Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Believe in Little Things

Whether it is the gears inside of a watch, or the optimism inside of or hearts, little things keep the wide world turning.  Both the artwork and the poetry in this month's final post emphasize this fact.

artwork by Natalie D.
Grade 9

Little Things

For every salty teardrop,
There is a gentle smile.
For every rainy day,
There is a rainbow.
For every hateful person,
There are thousands more who give their lives for others.
For every goodbye,
There is a hello.
For every Monday morning,
There is a Friday afternoon.
For every second that passes in your beautiful life,
Is another memory made,
For life is not measured in time,
It is measured in moments,
Keurig coffee on a rainy Sunday morning,
Pastel sunrises beyond the horizon of the vast ocean,
The aroma that fills the whole house when there are homemade chocolate chip cookies in the oven,
The carefree innocence of a baby’s giggle when you do something silly,
Waking up to a soft, white blanket, covering the town in December,
The first sunny day in April,
Smiles from a passing stranger,
Warm sips out of a steaming mug after a day in the cold,
Long hugs with the ones you love,
When your favorite song blasts through the fuzzy car speakers,
The smell of freshly cut grass,
Sand making its way between your toes,
The rays of sun that beam, radiating warmth on your skin,
For these are the moments,
That make the struggles worth it,
For you cannot experience the beauty of joy without the pain.
Life is not measured in time,
It is measured in moments.

by Lauren B.
Grade 9

To celebrate the recent production of Peter Pan at CB East, Rachel C. designed this artistic typography to share with our readers. It reinterprets the first page of J. M. Barrie's classic, Peter Pan.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Darkness and Light

For the first time in the history of sevenatenine, we have poetry and artwork created by the same person this month.  Notice how one resonates with the other, even though they were created at different times.


Is love
A pair of rings?
A kiss?
Two hands entwined?
A smile passed between near-strangers?

Is love
A mother's warm embrace?
A father's pride?
A brother's sticky-fingered high five?
A sister's shared Barbie doll?

Is love
A flutter in your stomach?
A racing pulse?
A blush, coating your cheeks?
An unconscious smile?

Is love
Something that can be measured?
Something that can be counted?
Something that can be weighed?
Something that can be calculated?

Is love
To be taken for granted?
To be cherished?
To be strived for?
To be upheld?

Or is love
Something different
For each heart?

by Evelyn H. 
Grade 8

artwork by Evelyn H.
Grade 8

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Little Bit of a Riddle

This month, our poet asked that we withhold the subject of this poem, excluding it from the title and the introduction.  The imagery speaks for itself, and we believe you can figure it out on your own! 


A flood of pain washed over me.
It felt as if the world had ended.
Sorrow, loss, and anger built up inside of me.
It was like my life was dangling from a thread.

2% . . . 1% . . . 0%

The thread broke.
My life fell.
No hope remained.
I was useless without it.
I heard someone offer up their charger,
but it was too late.
My electrical honey-gold heart had died.

by Angelina A.
Grade 7

artwork by Emily W.
Grade 7

artwork by Georgia K.
Grade 7

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Turtles and Cars, Antlers and War

This poem builds in fragments of Robert Foote's poem, "An Interrpution," which the poet, Will, recently read in his ninth-grade English class. The borrowed lines are marked with quotation marks, and if you read the original poem from which the lines were taken, you will no doubt be intrigued by how he crafted a poem about war inspired by a poem about a turtle crossing the road.

On the Horizon

The sun’s golden reflection pierces my eyes
I squint in time to see a set of antlers leaping across the plains
They fade
“Till it [is] just a rustle in the grass”
But nothing gold can stay…

That’s when the first scream burst out,
So sudden, even the wind stopped to look
The screams of dying men

The constant sounds of explosions
The whizzing of metal stabbing through the air

All the sounds of pure evil
Coming together to form this orchestra of pain
I feel a small burst of fire shoot through my legs
Gravity is my enemy as I crumble to the ground
Ending all sympathy
“I had for man"

All the explosions and screams suddenly go deaf
I look up
Only to see the clouds begin to cry
At the sight
Of men, who don’t know
"To let life go on where and when it can”

And as my eyes begin to creep shut
I am able to see
The beautiful golden antlers dancing on the horizon

by Will L. 
Grade 9

artwork by Kristin R.
Grade 9

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Found Poem

Tuesdays With Morrie is an inspiring read for eighth-graders at Holicong, and recently students in Mrs. Schmidt's class created "found poetry" using the words of Mitch Albom and Morrie Schwarz to craft their own insights.  The goal is this: create something new (a poem) with scraps of something published (Mitch Albom's book) with an eye for wisdom and an ear for rhythm.  This is just one example of the poetry students were able to craft.

