Philadelphia Stories Junior Spring 2021

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a community of young writers


and artists from the Delaware Valley


a community of young writers

and artists from the Delaware Valley


ART COVER ART / 26: by Sharon Suardi.

CONTENTS FEATURES AND FICTION 4 4 Diary of a Quarantiner............................................ Maryam Raham 5 We Are Equal........................................................... Michael Shell 7 Time Brings Change................................................ Anushka Dhar 8 My Crazy Family..................................................... Eriyanah East 9 10 Change Our Ways................................................... Anurudh Venkatesh 10 The Torture of the American Dream....................... Gregory Datto 12 The Tiger................................................................. Anushka Dhar 11 12 Capture.................................................................... Imani Ayala 13 Nighttime Stroll...................................................... Grace Morrison Wesley 15 Doors of my Future.................................................. Wesley Bozman 17 Adventures in the Shed............................................ Leo Dong 13 18 Empowerment.......................................................... Maryam Raham 19 The Nature of Brokenness....................................... Brianna Duffin 20 Should NBA Players Play During COVID?............ Spencer Holm 22 Why the Flowers Grow........................................... Brianna Duffin 14 23 Introverts Unite!...Separately................................... Erin Brody 24 The Injury................................................................ Bryce Ford 26 Hopes and Dreams for Back to School.................... Anthony Wallace

Publishers Carla Spataro Christine Weiser Art Director Derek Carnegie Web Design Loic Duros Board of Directors Concha Alborg Alex Husted, President Daniel Johns, Vice President Jim Knipp Carla Spataro Gary Zimmaro, Treasurer

Lead Editor Eric-Ross McLaren

by Kojo Randall-el.

by Jaylyn Walker.

by Jaylyn Walker.

by Raina Ho.

by Raina Ho.


by Kinaya Williams.


by Leo Dong.


by Sharon Suardi.


by Raina Ho.


by Sharon Suardi.

Mighty Writer Student Editor Anthony Wallace Mentoring Editors Angel Stewart Malik Askia-Howell Ginny Simon


Philadelphia Stories is a non-profit literary magazine that publishes the finest literary fiction, poetry and art from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and distributes free of charge to a wide demographic throughout the region. Our mission is to develop a community of writers, artists and readers through the magazine, and through education programs such as writer’s workshops, reading series, and other affordable professional development programs for emerging writers and artists. Philadelphia Stories is a 501c3. To support Philadelphia Stories and the local arts, please visit to become a member today!

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letter from the editor by Eric-Ross McLaren It’s been quite an eventful year! Who knew we’d be releasing yet another fantastic issue virtually from the comfort of our homes? It’s sad to think that not long ago, the team and I would meet together, once per week, at the haven of Mighty Writers West. Despite the challenges of editing this issue remotely, similar to our last issue, the transition has gone smoothly, and I’m happy to say that the safe space that Mighty Writers encompasses has made a positively impactful adaption to our virtual setting. Since September 2020, the team and I have been hard at work on this pandemic issue. This issue, for me, has been the most unique and bizarre than any other we’ve worked on. We had to persevere, seeking out artists and writers who’ve yet to be discovered, as well as working with students who already submitted through our platform. The team and I value each submitter near and dear to our hearts. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have had an issue this year. For that, again, I am so grateful for our team of editors and group of now published student writers and artists. Sadly, this is the last partnership issue I’ll be working on with Mighty Writers and Philadelphia Stories as I head off to college in the Fall. I’ve been working with both organizations for three years, which has been such an incredible and memorable experience. Having the opportunity to read the adventures and impressive narratives students submitted is heartwarming and inspiring. I look forward to continuing to read the imaginative works of students who seek to be heard through Mighty Writers programs and Philadelphia Stories magazine, to become artists, writers, wordsmiths, and changemakers. I want to thank Christine Weiser of Philadelphia Stories for recognizing and offering me this incredible opportunity, for inspiring me to become a better writer and leader. I also want to thank Christina Rissell of Mighty Writers for giving me helpful guidance and advice on how to run a team of fantastic, hardworking editors who brought joy to a hard and daunting period of our lives.

Enjoy the issue!

Eric-Ross McLaren, Lead Editor Philadelphia Stories Junior

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Diary of a Quarantiner by Maryam Raham Quarantine, ugh.



The dissatisfaction of staring at your ceiling all day, of missing family, and distance learning. The trauma of a day’s journey from my bed to my computer and back, the tiring of the things I used to love, the sense of being grounded for my safety. I think I’ll be here forever.

5/26/20 Well..I hope not. Because the news and these four walls are starting to make me psycho.

I constantly scare myself into thinking I have the illness, forgetting I’ve always had shortness of breath on the regular, from just walking up the steps. I now get scared like others whenever someone sneezes or coughs, even on TV.

5/31/20 There have been many “rumors,” but no one knows if they’re true or not. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay home, stay claustrophobic, and stay bored, because this will be all over soon. Like Kimmy Schmidt from Netflix says, “just take it ten seconds at a time.”

5/27/20 Hmm. I wonder what Cardi B and the Kardashians are doing right now. Are they suffering from claustrophobia? Do they even need a stimulus check? They probably get it first. I wonder if America’s government is the Matrix. Donald Trump... more like Agent Smith with Congress as the other agents, lol.


Call for Submissions Are you a writer or artists aged 18 or younger? We’d love to see your work for PS Junior!

The coronavirus has ruined my life this year. As a child, Ramadan and Eid were the best moments of a Muslims child’s life. Meeting up with my Muslim friends on the playground after prayer, eating dates and Arab food was the best thing we would do all year. But this year, we couldn’t do it because we had to perform “social distancing.”

5/29/20 I miss the beautiful sights outside. I’ve learned what I’ve been missing out on. Because now I only see these four walls of depression, of the memories and regrets of the things I wish I could forget. I need to get away from this sadness, well music kinda helps I guess. 4 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

Find our guidelines along with other stories, poems, and artwork here:

We Are All Equal By Michael Shell

We are equal, we are family

Let’s stand together and face the cold world it truly is..

