2019/20 Winners of the 4th Rough Rider Short Story Competition are:
1. "A Dangerous Adventure" by Gerard Jorda 2. "Promises to Keep" by Natalia Cortes 3. "Unfair" by Caleb Knickerbocker 4. "Rebel... If Only for a Moment" by Annelise Mages Gerard Jorda is a 6th grader at Roosevelt International Middle School.
Gerard enjoys playing video games and reading. When it comes to writing, Gerard likes to write about post-apocalyptic fiction stories and fantasy stories. Gerard finds the most challenging part of writing to be getting a story to be how exactly you want it to be and how you vision it to be. When Gerard gets older, he hopes to become a robotic programmer and engineer. His advice for writers is try to fit a good amount of details in every one of your stories. Gerard especially hopes you enjoy the details he put in his story.
A Dangerous Adventure
It was a cold morning and mist was floating through the air. The fog was so dense it was like all the clouds had fallen from the sky. The air was so chilly that all the people on their morning stroll seemed like they were producing raw smoke from their mouths. Parked cars looked frozen and the moving ones looked like they had been in better days. “Aidan, hurry up!” I shouted to my friend, Aidan, who was sulking in the doorway of my house,” The weather is perfect!” “Do we have to go now,” he argued, but I just pushed him out of the door. “Of course! This fog will provide us with cover for our operation!” Aidan suddenly remembered the plan we had made up the day before. The whole operation was a raid on this little, homemade camp in the park across from my house. The day before we walked passed it and saw it could have some promising stuff we could salvage. Remembering this, he sighed and reluctantly said,” Fine. I'll go. But if I break a leg, that is your fault.” “Fine with me!” I happily said, for finally, he was going. Aidan had been my friend since second grade so we would have a sleepover almost every weekend. During these times, we would have fun adventures and go do wild things. We had been on so many adventures before, we had lost count of all of them. We definitely had our favorites or some that didn’t go as planned, but all of them were adventures, and all of them were fun. I hoped this one was a fun one too. For example, one of these adventures was this one time we were in this canyon type place and a whole bunch of bees came out of this hole in a tree that we were poking at. We saw some honeycomb inside and we wanted to see what the honey tasted like so we got some sticks to fish the honey out. That was a bad choice and seconds later, we were being chased by bees. Luckily, we weren't stung. I grabbed my shoes and put them on like my life depended on it and ran out the door to meet Aidan outside. “Let’s get this over with,” he said, dully. “That's the spirit,” I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes. As we walked to the edge of the street, I then started to notice how cold it was. I guess Aidan realized it too. “Can we go back inside,” Aidan complained. “Hush your mouth child,” I said, shivering,” I mean, it's not that cold anyway.” Aidan raised one brow and stared at me,”Sure. Tell yourself that.” “Okay! I will!” We walked to the edge of the street, ready to sprint across it to get to the park. There were no crosswalks in the area so to get across the street, you needed to sprint across it. The ground rumbled beneath our feet from the constant never-ending line of cars that would zoom up and down the street. Little pebbles shot up from the ground because of it. “Okay, get ready to run,” I said to Aidan, who was already in a lunge position, getting ready to run. As a car zoomed up the street, we saw an opening, and we took it. We sprinted across the hard, rocky street and didn’t stop until we reached the other end. Cold wind shot against our bodies as we rocketed towards the park. Finally, we reached the end and sighed with relief, for we had crossed the street alive. We took some deep breaths and looked around the grassy park. The park consisted of a little toddler playground and some trees scattered around like sprinkles on a cake. In the back of the park, there was a tiny forest of densely packed trees. I called it the Olive Grove. That was where our target was. “Catch your breath and let’s get moving,” I breathed to Aidan, catching my breath. “Okay, lead the way,” he wheezed back. I started walking towards the Olive Grove, trying to remember what the best way to get the loot was. We walked on the soft, green, moist grass and through the puddles of mud that were in our way. We passed the toddler park, trees, a run down bathroom, and finally, we entered the Olive Grove. The little camp was in the back of the forest, so we still had some time before we reached it. We didn’t say anything as we hiked through the long bunch of never-ending trees. The density of the Olive Grove also blocked out the sun so it was dark. Another problem of the trees was since the trees blocked out the rays of the sun, it was really cold. We felt like we were in a freezer. Finally, we reached the camp. We looked around and surveyed the little pile of tents before we approached it. There was trash everywhere and it looked like a mini dumpster. “And I thought there was treasure here,” I exclaimed sadly,” But there is only trash.” Suddenly we heard voices behind us. “Wh-what w-was tha-that,” I whispered, my feet frozen to the ground. “I-I do-don’t kn-know,” Aidan whispered, clearly wishing that he hadn’t gone with me on this adventure. “O-okay,” I whispered, calming down,” I will go check it out” I walked to the front of the small camp and finally saw them. There were two men and it looked like they hadn’t had a haircut in a while. Their clothes were dirty and had holes and dirt on them. Their skin was rough and unwashed. They looked dangerous and were obviously on something, as they were swaying from side to side while they walked. In their hands were medium-sized sticks that were fresh and probably recently ripped off some trees. I quickly hurried back to Aidan and whispered,” We need to get the heck out of here, right now!” “Then what are you waiting for let’s go!” he whispered back. We started going deeper into the camp. The deeper we went, the more trash piles there were. We continued walking but wanted to stop because of the smell. The smell was as bad as the smell of a dumpster. My head got light because of it. Finally, we reached the end of the camp but saw that we came to a dead end. The place we were in was like a house, with three walls and a roof. The “house”, on three sides, had trees so close together that you would need to be a little kid to squeeze through them. The tree’s leaves and branches made up the roof and offered more shade, making it colder. In the “house”, there were piles and piles of trash everywhere and three tents scattered around the interior. Extra clothes that were wet hung from the ceiling while a bucket that smelled of waste and probably was a makeshift toilet, was tucked away in a corner. “Quick! Hide! I hear them behind me!” Aidan whispered while walking around the camp, trying to find a place to hide. “In one of the tents!” I whispered back and started searching for the closest tent. The first tent I came upon was a big tent that was the color green, and inside was food that looked rotten and spoiled. It smelled like raw chicken and almost made me throw up. “Not this one,” I half-yelled, half-whispered to Aidan, nauseous. Aidan came back from the other two tents and looked like he was going to throw up too. We were not in a good situation. With the two men approaching, and the two of us in plain sight, it seemed like we were goners. “Up the tree!” Aidan said in a panicked whisper. “Okay!” I said back, not arguing because, at the moment, that was our only choice. Aidan chose a tree that was bigger than the rest and had a grey sort of color. It looked older than the rest and provided a lot of space as the roof. The branches were wild at the top, and the leaves were too, which would provide the cover we needed until we could escape. Once we got up there, we waited for the men to enter the camp. Little sticks of branches poked at my body. Brown and green leaves blocked most of my vision while I held on the tree, hoping I wouldn't fall. My legs felt like jelly and I was afraid I was going to slip off. Finally, the men entered the camp and immediately noticed something was wrong. What Aidan and I didn’t notice was the mess we made while searching the camp. The men looked up, down, and all around but they couldn’t seem to find us. After they thought the person was gone, they both went to the big, green tent and took out some food and started eating it. I made a gagging sound and felt like I was going to hurl all of my intestines out. “Hey, Gerard, they’re distracted!” Aidan whispered excitedly. “Then what are we waiting, let’s get out of here!” I exclaimed back. We carefully climbed down the tree, trying to make no noise. The climb down was harder because when we were climbing up the tree, we used all sides but while climbing down, we could only use one so that the men wouldn’t see us. Finally, Aidan got down and quickly but quietly, ran over to a pile of trash to hide from the men’s sight. I continued to climb down and finally, I was on the ground. I started to run towards the trash pile Aidan was at but tripped over some cans, which hit some pans, and caused a lot of noise. The men turned around quickly and saw me on the ground and quickly grabbed their sticks and started running towards me. Luckily for me, they tripped over one of their own trash piles and gave me a little extra time to get up and start running. “RUN!” I screamed at Aidan, who was already up and sprinting away. I soon caught up to him and we continued running. Because the men were drunk or on something, they ran slower and were tripping a lot. In the end, they stopped chasing us but that didn’t stop us from running. We ran out of the “house” and into the Olive Grove, still running at full throttle. The ground below us felt like quicksand as we ran through the Olive Grove. Leaves and dirt sprayed on our faces as our feet ate the ground. We finally burst out of the Olive Grove, and it took a while for our eyes to adjust to the sunlight. Aidan and I collapsed to the floor out of breath. We both felt the rich, wet soil and grass moisturize our backs and finally felt one with the Earth. We were both thinking about how we should have not gone there. But the one thought that blocked all the others was, we survived.
