Letter from the Editor When writing about this year’s Lit Mag, I also have to write about people as it was only through the effort of so many people that this was possible. I believe many things to be “seasonal” but most of all, our lives are. There are many stages one goes through in life. While I find myself moving on from this stage, and moving on from high school, there will be others who enter into it just as I did four years ago. It’s an incredible journey being in high school filled with seasonal pros and cons. Each year has its own voice, from the freshman poetry, to the sophomore “This I Believe,” the junior essays, and the senior short stories. All are featured here in this edition of Chase Collegiate’s Literary Magazine, which you hold in your hands. Seasons, of course, can merely refer to the general and obvious spring, summer, fall, and winter and, despite comments from Christian Lewis to the contrary, nature can always inspire us to poetry and we feature such selections in these pages. Yet, this strict denotation was not my goal in the Lit Mag I brought together for this year. I wished to illustrate that though all of us are at different seasons and on different levels, ultimately, we are united, as illuminated in the beautiful cover art from Alexa Elmy. Bound tightly together are works of fictions regarding childhood and adulthood, winter and summer, hard work and relaxation, comedy and tragedy, and each different season has a place in this Lit Mag. Appreciate the contrast; enjoy the divergence, before you too move on to a stage where the seasons get harsher. Finally, I’d like to thank my editors, especially Christian, Lindsey, and Jackie for their additional help in layout design, my artists, particularly Alexa, Adele, and Tom, and my advisor, Mrs. Gusenburg, whose dedication to each year’s edition is never seasonal. Enjoy the selections and happy reading! ~Victoria Kallsen, Editor-in-chief
Victoria Kallsen, Editor-in-Chief Christian Lewis, Senior Editor Lindsey Nelson, Senior Editor Jacqueline Bickley, Senior Editor Editors Anna Bellerive ‘12 Emily Ewen ‘12 Alexandria Lucchesi ‘12 Gabrielle Rodriguez ‘12 Akorfa Adobor ‘13 Caity Brash ‘14 Lauren Crowe ‘14 Laura Iliescu ‘14 Muriel Drexler ‘14 Khaoula Ben Haj Frej ‘14
Artists Alexa Elmy, Cover Art Tom Aviles ‘12 Nick Arisco ‘12 Adele Kodra ‘13 Alicia Payne ‘14 Paige Demas ‘14
One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose.
Wide-Eyed by Victoria Kallsen Still wide-eyed and awake Might even have a headache This night is everlasting But then again why waste it? Days seem to repeat themselves I won't waste my time on details But my nights are all so divergent That's when you visit me, ain't it? I feel so cold, even with a blanket Waiting for your warmth, alone Clocks will tick tock without my Consent as I sigh discontent Hello, you say, whispering in my Head, always in my head, because Actually it's just a dream, a dream, A film only I can see, even then, Maybe we're just a dream, This escape from reality but In those few moments I steal I watch your hair, your eyes, Your smile lights me on fire Secretly fills me with desire This dream is mine to tell I'll mold, shape it, make it real
Actually, it's just a dream Pathetic maybe, but it's me A girl alone, no hand to hold What's wrong with a fantasy? It's not so bad, just a thought A warm idea to accompany A cold girl on a starry night Whoâ€™s never been anywhere
One Soul by Emily Ewen Wanted: One Soul Have you seen my soul? I seem to have left it behind Down a street to the right Silently slipping through An unlocked door Moon sliced like a knife Palely shining through the kitchen window Down on the floor Up the stairs Around a Corner In the bedroom of a sleeping stranger But this stranger no longer breaths Caressing the floor as one would a lost child Gliding next to the bed I stood Heavy, Monotonous breathing that Needs to be silenced My soul must come alive, I MUST find it now With a firm grip to the throat A silent cry, heaving gasps A spark of life that slowly burns to embers In the center of the eyes Glowing, glowing,â€Ś Gone I HAVE DONE IT! Perfectly, perpetually gone No brightly colored dawn Arising to a peaceful day In this moment is where, I suspect, it was lost again With calm satisfaction I paraded out the back To where I started Then it hit me My soul! Can you find it?
I See Sounds by Khaoula Ben Haj Frej Our world is full of sounds: Loud sounds; Thunder, dogs barking, an infant’s wail. Soft sounds; A mother’s voice, a lullaby, calming ocean waves, cooing doves. Scary sounds; Gunshots, screams, and evil laughs. Wherever I am, I can see them, Loud or soft, every sound has a color. Plain colors; Red, yellow, blue, and green And those with pretty names; Periwinkle blue, burnt sienna, and candy apple red. Some remind me of everyday things; Eggshell, dollar bill, denim, and bubblegum And some that Crayola uses; Pikes Peak Purple, Bee-Utah-Ful, and Rockets’ Red Glare. And many more that I cannot name. You would think that is all, but no, Some sounds have shapes, too. Oh, so many kinds! Enter polygons; Squares, triangles, and rectangles, Non-polygons; Circles and ovals. And at times, I see blurs, beautiful indefinite shapes that float before me. Sounds and color are in harmony. A comfort at times, entertainment at others. I am a synesthete, and I see sounds. I see sounds, And this shapes my world in impossibly amazing ways! 6
The Meaning of a Color by Colette Rossiter Red, what do you stand for? Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had? Like the blood on the wound of a soldier, Or the feeling of love on a rose? Orange, what do you stand for? Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had? Like a pumpkin on All Hallows Eve, Or a gold fish in a bowl? Yellow, what do you stand for? Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had? As bright as the sun in the sky, Or a smiley face sticker? Green, what do you stand for? Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had? The feeling of envy, Or running through a field of grass? Blue, what do you stand for Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had? Purple, what do you stand for? Something good? Something bad? Something we wish we had?
Letters from God by Josh Singleton He silently opened the sinful envelope It read: Ask me anything. He sat in solitude, smoking the last cigarette Grim shadows casted on the livid walls surrounding The candle flickered in the distant All he needed was the truth, Where were you? Written between the lines of curiosity and fear
Where were you, When my walls came crashing down and I was broken on the floor? I was amid the storm with no shelter…. He stopped. Will he admit to everything? He continued. I wish the words came eloquently to me, effortlessly You are my saving grace, the arms that hold me In my rightful place Why weren’t you there to catch me? He closed his darken eyes—regaining consciousness The eerie sound of the wailing sirens pierced his bleak concentration The rush of the trigger…. His sleeves stained red….
The weak pulse of his beating heart in his bleeding chest The images were burned into his memory. He opened his mind, And--another insincere envelope. It read: I look after you. I was there. And I will always be with you. You were there. You caught me; I chose not to feel it With my numb senses and spiteful eyes
Infinity by Sarah McCauley Boundless and eternal, Countless and immortal, Is it possible to never end? Can something last forever? Open eyes try to count the miles, Closed eyes imagine space, mile after mile, Can oneâ€™s mind grasp the end? Can oneâ€™s mind stretch to the start? Perpetual and endless, Everlasting and limitless, How big can it be? How small is a prison? Is each person a captive? Is there an escape? How small is a prison? Overwhelmingly small.
Edge of Insanity by Emily Ewen
On the edge of this despair That lingers around the sane mind A phantom shadow provokes Those dark days, memories to forget How is it they remain? When now my world is filled with light A constant threat arouses those feelings Which few have heard of, know of, thought of Even with the promise of a new dawn The body shakes from the ravages of past battles It doesn't want to go back Never go back To the time where all was lost Day was a constant lonely night Filled with nightmares Sought only in horror films Is all this worrying in vain? It must be! Butâ€ŚThe soul still remains firmly shaken After standing at the edge of insanity 11
Pencil Case by CeCe Sivori
So what is love without a pencil case? With the highlighters, pens, pencils, and more; White out will keep me from getting off pace. There is nothing else that one could ask for. By holding everything together Such a convenience will keep me on task. What shall I name it? Bernice or Heather? And upon this idea I start to bask. Colors of white, turquoise, blue, and navy The fabric, Velcro, and zippers are grand. I would never let it touch gravy Makes me consider of what is this brand? It sure is pathetic, I cannot lie; I love my pencil case as much as pie.
Artificial Liberty by Anna Bellerive My core a solid knot of iron, While eyes fall upon the clock in a cavernous stare. Hands mock with a constant tick, Slowing time with every twitch. Gasping for breath through stagnant air. Suffocating in the inferno That imprisoned me in this heat. Heat that warps the song of my thoughts To chords clanging off pitch. Pencils claw at pallid sheets, The grating echoing in the roaring silence. Reflecting thoughts of identical minds, Drunken with false hopes of freedom.
The Monster Who Was Once a Man by Alicia Payne What the Man? The “monster,” we called him, Whose eyes were labyrinths Of final moments repressed, And whose mouth Was stained with the screams of madness. What the sound? He called to the world With the wounded cries Of his injured soul And pounded the ground With his angry fists. The hollow din Of his empty chest Echoed where a heart once beat, But now was gone— Ripped out, as shown By the gaping hole. What the anger? On its head, patches Where hair had once been, But now scratched out In a monstrous moment of fury And terrible pain. What the gaze? And his echoing, mirroring eyes That stared at people,
What the whimper? His mournful cry of loneliness. Oh, how lonely the monster is! The incredible gore that he flauntsThe skin, rotting, that wraps him Is a curse on itself. What the cry? Never seeing The shell that they hide in, Instead, the essence of whom they were. He screams for a companion, Someone to hold and to love A mother, a brother, a loverAnd yet no one sees; No one hears his plea. All they see is a monster, Great and mighty, Here to the â€œdestroy the worldâ€? In a typical fashion. They cower in fear And flee from his open arms. What the sadness? All he needs Is someone to see What he really isA beautiful, innocent soul, Dirtied and degraded, Trampled and angered By the world we have built And what we have become. Yet none do.
Secrets by Alexa Elmy
The book, the book! Hidden in her arms Such a striking face with a perfect binding Could it be too large, too heavy, For her tiny, fragile heart? Skimming the text they see nothing important; Could such beauty and glamour have an ugly side? No one will look in the book nowHow could they ever handle the reality? Who fashioned this scandalous truth? She wears the book like a coat of armor. Can she protect herself forever? The book, like a mask on her Piercing silence, itâ€™s almost unbearable. Is internal strength even worth it? A bond now formed between twoIs it enough to just tell a friend? Who else is holding a precious book, For no one to open and see whatâ€™s really occurring? For someone to read the heart? Will they ever tell the truth? The book, the book! Hidden in her arms Such a striking face with a binding so perfect Could it be too large, too heavy, For her tiny, enduring heart? 16
The Pedagogue by Christian Lewis Didactic in speech With an informative air, Instructing the pupils On how to prepare Scholarly spoken With simplistic ease, For as an instructor The goal is to please Paradoxically phrased As teacher to all, Yet only to few A professor to call With scholastic wit, And studious stride Tutoring those who Heartedly try With hands outstretched As part of the need The teacher just tried To plant a new seed For in every man, And in every part, Is lying a student, Academic at heart.
