The Beans

By Geneva L.

     Long ago in a country that has long since disappeared, there was a tiny little cottage. Well, it could hardly be called even a cottage. The straw roof was caved in so badly that you had to stoop most of the time to avoid bumping your head on the ceiling. There were three miniscule windows, but all of them were smashed except one, which was so small and foggy you couldn't see out of it at all. 

     Outside the cottage was grass that was always a sickly yellow. The only other thing near the house was an old scraggly pine tree in the backyard, which had countless bald patches, and if you gave it the smallest nudge, a shower of pine needles would fall to the ground. About a quarter of a mile beyond the pine tree was a massive forest that hardly anyone ever went into because it was home to many dangerous animals.

     And of course, there were the Horon mountains. Massive and snowy, the Horon mountains were by far the most beautiful part of the small, dirty village.

     By now you are probably wondering who lives in this house with the mountains, forest and pine tree. Let me introduce you to John and his mother. John was a tall skinny boy with brown hair and a tanned face. He and his mother Araena had lived in the town of Asbury ever since John could remember.

     John had just finished eating his breakfast of stale bread and the last bit of cheese when his mother approached him.

     “John, dear,” she said quietly. “This is the last bit of food in the house and we have no more money. Perhaps you could ask around the town after school to see if anyone has any jobs you can do for a few coins.”

     John's poor mother, Araena, would have gone out to find work herself, but she was so weak and feeble from a long illness that often she had small relapses and could hardly find the strength to walk around the small cottage to make their meager meals. She was often well enough to make a trip to town, but she was growing weaker every day. She knew that she would not be able to consistently provide for herself and John.

     John made a face at this proposition. “What if I just ask around town if anyone has any more sewing for you to do?”

     “I suppose that will be fine, dear,” sighed Araena as she weakly sat in an old chair.

     It turned out that no one had any sewing for Araena, and she and John were left with no money and no food.

     “We have to have some food here!” John said optimistically with a weak smile. Truth be told, he was actually feeling quite guilty that he hadn't listened to his mother and found some sort of job to do. “Well, I guess I can get some pine needles off the tree for soup.”

     Araena looked at her son walking out the back door with a spring in his step and heading towards the pine tree with a pot for needles. She sighed sadly.

     John soon returned with a pot full of needles. “Here you are Mother!” he said grandly and handed her the pot. Soon they had a small pot of pine needles and boiled water.

     “John dear, this won't do,” Araena said decidedly. “I have decided to tell you a secret. I have one silver coin left. I've kept it under my pillow and I think that now is the time to use it. I want you to go to the town square tomorrow and buy us some meat.”

     After he got over the fact that his mother had kept the money a secret from him, John was tremendously excited over the feast they would have tomorrow. Roasted chicken, buttered potatoes, soft fluffy bread, and maybe even some cinnamon buns.

     The next day John decided to skip school so he could buy all the luscious treats for their feast that night. He was just making his way the meat stand when something caught his eye. A box full of beans. Something seemed odd about them, and as John peered more closely at them one of them glowed. In reality, the “glowing” was only a flash of sunlight, but John was certain these beans had some magic power, and as he was wondering in amazement, he remembered an old story. The story was called Jack and the Beanstalk and even in that remote village, everyone had heard of it.

     A boy named Jack who lived in poverty with his mother was on his way to town to sell his cow when a stranger appeared and offered to sell him magic beans for the cow. Jack snapped the deal up at once and planted the beans. They grew overnight into a huge beanstalk which Jack climbed and went on to find glory and countless riches. He and his mother lived like kings from that day onward.

     Inspired by this amazing story, John immediately decided to buy the beans. “How much?” he eagerly asked the old woman standing behind the display of beans.

     She peered curiously at him. “One silver coin.” she answered in a clear voice.

     Now there was a problem. John could either buy them food that would last for days and help strengthen his mother, or a small box of beans. John deliberated for a moment. He was hungry and he wanted food now. On the other hand, he only had to wait till the next morning and the beanstalk would have grown. He fingered the silver coin nervously. “I'll take them!” he said and thrust the silver coin into her hand before he could change his mind.

     The woman looked over at him again. John didn't like the way her black eyes seemed to reach into his blue ones. He shifted his feet uncomfortably. 

     The woman finally took a small scoop, and used it to transfer the beans from the box into a small rough pouch. She put the scoop back and handed him the small pouch of beans. John ran home a fast as he could. As he slowed to a jog along the dirt road he felt sure he had made the right choice.

     When he reached the cottage, he ran in, shouting, “Mother! Mother! I bought magic beans!”

     Araena looked at the small package and asked: “Didn't you get any food?”

     John's face fell a little and he shifted his feet nervously. “Well, no. The beans cost one silver coin, so there wasn't any left over for food. But Mother, they're magic beans! I saw them glow! Remember the story about the boy who planted beans and they grew into a beanstalk? Remember how he became rich? I'm going to plant these and get us thousands of gold coins!”

     Araena looked skeptically at the package and sighed. “Jack, dear, that was the last bit of money we had. And we have absolutely no food! What do you propose we do now?”

     "Well, yes, I thought about that, and we only have to wait until morning and the beanstalk will reach to the sky!”

     Araena shook her head doubtfully at these words and drew another sigh. “Perhaps even if the beans aren’t magic, they will grow and provide us with some food.” she thought hopefully.

     John ran outside to plant the beans and get some more pine needles for the watery, flavorless soup. They went to bed that night with stomachs nowhere near satisfied.

     In the morning, John leapt out of bed and raced to the door. He ran out into the warm sunny morning to the spot where he had planted the beans. Oh, the riches he would receive! He and his mother would never go hungry again!

