The Spray-Painter by Harriet Rankin
*Scholastic Honorable Mention Winner
Marvin was 18 when he began. In the start, it was a doodle. A harmless scribble in his irrelevant math book. The sluggish teacher yawned at the front of the room. Vomiting boredom and contempt, the glug flying astray along the walls. Marvin tried dodging, twitching away from the flow of despair. The squares in his exercise book were stained from years of pent up anger towards the gum-chewer in the third row. Marvin was a stick figure on a surfboard under the waves. Now the waves were green, a pungent stench of mediocrity stirred with a lack of independence. Marvin looked again; maybe, just maybe the projected agitation would work in his favour.
Marvin was 19 when he lept off his cliff of indecision. The winds of opinions and close-minded concerns urged him, pleaded him to step away from the ledge. He was shoved by the invisible monster to return to his desk and obey the black and white. Marvin didn’t sway from his like of irrational reasoning. He flung paper at the shopkeeper that was too glazed and withdrawn to count the correct amount. He grasped the can. The metal reflective of new ideas shone in the promise of tomorrow. It burned, singing his skin; an incision to never heal. He stood by his cliff, it was a spectacle for an audience of no one. He shook with all his might. He shook the 18 years spent eating leftovers off the squares in his notebook. He shook to adhere to the desperation of his frozen muscles itching to constrict. Marvin saw the waves below and screamed. The sound so piercing his stick figure changed the direction of his board. The scream so agonizing the world over the horizon wept at the sound of their insides bursting at the seams. Marvin’s screams only ceased when he could scream no longer. The blood of response, of awakening spirits dried crusty upon his tongue.
Marvin was 20 when he sprinted along the train tracks. He was barefoot, abandoning the solid materials of conformity. The tracks were cold- surrounded by swooping willows and blades of overgrown grass swaying on its own accord. Marvin gasped as he ran from the demons in their suits of sameness. Never had he ever felt so free. He was a bird, flying towards the undiscovered beauty plastered upon the dirt. He was becoming the undiscovered beauty; subtle additions to his world thereon, demanding the attention of the planet. He dyed a waterfall of mystified clarity with the filthiest truths that he could muster. He drowned the teacher, her yawn so wide the liquid seeped through her veins. He swam among mud, soaking his skin and setting in place. Inhaling without fear of choking, exhaling with the understanding his command of power. Marvin was hit by a damn train.
Marvin was 21 when he came alive. He was everything and nothing simultaneously. Euphoria was tattooed along his being as he tagged the wretched monuments. He demolished the grey devastation, replacing with bricks of the brightest red clay. Marvin was a showman, breaking through the flocks of sheep to discover the meaning of it all. He was the surfer; with no board in sight, he grasped the fin of a vicious shark and split the waves in two. He was a wanderer, forever alone in his company of diversification. Marvin was the definition and antonym of life itself yet burned the dictionary to ashes. He was the illustrator of the true world all because of an insignificant doodle.
I’m Not Afraid By Megan Lyons
I’m playing inside the house with my toys when I look outside onto the porch and see the toys that I all of a sudden feel like I really want to play with. “Mommmmmyyyyy!!” I yell. “Mommyyyy!! I want to go play with my toys outsideeee. Can I pleasssseee mommy?” I say in the voice that I think will most likely get me what I want even though it’s really whiney.
Mommy walks over to where I am sitting and looks outside. “Sure sweetie. You can go outside.” She walks over to the glass door and slides it open for me.
I run outside with a wide smile on my face. “Yayyyyyyy. Thanks mommy!”
Now I am outside, playing with my toys on the porch. What feels like forever passes and then I look through the bars of the banister on our patio. I see my tree. It’s the tree I always love climbing because it makes it like an adventure and I’m actually small enough to climb all the way up to the top. I all of a sudden get an urge to climb it because I’m bored and I want adventure. I move the chair over that’s on our porch and climb up on it. I swing one leg over the banister, then the other. I jump down and run to the tree, excited to be doing something that’s so much fun.
I grab the first branch and pull my leg up. I start climbing higher and higher weaving through the tangle of branches that surround and are my tree. I get to the top of the tree and there is a slight breeze. I feel like I am on top of the world. I love it up here! This is so much fun. It’s an adventure, and I can do it even though I am only four years old. I don’t know why Kayla is too scared to do this, it’s not that high. Oh well, I’m not afraid. I stand and listen to the breeze from the top of the tree. In the middle of the breeze I hear, “Megannnnnn!!! Where are you?!?”
I think that was Mommy. Uh oh.
I’m washing the dishes when I hear my little girl call for me. I finish up rinsing the plate I was washing and dry my hands before walking out to the living room. I look at her and realize that she is asking to go play outside. I look out the glass door and think for a second. Well, there is a railing even though we are on the ground level, and she is only four. I guess there would be no harm in letting her play on the porch for a little bit. “Sure sweetie. You can go outside,” I tell her and the biggest smile comes on her face that I can’t help but smile back.