Running Out
lines discovered in Tuesdays with Morrie

My old friend, you’ve come back at last
I want to tell you about my life
I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life
We’re so wrapped up with all the egotistical things
Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel
To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time
“Dying” was not synonymous with “useless”
I don’t want to leave this world in a state of fright.

I want to know what’s happening, accept it, get to a peaceful place, and let go
Dying is only one thing to be sad over
I’m on the last great journey here—and people want me to tell them what to pack 
I’ve had a good life, and we all know it’s going to happen
I had the coldest realization that our time was running out

by Gage M.
Grade 8

artwork by Paige K.
Grade 8

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mirror Dancer

Are you really good at some things?  Or do you just enjoy imagining that you are? This seventh grade writer happens to be a good dancer, even if it's only for an audience of one. What are you good at?  Write to us in the comments!

Mirror Dancer

Late afternoon --
The slow and weary time of my day
Like a broken watch with the soft tick melting weakly each time it sounds.
I open my bedroom door
With a creak and a squeak
And I feel the fuzzy pumpkin-orange carpet in between my toes.

I look at the books resting quietly on my shelf,
At my bed with the welcoming blankets
And smell my dinner cooking in the kitchen downstairs.
Hunger resides in my belly
As I flip the switch on my milk-chocolate-brown radio with a click. 
I listen to a DJ gossiping as I sit down to read.
But then I hear it:

The performers singing, yelling and calling out to me.
And music fills my ears like the refreshing bubbling soda I had at lunch.
I stand up and start to move to the ever-pulsing rhythm
The beat, beat, of percussion
And I see myself in the mirror
Graceful as a swan pirouetting amid its shimmering waters.
Me, a dancer on a dark, silent, and lonely stage
Caramelizing her competition.

But then, I hear a quiet knock
And then two
Louder and louder each time
Knock, knock, knock.

My mother opens the door to tell me that my dinner is ready,
And crimson-red is the face of the mirror dancer,
Swaying silently in the late afternoon.

by Julianne M.
Grade 7

artwork by Justin H.
Grade 7

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How Many Lives Does a Cat Have Again?

Oh, that's right -- nine!

It is the ninth of October, so it is now time to present some ninth-grade work.  We share artwork created on a pair of flip-flops, perhaps flip-flops that are ready to explore the open road of life, as depicted in the poem that follows.

#robertfrostwouldbeproud #roadnottaken #metaphor #lifeisaroad

Starting on 10/10/14, information will be available via morning announcements about how students can get more involved in writing, creating, and publishing for Sevenatenine magazine this year. We hope to see many students involved in the creative process!

artwork by Michael T
Grade 9

 What If

What if a road, untraveled, untouched
for us to explore
the never-ending paths to which it brings us.

All future journeys, for ages to come,
are for us to create our own twists and turns
or maybe even an ending.

From the unfinished patches
to the recently finished miles,
would the holes get paved or
the paved get holes
depending on what wandering footsteps
and continuous wheels may cross it?

What if our own individual road
intersected another's?
Does this mean a car crash,
or a shared boulevard
of eternal love?

What if our road just stopped,
not so never-ending after all?

by Meritt T.
Grade 9

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Eighth, From the Eighth

As announced yesterday, each month we will present some work from an eighth-grade student on the eighth of the month. 

Any student interested in submitting creative work for our monthly posts can email a submission to bvogelsinger@cbsd.org and Mr. Vogelsinger and his team of editors will consider it for publication on our site. We are excited to work with as many writers and artists this year as possible!

We begin our year of eighth-grade poems published on the eighth of the month with a poem about identity:

I Am
tired, bored, loving, artist
daughter of Denise and Robert
lover of the arts and pencils
who feels anxious and scared
who needs art to breath and music to think
who gives happiness to others
who fears heights, spiders, the dark, and lightning
who would like to see every country and experience every culture
who enjoys feeling free and needed
who likes to wear baggy clothes
resident of the Milky Way Galaxy
by Amanda M.
Grade 8
artwork by Sayde S.
Grade 8

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A New Beginning

Welcome back to a new school year on Sevenatenine everyone!