     John stopped short at the little cleared area of land. Nothing. Not a sprout or leaf or anything. John wearily sunk to the ground as despair rolled over him. He would never become rich now! He had worked so hard to plant those beans and nothing had happened!

     His stomach made a grumbling noise, and he remembered that he had not eaten anything but pine needle soup for nearly two days.

     He walked dejectedly into the cottage to tell his mother the bad news. To his surprise and shock, she wasn't there! He looked all over the little cottage, which didn't take very long, but to no avail.

     “Mother!” he screamed. He ran outside and searched. She wasn't out back, ,she wasn't on the path to the mountains. Where could she have gone? He decided to go to the town and look there, even though he was fairly certain his mother was too weak that day to make it to the town.

     He took off at a run and was soon panting and sweating. John slowed to a jog and finally arrived at the town square. He looked around but it was hard to see anything since there were people everywhere. Children running around with a ball, merchants selling their wares, and shoppers drifting around and traveling from one stand to another. John jogged to every stand and small shop. Where was his mother? He finally spotted her walking slowly and feebly out of a bakers shop.

     “Mother!” John exclaimed. “You scared me! I had no idea where you were!”

     “I'm sorry, but I had to head out early, otherwise I would never have made it at my pace,” She explained weakly.

     “I've just been talking to the baker to see if we could exchange some work for bread. He told me that he would be glad to have you work there, sweeping the floor, cleaning the bread pans, things like that.”

     “But Mother, how did you walk all this way? Most days you can hardly make it out of bed!”

     “We need a way to get a steady income,” she replied, “and I was feeling quite strong today. What do you think about working at the bakery?” she asked hopefully.

     John was now over his fright and he looked skeptically at his mother as she said this.

     “I guess I could,” he said with the air of one making a great sacrifice. “It doesn't seem too hard, and I suppose we need the bread.” The two walked slowly home together as the sun set behind the Horon mountains. He secretly thought, “If the beanstalk has grown by tomorrow I won't have to go work at the bakery!”

     The next day John walked slowly outside to check on the beans. Still nothing! He would have to go to work after all. His mother seemed very weak after her long journey of the previous day. She could hardly make it out of bed, and it seemed as if she had used up all the strength she had left in her to get John a job.

     John sluggishly ate the pine needle soup his mother had lovingly prepared for breakfast. He had lost a good deal of his usual swagger. He slowly wrapped his thin cloak around his shoulders and headed down the dirt road towards the small town. He made his way to the bakery and entered through a little side door.

     “You must be John!” exclaimed a kind looking man. He wiped his hands on his slightly soiled apron and walked out from behind the bakery counter.

     “Pleased to meet you!” he said, extending his large hand towards John. “My name is Andrew.”

     John shook hands politely and nodded his head. “Where should I start?” he asked in a weak tired sounding voice.

     “Why, you can't work like that!” exclaimed Andrew. “My wife Cecilia will get you a nice hot yummy snack and then you can start,” he said with a smile.

     After his snack of a fresh, warm cinnamon bun, John got to work. He dusted the glass display case that held the pastries for sale. He swept the front stoop and the floor of the shop, and he washed all the windows till they shone. The kind baker entertained him with stories while he worked and the day flew by.

     The overly generous baker and his wife gave John a basket full of freshly baked bread, and Cecilia promised that John could help her in the kitchen the next day.

     “Thank you both very much, I'll see you tomorrow!” exclaimed John with a wave as he headed out the door. “Why that was actually fun!” John thought as he made his way down the dirt road. It was nice to be considered a hard worker, and nice to be appreciated like Andrew and Cecilia appreciated him.

     As the sun set behind the Horon mountains, John opened the door of the little cottage and announced cheerfully, “I'm home, Mother!”

     His poor mother was quite weak and sickly on account of her long journey of the previous day and the lack of food in her body. She could hardly sit up in bed to greet John.

     He quickly made his way to her and knelt by the side of her bed. “Here Mother have some bread!” He said as he tore a piece off of the nicest loaf.

     Araena shakily ate the bread, and sighed with contentment.

     “Here, have some more! Have as much as you want! We'll never be hungry again!” Jack exclaimed in ecstasy.

     Araena and John ate until they were so full they couldn't eat a bite more, and they still had a loaf left over for breakfast the next morning. Araena was considerably stronger but she told John to get some sleep for work the next day.

     John kissed her and climbed into his cot on the floor. As he was full for the first time since he could remember, and tired from his day's work, he fell right to sleep. When he woke, he saw his mother walking around the cottage tidying up. She had only ever gotten up to help prepare meals since she had fallen ill. Even on her better days, she had to rest between tasks, sometimes for hours at a time.

     “Mother, you're up!” John exclaimed in surprise. He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. “Are you feeling alright?"

     “Better than I have in a long time, dearest!” She smiled happily. “Now get out of bed! You have to get to work!”

     John climbed out of bed and ate his breakfast of toast flavored with pine needles, which was really quite good even though the taste of pine needles usually bored him. They added a spice to the crispy toast. After his delicious meal, he bade his mother goodbye and left for work.

     This went on for about a month with little variation, except that the baker gave him other foods to bring home and not just bread. John often brought his mother sweet cakes flavored with honey, pastries with jam, and often Cecilia would give him a basket of fruit.

     Because of his hard work, John and his mother prospered and never went hungry again. You may think this is the end of the story and it would be a good ending, but you're forgetting one thing -- the beanstalk.

