To live a creative life, we must lose our
fear of being wrong. ” – Joseph Chilton Pearce
From a tender anecdote of sisterly love to an elaborately designed comic strip, Pinewood’s literary arts magazine Tabula Rasa showcases a plethora of student work and talent. Our goals with Tabula Rasa are to provide an enjoyable read while also nurturing an appreciation of the vast originality of Pinewood students’ art and writing. As Pearce stated above, the most creative pieces take courage, and that fearlessness finds a home in these students’ voices and visions. There is no “right” way to interpret these poems, short stories, and works of art, so readers are asked to engage in their own form of courageous creativity as they make meaning of the text. We would like to thank our advisors Ms. Strand and Mr. Wells for the opportunity to create a literary arts magazine for Pinewood. Additionally, we appreciate the many thoughtful submissions from our peers. We hope you enjoy this year’s edition of Tabula Rasa. Make sure to congratulate the writers and artists featured in this issue! Katherine Chui, Sarah Feng, and Reilly Brady
Cover artwork by Katherine Chui (10)
A Whisper of Darkness by Anusha Koshe (8)
Approaching the front door of the run-down mansion, she paused and hesitated. The door was chipped, with peeling black paint and a wroughtiron knob that made her toes curl. Why was she doing this anyway? Legends told of people never coming out of this house, so why was she here? Her curiosity must have gotten the best of her. She released a breath, the tendrils of it becoming visible in the frigid air. Her hand rested on the knob, and she turned it quite easily. The house seemed to shift uneasily as the door swung open. Whatever was beyond that door, she didnâ€™t know. All that black staring at her from this dark cavern unnerved her. She stared at it, calculating, glaring, doing anything to see what was beyond the veil. The door clanged shut behind her, a scream of
old iron, and she jumped. She must have walked into the house without realizing it. Pulling out her flashlight, she cast a long beam that swam across the room. It must be the foyer, she thought. The room was big and grand, complete with ebony wallpaper, and glittering golden beasts that glared at her from above. The house was pretty well kept, she concluded, for being abandoned many years. She had expected a mess of dust and debris. Shaking her head, she pressed on, with only the long beam of the flashlight solemnly guiding her. She walked into another room. The dining room, she presumed, studying the ivory table and chairs, complete with ivory plates and utensils. She walked slowly, watching around her as though someone, or something would jump
by Rosaline Qi (12) on her in that very moment. She collapsed into an ivory chair, gasping at the sudden flash of cold that shot through her. Marble, she thought, as she studied the table. And then froze as she saw the smallest red speck which gave her the biggest warning to what the chair was. Bone. Her eyes widened. She hurriedly scrambled to get off the chair, but she was stuck. She screamed, helplessly pinned to that chilling chair of bone, and yet knowing in her heart that it was useless. The air shifted. Some-
thing moved, and she stopped screaming, craning her neck to try and see what, or who was there. The air shifted again. A pause. Then, blinding pain as a force struck her on the head. She saw white for a second as the pain rushed through her. She fell forward, the chair releasing her as she was swallowed by the deep darkness.
Where are you, sister? by Eva Liu (9)
You sing with me under the blooming cherry tree You swim by my side in the vast blue blue ocean You giggle and chortle jumping on the stack of dried leaves You hold me tight when the winter wind stabs into my chest
by Eva Liu (9)
Love, stop blatantly stealing the television remote from me You are a white lotus pure and gentle like an angel
Dear, don’t you dare touch my Halloween candy You are a sunflower shining brighter than your sister Honey, there’s no way you are using my Netflix account You are a pine tree growing in perpetuity, vividly Baby, Mommy and Daddy like me better, you know it’s true I shall never let you go You tiptoed into my imaginary world And left cruelly without a goodbye Sister — Sister — Where are you?
by Katherine Chui (10)
by Katherine Chui (10) 1st place winner of the Los Altos Rotary Young at Art Contest
Kathy’s Nightmare by Alex Dagman (12)
Author’s note: This piece is intended to be an extra chapter in the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a dystopian novel that features a world in which clones are created for organ donation. It picks up after the last chapter as a short continuation of the novel. Here, the main character Kathy has a nightmare, which is supposed to reflect her psychological state (quick recap: Ruth died a few months ago, and Tommy died just a few weeks ago). In this nightmare, Kathy finds herself standing somewhere that she doesn’t quite recognize. It reminds her of the Cottages, which is where Kathy and her friends end up living right after they finish school. What? Where am I? What the–– As I walked outside, I realized I stood somewhere on a farm. I smelled a faint hint of hay drifting in my direction, probably coming from the barn across from where I stood. For some reason, unknown to me, I was reminded of the Cottages. I felt like I was back there–– Tommy, Ruth, Chrissie, Rodney. All of them were there. I felt safe. I felt at home. Yet there was something slightly off–– something I just couldn’t put my finger on. Everything felt… grey. Something was missing.
While I pondered over what it was that was putting me off in such a strange way, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Rodney’s “Hey!” from across the farm. “Listen! Ruth,” he shouted as he jogged in her direction, slowing to a stop when he approached her. “So Chrissie and I were thinking the other day, we want to go somewhere. Like a trip. We’d go just for a day. It wouldn’t be anything too crazy. We just want to get out of here for a bit. It feels a bit stale sitting around here all day not really doing much. But we
were thinking, would you like to come with us? We’d probably go sometime next week. Tommy should come too!” I felt like I was watching a replay of one of my memories from those days. The Norfolk trip quickly flashed before me, hitting me with an intense feeling of Deja Vu, before disappearing back into the depths of my memory. I leisurely slid over to them in an attempt to insert myself into the conversation. I didn’t interrupt; I just hoped one of them would end up including me eventually. After a few minutes without even a glance in my direction, I tried to tap Ruth’s shoulder but before my hand reached her, she shuddered away. As I drew my hand back, Ruth ran off in search of Tommy. I was a bit hurt by Ruth’s complete indifference to my presence, but more than that I was confused. Ruth was the type of person to just blatantly push you out of the conversation, not just pretend you didn’t exist. Rodney didn’t pay any heed to my presence either, which was strange because Rodney
had nothing against me. We’d spoken to each other maybe on one occasion before now. And that shudder? What was that all about? In that one single moment, a couple of days passed - if not a whole week - and miraculously quickly at that. I must be dreaming. What’s going on? I saw Tommy come out of the barn I’d noticed earlier when I walked out of the room I woke up in. Speaking of which, where even was that room? It couldn’t have been more than 10 paces away from where I was standing, yet somehow the only structures in sight were the barn Tommy just came out of and the old farmhouse that stood no closer than 150 meters away. As Tommy ran off to join Chrissie, Rodney, and Ruth packing for their trip, I shouted to him, and yet again I was completely ignored. Huh. I remembered Ruth’s shudder in response to my attempt to pat her shoulder, and decided to experiment with the situation to find out what was going on.
I walked over to the group and reached toward Tommy. The moment I touched his hand his body shivered violently as if the temperature suddenly dropped by 50 degrees. “Tommy? Ruth?” … “Can you guys hear me? See me? Anything?” … At this point I started to panic. What was going on? I started jumping around, breaking twigs, throwing stones all around, but nothing came of it. “You guys ready? Everyone’s all packed?” “No no no! You can’t leave me like this! Hello? Tommy! Ruth! Rodney! Hello? Anyone? I’m right he––” “I think so. Ruth and I just have these two bags. One for each of us. We’re ready to go.” “Alrighty then. Hop in.” At this point I was practically yelling. I didn’t know what to do to get their attention. As the engine started to rumble, I jumped on the back of the car in a last ditch effort to somehow get someone’s attention. When no one even glanced behind them
to figure out what the noise was, I realized it was futile. I slid off the car and watched as it went from being the size of a car, to the size of my fist, to the size of the tip of my thumb, to the size of a dot, to just gone. I lethargically took two steps toward the road, but only managed to trip and fall. I picked myself back up only to fall right back down, but this time I kept going. The ground disappeared before my feet. I started falling toward a seemingly never ending abyss. It just kept coming. I kept hearing Tommy and Ruth’s jubilant remarks as they were socializing in the back of Rodney’s car––almost as if I were there. I could hear them; I just couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. It was right there. Right at the tip of my tongue, but I just couldn’t make it out. Their voices soon got drowned out by the sound of my own breathing and my own heartbeat as I continued to fall deeper and deeper into this chasm I’d found myself in. And just like that, all of a sudden I woke up. I took a few steps around, pinching myself
a couple times just to make sure I was in reality. I thought about Ruth and Tommy, only to realize for the hundredth time that they’re gone. They exist in my mind––in my dreams––but that’s all they are: dreams and memories. And at this point, that’s all they’ll ever be. I walked out to my car, sank into the seat of my 1984 Cadillac Eldorado, a gift from one of my hospitals for taking successful care of 100
donors, and made my way to the facilities to try and preserve what normality I had left in my life now that Ruth and Tommy had gone. I figure one day I’ll join them––wherever they are. Someday, once I’m no longer a carer, I can drift into the abyss of my own mind while doped up on morphine. I, at least, hope my donations will go well––like Tommy’s. That’s what I was made for after all.
by Kassy Davis (12)
Sea Prophecy by Natasha Thompson (10) As one looks into the future past one can see an ocean vast. Mammals do journey along mythical lines; these whales have voyaged from ancient times. How often have humans hoped to steal how these great beasts share or reveal. These haunting sounds travel throughout, of which we have little understanding and knowledge about. The prophecy does say that love of the sea will bring understanding to one, to me. Born under the sign, the sign of the fish, with empathy for all and a deep-seated wish. That the oceans are clear, and these mammals are free, to talk to each other and to communicate with me. For I am the one of which the oracle doth speak, whom these great wanderers will eventually seek.