I go and open the door for her before heading to the back room to check on Kayla. I knock quietly first and then open the door to see her with her eyes of course glued to the TV watching Barney. I love my little girls; I hope they never grow up. “Are you okay in here Kayla?” I ask. She just nods her head not once wandering her eyes. I chuckle to myself and close the door.
I head back down the hallway to the kitchen and continue on the dishes finishing up the last cup in about 20 minutes. I wipe down the counters and wash my hands before deciding it’s time to go check on Megan. She should be fine, but I should really check; she’s the one I have to watch out for. I walk to the living room and look out the glass door to see an empty porch with toys all over it. I can feel my eyes go wide as I quickly go through the house to make sure she had come back inside or something to use the bathroom or watch Barney with her sister.
When I see no sign of her inside the house my heart starts to race and I run outside. “Megannnn!!!! Where are you?!?!?” I yell hoping my baby girl hasn’t gone too far.
I walk around the grass outside the apartment building for about a minute when I hear a small voice say, “Mommy, I’m here! I wanted to climb my tree.” All of sudden I can breathe again.
I look up at the little troublemaker and I say, “Get down here right now. You are going inside and you are not coming back out unless your dad or I am with you. Do you understand?” She shook her head as she climbed down and solemnly walked back inside. I’m going to definitely have to watch out for this one when she gets older. If she can do this now, who knows what she’ll do then.
My Life Now by Kalysta Bush
As I wander the streets of a town I once knew, I begin to visualize where I would have been right now. It was 3:00 o’clock and school had just let out. I should be at the diner right now enjoying the rich taste of a slice of cheesecake, like I did every Friday. I should be laughing in the company of my two best friends. But I’m not, because ghosts don’t do that.
Every day I watch as everyone continues their normal lives, their daily problems: being late for school and not knowing when the next bill will be paid. I’ve always thought that when I died, I would move on, find peace in some vision of the afterlife. If there was an afterlife worth finding. Instead, I’m stuck here roaming the streets I once called home, over and over again.
No matter where the streets lead I always seem to end up at my grave. I stand there for hours staring at my tombstone. I wait for a time machine to appear; as if this was simply a twisted experiment. I wait for my alarm clock to snatch me back to reality. I simply wait and watch as two people who seemed like strangers approached me. Vanessa and Ashlee, my two best friends since grade five. I watch as they kindly place two white roses on the edge of my grave. They will do this every year for my anniversary. In a world where time seems to have disappeared, I seem to have forgotten what today was. My thoughts were interrupted by the quiet sobbing of a past friend.
“No matter how many times I come here, it never gets any easier.”
“Of course it doesn’t Ashlee. She was our best friend.”
Vanessa continues to sob as she asks the single question I ponder every day, “Why did Mason do this to her? Why does he get to live?”
Ashlee simply replied, “I don’t know, although I wouldn’t say partying all the time is actually living. We’ll get through this though, together.”
Vanessa wipes her nose on her sleeve and watches as the November wind blows the petals away from a once white rose.
“Come on, let’s go to Maggie’s and get some cheesecake. It’s what Emma would want.” Ashlee says while wiping a single tear from her cheek.
Vanessa chuckles a bit and walks away slowly with Ashlee, keeping the memory of me forever imbedded in her mind and heart. As their car pass, I am torn away from my abstract concept of life, and am placed into a new setting, a memory.
I’m at North Shore High School. The leaves have turned from a violent green to dull reds and browns. I could still feel the cold chill that blew through the air that November morning. I could still visualize the spot where I did my morning reading, under the huge oak tree beside the broken, old picnic table. The best part of that tree was that no one knew it even existed.
In the distance, I heard the faint chime of the afternoon bell. I quickly grabbed my belongings as I stumbled into fourth period. There was a note waiting for me on my desk when I arrived. On it was scribbled, “See ya at the party, tonight at 9” with details and the signature of “with love, Mason” written at the bottom. Looks like I was going to a party tonight.
As the party raged on I became uncomfortable surrounded by my drunk classmates and the blinding lights that I decided to get some fresh air. I couldn’t find Mason for the last hour, we must have gotten separated in all the madness of the party. I went to the place where I knew no one would be. Well, where I thought no one would be. I remember this moment clearly, Mason with another girl. At that moment the best part of the tree seemed to wither away, like the leaves that prepared for winter. At that exact moment I died, at least on the inside. My memories began to surround me like a forest and I was forced to endure the memories I had once cherished. Our first encounter, our first date and our first kiss flooded my tear stained eyes. I didn’t know what else to do except run. I ran from the betrayal and anger with the faint whisper of “wait” fading in the background.
It was raining now. The pungent rain pierced my skin like thousands of little needles. I ran until I found my car and stumbled to find my keys. If only the memories would wipe away as easily as my tears. For a second I watched the rain fall and like my tears it seemed endless. Before I knew it the key was in the ignition and the car was moving.
With a tear-stricken face, the road was blinded by my crying. At every bump that made the car jolt, even the slightest bit, I gripped the wheel. As the rain beat against the windshield and the car drove along the rocky road, I could see myself getting nervous. When the blinding lights raced toward the car however, I didn’t have time. I screamed as if there was something I could do, something I could change. But it was too late.