We are starting something new this year: a monthly routine of posting work from all three grades. 

Each month, on the seventh of the month, expect something new written by a seventh-grader.  Eighth-graders dominate the eighth of the month, ninth-graders own the ninth. 

We look forward to a productive and creative year on our magazine, and we hope you will use the email subscription box on our home page to follow our journey.

Look for changes to the appearance of our magazine coming soon with the help of editors and after-school club members!

Here is our first seventh-grade poem of the year, a poem about memories and lakefronts and the eye of an artist.

A clean slate

A blank canvas

A searing summer day
In the dying days of a season once new
The lake screaming out our names
Yearning to be used


Glistening sapphire-blue water
Blood-red boards
The paints for my summer masterpiece

We slice cleanly into the water
Like a warm knife through butter
Heavenly golden rays of sun pour down through a minute puncture in the clouds
Drenching everything in blinding sunlight
Bringing the temperature to a boil
Casting shadows within the painting


The murmur of voice sizzles away
Into the fresh air
Nature surrounds us on all sides
Adding a green tint to my composition  


Standing up at last
Propelling myself forward
Baking in the sun
I jump into the seemingly frigid water
Stirring up the lake
I scoop myself onto the board
Lying down again


My hand drifting through the water

Chills coarse through me
A sign of seasons to come


A blank canvas no longer
A work of art complete
by Liam M.
Grade 7

artwork by Isabel A.
Grade 7


Monday, April 14, 2014

Reviewing Romeo

It's rare that a literary analysis assignment can blend humor as successfully as the essay below, but in this argument piece, Julie P., a ninth grader, claims that there is a darker side to the so-called "greatest love story every told," and we think that you'll agree that it is every bit as entertaining as it is informative.

A Tragic Hero . . . But Also A Stalker

As I look into out into the black, black night, the only thing I can see is the ever-changing moon above. The night is warm and I like the thought of being alone after the party. Suddenly, I hear a voice in the night and I leap back. How dare this man intrude my home!  I am about to call the guards when I see who it is in the pale moonlight. Romeo. How strange that he found this place. I only met him hours ago.

            Throughout Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is portrayed as a lovesick romantic who would do anything for Juliet. However, no one realizes how creepy Romeo’s actions are. Whether he’s becoming obsessed with every beautiful girl he sees or stalking Juliet outside her room, Romeo needs to take a chill and get a good night’s sleep. Romeo is an old-fashioned stalker.

            Although Juliet seems to return Romeo’s dramatic love poems, Rosaline did not, most likely because he scared her into chastity. We can tell this when Romeo says, “Well in that hit you miss. She’ll not be hit/ With Cupid’s arrow. She hath Dian’s wit” (1.1.216-217). Rosaline does not seem interested whatsoever in Romeo, but don’t worry, he won’t be heartbroken for long. Romeo moves on to Juliet as soon as he sees her.

            The balcony scene is an extreme example of Romeo’s utter eeriness. He somehow, unknown to readers, climbs the stone wall outside of Juliet’s room. When Juliet asks him, “How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore/ the orchard walls are high and hard to climb” (2.2.67-8). Romeo’s answer is very vague; “With love’s light wings did I o’er perch these walls” (2.2.71). No one exactly knows how he arrived under Juliet’s balcony, but people disregard this fact and only focus on the romantic gesture that Romeo would climb the wall for her.

            Walking into the mall, I spot a couple of girls who look about thirteen; I follow them around and eventually end up going up to the prettiest one and talking to her. She seems extremely scared and shocked that I’m talking to her. What am I doing wrong…?

The fact that Romeo is about seventeen while Juliet is thirteen adds to the creepy effect. Translating this into the modern scene above makes it clear just how disturbing this is. We can tell that Juliet is too young when her father, Capulet, says, “My child is yet a stranger in the world/ she hath not seen the change of fourteen years” (1.2.7-8). Although there isn’t an extreme gap between their ages, Romeo eventually makes the decision to kill himself over a thirteen year old.

            Romeo shows Juliet how much he loves her in his actions: leaping the stone wall, kissing her passionately, etc. However, he also makes sure she knows she’s the only girl he wants, using his words, poems and speeches of love. For example, Romeo says, “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied” (2.2.132). Romeo uses sketchy words such as “unsatisfied” which leave the audience (and Juliet) a little nervous. Romeo sees what he wants and he will do whatever it take to get it. Even though being creepy isn’t extremely awful, if Romeo wasn’t such a stalker, they both would have lived, maybe even happily ever after.