Laughter by Giselle Gao (7)
Are siblings supposed to be alike? I stare into my grey ceiling, sinking into the ocean of questions. I have always liked grey for its mysterious combination of black and white, but right now, the shades of grey hang as if they will infiltrate my brain and drag me into a spiral of wonders if I don’t figure out the answer. I turn my eyes from the pressing shades of grey and see the little body snuggling inside piles of pink pillows beside me. Pink and grey. My sister and I look so much alike that my parents always mix up our childhood photos. No. Not all of the photos. Only the photos of when we were both little babies and had sausage arms. My mom would turn on the projector and play videos of us — the ones of us laughing, dancing, goofing around, and even fighting. “Look at those chubby cheeks you have!” She would throw a kiss to the small
Giselle that smiled with two teeth showing. Next to me, my sister, the smaller and skinnier version of me in the video, laughed as I danced and sang loud. Her laughter. The prettiest laughter on earth. It is when marbles roll and twirl, falling to the floor; it is when a fish’s scale glitters under the rays of sunlight that flash through the dark ocean. It is strong like a generous wave that brings millions and millions of shells to the golden beach. It is soft like the silver moonlight that brushes the sleeping owl’s feather. My laughter. A completely different sound. It is sharp like a knight’s silver sword flashing under the mysterious moonlight. It is sometimes dim like my grandmother’s living room in December or bright like the jumping colors of mango and raspberry sorbets in mid June. I thought that when you stay with someone for a long time,
you would be similar to them. I once borrowed a duck quack laughter from a classmate, but I never got a single bit of my sister’s laughter even though we’ve already lived together for nine years. We are so different that
sometimes I get surprised when we think of the same thing: as we walked down the cement street on a hot July afternoon, she looked at me and asked, “Why don’t we go get some hazelnut gelato!”, stealing the words from my mouth.
by Katherine Chui (10)
Illustration by Katherine Chui (10)
Another Place Another Time by Katherine Han (10)
I was back there again. On that old-fashioned pump car. Except this car didn’t have a pump — just a white sail connected to the front. It was sitting on the railroad, in the middle of a long strip of land surrounded by water. I was sitting on the edge of my seat in the car with my backpack. There were three other people in the car with me, another boy and an
old couple. The other boy was holding the strings that were connected to the sail. I assumed he was the driver. “Where is this car heading?” I asked the boy, just like I did every night. My voice sounded like a faint echo. “Another place, another time,” he responded in a gravelly voice. Suddenly, a loud screeching
arose in the distance. It shook the whole car, and I hung on for dear life. I squeezed my eyes shut. This is where I wake up...this is where I wake up. I felt myself slip and tumble towards the water. I screamed. * My eyes opened and I bolted up in my bed. Cold sweat ran down my forehead. “TRAVIS MORGAN! GET YOUR BUTT OUT OF BED RIGHT NOW!” my mother yelled at me from downstairs. “AND TURN THAT AWFUL SOUND OFF!” my father added. I reached my hand over to the screeching noise and smacked my alarm clock. The clock face read 7:15 a.m., Monday. I groaned and fell back into my pillow. It was time to go back to the hell they called school. It took me a good five minutes to find the motivation to get out of bed. As usual, my outfit for the day was folded neatly at the foot of my bed. I quickly got dressed and ran down the stairs with my backpack swung over my right shoulder. When I reached the door to the kitchen, I could hear my parents arguing inside.
“This is all your fault. You raised him to be a lazy airhead, just like you!” my mother screeched. “MY FAULT?” A loud shushing. “My fault?” my father said again in a softer voice. I sighed and put on my noise canceling headphones; I tried to remember the last time I had used my headphones to listen to music. Gently, I knocked my knuckles against the pale door three times. “Shut up! Shut up!” my mother said to my father in a sharp voice. The door swung open in my face and my father stormed out. The daily paper was rolled up in his hand. “Morning, Dad,” I mumbled. He turned to me and smacked my back with the newspaper. I felt a sting shoot up my spine. “Stop slouching,” he chastised me, then walked off to sulk in a corner. I took a deep breath, straightened my posture, and headed into the kitchen. I made a beeline for the table, hoping that my mother wouldn’t stop me. I didn’t want to have to deal with two helpings of scolding that morning. But, since this is
my life, I had no chance of that. I heard my mother before I saw her. Her black high-heels made loud clicking noises against the kitchen floor. I kept my eyes focused on my bowl of cereal. Stay calm, stay calm. I stirred my spoon around and around the pool of milk in my bowl. A loud whack, and suddenly, my headphones were in my mother’s hands. “What is this?” she hissed at me. I gulped. “They’re headphones,” I answered plainly. She put them on. “You can’t hear anything through these!” She yanked them off, and with a large crank of her arm, my mother threw my only hope at peace across the kitchen. One side broke clean off. I bolted out of my chair. “Mother! Uncle John gave me those!” I yelled, my voice shaking. Mother shook her finger at me. “I didn’t spend weeks of my precious time trying to get you out of foster care just so you could disrespect me like this!” “But…” I protested. She gave me a look that shut me up. “Classic teenager! Classic!”
my mother exclaimed, throwing her hands up in defeat. “Always trying to make the parents look like the bad guys! KEN! YOU’VE SPOILED THIS KID ROTTEN! HE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT RESPECT!” She stalked off, probably to yell at Dad again. I ran my fingers through my dirty blond hair to try to calm my nerves. Slowly, I sat back down in my chair and poured all of my attention into my bowl of cinnamon Chex. Stay strong, stay strong. * Stay strong, stay strong. I repeated to myself as the bullies pushed me to the concrete floor. My hands hit the ground first, the pebbles massaging themselves into the heels of my palms, and my body followed. The bruises from the last school day still ached. The bullies threw back their heads and laughed. “Get up, Morgan! Get your lazy butt off the floor,” the Tall One mocked. I kept my head lowered and my gaze fixed on the ground by my hand. The Tall One smacked the back of my head with a giant sweep of his hand. “Are you deaf ?” He laughed. I didn’t respond. I could feel
his breathing down the back of my neck. “Hey!” he yelled. The Tall One leaned down to my ear-level, “Are you deaf ?” he whispered in an eerie voice. I felt my ears tingle, and I turned my head away. The Tall One stood back up and laughed, the rest of his pack laughed with him. Stay strong, stay strong. “Let’s go boys, Morgan is throwing a hissy fit,” the Tall One said. Then, he leaned in and grabbed my two bucks out of my back jean pocket. “I’ll take that,” he growled into my ear. I waited until their footsteps could no longer be heard before I lifted my head. A flash of a head of short blond hair in front of me caught my attention. I looked up and my eyes met a friendly face. “Oh my goodness! Travis, are you okay?” Shelby exclaimed, extending a hand to pull me up. “I’m fine, they didn’t do their worst,” I mumbled. “They shouldn’t do this at all,” she huffed, running her fingers through her hair. A lock of blond hair came out with her fingers. Shelby
sighed and threw the hair into a trash can. “Every day I lose more and more hair...I don’t get why this keeps happening,” she mumbled, adjusting her pink glasses that were way too big for her small face. Then, turning back to me, she said, “I’m guessing they took your lunch money again.” I sighed, “Yeah.” Shelby smiled, “No worries, I had my mom pack me an extra sandwich just for you! No crust, too!” I laughed, “Thanks Shelb, I owe you one.” “Actually, you owe me like…a hundred, but one is good,” Shelby said, giving me a wink. I laughed and started walking to class, but Shelby stopped me. “Hey, Travis. Stay strong.” * I was back there again. On that old-fashioned pump car. But, this time, I wasn’t me. I was in the body of an older man. My hair had streaks of gray, and my sweater reeked of fish oil. The car rocked slightly, and I looked up. My eyes met…my eyes. I was face-to-face with myself. I quickly looked away and stared at the driver instead. “Um, excuse me,” I said to
by Rosaline Qi (12) 2nd place winner of the Los Altos Rotary Young at Art Contest
the driver. My voice sounded like a bass drum. “Do you know why that young boy over there is on this car?” I pointed to Me. The driver looked at Me over his shoulder. “He’s heading somewhere far, far away. If there was an answer, he’d find it there.” Suddenly, the car started rocking rapidly. I already knew what was going to happen, so I just cut out the middleman and jumped off the car myself. I dived into the cold abyss, and I felt my body evaporate into bubbles. When I opened my eyes, I fully expected to be back in my room. Yet, I found myself in a familiar room. The walls were painted a light lilac color; there was a bed, a nightstand, and one window. The view outside looked dreary. Suddenly, the door to the room creaked open and in ran...Me. I was dressed in a daffodil t-shirt and tan shorts. My hair was tucked under a baseball cap. “Travis! Get down here before I come up there and drag you down here myself !” a loud voice hollered from outside the door. I took in a sharp breath. The memory hit me like a train.