     John and his mother had completely forgotten about the beanstalk. Araena was busy with her sewing, which made them money to buy things like cloth for clothes, blankets, a proper bed for John, and little decorations to make the cottage more pleasant.

     John had kept busy at the bakery every day of the week, except Sundays when he and his mother went to the little chapel in the village. On Sunday afternoons he often helped his mother around the house.

     As both of them were so busy, it's no surprise that no thought of the beanstalk had crossed their minds. But that was about to change.

     As he was walking home from work one day, John saw something that caught his eye -- a small farm. As he and his mother didn't ever have vegetables, he decided he would inquire with the farmer as to whether he could do some work in exchange for some vegetables.

     The farmer proved a pleasant man. “We could use some help in the bean field. It's been a bad year for the poor beans and we need to plant as many as we can to make up for it.

     John's heart skipped a little beat. The bean field! The realization crossed his mind. Perhaps the beans he had bought and planted weren't magic at all! Perhaps here he could learn the right way to plant and take care of beans. He explained his predicament to the farmer, who explained the problem.

     “Since those beans you planted have been left on their own they probably won't grow. You can try and if it doesn't work,, I can give you some new seeds in exchange for work.”

     John explained that he would have to consult with the baker as he was still working for him. The farmer bade him goodbye and John went back to the bakery where Andrew was just closing shop.

     “Hello John, what brings you back here?” he asked.

     “I need to know if I can work for you every other day of the week, as the farmer has offered me some work in exchange for vegetables and seeds.” John explained.

     “That sounds fine. I'm sure Cecilia and I can cope without you every now and then.” Andrew said with a smile.

     John made one last trip to the farmer to tell him that he would be reporting for work the next morning.

     The next morning John made the trip to the farm. The farmer showed him the best places to plant beans so that they got enough sunlight, and how to plant the bean seeds and how far apart they should be. He showed John some beans that had already sprouted and explained how and when to water them.

     When he got home late that afternoon, John went to the spot where he had planted the beans. He stared at the spot critically. He saw now that the beans had almost gotten no sunlight on account of the pine tree's shadow. He remembered that he had dumped all the beans into the tiny hole he had dug. He looked more closely and he saw that one of the beans was actually sticking out of the ground. He snorted in disgust of himself.

     The day after that, he worked for the farmer again and got a parcel of beans and a few ears of corn as payment. When he arrived home that afternoon he gave his mother the corn with a kiss. After chatting with her for a few minutes, John hastened outside to plant his beans the right way.

     A few days later with careful watering and weeding, a sprout appeared. Then another and another, until John had a small field full of healthy stalks. In a few months, John harvested the beans and sold half of them for a reasonable sum of money and kept the other half to share with his mother and plant next year.

     In a few years, John was one of the youngest and most successful farmers of the village. He had built his mother a much bigger house where they now resided. They were rich not on account of magic, but because of John's hard work. 

     And now you can see how planting a few beans changed John’s life.

 

Here's the Thing About Death - Part One

By Alyssa G.

     It was one hell of a way to die.  

     At least, that was what everyone and said as they stepped up to the podium when they leaned over to stare blankly into the casket. Maybe it was considered rude to say something like that, especially at a funeral, but everyone knew Max would probably like the comment. He would even say it at someone else’s funeral just to lighten the mood. That was just who Max was: he was a funny guy and a sweet one at most. 

     He was crazy. 

     He was kind.  

     He will be missed.

     Isaiah watched as every single person in that room stepped up and said whatever came to mind. Whatever reminded them of Max. Even the fangirls were there (ugh) and cried and cried and made it a bigger deal than it already was. Who even let them in? One girl sobbed in the corner with two other girls holding her. They shook uncontrollably as tears stream down their faces and black eyeliner followed with. It smudged against their high, porcelain faces and cakey makeup. Isaiah wondered how Max would feel about this if he was here right now. If he was still alive. Isaiah knew for a fact that his brother would run to them, comfort them, and act as if they were regular people and not his fans. Even with his popularity and looks and everything else in between, Max still wanted to be a normal person. He still wanted to be seen as Max Sylvia, not some celebrity. 

     Isaiah was going to miss that for sure.

     He was going to miss every call and guy-talk about their stupid problems. He was going to miss how Max would always thank him for every award he received. He was going to miss every birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving...Isaiah was going to miss everything. He was going to miss being his brother most of all. Max was his entire family and now he is gone. What was the point of being here if he wasn’t?

     He let himself trip over that question throughout the entire service and even when it was over. Isaiah sat there, dazed and just so alone in a room full of people. Some went up to him and tried to comfort him and talk, but Isaiah wasn’t having it. He didn’t say anything, but only sat there and stared at the picture of his late brother, Max. He was smiling, his brown eyes radiant and so full of life. His curly, black hair was swept to one side, covering most of his face and that small birthmark on his right cheek. He hated that birthmark, but Isaiah liked it because he had the same thing and it was something that connected the two. Isaiah wanted to see if that same birthmark was there on his face, but he couldn’t get up from his seat, even if he tried. Something kept him there, and he didn’t know what. 

     Why did you have to leave, Max? Why? Isaiah thought. Why did you have to leave me?

     Isaiah glared down at his feet, wondering why he couldn’t get up from where he was. Everyone was by Max’s casket, saying their last words, but Isaiah wasn’t.He wasn’t getting up. He wasn’t going to say anything, and he didn’t know why. A part of didn’t really believe that Max was...dead.It just couldn’t be possible. He saw Max only a few days ago. How could you see someone one second and then the next second they’re gone? Another part of him did believe that Max was dead, but he didn’t want to see him. There was no way he was going to see his brother like that, all stuffed up in that casket, alone with eyes closed forever.