The Rags and the Riches by Chad Taylor
A man who is poor dreams of riches. A man who is rich thinks nothing of the poor. The man in rags wants to have possessions, But there are some things he can only wish for. Why is the man living on the street? Without any money? With nothing to eat? Without a job? Without any heat? Could someone elucidate this tragic feat? How does he stay alive? Heâ€™s never complete. The rich man keeps his cash to himself. He can buy new things; Spend his providential wealth. Would he bestow all his pay? Roam the streets and live poor for a day? 18
The poor man on the street, Tenacious for the dollar, But the rich man thinks the poor man is a bother. Why do the rich opt to ignore, Something that was declared, Even by the Lord? Why, why would they leave him there to cry? Do dreams dare be crushed? Do tears dare be dried? All of his luck Has been swept away. High to the sky. Never to be seen again. A man who is poor dreams of riches. A man who is rich thinks nothing of the poor. The man in rags wants to have possessions, But there are some things he can only dream for.
The Sinister Fear by Alex Kenworthy Are you nervous, or are you scared? You might see it, if you dared. It creeps all the time, Always finding the just crime. Does it appear in your dream? Waking you up with a scream? What do you fear? As your time does come near. How does fear do it? It is quite sly, I will admit. It’s fear; it’s fear; It is clear. How can dread just show its face, To craft together your disgrace? How will you see this fright? This is a battle you try to fight. You must know it will find everyone. Even if you try to stop it, it’s true. It’s fear; it’s fear. Can I make it any more clear? The sweat pours down your face, Your heart begins to race. Then your muscles become tight. Are you afraid the beast will bite? Will you believe your eyes When you see it come alive? Does it do its evil for fun? Have you lost? Has fear already won?
The Burger Rare by Muriel Drexler In the universe, what is a burger? How would you cook a burger rare? A hot grill for a juicy bite of more than air? But what is medium; what is rare? What about the burger rare? How rare does it become, and what with heat? Who decides the rareness, so we can eat? Who sets the scales for the burger rare? Do those beings truly exist? Of what quality meat do they insist? And who is the burger rare? Is she the sacred scorching sun? Does she allow us to have fun? What of the food alongside the burger rare? Do these account for anything in our eyes? What about ketchup on fast food fries? But then, who are the fries? Do they twinkle like the small silvery stars? Dotting the sky from here to Mars? Were the first fries made Just to be had with the burger rare? Perhaps those who set the scales had to share? And of all those who share Every burger in the rareâ€” Who cares?
Winter by Michela Morrissey Snow on snow on snow. Who hath made both warm and cold? When fall takes its final bow and winter starts to bloom, Why are we so happy? On a cold Christmas Eve, it seems so friendly, In the dead of winter we build our snowmen, the earth appears perfect. Snow on snow on snow. Why does winter appear so affable, but surly all the same? As spring starts to creep up on us and winter starts to pack, Why do we rejoice to see winter go? On a busy weekday, it comes to us oh, so unhappily. In the dead of winter we must wrap ourselves in mounds of blankets to keep the frost away. Snow on snow on snow. He hath made both warm and cold Summer and winter South and North Snow on snow on snow.
Breathe by Natalie Anne Fitzgerald I can feel it. Constricting my breath I take bigger breaths, hoping it will go away It doesnâ€™t. I soon hear the wheeze I try to cough to make it better, but it does nothingAnd I wonder, Why would someone be built this way? Trying to find my savior, The little blue object that will make everything better Then again I wonderWhy does this object help me? I take a puff. Inhale. All better I can go back to the game5 minutes I could have been playing, wasted. As Iâ€™m running up court Feeling normal. I wonder to myselfWhy do the people that love sports the most have asthma?
The Challenge to Change by Doug Tolbert-Cooke
Have you ever been lost, never to be found? The pain of it all is sometimes unbearable. I feel like I’m alone without a sound. Is it fate gazing at me, or something more terrible? How can I ever hope to make it at all? I’ve managed to make it thus far, but how? I continue to surprise myself; I have yet to fall. But the easy part is over, and my time is now. I have got to stop being lazy. Who’s going to trust a lazy guy? If I don’t shape up, people will think that I’m crazy! And soon they’ll be out of my life forever; is this goodbye? Why does this always seem like it’s so challenging? How come in the when it’s all done, it all ends in a lie? Why is it that it always seems to be so menacing? I don’t know but I do know that I’m going to have to try. 24
The Promise of the Lotus Blossom by Serena L. Sakheim Love, one syllable four letters Meaning, unknown Each person discovers love in his or her own way. And has their own personal meaning of it. Love, it canâ€™t be bought nor sold Why is that true? What makes it unlike a materialistic object? What is special about love to you? Love, sit at the window, Close your eyes and think Think of the radiant summer sun, warm breezes and laughter What makes people love? Love, why do we love? Is it because we donâ€™t have anything else to do? That everyone else is doing it, so we should to? Or could it be the only thing that keeps us going? Love, where do you see it? In movies, poems, songs, TV, Or is it in a couple passing by, your parents or friends, Or in the goofy grin of someone you care about. Love, how do you know it is love? Because someone just says it is, Or is it just by looking into their blue eyes? Every time you look at him, it feels like everything is copasetic Love, what exactly is love to you? Is it an emotion or just a meaningless overly used superfluous noun? Why is it so important to some, yet uninteresting to others Is love just another term for hope?
Love, sometimes love is right in front of your eyes without us seeing it, we are blind to it Like an apple among countless others on a tree, Hiding out behind the leaves, it might be difficult to see It’s tricky to reach but he picks that apple Love, how do we find love, do we have to travel far across the world to find it, Or is it close to home, will it come and find us? Some say things happen for a reason, Will you be the one to let people pass by or when the time comes will you make the decision? Love, it’s unpredictable you can find love in some of the most unexpected people, Love isn’t labeled to a person, it has no due date or expiration, you cannot anticipate love, It’s just like a little flowering bud, You never know what type of flower it is or when it will blossom Love, what if you don’t believe in love? Emotions are just not built for certain people, So they promise to never let anyone in again So that’s how they have always lived since then, shutting everyone out. Love, but what if you meet someone who is different, unlike anyone else you have ever met? Their blue eyes, crooked smile, laugh. Just thinking about them makes you smile Someone who seems to be able to look past all your baggage, and makes you feel safe, If he’s willing to stick around long enough, you may just have to break that one promise.
Wondrous Wishes by Madison Muccino We wonder About wondrous wishes. A wish can make us believe, That anything is possible. Do they actually come true? Or is it just us Trying to live life to its fullest? No science hides behind the answer, Just an eager imagination Full of creativity. If we wish too much, Will we be disappointed? In God’s plan, Did he want us to wish for our dreams? “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” Or so the writer’s say. Have you wished upon a shooting star? And hoped your life would change? Do we try too hard, To change the life That’s somehow meant to be? Or wish upon a shooting star, Just trying to believe? We wonder, Every month, day, hour, and minute of our lives. Will we ever be successful? Or will I remain wishing Upon that shining star Waiting for my life to change?
Colorless or Unique by Brandon Black Black and White. Is it lucid; is it boring? We sit upon the couch. Why does no emotion come from the TV? Black and White. Does it show style? Can you wear these colors alone? Does color have to be added? Black and White. Both are opposites. Black means bereavement. White means serenity. Black and White. How do colors show your personality? Does it smear a better picture in your head? Can black and white represent past generations? Black and White. Can these colors stand on their own? By themselves are they bland and boring? Yet is it the piece that makes an outfit unique?
Let’s Sit Down by Victoria Kallsen Let's sit down Under a moonless sky And talk of plans We can’t keep I'll hold your hand Please take mine Don't fall away Don't slip away Cause you're it, My soul mate, Holding my heart, Keeping it warm Nestle closely and Hear these words of Sincere thought and Sincere hearts I can’t stop my Heart from beating Out a melody for You to hear Just let me know If it gets too loud. Even if I can't Stop it now or ever Your eyes are smiling Your face is glad We're just enjoying The simple ease
Of words that flow Without stop and Without cause as I talk to you And then you whisper Back your harmonies In-tune replies to all That I feel inside Let's not forget The day is long And yet our time Is so very short And while we have Hours and dreams And years to plan And perhaps execute It doesn't seem like Enough because forever No longer has a meaning Without you. So please just stay Take my hand, I'll be brief and I'll be sincere. See those stars as They glitter now while Taking light years to Fade away into the night. These stars will leave Even the sun will die But just know now, When they speak of love 30
Itâ€™s ours that is true That stands firm in time A rock that cannot be Moved or even denied. Thereâ€™s no true word To describe everything You are to me, but Soul mate is a start Though I can't suggest That others might attain Something quite like this Something quite like you and me.
A r i s c o
To love is to believe, to hope, to know; Tis an essay, a taste of Heaven below!
The Girl Who Had Nothing to Say by Lauren Crowe Have you ever put off an essay or a story you had to write for school until the day before it’s due? Well, that’s my problem now. I have to write this story for tomorrow and I have no idea what to write about. Different ideas have come and gone in my head, and nothing seems to be good enough. I hate it when that happens. Sometimes, I wonder when I’m ever going to need to know how to write in my life. I think when we’re in high school we should tell the teachers what we want to do in our lives and then they could teach us stuff that would help us with our career choice, rather than making us do ten thousand different things that we will probably never use again in our lives. Or at least that’s how I think school should work. But nobody ever listens to me anyway so why do I even bother telling people? But that’s beside the point; I need to find something to write about. I’m currently laying on my bed with my laptop while listening to my iPod. My mom is always telling me not to listen to it while doing homework, because it will “distract” me. But in all honesty, it helps. I seem to do my best work when something’s playing in the back ground. It’s harder to do work in a silent classroom. I like noise. Maybe that’s why I’m always talking. Well, that’s not true. I don’t always talk, especially when I don’t know people well, or when I’m in a strange environment. But once I get used to you, you won’t be able to shut me up. I’ll talk about anything and sometimes I’ll just start to ramble. One time, I was actually discussing marshmallows with my uncle. The conversation died when he told me to shut up, in a loving way, of course. Cher just came on. I don’t know why, but I actually like some old songs. I guess it’s from when I was little; my mom would always pick the music that would play in the car. Sometimes she would just hand me her CD case and tell me to pick out an album. I usually chose the one with the prettiest colors on the front. And that’s what we would listen to. I could never really understand what they were saying, but that’s ok. I just liked the sound. That also might have contributed to something else unique about me.