This was my foster home. I looked around the room. As I started remembering each part of the room, I started feeling the bile build up in my throat. I need to leave. “Travis Morgan! I’m coming up there!” The voice yelled again. Leave, now, now! “Don’t make me get out the belt!” NOW! * My eyes jerked open and I sat up abruptly in my bed. I quickly slapped my alarm off before it had the chance to start screeching. My hands shot to my stomach, and I resisted the urge to throw up. Slowly, I inched one of my hands up my back. My fingers came in contact with one of my scars given to me by my foster parents. A cold tremble shot up my spine and I drew my hand away. I lived in a foster home for the majority of my life. My foster parents were abusive, but I was always too scared to tell anyone. When my biological parents came to take me home, I was so happy. I never wanted to return to foster care ever again. The memories from that place scarred me worse than the marks on my back. Despite the
way my biological parents were, I stuck with them. They were my family, after all, and family comes before anything. We just had to stay strong. After a while of debating if I should get out of bed, I finally decided to head downstairs. I was surprised that both of my parents had remained silent that whole time. Maybe they’re still asleep? Maybe… I walked down the stairs very slowly. Every creak of the stairs made me cringe. The silence in the house scared me. I walked up to the door of the kitchen and knocked three times. The door slammed into my face and I flew backwards. “Ow,” I mumbled. My vision felt blurry for a few seconds, but I quickly recovered. When I was finally able to see clearly again, I saw a giant, blue suitcase sitting in front of me. I looked up and came in eye contact with my father. “Are you going somewhere?” I asked, tentatively. “Away. Far, far, away,” he replied, grumbling. “Oh...okay. When are you coming back?” “Never.” Father grabbed the handle
of the suitcase and stalked out the front door. He slammed the door shut behind him. In that small fraction of a moment, I heard a quiet, distant noise. Is that...crying? I rushed inside the kitchen. Mother was sitting at the table, her hair a mess, and her head buried in her arms. She was crying. Never before have I seen my mother looking so defeated and weak. I almost didn’t recognize her. “Mother?” I asked, my voice coming out in a squeak. Her head shot up, and I recognized that dead look she gave me. “What do you want!” she yelled. “What happened?” Mother’s hand instantly covered the sheet of paper in front of her. I was able to catch a glimpse of the content before she covered it. “Are you and Father...getting a divorce?” “This is none of your business!” Mother screamed at me. “I’m your son!” I protested. This time, I wasn’t going to back down. “Not anymore!” Mother retorted. Shocked, I took a step back.
“What...do you mean?” I asked, my voice shaking. “You’re going back to your old foster parents,” Mother replied, plainly. “From now on, you’re their problem. Not mine!” Her words hit me like a bullet through the head. I felt a sudden rush of dizziness smacking my body at full force. My hand clutched the table to keep from falling over. I fell to my knees. “Please! Please don’t make me go back there!” I begged. Mother gave me the look again, but I wasn’t going to shut up. “Mother, you can’t put me back there!” “I’M NOT YOUR MOTHER!” she yelled. I shut up. Mother gently massaged her temples. “Get out of my sight,” she spoke in the softest voice I had ever heard her use. When my legs were able to move again, I bolted up and ran upstairs. I threw myself onto my bed and wept. All of the memories from my foster home came flowing back like a river. The belt...the punches...the scars... the bruises. I couldn’t go back there. I refused to go back there.
Suddenly, it was as if a lightning bolt had struck me. My tears dried up, and I felt a weird kind of confidence returning to my body. I would run away. I would pack up my stuff, and run away. I couldn’t face my problem, so I had to escape it. But before I could leave this place for good, there was one last thing I had to take care of. A debt that I had to repay. * I knew exactly where Mother kept all of her money. She always kept it in the safe on top of the fridge. I knew the code too. So, I grabbed ten dollars from the safe and I was on my way. The sandwich shop always opened at 8:00 a.m. Getting there at 8:00 a.m. would mean I would get the freshest sandwiches they had. I got there right in time. The owner had just opened up for business. “Can I have five of your classic sandwiches to go, please? And no crust,” I said to the owner while handing him the ten dollars. I knew it wasn’t practical to buy Shelby one hundred sandwiches, so I went with a more reasonable number. I could already see her excited face
when I would give her those sandwiches. She would probably smile so brightly that her oversized, pink glasses would almost fall off her nose. The owner packed up five sandwiches in a paper bag and sent me on my way. When I turned around to leave, I found myself face to face with the one person I dreaded the most. “Fancy finding you here, Morgan,” the Tall One said. His little chorus of obedient followers watched on from behind him. I ignored the Tall One and his crew and just walked out of the store. They chased after me. “Woah there, Morgan! We just want to have a little fun!” he taunted. I kept walking. “Hey! What do you have in the bag there!” The Tall One grabbed the paper bag. My fist clenched tight, and the Tall One yanked the bag out of my hands. “Five sandwiches!” he gasped, “That’s enough for the whole crew to eat! Thanks Morgan!” “Give that back!” I yelled. An anger burned inside of me like a black fire. I was fed up with their bullying, and I was fed up with my awful life. I
jerked the bag out of the bully’s hand. “That’s not for you,” I growled. The Tall One’s face darkened. “Well, looks like little Travis Morgan hasn’t learned his lesson,” he spoke in a voice deeper than a dragon’s. “Get him, boys!” He yelled. The gang rushed at me with fists, feet, and heads. I was instantly on the ground, screaming and crying for dear life. Their attacks hit my head, my chest, my gut. I felt a pounding in my head. Everything in front of me was a blur of punches and kicks. I saw red in front of my eyes, and I felt red in my hands and in my head. A loud shrieking noise arose in my ears. It came closer...and became louder…and closer…. At the moment, I didn’t even recognize that it was the sound of sirens. I didn’t know that the police had arrived until they grabbed the bullies and dragged them away from me. The only sound I remember hearing was the sound of the clicks when the handcuffs went on. “He’s bleeding profusely! We need to get him to a hospital or he’s going to bleed to death!” I heard one of the men say.
One of the police came up to me and put me on a stretcher. “Who are your parents? Can you help us contact them?” he asked me. I slowly shook my head. “I don’t have parents, sir.” The police officer nodded gravely. “We’ll put you in foster care then, okay?” Foster care… The words echoed in my mind. Foster care... “No,” I whispered. “I’m sorry?” The officer asked. I bolted up straight, despite the pounding in my head and the blood running down my face. “You’re not taking me back to foster care!” I yelled. I jumped off the stretcher and ran. I could hear the officer yelling to me in the background, but my mind was only focused on getting away. I’m not going back there. I’m not going back there. I ran as hard as my legs allowed me to run. I had to get away. I had to escape everything. I saw a blur of trees, and I stopped. My legs collapsed under me automatically. All feeling had escaped my body. I had
become a dead weight. Nothing was going to move. While I lay helpless on the ground, I realized the sandwich bag was still tightly clutched in my hand. I’m sorry, Shelby, I thought. Blood poured out of my head and onto the ground next to me. It was a dark, ruby red color. And it was the last color I ever saw. I closed my eyes and felt the world disintegrate around me. Stay strong, stay strong. * I was back there again. On that old-fashioned pump car. Funny thing was, I wasn’t dreaming, and I wasn’t asleep. I looked to my left and, instead of the old couple sitting there, I saw a bald girl who wore pink glasses that were way too big for her face. She looked familiar, but I could not seem to remember who she was. Suddenly, I felt the urge to feel my head. There was no more blood. Confused, I tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Where is this car heading?” I asked, just like in every dream. “You’re about to find out,” he replied. I could’ve sworn I saw him wink at me. The car started to rumble and shake, but this time, it was just the engine.
Recipe of Sarcasm by Ajay Krishnan (7)
You will need anger, eyeballs, pheromones, sarjuice, water, wit, tone, and oil to make, to say the least, sarcasm Take anger and tone and dilute in water If not diluted will fall apart just like some of your lives Fry your eyeballs in hot oil to give the fiery look of looking through your soul Mix it all up Sarjuice is the essence
so do not lose it Mix it all in for a wonderful work of art Serve it up immediately for sarcasm right in the moment and not when it’s cold Sprinkle in the pheromones to transport –– what’s it called? Oh yes! Dumbness –– to transport dumbness Divide up evenly which most people do wrong resulting in uneven portions of sarcasm
by Maya Zhan (8)
A Tell-Tale Burn by Arina Oberoi (8)
BURNT!—burnt—very very dreadfully burnt. Not yet. But soon—very very soon. Either the person or the soft cotton, burnt to the crisp. But why will you say that this person is me? The flaming heat in my hand has sharpened, not dulled, my senses. Now let me tell you the caution and care with which I approached this wrinkled, lifeless cotton dress before me. I cannot say how I noticed the lifeless figure of this dress. But once I had seen it, I was certain something must be done. Knowledge there was none. Experience there was none. That dress was my favorite—it would not be the one to scrunch up once worn. So I picked it up with great caution and laid it gently onto the clear white counter. Now this is the point. You fancy me inexperienced. Those who are inexperienced—the last thing they should do is pick up an iron. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I approached—with what caution—with what fore-
sight—with what dissimulation I went to work! Taking the long, gray wire and cautiously plugging it into the socket. Blue sparks erupted from the socket! Ha!—would an inexperienced person have done that right? The cracks and sizzles and pops of the iron heating up began. I laughed as the suspense rose. I pulled the dress straight on the white counter, so that no additional creases would be made. When I had waited a long time, I finally heard the pop of the iron. I grasped the handle, felt the heat tingle my skin, picked up the iron, and laid it onto the dress. That was the time! There was no time to wait! It would burn the cloth! And only the inexperienced do that! I shifted the iron from here to there and there to here. No crease would be left behind! Up—down, down—up, side—side! And there it was— done. The dress was as smooth as silk. Beautiful.