We are in a bad situation: Jail, slavery, and death.No one deserves to serve a master No one deserves to be a slave No one deserves to be killed No one deserves to be bought or owned. Instead of looting, killing, and rioting… let’s heal, nourish, and care for each other in these difficult times. There are many problem makers and problem solvers in the world. Let’s stop the problem makers that are killing minorities and become problem solvers. There was and still is violence. Let’s unify and keep the world organized. Let’s not make and live in pain. We must become peace, not violence. Our problem is racial discrimination. Stop killing people and be peaceful. Let’s be equal. No one should be killed because of the color of their skin whether it’s chocolate, white, lite, or candy.

WE ARE EQUAL. No discrimination shall be allowed anymore! WE ARE EQUAL. No discrimination shall be allowed anymore!”

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by Kojo Randall-el © 2021

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Time Brings Change by Anushka Dhar The comfort and riches of the wealthy are unimaginable to some. But at the start of my life, this was only normal. Designer clothes, personal chef, and a Ferrari were just the top of the bundle. I couldn’t imagine anything that I wanted that I didn’t have. Indeed, I was rich. And spoiled. If something wasn’t up to my standards, it had to be. And sometimes for the sake of it, I would pretend to hate something I actually loved. But that one day when things started to go downhill, everything changed...for better or for worse. “GET PACKING!” he yelled. My dad shook me awake and said we were going on a road trip. I kept sleeping. I was startled, as my parents wouldn’t even complain about me. I was their precious angel of course! With a grumble, I started packing all my fancy outfits, but the ones that were worth $100 to $300 I left. My dad grumbled that he would wait for me downstairs. “I used to wear these...these rags?!?” I thought in outrage. Then I loaded my heavy suitcase and called my butler. After waiting for 10 minutes for my butler, I was ready to pout and throw a fit when the door opened. But when it did, I saw my dad. “WHY ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOUR BUTLER?” he bellowed. My eyes were wide open. He opened my suitcase and threw my fabulous clothes aside. Then, he grabbed the cheapest clothes I had, the ones that were $100 and less which were in the trash can, and shoved them in a ratty old backpack he was holding. He shoved it on me and dragged me to the car. Where I expected a shiny blue, red, or white Ferrari, there stood a brand I had never even laid my eyes on. “Get in!” growled my dad.

I put my nose in the air and looked in the other direction. What would the students at St. Carl’s Private School say if they saw me sitting in the back of a beat up four-seater? When I looked to see why my parents weren’t coaxing me in, I saw my dad’s ears get pink, then red, then almost purple. Apparently, my mom sensed this too, and she jerked me inside and shut the door. There was the start of the 29 hour road trip, aka the worst hours of my life.

“The truth is…the medical bills are for me. That new virus that everybody’s talking about? That coronavirus? I actually have it.”

The road trip was quiet except for my mom’s mild coughs and sneezes, and my complaints. My dad finally stopped on the side of the road so we could eat. He probably also stopped to get the food because he was annoyed with my constant complaints. We hadn’t had anything except a pack of gum. When my dad went to the rest area to get us some proper food, I went to my mom for answers.

When we arrived, I fainted. Here I was, after a one-and-a-half day road trip, expecting at least a million dollar mansion, but what I got was a broken down apartment. Instead of grand staircases, there were broken steps, and in substitute for chandeliers, there was a leaky roof.

“Why are we sitting in this piece of trash, where are we going, and why can’t I have my clothes back!?!” I yelled. “Milan, I know this is a big change. The truth is, your father lost his job at the bank.” “So?” “So, well, we can’t live in a grand house. There are taxes, education fees, medical bills,” I stopped her. “Medical bills?” I inquired. My mother’s face got very pale. “No, no, I meant your grandpa’s medical bills, not ours,” “Mom. Grandpa has enough money to pay for his own medications. What’s going on?” I looked at her. She took a deep breath and looked me straight in the eye.

I was outraged. I had given up my life, my belongings, my amazing house just because my mom had that virus? When my dad came back, I grumpily sat in the car, and my dad looked impressed with my sudden change in behavior. The rest of the trip went in silence.

“You cannot expect me to go into this piece of filth!” I yelled, causing the residents living there to peer out of their windows. “No, I don’t expect you to go in; I expect you to live here.” My dad said flatly. I was shocked at the way my parents were treating me. How could they do this horror to their darling little boy? With a “Hmph!” and my nose in the air, I trotted in behind them. But when we reached our apartment, I screamed. The carpet looked ancient, the walls were scribbled on, there were weird stains on the ceiling, and the bathroom smelled of... whatever happens in them. To top it all off, I didn’t even have my own room. I had to sleep on the floor of the living room, which had those foldable chairs as the sofa, and a cardboard box (it was pretty sturdy) to be our dining table. “No! Just because of her,” I pointed at my mom accusingly, “carainavirus or Philadelphia Stories Jr. 7

whatever it is, I’m not going to live here! I refuse to stay here!” “MILAN YOU WILL-” “No Father! I am too posh for this! I won’t! I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!” I screamed. My dad grabbed me by the collar and said, “Listen here, rich boy! You aren’t the only one whose life changed dramatically. We aren’t rich, so don’t go around strutting off your new clothes and expensive watch. You will be disciplined. Got it?” I tore away from his grip and ran, bursting through the stained doors of the apartment. I sprinted down the street and into a quiet neighborhood. Then I fell down against a wall and started crying. How could my life have changed to this? This was beneath what I deserved. As I was crying, I heard a sound of coins rattling. “Money, please. Please, please, money?” I looked up to see a girl, about my age, shaking a can of soda, filled with a few coins. She turned toward me and I saw that her face was

grimy, and her nails were black. The girls at St. Carl’s Private School had their nails manicured three times everyday. She looked at me, and looked at her feet. They were blistered from wearing no shoes or socks, and walking on the roads. Her eyes were wide and then she got up to go somewhere else. She unknowingly led me to a fenced-up piece of land, and went to a small hut made of discarded items. I gasped, and she turned to find me. Her eyes went wide, and she said, “No please! No say, no say gov-men! No say!” She was telling me not to tell the government. “Okay, okay. I’m Milan. What is your name?” Something inside of me told me to help her. I realized what a spoiled brat I had been, and that there were many less fortunate than me. She bit her lip and said, “Araceli. I Araceli.” She needed help. I thought about it and everyday since then, I went to her hut, and helped her learn a few words. In two years, she learned a lot, and was able to get her