Up until about a year ago, I never actually listened to the words of a song. In fact I really didn’t even know songs had a meaning to them at all. How did I find out? One of my old classmates was saying how she loved a song so much because she thought the words and meaning was so beautiful. I asked her what she meant and she told me some of the lyrics. I then asked why she actually listened to the words; and the rest of my class gave me a kind of look that said “You’re crazy, why do we even let you talk?” I then realized that I should pay more attention to the words and meanings of songs. My cat just came up and jumped on my bed. I love my cats. They can sense how you feel. When I’m sad they will come to me and lick me and try to make me feel happy. When I’m stressed out, they’ll just come by and lay down with me. They’re similar to people in that way. Well, some people. Some people are kind, caring, and sympathetic. Others could care less. And I’m ashamed to admit; sometimes I can be one of those people. I don’t know why but certain people just bug me and I want to tell them to get over themselves. But I hate it when other people do that to me. Hypocritical, right? But I’ve tried to be more sympathetic to others so that’s a good thing. I love it when someone gives you a surprise. Even if it’s a little thing. When I come out of practice, sometimes my mom will text me saying that she has a surprise for me. And when I get into the car she has a Dunkacinno and a bagel waiting for me. That will make my day. I enjoy little things. Playing with magnets on refrigerators, finally figuring out a rubrics cube, you know? Little unimportant things. Another great feeling: going shopping. I love coming home with bags full of new clothes that I love and can’t wait to wear. But I think that’s most girls my age. So I have to get back to writing this paper. It’s not easy to do, so I have to focus and stop procrastinating. Procrastination is something I’ve been doing my whole life. Doing projects at the last minute, cleaning my room right before my mom gets home. I try to sit down and to get started on a task but then I get distracted and off topic. Something that usually helps, getting a snack to eat and bring it with me. So I’ll take a bite, work a little more, take another bite, and so on. Maybe that’s what I should do for this story. Go get a sandwich or something. That sounds good. I’ll go to the kitchen and come back and finally start this homework.
Julius Caesar’s Fatal Mistakes by Laura Iliescu Julius Caesar pays a heavy price for his pride and ambition in William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. Caesar’s holier-than-thou attitude, coupled with his murdering of Pompey, prompt his invidious counterparts to plot to kill him. Time and time again, Caesar is warned by another person to think more prudently about dangers, but through his words and actions, Caesar shows how invincible he thinks he is. He feels he is not susceptible to danger, and because of this, he avoids taking cautionary measures in order to uphold his fearless reputation. Had Caesar acknowledged his own weaknesses, he would have realized the mistakes he made as a leader, perhaps saving his own life. As a result of Caesar’s blindness to his weak points, Caesar continues to believe in his invincibility, not recognizing the fact that he is only human. This is evidenced when Caesar dismisses the warning of an impartial soothsayer in front of a congregation of onlookers. When the soothsayer conveys the message, “Beware the Ides of March” (I. ii. 20), Caesar sharply declares, “He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass!” (I. ii. 26). Caesar’s unwillingness to heed sage advice points to his belief that he must maintain an impassive façade, when in the presence of his people. He does not want to reveal his own fear. This action demonstrates Caesar’s excessive pride: he is convinced nothing poses a threat to him, Caesar adopts an indifferent attitude. Also, Caesar loathes showing any signs of weakness because he is afraid that others will take notice of this; therefore, he masks his true feelings whenever he is unsure of himself. His pride does not allow him to show his uneasiness, so he deals with the matter by dispelling the crowd instead. Similarly, Caesar chooses to ignore well-meaning advice even when it comes from a loved one. Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, has an ominous dream, and fears for his safety should he go to the Capitol. Her fears prove to be well founded as that day happens to be the Ides of March that Caesar was previously forewarned about. Her dream is an omen, and Calpurnia implores Caesar to remain at home. At first, Caesar is unconcerned, but Calpurnia admits, “Alas, my lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence” (II. Ii. 48-49). Even Calpurnia realizes that his overconfidence sometimes clouds his better judgment. Caesar is won over by a flatterer, Decius, who convinces him to go to the Capitol. His
resolve to listen to a friend rather than his wife displays Caesar’s inability to make decisions once compliments are involved. His vanity is touched, and it seems impossible for him to appear cowardly. In contrast to this, Caesar puts himself last in importance when it comes to Rome. He neither thinks of himself nor of upholding his status. On Caesar’s way to the Capitol, he abstains from reading a letter upon hearing the note pertains to himself. “What touches ourself shall be last served” (III. i. 8), Caesar states. Artemidorus, a public speaker, holds in his hand a letter that prefigures the murder of Caesar. In this scenario, Caesar once again declines listening to another person’s warning; perhaps he feels that he must be reserved, aloof, and not too eager to accept another man’s advice. Here, too, Caesar is surrounded by spectators, and once again, he rids himself of the situation by commanding the instigator to let him be. This is Caesar’s last chance to save himself. Overall, Caesar has many opportunities to change fate, if he does not let his pride interfere with his actions. The sympathetic soothsayer, his wife’s pleading, and an admirer’s letter are not enough to move the man from his convictions of superiority. Due to Caesar’s reluctance to accept other people’s opinions, his own actions bring about his downfall. Julius Caesar is the epitome of haughtiness and confidence, which severely inhibit his ability to view himself for what he really is.
The Bear Who Went Back to the Sea by Robert Reinhardt It was a cold windy day. The sun was shining, but no warmth came from its rays. Many animals found the Arctic Circle too harsh a climate. All but a select few were outside today. Right now, it was just he and the seals. Bear sighed. Canada really was a desolate place. He liked it much better in Connecticut. It was warm with plenty of food and the other creatures could see his presence. Bear was a Black Bear, who grew up in the shining woods of Northern Connecticut. One day, while he was fishing, a large salmon swam right into his paw. Bear grabbed it up and was about to eat it when the fish croaked, "Oh, please don’t eat me, almighty one, no yet," said the fish. "And why shouldn't i eat you? “Asked Bear, thoroughly annoyed that his dinner was talking to him. "Please, sir, I know of a better place. You travel to a large lake called the ocean by walking that-away," the fish pointed with its flipper. "There are millions of fish there for you to eat, and you will be forever happy. Now, if you'd be so kind as to put me back in the water, I shall be going, mouthed the fish, flipping out of his paw. So that’s how Bear's adventure started. He threw the fish back into the water, and lumbered southward. He soon found many things to eat along the way, including something called bird seed, which he quite liked. However, there were a new sort of animal. They ran about, screaming. He tried to fit in, roaring as loud as he could, but they just ran farther away. Sometimes, when he walked by, they would look into little silver and black boxes and a bright light would come from it. Bear found that extremely displeasing. About a week later, Bear was wandering by an enormous den, at least as tall as a hill, when he smelled it. It was a new smell to him, a sweet, burning, toffee-colored smell. He followed his nose to the source, and found a couple long, brown things on a slotted metal contraption. He gingerly sniffed it, then picked one up and swallowed it. It was hot but very tasty. In fact, by the time he had gone, so were they. He wandered on for another couple of days, climbing high hills and running down the other side. It was then that he caught a whiff of it. This time, it was a smell that Bear remembered. It was the smell of fish. But a different kind of fish. Not the kind that Bear caught up in the north, but these smelled.... salty. He started running. The odd animals ran and screamed louder than ever. He kept running. It was a beautiful day, but sadly, nearing its end. 37
"I’ll keep running through darkness," Bear thought, but the running had tired him and he needed to rest. "Just a quick power-nap," he thought, lay down and drifted off to sleep. The next day, an enormous rolling box about the size of him came roaring up to him. He was groggy, and had just woken up. Two of the odd animals got out of it and aimed a big shiny stick at him. Suddenly, he heard a loud POP, and he knew no more. So here he was. The local seals had informed him that he was in a part of Canada called Quebec. Although he had salmon, it just wasn't as sweet as the ones back home. He missed his warm den, the forest, the hills, even the bothersome creatures that also lived there. "If only I could go back" said a voice in his head, "Then I would live a better life." he decided to start the next morning. Bear was really tired for some reason, so he put his trip off until the next morning. Even though Bear didn't know of it, he was going into hibernation. This thought stuck to his consciousness like glue through the next four months. "I’m going back; I’m going back; I’m going back...”
Minds of their Own by Sarah McCauley It is a warm autumn day. The sun is shining and the air is crisp. Red, yellow and orange leaves fall to the ground around a lone front porch. A woman and a man are sitting on a front porch. They each fill a chair with their tired bodies, while conversing in calm voices about their lives. They admire the beauty of the world, and discuss the ugly. In 2010, this seems like an average, pleasant scene; however in the society created by Ray Bradbury in the novel, Fahrenheit 451, this scene is unacceptable. Rocking chairs, front porches and gardens are removed from the society to prohibit people from thinking, encouraging Montag's repressive society. In Montag's society, gardens are not around in order to prevent people from thinking: "So... they ran off with the gardens," (Bradbury,63). One antagonist, Beatty, the firemen captain, is talking to the protagonist, Guy Montag. Beatty is explaining the reasons for the different laws and restrictions in the society. When Beatty says, "they," he is referring to the government; they have not taken away gardens, rocking chairs and front porches from the people. Instead, the people stopped using these objects, and the government encouraged this. As a result, people do not think; they simply abide by the standards that are set by the government. Gardens allowed people to spend their leisure time relaxing. The government disallows gardens, because they are afraid that if people were allowed to think, then the people would uncover the unforgivable flaws in society. Gardens, rocking chairs and front porches are outlawed, as are other items that allow for leisure. In addition, technology replaces communication in people's lives. Mildred, Montag's wife does not communicate with Montag anymore. Montag feels helpless and inferior compared to the ear Seashells and the Parlor Walls, main sources of entertaining technology. Parlor Walls are huge televisions that cover a full wall. Mildred has a room where three of the walls are Parlor Walls. She is almost always in that room, instead of spending time with her true family, Montag, her husband. She becomes almost obsessed with the walls and calls the Parlor Walls "family" (40). Also, Mildred does not make any effort to communicate with Montag by putting in her ear Seashells and staying away from real life interactions: "She was awake. There was a tiny dance of melody in the air, her Seashells was tampered in her ear again, and she was listening to far people in far places, her eyes wide and staring at the fathoms of blackness above her in the ceiling," (42). Mildred chooses to listen to "far people in far places" (42) over her own husband. A realization overcomes Montag: "And suddenly she was so strange he 39
couldn't believe he knew her at all." (42). Montag understands that human interaction is important and realizes that the technology Mildred is using is eliminating this interaction from her life. The people in Montag's society have stopped using gardens, rocking chairs and front porches. They have substituted leisure for technology. The people don't think or read anymore. As a result, the government has gained all control. The society is now completely controlled from the government. The people in the government control all aspects of society. Beatty explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” (61) The people have no power. The government has created such strict laws and the people have lived by them. The people don’t have to think or make decisions because the government does that for them. When the people in Montag's society decided to stop reading books, stop having leisure time and using technology in place of these things, they lost all knowledge and therefore all power. The man and woman sway back and forth in their chairs, smiling contently. They share their opinions, ideas and questions. They listen to each other. They collaborate. As they converse, autumn leaves dance wildly around them. It is a very happy scene. The removal of rocking chairs, front porches and gardens has eliminated leisure from people's lives. People have used technology in place of leisure. When the people, lost their leisure, they lost their knowledge; and therefore, they have no voice or power. Famous English philosopher, Francis Baker once said, "Knowledge is power."