Troilus & Cressida by Sarah Feng (10)
AK-47. The river banks are stuffed with bullets. On one furrow, metal rings fill the sand. On another, Priam scoops fistfuls of bone into his crown. The rings are on fingers like fish slicking steel rungs till they aren’t. The pale bed of her flesh misted over Troilus’s mouth. We are trying to drink a ghost from the brine & growing angry when it doesn’t show. His skull won’t hold. The pieces of noise are starting to spill in, spinning the bullet back into the barrel,
into back / back the barrel /
the antithesis opening its mouth
I am trying to find the words to tell Cressida that the weight of water won’t hold. Winner of the 2017 Critical Pass Junior Poet Prize
by Rosaline Qi (12) This poem is an allusion to the Shakespeare play “Troilus and Cressida,” which tells the story of two disillusioned lovers in the Trojan War. Troilus’s father Priam is the king of Troy.
Tic-Tac Death by Sam Kavich (9)
By the time I was in fifth grade, I had gone all ten years of my life without breaking a single bone. Not a fracture, not even a sprain. After watching over the years as my friends, my fellow classmates, came in one day to school either on crutches or with a splint around their pinky finger after closing it in the car door (a preschool memory), I had even harvested the slightest bit of pride at the fact that I had managed to go so long with such good luck, and with enough grace that I had yet to injure myself in such a way (at least those seven years of ballet lessons that I hated paid off for something). I should have known; nothing lasts forever. Maybe it never would have happened if Connor hadn’t left me alone. Connor was one of my close friends in fifth grade, and we would spend recesses wandering the field while
the other children would run around us playing tag football or pretending they were ponies or having funeral services for dead bees –– true story; I attended one. Rest in peace, Bob the Bee. Neither Connor nor I were very into sports or socialization, so we would just wander. Talking about life. Death. The Universe. Usually our other friend Maya would join us, but she happened to be out sick this particular day. I wonder, had Maya come to school that day, if I would have been spared from the events that followed. But now I realize years later, that there isn’t any sense in wondering that now. What happened . . . happened. Around a half hour into lunch, Connor announced that he had to go to the bathroom. And so he left me alone, in the middle of a warzone of thirdthrough-fifth graders, completely unsure of what to do with myself while I waited those
long, treacherous minutes. Then, as I stood there, it all happened at once. A blur around me of girls running past, their luxurious long locks of hair blowing in the wind behind them (I’d always wanted nice long princess hair, but nevertheless I’ve ended up stuck with a frizzy mess that can’t seem to grow past a bit down my shoulders). I watched the deemed “popular” girls chase each other in what looked like aimless circles, at least from where I was standing, for another long moment. That’s when one of the girls ran over to me, and placed something in my hands, the gleam in her eye as dead serious as Dumbledore’s when he asked Harry if he’d put his name in the goblet of fire in the fourth Harry Potter movie (Potterheads will understand). The item she had placed in my hands: A box of Wintergreen Mint Tic-Tacs. The single word she whispered to me as though we were in an action movie, and she’d just entrusted me with stolen government non-disclosed information: “Run.” And so I ran. I ran as though somebody had told me if I ran
hard and fast enough I’d get to meet J.K. Rowling herself. Did I know why there was a box of Tic-Tacs in my hand? No. Did I know what I was running from? Nope. Did I know why these girls had trusted me with this job, or whatever it was? Nada. But I continued running anyway, my legs moving so fast it was as if they had a mind of their own. Too fast. As I reached the bottom of a hill, my legs tangled, and I went flying through the air, but I still held onto those Tic-Tacs like a lifeline. My only savior was my one little bony hand, thrown out in front of me to cushion my fall as I hit the rocky blacktop ground. Everything happened in slow motion for an instant and then sped up again as I made contact, like in movies. My poor tiny hand hit first, and I heard a quiet snap, followed by me skidding to a stop on my knees. The girl who had given the TicTacs to me stooped down next to me, and reached for my hand. I almost thought she was about to help me up, but instead she just grabbed the Tic-Tacs and ran back to her friends, laughing
by Austin Farhoudi (10)
by Eva Liu (9)
as they continued to chase each other and make grabs for the Tic-Tac box. I got up, brushed myself off, and calmly continued on my way. It did occur to me that I should do something about my scraped knees before the scarlet blood soaked through my white leggings, and so I went and asked the teacher on the playground for recess duty if I could please have a couple band-aids, and she distributed them to me accordingly. After going to the bathroom to clean off my tattered knees so they wouldn’t get infected from the layer of dust that covered the blacktop I had scraped them on, I applied the bandages and headed back to class as the bell rang. We had a math lesson afterwards. This was when I began to realize that the wrist I had fallen on really hurt when I moved it. So, instead of doing what any normal child would do in my situation and letting the teacher know, I did the exact opposite. I honestly didn’t want to bother the teacher in the middle of her lesson. So what I did was fashion a splint out of a clean
metal spoon from my lunchbox and my blue stretchy headband, placing the spoon against the length of my wrist and tying it in place with the elastic band. It worked like a charm. For the rest of the day my wrist was immobilized, and it didn’t hurt at all. Even when we played tag during P.E. nobody questioned my “bracelet.” I never had a doubt in my mind that I was fine. It was no biggie. After I explained to my mom what had happened and why I had a spoon tied around my wrist when she picked me up, she worriedly took me to the doctor. As it turned out, I had fractured my left wrist when I fell. I had to wear a real cast for the next two months (at least it was hot pink, my favorite color at the time). And despite everything, the girl who had graced me with the box of Tic-Tacs that fateful afternoon never gave me an explanation for her actions. And even today, almost five years later, my endless questions over the tragedy of the Wintergreen Tic-Tacs haunt me.
Grammy’s Recipe of Love by Eva Liu (9)
The spicy oil flows down my throat For once, spicy equals bitter
Burning with sorrow I take note Reminiscent of my old lovely home
In my dreams I spent time with Grammy
Filled with homesickness, my heart roams Holding a baby in her arms
Identical taste of Grammy’s spicy beef A world away, she calls and asks
Savor from the kitchen, washed-out grief If everything at school tastes “right”
Illustration by Katherine Chui (10) Impatiently circling the dining room
Every summer I return to our cozy home Flowers of joy in my heart bloom
Just to glimpse the love in Grammyâ€™s eyes I wonder if she still makes the dish
She says spicy food brings some bitter tears To help her cook is truly my wish
For happiness and reunion, I pray Taking care of me was her major concern As she held a pinch of salt in the kitchen Home is elusive without her, I learn
Sheâ€™s waiting for my little sweet voice to call her Grammy again Winner of a 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Silver Key
by Evelyn Chenye (10) The cavalier closes in on us. If I turn my head and strain, I think I’m able to see a dark blur. The blur wasn’t there when we first set out last night, so either they’re minimizing the distance between us or my eyes are getting weary. I know my eyes are unclear by now, but I also think they’re there. Within the next few days, we will be captured and I executed. I’m sure of it. Or we will have outlasted them. We will have escaped. We could be seeing the start of a life you were meant to live. This is your payment to me, I suppose, flying for as long as your wings and your blood will allow. A lifetime under the cavalier’s watch. When the other dragonkeeper’s children rushed out to pick eggs, I didn’t pick the flashiest. I didn’t pick the largest or the shiniest. I picked one that none of the others saw. I thought
that the surface of your egg was blank, but after staring at it for a while, I thought there was something in there I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I picked up the egg, or, rather, I tried. It was on the smaller side, slightly smaller than most of the other eggs, which were as large as most the children’s torsos. None of the eggs were meant to be picked up. We were supposed to wait for them to hatch, then go back to pick the ones from the eggs we chose. We still hadn’t been exposed to the necessary enchantments, so I felt my arms burn at random times for the next few days. When you hatched, all my life went to you. All that time spent training and practicing. It was all worth it. Worth it for the moment when the spectators grew wild and I started to feel like we’d never descend. Worth it for the moments when I knew without a doubt that
about like a cradle. Your cradle. And now we will escape or be captured. A lifetime spent as a dragonkeeper-in-training. There was always someone watching my every action, ready with an admonishment. Every breath from waking up to falling asleep was planned to be wherever and for whatever. If we aren’t captured, I’ll escape that forever. We’ll be… I don’t want to say it, but I guess we’ll be free. I can’t comprehend the mere concept of it. And I know that I’ll lose my meaning without someone by Sasha Sheiba (7) to decide it for me. All that can happen within a few hours. we understood each other far But what about now? What more than another person could is that which is currently revealever understand me. Neither of ing itself ? The sun sinking into us have much time left. Or, we the horizon, its last rays of light, could have all the time we’d like. clouds bathed in burnt orange The prized gardens, the cenand burning rose, moonrise terpiece of the six kingdoms, no imminent. The grasses waving in more. When I found you in the the plains below, rivers winding midst of it all, I couldn’t believe through the landscapes. Occamy eyes. You had no undersional houses, once with a child standing what you did wrong running out to wave at us. It’s and you were nearly asleep. I too late for me to know such a wanted to let you fall asleep thing as freedom. But it’s not there with the rooted growth of too late for me to know this at flowers and vines scattered all least.