My Crazy Family By Eriyanah East Home is a place where kids can be safe They can have fun on birthdays and eat a lot of cake Home is where I chill I don’t gotta worry about paying no bills, I’m picking up on things that my two sibling normally do at home I’ve noticed my baby sister is always eating my phone My baby sister has her teeth, and eats like a beast She is finally a big girl she is doing some twists and a couple twirls My mom she is a beautiful independent woman She is doing real good in this hood. My mom treats me better than any other woman could My little brother is annoying he is always asking me for stuff he’s kinda boring. That’s everything about my family I hope you enjoyed thank you very much for listening. Eriyanah is 12 and in the 7th grade. She attends the Morton McMichael School.

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parents jobs, who I met on an alphabet ‘expedition’. They moved in next to my apartment, and we were great friends. A little help can go a long way. Now, as I stand here today on this stage receiving my diploma from this university, I have recognized that there are less fortunate in the world. The comfort and status the rich hold, some will never possess. But out of many of those unfortunate, one such person has taught me a lot. My dear friend Araceli, sitting there in the third row, tenth seat, yes, the one who encouraged me to try the world of Chipotle. She was homeless, but look at her now. She’s graduating from Harvard! We have planned to start a new organization, one that educates children. Caste, money, and luxuries may separate us, but education brings us together. That is one of the most important, life-changing parts of life. And we all know that the comfort and riches of the wealthy are unimaginable. But with one tiny step at a time, we can climb this staircase that separates us. Anirudh Venkatesh is 11 years old. He is in 6th grade and attends Great Valley Middle School in Malvern.

by Jaylyn Walker © 2021

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Change Our Ways by Anirudh Venkatesh It was a cool summer evening when our family was watching the U.S. Open Round 1. The Arthur Ashe Stadium filled with excitement, watching the game with the young prodigy, Karolina Muchova, who was going to challenge Venus Williams. When we asked my little sister which of those players was her favorite without any doubt she quickly responded “Venus WIlliams.” We wanted to see whether or not she could correctly identify Venus, so we asked her to spot the difference between the two players. She responded by addressing Venus WIlliams as “the woman in the pink shirt.” What surprised us though, is the fact that the contrast in both of the player’s skin color never occurred to her. She did not single Venus Williams out as the woman who had black skin. Why is it that older people tend to differentiate people by the color of their skin when the only difference a little girl can manage to find is the difference between their outfits?

Right now, America is not only facing a medical crisis, but a social crisis too. Racial injustice is a massive problem with thousands of people currently being victimized due to the color of their skin. This has been occurring in the US.for centuries, and it has to change - now. America has already gone through many controversies involving racial injustice including the breakaway Confederacy, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. We should not aim to make this situation any worse than it already is. Unless we want to go through another 600,000 deaths with another Civil War, we should stop and take a moment to absorb what is happening in the real world. Just standing there and watching people get hurt does not help at all! Show people that you care, by talking to your close relatives and friends not just about the problem, but also about solutions to mitigate the problem. Make sure there are social outreach programs in your schools

and neighborhoods that focus on helping disadvantaged communities. Thomas Jefferson once wrote “all men are created equal.” Let us ensure that we take the words of our founding fathers and incorporate them into the DNA of our country. That means no man or woman is better than any other man or woman. No race is better than any other race. No religion is better than any other religion. A rainbow has many different colors. Without one color, it wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is. Just like that, every race is important. Without one race, the world wouldn’t be as great as it is. Stop discriminating against people by the color of their skin, and start appreciating who they really are. Stop racial injustice now!

Anirudh Venkatesh is 11 years old. He is in 6th grade and attends Great Valley Middle School in Malvern.

The Torture of the American Dream By Gregory Datto Far away in the United States, Working to save her children from their dangerous lives, She feels the distance. She misses her family. She could not stand another Christmas or birthday apart. She dries her tears. She refuses to subject her children to the perilous journey. Robbed by her smuggler, Left without food for three days, She was lucky. Thousands of other mothers travel a more dangerous way. On top of Mexico’s freight trains, They call it “The Train of Death”. Gregory Datto is a high school senior at The Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE. He lives in Glen Mills, PA. He is an avid swimmer and cyclist and aspires to study Biomedical Engineering next fall.

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by Jaylyn Walker © 2021

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The Tiger by Anushka Dhar Silently and softly, the striped predator creeps along the edges of the marshy mangrove while watching an animal leave the safety of its home. When the unsuspecting prey comes closer to the meat-eater’s hideout, the brutish feline pounces.

swallow and not choke on it.

with a diet that suits them.

Their claws are probably the most prized thing on their body, as the stealthy cat scratches its claws against the bark of a tree to make them very sharp.

As amazing as it is, this monstrous creature can strike with an impassive face and won’t give its prey any mercy. This deadly feline is known as the tiger. Their deadly physical features, found all around the world and amazing ability to fascinate others is what makes tigers beasts.

When it’s time to hunt, they attack with their claws and forceful front legs. These muscular front legs are usually what knocks the attacker or prey down.

The reason tigers are so fascinating is because all of their traits, both inside and outside, are unique. Their bright orange swirls and dark black stripes are probably what makes this scary creature so beautiful.

