|Photograph by Charley W., Grade 9|
The Mystery Man's Shoes
When I was six years old, I shook my bloody hand with a random man. Turns out, we live together now.
Hours earlier, it began with curiosity. What does he look like? What does he sound like? Is he nice? This mystery man was in our house: Taking up time with my mom. And I can’t even meet him.
My parents had been divorced since I was two. It had always just been the two girls, so my mom and I were inseparables. About four years after, my mom started “talking” to someone. I was only six, but I was not happy. Some man I didn’t even know was coming over, and I had to stay in my room and sleep. Now even though I was extremely eager to meet this person, I stayed in my room like a good girl and respected my mom and her little “friend”.
As my mom tucked me in bed, I could tell she was antsy. And then the doorbell rang, and my door slammed shut. My mom rushed out of my room and forgot to turn my nightlight on. This was a strict routine broken for some random person. Already a red flag in my head. At the time, my nightlight needed to be on for me to sleep, so I quietly got out of bed. It was so dark; I was swatting around trying to feel for the switch.
All of a sudden, I knocked over my collection of Dr. Seuss books right off my bookshelf, where it hit me straight in the nose. I could immediately feel the blood ooze out. I quickly ran out my door, straight to the bathroom. I felt fine, but my nose did not want to give up. I could hear laughter under me. My mom told me not to come downstairs because she didn’t want me to meet the mystery man yet, so I was alone and panicking. From the stairs I knew I could stand near the balcony where I could peer downstairs and possibly get my mom’s attention. I sat in the bathroom trying to stop the blood thinking of all the ninja moves I could do to get to my mom, but also knowing I only have one hand with the other holding the tissue firmly.
About an hour had passed, and the blood did not slow down. At this point I could feel it drizzling down my throat as I would quietly gag. I finally gave up and peered over the edge of the stairs like a spy. I kept watching their feet move from the kitchen to the living room. My number one thought at the very moment was, “I really don’t like his shoes.” When I was done my shoe critiquing, I could see the man walking out where I could get a clear vision of him. I shut my eyes immediately when he came out like he was Medusa. I wanted to play it safe, just in case my mom could tell I saw him. She somehow knows everything.
I stood there for another hour. Thoughts raced back and forth to the pace of my feet. Finally, I realized I need help.
“Mom…” I called down.
“Ava!” my mother shouted surprisingly.
“I’m really sorry. I hit my nose and I—”
My mom looked at me and saw the tissues piled into my face like a cushion. She ran upstairs. Mom to the rescue! I explained to her what had happened. She laughed and helped me stop the blood. After cleaning my nose, my mom brought me downstairs to finally meet the mystery man. After all this, she knew she couldn’t keep me away. I was brought downstairs where I shook my sweaty hands full of dry blood with Dave. My stepdad of almost 10 years. I made sure that he never wore those shoes again.
Growing up with a stepdad was difficult for me at a young age. I missed my mom. I missed my dad. I was jealous that my mom had another focus. It turns out, having a stepdad is one of the best things that had happened in my life. I had someone else to take care of me, to take care of my mom. I was introduced to my love of snowboarding and traveling. I learned how to toughen up, and standup for myself. I got the opportunity to grow up with a father. Even if I just call him Dave. Now I have to do it all over again, this time with a stepmom…
by Ava L., Grade 9
|Photograph by Charley W.|
The Summer Tree
It was a perfect day to go to the tree that beautiful summer afternoon. Birds were singing their joyous and playful songs, the flowers were in full summer bloom, the sun was up and smiling down at the world, and the soft hum of cicadas finally coming out of their shells created a warm, comforting environment. “This is a great day to go out into the woods!” 8th grade me exclaimed to my aloof brother, who was too busy playing FIFA on our Xbox to care about what I was saying. “Maybe I’ll go out to see the tree today again…”
“The tree” was an irreplaceable staple of our woods, which resides right behind our backyard. It’s not any ordinary tree; however, it stands miles above the rest, wider than all the others combined, and there was one thing about it that really made it stand out as one in a million, quite literally. During a thunderstorm a few summers back, it was struck by lightning. But instead of falling over or catching fire—as trees always seem to do—it did something seemingly impossible and utterly inexplicable. All of its bark exploded off of its exterior, like a bomb that only touched the exterior of trees, leaving the white wooden interior exposed. The branches were desolate and void of life as well, without leaves, bark, squirrels or anything at all, looking like daggers pointed to the sky in rebellion against the forces that made it like this. And somehow, whether it be through luck or some sort of undiscovered magic, the tree continued standing proud like the god-defying giant it is.
Ever since I found the tree when I was in 6th grade, I made it a yearly summer ritual to make my visits often to the tree, where I’d sit down on one of its collapsed, smaller and more unfortunate brothers and read a book or examine its black burn marks on its white skin, stretching up, down, left and right, like veins on a leaf. Making sure that the area around the tree stays clean has always been a chore for more, but one that I generally enjoyed doing. Making sure no weeds got too close to it, ensuring no one left their litter around, and especially making the ground a good place to sit down and chill out with a bag of chips and some entertainment on a hot summer day.
This time around, for the second time that week, I had decided I would go out with my phone, earbuds, some snacks, a towel and a book. “I’m heading out now!” I called to my parents, who were still asleep on this calm, uneventful day. Once all my things had been gathered, I left the house. Through some thorn bushes, over our creek, taking the route of another tree that had fallen, and through a small make-shift path of dirt and stones, I reached the tree.
Once I had made it to my destination, I looked up at it, admiring its resilience and stubbornness, refusing to fall down despite its suffering. It was a source of inspiration for me. I laid my towel I brought over the ground, took my earbuds out, and started reading my favorite fantasy book as some Twenty-One Pilots played loudly in my ears while I bumped my foot softly to my favorite song of theirs, “Bandito”.
I still have no idea how long I read for. It was likely multiple hours on end, since I was nearly finished my book by the time my phone buzzed. “Anthony, come home soon, we’ll be having dinner in a couple minutes”, the text message from my mom read. As soon as my eyes finished reading the screen, I was already standing and packing my things up. Since the walk was fairly short and I still had ten or so minutes to get home, I took my time walking back. Appreciating the scenery, such as the other trees, small canopies created by hollow bushes and the winding creek, I slowly trekked my way back home, back through the walkway, over the creek and through the thorns, when my house came back into sight.
I walked in and was immediately greeted by a loud “Anthony, wash your hands before you sit down” from the kitchen, even though I always did that and there was no need to remind me of such basic human decencies. Either way, I was calm, relaxed and we were having chicken a la king for dinner. I was perfectly content with that day, and slept like a baby that night, my thoughts filled with peace, calm, and trees.
Ever since then, I’ve learned that whenever I’m stressed or angry or filled with any other negative feeling, I always remember that tree, because in the end, I learned that when I’m feeling down, I’ll have somewhere to escape to at any time. Whether it be my bedroom, the internet, with friends or the dead center of the woods with my favorite tree, having somewhere to go when I just need to let my feelings out always has and always will feel good.
by Anthony M., Grade 9