits. One of them is that I don't have to go to a place called school, the human complains often about going there to do something called teaching. I also don't have to do any work like right now I am just comfortably sitting and watching the giant person walk toward me, she picks me and Grannysmith up as we wave goodbye to Parrot mango and brings us close to a strange humming machine and start peeling my shell, after the giant is done she starts cutting up Grannysmith up into slices. This was really sad to watch. The giant then puts us into the mouth of the machine and this is the end of the diary of an orange.
It was a bright, sunny morning at Clove Street. The Johnsons were living an ordinary day, like always. In their house, breakfast was being arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Upstairs was a different story. The Johnsons’ son, 13 year-old Vas, was browsing his phone. He’d concluded that he could do nothing better to improve his life. Their family wouldn’t be going to vacation because of their income. So now, Vas‘s interest would now lie in the sounds of his fingertips softly tapping the phone screen, tap…tap…tap… Up till this day, his parents hadn’t found out about Vas’s secret entertainment. That was only up until this day… Downstairs, Mrs. Johnson would be calmly, walking up the stairs, to open the door which led to her son’s room. Creek! The door opened…
“Honey, your food is ready,” Mrs. Johnson commented,” please come-“. Mrs. Johnson stopped speaking when she saw a rectangular, flat shape, being shoved into Vas’s pocket. “What is that, Vas?” she questioned.
“Just something… It is a small book”, Vas lied.
“As far as I remember, there aren’t any books in your room,” Mrs. Johnson added,” Please don’t lie!”
Vas couldn’t think of how to respond. Since he didn’t say anything, Mrs. Johnson walked over to him and grabbed the phone out of his pocket! “Uh-Oh”, Vas thought, “I am doomed!”
“A phone? Vas, tell me what is going on!” Mrs. Johnson exclaimed.
“Okay-okay, I was dying of boredom.” Vas continued,” So I bought a phone from dad’s credit card. Is that okay? “
“Completely okay son,” Mrs. Johnson sarcastically commented. “Do you REALLY think dad won’t be upset?”
“Maybe he won’t be,” Vas muttered.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” Mrs. Johnson yelled, as her face grew red. “Just wait until I tell you dad about this!”
“No, stop! Please, I was just bored so I used a phone to learn new educational…”
“Educational things? Don’t lie again! Go eat breakfast; you have a nasty surprise for your dad this morning!”
Later, during breakfast, the Johnsons all sat down, acting as if nothing had happened. That was only until Mrs. Johnson broke the silence.
“So Vas, are you going to tell your dad about what you have been up to lately?” Mrs. Johnson asked, in a mocking way.
“Why, is it something I should know?” Mr. Johnson asked curiously.
“Ask him, you will find out,” Mrs. Johnson replied.
Mr. Johnson turned his head towards Vas. His bright, blue eyes stared fiercely at him.
“Vas, what is it?” he asked seriously.
It was up to Vas to either speak the truth or lie… He made the wrong decision, which he would pay for.
“Uh-nothing. I joined a sports club because I wanted to participate in it. Sorry for not…”
“Since was when that a problem? I am happy to see my son’s interest in sports.” Mr. Johnson said.
“Now hold on a second, Vas.” Mrs. Johnson interrupted. “If you can’t tell him yourself, then I will.
Hearing this, Vas’s heart dropped into his stomach. Getting away wouldn’t be that easy, and Mrs. Johnson proved it.
“Honey, have you realized the money in your account?” Mrs. Johnson asked her husband.
“Yeah, it decreased, because of the sport fees,” Mr. Johnson replied. “Right?”
“Well in fact it is NOT the sport fees. Vas ‘borrowed’ your credit card and bought a phone.” Mrs. Johnson revealed.
She took the phone and held it up high for Mr. Johnson’s eyes to take in all of it.” See what your son did?”
At first, Mr. Johnson couldn’t believe what was happening. Then slowly, anger started bubbling up inside him, like a volcano; his face began to turn red.
“Vas!” he exclaimed, drastically changing the mood, “Haven’t you learned that we need to be more careful with our low budget?”
“Dad, I know. I just wanted to have some-” Vas quietly said.