     He tugged at his tie, letting it loosen and fall to its side. The air around him thickened and became heavy. His chest was tight and his breathing was ragged. The familiar feeling of sadness washed over him again as tears pricked at the corners of his eyes. Max was gone, and Isaiah couldn’t stand the thought of it. He couldn’t stand the thought of not seeing his brother again. He couldn’t get up to look at him or say his last words. He was stuck. He was alone. 

     “Death is a strange thing, isn’t it?”

     Isaiah sighed mentally, knowing whoever just sat down next to him had to be a lost family member or some fan girl of Max’s. Whoever this was, he wasn’t going to really pay attention to them. She was another lost cause to him. 

     “Mmm,” he hummed in response. Isaiah took a side glance at the girl. Her legs were crossed and the hem of her black, short dress rising up on her pale thighs. The heel of her boots would often hit the side of his knee every other second they sat there together. Isaiah would have said something about it, but he knew he would give into whatever she was playing at. She flipped her blonde hair to the side, quickly shoving her bangs behind her left ear. He watched as her fingers trailed down beside her ear and to the side of her neck. Her nails were covered in pink nail polish, glossed over and shiny. She sat there, waiting. 

     “You think, ‘Hey, this is going to be a good day’, then you're just...gone? Like, you're not there anymore? I’ve always thought of that. How can someone be alive in one moment, then they’re gone in the next?” she went on.

     Was she reading his mind?

     “I wonder what he was thinking right before he died,” she said. “maybe planning for his next movie? Calling one of his family members? What he might make for his dinner that night? Perhaps wondering what it might be like to die?”

     Isaiah swiveled his head towards her, glaring. “Excuse me?” he asked with a sharp tone.

     She stared at him, amused, and her head slightly tilted to the side. “Oh, was that rude of me to say? Sorry—I don’t really think before I say things, you know?” 

     He huffed, turning back to his brother. Max’s picture watched them from afar, still smiling that award-winning smile. He was judging them, obviously. Isaiah could already hear the scolding from his brother, telling him that she was just trying to start a conversation to pull him away from all of this. She was trying to be nice in a way that may come off as offensive, but hey — she was trying.

     “You look like him, by the way.” the girl commented. “Are you sure that isn’t Isaiah Sylvia in that coffin instead of Max?”

     He wished it was him. “No, that’s Max, sadly,” Isaiah said. He paused and tore his eyes away from Max to focus his gaze on her. Her green eyes were piercing, but he could see the pity hiding within. That look on her face before faltered. As she stared sadly at Isaiah, she was looking deeper as if she could find something in him. There was nothing to find though, just an empty, lost guy. 

    “He was really something, huh?”

     He was. He really was. “Yeah, Max was...awesome. He was someone that everyone wanted to be with. Max was the best person you could ever know, and I was lucky enough to be that person. I was lucky enough to be his brother and-and—” Isaiah shut his mouth instantly, shooting a look at the girl again. He couldn’t be this open about Max. For all he knew, she could possibly be a fangirl or some journalist looking to score some stupid, fake story about his brother. He gave her another glare, nastier than before. His hands form into fists instantly and his lips thin into a deep scowl. “—who are you working for?” Isaiah hissed out.

     “What?”

     “Who are you working for, huh? Some newspaper? Magazine? TMZ? Who?!” he fumed as he shot up from his seat. “If you’re trying to get some story from me for a quick buck, you better look somewhere else. Max was my brother, you jerk, and may I add—a regular person just like the rest of us! He’s not some cash cow for you journalists.”

      She quirked an eyebrow. “You really think I’m here just to get some dirt on a dead guy?”

     “If I’m being honest, yeah, I really think you are,” Isaiah said. 

     She scoffed, staring down at her feet. “Wow. Okay. That’s—new.” the girl stood up from her seat and brushed off her dress. She fixed her hair quickly before looking back at him. He expected an angry expression, something of the sort from what he just said, but instead, he got nothing. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t glare. She didn’t snap like the rest of them did. She just stood there, staring with eyes full of...pity. 

     “I’m so sorry for you,” she said as she focused her gaze on Max. She peered into the coffin, oddly, and leaned over to give him a little kiss on the forehead. “You were a beautiful soul. It’s a shame we don’t have more of you in this world.” 

     She gave him a pitiful look. “I’m sorry for you, especially. Someone shouldn’t lose a person as close as him.”

     Why did he hate seeing that on her face? 

     The girl rested her hand on his shoulder and squeezed tightly. “Good luck, Mr. Sylvia. I hope things work out okay for you in the end.”

     Pity. It was a horrible thing to see in someone else’s eyes, and it was harder to hear it in someone else’s voice. It was something that he was going to hear and see for the rest of the morning until Max was going to be buried. God, was there a way to get out of that?

     Isaiah stood there, stupidly, as he watched the girl turn around and walk away. She walked past everyone and everything, her dress, and hair flowing in the wind. She was gone within a second and never to be seen again, as he had hoped. Isaiah couldn’t think of much right now as being stunned by her words. He cast his eyes towards Max, thinking, they don’t know what happened. No one did. He brushed at his dark suit and chewed at his trembling lips. No one was going to understand, even if he tried to tell them. 