            As Romeo soon found out, “These violent delights have violent ends” (2.6.8). Romeo was an old-fashioned stalker, which greatly pleased him. However his fantasizing, dreaming, and creeping all came to naught, and he killed himself over a thirteen year old girl who he couldn’t be with. This is the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet.
By Julie P., Grade 9

Monday, March 24, 2014

Curiosity Killed the Fish

In this short memoir, ninth-grader Cindy N. recalls a mistake with a nostalgic smile at her younger self.

Artwork by Adam E., Grade 9 

Curiosity Killed the Fish

The large front doors of the house were swung open to the rest of Vietnam. The bright sunlight from outside flooded the house, illuminating the white tiles of the floor that jolted my body awake when my bare feet would run on top of the dirt and dust gliding into the house from motorcycles and the other vehicles speeding past.

Like a crow among a group of doves, despite the bright atmosphere of the room, my grandfather's fish tank stuck out like a sore thumb. The dark, murky background of the tank made the water look like a translucent green and the long, flat, sliver fish that had a face of a bully with two whiskers hanging from the sides glided along peacefully inside. My grandparents already warned me that the angry strip of sliver was a carnivorous beast and would try to eat any piece of meat it laid its eyes on. I pressed my tiny finger against the glass and felt the soft vibrations of the water whirring underneath my skin. As soon as its flat, iridescent eye caught sight of the warm, chunk of human meat sitting on top of the glass, it flicked its head at my direction in one swift movement. I flinched at its sudden sense of hunger and felt my breathing stop as the fish lunged at my finger with its mouth open in a famished frenzy.

A plunk echoed in my head as the glass collided with its face. My body propelled itself backwards as I drew my hand back to make sure my finger was still there. I looked around and let out a sigh of relief that no one had seen me in my mini state of panic.

"Cindy!" I heard my grandfather call me from his spot on the couch in the living room. I scanned myself, so no question would be asked about what I was doing and scampered over to where he was sitting. I hopped over the massive step that led into the living room and forced myself not to look at the brown and yellow pinky toe he injured during the Vietnam War.

"Yes?" I regarded him politely.

He placed a dirty gold colored coin in my small hand.

 "Go buy some food for the fish," he told me. I rubbed the coin in my hand, feeling its oldness and nodded my head as a sign of acceptance of his mission and that I'd be leaving.

With a smile on my face, I turned myself around and dashed through the specks of dust to find my open-toed sandals that were beginning to look beat up from my growing feet. I felt excited that I was sent to the store two houses down, filled with all kinds of fish swimming around in the tank and different types of nets with fishes flipping and flopping itself around, gasping for water. Even if I wasn't sent there with a coin in my hand, sometimes I would bring my younger sister and cousins over to stand and stare until the shop owner would give me a questioning look. But it was always a proud moment for myself to enter the store every morning with money in hand to complete my daily job.

I jumped over bumps and cracks in the sides of the road, holding down the skirt of my favorite red dress and waited to find the stream of water trickling down the side of the road from the employees cleaning out the tanks and dumping dirty water filled with fish germs onto the pavement outside the store. Now, I walked slower with more caution, hoping that a stream of liquid wouldn't flood my shoes. People scuttled in and out the doors with bags of fish worriedly swimming back and forth. I squeezed past the legs of a man and woman exiting and stopped to look at the many fish the store had to offer. The store's red tiled floor was stained with blotches of water and wet footprints. And against the walls, large fish tanks desperately tried to look appealing in the dark, dingy place. 

The slender, tanned store owner didn't give me "the look" and I muttered the phrase of Vietnamese my grandfather told me to repeat to him, which I only half understood. The man smiled under his sweat from the warm climate, laughing to himself at every mistake I made saying that one sentence. He walked over to one of the fish tanks and I waddled along behind him, unsure if he wanted me to stay where I was.  He scooped some water into a plastic bag and I watched as a waterfall of small fish plopped into the bag one by one. I could see the shock in their eyes as they fell into the bag, but quickly adapting to their temporary, plastic home. I took the bag of fish from the man's bony hand and dropped the coin into his palm, hoping Grandfather gave me enough money to pay. When I noticed the satisfied look in the man's eyes, I turned around and shuffled back home while talking to my new friends silently.