“What you call fun is a horrible expense.” Mr. Johnson interrupted.
“Okay-okay, I’m sorry for my actions! Just tell me what I can do to make up for it!”
“You better be sorry, Vas!”
Mr. Johnson explained how Vas had to earn the money back somehow. Then he would have to pay it back. That would obviously mean dozens of chores! However, he would do anything to make his family happy again.
Weeks later, even with all of his hard work, Vas still didn’t have the necessary amount of money. But Mr. Johnson was proud that Vas had learned.
One day, while Vas was about to leave his neighbors’ house after cleaning their backyard, Mr. Johnson stopped him.
“Vas, would you mind if I talked to you?”
He was surprised that his dad wanted to talk to him. His parents’ had hardly spoken to him ever since the incident happened.
“I would like to comment on your actions lately.” Mr. Johnson advised.
“Go ahead”, Vas said kindly.
“Over the past few weeks, I noticed that you have been working your hardest for money. I would like to reward you for learning from your mistakes.”
“Thank You, Dad,” Vas commented. “I just want my family to be happy again. I promise that all of that money will come back to you.”
“No, you don’t have to do that. See look, your mom and I had a short conversation yesterday about your discipline. From today, we concluded that you don’t have to work anymore”, Mr. Johnson said.
“But what about the deal? Don’t I have to pay back all the money?” Vas asked.
“Forget about it, we are very proud that you learned your lesson and are up for any challenge.”
“I always knew that my parents were generous.”
Vas was satisfied that he had pleased his parents. From on now, he would never hide anything from them.
“Tell your neighbors that today was your last day at their backyard,” Mr. Johnson added.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Vas stepped into his neighbors’ house. Just before he shut the door, he smiled at his dad.
By R. Dana Barlow
Floor nurse Gretchen Panabaker poked her head through the open doorway of the clinical staff lounge amid the din of voices inside. With arched eyebrows and pursed lips, she uttered two words to the seated gaggle of doctors, interns, circulating and floor nurses and others eating and chattering.
For roughly five seconds, an eerie silence settled among the group, along with an absence of motion.
Marshall Danzer, a newly hired surgical technologist, glanced at the wall-mounted clock to his left. High noon, straight up. Marshall scanned the room, marveling at how everyone seemed to hang on Gretchen’s two words. A floor nurse who had been working at the hospital for two years, Gretchen was training for promotion to a shift supervisor. But her status on the organizational chart didn’t seem to faze or matter to anyone around the room at that moment. Lively conversations sputtered, then dissipated. Even Dr. Harper, one of the leading cardiothoracic surgeons in the county, and Dr. Leonard, a prominent orthopedic surgeon, engrossed in a discussion about an essay in the latest edition of JAMA, paused with respect.
For the first time, those gathered in the room heard the faint ticking of the second hand on the wall clock.
Just as quickly as Gretchen called everyone to attention, she disappeared. A first-year intern slowly lifted himself from his chair, an act that seemed to transmit a spark through the rest of the room. Quietly, the small gathering of doctors, circulating nurses and other clinical personnel followed suit. No one tidied up their plates of food, beverages and lunch bags. They left it all behind for now because it no longer mattered. Something else earned a much higher priority.
Regardless of title, of influence, of ego, they all demonstrated a sense of parity, of purpose, of unity, behind one common mission.
As the group filed out of the staff lounge and entered the long hallway linking the Operating Room to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Marshall noticed two parallel lines of staffers already forming, opposite of each other. A pair of interventional radiologists bookended the Chief Financial Officer. The CEO whispered something to two members of housekeeping that elicited grins. The laboratory director gestured to a sterile processing technician to move down. She then nudged several circulating nurses and a purchasing clerk to do the same.
All in all, nearly 50 staffers left their breaks, rounds and shifts for something they considered sacred: The Honor Walk. Soft chatter continued.
As Marshall shuffled down the hallway, searching for his place in the queue, he spotted Gretchen who by now had folded into her spot. He lined up next to her and asked, “Is it always like this?”
“More or less,” she replied. “Yet each one of these events is unique in its own way. Every facility adds a bit of its own special touch.”