Natalia Cortes is a 6th grader at Roosevelt International Middle School.
Natalia enjoys reading, acting and of course, writing. When it comes to writing, Natalia likes to write fictional stories but also loves to write about her life with her friends and family and her travels. Natalia finds the most challenging part of writing to be starting to find the right ideas to become a narrative or fictional story. When Natalia Cortes gets older, she hopes to become an author but also is interested in becoming a professional actress. Her advice for writers just write the first thing that comes to your head and continue until all your ideas are put onto a piece of paper. That way you can see if you like this story or if you decide to continue with another one. Natalia especially hopes you enjoy getting to know a little bit more about her life and can easily relate or have personal connections to the stories.
Promises To Keep
I was in my yard but everything felt fuzzy and dreamlike. My yard was the same as it had always been with the old blue fountain and a small area of grass - half green, half almost dead. This is where I grew up but for the first time, it didn’t feel right. My yard always felt magical but now that something that made it feel magical was dulled. But suddenly, I felt better again. Magic was back to my childhood home. A little Italian Greyhound, a blur of thin brown fur, dashed over to me with a speed I couldn’t pair with his tiny body. Now, new life was brought to my yard and I smiled as he smiled at me with a goofy smile, a smile only dogs seem to have. I grabbed a tennis ball and stepped down to our grass lawn to see the happy animal. “Who’s a good boy?” I asked Nico the Greyhound playfully as he stared at a tennis ball in my right hand. I threw it for him and like lightning, he ran to the tennis ball and caught it in his mouth as I laughed. He dropped the ball and stuck his tongue out with joy. At that moment I realized how much he meant to me. How I could never live without my precious dog. That he would always be there for me. My special dog- Then, like the time I accidently broke a glass, something shattered and the ball was gone, my yard was gone. Nico was gone. Abruptly, I was falling into darkness when I suddenly found comfort on a soft mattress, covered with blankets. I sighed and searched for Nico on top of my bed, desperately wanting to see my little dog. But something shattered again, and memories started coming back. Like a raging and roaring rapid, everything came back. Tears sprung into my eyes, longing for the dream I just had.
*** It had been about a month since Nico passed away. The house felt empty without a little dog to lick me awake every morning or a loud howl to greet me every time I entered the house after school. I could tell that my parents felt the same way because two weeks after Nico’s death, we searched hysterically for a small ball of fuzz to bring home. So we went to different shelters and adoptions, even if guilt hung over my head 24/7 knowing that he could never be replaced. “Look at this one, daddy!” I said as I pointed to varios puppies, cluelessly biting and tackling each other. As I looked at all the different pens with different dogs, I said, “Or this one!” pleading that this time, I would be able to take one home. I saw a little chihuahua that looked at me with dark brown eyes and light brown fur. The people in charge of the adoption center let me enter the pen and I played with the puppy for a while, knowing that this was the one. The one puppy I would take home and play dress up and play catch - “C’mon, honey.” My dad said, grabbing my hand and leading me to the car. I frowned as the puppy looked at me with sad eyes, yapping a bit. “Wait! We’re coming back right?” I said, “ We’re getting Scruffy, right? ” My dad looked at me with pity, seeing I already named the skinny dog. “Let’s go home.” He said, ``You still have homework to do and you have school tomorrow. It was a little more than 24 hours later that I sat on the couch, blankly staring at the television screen at my house. It's not like I could have focused on anything though, even watching the finale of America’s Got Talent. It was past eight o’clock and I felt sick to my stomach. I felt a terrible nauseous feeling every time I thought about where my daddy could be. He never got home this late, more than four hours past when he was supposed to get here. “When is Daddy coming home?” I asked for the millionth time. “Where is he? He never gets home this late! Do you think that he has a meeting at work? Did you call him? What did he say? Is he okay-” “Honey!” My mom reassured me as she folded another towel. “He’ll be home soon. I promise. I talked to him a little while ago. He just went to go hang out with some colleagues. It’s not a big deal. Pinky promise.” She brought her pinky to mine and she smiled at me. But I didn’t smile back because she knew that I couldn’t. How could I with everything that had happened the past month? “Well maybe he should have talked to me, too.” I grumbled to no one in particular. She stopped folding laundry and hugged me for a little while and we both stayed silent, knowing that no words needed to be said. I realized I was crying a little bit and she sat me up and dried my tears with the tip of her finger. “ Go get ready for bed, honey.” she said, a little teary eyed herself. “I’ll have Daddy say goodnight to you when he comes home, okay?” I nodded and went to bed, drifting off into sleep, thinking about how Nico would never let me be alone, following me all throughout the house and incredibly happy on the weekends when I didn’t have to go to school. “I miss you,” I whispered and blacked out, the owls singing me a lullaby, for little did I know how my life was going to change. Without dreaming, I slept. Maybe I did dream, but it wasn’t important. I was soon interrupted by a small lump next to me. I didn’t care because five seconds later, I fell back asleep. The lump was now on top of me. I groaned and found a more comfortable spot. I fell asleep. Again. Repeat this five more times until I finally looked up and I gasped. There were promises I made for myself that second. I would care for him, love him and be there for him, just like I did for Nico. I suddenly started sobbing, looking at the small black puppy on my bed as he licked away my tears. The puppy looked at me with deep brown eyes that instantly reminded me of the dog I had lost but with a bunch of thick black fur that made him look much bigger than he actually was. I ran to both my parents, almost knocking the video camera out of my dad's hand as I hugged them. “Thank you.” I said, “Thank you so much.”