     He pushed past the people crowding the doorway and ran down a dimly lit hall. The sound of the people’s monotone voices faded into nothing more than white noise. The only thing he could hear was his shoes clacking against the marble floor and up the fifty flight of stairs. He was quickly cutting every corner, hitting the railing as he made his way up the building. The slightly aching from it hit his side so hard that it left him breathless, even for a sheer moment. But as determined as he was, Isaiah wasn’t going to stop there. He made it all the way up and stopped at the door at the top of the stairs. From here, a tiny window sat in the door, just enough for him to see the sun disappear over the horizon. Dark clouds loomed above, making him shiver as he stepped out and onto the roof of the building. Isaiah, without even thinking, made it all the way out to the edge. He stood there, leaning over, and seeing how far down it was. A queasy feeling rushed in his stomach, and he felt like throwing up. He wondered if this was what Max felt like before he—

     A bird flew over Isaiah’s head, swiftly, calmly and dipped down next to him. 

     A crow? A raven, maybe? Isaiah didn’t know. 

     But what he did know — what he felt was that it was something telling him to be with Max. Or that it was Max there, telling him to take one step over and fall forever. Isaiah sighed and shook his head. No, he couldn’t. His legs were staked there, not bound to make any sudden movements, at least not at that moment. He was stuck, only thinking of Max in his final moments. 

     Was Max truly thinking of Isaiah when he did that? Or wasn’t he thinking of anything at all?

     Well, that didn’t matter as much now. The only thing that Isaiah was thinking when he was up here was of a better time to do this. To step over. To not think of anything anymore. To be with Max. 

     Tomorrow, sunshine. Isaiah thought. Tomorrow.

 
 

A Little Bump

By Kayla S.

KAYLA: I cannot believe I ever lent you my car. You are so irresponsible. I lend it for one hour and you get in a wreck.

ANGELA: It wasn’t a wreck. It was just a tiny scratch!

KAYLA: Right. Well, we’ll see what insurance has to say about it. How did this even happen? A Starbucks parking lot of all places.

ANGELA: You don’t understand. I swear it wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I could have done. The truck just came out of nowhere and bumped the back of the car.

KAYLA: Okay…..how did he come out of nowhere?

ANGELA: He did! I’ve never seen anything like it. I was just driving around the lot and he ran right into me!

KAYLA: Just tell me exactly what happened and then we can figure it out from there.

ANGELA: Alright. So I was dropping off Ryan at Starbucks to pick up the order-

KAYLA: Hold up, you told me it was just you in the car!

ANGELA: Oh. Right. Okay well, I lied. I was driving Ryan too. Anyways... I dropped him off to pick up my Starbucks, and then I started to back up to get in a better position so that when he jumped back in, we could just zoom out of there-

KAYLA: So he “didn’t come out of nowhere”. You backed up into him?!

ANGELA: Noooooo. Let me finish. So I backed up and then stopped when I was in the best position. Then Ryan jumped in the car and I started to drive out. That’s when the truck came. 

KAYLA: That’s very strange…he just rammed into you?

ANGELA: Sort of. Honestly, I think he was just annoyed that I was waiting in the middle of the lot because he probably wanted to get around me.

KAYLA: Yeah, it would be pretty reasonable of him to be annoyed...if you’re stopped in the middle of a parking lot and not in an actual spot...

ANGELA: Yeah. Sure. But not reason enough to ram into the car.

KAYLA: Are you seriously telling me that he hit my car because he wanted to get around you and you weren’t moving?

ANGELA: Yes. That is what I would assume.

KAYLA: Assume? I feel like you’re not telling me the whole story...

ANGELA: Well, you aren’t letting me finish! After I picked Ryan up and we were driving out of the lot, he realized that he left his phone inside, so I started backing up to let him off in front of Starbucks, and that’s when the truck came.

 KAYLA: Angela. It 100% sounds like you hit him, not the other way around.

ANGELA: You know what. He should have been prepared for anything. I think he was way too close to the car.

KAYLA: Yeah, for you to back up, anyone would have been too close to the car.

ANGELA: Anyways....what does it matter who-hit-who? We worked it out. Insurance will pay for it. No need for blaming.

KAYLA: I don’t think you know how insurance works. Now my monthly fee will be way higher because of the accident.

ANGELA: But it wasn’t an accident! It was just a little bump.

KAYLA: Angela. A “little bump” cost $3,000.

 

Dominant Strategy

By Tong H.

Physics class. Morning. Main character walks through the door, puts his phone in a wall pocket, sits down. He is handed a test: AP Physics C Unit 5 Test. He works through the multiple choice questions, before coming to the last question: free response. Camera holds. A very distinct problem, involving a rod with balls on either end being hit by a third ball. 

Some time later. The page is now black with equations, derivations, and eraser marks. Out of habit, MAIN CHARACTER has taken his glasses off and has begun to chew on them, thinking. 

 

PHYSICS TEACHER: “Okay, time is up, please get your last thoughts down and hand your tests to the front.”

 

MAIN CHARACTER hesitates, then puts a box around his final answer. Hopefully it’s correct. 

 

Cut to main character brushing their teeth, and climbing into bed. 

 

An alarm rings. 7:00 AM. MAIN CHARACTER bikes to school. Economics class. Main character’s eyes drift from his own worksheet to TABLE PARTNER’s. TABLE PARTNER is looking down at his notebook, but instead of economics, the page is filled with a physics problem. It’s the same problem from the test. Two balls on a rod, another coming in to hit it. 

 

ECON TEACHER: “Heads up, everyone. We’re going to do a lecture on game theory.”

 

ECON TEACHER goes through several slides on oligopolies, price fixing, and NASH equilibrium. MAIN CHARACTER isn’t really paying attention. He’s fixated on his partner’s notebook. 

 

ECON TEACHER: “We’re going to demonstrate game theory with an experiment. I need two volunteers.”