Just then someone caused the overhead lights to flicker. Then they dimmed. As if on cue, each participant in the Honor Walk bowed his or her head, some with furrowed brows, others with eyes shut as if silently meditating or praying. Several placed a hand over their heart as would someone pledging allegiance to the flag or denoting respect.
Out of curiosity, Marshall cocked his head to the right, watching as the transplant team silently and somberly walked down the hallway toward the OR. One of the two clutched a small carry-on cooler. Marshall knew what would be inside of it a few hours from now.
After they disappeared behind the doors to the surgical suite, another procession commenced down the hallway. Two clinical transport staffers flanked a comatose patient lying on a bed, oxygen mask covering her mouth and nose. As they pushed the bed slowly down the hall, a nurse followed alongside the head of the bed, glancing periodically at the bedrail computer monitoring the patient’s vital signs as she steered the intravenous pole tethered to the patient’s arm by IV line. All three remained expressionless, making eye contact with no one.
A small group of teary-eyed people followed closely behind. Marshall presumed they were the patient’s family. Before the clinical transport staffers pushed the bed through the OR doors, they stopped for a moment. One-by-one, members of the patient’s family squeezed the patient’s shoulder or hand. The last person, a five-year-old girl, was too short to reach the top of the bed so one of the clinical transport staffers solemnly lifted her up. She kissed the patient’s forehead as if to reassure her this goodbye would not last forever.
Dr. Harper promptly looked up and with an approving nod, signaled to one of the nurses to accompany the family to the waiting room.
The dimmed lights and tranquility remained for another 30 seconds. When the lights returned to full strength, staffers silently returned to their posts.
“My heart tells me that I wish I would have known the donor,” Marshall said to Gretchen.
“Same here,” Gretchen replied. “But we’d never have appreciated her as much as her own family. Right now, we’re all family to a generous woman who not only brings honor to her family but also life to another. For that, I am truly grateful to see how someone can change the world upon passing and I am honored to serve as one small part of that journey.”
Having experienced his first Honor Walk, Marshall felt compelled to visit the family in the waiting room. Once he entered, and they all looked up at him, Marshall suddenly lost what he wanted to say. So many words filled his head as he approached the waiting room only to depart with eye contact, leaving him feeling empty and guilty.
Just then the little girl walked up to Marshall and grabbed his hand. As he looked into her eyes, he thought of two words to share with them all as earnestly as he could.
By Danielle Tauscher
He remembers the little things about her. The way she takes her coffee—three heaping spoonfuls of sugar and a splash of milk. She only drinks water with ice. Doesn’t like to wear shoes. Bites her nails. Wiggles her toes when she excitedly tells a story.
But he can’t remember when they got married or the name of their first-born. He knows they have four children. He knows two of them are married with their own kids. He knows he’s called grandpa. But he can’t remember if he ever loved her.
He confuses her with the other one. The one with the amazing smile and glittery eyes. Not that she doesn’t have a great smile. She does, but it’s not the same. She’s not the same as the other one. The one he dreams about. The one he remembers dancing with at an all-night dance-a-thon. He doesn’t remember if they won, but he’s guessing not. He was never that great of a dancer. He only went because of her. Or the other one. He gets confused.
Her name. He’d like to remember her name. And her face. And the way she felt curled up in his arms. It started with a J or a K or maybe a L. No. No. No. That's the damn alphabet. He remembers the alphabet. The doctor says that’s good. What good is remembering a bunch of letters when he can’t remember what he ate for breakfast? Did he eat breakfast? He must have. She wouldn't let him miss it.
But which one is she? He wonders if the other one is a dream. Maybe he made her up. There’s no way of telling. He can’t ask without upsetting her and he doesn’t want to do that. He might have loved her, might still love her, might consider loving her if he remembered how to love.
Or her name.
By Andy Millman
Leonard hums tunes I don’t recognize when we work in his apartment. Perhaps they’re from before my time or maybe he makes them up. Today’s music is light and bouncy as we survey the boxes stacked against his wall. There are fifteen in all, three rows of five standing straight in formation. They are cardboard banker’s boxes, the kind good for storing things no one may ever need but no one is sure should be thrown away. The boxes aren’t dated but they do suggest various ages. Some are stiff and clean with firm lines, while others are marked with water stains or simply by time. Those are spotted like Leonard’s hands.