Horace Essay by Ally Lucchesi Adversities bring out the best in people. When someone is hurt and in desperate need of care, people will help. On our class trip to New York City, this humane quality was shown by people who helped with an unexpected accident. While the class was walking down the sidewalk in New York City, a man fell to the ground injured. A truck had backed up too far onto the sidewalk causing the rear to hit a lamppost, which struck this innocent pedestrian. Right away, a crowd formed around him. My teachers rushed over while the students watched in fear and shock, unsure of the event’s authenticity. Other spectators also rushed over to aid this man and called 911. Everyone around the accident wanted to help. Some of the people could’ve been condescending or hard, but in a situation like this, the good in every person emerges. There are other situations in which a person’s talents elicit. When a natural disaster occurs, people want to help. For example, hurricane Katrina devastated and ruined the lives of many people. From around the world people were donating money and supplies. The same reaction occurred when there was a tsunami in Indonesia a few years ago. Volunteers helped to rebuild lives by donating and adopting newly orphaned children. If disasters like these never occurred, some people wouldn’t have a chance to show the good in themselves. I think that when accidents occur people want to help because they know what pain feels like and know well enough no one wants to endure pain. Strong feelings and accommodating actions elicit in bad situations that normally wouldn’t. In a way I think bad situations can be good or life changing because some people become a better person afterwards. Maybe everything does happen for a reason. Maybe one person’s struggle leads to change in another person’s character. In conclusion, Horace’s quote, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant,” is absolutely true. Hard times play a big part in developing a person’s character. Their better side shines through. So when an accident is suddenly in front of you, know that people will be there.
This I Believe by Drew Allen This I believe- high school students and teenagers deserve more privileges. Out of all age groups, teens are the least privileged and deserve more privileges in their workplace. Infants and elementary students do not have the pressure of working to determine what the rest of their life will be like, and adults work for pay and do not have to worry about making a mark every week. I believe that teenagers should not be given as much work, relieving them of the burden to have to worry about tests that can lead them to a good future. I believe that too much pressure and work may stress a person and destroy his or her ambition to strive for a successful future. If teens are given more privileges, then they will be motivated to get better grades and their attitudes in life will change. For example, students should not have a dress code. Students may apply themselves to their school work more comfortably in their usual clothes. Students should also be allowed to eat out of school and go off campus during breaks and lunch. Some teenagers may need different food that helps them work more effectively. Furthermore, to get better results in grades, all schools should even go as far as offering rewards to students who work ambitiously. These privileges should be given for the first term in every school. For the students without the good results, these privileges should be taken away and they will have to work to earn them back. This is motivation because for, once, they actually have something to work for, to keep. Adults get privileges such as not having to dress in code for work and can eat wherever they want, and take breaks during the day. Adults also get paid for what they do. Money is their motivation. The only thing that students have is a long-term motivation and the hope that they will benefit in the far future from being deprived today. Some teens usually do not think about their future which is why they need this motivation. I also believe that homework should be given every other night. Another option is for students to be given assignments at the beginning of the week and have them all due on Friday. This gives students a chance to have time to study and live out their normal social lives at home. Adults also do not have to stay up late to do work. The least that a teen could be privileged is just work due for the end of the week. This I believe: schools around the country should experiment and try this technique. If it does work the benefits will be that positively affected students will get better grades, be happier and less stressful. These grades will lead to college and more people will be successful in life.
This I Believe by Andrew D’Amico I pushed off the pavement and sped down the hill as fast as my legs could pedal, shouting back at my brother to come on. I was biking through the winding maze of paths through the main property of the White Memorial Nature Conservatory. I was there with my family and being a younger brother at that age, naturally I wanted to beat my brother at everything. So when I saw the huge hill beneath me, my natural first though was “race.” I shouted out to my brother to come race me down. My mom and sisters were on another part of the hill, too occupied with the pond below to realize I was about to make one dumbass decision. I think I heard him shout my name and, looking back, it was probably a warning not to go so fast. He didn’t follow me, and although that should have been a sign it wasn’t a good idea, but all I knew was I was winning. A little ways down the sand covering the paths from the winter just before started to slide under my wheels. I didn’t realize I was losing control of my bike until it was too late. My handlebars started wobbling and then, in one second where time seemed to slow down, turned completely sideways, stopping my bike dead. Now, my bike stopped, but I sure didn’t. I went flying into the air down the hill. I don’t know how long I was in the air, probably not more than ten or fifteen seconds, but it felt like hours. I could see the ground below me and as it rushed back up to meet my body I would like to say my life flashed before my eyes or I had some deep realization about life, but honestly my only thought was, “oh shit.” I landed headfirst on the pavement, hurting my neck and scraping my entire body along the pathway. I don’t remember much of what happened after I hit the ground. My mind was blurred by the pain throughout my body. I remember my bike finally catching up, sending another wave of pain through my body as it hit me on its way sliding down the hill. I remember shouts and sirens and my neck being immobilized by some guy from the ambulance. I think that’s when my eyes finally closed and I slipped away, thankfully blocking out the pain, because I don’t remember being in the ambulance or anything that happened afterwards. I just waking up in the hospital and leaving, my cuts and scrapes bandaged, still not really fully understanding what had happened. If there’s anything I learned from my experience as a human catapult it is to live your life. Life’s too short and it can end at any time. Yeah, that sounds pretty depressing, but it also means you should spend your life living every minute to the fullest. Do the things you want to do when you can, because who knows when you’ll get the 43
chance again. Youâ€™re missing out if you donâ€™t try to do all you can and have fun with life. Appreciate your opportunities and the people around you. Find the fun and the humor in life. Despite what your teachers say, taking things seriously is overrated. Enjoy your and appreciate all that is good in life. I know how lucky I am to be here and appreciate all the things and people around me. To this day I can picture the doctor telling me my helmet may have saved my life. I still have that helmet.
This I Believe by Lindsey Nelson I was born with what my mom calls an “invisible disability”. My name is Lindsey Jane Nelson and I have an anxiety disorder, and this is my story. Usually when a baby is born, he or she is brought down to the nursery so the new mother can recover for a while. The specially trained nurses comfort and nurture the newborn and keep it safe until the mother is ready to see it. Well, when I was born, I was sent down to the nursery but the nurses couldn’t get me to stop crying! I was the only baby that the nurses could not pacify; I alone was the restless one, the odd one, the one who stood out. A nurse brought me back upstairs to my mother and explained to her that they were unable to soothe me. Astonished and scared my mom said, “You have been trained to care for newborns and I have only been a mother for eleven hours! What should I do?” My mom was afraid, but as soon as the nurse placed me in my mom’s arms, she and I both settled down. I have been an extremely anxious person from the very day I was born. I have always had an anxiety disorder and I always will. And even today, after living with it for fifteen years, I am still learning how to accept that. Although I have come an extremely long way in being able to cope with my anxiety, I am still not “normal” in the sense of how much I worry about life. I worry about everything! I worry about my grades, myself, my friends, my parents, my brother, my dogs, the world, and especially, I worry about my future. My mind is hardly ever at peace. I will worry about sometimes as trivial as forgetting to turn my light off or as serious as worrying about my sick uncle. Having an anxious mind is very difficult, and honestly, it’s hard for me to sleep at night because of all the little worries that pop into my head: Did I pack my kneepads for volleyball? Did I do well on that Latin test? What if mom gets another migraine this week? Did I iron my shirt for tomorrow? What if there’s nothing good for lunch tomorrow? That is how my brain works, and that is who I am; I’m just an anxious person. You may say, “Everyone worries”, but my anxiety can overpower me with full-blown panic attacks and serious physical consequences. I get stomachaches, headaches, I cry, I make myself sick from not getting enough rest, and I often feel as though it’s the end of the world. Having said that, having an anxiety disorder has held me back in many ways, but at the same time, my anxiety has pushed me to be the strongest person I can be. I’ve had to grow up really fast. Unlike most teenagers, I have had to deal with problems that have forced me to be introspective at a young age. I have had to get help from professionals and my parents and build my own tools to take care of myself long before a young person should. 45
Although I have learned to live with these worries, getting to where I am now has definitely not been easy. But all the tears and sleepless nights were worth it. Because today I can confidently say that although my anxiety disorder still affects my everyday life, it no longer holds me back that way is used to, I have finally reached the place where I have control over it, and not the other way around. Iâ€™ve had help and I know that I havenâ€™t faced this part of myself on my own, but my inner strength and determination has been key in my success. And, as living proof, I truly believe that no matter what you are born with, or whatever obstacles may block your path, you always have that inner strength to push forward and succeed.
This I Believe by Kristen Scheuerman My aunt Jan wasn’t always in a wheelchair; she was just like everyone else. She had a husband and two kids. One day my parents went to their house for a visit. My mom told Aunt Jan that she was walking strangely. My aunt then told my mom that it felt weird to walk but that my uncle had just ignored her when she told him. A few days later my Aunt Jan made Uncle Bob watch her walk and he then realized something was terribly wrong. And it kept getting worse until she could no longer walk. Soon after that, she couldn’t move her arms anymore. My aunt Jan went to lots of doctors and they told her she has idiopathic spinal cerebellus degeneration. But idiopathic means they don't know what caused it. No one knows what happened to make my aunt paralyzed from the head down. When my aunt was first diagnosed, she had to start taking antidepressants because she was having suicidal thoughts. But who wouldn’t want to kill themselves if they were told that they would go through the rest of their life only being able to move their head? The antidepressants saved her from killing herself. Aunt Jan can’t feed herself, she can’t use the bathroom by herself, and she can’t even hug her family anymore. Any time she wants to eat, she has to have help. Someone has to go get her food and then feed it to her. I can’t even imagine how helpless she feels. The person who my aunt spends the most time with is Katrina, her helper. Katrina comes over to my aunt’s house and takes care of her every day while my uncle is at work. Katrina has to do everything for Aunt Jan. Katrina feeds her, she helps her shower, she helps her use the bathroom, she changes the channel on the TV for her, she dials the phone, and she sends tons of e-mails to my family. Every year the Scheuermann’s have a reunion during the summer when we all go to a campground. Obviously, my aunt can’t sleep in a tent with the rest of us so she goes to a nearby hotel every night. During the day, everyone goes biking and swimming and out on the boats while Aunt Jan sits at the pavilion and plays upwards with my mom. My mom loves playing games with my aunt but they are stuck there alone while everyone else is at the beach. They are abandoned. The only time when we are all together is at meal times when someone goes and gets Aunt Jan a plate of food and then someone else feeds it to her. We didn’t think my aunt would even make it to Bald Eagle last summer because she is getting sores on her body from traveling. She did come just to see all of us, but I don’t know what will happen next year. 47
The biggest thing that my aunt has learned from her situation is to ask for help and to tell people what she needs. My aunt is completely dependent on other people but they canâ€™t read her mind. She had to learn to speak up and tell people how they could help her. My Aunt Jan has taught me not to take anything for granted. I mean, one day she could walk and the next day she couldnâ€™t. No one ever thinks about the really small luxuries we have in life like being able to feed ourselves, bathe ourselves, and use the bathroom by ourselves. But my aunt has taught me to treasure those small things. I believe that everyone needs to stop and think about the small things in life. Even though most people donâ€™t have someone in their life like my Aunt Jan, everyone can stop and think about how lucky they are to be able to have control over their own body.