The Time Park by Reilly Brady (10)
“We can’t continue these empty threats,” said the man in uniform. As he turned to his lieutenants, the star on his uniform flashed in the light of the dim bulb overhead. One of the lieutenants cleared his throat and spoke, his voice catching slightly. His eyes remained dutifully on the ground below. “With all due respect, sir, we still aren’t sure if they have more bombs. We can’t start a war with no information, it’s too — ” The first man banged his fist on the table in front of him. The lieutenant stopped speaking immediately, remaining in his stiff position. With a glare, the first man spoke gruffly, “I expected that information weeks ago. This cannot wait longer. I propose an attack in two weeks. It must be done.” An echoing clang filled the room, and the heads of the lieutenants looked around anxiously.
None of them had moved. The first man glanced at the floor in front of the doorway and stared, perplexed at the source of the noise — a camera, in pristine condition, a model advanced beyond his own knowledge. But the figure behind the strange camera reversed his confusion to anger — a young man, shaking nervously, staring into the eyes of the military general in front of him. “A spy! How did he — ” the general shouted, brandishing his gun. The shot rang out, and the lieutenants flinched. However, the young man had disappeared before the bullet could reach him. * Everett glanced around him as his stomach twisted with nervous — yet excited — jolts. Besides a few whispers of other passengers, the vehicle was mostly silent. The collected
energy in the air around the passengers buzzed with anticipation. The building was seemingly endless in all directions; a domed ceiling created the illusion of a night sky while rows upon rows of glass machines and hordes of passengers lined the floor. Though the vehicle was simplistic, its abilities were impressive. Everett understood the basics of the mechanism: it was able to reach time periods of the past in a matter of minutes. However, he failed to comprehend the science behind its time traveling abilities. He would have to ask later. The woman in the ticket booth checked his identification with a quick once-over and proceeded to hand Everett his ticket. “Welcome to the Time Park! Visiting… ah, seventy years back! Today’s the very first visit for this event.” Only a few minutes longer, the captain had said. Everett’s excitement was beginning to transform into impatience. “Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight… thirty-nine!” Everett muttered as he wandered through the packed building, searching for
his machine number. A long line had already formed in front of the vehicle, and he pushed ahead to hear the instructions of the captain. Though he knew that the machine was secure as well as invisible and soundproof once in use, it still felt like he was standing in the room. It was like he was watching a movie, but instead of it being on a screen, he was in the movie. “Seventy years ago today,” explained the captain, “the famous event known as the ‘Last Straw’ occurred in North Korea when an American spy was discovered hiding in a secure underground bunker. This event is called the ‘Last Straw’ because it is considered to be the event that instigated the first battles of World War III between North Korea and the United States.” Finally, Everett could hear footsteps from far down the hallway, echoing through the metallic walls and ceiling. “The American spy seemingly ‘disappeared.’ There are no records of a spy being in that part of the country, and his identity or means of escape were never discovered.”
by Reilly Brady (10) The footsteps became human shapes as the figures moved closer and closer.As they turned the corner into a wider room,
Everettâ€™s fear level skyrocketed as he saw the faces of the soldiers and the general. One soldier, while taking his seat,
was so close to Everett that he could count the wrinkles under his eyes. “As the first group to ever visit this event, please understand that this journey is not without danger. The waver you signed states that the Time Park is not responsible for any injuries, and that anyone who acts against our rule book will be severely punished.” The men began to speak once all seated at the table. Everett had expected sound to be slightly muffled through the walls, but the accuracy of the sound made the scene even more realistic. “We can’t continue these empty threats,” one man said. Everett reached for his camera. “Before we depart, let me offer all our passengers a quick review of the rule book. Please no videos, as the viewing of this event is exclusive to passengers only. However, remember that photos may be taken, but avoid flash, as that might affect the invisibility of the machine.” “With all due respect, sir,” one man started. Everett made sure to turn off his flash feature before taking his first picture.
Passengers around him started taking photos as well, while others stared in shock at the scene around them. One man at the head of the table banged his fist on the table, and nearly everyone in the machine jumped in fear. After a few nervous chuckles from the passengers, camera clicks resumed. “I expected that information weeks ago,” yelled the man who had pounded his fist. “Also, please remember that there are no refunds on your purchases. If you are unsatisfied with your visit today, please let us know, but understand that we will not refund you.” An echoing clang filled the room, and the heads of the lieutenants looked around anxiously. None of them had moved. Everett looked down. He had dropped his camera. He fumbled to reach for it, but his heart skipped when he realized that it had landed outside of the machine. With a shudder, he headed towards the door labeled “Exit.” “And most importantly-” Everett turned the handle.
The door opened. His foot hovered outside the door frame. “Never exit the vehicle.” His heart racing, Everett crawled and grabbed the camera. Before he could celebrate his success, he glanced up to see the menacing general staring right at his face. With a yelp, and the clang of a bullet, Everett raced back to the machine and closed the door behind him. * “We’re going to have to perform the procedure,” spoke the
captain, a slight sadness in his voice. The doctor nodded. The young man in front of him had already been sedated. The doctor placed the machine around his head. With the click of a button, the procedure was over. “It’s a shame, about his memory,” the doctor said. “I would have loved to study the brain of a man who just learned that he started World War III.”
by Katherine Chui (10)
by Elizabeth Peters (11)
Questioning the Dark by Diego Gรณmez-Schumacher (7)
Shall we not dread the dark? Shall we not dread the night? Shall we not shudder in the night years even in the wrong place, at the wrong time?
Or would it explode, at the wrong time, at the wrong place?
What happens if we run? Would it make it worse?
Do we give up? Or do we run on?
What if the fierce hammering of life is a heavy load?
Texts Used: “Harlem” by Langston Hughes “Truth” by Gwendolyn Brooks Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe “The Test” by Angelica Gibbs
Photo by Kassy Davis (12)
by Austin Farhoudi (10)
One Step Back by Neel Murthy (12)
I used to pay no attention to the bees that flew by my ear; those with the audacity to approach me, the nerve to beat their wings with no regard for danger, the incredible poise to maintain that ever so dangerous proximity in the face of death, were no more than a band of buzzing idiots. This attitude was a deadly combination of the primal nature that I grew up with and the prideful culture that grew up with me. I never looked
down. I only looked up. But in not looking down, I failed to notice the thinness of the ice that I was blissfully treading on. In not looking down, I sacrificed my only eyes for the pleasure of conceit; I made myself vulnerable to a world that was more than capable of putting me down. Such a world was that of chess. So competitive, so unpredictable, with millions of hopeful players seeking to surpass
one another on the globally renowned elo system, the realm of chess enticed new people like myself to become more involved in improving their skills. I began learning chess at a very young age, and after a few years, I discovered that I enjoyed it. At school, there were programs for kids to play chess games with each other after classes. It was at these programs that I realized I excelled at the game. Every day, I would play a few matches after school. One after another, opponents fell to me like brittle statues upon a hardwood floor. If I defeated an opponent who was much older than me, my self-confidence soared. In particular, a clever triumph against the widely respected Conrad Chan elevated my morale to the skies. Peculiarly, it remained there, and, in fact, kept rising. By the age of ten, my ego was inflated like a red hot-air balloon. Just one subtle prick of a needle would cause it to explode. It was a rather tranquil afternoon when I traveled to San Francisco to compete in a chess tournament. This event would
muster up many players from multiple areas across the bay. I had been to many tournaments prior to this occasion, but none of them approached the size of this one. The games would take place inside a lavish hotel, and they would continue until the evening, when the winners would be rewarded. I finally arrived and entered a finely-lit room. The sweet smell of luxury greeted me. Massive chandeliers hung from high ceilings like polished apples from trees. Intricate patterns covered the walls and bordered fancy abstract paintings. Circular lamps spanned the entire room, pointing straight down. All of the articles in the room seemed to communicate but one message: this is a big deal. Before me sat an abundance of wooden tables, and on top of those were chess clocks and chess boards, the two essential components of tournament play. Everything was prepared. Crowds of people thronged the room and were eagerly waiting for the games to begin. Indistinct chatter flooded the halls. I admired the room for a few more minutes until a
call diverted my attention: the matchups for the tournament were assembled and posted for all to see. The games were about to begin. I shuffled over to the door, where the matchup pairings were posted, and then to the board that was designated for my match and sat down. My opponent hadn’t arrived yet. As I waited, I began to speculate about the mystery person who would eventually sit across from me. Would he be near my age, or older? Brimming with confidence, I believed I could comfortably defeat any person around or below my age. I was in a jovial mood. After ten minutes, someone filled the seat in front of me. This mysterious entity that I was musing about was finally given a face. It was a…little kid. My opponent was a young Asian-American boy who appeared to be either five or six years of age. Nothing seemed to make sense. Here I was, at the biggest tournament that I had ever been to, expecting insurmountable obstacles, formidable opponents, incredible challeng-
es, and instead, I got…a little kid! It was unbelievable! Frantic with emotion, I glanced over at the young boy once again. He was wearing a puffy, purple jacket and a tiny, plush hat, both only exacerbating my disdain toward him. From his backpack, he retrieved a small bottle of water and a pocket-sized notebook used to record the game. I didn’t bring a notebook. But my ego was soaring, and it was carrying my brain with it. I strongly felt I would comfortably win. However, the vanity, the pride, and the enmity added pressure to the catastrophic whirlwinds roaring in my head. On the other hand, the young boy seemed to emanate a very powerful air of nonchalance. His swift, cleancut motions and brief but sharp glances didn’t seem to affect that dark, stolid expression on his face. While my mind was bubbling with emotions and thoughts, this young fellow was as dignified as a cat, silently but vigorously asserting his presence toward me. How did he do it? I was in no mental state to figure it out. Just a few moments after
by Kiley Haberkorn (10)
he sat down, all of his materials were neatly arranged before him, and a pen rested in his hand, when he looked up at me and said in the most solemn voice, â€œLetâ€™s begin.â€? Once the clocks were properly set up, the game began quietly. At each turn, the boy would follow a certain procedure before moving a piece: he would first record in his notebook what he was going to do while placing his free hand side-
ways like a wall to prevent me from catching a glimpse of his writing. Then, he would briefly pause and examine the board to avoid any costly mistakes. Once he was satisfied, he would raise his stubby arm, relocate the piece in question, and tap a button on the chess clock to signal the end of his turn. When it was my turn, I would calmly glance at the board for a second or two and emphatically move a piece of my own before hitting the
clock. Then he would restart the process again — recording, perusing the board and then taking action — and I would once more follow suit and reply without delay. Back and forth we went. Not a single awkward movement, not a single uneven breath, and not even a single crooked glance would break the pattern. The pieces themselves danced about like ice skaters; they were far more entertained than the robots moving them. After the millionth repetition, an irregularity was detected. The game was in its middle stages, and the balance of power was beginning to shift. By this point, I was astonished that the toddler was keeping with my pace. He wasn’t making any exploitable errors, and the grave countenance that he displayed did not make it seem like he was about to. The game was in a deadlock. I eventually convinced myself that I would have to employ a better strategy in order to defeat him. So after he completed one more iteration of his idiosyncratic procedure, I broke the pattern and studied the board in depth.