Caleb Knickerbocker is a 6th grader at Roosevelt International Middle School. He enjoys eating and playing in the woods.. When it comes to writing, Caleb likes to write about dogs or his dad leaving. Caleb finds the most challenging part of writing to be the blank page. When Caleb gets older, he hopes to be a software engineer. His advice for writers is to just not stop writing. You just need your ideas on paper then you can revise. Caleb especially hopes you enjoy the emotion that he puts in his writing.
The memory of that horrible day is in my memory for eternity. My dad works for the Navy, so when they told him to move to Washington DC, he had no choice but to listen. It broke my heart to have him leave, but I was also furious at the Navy! To them, they are just sending him where they need him, but they are ripping a family apart. They don't care what happens because of what they do, because it all is meaningless to them. They have no idea how it feels to have a person who you love and who you feel safe around, taken away from you. They have no idea. I remember the breakfast that morning, the awful morning. The day felt as bland and flavorless as the oatmeal in my bowl. I felt so upset at the world. As we were eating breakfast, my dad started to sob. Soon after ,we all followed(my siblings, Ollie, Pierce, and Charlotte,and I). My siblings were very young, so they didn't even remember what it was like to have a dad. It was so unfair! I was having my life torn apart, and the people doing it had no idea what their actions had done. After the hardest breakfast of my life, we got in the car to go to the airport. The day was so beautiful, it was so cruel. The worst day of my life and it was a gorgeous day. It was like the world was laughing at me, saying” huh, you are having a bad day, well let's make it a great day for everyone else!” The world is so cruel. On the ride to the airport, I felt like I would never be ok ever again. My dad was mine! Not the Navy’s! They had no right to ruin my life! Saying goodbye was so hard. I desperately needed him to stay. I hugged him and had no plan of letting go, until my mom pulled me off of him. The last thing I saw was my father's back as he walked into the airport. We parked our car and all sobbed. The only sound that filled the air in that car was our sobs. I heaved with sobs and my eyes were fountains with no valve to stop the flow. My mom comforted me and tried to calm me down. She said that we would get ice cream, as if that could make up for this! But I said yes. It helped a little bit, but it was still a very horrible day, maybe even an evil day. We all sat with our ice cream in our laps and comforted each other. We needed some comfort. If only dad was there to comfort us. But for once in my life, he was not. I didn't have any physical contact with my dad for 3 years. I was so sad all of the time. I would just sit on the couch and silently cry. The best parts of my day were always the times when I could call my dad. He always talked about how much he missed us. He always was apologizing for the birthdays and holidays that he had missed. I understood how sad he felt. He was always counting down the days until he could come back. Then one day, September 27, 2019, he came back. And I was able to catch up on all of that missed time. Suddenly, I realized that, yeah, the world is unfair. But you don't have to be so upset about it. You can live with it, and eventually (hopefully) it will get better.
Annelise Mages is a 6th grader at Roosevelt International Middle School.
Annelise enjoys participating in various sports and reading/learning new skills. When it comes to writing, Annelise likes to write about funny memories, fantasy, and philosophical times in her life. Annelise finds the most challenging part of writing to be making the tone of the piece sound how she pictures it. When Annelise gets older, she hopes to earn her MD/PHD to become a pediatrician and eventually write and publish a novel. Her advice for writers is to write terribly in your first draft, then return to the writing with a fresh mind and allow yourself to edit/accept criticism from peers. Annelise especially hopes you enjoy the descriptions, detail, and lesson she learned throughout the story.
Rebel… If Only For A Moment
My breathing hitched, adrenaline pulsating through the webbing of my veins like an icy fire. The surroundings blurred, dismantling into smudges of beige and brown, then fracturing and dissipating into the hammering of my heart; steady, yet wild as the desert adjacent to the hotel. Ellie gripped the doorframe, nails curling the paint, mouth open and streaming cuss words. Her face was crisp and pale as cracked clay and her eyes were deep blue, pupils dilated and a raging reflection of my own terror. “I can’t,” her eyelids fluttered shut and she went limp, slumping exhaustively against the wall, “I-I can’t do it. Oh my god, I’m so scared to ding-dong ditch this one room. What if the plan doesn’t work?” “Look, I don’t want to either. Come on, let’s just head back-” I tensed as an echo reverberated from a door down the stairwell, an exit to the outside. My other cousin (also by the name Ellie) urged the door open, leaning deeply against the metal. Her brown locks crackled in electric waves from static. “Ellie! You’ve done this twice already. Uphold the Ellie name and do it just one more time. Do I need to review the plan? You ring the doorbell, AJ holds the first door to the stairway open, and I hold the exit door open. Then, as Ellie runs through each of the doors we let them close and sprint after her. Now come on guys, the longer we wait the more suspicious everyone waiting for us back at the condo next door will be.” Ellie #1 set her jaw, lips lifting and furrowed brow smoothing into an expression of newfound determination. The spark of mischief scintillating in her eyes sent a shiver of fear through my bones. Is doing something wrong really worth connecting to them? I thought, for the sole reason I had agreed to this scheme was because I felt my friendship with the two of them fading as both continued to become closer. In fact, the very idea of breaking a rule went against every fiber of my perfectionism. I shook the thought. Ellie(#1)'s muscles constricted next to me, then the world shifted into fast forward. She burst down the carpeted hall lined with hotel rooms. A ringing (most likely from the doorbell) pierced the air, which had condensed to be thick and suffocating. Ellie #1 caught my hand. My weight was wrenched from the door. Blinding lights and shadows and screeching metal suffused my surroundings. Then fresh, silvery night air enveloped my cheeks as we arrived outside. “Ha! That was great! But I wonder if whoever was in that room heard us… ” Ellie #2 was hysterical. Then somehow we managed to return to that dreaded hallway. “Act casual.” Ellie #1 sauntered to the front, approaching the stairwell we had escaped through with a confident flick of her bleached tips. Like fraying rope whipping in the wind. Ellie #2 and I followed obediently, attempting to match her stride. As we reached the point at which the hallway veered left to the door leading to the stairs, the three of us froze midstep. The door was open and swinging on its hinges. Wide open. I sensed the color and relief experienced not moments ago drain from my expression. I swear I let it close. I swear I heard it close. I swear I never wanted to do this at all in the first place. Then came a crackling. It was stark against the quiet and snapping like a fire, yet it chilled the very soul. There was a man in the stairwell. Actually, two men as it seemed; dressed in bracing blue uniforms, flashes of metal glinting from their lapels. One pressed his burly fingers to a walkie-talkie fastened to his front pocket, speaking in a deep, rumbling tone: “Yeah, the woman said she saw the girlies run down ‘ere. I don’t see ‘em now, but disruptin’ the peace o’ this hotel is a crime! We’ll catch ‘em in the running if we see ‘em again! Officer Robert, over and out.” The static crumbled into silence. “Oh. S**t.” Ellie #1 backed cautiously away from the door. And then we ran. ***
The craterous moon poured light over the valley of Palm Springs like liquified silver, seeping into miniscule cracks between the mountains silhouetted against a background of sky. My feet, bare without flip-flops, slammed repetitively against the sidewalk beneath me as I moved. I was breathless and dazzled by what had just occurred. Ellie #1’s hair tickled my arm, her warmth brushing against me as we sped towards the condo’s entrance next door. I was an outlaw, a criminal mastermind on the run from the authorities, a rebel escaping a crime I had so wrongfully done. But… I harbored no regret. I was free. And the past hour, I was sure I would remember forever. Because, life is short. Before you’re aware, minutes will bleed into hours, into days, into years, and then it stops. It just stops. And in the moment before you go on to whatever occurs following death, you remember. But it’s not the times you follow every rule that will strike you, it’s the moments when you break them, moments with those you care about, moments when you choose to fly free of expectations, that define your life as you will remember it. No one can live perfect. Perfect is an unattainable standard, used to diminish people. It doesn’t exist in the world of what matters. So, sometimes, when we stop vying for something we can’t have, we can connect with those that really do matter. And, sometimes, that’s what counts.