Stumbling over the bumps and cracks I was attentively avoiding before, I found my way back home where I handed over my friends to my grandfather who was waiting for me at the door. My eyes observed his large, brown hands easily undo the rubber band wrapped around the bag and let the fish relive the shock of being poured into a new home again. The shock soon changed into fear when the colossal, silver fish vacuumed one fish after another into its mouth. Once it ate enough fins and scales, it glided around the tank with a full belly, gazing at its leftovers it saved for lunch.

I plopped myself onto the ground resting my arms, on the khaki, metal table that the tank rested upon. I let the frigid feeling from the metal seep into my skin and stared up at the different colors of fish, fascinated by creatures that could breathe underwater. A heavy hand tapped my head a few times and I heard my grandfather ask me, "You like to look at the fish?"

I looked at him in the eyes, "Yes," I said quietly, slightly afraid of this old man whom I've never really spoken to before. He smiled at me and gave my head one last pat before leaving to his room for an afternoon nap. I watched his back as he headed for his room, his belly jiggled up and down through the white tank top he wore every day, matching the rhythm of the ripples that flowed across his loose, grey shorts. I didn't know why I was scared of him, but his raspy voice combined with the seriousness of his face, freaked me out at times when he walked into the room.

The fish continued to swim in circles, occasionally changing directions if something suddenly scared them. But as they continued to swim, I gradually got bored. I stood back up, and tried to shake the pins and needles out of my feet. My clumsy hand had a mind of its own during the process of waking up my feet; several "bwonks" traveled through the air after my palm slapped a bottle out of its resting place. I glanced down at the item that could possibly earn me a scolding and laughed at myself for getting worked up over a tiny bottle of soap. It was at that moment that something in my mind clicked.

I scooped the smooth, sleek bottle Into my hand  and grinned as I was transported into a world where fish could do more than swim and eat each other. As the fish monotonously open and close their lips on the hinges of their mouths, bubbles popped out of their bodies with every breath they took. Giggling at the idea, my curiosity had to know if such a brilliant idea would work. My eyes surveyed the room and made sure the coast was clear before attempting my scientific experiment. If someone walked in on me, the excitement of making such a discovery would diminish and I would have to share my fame with another person. I allowed my eyes to scan the area once again, taking note that my mom was in the living room with her attention affixed to the television, my grandparents still in their room, and my aunts watching multiple babies stuffed in one room while my uncles worked.

The step stool was too heavy for me to lift, and made a deafening screech when I pushed it to the side of the tank. I cringed at the ear-splitting noise and winced when I heard my mom.

"Cindy!" She called. It was loud enough for me to hear, yet soft enough so my grandparents could sleep.

I paused. Should I reply? Is she going to come in if I don't? Mom didn't wait for a reply, in a distracted tone she hollered, "What are you doing in there?"

I paused again. What do I say? "Just playing with the fish!"

There was no reply. That meant I was safe. It meant my mom went back to enjoying her relationship with the TV.

Getting back to my experiment, I climbed up the black rubber steps of the mini ladder, making me feel like I was tall enough to pat my parents on the head rather than vice versa. I gawked at the fish tank below me. What if I fall in? Alarmed, I backed down to a height where I wouldn't topple into the tank and observed the silver fish I hated so much from above. He was still swimming and frightening the scales off the other fish when he got near.

"The scary fish won't seem as scary when he's blowing bubbles every time he opens his mouth," I coaxed the smaller fish. With one hand, I coolly flicked opened the soap bottle and squeezed a couple of drops into the gurgling water.

I hopped off the step stool and looked into the tank. Nothing happened. The fish continued to swim and no bubbles were visible. I spilled some more soap into the water and clenched my fists in frustration. The water still looked the same murky, green and the silver bully was still scaring the other fish. As a final attempt at my experiment, I poured the entire bottle of the translucent, liquid soap into the tank and waited. Nothing.

It was more fun having the fish try to bite off my finger, I thought. And at the thought,  I placed my finger on the glass, mocking the silver fish to come after the delightful meal my finger would make. Like I predicted, he hit his head on the glass in attempt to eat my finger. For what felt like a century, I continued playing my sick joke on the fish until I noticed he was slowing down and coming to a stop.