Easily the biggest cat in the world, tigers are predators due to their physical features. Their bright orange and dark black stripes can easily help them camouflage into their surroundings. This helps them locate prey without their food knowing that they’re there. Their sharp teeth can rip up any tough meat so it’s easier for them to


It also has great eyesight, which is helpful for seeing in the night when food is scarce. Amazing body features may be what keeps this cat alive! This carnivore lives in many different regions across the globe and each has its own variety of food sources. The Bengal Tiger lives in India, and there it can feed on many different animals, such as beef, chicken, buffalo, and goat. Likewise, the Siberian Tiger has a diet of many types of meat including elk, deer, and boars. There are many different types of tigers all over the world, each

The silent and swift way it moves is what makes them so agile. Even being a solitary animal, these monsters can take down animals such as wild buffalo! Most tigers are also very protective. They will not let other animals get near their family and will also put up a fight to let the other tiger escape. They are loyal to each other, only when the other is loyal back. Tigers can have many different ways to astonish others unlike themselves. All in all the tiger’s physical features, their population across the globe, and their personality may be what fascinates. Those outstanding traits will cause anyone to be in awe ! Tigers are sometimes considered the world’s most threatening creature, even more than lions!

By Imani Ayala

Though tigers are ferocious, they are an endangered species.

Collecting seashells Overrun by the water The waves pull me in

Many different reasons are making their number decline such as hunting and habitat loss.

Going to the beach Saltwater in my mouth, yuck The weather is cold

With the tiger population decreasing, the world will be different. Tigers are a massive part in the Earth’s making, helping the diversity of species and other animal populations be under control, so we have to make sure they stay.

Sand in my swimsuit My brother hates the water Playing in the sand

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Anushka Dhar is a 6th grader at John Adams Middle School.

NIGHTTIME STROLL by Grace Morrison Wesley It is one in the morning, as I aimlessly wander through a hallway looking at its dull grey walls, and I’m confused as to why there aren’t any doors or corners! The hallway just goes on and on, never ending in an endless line. And why am I even awake anyway?. It’s like I’m floating, and unable to feel anything. Not the floor, not the air... NOTHING. I can’t even hear anything. There are no cars, nor crickets, not even my heart beat, only eerie silence. It is strange. I don’t even remember waking up, why I’m not rest-

ing or where I even am. I only know that it is one a.m. and I am pacing the halls because there is nothing better to do. It’s now two in the morning. There are now doors in the hall. They are the same shade of gray that the walls were and they are all exactly 10 ft apart. I still can’t feel my surroundings, but there is a slight ringing in my ears and a sharp searing pain in my chest. I don’t know why it is there, or where it even came from, but it hurts! It burns and

I’m crying non-stop, but the pain won’t go away. I’m begging for someone… ANYONE... to help me! This agonizing isolation, these hallways empty, this unbearable pain that won’t cease... and nobody is coming to help me either?!? The hallway is just empty, like always. I… I am alone. It is now three in the morning. The doors are now red, but still wet like they were just freshly painted. It doesn’t smell like fresh paint though. I know it isn’t

by Raina Ho © 2021

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It is five in the morning. Almost there! I can make it! I will finally beat this stupid curse where I am forced to relive the pain of my death, over and over again. fresh paint. The pain has now spread from my chest to my entire body. The pain! This searing intense pain! I try to put my hands on the wall but I almost fall through. I start to cry even harder. I can’t touch anything. Everything hurts and I am still all alone.

Four in the morning… all I feel in this throbbing torture, and it is awful! The doors have now gathered pools of blood underneath them. I wonder if that means that I am getting closer to freedom? The pain has doubled and I wonder if I have almost made it this time. I place my hand on the blood-soaked door before deciding against it and continuing on the path down the hall. I only make it to the next door before I stop again. Everything hurts. I trace “help me” on the wall and almost give up right there but I have never made it this far before. I will find a way out. I finally will move on. I keep moving forwards. It is five in the morning. Almost there! I can make it! I will finally beat this stupid curse where I am forced to relive the pain of my death, over and over again. If I can make it to sunlight I can be free!

by Raina Ho © 2021

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The entire floor is coated in blood now. I am so close but it all burns and when I finally think that I won’t give up, the pain tripled. I cry out in agony. I am so close... I am almost free, but I can’t do it! I am going to die! It is almost six in the morning, and I have almost made it. I am almost free! But the pain is just too much. I simply can’t handle it. I grab the blood-covered door, and write “I’m sorry” on the wall before opening it. Just like last time, and the time before that. Over and over again I give up and I cry because I will never be free. It will always be too much! But I open the door and everything goes dark. And when I open my eyes again? It is one am.

Doors of My Future by Wesley Bozman I move into another apartment. This one is made of crumbling bricks and tall windows. It smells of stale bread and moldy floors. It looks like forgotten pasts and abandoned futures. This is my home now. We get out of the taxi, my mother gives the driver some cash, then we walk through a rotting wooden door that is almost as tall as my father. The entryway is a small lounge on the ground floor which has nothing but a desk, an empty chair, and a single ringing bell. I reach to ring the bell but my mother puts her arm in front of me. Anyway, I can’t even reach the top of the desk. As we begin to leave the room with the desk and empty chair, we go to a door with a long red handle. The door refuses to open for us the first four tries, but then finally gives in and lets us through. It leads to cement stairs and metal railings that smell of cigarettes on a Tuesday afternoon. The stairs are tall and many, the top of this flight seeming further away than my old house. Before I can say anything, my mother yanks me by my arm and pulls me up the stairs. I float away with her only being ever so slightly held back by the wind. We climb up the large stairs for what seems like hours before we reach the hallway with many doors of which one is ours. The doors are all identical, some with more stains than others, all with the same metal handle, thin plywood, and rusty deadbolt lock. The carpeting has the same dizzying pattern that I quickly get lost in all the way down to the metallic door labeled: EXIT at the end of the hallway. About three doors away from that one, we finally reach the one we want. The door handle is messy and rough, and it doesn’t open until my father pulls

on it with all his might. The door then violently shakes, and a few more punches and pushes make it swing open to reveal the inside like a salesman on the television saying, “But wait, there’s more!” “More,” is one bedroom and a bathroom with a sofa, an old box television, and a bed large enough for my parents to sleep with each other. They still choose not to.