2017/18 Winners of the 2nd Rough Rider Short Story Competition are: 1. "Magical Eyes" by Itzel Ortiz 2. "The Big Jump" by Kate Brigham 3. "One Out of a Thousand" by Harper McEwan 4. "Days Lke These" by Sienna Steinhardt 5. "Sunny With a Chance of Hail Balls" by Clark Tansey
“The Big Jump” by Kate Brigham
The butterflies in my stomach were more like birds. I was at the railing as I glanced down at the rushing green water. I was super nervous. Super, super nervous. I kept imagining myself diving into the water and never making it back up to the surface. Belly flopping thirty feet. I kept picturing myself just standing at the railing hesitant to jump. I felt as if my confidence was being washed away like sand on the beach. I just can’t do it, I thought, it’s just impossible. It was pier jump day. The day that every JG (Junior Lifeguard) was looking forward to, well almost every JG. San Diego Junior Lifeguards is a really rad summer camp and on Monday of the 4th week you get the opportunity to jump the Ocean Beach Pier. It’s like you build your way up to that moment. It’s like the reward you get for running countless miles and swimming until you feel like your legs are going to fall off. And today was that special Monday. The Monday where scaredy cat Kate would chicken out, maybe. The salty air was the only thing that soothed me. Not even my words of self- encouragement were helping. You can do it Kate, I thought, but it just felt as if I were saying the opposite. With every step our group took down the pier, my nervousness ate me up more and more, as if I were a delicious piece of birthday cake. In an effort to keep my mind off the jump, I searched for the heads of my family in the large crowd surrounding us. Trying to hear the sweet sound of their voices. But I had no luck. So I turned around to my fellow Junior Lifeguard Megan next to me.“Hey Megan, you nervous too?” I asked her. “Yeah I’m totally fine,” she said to me sarcastically. “It’s not like we are jumping off a pier into an ocean of freezing cold water.” This made me laugh a little. Megan was a year older than me but this was also her first year. Her flaming red hair whipped around in the wind and her eyes were the the color of the water. She was one of those people who looked like her personality. Her fiery red hair was like the sarcasm and sass she was always giving me. She was one of the only friends I had made at camp. We chatted away, slowly walking down the pier, and before I knew it, our group had made it to the jumping point. It was time. I heard the screams and splashes of the other JGs as they plunged into the freezing, cold water. I thought it was impossible but somehow, right then and there, my nervousness doubled. I was numb. My palms were sweaty and I felt like I was sea sick. I tried to look for my family, hoping for some reassurance. Again, I couldn’t make their faces out among the crowd. I even tried talking to Megan again. But nothing helped. And with no sense of confidence, I ducked under a strip of bright yellow caution tape that lead to four large block-like steps that were connected to the railing of the pier. I couldn’t do it. My heart was racing. I felt like I was drowning in the noise of the crowd. Sinking farther and farther into the screams and shouts. I reluctantly scooted next to the steps. “Junior Lifeguards step up to the block,” said an instructor through the megaphone. I stepped up to the edge of the railing. Suddenly, I looked down to see a 30 foot drop. Thirty feet. Thirty feet to my doom. No wonder they told us not to look down. Then, to my surprise, I saw my mom’s arms waving in the air, trying to get my attention. I could see her jumping up and down with her brown hair jumping around with her. Her eyes wide and a big smile. Everyone says I look like her, both with our big smiles and brown hair. But before the the feeling of relief could sink in I heard the instructor say,“Split your fins!” I started to panic. “Fins above your head,” I heard as I panicked more and more. “3,2,1 STEP!” I hesitated. But somehow, with one foot in front of the other, I was falling through the air. I felt light as a feather. And like a knife through butter, I sliced through the icy cold water. I could feel the water surround me like it was giving me a congratulatory hug. A really cold hug. I swam up to the surface and took a big gulp of air. Then I quickly swam away from the pier, feeling content, floating on my back with a big smile on my face. I did it. My scaredy cat, 9-year-old self did it. I don’t know how but I did. I felt invincible. I felt like I could do anything. For I, Kate, did it.
“Days Like These” by Sienna Steinhardt
No, Sienna, this is just a dream, I assured myself. Wake up, come on, wake up! I think I heard the universe laughing at me that day. I thought I was dreaming and that when I opened my eyes, everything would be okay again. Oh, how wrong I was. After that day, nothing would ever remain the same. It would leave my family changed, my mindset changed, and most importantly, my strength changed. Forever.
It was a typical day. I went to school, came home, completed my homework, watched TV, did the things that any average nine year old girl would do. It was easy to drift away into my own world that day, because it was so quiet and secretly sorrowful. It wasn’t a situation where you could sense something was horribly wrong. Mom wasn’t glancing at us oddly as she might have in another case. In fact, she wasn’t really looking at us at all. She was suspiciously quiet, only asking us the occasional, “Are you good?” which was quite unusual. I was so tempted to ask her what was wrong, but I knew that I shouldn’t dare. The silence felt like it would last forever. When I saw my sister in the hall or the living room, I knew what she was thinking. She was only five years old, but she was very intelligent. She wanted to ask me what was going on. Instead of everyone making sure that she was doing her homework packet or something, they were all caught up in their own lives. She would ask Mom, “What’s 10 + 10?” then Mom would answer, “Twenty,” and leave it at that. It was a very gloomy version of the usually bright and loud place that I call home. When our grandmother came over about half an hour later, at last the tension was broken. She is the kind of person who will talk to you no matter what is going on. This helped my entire family, but especially my distressed mother. Mom rarely asks for help, even if she really needs it, so my grandmother was her safe place. Later that evening, I was watching TV with my sister on our small, red couch. It was cold that night and a warm blanket was spread out on top of us. My mother approached us and asked me, “Sienna, can we talk in your room, please?” I immediately became nervous. I wondered, What am I in trouble for? Hesitantly, I replied, “Uh, sure.” Mom then prompted my sister to stay there because she would be right back. I didn’t know what was going to go down in my room. I had been good all week, no arguments, no back - talk, nothing. What could she possibly have to say to me? When we entered my room, Mom suggested that I sit down. I didn’t want to, but I also didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was, so I agreed. She sat down right next to me, and said,“Honey, I can tell that you know something’s different in the house, and, it is. The reason why is because,” she briefly paused then said, “Honey, your father is in the hospital. His doctors discovered that he has a disease called ulcerative colitis. It is a disease that puts him in a lot of pain. That’s why he has to stay there for a little while. Don’t worry honey, everything’s going to be alright.” I didn’t know what to say. I had so many questions but I didn’t speak, I couldn’t speak. I felt -- stuck. I nodded to let her know that I was okay, but I really wasn’t. She wrapped me in her arms and gave me a tight hug, like an anaconda would his prey. It felt reassuring, like everything was going to be alright, but deep inside, I really didn’t know. When Mom left, I lost all of my senses. I couldn’t see through all the tears. I couldn’t hear through all of my wheezing. It was too much for my little brain to comprehend. My dad, the strongest person I knew, in the hospital? It just didn’t make sense. Finally, after an hour of sobbing, wheezing, and mental isolation, my grandma came in and sat on my bed. She didn’t say anything but I knew she was there. When she placed her hand on my head, I immediately felt better. She was the only person in the world who could help me in that moment. No one else would understand except her. It was her son and my dad who was in the hospital. “Why don’t you lay down and try to get some sleep. It’s been a rough day,” she said. Not knowing what else to do with myself, I agreed. When she was finished tucking me in, I said the two words I was able to produce, “Thank you.” “My pleasure. Good night, sweetie.” she said. She flipped the light switch and everything went dark. I wiped away the tears that lingered on my face, took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and slowly drifted off to sleep.