 

GEORGE and BRANDON raise their hands.

 

ECON TEACHER: “Alright, George, I want you to go outside for a minute. We’ll send someone to get you when we’re ready.”

 

ECON TEACHER switches slides to a table made up of four squares.

 

ECON TEACHER: “Brandon, you and George have been caught robbing a museum, and the police are interrogating you. You can choose to tell on Brandon, and go free, or stay silent and go to prison for 5 years. However, if George chooses to tell on you, and you stay silent, you go to prison for 10 years. If you both stay silent, you’ll both get 5 years in prison. As George is being questioned in a separate room, you can’t talk to each other before making the decision. Go ahead and make your choice.”

 

STUDENT, from the back of the classroom, yells: “Snitches get stitches!”

 

MAIN CHARACTER looks back at TABLE PARTNER’s notebook, which is open on the table. It’s the same problem. He’s sure of it. 

 

BRANDON: “I’ll tell on George” 

 

STUDENTS, collectively: “Oooooooooooh”

 

ECON TEACHER: “Okay. James, can you get George for us?”

 

GEORGE walks back in, and ECON TEACHER explains the situation to him. 

 

GEORGE: “Well, Brandon and I are good friends, so I’ll stay silent.”

 

The classroom erupts with laughter, and realizing he’s been duped, GEORGE returns to his seat with his head hung low. A bell rings, and class is adjourned. 

 

Later. A tracking shot of BEST FRIEND. Main character catches up to him from behind.  

 

MAIN CHARACTER: “Where you headed?”

 

BEST FRIEND: “I’m about to take the physics test, wanna come with?”

 

MAIN CHARACTER: “Yeah.”

 

MAIN CHARACTER looks over his shoulder as the are walking, making sure no one is within earshot. 

 

MAIN CHARACTER: “Does Ms. Lori have an A period class?” 

 

BEST FRIEND: “Um… I don’t think so. Why?”

 

MAIN CHARACTER: “The guy next to me in econ was looking at the free response question this morning. No other periods took the test yesterday. So… I think someone leaked the FRQ.”

 

BEST FRIEND: “Yikes, are you going to talk to her right now? You should tell her.”

 

MAIN CHARACTER hesitates. He imagines himself getting beat up in the bike cages by TABLE PARTNER.

 

MAIN CHARACTER: “I need to think about it.”

 

A montage of MAIN CHARACTER’s day. He sits through classes, plays card games with his friends. But his eyes are glazed over. The world around him is silent and out of focus. All he can think about is the notebook with the physics question in it. 

 

What if I’m wrong? It could just be a huge coincidence. It could change college decisions. I worked hard to get my answer. And according to his notebook, my answer was wrong anyways. This guy cheated. What do I do?

 

MAIN CHARACTER is at home now, at his desk, in front of a computer. He is gnawing his glasses tenaciously. Thinking again. 

 

The guitar riff from “The Chain” begins to play. 

 

MAIN CHARACTER opens a new tab and searches: “How to send an untraceable email”

 

THE END

 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter Five

By Danielle N.

     Everyone is treating me like I’m either contaminated or made of glass.

     People stared at me in the halls, and Brandon started passing out alien masks to some of the less - bright students to wear. I didn’t notice at first because I’d just dived into a new series by a new author Bridget showed me. Bridget’s the only one who was treating me like I wasn’t going to shatter, but I could tell how curious she was every time she side-glanced at me. I met her at lunch to show her the tongs, when I felt them vibrating rapidly. I pulled them out to see, and heart stopped for a moment.

     Positive.

     I whirled my head around, certain that Bridget couldn’t possibly be a… 

     “Bridget?”

     She looked up from her book with a blank expression. For a moment, I thought I saw a realization hitting her, a sign that something big was going to happen.

     And it sure did.

     “I need to tell you something after school. Can you meet me in the library?”

     She nodded, eyes glued to me. Could Bridget really be a Seer? I wondered what it would be like, knowing what was going to happen seconds before it happens. But I couldn’t be sure until she confirmed what I suspected.

     Then there was one tiny problem.

     Bridget doesn’t talk.

     I certainly didn’t want to force her to do anything, but if she really was a Seer, I was dying to know what it was like. And she has been so quiet all year, it would be good for her to talk for once.

     The rest of school went by in a blur. I trudged to the library, wondering if Bridget would just decide not to come, and I’d be stuck doing homework for half an hour. In my head, the thought was more comforting than actually explaining my discovery to Bridget.

     But she was there.

     She was sitting at a homework table in the back, the one that was farthest from the librarian, so we wouldn’t be overheard. She probably knew what I was going to tell her wasn’t just something simple like Miss Ying’s life as a Bollywood actress, though if it was than it wouldn’t hurt to have some privacy. 

     “Hey, Bridget.”

     She glanced up from the math packet due Monday. We were all alone in the library, as nobody voluntarily stayed after school to do homework. Well, except Jimmy Hasher, who’s writing out a report for Mrs. Mias that’s due today. But he was at the other side of the library, so he wouldn’t overhear either. Bridget must’ve thought this out a lot. Still, I talked in a whisper.

     “At lunch earlier today, I wanted to show you these tongs I made - well, I made them about three weeks ago, but they broke, and then I fixed them, and…well you get it.”

     She was watching me with rapt attention. It was hot for a November afternoon, and I felt sweat trickling down my back. I sensed that she was as impatient as I was to get home to air - conditioning, but also desperate to hear what I had to tell her.

     “It’s supposed to detect brain waves that react to an event that is yet to happen.”