On the way back I see the faint figure of a white boy playing with his trucks by my room. He is small and plump with a t-shirt that doesn’t fit him, pants that are too big for him, and messy hair that almost cover his dirty brown eyes. I get closer and see that he blocks the way to my door, so I start to talk to him, hoping I could eventually kindly tell him to move.

This isn’t what I thought it would look like. In the magazines and television movies, the people always have a home with lots of floors and sofas and tables. They always have funny looking chandeliers and TVs that are too big, with lots of stairs and tall ceilings. This one is nothing like those, the ceilings are low and drip slimy fluids on to the floor, the sofa is dirty and stained, and the TV doesn’t work unless you punch it.

I ask him about his trucks. He tells me what kind they are and how much each weighs. I don’t understand most of what he says but I appreciate the toys. I sit down to play with him and his replicas and reach for one of his trucks, but he grabs it and violently pulls it to his chest. He tells me I cannot touch his trucks because I am too dirty. I look at my hands in response and he reacts before I can even say anything, and tells me that it’s not just my hands. My body is dirty and so is my inside and he doesn’t spend time with dirty girls. He opens the door to his room and takes his trucks with him.

I sit on the sofa where I will be sleeping and stare at that blank television. My father sets up his sleeping bag next to my mother’s bed, where she shifts her pillows around and tosses one to him. It’s not my bedtime yet so I ask to roam the hallways and my mother says I can with a mutter. My father gives her a quick glance but then quickly looks back to his book. My father opens the door for me because I can’t seem to figure it out, then I go outside the door and begin walking. As I walk down the hallway, I put the fingertips of my right hand on the seams of the wallpaper, lifting them back up whenever there is graffiti or dead termites. I walk like this for a while, my fingers grazing all the bumps and scratches picking up all sorts of dirt and grease along the way until I reach the end of the hallway. By then my fingers are browner, so I decide I have done enough walking for today and turn around.

I go to sleep that night with empty thoughts. I lay my head against my pillow on the sofa and only think about sleep. The room is so dark I don’t even have to close my eyes.

Wesley Bozman is a 14 year old freshman at Friends’ Central School. He loves writing creative fiction and music. This sample is a vignette he wrote inspired by the book, “The House on Mango Street,” as well as wanting to tell a story of a relatively small and normalized act of racism which happens much more frequently to people of color than most people would think. Philadelphia Stories Jr. 15

by Kinaya Williams © 2021

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Adventure in the Shed By Leo Dong One day I went exploring in the shed and found an orange and black tarantula. One of its legs was as long as my middle finger. It was eating a cricket. But then it moved because I poked it with a stick. I poked its abdomen and it ran away from me. At first I saw a lot of crickets. Then I saw about five crickets. There are spiders in the shed too. The shed smells like rotten cheese. It was not totally dark. There were cracks that let in light. The tarantula might have ran away through the cracks and now lives happily in the forest. Leo is 7 years old. He is a 2nd grader at Sharp Elementary School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

by Leo Dong © 2021

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Empowerment by Maryam Raham Once upon a time, there lived two powerful girls, Khadija and Janice. They came from two different backgrounds. Khadija was from Saudi Arabia and Janice was from Pennsylvania in the United States. Kahdija went through a lot of trauma in her life, like terrorist attacks, war from America, loss of food, destruction, no education, and more. Janice was hurt by a broken family, 9/11, police brutality, bullying, racism, and even more.These girls had been through so much pain and fright. They thought that maybe, if they stood up, maybe they could make a change. So, these young teens made their communities a little bit better by hosting religious ceremonies and meetings, daycares, protests and other forms of community activism. A couple years go by and it’s now 2027. The world got better, but there

were still flaws that the world thought couldn’t be healed. That was all going to be changed soon! Khadija was finally able to go to college but not in Saudi Arabia. She became a college exchange student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She didn’t know much English, but it was a good thing colleges teach ESL. The catch was that Janice was a tutor for foreign exchange students,and she spoke Arabic because because she had lived in Mecca for two years as a child; due to her dad being in the Army. Throughout her two years there, she did not learn much because her family was so determined that Muslims were bad. When they met, Janice wasn’t very excited to see that Khadijah was Muslim. Janice automatically said no to teaching her. Over time, they both learned that Janice was the only one that could teach

Khadijah so Janice decided maybe she could get to know her. Khadijah and Janice started to get to know each other. Janice realized that both she and Khadijah were very alike and they both loved to help their community. They decided they wanted to make a change in the world. It took awhile but they came up with many ideas. They did food drives for the community and classes for how people could help. Then, they finally came up with something really unique: an app! This app would allow people to put out information on helping out the community and include events such as concerts,prayer meetings, fun things for kids and cleaning the city. It started small but it soon got bigger, the whole campus knew! Two powerful girls from very different environments managed to create something so beautiful. It soon got all over the country and everyone played a part in saving their communities. It’s now 2034, and the world managed to become so great, with many people around the world supporting their communities through food, religion, fun, safety, and happiness.Khadijah and Janice are still best friends. Their kids are growing up together. and they both are beside each other as members of the United Nations. The world needs you. It always starts with community activism, but it will get bigger. Look what the Black Lives Matter protest did. It started off in just some community and it traveled nationwide and now we have the whole world able to protest for a cause so big. If you never give up, you will have a revolution..

