Stay Good by Emelie Fritzell

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            Stefan didn’t think it would make any difference, seeing his mother dead. She had been ill for almost a whole year and everyone knew this day would come. But suddenly, everything had been switched off to mute inside his head. It was a deafening silence. The kind of silence people always find terrifying; it happens when the aircraft takes off or descends from the sky to land; we blow the pressure out to get rid of this temporary discomfort and be able to hear again. 

            It is rather simple. We all know.

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Snowfall by David Hollingsworth

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            One strange day in my youth, on a Monday, the headmaster, Mr. Werman, interrupted my English class and Mr. Plimpton’s lecture on the Romantics, Wordsworth in particular. 

            We were supposed to have read “Lines” the night before.  I wasn’t paying much attention and was instead doodling lazy daydreams in my mind.  Mr. Plimpton, when he recited lines of the poem, had a sleepy, deep, and sonorous voice. 

            Since I wasn’t paying attention, Mr. Plimpton called on me and asked, “How would you describe the force that Wordsworth believes connects us all to nature and to each other, Mr. Rowland?”

            Before I could answer him, and long before the chilling fear of an audience could sink in, Mr. Werman entered, shuffled across the room, and whispered into the long raisiny ear of Mr. Plimpton.  After a moment of listening, Mr. Plimpton said, “Edward, Mr. Werman would like to have a word with you.”

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Graffiti Birds by Chris Castle

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            Bobby walked out of the house and down the road. Some of the birds were singing and some were not. He wondered why they didn’t sing, the starlings, the blackbirds and thought they might be unhappy. The idea of sad birds almost clouded his eyes but after ma, he had made a Bobby-promise not to make any more tears pop out of his eyes. They were cruel, hateful things, smudging everything, making buildings look like butter and the flowers like ruined photographs. No, no more tears for Bobby, even if his heart trembled and shook like the tracks when a train approached. Ma had always told him to stand behind the yellow lines when they’d gone on a trip and he’d always listened. Would he ever go on another trip now, without ma? He shook his head no, but in his heart, in that secret place where he made his dreams and sometimes fell in love with the pretty girl from the local shop that sold his pop, he wondered.

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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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