     She watched me blankly, revealing nothing.

     “It means it detects someone who knows what will happen in the future - it’s called precognition. Before the tongs broke, it couldn’t detect any brain waves at all, so after I fixed it, I made its detectors more sensitive to the brain waves. I was about to show you, when its reader went positive. It detected your brain waves, and told me you could sense what was going to happen in the immediate future.”

     Her jade eyes gradually got wider as I continued talking, and I think she was holding her breath. With what must’ve taken enormous effort, she took in a breath, and made a guttural sound, as if trying to call an animal. She tried again, and I heard her faint whisper. “What does that mean?”

     “Well, personally I call anyone with this ability a Seer,” I started.

     In an even fainter whisper, “No, I mean, is it dangerous? Could I hurt somebody? Am I safe?”

     “As far as I know, the topic of humans having Precognition is a new idea. The websites I gathered info from just talked about how it might work, and why some people have it and some don’t. The probability of being a Seer is so rare that they didn’t even bother to say what to do if you are one.”

    Bridget clutched the edge of the table, muttering almost soundless words. “ I was never beaten at rock - paper - scissors. I warned daddy not to take a job in a new town just as it was at the epicenter of an earthquake. I could have...my mother...she smelled like strawberries…”

I should’ve told her more gently! I thought she could be in shock! This was my fault! I started to panic, and gripped her shoulders with a grasp stronger than I knew, and dug my fingernails into her shoulders. She gasped, and stopped ranting.

     “I’m sorry, I should have told you more gently. If you like, I can help you understand your powers.”

      She took in slow, deep breaths, and looked absolutely terrified. Her eyes were staring into space, and she packed up her stuff at an incredible speed. I tried to say something, but Bridget stood up and bolted out the door with her binder before I could even take a breath. I let my arms fall to my sides, and checked the clock. It had been less than a half hour, and I figured I should start on my homework since I’m here, since I won’t be doing it over the weekend, but the feeling of urgency to get out overtook me again, and I felt as if the walls were crushing the air out of me. It was too hot in here. I picked up my binder and left the library, my head full of regret.

Panic Pancakes - Final Part

By Rachel F.

     Standing in the doorway is what looks like, the coolest mom, ever.  She’s wearing a low cut T-shirt that is tilted to the side and hangs off her left shoulder.  The shirt is a light pastel pink color and it matches her dark, denim jeans.  Her hair is dirty blonde, just like Owen’s, and is slicked back in a high ponytail.  “Hey, Owen, and who is this?” She says in the most beautiful voice, motioning in my direction.

     “Uh, hi, I’m Audrey,” I say in a voice that sounds way less confident than Owen’s mom.

     “Well come on in, I’m Owen’s mom, Mrs. Camberton, but feel free to call me Laura.  Oh and this is Nick, Owen’s dad,” she says in her sweet voice, pointing to Owen’s dad.

     Inside, I see a den right off the front hallway, and to the right.  And to the left is a living room, where Owen’s dad is sitting with a computer on his lap.  The walls are painted bright white, and the furniture is very modern.

     As I follow who I guess I should call Laura into the kitchen, we pass by a very modern open back staircase and a fancy dining room with a long table.  The kitchen is a very big kitchen with a ginormous white island and glamourous cupboards.

     In the kitchen, Owen still has Suzy who is now panting really really loudly.  Owen grabs Suzy’s purple leash and hurries out the back door.

     I follow Owen and Suzy outside and into a cute backyard.  The backyard is a rectangle, with trimmed grass, beautiful roses, and vines growing neatly up the fences.  Owen leads Suzy out into the grass, where an old plastic pool lyes.  Owen helps Suzy into the plastic pool and I watch from a distance.  Owen starts rubbing her back and murmuring soft words into her ear.

      Suzy pants and pants and grunts, until finally, a little tiny puppy wiggles it’s way out.  The puppy is slimy and Owen reaches for the towel that’s sitting next to the pool.  He gently grabs the puppy and transfers it to the other side of Suzy.

      A few seconds later, outcomes another puppy, and then another and another and one more.  Each puppy is slimy and a little gross, just like the one before.

      A couple minutes later, Owen’s mom and dad come outside.  “Awww,” Owen’s mom says. “How many?”

     “Five,” Owen says. "Four females, and one cute little male.”

Owen’s mom nods and his dad comes over and gives Suzy a pat on the back.

     “I’ll bring dinner out here so you guys can spend some time with the pups.  And Audrey, you’re welcome to take one to keep,” says Laura

     “Ummm, I don’t know if my mom w-will let m-me,” I say with a stutter.

     “Well you and I can call her, and with a little coaxing, I’m sure she’ll agree,” she says with a warm smile.

     “Ok, thanks and I should probably tell her where I am so she doesn’t get worried,” I say.

Laura smiles and nods, heading back into the house.

     When she comes back, she sets two plates of macaroni and cheese with green beans, chicken, a brownie, and a glass of milk down in the grass.  “I’m gonna go make a phone call to your mother, can you tell me her number?”  Laura asks, smiling.

     I start to panic and forget my mom’s number when something happens.  Suzy looks up at me and makes all the panic in the world just melt away.  “Uh, her number is 308-821-9945,” I say in a nice even tone.

     Owen’s mom pushes the numbers into her phone and hits the green telephone button.

     We wait for several seconds before my mom picks up.  “Hello,” she says.

     “Uh hi, is this Mrs. Sawyyer?”  Laura asks.

     “Uh yes, who is this?” My mom asks.

     “This is Laura and it seems that my son and your daughter met each other when my son’s dog ran away.”