That night I dreamed that I was watching a movie on my dad’s recliner, wondering how he was doing. All of a sudden he burst through the doors and yelled, “I’m home!” I was overjoyed. I was about to hug him, but I woke up. I thought the dream was a sign, and it was telling me that he was here. I walked down the hall, making sure I didn’t wake the whole house up, but all I saw in the living room was my dad’s recliner. It looked so empty, so cold. It made me shed yet another tear. I moped down the hall, back to my room, then just laid there, wishing. Wishing Dad was here. Wishing I could do something. Wishing I could take his place. Wishing everything could go back to the way it was.
When I woke up, I was greeted by my mom. She said, “Good morning, honey.” in a soft voice, like how you’d imagine an angel to sound. I cried, “Mom!” and wrapped her in a tight embrace. I asked her a question that had been trapped inside of me like a bird in a cage, “Mommy, why do we have to have days like these?” She then said this, “Because, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The universe is going to throw challenges at the Earth, and sometimes, they’re going to hit you. But you’ve got to have grit. You have to learn how to get back up again. You’ve got to know how to walk into days like these and say, ‘World, hit me with your best shot!’. Do you get it?” After that brief speech, I felt so confident. Like I could take on the entire world. I was just in awe of my mother. I thought about how lucky I was to have her. “Honey,” Mom inquired. I looked at her again. She was waiting for an answer. “Yeah, I’ve got it. Thanks, Mom” “You’re welcome.”
This was a very tough time for my family and I, but we learned something from it. We now know that sometimes, more often than not, the world is going to throw issues at us, but we have to know that things will get better. They always do, especially when you have family and friends to support you.
I believe that this made me stronger. This helped me become the person I am today. Now, I am immune to days like these.
“One Out Of A Thousand” by Harper McEwan
The sky was a pearly grey, and the distant buildings were fogged by a thick mist. It seemed as if the clouds rolled around me like a thick fluffy blanket. I walked around the enormous circular building that was my favorite place in school-the library. Usually I need to walk around it once or twice before the lime green sign that happily declares the library is open appears. That’s my favorite sign. As I jumped on the bright red planter surrounding the huge tree, I tiptoed very carefully to avoid the ants. I hate killing ants. It makes a huge pit form at the bottom of my stomach. I want to weep for that poor ant whose life was cut short. Seriously, I cry when I see a dying bee or a squashed ant. Anyway, I leapt down from the planter and marched to the entrance. A group of 7th grade girls were blocking the door, chatting obnoxiously. Pushing past them, I saw a sign on the door. The library was closed. Sighing, I started to walk away, ready to circle it again, but then one of the taller girls moved aside, seeming to glare at me as I walked forward. Her bright blue bow that was perched weirdly on her head seemed to wobble as she stalked closer to Carla, her hands shoved in her short shorts (really short shorts). As she moved aside, I saw another sign on the door.
The library is closed on Wednesday, October 11th “You’re kidding me!”I said angrily. I whirled around, clutching my binder. Tears of frustration were pooled in my eyes. This would ruin my whole day. No library!! What am I supposed to do for lunch? Before school? The library is my only true friend here-It takes me to new places, better places, that I’ve never been before. Speaking of friends...yeah, I’m kind of lacking those. I mean, sure, I have friends I hang out with in P.E, and, I mean, I hang out with Sienna in math, but no one really like...me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new friends, but I miss my old friends in London. I wonder if they miss me. I just need someone to... understand me, or accept me for....me.I’m just naturally weird, I thought. I love cold and rain, doodle like my life depends on it, and think books are the best things since sliced bread. How do you find someone like that in sunny San Diego? I guess I’m just a tricky person to hang out with? Sure. I mean, I want to be a fashion designer. No one gets that. Seriously, on the first day of school, Mr Valerio asked us what we wanted to be, and when I said that, I don’t think he knew what that meant, and I could hear people laughing at me. So now I just say illustrator, which is true too, but not as much. I shot a glance at my deep blue watch. Ug. 10 minutes until school starts. Sigh. What was I going to do? I don’t have a book.Maybe I’ll just circle campus until the bell rings. I walked away from the library, and then I saw Him. He always sits there, on the second planter, right in the middle of the other two. He reads a book every morning. Tall, dark hair. Black jacket. I know, it’s weird, but I felt a sort of connection. Lonely, reads books. Reads and lonely is my life at school! I knew at that moment we were destined to be friends (hopefully, maybe, probably not, the doubt creeps in,but I’ll try). Anyway, I’d seen him for days. This morning, I told myself I would go up and ask him if I could sit near him. Then introduce myself, and learn his name. So I took a deep breath and started walking toward the planter, trying to stroll over casually like it was just another middle school moment. My legs felt like jelly as I slowly shuffled over and...I couldn’t. I was a coward. I felt like I was tied back somehow, as if there were ropes holding me back from finding a true friend. I knew I couldn’t just sit next to him. So I did the next best thing- I sat on the other side of the planter. After a few minutes, my confidence was sky high. I was ready. But just as the words, “My name is” were about to slip off my tongue, a group of girls came up and swarmed him. Darn it,I thought. So close...and yet so far.. RIIING! The bell rang loudly. I looked to the left one last time and saw him staring at me, his eyes wide like a meerkat's. Awkward, I thought. Then I took off for 1st period. “Madame? Attendance…” “Oh no!” Madame Doyen leapt from her chair and dashed to the computer. “I’m just going to yell out names, 3 at a time, and if you hear your name, say presente!” My stomach grumbled silently. It was nearly lunch time, and I was hungry. “Thomas, Eleanor, and Melani!” Three voices chimed simultaneously. “Presente!” I gazed off in the distance, wondering what time it was. Pictures formed in my head, showing random scenes… “Annabelle, Harper, and Joanne!” “Presente” I said feebly. RIIIIIIIING! “-Vincent, Jordan, Aliza!!!” “Presente!” “Good! Have a nice day!!!” I packed up my and slung my backpack over my shoulder. I was so ready to eat. The problem was, I was waiting for my sort-of-friend Alexander, who takes forever to pack up. Seventh graders started piling in, because while we, the 6th graders, have lunch, 7th and 8th graders have a class. And this was 4th period French. Waiting for Alexander, my feeling of panic increased.All these huge kids coming into a class to find some scrawny little 6th graders?I thought. They’ll probably pick on us as if we’re weeds, and they’re the gardener. I was standing at my table, hissing words out of the side of my mouth at Alexander and my eyes were huge as they swept across the room. Then the unthinkable happened. He walked in. Out of all the things I expected, this wasn’t one of them. He takes French? One more thing to go in the middle of the Venn diagram comparing the two of us. And so far, based on what I’ve seen, the only things we have in our separate bubbles is our grade; 6th in mine and 7th in his. I mean, come on! Suddenly, He turned around, apparently feeling my eyes on him. Then, like this morning, his eyes went huge. Panic rushed over me, mingled with excitement and surprise quickly said a rushed goodbye to Madame, and ran out of the class. Man, I thought, that was close! My head nearly exploded with emotions and questions. But, questions do make things harder. This