My mind visited every single square on that board like I was a representative and they were my loyal constituents. After a painstaking examination, a plan was constructed. It was a perfect plan. There was no stopping it — even an advanced challenger would struggle to counter it, so how would this infant last? I breathed a sigh of relief. I had figured it out. No meager little child could beat me. My mind returned to a peaceful state, and that hot-air balloon of confidence began to rise once more. A few moments later, I realized that I had been idling for the last five minutes while precious time was wasting away like flesh in a coffin. Immediately, I reached for a piece. It felt slippery in my small hands. Imperiously, I initiated my plan. Upon ending my turn, the boy looked up at me. That dour expression that he had worn for the longest time had vanished from his face, and in its place emerged a sly grin. Just the sight of it made me feel uneasy inside. I swallowed. The air tasted of salt. Moments later, the stern look reappeared and he looked
back down at the board. It was the kidâ€™s turn to make a move. He surveyed the board for three seconds, and then, without hesitation, drove a knife right into the heart of my defense. In my entire lifetime, I had never been so confounded. How did he find a weakness? It couldnâ€™t have been too obvious! Thoughts and emotions raced through my head as I was trying to compose myself and think of an answer to save my fate. All plans were out the window! In addition, all of the time that I had spent devising that elaborate plan left me very little time to fend for myself now! I evaluated my options at a frenetic pace. Eventually I was able to settle on one to mitigate the consequences of my terrible blunder. But this move only opened up a gateway toward an even more deadly attack! The boyâ€™s emphatic reply ripped apart the spineless covering of my fortresses and exposed a weak, vulnerable underbelly. His subsequent move disabled any useful movement and suspended any chances of saving the game. What was happening? Fear had
seized control over my brain! Logic and Reason were nowhere to be seen! I was truly about to lose! Before I knew it, the boy unleashed a series of fatal attacks on my pieces. But he was no longer merely a young boy. His eyes shone with fiery thunder; his jacket morphed to solid metal; the apparition of Julius Caesar appeared before me! With one swift motion, Caesar surrounded me from the right. With another, he occupied the area on my left. When his turn arrived once again, he bridged the two areas by blazing a file right up the middle, effectively tightening the noose on his distraught victim! My opponent was stronger, smarter, and more alert than he had ever been before; I was a mere puddle of water, melting from the unbelievable fires surrounding me. One move later, the young boy wrote two plus signs in his notebook, indicating that he was about to end the game. Then he paused for a second, inspected the board, and made his final move. Looking me square in the eye, he straightened up and proclaimed that universally dreaded
word: “Checkmate.” Filled with fumes of acrimony and excitement, my hot air balloon of confidence finally exploded. The impact of the blast extended far beyond the reaches of my young conscience. The once-towering bureaucracy of hubris that had governed my head since the moment I was born was incinerated to dust. What emerged was a new person, to whom it became clear that human nature extended far beyond superficial qualities — that within every human mind
existed a new world with infinite complexities and wonders. From the ashes of despair, this new person had a newfound capacity for empathy and respect. Nowadays, I spend a lot of time walking in the park. Frequently, I see wildlife in the gardens, including bees. As I watch a bumblebee glide from one plant to another, I don’t dismiss it as a mindless gnat. I see the courage of a hero, the resilience of a warrior, and a perpetual reminder of the man that I want to be.
by Reilly Brady (10)
by Kassy Davis (12)
The Cry of a Child Soldier by Srinivas Balagopal (10)
I stand in motionless shock, Watching my friends run amok. Ripping families of hope, Ending lives at the end of a rope. The darkness we create, In deathly futures, it permeates. My humanity’s lost, an object of violence, An unwilling slave following a usurper’s cadence. Destined now to unjust servitude, My warlord expects smiling gratitude. No longer a child, but a soldier’s call Duty fulfilled in joyous thrall. “Matumaini” my parents named me, Praying for my joy and liberty. They dreamed of peace and an education Perhaps even my graduation! They dreamed their dreams in solitude, Eking out a slim existence with rectitude. Now, silently I obey The orders of this silent bey. With dread eyes and a dead heart I follow his instruction,
Brutality, for me, is not fiction. Irrational cruelty has opened its door, Revealing me as a hunter to my core. Today, we sow seeds of power, Tomorrow, we reap whirlwinds of vengeance with a bitter glower. My childhood’s ambition was to heal humanity, Defining mortality is now my reality. Machetes and bullets were never my toys, Hard choices rule us lost boys. Who stands for me? And what I’ve become: A ruthless predator, terrifying scum. Is this the sum of my life’s worth? The measure of my moral dearth? I have a dreadful past and certainly no future, Beyond being this warlord’s creature. Not for me, these childhood stories Of fruit pies and sporting glories. Of soft cuddles and starry nights, Blue skies and free kites. Who weeps for me with no father or mother? Only a smiling warlord enthroned with his scepter. Everywhere people talk of world peace, Then this forced slavery should cease. If this is truly a free world, Then why am I still in chains?
by Esmi Pistelak (10)
by Katherine Chui (10)
My Island of Zen by Micaela Rodriguez Steube (9)
The pebbles dance under my shoes, crunching and scrunching as I make my way through the rows of vines. As I look up, the most beautiful sight in the world meets my eyes — the sight of my family’s vineyard. Satisfyingly straight rows of grapevines roll on and on in a succession that stretches as far as the eye can see. The ocean of wine grapes sends waves of tranquility through my body. Starting at my head and flowing down through my shoulders, through my torso, my hands, and my legs, all the way down into my toes. I stop a moment to take it all in. I take a breath, filling my lungs with the soft breeze that’s passing by. Inhale, exhale. This is peace. After a bit of walking, I reach the most sacred area of my paradise –– the hidden cement gully. Engulfed in a canopy of grapes, the gully conceals itself and is only known to a select few. When I stand inside, the world around me stops. No stress, no social media, no judgment of others. I am at peace. I reach high above my head and pick off a singular grape and pop it in my mouth. As I break the bitter skin, sweet juice is released throughout my mouth, a yin-yang of sweet and sour. The flesh of the grape balances the texture of the skin. Finally, it glides down my throat, through my esophagus and into my stomach. Once again, I breathe it all in. Inhale, exhale. My world is at peace.
I Am What I Am by Adam Fallick (7)
How do I put this into words? How do I speak about my life in two minutes or less? All I can say is, I’m friends with girls. I say things like, “You go, girl!” or “Yass!” But people judge me based on these words. Do these words define me? I guess they do. People place me in a box, put a label on the side. Gay. Sure, I may be gay, but I’ve learned that it’s my job to define myself, and my job to make my life. It’s difficult to live away from the other kids. I’ve never exactly fit in, never been like the rest of the boys. Kids gossip, say things
like, “Him over there? He’s gay” or “That kid over there? She’s a retard.” I’ve lived with a family that raised me to accept and love everyone’s differences. I’m gay. Who cares? It doesn’t make me intolerable or gross. According to The Daily Beast, 4% of the population now identifies as LGBT, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. That’s not including the people who haven’t come out. So no, I won’t accept this bullying, because I’m not the only one! There are millions of people worldwide that have struggled with being different; I’m not alone. And
by Skylar Chui (7) and Niki Taradash (7)
I’ve got a whole community behind me that supports me when life tries to burn me down. Not only have I struggled with my sexuality and how to handle being who I am, but I also had severe OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, for over a year. I would go to bed and get back up, to make sure that everything was where I left it, perfectly straight, unlike me. I used my OCD to curb my anxiety over being gay, using my environment to “fix” what I know now doesn’t need to be fixed.