I wasn’t aware at the time of the silence that could fill a void or of the rain that glistened on my skin but I was aware of one thing. I was dead and it was inevitable. I could explain all the reasons why I was and wasn’t aware but one thing I was certain of is that I wasn’t ready to go. As I assessed all the choices that led me here, I realized I wouldn’t have changed a single moment, a single memory, because now memories were all I had. Moments later, I was placed back into the world I knew now, marking the end of the slideshow called my memories. Alone and full of despair, I continued wandering the streets that were once my home.
Through The Looking Glass By Jackson Hoch *Scholastic Silver Key Winner
I came wet into the world.
On both sides there were cliffs,
white cliffs that were my mother’s thighs.
And I didn’t cry though it was cold
by the white cliffs and I was afraid,
I came wet into the world.
- an old Eskimo man relating the memory of his birth in a snowhouse on the sea ice.
From one of my signed books, Dogsong by Gary Paulsen
While packing boxes for a move to a new home, I had to decide which parts of my life I wanted to keep and then
toss the rest. So I opened up old cupboards that coughed dust as their barely used hinges squeaked open. I found
what at first glance looked to be a mess, but every object that sat on the shelves meant something greater than its
economical value. I wondered, what made all those memories so precious?
Could it be that each object had a story attached to it, or the fact that I didn’t want to let things go? I revisited the
past and then a connection hit me so suddenly. Everything worth remembering had occurred at a place that I now
called home. It’s where I learned to walk and ride a bike. Where winters spent with family were always warm while
sitting next to a fire. Looking out of the floor to ceiling windows from our two-story family room one could view the
winter wonderland when storms arrived along with the bitter cold Canadian air. But now all that was changing. My
parents didn’t feel like this was home anymore after seventeen years. The cold truth was that it was time to accept
things weren’t going to be the way they used to be. It was time to grow up and move on.
I didn’t feel content with just moving on to another home. Our Civil War era row home had become a part of me. It
had special nooks and cranny’s a young boy could hide in and unique woodwork in all of the rooms. There were six
ornate fireplaces and each one had its own special character. The house was only one room wide but it was very
long. As one entered the front door they would walk through each room to what seemed like an endless journey.
When exiting the last room of the house they would be confronted with what can only be described as a secret
garden in the middle of town.
I used to play in what seemed to me like an enchanted forest growing in the back yard. A yard where spruce trees
rose from the dirt and hydrangeas and honeysuckle bloomed in the spring with other flowers of all shapes, sizes and
colors. The garden was an oasis from the noise and activity happening just a few hundred feet away in the streets
and alleys of our small town. The grass was always kept trimmed and a wooden fence bordering the property
allowed for privacy and the dog to run freely. One of oldest walnut trees in Pennsylvania grew within this small,
enclosed sanctuary. It had long ago stopped producing walnuts but its canopy still provided cool shade on hot
summer days. I would walk around exploring the yard looking for new discoveries.
From my attic bedroom I miss the noise of cars zooming by outside with their visible lights dancing on the ceiling at
night guiding me to sleep. In the morning you could hear college students conversing while walking on the brick
sidewalks that clicked underneath the hard soles of their shoes.
When I first heard we would be moving I was unaware of how serious it was. I don’t know what changed that but
eventually the reality of it all set in. Deep down I also realized moving is about having a fresh start with a fresh
foundation. It’s about reinventing oneself. My parents needed that, and they seized the opportunity when it came.
“It’s time to pack all your boxes,” my dad said, “we’re moving, isn’t this all so exciting?” are the words that made
me realize the move had begun. My brother seemed to care less than me. He was curled up on the couch, more
concerned with racing Mario on his Nintendo. My parents were thrilled; my mom cried tears of joy and my dad
smiled widely when all offers were accepted. All I could think was thanks for not asking me first. But I kept those
words to myself. They were words I didn’t want to speak.
A few days before our moving day I sat in my bedroom which was now piled with half filled boxes and thought
about the times when my dad would read me signed children’s books. My parents would sometimes stand in line for
hours at book signings to talk to the authors and then have them sign the books for my brother or me. And I’d say,
“Can you read just one more please, just one more?” And he’d let me pick one more story to read. Sometimes I read
through those untouched books along the dusty top shelf when no one was watching.
Eventually moving day came and we left behind the garden, and polished wood staircase. The creaky floors and
drafty windows were left behind too. Driving by the house now I see that it has changed. Its trim has been painted
jet black and the front door baby blue. Some of the antique shutters are becoming loose on their hinges and they
hang a little crooked. The flower boxes by the front door are not overfilled with exotic flowers like I remember they
were every spring and summer.
I often think about everyone who ever lived there throughout its existence and all the stories that could be told. Why
would anyone ever want to let it go? I imagine people who I don’t know and I wondered if they loved that home just
as much as I did. I wanted to desperately know, did they share that same love and did it run as deep?
Today I look through the looking glass that hangs above a bathroom mirror in my new home. I still miss the old
house but it is also time to move on and to make something of what’s here, now, at this new place under my feet.