by Sharon Suardi © 2021

18 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

The Nature of Brokenness By Brianna R Duffin He said my brokenness was beautiful. And silly me! I must have liked that because I allowed my butterflies to dance in their grave so much that finally they rose like a tornado and went insane. Poor things, they’re just like me. He told me also, on a day made of snow while his whistle drowned out the wind, that he really did think I was a clever one, but of course he couldn’t say so to my face. What he did tell me over and over like it was the song in some sick music box that he adored watching me spin to: my brokenness was beautiful. He insisted it was refreshing to find the one girl out of hundreds who was honest and real with him. I should’ve known right there and right then that when he cradled my brokenness with fingers like daggers, it was because he intended to cherish it forever. Because he was so enraptured by the ashes weeping where they lay on broken glass that he failed to understand my heart is a phoenix, forever reassembling the pieces, one spark, one sparkler at a time, rising again, flying again, singing again, shining again, yes, I should have known his eyes beheld no greatness when he held his stare at the dagger embedded in my chest to stop the heartbeat. I should have reached out- like his hands grabbing my skin and ripping it off my body in the dead cold of the nightand traced a line, connected those dots. I should have seen it, should have known. Maybe I have no one to blame but myself. Even now I must admit I do not know if deep down he was in love with the china doll or simply addicted to breaking it. Lucky for me, I tolerate neither, so I’ll tell you one more time, no sir, you will not find the stale vestiges of bitterness you search for inside of me for, yes sir, for your information, I have purged them already. I forced them from the nest they’d made in my gut and I ripped them through the fabric of time and spice rushing inside me like wind through the trees and I pulled them out through my throat. Silky spiderwebs tearing away the ugly midnight memories as they went, I expelled them from my being and I erased the girl with the life that they knew. Good riddance. What you don’t understand is that my body was built for better things than that, better things than you, even bigger and better than the Broken Girl you thought you could make your own. Yes, you heard me right but you weren’t listening, were you? So I’ll say it again, take one more look if you dare at the body you laid waste to and scorched like dry earth under the cruel summer sun and know that it was made for better things. Like my mothers before me, I was designed to grow and bloom even if time and time again I find myself the only rose in the desert. I’ve come to realize: not every rose comes with a thorn. Brianna R Duffin was a senior at Haverford High School when she submitted this poem. She now studies English at Rosemont College with the hope of earning an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Publishing. She publishes her work on Medium @briannarduffin.

Philadelphia Stories Jr. 19

Should NBA Players Play During COVID? by Spencer Holm For about half a year now, NBA players have been gathering in Disney’s “The Bubble.” The Orlando Magic stadium has been hosting numerous basketball games, where fans can attend via Microsoft teams. But, is it still safe for players to interact, and touch each other without wearing a mask? More than 40 players tested positive for Covid - 19 within the first week of December! I personally think that the NBA should take a break from these basketball games, because it doesn’t seem safe. The first reason why I think it isn’t safe for the NBA to play is because of the transfer of germs through physical contact. Basketball is a sport where everyone touches the same ball; that also is a way for Coronavirus to spread. When somebody touches a contaminated surface, and then their face, they are susceptible to getting the disease. That could result in a COVID diagnosis of another basketball player who could spread it to other people without knowing. Players such as Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets contracted COVID back in March along with four other teammates.

20 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

The second reason why I think that the NBA shouldn’t play, is because the players are so close to each other and are not wearing a mask. Although the teams in the NBA play in the bubble, they still can spread the virus within their team. The World Health Organization (WHO), recommends that everybody who isn’t staying within 6 feet of each other to wear a mask. The players in the NBA are staying about 2 inches away from each other, without even wearing a mask! Furthermore, even if they were wearing a mask, it would be hard for them to play wearing a plastic cover over their mouth for more than two hours! The last, and final reason why I think the NBA shouldn’t play, is because nobody knows who could have the virus. The NBA players do not take blood tests every day. Symptoms for Covid 19 can show up as late as 5 - 6 days after initial contact. Somebody in the NBA could have the virus, and could potentially be spreading it around asymptomatically. In addition, the blood tests aren’t very accurate; 30 percent of the people who get tested with a blood test, test nega-

tive, but are actually positive. In conclusion, I do not think that it is safe for the NBA to hold basketball games this season. Although we are going through tough times and need a little bit of entertainment, I think that basketball isn’t the sport. Even though the players are all staying within one place, I think that they should take more precautions, and definitely not play this season. Credits and Citation: Adams, J. (2020). NBA Virtual Fans: How Do You Sign Up to Attend Bubble Games? | Kent, A. (2020). List of NBA Players to Test Positive for Coronavirus. Foley, K. (2020). Where does the six-foot guideline for social distancing come from? Cruose, C. (2020). NBA Introduces Six Phases For Return. Jackson, Wilton. 48 NBA Players Test Positive for COVID-19. Sports Illustrated.

by Raina Ho © 2021

Philadelphia Stories Jr. 21

Why the Flowers Grow By Brianna R Duffin My grandmother used to wipe the tears off my cheek, her smile full of all the kindness, I now wish I could hold. She had her own brand of love, telling me: Yesterday we were imperfect, so today we start again, and tomorrow we will be better. My hope is that if we are flawed yet, the flowers will still grow. My grandfather would promise me: the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. The flowers will still grow. If you’ve ever been in so much pain that its tentacles wrap around you, until they’ve stolen your breath, and looked in the mirror to find absolutely nothing wrong at all, I’m quite sure that you will know somehow the flowers still grow. My mother explained to me: The world is running low on love because people have forgotten how to respect themselves, so it is our spiritual obligation as warriors and as women to protect and uplift one another. This is why we’re drowning ourselves in self-help that all say the exact same thing: Providing the same hollow advice. We’re drowning faster than ever before, But somehow we’re still flying while the flowers grow without care.

Brianna R Duffin was a senior at Haverford High School when she submitted this poem. She now studies English at Rosemont College with the hope of earning an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Publishing. She publishes her work on Medium @briannarduffin.