Finally bored out of my mind, I sat next to my mom on the sofa and became the third wheel in her love life with her favorite television series. I sat there, listening to people blabbering Vietnamese back and forth to each other dramatically and decided that I've had enough of all the crying, shouting, and annoying kisses of the show. I bounced off the couch and dashed back to the fish tank to see if they were blowing bubbles yet. I thrust my face in front of the tank to make observations and smiled to myself with the pleasant thought that I've discovered something that no one else has.

I found the fish sleeping.

Excitement ran through my veins and I scurried back to my mom with the great news.

"Mom! Mom!" She nodded her head to show she was listening, when she really wasn't. I lowered my voice, "I found the fish sleeping!"

It took her a while to pretend to process what I was telling her, "Good for you sweetie."

I was irked that she wasn't as excited as I was about my amazing discovery and tugged at her, "Come look!"

"Let me finish my show!" She said, brushing me off. Luckily, at that moment, the commercial break began and I knew my mom wasn't interested in watching desperate salespeople interrupt her show. After a few more moments of consistent pulling, my mom gave in and I pushed her from her rear end towards the tank.

I stood proudly in front of the tank, gesturing my hands at it as if I were showing off a very gloomy first place trophy. She glanced at the tank, irritated that I was wasting her TV time.

"The fish..." I paused to build suspense, "are sleeping." The sun shone on my back and I stood there, waiting for my mom's reaction. But the reaction she gave me was not what I expected.

She paused and squinted at the tank, and after several seconds, broke into hysterics. I felt the ends of my eyebrows shoot up in confusion and took another look at the tank. Every single fish had floated to the top of the water, bobbing on their sides, napping their worries away as the current pushed them in a circle. It was just how I left my sensational breakthrough, so why was she laughing?

             "Cindy," my mom managed to say between wheezes of cackling. "They aren't sleeping. You killed them."

              Her relentless laughing continued as my cheeks became bright, red tomatoes and salty water engulfed my eyes. What am I going to do when Grandfather finds out? I was already afraid of him when he wasn't mad at me and I didn't want to have to face him when he truly was angry. He cherished that fish and I knew that malicious fish costs more money than I could lay my hands on. Now I've killed him and my beloved fish friends. And my grandfather was going to wake up from his daily afternoon nap very soon.

               I froze in fear thinking over what I was going to do, but my mind was a blank page. I didn't know what to do or what to say once my grandfather woke up. I looked at my mom laughing infinitely and didn't know what to think of the situation until I heard the distinct squeak of my grandfather 's bedroom door. One word appeared on my page of thoughts: Run.

My legs looked for the closest exit out of the room. I wouldn't know where to go if I left the house and I couldn't risk heading in the direction of my grandfather's room. The stairwell that connected the living room to the second floor was close enough for me to reach before my grandfather came out. I dashed up it as fast as I could of all the upstairs rooms I could've chosen to hide in, I chose the bathroom.

My feet splashed through puddles of water in the very blue, spacious bathroom, leaving wet, brown footprints behind from walking in dirt and dust all day. I found a dry spot besides the toilet and crouched behind it, hoping my grandfather wouldn't find me here.

I prayed that no one had used the toilet yet and no stinky smell would enter my nose any time soon. I stared at the bathroom door through tears from behind my knees, wishing I had never conducted my experiment. I was clueless about what to do to make things right again. I cowered besides the pungent toilet, sobbing about my possible punishments.

"Cindy!" I heard one of my aunts call my name from the hallway. "It's okay. You can come out!"

I was progressively getting tired of sitting next to a toilet and having my feet soaked in bathroom water. This is probably enough punishment already, I thought and pulled myself up, shaking the pins and needles of my feet from sitting there for so long. I grasped the metal doorknob of the door and pulled it open, expecting someone to be standing there and drag me to face my grandfather. But the hallway was empty.

I really didn't want to spend any more quality time with the toilet and decided to go downstairs to get it over with. I peered into the living room below and saw my entire family gathered in one spot, questioning my mom about what happened. Finally, my mom caught sight of me and beckoned me to come downstairs. Slowly, but steadily, I crept my way down the marble steps and made my dramatic entrance as a convict into the living room filled with smiles and laughter. As soon as I walked in, I made eye contact with my grandfather and was pushed down the long line of people until I was standing directly in front of him.

He held both of his hands out with his palms facing upward in front of me. At first, I thought it meant that he wanted me to do the same, so he could smack his large, meaty hands against my palms to show that my hands have done a bad thing. But instead, he pulled me into a hug and placed me on his lap to kiss me on the forehead.