I’ve learned that I can be me without limits, and I don’t need to be put in boxes — I can make my own box. I will continue to say, “Yasss queen,” and guess what? I’ve been judged so much, I don’t care what anybody thinks of me. I don’t mind if I am judged, and no one can affect me or sway me. I am me, and I have learned to bring out the perfections in my imperfections, and to love myself for who I am. With a perspective, I’m Adam Fallick.
by Kiley Haberkorn (10)
One Step at a Time by Yonu Oh (7)
One tear, two countries, three sighs, four tickets, and five schools. That’s how my life worked. Moving from one place to another; there was no stopping. Every year seemed like a blur to me. Every time I got accustomed to a new city to call home, I would find myself on a plane to a whole new world that I didn’t want to go to. There was nothing I could do about it. Nothing. Moving is hard. Everybody knows that. Some people are lucky enough to find themselves in one place for their entire lives. However, that is not my case. During the twelve years of my life, I have been to five schools, never in one school for more than two years. I have lived in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, South Korea, and California, each place as strange as the other. Nothing was ever easy for me. I wished it was for a long long time. The schools and the students I met were fairly nice; though, not everyone in the school was kind to me. When I lived in San
Antonio, Texas, I was the only Asian kid in the entire school. People didn’t know how to treat a girl with my looks, so they didn’t bother to try. I was the lonely, skinny Asian girl who nobody wanted to talk to. The rejection was a harsh thing for a third grader to handle. However, I would always blink back my tears, sit on the bench, and read my sorrows away. Not only is moving schools hard, but moving to different states or countries is even harder. All the memories I left in the place I lived would vanish and never be thought of again. Although I didn’t have many friends at a young age, I still had some people to call my companions. It was so hard saying goodbye to the only people who were nice to me. We would all shed tears, and they would beg me not to leave. However, what was decided could not be changed. Also, I had moved back and forth between Korea and America. This was difficult for me as a bilingual girl. I always had to
change languages when I spoke, and sometimes mispronounced words or forgot how to say them. Those times were embarrassing to me. All my classmates in America and Korea knew how to speak English or Korean fluently. I, however, could not do either. Over the years, I have developed into a stronger and more intelligent person from my experiences and situations with
moving. Now, I have friends that I can spill all my secrets to and I can speak both languages better than ever. Even though moving is a trying experience, there are some benefits to it. “Look on the bright side,” was what I would always tell myself. “There’s always a bright side.” With a perspective, I’m Yonu Oh.
by Cecile Smith (11)
The Cubicle of Doom by Tina Zeng (7)
I sat on the sticky white chair, feeling ants crawl over my body. The eyes of those around me were invulnerable chains, locking me down onto the icy leather prison. From above my seat, my parents stared at me, their eyes shining with malice. Beside me, an old man with stringy, graying hair sat reading one of the magazines on the table beside him. He glanced sideways at me, those piercing ebony pupils zooming in on me before bouncing back to the article he was “reading.” Probably couldn’t wait for my death. The floor was a nauseating white, so clean I could see my terrified face in its reflection. My cheeks and lips blanched with dread. “Arianna?” “Yes, that’s her,” my mother replied in a voice devoid of all emotion. I looked at the indifferent face of the lady in white who would be leading me to my doom. Her eyes were piercingly blue, shooting through me
as if she knew every last detail about me. She took my hand, squeezing and shaking it until I felt as if it were being crushed. I stood up, knees shaking and eyes watering. This was the end. My feet began shuffling across the marble floor, one in front of the other, the sound echoing through the silent room. The woman led me down the hallway to the rooms where victims were worked over. We passed three doors, and I could sense the evil that must be unfolding behind them. “He’s out. Let’s get to work and finish this quickly,” uttered a deep voice from behind the fourth door. I paused for a moment, mourning the one who would be “worked” on. I imagined he would have a long face, emerald-green eyes, and golden-brown hair. He could have been a popular coach at my middle school, I thought, and I began heading again towards my own ruination. In my mind, I marked his death. His dying
by Katherine Chui (10) soul would not be forgotten. I would remember him as a fellow victim until my own last moment. I thought back to that morning. For my very last meal, I had eaten a delicious breakfast, but now, my maple syrupy pancakes churned and flipped in my stomach as if they had gone raw and were re-cooking in my guts. The pancakes, oh, how glorious they had been, round, perfect circles with an â€œXâ€? pattern drawn on them with maple syrup. Paradise on Earth! Espe-
cially since it was the last food I would ever shove in my mouth. The perfect companion for my magnificent main course, a glass of warm milk and cereal, which now danced and somersaulted beside my pancakes. We reached the seventh door. Etching the image of the white glass in my mind, I walked into the room, then committed to memory every last detail. It was bare, a small white and beige cube with a black leather recliner in the center. Counters surrounded it on three sides, all
manner of tools placed meticulously on them. The tools that would bring my destruction. I turned around, desperately wanting to grasp any opportunity to slip away, but the same heinous woman in white behind me had shut the opaque glass door. No one but the monster in front of me would witness my death. The woman looked at me, and the corners of her blood red mouth twisted up in an attempt at smiling. “You’ll be alright, I promise! You won’t feel a thing!” She crooned mockingly, faking a solicitude that I could see right through. But I had no choice. If I were to escape, where would I go? Sighing my final sigh, I lay on the black recliner. Black as the darkness that would soon envelop me. The woman hooked a face mask onto both of her ears and pulled it down to smile at me. The last smile--or shall I say, grimace--I would ever see. Her fangs gleamed, illuminated from the light above the recliner that she had switched on. I imagined blood on those teeth, drip drip dripping onto the white floor. She held up a
needle, thin and glistening in the lamp light. The point was sharp and deadly. The last thing I would ever see. The tube of the needle was filled with a clear liquid, and I imagined it being stabbed into my head, injecting a lethal potion. I bet she would then rip me apart limb from limb and shove my guts around in my stomach. I shuddered. Praying for a painless and quiet end, I closed my eyes. * “It’s done! Your wisdom teeth are out, didn’t feel a thing, right?” The evil dentist smiled at me. My mom and dad had entered the room. “You were out longer from the medicine than we had expected, but that’s okay, you’re awake now!” She smiled. “You’ll be back in school on Monday!” Mom and Dad smiled, too. But I wailed. From one hell to the next! Would the torture never end?
Winner of a 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Key
by Reilly Brady (10)
by Sarah Feng (10)
我今天可以说话了 by Sarah Feng (10) Thousands of students marched through the capital [Beijing] to Tiananmen Square in April 1989, calling for a more democratic government. In the weeks that followed, thousands of people joined the students to protest against China’s communist rule. After several weeks of demonstrations, Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square on June 4 and fired on civilians. It has been estimated that as many as 10,000 people were arrested during and after the protests. Several dozen people have been executed for their parts in the demonstrations. * (call me a nationalist, or call me an inmate.) mother, do you know: today, at seven intersections, lights blink green. a flood swarms around the metal ark. sky splitting open, seven pairs of lips glow a pulpy red. our motherland made up of plumes of screeching smog. 今天，我终于能 够说话了. (mother, i no longer taste salt when i speak.) i wonder if noise could marble skin.
Illustration by Katherine Chui (10) thrashing, i stream down legs and through breasts, lay myself bare on tiled domes of tiananmen, curl up in heat-bruised passionfruit splitting by the butcher. revolution is a big word & so is 我-爱-国. the wind shreds the portrait of old Mao into confetti. i strip myself bare & dance in the ribbons. mother, i am writing to you from my prison cell. tomorrow, at eight, my execution. we drink the catharsis with our hands. mother, i am gulping down the air until my mouth bleeds like our flag.
[Title] Today, I can speak.  Today, I can finally talk again.  I love my country. Information about the 1989 protest courtesy of CNN.
