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More Than A Game

By Anjan B.

     BAM! BAM! Thuds fill the air of the gym as hundreds of kids dribble on the hardwood basketball court, where all-star tryouts are taking place. The usually dark, dreary gym is full of light and smelly, sweaty children today. Here, basketball is glorified and nothing else matters.

     “Kids! Get to center circle!”, a coach built like a military general barks, surveying the crowd with contempt. I sprint to half court, eager to impress the coach.

     Ever since I was 7, becoming a pro basketball player has been my dream. Many are confused by this wild fantasy--an Indian kid, the son of two computer engineers, an athlete?

     “Engineering is the way to go,” my aunt often says on the dreaded weekly visits to her home. “You, Vivaan Avni, will never succeed in basketball.”

     Begging my parents to let me play in competitive, costly leagues has become a drawn-out ritual in our home. I’m sometimes afraid the landlord will complain when he hears the screaming through the thin, chipped walls of our home.

     The truth is--basketball is more than just a game for me. It’s a refuge-- a safe haven from the constant arguing in my home. It’s a hope--that one day this game will get me out of my Indian neighborhood with something other than lentil soup to smell all day. It’s something to look up to, the role model I never had, more than just a game.

     Back at the tryout, our eager faces look up at the muscled coach. He gives us orders to run drills. Men with clipboards stand all around the courts, carefully judging everyone from the scrawny Chinese kids to the tall African American kids with brand new Jordans on their feet. I think I do pretty well on the drills evaluations, even though the ball was stolen from me a couple times. The first day ends after an hour, with coach closing us off loudly. I go change out of my dirty clothes. The smell of mold and dirt creeps up from the cracks in the floor of the locker room. Grunts bound across the echoing walls as friends converse with each other.

     “Nice game today, man!”

     “That three-pointer was LIT.”

     No one approaches me, but I’m used to that. I don’t have many friends. My Mom picks me up, and the car ride is uneventful back home. When we reach the house, however, she sets me to work on my latest math class.

     “Okay Vivaan, this one is called the School of Math. We spent a lot of money on it, so I expect you to work very hard.” She grimaces as if she already knows she’s wasting her time.

     “Ya, whatever,” I reply.

     After an hour of math, I walk outside to shoot some hoops at Briones park. Some guys are already playing there.

     “Hey guys, can I join you?”

     “Sure--are you good?”, one of the ringleaders says with a smile.

     “Decent”, I reply, not sure how to answer.

     For the next hour, we play basketball--passing, cutting, and I lose myself in the rhythm of the game. This is why I love this sport, I think. I thank the boys and leave to my house, and the magic is gone. My last thought before drifting off is, I’ll have to do well to make All-Stars tomorrow.

     Saturday morning. I jump out of bed and put on my best sports clothes. Hopping onto my bike, I don’t even mind the creaking gears or the broken texture of the handlebars as I race myself to All-star tryouts. When I enter the gym, I realize for the first time how left out I am. The over-privileged white kids stand in one corner, and the athletic freaks in the other. The smart kids who are being forced by their parents to do this are in another, and the coaches in another. There are many other groups just like this, but nowhere for me, a dark-haired, brown-skinned Indian kid wearing no fancy clothes and waiting. The only thing I have in common with these people is my love for the game.

     Tryouts begin. Today we play real games. I do everything right--dribbling, passing, moving around. I finish with 1 1  points, good enough to make the team for sure. After tryouts, the coach announces that results will be announced in an hour. I walk outside the gym and bike back to my house, and suddenly the hated smell of lentil soup is like a rose garden. I sprint to my now-comfortable bed and look outside my beautiful window. The world seems to be magnified positively as I daydream about the all-star season.

     An hour later, I enter the gym, sure of my success. As the coach calls out ten names, I smile in anticipation.

     “Number 7: Kaden Starr.”

     “Number 8: Brody Holbrook.”

     I was getting worried. If this guy doesn’t call my name, I’m going to blow, I think.

     “Number 9: Ivan Slinch. Number 10--”

     The moment is drawn out, and I feel a rush of stress and suspense.