This I Believe by Livy Lucchesi It was January 9th and I was driving in the car with my mom. We started talking and I noticed she was acting very mellow. I asked her if she was tired and she said yes, very tired. Then she said, “I have some bad news Livy”. Ever since I was young, I knew what bad news meant. My parents had said this whenever my great grandmas, chickens, cats or dogs died. I knew exactly what to expect from this. My heart stopped and I immediately thought one of my parent’s closest friends was dying from cancer. Then she said “Jane died”. I felt my eyes fill with water and I was unable to breathe. I sat, I cried and I bawled. Questions were spilling out of my mouth while my mom was having difficulty answering as a result of crying. There was nothing I could do or say that could bring her back. Jane has been a huge part of my family’s lives since October 2008. She was known as a party girl and she and her fiancé, Jonathan, had a baby, Eva. Eva was born addicted to heroin and immediately became a ward of the state. For about one year and a half, my family struggled to adopt Eva because of the social services and the two parents’ want for their child. The parents weren’t able to provide for Eva and they knew this. Jane was still addicted to alcohol and Jonathan was addicted to alcohol and drugs. On Christmas Eve, Jane finally came to the conclusion that she couldn’t provide for Eva and the best choice was to let my family have her. She confessed that Jonathan had been beating her and that she was trying to move out of her apartment slowly so he wouldn’t become angry. I love you were the last words that left her mouth to my sisters and I and they will forever stay in our hearts. We thought of Jane as a member of our family toward the end of her life. We liked her coming for visits with Eva. Instead, we embraced her, talked with her and loved her. She trusted us sometimes even more than her fiancé and real family. We searched for the good qualities in her, and they indeed, became obvious as she made the right decisions. There are good qualities in every person regardless of their past mistakes. Jane was a girl who was addicted to drugs and became pregnant. People only saw her from her outside. My family had the advantage of actually getting to know her. We could understand her pain and her terrible situation. She made all the right decisions near the end of her life. Jane Sutherland transformed her negative past to positive rebirth. She was a girl with compassionate, worthy qualities.
This I Believe by Erin Basu Upon thinking of a topic for my This I Believe essay, I’ve thought of many things I could say I believe in. In making my decision, I researched the dictionary definition of “belief”, and as my eyes scanned for the answer, several words jumped out at me. The words “habit”, “trust”, “confidence”, “reliance”, and lastly, “conviction of truth”. After some contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion that just as there are so many ways to define the word “belief”, there is also an enormous diversity of different beliefs. This further leads me to consider a viewpoint that beliefs might actually hold less value than they appear to; infinite sets of contradicting beliefs clearly illustrate that beliefs are not absolute truths and therefore are limited in merit. Ever since I was young, I’ve accumulated a wide variety of beliefs. Haven’t we all? I’ve come up with beliefs revolving around things I like and dislike, and beliefs based on who I want to be and what I want to be. When I was four I believed I was a cat. I meowed all day and I slurped my food like I thought a cat might. On a very different note, I also believed I was a princess. I would dress up in my princess costume, with plastic tiaras and prance around my house. Clearly after a few months, my belief system changed from cat to princess. As a result of all my childish thoughts and the dictionary definition of a belief, I’ve come to yet another very simple belief; and that is, that one’s beliefs are countless and ever changing, because life is movement. As I grow older, different life experiences will add to my beliefs and therefore my beliefs will evolve and dissolve. As the human mind is always working, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs will be an infinite part of human lives. For example, my abandoned childhood beliefs have little or no impact on my present life, other than to provide amusing tales of my childhood. Obviously, I no longer believe in the same things, though a few traditional beliefs or core beliefs may persist. One such belief that I continue to uphold, is that of the Golden Rule. Other than that, I hope that my remaining beliefs will help me dissolve any old, limiting beliefs. I believe that beliefs lead to discrimination and separation, though they may be necessary, under certain circumstances. I believe that beliefs are meant to be unlearned once they outlive their usefulness, because if they remain fixed, they narrow one’s ability to be accepting of new possibilities. For instance, it is beneficial for children to believe that they shouldn’t speak to strangers, but at some point, it
is necessary to shed that belief. If ones beliefs do not transform as one evolves, the beliefs or belief system may inhibit a personâ€™s creativity and ability to adapt. So if you must believe in something, believe in being open to everything and accept things as they are. Have positive beliefs that get you through tough times, but donâ€™t plan on holding onto any belief forever, because nothingâ€™s permanent; life is always flowing and creativity and adaptability are far more powerful than a stale set of beliefs.
This I Believe by Taylor Brady
What do you think of when you hear about homes for the elderly? Maybe you think that it is a place where a bunch of old people are left because their families don’t want them anymore. Or maybe you think that they have bad food. And others might think that the smell is just disgusting, and that the carpets are ugly. Much of this is true; however, one may never know the truth behind an assisted living facility. My mom is the activities director at one of these places, which means she plans activities and events for old people and looks for volunteers to come in and actually do the activities that she plans. It is very hard to find volunteers because people just don’t have time. She comes home with many stories about her day, and most of them are very interesting. The elderly are mostly grumpy and sad but doing the activities with them makes them happier than they were before. Most of them are single and they figure that because they are old and are going to die soon their motto is “why not”. This motto is what they live by on a daily basis. They don’t care what they say or how they act because they figure not many people care about them. It is very sad because people do care about them they just don’t realize it. The building is composed of three levels. Downstairs, the basement, is called garden walk. This is for the people that have dementia, which is a more severe form of Alzheimer’s. It is very sad because these people do not remember their names or even their own family members. They are probably the ones that need the activities the most because they can’t remember anything about their past. Downstairs they play games that use parts of the brain that try to initiate memories about their childhood. Most of them don’t remember these memories but it is an on-going process. Her name is Judy and she lives downstairs. She is a small, petite old woman, in her 90’s, and when I volunteer in garden walk, I see her every day. And every day at lunch she tells her husband “Let’s get out of here”. It is very sad how strongly she wants to leave, and it’s not because the facility is mean, dirty, or cold; it is because she misses her old life and her family. When you think about it, anyone who is abandoned would miss their family. How would you feel? When I volunteer at garden walk, it makes me appreciate the time I have now as a kid, because when you get older, all you have left is your childhood memories. You have to live your life now because when you get older, you’re gonna lose your hair, your metabolism is 52
gonna slow down, and you’re not gonna be able to eat exactly what you want. This is what the “old people” tell me every day. This impacts my life, because it’s true. They are all very smart people and when they give me advice I am going to try to live by it, because they have already experienced that situation. I believe that the elderly community needs more compassion shown towards them in order for them to enjoy the rest of their life.
This I Believe by Andrea Romanos
It was a Saturday night, maybe even a Friday. I was located in Watertown, CT at a local family owned bistro type place called Café Napoli. This was a home away from home for me, an area in which local bands could express their talents musically. Some of my friends were in most of these bands that performed almost every weekend. My two older brothers performed here as well. The bands and show-goers that I use to see basically every weekend were like my family, I could always count on seeing them. I remember on this Friday or Saturday night, I stood amongst the crowd with my friends as The Guru set up their equipment. When finally ready, they began. In that instant, the whole audience grew with smiles. The beat and rhythm became contagious, and soon the whole room, including myself, was jumping, dancing and singing along with these great young musicians. And in that moment, I was honestly and truly happy. This happiness was pure and alive within me, and I felt connected with all who were around. We all were living in that moment, completely blindsided by what would eventually come with the future. This little café has been a part of people’s lives longer than half of my life time, thus far. This place was more than what met the eye. It wasn’t even meant for shows in the beginning. It was just a small local family owned sandwich and ice cream shop that struggled to get by. Café Napoli was never intended as a local venue for bands, it just sort of happened that way. It was absolutely perfect for people like me. People who thrive off music; the creation and performance. The pitch, 54
rhythm, beat and tempo that keeps you stable. In the early days of September…this place that I fell head over heels for was shut down. It happened so abruptly and without any signs, that nobody could do anything to save it. I remember when I found out the news. My reaction was split into two. At first, I didn’t even believe it; I thought it was some sort of sick joke. Finally the realness of the situation sunk in. My second reaction was simple and uncontrollable, tears filled my eyes and I cried, for a while. I can see how it seems silly and irrational at how much this place meant to me, but it’s something that I cannot change, and it’s always going to stay that way. This was the end of an era, and I got left behind. I say this because most of the former show-goers are older than I am, thus leaving them with an advantage. When this dwelling was shut down, some of them moved away and began their new lives. They found new venues to attend, while I’m immovable here, waiting for a new place to come my way. But, in all honesty, I feel like I, along with all the others who went to almost every single show presented, should take full responsibility for the closing of café Napoli. It’s understood how terrible that sounds, but I can say on behalf of most of us, we never exactly paid the fee for entry. Café Napoli had two entrance ways, the front, where you would pay to come in, or the back, where bands would load their equipment. If you’ve been to shows there habitually, you would have used that back door also. I never would have imagined that by not paying, many of us would lose a place in which we loved. If I or anyone at all could’ve just seen the future at that time, maybe we would have prevented the debt this place obtained or at least prolong that disaster. Café Napoli was its own kind of culture. It defined those immersed within its grasp, changing lives along the way. Not a single person who has been there will continue their life without a distinct thought of that perfect place that used to be. Napoli had a few “generations” of bands and people that came and went throughout the years of being open…and I fear for the kids who are just starting to submerge themselves within the musical culture. Where are they going to go now? Yes, there are other venues I suppose, but it’s a fact that no other place will ever have the atmosphere that Napoli gave off. I know I’ll never feel truly comfortable at any other shows. But even for the lucky ones who got the full taste of Napoli, where do we go now?
This I Believe by Alex Lamoureux You're in a hurry. It's holiday season and you just emerged from the mall. You're trying your hardest to finish your Christmas shopping today, so you can focus on other tasks, like work or school. You walk to your car and load all your presents into the trunk, discovering that two inconsiderate people left you barely any space to get into your car, let alone back out. When you finally manage to squeeze into your door, you loathe the thought of backing out of the parking spot. With barely inches of space separating you on both sides from an auto body repair check you can't afford, you worry about backing out. Deciding you are just going to rely on your luck and keen skill at driving, you cautiously begin to back out. It starts off alright, for the first few seconds, yet soon you hear the squeal of metal grating against metal. The cool, black paint of the poor Toyota is scratched off, and a narrow, pale white line forms across the side of the car. A wave of anxiety washes over you. You rush out of the car to find exactly what you knew would happen; the streak. Once the initial shock wears off, you begin to try and understand what to do. Though there are no witnesses, a million thoughts tear through your mind, and it is your job to figure which one is right for you. This example will surprisingly reveal much about your personal morals or values, depending on what decision you choose. Consider the options; you can obviously attempt to escape so you do not have to pay for the damage. However, this choice would be unethical and would reveal that you hold very little value in the impacts your mistakes have upon others. Yet, this choice can be affected by two cases, either if you're rich or if youâ€™re poor and desperately need the money. If you're rich, then obviously it would be immoral to just escape since it would be easy for you to pay for the damages. But if you are poor and need the money for bills, then the decision becomes much harder. But should it? In addition, if people found out that you tried to drive away without taking responsibility, the public would view this decision in a very poor way. You will have violated the Golden Rule. By leaving a note or waiting to tell the person personally, you indicate that you are an honest and ethical person, especially if you are poor, since it is harder for you to pay for the damages. People would respond to this decision in a very positive way. In all cases, if something like this happens to you, just be sure you have thought through each decision carefully and are sure which road you wish to go down.