Winner of a 2017 Teen Sequin Award
Arnav Strong by Arnav Aggarwal (12)
I dragged my mind back to the cold medical room from its aimless wandering when I saw tears running down my mother’s face. Did I miss something that the oncologist said? “Eight months of chemotherapy?” asked my mother. “Yes, we need to prevent any recurrence,” stressed the oncologist. It was a surreal moment — I had always thought that the bump in my arm would be removed by a simple surgery, but this benign mix of muscle, calcium and bone had mutated into a rare bone cancer, osteosarcoma, and would need to be treated as soon as possible. I was mentally lost in all the fuss, tears, and hushed tones at home. The next day was spent getting chest CT scans, full body MRI images, and blood tests. Before I knew what was really going on, I was admitted to the hospital to start chemotherapy. Lying in bed with IV drips going into a port in my chest, I still felt a little distant and unsure if this was really happening to me. After all, I was finally a second semester senior that everyone had been buzzing about. I was wrapping up college applications, going snowboarding in Tahoe, and planning Spring Break with my friends. There were still so many things I had to do, but that seemed all the more distant watching teams of nurses and doctors come and go from the side of my hospital bed. I shrugged off the
sinking feeling and told my friends I would see them on the paintball field on the weekend. Two days after my first treatment, I lay in bed listless and weak, dreading the next wave of nausea. Would I really have to go through eight months of this? It finally sunk in that my life would be very different than the one I had planned for the next eight months. On the fifth day, I felt like my normal self again, was back on my feet, and looking forward to a good few weeks before going back for my next round of chemotherapy. But nobody had told me yet about the surgery to remove the tumor in my arm and its impact. Listening to the surgeon talk about the size of the tumor, the impact on the nerves in my hand, and the overall functionality of my hand for the rest of my life was the hardest and most numbing conversation I had. Words that I always thought were taboo — “amputate” and “limb salvation” — were discussed openly. I blocked all thought about the conversation from my mind for the next couple of days. But in my moments alone, I thought about that conversation. I knew that I was not in the driver’s seat of my own life anymore. The thought will always echo, perhaps forever — “why ME?” I searched online and realized I was not alone. A lot of children, some even younger than me, had been through this and lived successful, meaningful lives. They had adapted to what life threw at them and did not allow their handicaps to impact their goals. I am determined to succeed in my goals that I set before life threw me this curveball. I know I will have my down moments, but I only ask for the strength to remember the strong moments to push past the weak.
WORD MATCHING See if you can match the neologisms with their definitions!
a. a futuristic spacecraft voyager that can travel through time
b. a phenomenon when students get confused by effect and affect
c. when a song gets stuck in your head and you canâ€™t get it out
d. an astronaut who is genetically inoculated against illnesses in space, who is immune to all space diseases that exist
e. the state of being stressed
about being stressed about something f. being inwardly reflective, aware, and insightful
by 1. Micaela Rodriguez Steube, 2. Adam Fallick, 3. Adrienne Yue, Tina Zeng, Gabby Srinivasan, 4. Maya Zhan, 5. Peirong Li, 6. Sarah Feng answer key: 1f, 2a, 3e, 4c, 5b, 6d
ABOUT THE AUTHORS AND ARTISTS Arnav Aggarwal (12): Arnav Aggarwal loves to read for pleasure; however, his plans for the future are far from reading and writing. He will be studying Computer Science and Business Administration at Northeastern University next year. He loves sports, concerts, and adventures. His spirit animal is the honey bee, but he’s still figuring that out. Srinivas Balagopal (10): Srinivas Balagopal is an avid reader who enjoys writing short stories and poetry. He loves watching The West Wing and political late night shows. He contributes to the Perennial, researches for Lincoln-Douglas debates, and practices competitive Kung Fu regularly. Reilly Brady (10): Reilly Brady loves all styles of writing and artwork. She currently takes an Art Theory class as well as the Journalism elective. She has loved being a part of the Tabula Rasa editing process and would like to thank all of the creative writers and artists for their submissions! Evelyn Chenye (10): Evelyn Chenye has loved reading for years but is new to creative writing. She hopes you find something that resonates with you in Tabula Rasa. Katherine Chui (10): Katherine Chui loves art, whether it’s painting, illustrating for the Perennial, or drawing cartoons. Working on Tabula Rasa has been an awesome experience, and she’s thrilled to present to you all of Pinewood’s incredible art and writing! She also participates in cross country in the fall, which is the only sport she is capable of doing. Skylar Chui (7): Skylar Chui loves drawing and painting. Although she doesn’t take any art classes, she loves to doodle in class and paint at home. This is Skylar’s first time submitting work to Tabula Rasa. Kassandra Davis (12): Kassandra Davis has always been into photography ever since her father and sister inspired her! She loves to take photos, mostly of landscapes, and hopes to pursue photography more as she travels in the future.
Alex Dagman (12): Alex Dagman enjoys writing and sports. His hobbies include hanging out with friends and playing video games. Lulu Diffenbaugh (8): Lulu Diffenbaugh is an aspiring writer and artist who is very excited to be a part of the 2018 Tabula Rasa magazine! She is looking forward to Art Independent Study and her writing classes as a freshman next year. Adam Fallick (7): Adam Fallick enjoys writing a lot, and he feels that he can express himself easily through writing. While he doesn’t have much experience in art, he is practicing through journaling, and hopes to get more experienced! Austin Farhoudi (10): Austin Farhoudi has loved making digital art for a while now, and it is something he plans on continuing to do in college and maybe even beyond. This is his first time submitting work for Tabula Rasa. Sarah Feng (10): Sarah Feng enjoys writing (favorite genre: novel-writing) and art (favorite medium: charcoals). Also, she likes running cross country and track & field as well as reading books by Margaret Atwood and Leigh Bardugo. Giselle Gao (7): Giselle Gao enjoys expressing herself through writing. She has passion for drawing and photography and wants to become a better writer. This is her first time submitting her work to Tabula Rasa, and she is very excited to present her work. Diego Gómez-Schumacher (7): Diego Gómez-Schumacher greatly enjoys literature, reading, and writing. He also participates in multiple sports such as track and field, cross country, and soccer. Kiley Haberkorn (10): Kiley Haberkorn loves art. She likes to paint, draw, and create different forms of three dimensional art. Kiley is in Art Honor Society and will be taking AP Art Studio next year. Katherine Han (10): Katherine Han loves writing and creating her own worlds through stories. She is a staff member of the Perennial, and she hopes to continue to grow her skills. Katherine likes to spend her free time practicing the flute, playing volleyball, and upcycling old t-shirts.
Samantha Kavich (9): Samantha Kavich, known to most as Sam, loves and participates in all forms of art from the performing arts to drawing. Writing creatively for film and television has always been her dream. Anusha Koshe (8): Anusha Koshe is what you would call a literal bookworm (or a figurative one). Apart from her obsession with reading books, she likes to sketch drawings of people and write in her free time. She is a big fan of writing fantasy and fiction stories, and is super excited to share her story in Tabula Rasa for the second time! Ajay Krishnan (7): Ajay Krishnan is very fond of writing. From fourth grade, he’s been a journalist and never stopped. He’ll never pass up an opportunity to express his creative juices, whether it’s through writing, art, or theatre. Peirong Li (10): Peirong Li loves to write and read in her free time. She is also a music enthusiast who conveys her love in music through playing the piano. Eva Liu (9): Eva Liu has enjoyed writing and art since she was five. Her mom claims that all Eva ever needs are some pencils, brushes, paint, and canvas. She also enjoys horseback riding and playing the guitar. Neel Murthy (12): Neel Murthy possesses a deep, unrelenting infatuation with beauty in writing and literature and is thrilled to be included in this year’s issue of Tabula Rasa. He is also a math fanatic, and he loves basketball. He wishes you a joyous and fulfilling life! Arina Oberoi (8): Arina Oberoi has found reading and writing to be her escape. From fantasies to historical pieces, she believes that words can take you to any time or place. Her favorite thing about writing is the stories it can share. Yonu Oh (7): Yonu Oh loves reading and doing calligraphy for pleasure. She also participates in multiple sports like tennis, golf, and track and field outside of school. Elizabeth Peters (11): Elizabeth Peters likes to draw and make cartoons. Her hobbies include video games, longsword, and tech theatre.
Esmi Pistelak (10): Esmi Pistelak loves art â€” whether it be performing on stage or painting on a canvas, she loves using her creativity. She has been taking art classes on the weekends for almost four years now. Rosaline Qi (12): Rosaline Qi is an aspiring artist who loves creating pieces across all mediums. She hopes you enjoy the magazine! Micaela Rodriguez Steube (9): Micaela Rodriguez Steube loves to write and is ecstatic to be part of Tabula Rasa this year. She currently writes for the Perennial and wishes to explore visual arts in the future. Micaela also has a passion for theatre and hopes to one day write her own play. Sasha Sheiba (7): Sasha Sheiba is a seventh grader who adores art, theatre, and reading. She has a deep respect towards books and is always reading, may that be an actual book, a Webtoon, or a graphic novel. Cecile Smith (11): Cecile Smith is an avid digital artist who occasionally dabbles in writing. She is very happy to have her art featured in Tabula Rasa, as she had to quickly finish the piece just after a concussion. She plays softball as well as guitar and piano. Niki Taradash (7): Niki Taradash loves to paint on canvas, sketch on paper, and read on the couch in her free time. This is her first time contributing to Tabula Rasa. Natasha Thompson (10): Natasha Thompson enjoys her writing and literature classes. She likes playing soccer and basketball as well as reading books (especially science fiction). Adrienne Yue (7): Adrienne Yue has a passion for literature and writing. She has been reading and has recently started exploring writing more deeply. Tina Zeng (7): Tina Zeng loves books not too much at all. Sheâ€™s been reading since the beginning of time and started writing shortly after the creation of the universe. She loves writing and is working on improving. Maya Zhan (8): Maya Zhan likes reading, writing, fine arts, and music. She loves how writing is so vast and how there are so many different genres and styles. She has been attending art classes for eight years.
C O P Y R I G H T Â© P I N E W O O D S C H O O L 2 017 - 2 018
The 2018 Tabula Rasa was ranked Excellent in the National Council of Teachers of English's REALM Award and received second place in the Amer...
Published on Mar 17, 2019
The 2018 Tabula Rasa was ranked Excellent in the National Council of Teachers of English's REALM Award and received second place in the Amer...