22 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

introverts unite!... separately by Erin Brody I went home after spending two whole days at preschool for the week. When I walked into the house, I stopped in the doorway and stared at my mom. She turned around from the kitchen and asked what’s wrong. I looked at her with eyebrows furrowed, dropped all my things wearily, and said, “Mommy, I need to be alone” My mom smiled and said I could be, understanding that children, real children, were beings that came straight from Hell. Since my parents understand what it’s like being introverted, especially at my age, I never thought of it as a bad thing. It wasn’t until I reached middle school I realized that introversion is, according to stuck-up idiots of society, seen as a negative thing. Apparently, they think that wanting to be alone for at least fifteen minutes and not befriending everyone that’s in a five-to ten-mile radius are the two major signs of an extreme antisocial disorder. One of my best friends happens to be one of these idiots and confronted someone in our class about his said “disorder.” She kept going on and on about how he needs to stop being antisocial, depressed, and negative. I cut in and told her she could just ask why he’s an introvert. She looked at me with pure disgust and said, “Yeah. Exactly.” I remember giving her a look of disgust back, and I may have been thinking something along the lines of, Ya bigmouthed socialite. I’m an introvert. Being that people thought that being an extrovert was the greatest thing in the world, I decided to see what’s just so great about it. And before I tell you

about my first experience, let me say there’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SO FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC ABOUT IT. Anyways… After standing in the lunch line and paying, I sat down at my table and started eating. It was nice outside, where my real friends were hanging out, but all the talkative and obnoxious people at our table were sitting inside. And being that extroverts just have to know everyone in existence, I decided to force myself to sit with the people I kinda know. For a couple minutes, I told myself to jump into a conversation that involves me or to just start one. When I finally thought of a topic to talk about, I sat up and opened my mouth until a cursed extrovert sat down, said my name in a stupid, high-pitched and cheery voice, and started loudly conversing with others. I looked outside and yearned to be with my fellow introverts. At the same time I didn’t want to be rude, so I desperately stared off into the distance, praying that the right moment to leave would soon come. And it did. When Stupid, High-Pitched and Cheery Voice sat down, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “I need a fork. Lisa can you come up and get one with me?”

people at lunch again, and there’s no chance I’ll ever play along with the incoherent babble that occurs on the bus. Though after I made that conclusion, I got a text from one of my friends from my old school, asking if I would be coming to their prom. “Force me to be social and talkative and nice to the others,” I reminded my friend when we pulled up to the banquet hall. “Will do.” As I walked into the lobby, I was greeted with fanatic screams (okay, maybe just two), surprised yet (slightly? somewhat?) happy faces, and hugs. A lot of people were saying they didn’t know I was coming and how beautiful I looked and so on and so on. After getting away from spending a whole two to three minutes with my adoring fans, we walked into the room the dance was being held and sat down at an almost empty table. My two friends were listening to me gabbing away about my new school and how much I loved it while the three people we were sharing a table with got up and moved, once again hindering me from going through with the experiment.

Once she left, I quickly grabbed my things and went outside. When I saw my group of my friends, I shouted, “I can’t do it!”

However, throughout the night, I was surprised to see how outgoing I was, dancing for over an hour, catching up with people I didn’t even know would’ve missed me. People who were new to the school that I’ve never met knew who I was.

A week passed, and I didn’t try my experiment again. I weighed out some of my options, and here were my answers: there’s no way I’ll try talking to

Even after that, I didn’t see why being an extrovert was so great, and I spent the next two days in solitude. To me, you just put yourself in situations Philadelphia Stories Jr. 23

where everyone wants you to come to their social event and will be eternally upset if you say no. Meanwhile, introverts have it good. Unless they’re invited to a party from one of their close friends, then they’ll either A: won’t hurt the host’s feelings if they say they had other plans (and those plans were curling up with a book, laptop, or furry animal and watching Netflix) or B: not get invited at all which would only make them happy. You know why? Because it’s one less person an extrovert has to worry about.

her mom means an hour and a half to two and half hours all because my friend couldn’t find good gifts. She found a couple things they’d like, but she was nervous they wouldn’t really like it.

“I’ve been telling you all these years that you should be like me,” which was my verbal way of my thoughts being, Yeah, having eight plus “best” friends is a pain in the ass.

Let me just interrupt my own story really quick: so, if you can’t quickly find at least one gift for each of your friends that you’d know they’d like, then do you really know them enough to call them your friend? Yeah, just further proves my point on introversion.

Maybe I’ll try this experiment again, but I doubt that I’ll ever convince myself that being an introvert is a bad thing. You know why? Because it isn’t, and you can be feared by most and loved by few which, to me, is a great gift, especially during the holidays.

Around Christmas time, I went shopping with my friend (the same friend who called us introverts all those nasty names, mind you), and our first stop was Macy’s. There, she was looking for gifts to give each of her friends in their Secret Santa game (but if everyone’s getting everyone a gift, how is it a secret?). I was told it’d be a little, short trip there, then we’d go to Target, which was where I needed to go.

“I have too many friends,” she finally admitted.

Well, a short trip to my friend and

I stopped walking and stared at her. This girl had to be friends with every single person in her school ever since Kindergarten, and she’s just now admitting she has too many friends? “I don’t even know what they really like all that well, and I have to buy gifts for every single one of them. Why do I have to be so social?”

by Sharon Suardi © 2021

24 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

Erin Brody is a writer from the Pittsburgh area who attends Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter school for their Writing and Publishing program. She has been published in for creative nonfiction, Hot Dish Magazine for short fiction, Dime Show Review for poetry, and she will soon be featured in Variant Literature for creative nonfiction. She is also the managing editor of The SIREN newspaper and could often be found watching or participating in theatre.