My main values that belong to this situation are honesty, integrity, and altruism. To me, these serve as the foundation for my personal moral and ethical values. These are very important baselines of my personality that also serve as baselines for many of my relationships. These types of values are ones that I hold very dear. In this situation, â€œhitting and running,â€? is no escape at all, since I could never escape my conscience. Leaving the scene violates all three of these key values of honesty, integrity, and altruism, and because of this I would avoid this choice to the best of my ability. Even if I were financially poor in this situation, I would still try my best to help pay for this damage, to help keep these key values intact within me. Therefore, the most ethical and value-driven decision would be, to me, leaving a note or preferably telling him or her in person. It would feel fulfilling, since I would be doing the right thing. I believe that honesty, integrity, and altruism are very important values to have. They serve as the baselines for healthy relationships, as well as helping us make more ethically appropriate moral decisions. However, when making difficult decisions, you should base your decision on what you think is best based upon your morals, not the morals of others. I believe that your own morals are what make you unique as a person, and should be understood and exercised to the fullest extent.
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. -Mark Twain
Babette: The Free Chicken by Hayley Paret Life on the Farm Her eyes opened from a heavy sleep. The heat of the cage always made her sleep soundly. Chickens are naturally heavy sleepers since their sense of hearing diminishes once they fall asleep. The only sound that woke this chicken up was the light pouring of chicken feed on the ground. Every morning, the owner would wake up and spread nice feed right outside their warm coop. This particular chicken looked around at her sisters and observed their comfort. Soon, each of their eyes opened, hearing the familiar sound, and walked down the stairs. She watched each of them leave, then followed in suit. The icy ground and cold dew contrasted strongly with their heated coop. After finishing the pile of feed together, they searched for bugs, which was their sole purpose. There was only a specific area where they roam, even though there was bound to be more bugs past the borders. Their area was in the shape of an “L,” which was surrounded by a fence. Their coop was at the top of the letter, farthest away from the property’s borders as protection from predators in the woods. Their grazing ground was the lower portion of the “L.” They walked to this area and began their search. She was almost two years old, and she this was all she knew. She was bought when she was five months old, along with eleven other chickens. Some were her biological sisters and some not, but after being purchased in a group, they all were treated as one. There were no roosters because the owner didn’t want any more chickens and bought eggs locally. She still only knew this trade. It was obvious that she had been purchased to create a bug-free yard, but she hadn’t even been taught anything else. She hadn’t even been given a name. She was bought as “chicken number one hundred eight.” And as the time past she downgraded to being called with her sisters with “chickens!” She hadn’t a name, and in human years she was nearly twenty. While pecking bugs, she looked around at all of her sisters and started thinking like she often did. They had not noticed she was not following the trend. They all seemed to move in the same way, without thought. It was like they didn’t care that everyday followed in the
same boring way. They would wake up to the spreading of feed, walk down the stairs, eat, and proceed to the fence to eat the very large bug population. Never had the owner given any of them much attention. They were not there to help him in any way other than be insect terminators. They were like workers earning room, board, and meals. At the edge of the property she could see the horizon through a gap in the trees. Looking between the spaces in the fence, she saw the sun coming up. It was a brilliant orange, but the clouds were pink and red. The view was a burst of exciting colors but even as they faded, they were exchanged with the full view of the sun. But her sight was only half seen, for the diamonds in the fence broke up the clouds. She could only see parts of this marvel without it being sliced up with chain. Her eyes opened wide at the thought of what was beyond the fence. What could she be past this wire? Looking back, the grey fog settled on the grass around her sisters. Their monotone expressions and robotic movements diminished her happy spirit. She had never told them of what she thought of, even though every morning she looked upon the dawn and wondered. Today was different. Today, her melancholy grew to new heights. Her sisters walked slowly with their heads down, bobbing unenergetically at the sight of a prey. They never looked up at her, not once. They were too uninterested. This chicken knew she was interested, no excited, about the world outside this cage. She was not like them in any way except species. She was tired of being one of the many, as opposed to be one in the many. Before this point she was too young to realize that her life could theoretically be different. She followed the status quo of the chicken lifestyle, unconsciously. Now that she was getting older, thoughts formed in her mind. Every day, her mind ran past the fence every day. She wanted the rest of her to reach that place, too. She wanted to see the sky without cuts in it, to roam without boundaries. That morning the colors teased her into determination. “Tomorrow, I’m going to taste the whole picture of that sunrise, not just a sip,” she whispered. That night, she would escape for her future name’s sake. The Escape She left at night. It was the only time that she could be certain of not stumbling into the owner. She knew that she did not have to worry about being quiet because her sisters would only wake up to one thing. Now, if she had feed in her hand, then she would have had something to worry about. 59
She turned back from the top of the stairs to take one last look at her slumbering sisters. She had grown to love them like their blood flowed through her veins. Her mind started to run away with nostalgia and loyalty. All her life this was the one thing that she knew: the faces of her sisters in this pampered avian world. They had lived together for as long as she could remember and now after all this time, they didn’t know she was going. They did not even have a clue. The moments grew longer as she froze with doubt. She started to feel farther away from the threshold so she turned quickly away. Finally on the grass, she took one final look back. “I’m sorry, but I need to do this for me,” she said with conviction. Then she turned forward and began her journey. There was a conveniently placed tree right near the fence. This permitted her escape because she had the rare characteristic of being able to jump very well. She had jumped up this tree once before but immediately jumped back down. However, tonight she jumped up and landed with the fence behind her. There was no turning back now, there were no other trees to allow it and not even the sound of chicken feed could force her to look back. All throughout the night she pressed on through the unfamiliar woods. Sounds from all directions frightened her. She had heard of predators before, in horrific tales of chickens just like her being eaten alive, but it was clear only at that moment what fear of becoming prey felt like. She did not know what lurked in these hours, and she was more than terrified to find out. Thankfully, during the majority of her journey she was alone. Once she did come across something though. She walked through the bordering woods, and into the next house’s yard. A spotted dog caught sight of the tiny white blob moving across his territory. He moved closer and Babette saw him. “Fight or Flight, fight or flight. There’s a dog, large and fast with sharp teeth. And here you are, short and slow …with a beak. I don’t know if chickens can fly but I can sure try!” She took a running start, and then flapped her wings and squawked like a maniac. The dog started running, realizing that this little chicken was getting away. Closer and closer she was approaching the woods, but she could hear the panting getting louder and louder, the strides getting farther and farther apart. Finally, she reached the woods, and after running a while she realized that she didn’t hear anything. She looked back. The dog had stopped, some force at the edge of the yard made the dog stop. “I must be the luckiest chicken in the world.” She exited the woods and was exhausted. She decided that she needed to find a 60
place to sleep at that moment. She didn’t care where because she didn’t want to risk staying so vulnerable on the ground. She approached the next house and walked carefully around its side. There it was. The perfect tree. She quickened to it, oh, it was perfect. There were so many branches on this green tree that she could hop all the way to the top of its massive self with no difficulty. But she would explore another time, for now somewhere in the middle of the tree would be just fine for sleeping. She nestled herself close together but during the excitement of her journey she hadn’t realized how long it took her to reach this spot. While adjusting herself her eyes caught a glimmer of something. She turned to find a drop of dew on one of the tree branches close to her. Her heart stopped. Slowly she turned her head to the sight she had been dreaming of all her life. She looked up and there it was. With no diamond cut outs and no fence blocking her view. It was all there. The sun was rising from the horizon in an amazing explosion of colors. Red, orange and pink mixing into the most beautiful picture she could have ever imagined. The sun’s light hitting every inch of the sky and earth. This was what she dreamed of. She waited until the sun cushioned itself between two soft clouds and the warm colors faded into a blinding blue. Then she closed her eyes and thought, “That is why I left. Now all I need is a name.” And as the sun’s rays lit her up in the tree and fell asleep, she didn’t care if she had a heater for sleeping anymore. New Life She woke the next morning more rested than ever before. She was ready to place her worries aside and explore her new homeland. She hopped down each branch and started walking towards the back of the house, eating bugs along the way. She especially took notice to what a great abundance of insects there were. More striking to her, however , how much space there was for little chicken like her. Before she had been closed off in a letter, but now she could roam wherever she pleased. She decided to find the best spots in the yard. When suddenly she saw something move. “Oh no, not again! Another predator!” She thought. But the moving figure was tall, and when it stopped shifting she recognized her as a human. This woman was tending to her garden before she saw the chicken. Now, she stood, shocked at this little white bird standing so 61
near to her. But she was not afraid. She just stood, taking in this peculiar sight slowly. After a long moment of duel staring, the woman walked slowly away. The chicken began to panic. “Is that woman going to tell my owner, it is not so far a walk for her! She could walk there in a couple minutes no problem. But me? I spent all night for this new life and I’m…” She was cut off by a sound that was familiar but different. She turned and saw the woman carrying a bag of something that was making a noise. Keeping some distance, the woman dropped some of the contents on the ground. “I don’t know what you eat and I’m not looking for a pet but for now you can have this. My name is Janet and this is my family’s yard. The neighbors warned us that one of the chickens from two houses up got lose. I guess you are she. But they told us that there’s no point trying to force you back there, a runaway will keep on running. Enjoy the food.” The chicken heard every word. Most people don’t think that animals can understand humans past tone of voice, but they’d be mis taken. She understood and walked towards the mystery food. “Bird seed?” She thought to herself. Then the woman smiled and went back inside the house. That was the first time she had ever been spoken to as an individual and not as a collected group. That was the moment where her new life began. Freedom From that day on, she fell into a routine. She would wake up, climb down the tree, explore, and eat bugs and or bird seed and return to her tree for the night. Yes, it was very similar to her activities before but there were two major exceptions. One was that she could roam wherever she liked. Two was that she proceeded as such because she wanted to. She liked it there. It was her choice, and that was most important to her. But there was also something else that kept her staying: she was given an identity. It happened one day a few weeks after she came there. She was proceeding with her day like normal and when the mother of the family, whom she had met her first day there, came out she said something. It was a word that this chicken had never heard before. The mother came closer and said it again, but still the chicken didn’t know what it meant. “Babette! I have some bird seed for you.” She said. What was this word, “Babette?” Was the woman telling her to come over or to do something to get the feed? She chose to ignore it and think about it later, giving her time to try to figure it out. 62
The next day the same thing happened, this word was used again. The chicken started to get frustrated. She was mad that they were using words she didn’t understand. Especially because she was not a stupid chicken, she was quite bright. But this one word was foreign to her. Finally, one day someone else used it in different context. It was early in the morning and she was walking from her tree to the back of the yard. When she saw one of the family members about to drive away. The daughter in the car rolled down the window, waved and said, “Hi Babette!” The chicken stopped, puzzled. It was the famous word again, but she knew that “hi” was no type of command but a greeting. She froze and excited shivers consumed her whole body. “Babette. That’s what they are calling me. After all this time, they haven’t been trying to trick or confuse me. It’s my name. I have a name.” She had been free since the moment she landed on limitless soil, but she felt like an individual now. She had achieved all that she ever wanted to when she accepted the name Babette. From that moment on Babette had found freedom on new land and you would have to kill her to drive her away from it. She was happy. Day after day, she stayed this way. It didn’t even matter to her that her routine seemed to be reaching a dull point. She never wanted excitement; she wanted to be herself and to be free to do what she wanted. So she continued on, in a state of sublime bliss. But one morning she learned of the only thing that could jeopardize her paradise. At A Cost “Wake up, Hayley!” shouted the mother. It was Sunday, the day of rest. That’s what she wanted to be doing, resting. “Alright,” the daughter said, “I guess I have to get up to get ready for…” Wait. What did she have to get ready for? Her mom must be mistaken, she thought, so she decided to go back to sleep. She closed her eyes; she was so close when, “Hayley! Wake up!” Now she was mad. She ripped off her covers, bolted out of bed, burst open the door and screamed, “WHAT?!” “Babette is dead.” “…What?” The daughter was stunned, her anger instantly slipped away. She hastened to the stairwell to better hear. “Babette. She’s dead. Just now. Your dad and I heard a strange noise outside and at first we just ignored it, but then we heard the same thing but louder. So dad went to see what it was there was a huge fox 63
with Babette in his mouth. He tried to scare it away, shouting and nearly throwing things at it. But when the fox looked up in response, he stopped and then gnawed on her neck. There was nothing he could do. Babette’s gone.” “That’s awful.” She didn’t know what else to say. She walked slowly back to her room. She went back into bed, but didn’t fall asleep without shedding a tear for Babette, the free chicken. Babette was gone. Her freedom was paid at the price of her life. She left her life of security and luxury, which she loathed for its inability to let her independent self. She abandoned her family, her home and all that she knew for the chance of finding something better in the world of the unknown. Even though her choice led to her demise, Babette would not have taken it back. Being in a cage was equivalent to being dead to her. Being locked up, ordered around and deprived of identity is not a luxury at all. Babette desired another form of splendor. She fought for her freedom and won, but everything comes at a cost, even freedom. This was the price Babette was willing to pay. For she truly did become Babette, the free chicken.