wasn’t the only time I’ve seen Him. As I leave French, I wait near the library entrance and watch a small speck that I know to be Him walk into the French room. I never knew what I would do if I found out...anything about him. Would I just savor that secret, but keep it to myself, almost like a sweet I had been given, but can’t tell anyone about? Or would I use that information for action? Would I try to be his friend? But what would we do as friends? Do I even know? I’m sort of rusty with friends. Like a rusty valve that has been ignored for far too long. I guess it’s like this: I’ve always just been by myself, and I was planning on staying that way. But then I realized something. It was during the Great California Shakeout. There I was, minding my own business, when suddenly BEEEEEP! I lept off my chair and rolled under the table, clutching the table leg with one hand and my neck with the other. “Hey,” Alexander whispered. He sat across from me. “Hey,” I whispered back. “This is weird.” “Yeah.” “Hey, look at this.” I craned my head and looked at him: his face was twisted up in a strange angle and his expression was hilarious. I had to giggle. He laughed, too. Then a quiet vibration buzzed. Alexander’s face turned pale. “What was that?” I whispered. “My phone.” “Really?!” I let out a small chuckle. So did he. “Everyone, be quiet. This is not a joke!” Madam’s voice echoed around the cold French class. The only sound was the quiet clicking of the air conditioning. Nothing happened until about 5 minutes later. RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! An earsplitting bell rang over the school;It felt like my ears were bleeding. “Everybody in order! Hurry, and be quiet!” Madam ordered. I slipped behind Annabelle and was crammed between her and Joanne. I shuffled my feet obediently. I kept on imagining trees falling and crushing people, or the ground opening and swallowing us up. I could feel the cool wind blowing across my face. The sky was dark, but patches of blue sky shone through the clouds, and I could see the sun moving behind the thick layer of grey. I stood on that dirt field, wondering if He was somewhere close, or somewhere far.He was a 7th grader, since he had French right after me with a bunch of people I knew that were- Wait. The seventh grade autobiographies were up on the wall of the French class. I could find his! My brain was doing a happy dance. It was such an amazing concept, simple, but brilliant. As my eyes raked across the field, I realized that sometimes, you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to. If you keep everything to yourself, all your sadness and anger, then you can never be your best you. Friends exist just to have someone to laugh with and share memories with. You just can’t be by yourself all the time, yet I was. I stood there on the dusty field, and at that moment, I knew I was among 1000 other kids, and probably 999 of them didn’t want to be around a nerdy little 6th grader. But maybe this boy was different. Maybe he was the only one who was willing to accept me. I wondered whether I would ever find a good friend who simply liked me for me, not the fake me I sometimes pretend to be. I wondered if all those other kids would think I was just too strange. But that day, I also realized this-there must be at least one person here who wanted to be friends with me.
2016/17 Winners of the Inaugural Rough Rider Short Story Competition are:
"He's Not That Boy" by Kira Shannon "Lake Diving" by Imani Ojutomori "Magical World" by Allison Brown "Home" by Skyler Austin.
He’s Not That Boy by Kira Shannon School had started about a week ago. I could tell that students were already depressed that school had started because they groaned when the bell signified the start of a new school day. Just the gray sky was enough to ruin the day! Looking at the morning mist floating through the air, the soft breeze, rustling the leaves on the little stick-looking trees, the students either talking or rushing to class, and the Feng Shui of the squat, khaki buildings spread throughout the campus sparked a depressing image in my head that reminded me of a jailhouse. I think my friends and I needed someone or something to keep our chins up. That’s exactly why he came. Not because he liked one of us. Not because we were the only ones who accepted him. Because, by chance, we all needed one another. “You know, my sister is mean!” he said to me in P.E. one day. (We were juggling like our lives depended on it.) “Yellow, pink, orange, yellow, pink, orange,” I whispered to myself as I threw the little neon scarves in the air, desperately trying to keep them in motion. The gentle breeze smelled of rain, though it hadn’t rained in a long time. My throat was dry from the lack of water and I heard the screams of students acting like wild animals. My yellow scarf soared through the air like a bird, only to fall due to the distraction of That Boy’s calls. The scarf landed with a “shew!” “You messed me up!” I complained to That Boy. He said, “Well I’m weird! If you don’t appreciate my weirdness, then I’ll just leave!” He stomped off to the next concrete section, separated from mine by a tall concrete wall. Why are you so rude? I thought to myself. Sure he’s annoying, but that doesn’t matter! You’re mean and you know it! He just wouldn’t leave people alone. I felt like he was that annoying little brother that didn’t know when playtime was over. I considered him a problem. A little mosquito. Little did I know, he just wanted a friend. The day he came to sit with my friends and I at lunch is a day I’ll never forget. I was annoyed he had come, but a part of me admired him for his bravery. I normally sit with Sophia, Marley, Allison, Amandy, Kate, Kirra, and a couple of others. Amandy would stand at the end of the table like a queen, Kate would squeeze into the end, Sophia sat across from her, but was usually off retrieving her lunch for what seemed like forever. I sat next to the empty space which was where she would sit, and Marley sat next to me, often offering Allison (who sat across from her) some cut up peas which Allison later rejected, claiming she only ate my peas. Kirra sat at the far end of the table, but we still interacted with her and enjoyed the company she provided us with. We were all shocked to see That Boy. We honestly thought he was kind of gross. He had stains on his shirt and he smelled like expired milk. His hair was messy, yet that sweet, sweet smile always caught my attention. He would bare his teeth and scrunch up his face like a baby. It reminded me of a chipmunk! Only Sophia and I knew him so I was annoyed, but Sophia acted chill, as usual. “Hello, people!” He said. Things were already falling apart. I imagined the lunch court crumbling and falling to the depths of a deep, dark pit. Each and every lunch table split into a million pieces and slowly sank down, down, down. Every student’s skin flaked off and their flesh lingered for a second only to later fade away. It was like the world was slowing down and disintegrated before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it. This can’t be happening! I thought. It’s bad enough he was constantly bugging me at P.E., but now he is taking over my lunch? The only part of the day where I am free of the stresses that school brings? “ Ugh,” I quietly groaned to myself. Kate seemed perfectly fine about That Boy. She looked up at him and continued to gobble down her tamale. Allison was friendly too, as she often is. She smiled at him like a kid receiving candy. Marley seemed frustrated like me. She grimaced at him like he was useless to her. We both liked lunch the way it was. We didn’t want to be around That Boy. Lunch just had to continue the way it always was so Marley and I talked. I made my friends laugh like hyenas living a carefree life. But my life could never be carefree, not with That Boy around. At least, that’s what I thought. He’s so annoying! Why did he come here, anyway? It’s none of his business coming here. He should go back to his other friends! He does have friends, right? I thought to myself. Yeah, he’s got to have friends. Everybody has them. Hmm, he’ll probably get bored of us sometime or another.Then he will leave and