     “Adrian Lancer.”

     I stare in shock for a second, then stumble out of the gym. Everything is bad now--even a spotless orange basketball seem to taunt me as I slowly traipse home. Thud. Thud. Its bounces are taunts. Leave, it seems to say. No one wants you here.

     A few days pass, and I go through the motions of my day--doing homework, math class, and sleeping--a lot of sleeping. Wallowing in self-pity has become my favorite activity.

     Then a day comes by when the pain lessens. I stop worrying about myself not making all-stars when I see a man on the street with no home. If that man is not crying,  I think. Why should I be? I walk to the nearest park and pick up an old, gray, rotting basketball. The hoop gives me hope, and with a grin, I walk onto the court. I dribble a few times, feeling good to be back on the court. With every bounce, I release a bit of pain.

     “Forget it,” I say exuberantly.  “This week in the summer of 2015 is gone.”

     Smiling, I shoot the ball.


More than A Game: by Anjan B. (Fiction)

My Bedroom

By Dahlia S.

     The light poured in through the window and gathered upon the flowers that densely populated my comforter. They were vibrant and loud, quite the opposite of myself…or the rest of my dream room.  

     I always had a preference for things that were mildly austere, characterized through distinct edges and minimal clutter. Cold hard emptiness always told a great story, I had learned. Those who were able to live in such simplicity with minimal material possessions probably had a profound story to tell, far more profound than my own, which was tainted by a self-indulgent desire to hoard...and an upbringing where I was privileged to hoard to my heart’s content.  

     Crisp white tables with corners so sharp it hurt just to look and neat bookshelves filled with 1 800s novels by the greats of literature endlessly polluted my dreams, but did not transcend into reality. This type of cleanliness was certainly aesthetically pleasing, but not exactly attainable for me.  

     In truth, my bedroom was just a very colorful chaos. I made my bed every morning to give myself a semblance of achievement, as if I had completed some harrowing task that almost took the life out of my body, but that was about as far as my organizational skills went.  

The large rectangular desk near my doorway was brimming with books that I had either read recently or said I would get around to reading; they were an eclectic mix of classics I knew I should possess in my repertoire before I went to high school and, of course, Candace Bushnell. The books I liked had covers with high heels and pouting lips, not petticoats and wind-struck wooden houses on prairies.  

     Pieces of scrap paper with old doodles were caught between desk drawers. The latest installment of Bar Mitzvah loot (either a pair of sunglasses I had no realistic intention of wearing or a tawdry tee shirt plastered with somebody’s name) ended up somewhere on the desk as well. Broken pencils, dried out sharpies, the occasional lost earring, a barely used notebook - these things all littered my desk, turning it into nothing short of a personal flea market.  

     Then, there was the bookshelf. It had taken me fourteen years to realize that if a book was actually on my bookshelf, neatly put away in its designated spot, it probably meant I didn't like it all that much. Three tall shelves packed with books of varied authors but oftentimes similar genre, the top one sharing space with my broad collection of tattered celebrity tabloids, Seventeen and Time. I felt no particular affinity toward magazines in general, but throwing these ones away felt like destroying a piece of history. I needed to preserve every issue of People from December 2012 because nobody else would.

     My eyes often rested upon a small 3’ by 3’ patch of wall space above the bookshelf that I had dubbed “The Wall”. The majority of wall space in my room was unusually drab, as I found that I had a paltry selection of cutely stereotypical photos of me and my friends to hang up. Simply, we weren't the types of girls that could look candidly obsessed with each other, arms wrapping around waists in that patented “sorority stance”. Instead, “The Wall” was a loose collection of photographs, boarding passes and meaningful letters I had hung up. There were glitzy bat mitzvah invitations with embellishments that glinted against the sun, my first ticket to a real charity gala, tacky hats from touristy destinations, magnets and misplaced junk I had held onto for no reason other than the noble cause of preservation.  