“the injury” by Bryce Ford I was on the ground and I felt a sharp pain in my right leg. The excruciating pain continued to spread through my body. The coach ran on the field... It was just like any other Saturday morning. I had begun to get ready. I had put my gameday clothes on and drank lots of water like my mom had kept nagging me to do. I got my Gatorade, my bottle of water, and began to walk to the soccer field. Before I was able to reach the door, my dog ran up to me and started to play with me. For a good minute I played with him but I knew I had a game, so I kept it short. When I got to the soccer field I greeted my friends and we joked around for a little. After that I drank my bottle of water and started to warm up for the game. I did my normal stretches, then I took some shots up on the goal. After our stretch the captain walked over and said, “Yo coach!” “They have first ball,” Coach responded, “Alright good job; 3-4-3-1 formation The back three are Bryce, Garret, Amadu This is gonna be a tough game, Play your hardest and have some fun.” We walked on the field and readied ourselves for what our coach said would be a hard game. Right off the bat, their offense demolished our midfield and as I went to close in on the player with the ball, he gave a good cross to his teammate who finished it with a great goal. We kept trying to even the field with a goal of our own but struggled. Our coach called a timeout and switched us around moving me from defense to offense. I was nervous when he switched me because I usually stay on defense but when I switch to offense, it usually means he needs me to kick the ball upfield. At the time I was happy because offense was more fun but it was also way more work. Soon after he moved me up, we were able to tie the game up. At halftime we took our time hydrating while our coach told us the game plan

going forward. It wasn’t too different from what we were just doing but it had worked. After the halftime kickoff JR, our striker, got a beautiful goal that the goalie just couldn’t get to. I walked over to him, “dapped” him up, and said, “Good shot! Let’s keep that going.” He smiled and said, “Just keep giving me the ball.” After that we saw that the other team was frustrated because they didn’t like that we broke ahead and they came back with another goal. There were almost 10 minutes left in the game and we were thinking about how we were going to get the ball and score. We were all focused on winning and as we looked for an opening to grab the lead, I saw the opponent make a bad pass. I intercepted the pass and “burned” one kid. That’s when I saw another player from the opposing team come at me trying to kick the ball but he hit me directly on the leg. For a second I didn’t know what was going on. I just laid there as the pain got worse. I couldn’t think straight and I just squirmed holding my leg. My coach walked over and asked if I was ok. I just nodded, got up, and continued playing. I assumed if I kept playing the pain would go away. But as the game continued I lost focus and the pain began to get worse. After my injury the ref decided to give us a free kick. JR. took it and it was a beautiful shot in the top left corner and, after that my coach decided to sub me out. I still wanted to play but waited until the final whistle when we came out with the win. My parents went home and I walked back with my friends. On the walk, we made jokes and played around as usual. We were very happy after the win and still had a lot of energy. Jalen said

this injury wasn’t going to work. With every step, the pain continued to get worse and worse and finally, the agonizing pain was just too much. My friend Jalen saw me struggling and pulled me over and let me lean on him to help me out . Finally, when I got home I decided the best thing for me to do was ice it a little because this usually helped me when i got hurt. After the ice melted, I took a shower then got in the bed to take a short nap. I was exhausted, and with the pain getting worse, I thought resting would make it better.I woke up to my mother shaking me and saying “Clean this room! We’re still going to the movies with Aiden but if you don’t clean this room you won’t be going.” As I got out of bed, I bent my leg to get up. I felt a shock of pain and laid back down. I told my mother how my leg felt and she was mad I didn’t tell her and my dad sooner. “I’m so disappointed in you! What were you thinking? You should’ve told us earlier you could’ve made the injury worse!” I was disappointed in myself. I shouldn’t have tried to hide an injury just so I could play in the game. My dad and mom drove me to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and had me checked out. The doctors X-rayed me and made sure I was ok. The doctor told my parents I had fractured something in my leg and I couldn’t play for a while. I love sports, but not being able to play for a while really taught me something. I was never injured like that before, and even though I still play, I always make sure to be careful. Winning is awesome, but it isn’t the most important thing. Always play hard, but play smart.

“Y’all tryna come over for a lil?” As much as I wanted to go, I really just wanted to go home and take a nap. I said no and he understood. When walking back home I realized that just walking off

Bryce Ford is 15 years old and in the 10th grade at The Haverford School.

Philadelphia Stories Jr. 25

Hopes and Dreams for Back to School by Anthony Wallace Virtual learning was set up as an emergency effort by teachers because of the pandemic, this COVID-19 that is keeping everyone in quarantine. So as we continue forward, everyone has to keep moving and keep growing. There are some improvements that can be done with online learning to make the experience better, because everyone

learns differently and not everyone is in a perfect learning environment. So if that is taken under consideration when planning the lessons, the learning will be fun and the more students will be engaged. During this pandemic, I believe that teachers should be able to allow students to be free to some extent during online classes.

There is a lot of pressure on the students of the classroom. For example, children also have responsibilities at home especially now and teachers need to respect the fact that parents are going to have to sometimes pull them out of class. Parents need all the help they can during this quarantine. This is a fact teachers can’t ignore, so they should try to be aware of these things without it disrupting the learning process. All people need breaks. In normal times, at most schools every class goes on a class trip for relaxation and learning. Unfortunately, we are under lockdown. Since everyone is on a computer or some type of electronic device; classes could go on virtual “class trips.” A trip to the Franklin Institute and trips around the world are all possible online, giving everyone, including the teachers a break from the classroom and even have some fun in the process! It will keep everyone engaged and improve drastically! The big hope is that this Spring will be an improvement on virtual learning. All virtual classes are going to need improvement, and while it may be difficult, it can be done. Schools just need to remember to be mindful of home situations and keep things fun and exciting. I think things will get better though. Once you do something for the first time you are going to get better as you keep doing it. The more we continue online learning, the better the students and the teachers will get helping each other learn.

by Sharon Suardi © 2021

26 Philadelphia Stories Jr.

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