     “Oh thank God,” my mom says with a huge sigh of relief.  “I’ll come and pick her up right away.”

     “Actually, I think she’s having fun here and our dog just gave birth to five puppies,” Laura says.  “And we were wondering if she could keep one? If it’s okay with you, of course.”

     “Oh, I don’t know,” my mom says.  “She gets panic attacks, you know, and a dog will probably make them worse.”

     “Well, I didn’t know that she got panic attacks, but I can tell you that she hasn’t had one since she got here and I think that’s partly because of the dogs.”

     “Well, maybe then, but a dog is a lot of work,” my mom doubtfully says.

     “Oh, don’t worry, Audrey seems like a pro and I can send you with some food and necessities.”

     “Well okay then. I’ll pick her up at 8:30,” my mom says in a calmer voice.

     “Sounds good, see you then.”

      Laura hangs up the phone and puts her pink and blue phone back in her pocket.  I smile at her and she smiles back at me.

      She walks back into the house and me and Owen eat in silence.  We sit and eat for a while with Suzy and the puppies.  “So, do you know which one you want,” Owen asks?  

     “Umm, not really,” I say.

     “Well, you have a little while because puppies need time to adjust to their mom for about two months,” Owen says.

     “Two months?”  I say with sadness in my voice.

     “Yeah, but don’t worry, it’ll fly by in no time,” he says.  “And in the meantime, I’ll give you my number, and you can come over any time.”

     I look at him for a second.  Not believing the words that just came out of his mouth.  Did he really just ask for my number?  I guess so.  So I pull out my phone and hand it to him.  Then, he types in seven digits and hands the phone back to me without a single word.  He gives me a sideways glance and a little smile.  I smile back, and we clean up our plates.

     After we clean up, we go back outside and play with the puppies.  They are so tiny and weak and they slowly, one by one, start to open their eyes.  The four female puppies are smaller than the one male which makes me know for sure that I want to keep the male.  I don’t know what his name will be yet, but I know that I’m going to love him to the moon and back.

     As 8:30 approaches and it starts to get cold outside, Owen and I bring in the puppies and Suzy.  It takes a while, because we basically have to carry each puppy in one by one, and then help Suzy in as well.

     When I finally hear the chime of the doorbell, all the puppies are safely inside.  I let Laura answer it and she invites my mom inside.

     “Hello,” she says.  “You must be Mrs. Sawyer.”.

     “Yes, and you must be Laura,” my mom says in a soft voice.  “It was so nice of you to let Audrey have one of the puppies. Have you decided on one?”

     “Uh yeah, I think so, the male, but we can’t come and pick it up for two months,” I say.

     “Oh, well that’s okay,” my mom says.  “It’ll give us time to get ready for him,” she says.

     I nod, introduce my mom to Suzy and her puppies, and then we head home.

     On the ride home, we don’t say anything.  My mind just keeps circling on what Jamie said.  Did my mom really steal money?  That can’t be.  And how is Jamie in too deep?

     My mind just keeps circling and circling as my head hits the pillow that night until I finally drift off to sleep.

     The next morning, I wake up with a start.  What on earth was Jaime talking about?  I need to find out. And now. But when, and how? Do I just confront my Mom?

     I feel all panicky, but I have to know the truth.  So after lunch, I wander into my Mom’s office.  

     “Mom,” I start.

     “Yes honey,” she says.

     “Umm, um,” I stutter.  “I’ve been hanging out with Jaime a little lately and this sounds crazy, but she mentioned something about you stealing from Henry’s mom,” I say, not wanting to tell my Mom the whole story.

     But right then and there, my mom’s mouth forms a giant O and her eyes open really wide.

     There is a very long silence before my Mom says, “Yes, that is sadly true.  It was right when your Dad had just died and the medical bills were piling up.  I found her credit card one day on the ground and I know I should’ve given it back, but I didn’t.  I used it and then wrongly and dumbly gave it to her like I had just found it,” she says in one big breath.

     I look at my Mom in shock.  All the way from her gray sandals to her brown hair that’s pulled back.  Then, once it’s settled in, I walk away.  Out of her office, down the hall, and into my room.  I sit at my desk, staring at my computer screen.  It all makes sense now. All the names, why Jaime stopped being my friend, the cancer pin, and the money sign.  All of it.  And I probably should text or call Henry and Jaime, but for some reason, I don’t.  Henry never liked me, only Jaime.  And no, I don’t mean as a boyfriend, I mean as a person.  There was nothing I could ever do to make him like me as a person.  And the more I tried the worse I felt about myself and the more panic attacks I got.

     But what about Jaime? Jaime and I were once friends, even best friends.  But we weren’t best friends because we were super close and loved each other.  We were best friends because we had no one else.  I was always panicking about every little thing, and she was really shy.  So we bonded.  She was a great friend, but we’ve grown apart.  And for all I know, she was probably getting paid to be my fake friend these past couple of days.  But that’s fine by me.  We were once friends.  Our paths crossed, and I will always remember her.  But we’ve grown apart.  I will always be panic pancakes, and for once, I don’t care.  My mom stealing from Henry’s mom was not right, but it was something that happened and at some point, they’re going to have to grow up a little.

     So instead of calling Henry, or Jaime to apologize and pretend that I’ll do anything to be friends with them again, I pick up the phone and call the only important number in my contacts.  And as I do, I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders and a smile that starts to spread across my face. 

     He picks up on the second ring with a “Hello.”

     “Hey,” I say.

     And as we talk, I can see the smile on his face and I know he can see mine.  Owen broke my shell, and out jumped the real Audrey.

 

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