     I could not specify a memory within my bedroom; it was the one space where I could go to escape the suffocation of memories, a place to just breath. There were days when I would bawl into my pillow and laugh until I could no longer breathe. There were endless telephone conversations with my grandmother, my back leaning against the hard wooden bed board as I told her about everything there was to tell. Monday mornings when I woke up too late and all my clothing ended up on the carpet in a scattered attempt to get dressed for school before 7:15. The stuffiness that enveloped my bedroom from May to September. There were my stuffed animals that slept next to me every night because otherwise my bed felt far too big and empty. The clicking sound of pressing the ‘period’ key on my laptop violently when I felt I had finally written a perfect sentence.  Everything within my bedroom was an extension of myself. Perhaps that was my memory.  

My Bedroom: by Dahlia S. (Nonfiction)

i hate being up front

By Ash P.

i hate being up front

being up front means eyes on you

being up front means the people in the back have the upper hand

being up front means responsibility

it means trying instead of just showing up


i hate being up front

it’s what’s expected of the older sibling

it makes my palms sweat

and my breathing heavy and quick out of my nose


i hate being up front

i can’t whisper

or make faces when i’m up front

being up front is what

proud people

confident people

happy people do

but i am not proud or happy

and i think that if you looked up

the opposite of confident

you would find a picture of me


i hate being up front

my voice is quiet and hard to hear

it grates on people’s ears

it comes from my nose mostly

but other girls have voices from their chests

or their breath

those girls do well up front


i hate being up front

it is part of growing up,

grownups say

but i am already

four years to being a grownup

and i do not think

being in front will help you

do taxes

or vote

or other grownup things

i am good at writing on pieces of paper

and scowling

and being tired

so i think i could pass as a grownup

but i hardly ever see grownups up front

Unless they are making a speech

or teaching

but i do not want to be a speech-maker

or a teacher

so being up front will not be a problem


i hate being up front

it takes too much work

you have to smile

and speak loudly

and clearly

and not grab the hem of your shirt

or stutter

or cover your face


i have been up front before

and i stutter

and shake

and breathe heavy and quick out of my nose

and feel my palms become slick with sweat


i hate being up front

it is like listening to music

out loud

in the middle of a crowd

to feel the eyes on you

and to know you have to do something

turn off the music or something

and all the while

BAdoom BAdoom

your heart and the music in your ears

and you wish you could do something

and your hands are frozen at your sides

and you want to open a black hole

and disappear


i hate being up front

up front is for essays

that don’t repeat the same ideas

over and over

or twist their points

into half-ideas,

for stories

that aren’t just a brain jotted down

onto a crumpled piece of paper

ideas formed in the moment

but not considered,

for arguments that are strong

and spoken with confidence

and belief in the words,

for poems

in Uppercase and Lowercase

that rhyme and move,

fluid on paper

that is why

i hate being up front.

i hate being up front: by Ash P. (Poetry)


By Suhrith B.

It was half-past twelve

I couldn’t sleep

Tossing and turning was I,

Messing up the blankets

My head was running wild   

Like animals fleeing

From a blazing fire

in the usually serene forest.


I was falling into another world.

I could feel my eyes closing

They were asking me to sleep

Although my head, my head was contradicting

Forcing me to stay awake

Asking for one more pleasure of the day.

I glanced at the clock

tick-tock, tick-tock

My pacing mind was overtaking

the will and the power of my body

One more thing, It pleaded

A finale to the rollercoaster,

And ending to the book,

A thought to think about

for days.


With all my body’s might I stood up

I grabbed my jacket and put on my slippers


And walked Outside.

I looked up to the sky

And I saw





A palette fit for a king

And the stars

Oh, the stars

They were like the finest dust particles

Scattered amongst humanity


Why were they there?

What was their purpose?

It was bewildering

Yes, my mind thought

Yes, this is what I wanted.


And I continued to gaze, gaze at the magnificence of the stars


Each one possessed a new characteristic

A new personality

A new beginning, perhaps


They were perfect, an act of perfection

Appealing to the eye, and pleasing to the mind


They were a shimmering blanket​

Under which

I felt like sleeping

Sleeping: by Suhrith B. (Poetry)
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