RUNNER UP -- Ellen's Pick
This story is so poignant, I was tearing up at the end. It’s so beautifully circular, and such a wise and tender look at how we move through life. -- Ellen
by Sarah Bosworth, age 15
I was six years old, clutching a wad of faded blanket in one fist and my mother’s hand in the other. Two doors loomed in the background, colorful toys littering the floor. She checked her watch, impatiently brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s time to go to school now, sweetie,” she explained, attempting to detangle my arms from her waist. I clung to her. “Mommy, don’t leave.”
I was twelve, watching the softly falling flakes outside the window, drawing curlicues on the frosted panes. In the background, glasses clinked merrily, lights twinkled and squeals of delight echoed throughout the house. The snow continued to fall, creating a blanket of white. “Time for bed,” my mother’s soft voice whispered, pulling me back to the warmth of my duvet and into dreams of prancing hooves.
I was fifteen and Joey Griffin had his hand intertwined with mine as he leaned in, our hearts racing in our chests, cheeks flaming. My stomach erupted with flutters and my eyes closed involuntarily. Our lips met with the ungracefulness of inexperience and it was like falling, falling without knowing or caring where the bottom was.
I was eighteen and wobbling in too high heels, graduation tassels floating in the wind. A diploma and congratulatory smile was presented, a shutter clicked and girls hugged, laughing. Boys thumped each other on the back and grinned, and parents wiped wet eyes with the backs of their hands. “We made it!”
I was twenty-six, and this time I didn’t wobble as I walked down the church aisle arm in arm with my father. My path was prepared for me with white rose petals, and somewhere off to the right a violin sang, speaking of love and all that is to come. Two brown eyes stared into the depths of mine as a golden band slid onto my finger.
I was thirty-two, my brow lined with exhaustion and the hand adorned with my wedding band enclosed in that of my husbands. “Isn’t he beautiful?” a voice asked, and I turned my head to see a crimson splotched face peeking out from between layers of blue and yellow fabric. As I wordlessly nodded, a fierce burning erupted in my heart, the flame of a love that can never die.
I was forty, dancing in the living room with my two children, my husband watching, smiling, from the doorway. The room was spinning, and for a moment the clutter vanished, the stress dissipated, all that existed was the laughter and matching grins my son and daughter wore, twirling around, suspended in time.
I was fifty-seven, looking back at paper memories strewn across the bedroom floor. A forgotten mug of coffee sits on the bedside table, and a quiet knock on the door jolts me out of my reverie. My husband kneels beside me, wiping away the liquid crystals that had unknowingly formed at the corners of my eyes, and begins to help me gather the photographs. “They’re not really gone,” he whispers. “Only a short plane ride away.”
I was seventy-two, bundled in a woolen sweater and scarf, playing in the snow with my grandchildren. A squeal of delight accompanies a cold thwack on my back. “I got Grammy! I got Grammy!” The youngest shouts, a smile splitting his rosy cheeks. Chuckling, I halfheartedly toss a cluster of flurries at him, content to watch the other two laugh as he tumbles into the snow and immediately bounces back up, hat covered in frosted white.
I was eighty-four, and my heart was breaking. Never again would he hand me a fresh cup of coffee, finished with the perfect amount of hazelnut cream. Never again would I hold his hand and look into those brown eyes as he whispered “I love you” in the depths of the night. Never again would we fight about petty things, laugh about silly things, cry together. Never again.
I am ninety-eight, and my hands are being held by my daughter and son. The world is beginning to fade around the edges, smudge slowly, but my heart is content. And suddenly, I am six years old again, caught in limbo, the line blurring as my daughter and I whisper to our mothers at the same time, “Mommy, don’t leave.”
RUNNER UP - Anne's Pick
Kathryn's fantasy spoof is well-written, playful, and original, and shows a fine sense of the ridiculous. Humor is often under-rated in writing, but I adore any writer who can make me smile. -- Anne
Sullivan's 468th Battle
by Kathryn Iseminger, age 16
The giant mountain of poisonous seaweed crashed through the cathedral window. Shards of stained glass flew through the air.
“Not again,” Sullivan muttered, hopping onto a wooden pew to avoid the slowly-approaching seaweed. Sullivan snatched his marshmallow gun out of its holster. He had built it himself and it was colossal. Sullivan aimed the white plastic nozzle at the broken window. Trillions of rainbow marshmallows whizzed through the air, blocking his view.
“How dare you break the rules of war!” an enraged voice shrieked from the window. The marshmallow dust cleared, revealing an elfin figure with a pointed nose, a lavender cape and an angered expression. It was Sullivan's arch enemy, Gerald L. Krakentoff. “Thirteen years ago, on the thirty-first of May, you signed the contract, promising that you would never use rainbow marshmallows by means of war! I HATE rainbow marshmallows!”