"It's okay," he told me. "I'm not mad."


Almost ten years passed after I committed my crime when I was five and now I'm visiting my family in Vietnam again. I still feel guilty for taking away the lives of innocent creatures, even though the silver fish could be considered a murderer for eating other fish, but that would be like saying every human is a murderer for eating hamburgers or pepperoni pizza. Looking back at the time when I was really bold and didn't care about how I looked, I realize I didn't like my grandfather at the time because of his appearance. But after my mom told me that one of my aunts were afraid of me because I didn't smile as often, I understand how my grandfather must've felt when he figured out why I was so fearful of him back then.

One night, my mom called me into her room and placed the home phone into my now much bigger hand, before I could say anything. I felt my mom's warmth transfer to my ear as I placed it against the side of my phone and said, "Hello?"

A deep, raspy voice replied, "Hello. Cindy?"

"Grandfather?" I asked, even though I already knew it was him. As I asked about how he was and if anything new was going on, my mom told me about how he's been drinking lately and didn't feel so good. A pang of sadness hit me and I had no idea what to say to him besides the cliché, "I hope you feel better."

"Tell him to stop drinking," my mom whispered to me.

"Grandfather, stop drinking," I repeated into the phone. With help from my mom, I was able to develop a conversation with him that had all the aspects of  "feel better soon" and "I love you. I can't wait to see you soon."

"I will," my grandfather replied.

"You need to stay healthy, so we can hang out when I come home this summer. If you're sick, we won't be able to do anything."

"I will," he repeated again.

"Promise me?"

"I promise."

After another conversation of a different topic with many awkward pauses in between, I hung up and carelessly tossed the phone onto the bed and climbed in besides my mom, making the bed squeak and creak on the way.

"You know," my mom said after I made myself comfortable, "he only listens to you."

"Oh," I blankly said, unsure what to say.

"This problem has been going for a while now, but your grandfather won't listen to me and the rest of your aunts and uncles."

I wasn't sure if I'd be the solution to this, but I didn't want to argue with my mom this late at night. "Do you think he'll get better?" I asked.

"You're special to him," she said. "He really cares about the first-born child of our family."

A smile spread across my face in the darkness of the room, "I wish I was closer to him, Mom."

"I think you're already closer to him than anyone else." With those words, thoughts of my grandfather filled my head, rocking me to sleep. I fell asleep that night, hoping my mom's words were true.

About two weeks later, my mom reported to me that Grandfather gave up his excessive drinking and his health was gradually getting better. Normally, you'll rarely find my family saying "I love you," since we're people of expressions rather than people of words. But I was terrible at both and didn't know how to tell my grandfather that I was proud of him, that I missed him, or that I loved him, so I didn't say or do anything. Instead, I let my feelings transfer through my mom to reach my grandfather since her words and expressions were far better than mine.

"Remember to stay healthy, so I can see you again," were the words I said to my grandfather the next time we spoke on the phone. I  just hoped that he could see through the layers of my words.

I don't talk to my grandfather often, and I think that's the only full-length conversation we've ever had that I can remember. But while I was talking, the thoughts I had about him as a five-year old were completely different than the thoughts I had when I spoke to him on the phone. I now look at the scary, old man as my grandfather who has to take of me and in return, I have to take care of him. I don't see him often and I don't speak to him often even in person, but between the two of us, there's a relationship we share that can't exactly be described in just words.

Instead of my grandfather owning silver fish, the hobby has moved onto my new uncle who recently married my aunt. The new family bully swims around luxuriously in his glass tank, waiting for his meals to fall into his possession. I occasionally find little replicas of my murder weapon sitting beside his tank after my uncle cleans his tank with the soap. And I still make fun of the little guy by mocking him with the delicious finger of mine whenever I get bored or want to entertain my younger cousins.

I stare at the fish flick its tail in the new tank, daring me to put my finger in the water.

"Don't do it," I hear, flinching at the fact that I wasn't alone. I turn around to see my youngest uncle, who was the one responsible of cleaning up the crime scene ten years ago.

"I won't," I say, thinking he thought I was going to dip my finger into the home of a ferocious monster.

"I don't want to have to empty another tank of carcasses because of those murderous hands of yours," he jokingly told me.

I laughed at his humorous take on my misdeed. After several chuckles, I smiled to myself, knowing that eventually someone else's curiosity will end up killing the fish.
-- Cindy Nguyen, Grade 9