everything will go back to normal! Soon That Boy began to crack jokes and make the others laugh. “Hey guys, my grandma died yesterday and my dad’s in jail! I hate him!” He was obviously joking, indicating that we were supposed to laugh. Marley and I didn’t. “He’s so weird,” Marley would say. I would just nod my head in agreement. Believe it or not, I found myself jealous of him! After all, my friends usually laughed at me! I was the funny one, not him! He was stealing the spotlight! I had always felt like I was a comedian and my friends were the fans. Looking back at this moment, I realize that I was acting as stubborn as my dad when he is asked to take out the trash. I began to notice things changing. Lunch was now full of life. I even found myself smiling at That Boy one day. The next day That Boy made Marley and I laugh for the first time. He said “Ow!” as Amandy tapped his arm to grasp his attention. “Now my stomach hurts!” “What do you mean? I touched your arm not your stomach!” Amandy replied with a giggle. “Well my arm is connected to my stomach and my stomach is very sensitive so if you touch my arm then my stomach will hurt!” We all burst into laughter, including That Boy. Now I really felt my gears changing, thoughts reversing. Was he really That Boy? Elfish features and a sweet smile. That Boy had made me realize something. I now accepted him. He was now my friend. This strange boy became my friend. My friend. Now everyone at our table enjoys his presence. He is my friend. He is Marley’s friend. He is a friend to us all; one of us. It felt good to know that. Good is such a plain, bland word, yet it perfectly described how I felt. I had always watched those inspirational videos where there is a lonely kid sitting at an empty table. Then a kind student offers the kid a seat and all is well. Whenever I watched those, I always wondered if that actually happened in real life. I now know that it does happen. Lately our world has been filled to the brim with violence and war. It doesn’t seem to end. Only brave people like That Boy will put it to a halt. I always wondered if those people actually existed. It turns out, they do, and they are among us. They blend in with the crowd and have no clue that they are the ones who will change the world, step by step. That Boy is one of those people, no doubt about it. “You are my friend. You will change the world just as you did lunch. I am happy for you,” I whispered to him, one day. He could not hear me. No one could. Now he sits with us every day. We talk, and he makes us laugh. Things seem normal, but they aren’t the same. We all include him in our talks now but my friends tell me he isn’t as funny as he once was. I nod with them, but I secretly don’t care. It doesn’t matter how funny he is. What matters is he helped me realize something about myself that I had always wanted to know. I am a likeable person. This boy who was so lonely is now my friend. I now care for his well-being. One day, as I lay like a log on my bed, I roll these few words off my tongue like a bowling ball: “That Boy is my friend. That Boy is nice. That B-” I caught myself. He was no longer That Boy. He was so much more. He was the boy who stood up for himself. He was the boy who took control of his life. It’s true I thought; Now lying on my soft, turquoise bed, enjoying life. Listening to the sound of my cats brawling and goofing off and the smell of coconuts wafting through my room. Gazing at the green painted, plant themed, cluttered room around me. I opened my mouth and carefully worded one sentence. I breathe in. “He’s not That Boy.” I breath out and for once in my life I feel content.
Lake Diving: Not for the Weak by Imani Ojutomori
The lake was oblong-shaped, like a circle that had been stretched out and malformed to the point where it wasn’t even a circle anymore. It sat in the middle of the woods, completely pitch black and dotted with moss that beared an unsettling similarity to green snot, so of course my seven year old self wasn’t a big fan of it. But the pitch black snot-lake gave no hint as to what it was about to teach me. It was the summer before second grade, and the sun peeked over the mountains like a prizeworthy golden nugget, still halfway stuck in the sand. All around me it was green, green shrubs, green trees, green grass. I mean, if people could die from too much green, I’d surely be six feet under by now. It was about 6:15 in the morning, and freezing, so naturally I’d be shivering in a friggin’ bathing suit. Yes, Julian was awesome, and I was still really happy to be at Camp Marston despite the toe-biting cold breeze. I had signed up for the early morning lake-diving club, although I was beginning to wonder why. The night before, one of the camp staff had given us options for morning activities. “If you would like to join lake diving, raise your hand” she had said, and for no reason whatsoever, my hand had shot up. I guessed that I had thought it would be a great way to try something new, although I was beginning to think that I had been wrong. Walking along the creaky wooden boards, in the cold wind, I was unfortunate enough to notice the large, polka-dotted spiders crawling along the rails with me. “Eeew! Like, gross!” some girls behind me shrieked, pointing at the numerous, long legged arachnids. “They like, should’ve told us there were spiders before we joined diving,” one of them whispered. It seemed that they, too were having second thoughts about morning lake diving. Another girl, one of my new camp friends, came up to me, her brown eyes sparkling confidently. “So, Imani, have you heard about the electric eels in the lake?” she asked me, not looking doubtful about diving at all. “I uh- W-well, I saw a sign that listed all the creepy-crawlies in the lake, b-but I didn’t see any electric eels,” I stammered, trying(but failing) to look nonchalant. “Nope, they’re right here, in this very lake,” she declared, smirking at my scared expression, but of course, I still believed her. I’d heard somewhere that electric eels could send up to three thousand volts of electricity if touched. I was only seven, but I was still smart enough to know that three thousand volts of electricity wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Now, unlike before, the lake didn’t seem like such a great idea. Although I didn’t recall ever thinking diving would be that great of an idea, and as a matter of fact, I didn’t recall thinking about my decision at all. I tried to dilly dally, chatting with the other campers and concentrating on everything except for the giant lake. But as much as I tried to stall, eventually, my turn still came. Unlike before, taking lake diving didn’t seem so good. I had watched kid after kid jump into the lake, trudge out from the muddy banks, and then brag about how “it wasn’t so hard”. This wasn’t putting me at ease at all, though, and the lake itself still wasn’t helping. The eerie lake glittered in the morning sun, but yet it was still black like it had been earlier, so it looked like mossy obsidian. Come on Imani, I told myself, You wanted to try something new here at camp, and this is it. Don’t chicken out. But nothing was helping, I still wanted to run off the ramp in the opposite direction of the lake. Now other campers were urging me on. “You can do it! You can do it!”they were cheering, trying to be motivational. But their voices were ringing in my ears. Stop stalling, just do it. I chided myself again. And finally, I jumped in. Okay, one (important) thing about plunging into a lake; it’s not a great idea for one to do it if they can’t swim. A lot of people would probably go: Seriously? You just dove straight into the lake and you don’t even know how to swim? Are you insane? But hey, I was seven years old, and I guess I hadn’t exactly thought things through. The water actually turned out to be kind of nice. It wasn’t nearly as cold as I had expected, and didn’t come with the bitter wind that was blowing on land. It enveloped itself around me, like a cooling blanket. The lake water was fresh and slightly fishy on my lips. Moss and algae floated around in the water, tickling my nose. There were no electric eels, and I began to float comfortably, thanks to my