Plane Crash by Lindsey Nelson Everything is black; I feel alone and I don’t know where I am, or quite how I got here. My eyelids flutter painfully, and when I finally open my eyes, I see nothing. It’s nighttime and there are no starts, no moon in sight. Anxiety rapidly trickling into my mind, my hands curl into fists as I let my other senses go wild. I can feel grass tickling my face; I can smell the sweet fragrance of wildflowers and earth circling in the air around me. What’s that, though? Smoke? Burning plastic and leather? I scrunch my noise uncomfortably as the new smells penetrate the sweet air of the meadow. My face feels hot, sweaty and sore. I lick my lips experimentally and discover that I have fresh blood on my face. I recoil at the bizarre, salty taste of it. In the distance I can hear owls cooing and crickets chirping noisily. I can also hear the rustling of my fellow passengers moving about in the field; their pained cries pierce the air agonizingly. I seize my head between my hands and try to remember what happened; nothing, I can’t remember any of it. Frustrated, I roll over onto my back and open my eyes once more; nothing, I see nothing. I am forced to listen to the pained moans of the people around me, and the retched smell of burning plastic fills my nose. I feel like I was punched in the head, and my whole body is shaking uncontrollably. I raise myself up gingerly onto my knees and get on all fours. I slowly crawl around the field and small sticks break beneath my weight as I move. My hand brushes something cool and soft; it feels nice against my scorching skin. I stop and rub the thing between my thumb and forefinger and discover a small flower in my palm. It had been uprooted and tossed into the wind, sort of like me. Well, at least this flower didn’t have anything to loose…
Collected Shot Glasses Since Age Seven by Victoria Kallsen The room wasn’t very well lit and it made seeing the dark outline of her mother all the more difficult. Yet, from Maria’s perch behind the wall, with her small wide eyes staring out into the family room, she could hear her mother’s breath and the gulps of the liquor. Her mother preferred shot glasses when it came to alcohol and there were certainly a lot of it out there on the small coffee table. Another man (who wasn’t that David guy, or the Phillip person, or the James-Call-Me-Jim boyfriend) sat opposite her, though his face and hands didn’t -- they were all over her mother. The first time Maria saw someone’s hands on Mommy, it had scared her. Why were they touching her, grabbing her, and squeezing her? Surely they knew they were hurting Mommy with her warm curves and fluttering eyes that Maria so loved. And yet her mother never stopped them, instead she beckoned them further into her arms and moaned at all the places the men’s tongues and hands could cover. Maria had been five when a man first started ripping Mommy’s clothes off. But when she ran into the room, the monster that was her mother roared at her and spanked her-while the man laughed and laughed. The daughter still watched with fear, because one day her Mommy would need her help. Theirs giggles and chuckles in the room with the shot glasses but it doesn’t look like Mommy wants to stay only in that room. Crossing over the coffee table, Mommy moves like a cheetah, or so Maria thinks, as she and the man laugh and kiss and touch further. The young girl is scared, gripping the wall. The man might get angry and she doesn’t want that. Eventually they leave and crawl, Mommy’s hands creeping around the new man’s pants, out of there. Maria bites her lip because Mommy doesn’t like her awake late at night. Neither sees her as they slam against the walls until they reach the appropriate room. Mommy shrieks and her daughter hopes it was with delight. Eventually, Maria walks into the discarded family room -- family, is that what they all are? the girl thinks. Something glitters on the table, and she walks towards it. It’s one of the shot glasses, so shiny, so pure, so unlike anything she knows. Before she understands what her brain is commanding, her hand reaches out and grabs the glass and shoves it securely in a pocket of her Good Will overalls. Maybe, Mommy will be better one day. Maybe, Mommy will love her too. But for now, Maria has a collection of intact broken promises to start.
Childhood by Rachel Narowski I want my Tonka truck. I want it NOW. “Mommy! I want my truck! Can we get my truck yet? Can we?” I tug on her shirt. It is soft and green. She looks at me with that special look and says, “Be quiet and behave right now.” So I do. I follow her into a store with lots of black pants and white shirts. I am bored. I follow Mommy into the changing room and out of the changing room and to the table where you give them the money. We walk out of the store and I hold Mommy’s hand because there are lots of people in the shopping mall. I see some kids with their mommies and daddies. Maybe I can ask them to play! I ask Mommy. She says, “Honey don’t talk to strangers, you could get hurt”. So I don’t. I don’t want to get hurt, because then I will never be able to play soccer! I follow Mommy into a store that smells like flowers and fruit. It has lots of bottles and tubes, and my mommy stops to look at some pink ones. She sprays the liquid on her wrist and sniffs it. I am bored, so I watch people. I see my friend Emma from the playground with her mommy next to a lot of purple bottles. She smells the liquid like my mommy does. I wave to Emma, and she waves right back. Maybe we will be on the same team! Emma plays soccer, too. But then her mommy turns around to look at something else, and Emma doesn’t see her. My mommy moves to the next table, and I follow. I turn around to look for Emma, but now she is talking to a stranger! I say, “Mommy, my friend Emma is talking to a stranger! Look! Look over there!” But my mommy tells me not to worry because that is her daddy. I tell her it is not, but she says I am wrong. I know that I’m not. I can just tell that he is a stranger. He isn’t the nice kind who wants to pet your dog, either. He has a mean look in his eye and dirty clothes and a curvy back. I get scared. He sees me and looks at me for a long time. I hide in my mommy’s soft green shirt. I peek out, and the stranger and Emma are gone! I scream “EMMA!” as loud as I can. Her mommy doesn’t hear me, and I am scared that I am not loud enough. I hear Emma yell back! I run as fast as I can out of the store, and my mommy is yelling at me and running, too. I see the stranger pushing Emma behind a table with purses, and I yell that “HE IS A STRANGER!” really loud. Everyone stares at me and then at him, and he looks at me. His special look is much scarier than my mommy’s. I point at him and scream. He has greasy hair and big bony hands and pants that are too short. He has hair on his face that is not neat like my daddy’s, and his 67
lips look very small. But now they are starting to smile. Now the stranger looks happy and nice. “You silly boy, I am Emma’s daddy. Go run along!” he says. Uh-oh. Now I feel sad for being so loud. My mommy will be mad at me. Uh-oh. But then I look at Emma and her face is so scared and she shakes her head left and right, and I know that this means that the stranger is not her daddy. I spin to tell my mommy, but she is very angry. She says, “We are leaving right now. You are not getting your Tonka truck.” I start to cry, but then I remember Emma. I turn around once more, but she is gone. The stranger is, too! I need to find Emma’s mommy. I spin around and around, but she is not there. The stranger’s name is Bill. He grabs Emma’s hand and swiftly escorts her from the mall. He does not glance around to check for traffic as he strides towards his vehicle. Emma trips over her own feet, struggling to keep up with Bill. Her Barbie sneakers now have black scuffs from the asphalt on the toes. Emma’s brows are slightly crinkled. Her eyes squint and scan the parking lot. Her eyes are glass; her stare is deep. She does not say a word. Bill fumbles with his keys before unlocking the door of the brown pickup. His hands are shaking. Emma becomes uneasy, for Bill’s palms are becoming sweaty against hers. Bill drops the keys on the driver’s seat and marches Emma around to the front passenger seat. He picks her up easily and places her in the seat, buckling her seatbelt and patting her knee before slamming the door. He does not make eye contact. Emma remains silent, as Bill circles the car and climbs in. His hip cracks as he brings the second leg up into the truck. With his hand still trembling, he starts the truck and puts it into gear. A cassette peeks out of the slot. Bill pushes it in and presses Play. “Eleanor Rigby” fills the car. Emma stares straight ahead with her glass eyes. Bill’s eyes dart all around as he exits the parking lot. He rounds the corners too fast, and Emma is jerked towards the door. Her right arm begins to hurt, but Bill does not seem to notice her. He watches the people. Some are strolling towards the mall, often in animated conversation about the new DVD or t-shirt to be purchased. Others lumber towards their cars under the weight of heavy bags. There are two middle-aged women, a small group of “hoodlums”, and an elderly couple with a bath mat. He swerves to dodge an abandoned shopping cart and exits the parking lot.
