The Swarm by Jessie Szalay

            When I was seven I went to sleepaway camp, where I fell and got eight stitches in my knee, never knew with whom to sit in the dining hall, and drew a spectacular picture of a ladybug. The wings were smooth red with seven spots; the pronotum was black with white markings, deceptively eye-like, like an orca whale; and the head was small with friendly eyes and antennae. I drew it on the last day of camp with a sticky bandage on my leg while the other, braver children climbed the old California oak. All week long I had sat under inspirational posters in the dining hall: ladders of success with rungs labeled, “I won’t,” “I can,” “I did.” Finally, I thought, as I looked at my gorgeous ladybug, I had really done something at camp.

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He Never Liked Cake (EXCERPT) by Janna Leyde

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            He had not been home in precisely 87 days—almost three months, which amounted to so many weeks that I’d quit counting. The days of chicken salad sandwiches and chairs that hurt my tailbone were long past. So were the days of watching a familiar reality fade away. These days my mother and I had mastered a perfect illusion of sameness, masking the gap of before and after brain injury.

            She winterized the boat, made time to throw sticks and tennis balls to Meagan, helped me with math homework. I thought her intelligence and perfectionist approach to things would be the trick to algebra, but we were both stumped, bored and frustrated. She cooked for us, mowed the grass and kept the garage clean. She went to my volleyball games and chorus concerts, and drove me to Speech tournaments in the wee morning hours on Saturdays. She lectured me about cars, constantly. About riding with my friends, and how to pay attention to who was a good driver, who was responsible.

            It was as if my dad had been on a long vacation. He could walk in the door and slip right back into our lives. Except my mother kept referring to my father as “handicapped, both mentally and physically.” She had me prepared to babysit my father—meal times, bedtimes and do and don’ts and lists. I was a good babysitter, the kind that gave all the kids on my block secret snacks and extended bedtimes.

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In Guatemala by Joan Potter

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            I’m sitting next to my Spanish teacher in her dusty old Honda as she pulls into the town square and parks on the packed dirt near a stone wall. The square is crowded with people, mostly women and children in traditional Maya dress; the fragrant smoke of cooking fires floats above them. As I step out of the car I feel dazed, as if I were in a dream.

            A young woman rushes toward me from across the plaza – a small, solid woman with shining dark eyes and a beautiful wide smile. “Hola, Juanita,” she calls. She wraps her arms around me and the warmth of her hug makes my eyes fill with tears. I know she must be Maria Francisco, the wife of my friend Elio. But how did she recognize me so instantly?

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