life jacket. This isn’t so bad, I thought calmly. But eventually, it began to dawn on me that I was completely under water, there were probably electric eels somewhere in the lake, and I didn’t know how to swim. Suddenly, the serene blanket of water began to feel suffocating, and the lake was no longer invigorating or fresh to me. I began to panic, splashing and flopping around hysterically. As I moved around, I began to sink, and the other campers and staff finally started noticing. “OMG! She’s like, drowning!” I heard a girl shout. I continued to splash frantically, becoming more afraid every time my head became submerged. “Stop splashing!” one of the supervising staff called out to me sternly, “Just let yourself float!” But his voice sounded incredibly muffled, as if my ears had been stuffed with cotton. My head was staying underwater for longer and longer each time, and everything was becoming blurrier and blurrier. I tried to calm myself, but I couldn’t, I could barely think straight. I tried to inhale when my head bobbed above water, but it never worked, and I would just continue to cough and choke as water flowed into my nose. Finally, as I was coughing up lakewater, I began to realize something. This lake incident had nothing to do with anyone else. It had been all my decision. No one had forced me to raise my hand when the staff member asked about morning diving, I had made that choice. Now, I could either let myself be rescued dramatically as if someone had pushed me in, or I could stop freaking out and get out of the lake myself because this episode was my problem anyway. I decided to go with the latter. I stopped splashing around and let the life jacket carry me back up to the surface. Water streaming out of my ears, I turned myself back onto my back and spread out my arms, then began to push my feet out behind me and use the force to awkwardly paddle myself to the banks of the mucky lake. After I’d gotten out, my brown-eyed friend came running up to me, with her usual shining irises. “Woah, Imani, are you okay?” she inquired. “I don’t think a lot of campers have been brave enough to dive into the lake without knowing how to swim!” Her voice didn’t sound as declarative, but this time with more laughter. We both giggled. “Ha, that wasn’t brave, I just wasn’t thinking about what I was doing!” I said, but this time, I didn’t stutter at all. And in fact, that’s all going to change, I declared in my head as the sun finally came all the way above the mountains, the golden nugget no longer hidden in the sand.
A Magical World by Allison Brown
I didn’t really care. I didn’t feel that it was bad. I kept finding it hard not think about it. In bed, I kept wondering, why was my Dad thinking about moving to Spain for just a dumb little job? I felt like he wasn’t thinking about me. I thought hard, but still couldn’t grasp on the idea that he was a Dad that had cared for me ever since I was an itty bitty baby. I didn’t understand anything that day. I was confused. It was as if I turned into a statue and could only stay in one place at one time and never know anything. I was numb. After days, weeks ,and months my Dad finally said that he had chosen to move to Spain for two years for the job that he had been talking about non stop. I felt happy for him but at the same time I realized that I was going to miss him terribly. I was even mad at him. I sat down and slowly started scooting next to him, putting my head on his shoulder. His shoulder was warm like a blanket. I started getting sweaty, but I didn’t even bother wiping the sweat off. I couldn’t help but to think that when his plane crossed the sea it would fall out of the sky and crash into the depths below. I would never see him again. It was all just an exaggeration. I figured that people would think of me as weird because, I kept staring off to nowhere to blank walls and ceilings. I asked my Father “How much longer will you stay here until you move?” “We’ll it will be about five more weeks.” said my Dad. Five more weeks! I thought that was too short! I needed more time. I knew my Dad had already bought a ticket though because he was a good planner.
It was about four weeks my Father would be moving to Spain in a day, I could hear my heart beating. It sure was loud, like a kangaroo bouncing and bouncing! My brother and I hadn’t seen him yet. I was nervous. Still thinking about plane crashes. I was walking into my Dad’s house, he was excited I sure was too!! I didn’t know what to say except “supercalifragilisenexpialidocious!” because it is a word to say when you don’t know what to say! He was moving tomorrow morning. I was scared. We had a nice dinner and stayed at his house. It was sad to know that it would be one of the last nights to spend with him. That night I held my Dad tightly and didn’t let go. I felt like a Boa Constrictor killing a mouse. Pushing all the guts out. I woke up in the morning seeing and smelling the breakfast my Dad made for my brother and I. It was delicious! This would be his last morning with us. An hour passed, time really flies quickly. I got into my Dad’s car slowly. I didn’t want to leave him. We already were half way to school tears were welling up in my eyes. My Dad told me “Don’t cry everything will be okay.”Just minutes later my Dad started to cry too. I saw one little tear drop down from his cheek onto his chin. I have never seen him cry before. We got to the school gate. I was trying my best to blink the tears away. I gave him huge hug feeling I could never let him go. Not let him go to Spain. Have him stay right here in my arms. His child's arms. I got out of the car walked small baby steps and looked at my Dad saying goodbye to him for the last time in two years. I got to the kick stage where my friends were huddling together like penguins. It was good to see happy faces. I sat upon the cool cement. Closing my eyes and drifting into the Magical World. It kept me relaxed. I didn’t feel stressed too much feeling that there still could be a chance for me to have a good day. I could feel the shimmering pictures moving in my mind. I felt like going back to sleep or resting on my Dad’s shoulder. The magical world told me that, my loved ones will always be in my heart no matter what happens. It’s important to make memories. They fill your heart with emotion which tells you, that you are a true person.
Home by Skylar Austin (Mrs. Redman's class)
The fog covered my eyes like stuffing from a pillow. The smell of salt made my nose and eyes water, while staring into the distant sea. I could hear screams of excitement and cheering of those on the beach. I looked over this land and thought of past memories. This was my dream home, my favorite place; this was Marine Street. Walking down to the beach feels like going into a different dimension, where huge walls of water crash down on tiny golden rocks, and cheering people make you feel as if you're a king. I walk on these golden rocks proudly, grab a board made of foam, and jump into a freezing liquid that makes your fingers and toes numb. When paddling out, I duck dive under these big walls of water. The water streams over you, pushing your hair back, until you feel as if you're bald, and at the last second you emerge once again. Catching these beasts is when I feel most alive. You paddle and paddle until you are riding the beast like a cowboy does a bull in a rodeo. You basically hover until you fall from what seems like Niagara Falls.Then, you see the most exciting sight you could ever think of. The water rages over you, like a late night storm. Then darkness.The wave throws you into the sand and holds you there, firmly, with its massive grip. When it finally lets you go, you take one stroke up, and gasp for air because all the oxygen possible has been blown out of your lungs. You fall down dazzled by the blow, and hear faint chants of victory and excitement. It is at this moment for me that I feel like my true self again. This might seem like a truly horrible wish for you. But for me this is where I express my emotions and feelings. Where I feel most motivated and alive in life. Where I relieve myself and forget anything that could ever bother me. Like a mom or dad is to you, this beach is, to me.