As soon as Mommy opens my door, I jump down and run into the house as fast as I can. My feet hurt from jumping. I see my GI Joes and start to play so that Mom knows that I like my old toys, too. I still want my Tonka truck, but Mommy is mad. Her face is red, and her eyes and lips are small. I am getting in trouble. If she tells Daddy… Should I tell Jim about this morning’s episode? He’ll be ticked if I don’t, but with the new contract, I really can’t justify it…He’ll be stressed enough, trying to coordinate all the landscapers for the job. Besides, Tommy always tags along with Jim while I’m at the office. I don’t need things getting awkward between them. Jim is hard enough on Tommy as it is. He’s always so critical, and he always takes out his stress on Tommy. Tommy’s just a kid! I don’t know, Jim just can’t relate to him sometimes. But Tommy’s never said anything, so maybe it is just father-son bonding. They do spend a lot of time together… But Tommy has been acting strangely. Maybe that girl’s dad looked creepy, but his outburst was uncalled-for. Actually, it’s pretty embarrassing. What would my friends say if they were there? Oh, I need to get Tommy some help. I’ll bring him to the school psychologist right now. It’s not like this is the first time that something like this has happened. Bill pulls into the gravel driveway very slowly. He does not want to disturb the stones or dirt. He pulls down his visor to shield his eyes, but Emma gazes straight into the late afternoon sun. Bill reaches over and pulls down her visor. Her eyes don’t move. Bill parks next to the garage. He turns towards Emma but doesn’t speak. He reaches over and unbuckles her seatbelt. She flinches. He pushes both visors up and eases himself out of the truck. He walks slowly to the rear and begins to unload a shovel and rake. Emma opens the passenger door carefully; it doesn’t squeak. She slides off of her seat and lands gently on the grass. She glances quickly at Bill. He is ambling toward the garage, carrying the shovel. His back is turned to her. Emma sprints toward the woods lining the far end of the yard. She sees the corner of a light blue house peeking through the trees. Her hair whips around her face, making it hard for her to see. She hears Bill’s voice in the background. “Hey! Where do you think you’re going?”
Mommy says that I’m going to see a special lady and that I can talk to her about whatever I want to. I don’t know about that. Most ladies I know don’t like talking about soccer and Tonka trucks. I tell Mommy this. She laughs really loudly and says, “Tommy, don’t worry. This lady likes to talk about everything!” I like when Mommy laughs. She doesn’t do it much, and I feel special when she laughs because of me. Maybe this special lady will laugh, too! I ask, “Why do I have to see this lady? Why can’t I just talk to you, Mommy?” Mommy answers, “This lady knows more than me, and she can help you.” I don’t know how this lady is going to help me, but I don’t fight with Mommy. Maybe if I’m nice, I’ll get my Tonka truck soon! But now I’m thinking about Emma, and I’m getting really worried. I hope that my mommy is right, and that that man really is her daddy. I hope he’s nice, too. Sometimes daddies can be mean. What a bitch. How dare she accuse me of being a bad mother! She thinks I don’t know that Tommy is troubled? I know I work a lot— maybe too much—but I can see that something is going on with Tommy. He publicly accused a girl’s father of being a kidnapper. I know that that is not normal. That’s why I’m trying to get him some help! I don’t need to be judged by some loony for not “taking action sooner.” How was I supposed to know that his “behavioral patterns are indicative of a subconscious lack of security”? If Tommy doesn’t know that he doesn’t feel secure, how should I? Tommy doesn’t have anything to be insecure about, anyway. He’s six. He’ll be fine. That’s the last time I pay for any “special lady” to talk to my son. I guess I’ll just have to pay more attention to Tommy. Maybe he needs a motherly figure every once in a while, instead of always spending “man time” with Jim. Bill’s shovel hits the ground with a soft thud, as he sprints after Emma. Emma hears the rustle of the grass, as Bill chases her. His jagged breathing becomes increasingly louder. He is gaining on her. Emma does not avert her gaze from the corner of the light blue house visible in the distance. With her eyes focused upward, she trips over a rotting branch left in the yard. She does not fall, but she loses precious time. Bill is merely yards behind her now. Emma glances to the side and notices the growing shadow behind her. She panics. She cannot outrun this man. She has never been able to.
The lady told me that she would see me at school tomorrow, even though my mommy doesn’t like her. The lady thinks it will make me happy to talk about more things. I didn’t think it was very fun. We didn’t talk about any of my toys. We talked about Daddy and Mommy and what I do with them. I said I don’t really see Mommy, but I always see Daddy. I told the lady that seeing Daddy is fun sometimes, because I get to ride on the tractor with him, but other times it isn’t very fun. She asked me why, but I didn’t tell her. My daddy says that I should never tell anyone if I feel scared or hurt. That is not what big boys do. I always have to be brave with my daddy. I hope we will get to talk about Emma next time. I haven’t seen her since this morning, and I’m still scared that she is with a mean stranger. I hope that she can be brave like I can be. I should buy Tommy that Tonka truck tomorrow. He really does deserve it after a day as hectic as today. After I drop him off at school tomorrow, I can just shoot over to Tar… Damn it! This better not be a telemarketer… “Hello, Jill speaking.” “Hi Jill, this is Marge, Emma’s mother?” “Marge! I am so sorry, I’m happy you called, I’d been meaning to call and apologize for this—“ “DO YOU KNOW WHERE MY DAUGHTER IS? Please say you do! Please!” “What? Marge, I saw—“ “I took her to the mall this morning, and she disappeared! I told mall security, but they couldn’t find her anywhere. They told me to wait a few hours, but I’m going crazy with worry! You haven’t seen her around town?” “Marge, I was at the mall this morning with you, I saw you there! Remember?” “What? No, I’m sorry, I must have been distracted…” “Your husband picked Emma up while you were still in Bath and Body Works. He met her in the hallway, and the two took off pretty quickly. I just assumed you knew that he was getting her… you know, taking her off your hands so you could do some serious shopping…” “My husband is in Geneva on business this week.” “Wh—“ “Oh my God—“ Click.
Daddy is home! I am happy and sad at the same time, but the special lady told me that that is OK. He picks me up and gives me a BIG hug and carries me out to the tractors. One is broken, and he has to work on it. He says I can help. My mommy stays in the house. She never knows what goes on between my daddy and me. Bill grabs Emma by her right arm. Emma flinches, because her arm is still sore from being jostled in the car, but does not scream or attack Bill. Her mother tells her never to do that. Bill kneels down and turns Emma around to face him. Emma’s eyes are lifeless, while Bill’s frantically scans the girl’s placid face for any hint of emotion. He looks thoroughly puzzled. “Where are you trying to go, honey?” Bill inquires gently. He loosens his grip on Emma’s arm, but does not relinquish control. “Just trying to go home, Mr. Thompson.” Emma replies at a barely audible volume. She looks down, unable to meet his inquisitive gaze. “What do you mean, calling me Mr. Thompson?” “Mr. Thompson, I’m not—“ “Stop calling me that!” “I just want to go home!” Emma sobs, breaking free from Bill’s grasp and falling to the ground. An overwhelming sadness overcomes Bill, as he stares down at the crying child. “But Suzie, this is your home. It always has been.” What the hell is going on? Is Emma really missing? Could her father have come home early? No, he probably would have told Marge. Or at least, he wouldn’t have just taken Emma from the mall without telling her. I could have sworn that man was Emma’s father. I have definitely seen him pick Emma up before! Who IS he? Maybe if I could describe him to Marge, she would be able to recognize him… Well, it’s too late. She’s probably driving all over town by now. ! This is completely my fault. If I hadn’t told Tommy that the man really was Emma’s father, we could have kept her from harm. Oh my God. Tommy was right! Never doubt a child’s intuition. I need to help find this girl, now. I’ll just run out to the garage and grab Jim’s keys and drive down to Town Hall, see if I can connect a name with a face somehow, or at least notify the police. Maybe I’ll take Tommy with me, so that he knows that he was right. Or would that scare him too much? Yes, this is much too scary. I’ll tell him after this fiasco is over. Gross! Can’t Jim do something about all this mud? And I’m even wearing my new sho— What the hell is goi— JIM! 72
“JIM! STOP! What are you DOING?” “Wh—I—Jill—“ “Jill WHAT? Give me Tommy right now. NOW!” “I was only trying to—“ “Only trying to WHAT? Kill him?” “Jill, there’s no way this could kill him…” “Tommy, has this ever happened to you before?” YES?! How could he… “Tommy. Come here. We’re leaving.” I think I’m going to be sick. Emma stares at the grass. “My name isn’t Suzie, Mr. Thompson.” A car speeds down the driveway, and the two hear the gravel crunching as it approaches. Both are frozen—Emma seems calm; Bill seems apprehensive. A car door slams, and a woman’s scream is heard from the driveway. “EMMA! Are you here? Emma! Mr. Thompson?” “Mommy!” Emma screams with relief. She runs over to her mother, who has reached the edge of the lawn. Bill slowly raises himself to stand and pivots toward Emma and the woman. A layer of fog seems to lift from his eyes; he looks at the two as if this is the first time he has noticed them. Suddenly, his head jerks upward. Panic flashes through his eyes, followed closely by regret, then sorrow. He jogs to the edge of the lawn, where Emma and her mother stand. They look relieved, but Bill is still panicked. “Emma, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” “It’s OK, Mr. Thompson, I just get scared sometimes. I know you don’t know.” “I just really thought you were—“ “It’s quite alright, Mr. Thompson. Suzie did have the same coloring as Emma,” Marge interjected, gently placing a hand on Bill’s bony shoulder. “We know you miss her.” “I don’t know why she was taken from me so soon, I just wish we had done more toge—“. Bill’s voice cracked, and his broke out into quiet sobs. “I am so sorry to do this to you, Marge. Sometimes I don’t exactly know what’s going on. I’m getting older…” “We know, Mr. Thompson. It’s OK. Suzie is still watching over you in spirit. Feel free to come over and visit Emma whenever you’d like. We just get nervous when she disappears like this…” “Oh, Marge, this will never happen again! I’ll be more careful. Sometimes my mind just gets very cloudy…”
The special lady told me a lot of things today in school. She told me not to worry about my mommy, because they had a long talk and now my mommy likes her! I am glad, because I don’t like to do things that my mommy doesn’t like me to. The special lady also told me that the man who took Emma at the mall really wasn’t her daddy. I told her that I already knew that, and she smiled. That made me happy. But then she said that the man wasn’t a stranger, and that he was actually very nice. He just thought that Emma was his own daughter. I told the special lady that I didn’t think my mommy would ever confuse me with another boy. She laughed, but then she said that sometimes when you get older, you can’t see or remember very well. I never want to get old, then! Then the special lady asked me about what happened in the garage with my daddy and mommy. I said that it was just like other days, and that I was just being brave like my daddy tells me to. She asked me why I had to be brave. My daddy says that I’m not supposed to talk about this, because I am a man, but I decided to tell the special lady. She seems nice. I told her that I’m not allowed to cry if I feel sad or hurt. She asked me if I ever felt this way. I told her that I used to every day, but not anymore. She asked me if I thought that Emma was allowed to be sad or hurt. I said that I think she is. That is why I didn’t want the stranger to take her away! Strangers are bad people, and daddies are good. If my daddy hurts me every day, I don’t know what a stranger could do to Emma. I don’t think Emma could be as brave as me, either, I said. It took me a long time to be brave for my daddy. I don’t think Emma has ever had to be that brave.
This is the annual compilation of student literary work.