The boxes were delivered by Leonard’s daughter, who’d been storing them since Leonard moved into assisted living ten years ago. Her recent divorce was amicable, the house sold quickly, and she now lives in a downtown apartment, ready to start a new life, but with no room for Leonard’s boxes. He’s in no rush to look through them, but there is something he enjoys about the process. Each unopened box is a mystery, its contents a link to the past. Mostly there are papers. We’ve gone through receipts and bank statements and tax returns and instructions for appliances long forgotten. We’ve found materials from his thirty-five years as a junior high Social Studies teacher, yellowed letters and anniversary cards, folk records and a harmonica, and a small painting of his childhood dog, a black poodle named Sarge. This we hung on the wall, next to his bed.
We mark the boxes we’ve explored with a black “X.” Now Leonard runs his cane down the last stack and points at the first box with no mark, second from the top. He says, “Let’s see what awaits us in there,” as he always does, and sits on the couch while I set the box on the coffee table in front of him. He raises his eyebrows and lifts the lid. I see green wool and not much else. He removes a sweater and holds it up. It is a cardigan with leather elbow patches. He says nothing. Then he tenderly presses it against his cheek and he holds it there.
Something is coming back to him so strongly that it makes the room feel crowded. Maybe he’s remembering his wife, who died before he moved here. Or possibly this was a work sweater, the patches useful for the hours his elbows rested on the hard wooden arms of his teacher’s chair.
I want to leave him alone with whatever he’s feeling, so I go search for things to do. In his bedroom, I notice a plant I brought him is drooping. I fill his water cup from the bathroom sink and gently pour around the stalk and under the plant’s sagging leaves. When I return to the bathroom, I see smudges on the mirror and I wet a piece of toilet paper to wipe them off. I straighten his medicine cabinet, not because it needs it but because maybe he needs another few minutes.
I cough loudly (his hearing is not so good) to let him know I’m coming back to the living room. The sweater is folded neatly and resting on the corner of the table. I want to ask him about it but I don’t. I sit on the chair perpendicular to the couch and wait. He is thumbing through a school yearbook. He places it on the sweater. Next he takes out a red Matchbox car from the box. He smiles and puts it on the table. Then he pushes it softly and watches it roll.
We normally play Scrabble before I leave, which Leonard usually wins, but today he says he’s tired and we don’t play. I slip on my coat and grab his garbage to bring to the trash chute. He asks me to wait a second and then makes his way to the door. He hands me the sweater. At first I think he wants me to throw it away but he tells me to take it. I urge him to keep it. Days are getting cold and it will keep him warm. He tells me that he’ll feel warm knowing I have it.
Three months later I wear the sweater to Leonard’s memorial service. The “Celebration of Life,” as it is being called, is held in the Community Room of his building. There are, perhaps, a dozen or so people in attendance, and they are mostly residents of the building. His daughter, whom I’ve met only a couple times but was with at the very end, spots me and approaches. There is a man with her, and I don’t know if it’s her ex-husband or a new boyfriend. I express my condolences and she thanks me for helping her father. I tell her I’ll miss him, which is true. I don’t tell her that I decided I can’t do this work anymore.
Something shifts in her eyes and she regards me curiously. She’s no longer looking at me, but at the sweater. Her hand reaches out slowly and touches my shoulder, and then slides down to the leather elbow patch, where it rests for a moment. She removes her hand, shakes her head slightly, and apologizes. She starts a sentence but it gets caught somewhere. She tries again. My brother, she says, had a sweater like that. I tell her that I didn’t know there was a brother.
She sucks in a tight breath. “There was,” she says.
The man escorts her away, back to the other guests, and I need to leave. I hurry down the humid halls, past the cafeteria that always smells of something fried, and past the front desk, where I drop off my name badge. I go through the front door and into the cold. Snow has just begun to fall and I lift my head to face it.