“You used your seaweed,” Sullivan couldn't help adding. He had one marshmallow left, a pink one. Without making eye contact with the enemy, Sullivan loaded the last marshmallow into the shooter.
Gerald didn't notice. “That doesn't count! You know I loathe rainbow marshmallows more than you loathe poisonous seaweed!”
Sullivan ignored this remark and aimed the enormous marshmallow gun at his target. He released the trigger. Time froze as the soft, artificially-flavoured cylinder hurled across the sanctuary, colliding with a thuwmp on the stomach of Gerald L. Krakentoff. Gerald stopped midsentence of his jabbering, horrified by the marshmallow which had taken up possession of his abdomen. He glared wickedly at Sullivan, and Sullivan stared back. They stayed in this position for about forty seconds. Then, very slowly, Gerald said, "I know what you were trying to do.”
Sullivan said nothing.
“Judging by the position of this evil little marshmallow, you were probably trying to hit my bellybutton, weren't you?” Gerald's voice grew louder and angrier with every word.
“Well, as a matter of fact I was. I've been trying to get your bellybutton for the past six years, and now I've won. Ha ha.”
Gerald's tone shifted from extreme fury to one of sickly sweet contentment. “You have not won. You have failed.”
“Of course I've won.” Sullivan was wishing that Gerald would stop fiddling around and get to the point.
“You have failed,” Gerald L. Krakentoff smirked, “because I don't have a bellybutton.”
This was too much for Sullivan.
“Don't have a bellybutton!” he screamed. “EVERYBODY has a bellybutton!”
“Well, I don't,” Gerald retorted, clearly enjoying himself.
“Where did it go, then?”
"I had it surgically removed at the mature age of eight and a half. I couldn't see any point in having one. Owning a bellybutton is an immense waste of time and energy,”
Sullivan felt that Gerald could have saved even more time and energy by not having his bellybutton surgically removed in the first place, but he see any point mentioning this.
"You're lying. You're only saying that because I did hit your bellybutton and you don't want to admit that I've finally succeeded in my life goal.”
“I'm doing nothing of the sort.”
“Prove that you don't have a bellybutton.”
“Aha, see, there's the proof. You won't show me where your bellybutton ought to be because-”
“Because I've brought you a present!” interrupted Gerald.
“Stop trying to change the subject. Enemies don't give each other presents.”
What happened next went by so quickly that it's a bit difficult to describe, but it went something like this: In one balletic hop, Gerald spun off the windowsill and flew over the repulsive puddle of poisonous seaweed and rainbow marshmallows. From there he hopped deftly from one pew to the next, kangarooing to the back of the sanctuary. Sullivan, having reached a state of panic, bounded after him.
“Gerald!” No answer. Sullivan pressed his ear against the heavy kitchen door and listened. Pots and pans clattering about. Water running in the sink. The gurgling of the dishwasher. Somebody opening and closing the refrigerator.
“Ha ha,” came the eely voice on the other side. “You think I'm looking for your boring microwave collection. Well, I'm not.”
“Then what are you doing?” Sullivan's voice came out twisted.
Gerald didn't answer. Sullivan gave the door a frustrated kick. Gerald had broken his stained glass window, he had messed up Sullivan's movie theatre and now he had locked Sullivan out of his own kitchen, and was probably plotting something terrible.
Without warning, the kitchen door burst open, knocking Sullivan to the ground.
“I told you I was going to give you a present,” Gerald announced, ignoring the pain he had inflicted upon his enemy. Gerald's right arm was raised to the ceiling, as though he were about to give a toast, but instead he was brandishing an aluminium pie plate piled with foamy whipped cream. “It's the Unhealthiest Pecan Pie in the entire world. You can eat it for thanksgiving.”
“It's not thanksgiving,” Sullivan snapped. He couldn't understand what Gerald was plotting, but he was certain that the Unhealthiest Pecan Pie in the entire world was extremely suspicious. “It's January.”
“That doesn't matter. Come in the kitchen, Sullivan.” Gerald skipped back through the doorway. “Try some.”
(in no particular order)
The Children of the Wood by Madison Kern
After the Funeral by Emiliann W
Forever and Always by Sophia Harne
The Little Raindrop by Tehila Leverton
The Way to Nowhere by Isabella Pfeiffer
The Surprise by Emma Hutchison
Girl on Mute by Tatum Tricarico
The WHAT is out to get us? By Natalie Dill
The Most Beautiful Things by Mykel Giese
Should I Run by Hanna Heiss
Clown Smile by Beth Bolon
The Old Piano by Anna H
Untitled by Tina Fang