Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge - Text Entries

Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge

We’re looking for great humor writing from high school students, and at the end of the summer, writer and actor BJ Novak will name a winner on our show. Here’s the catch — your piece must begin and end with these sentences:

FIRST LINE: The sun rose and everything fell.
LAST LINE: Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

UPDATE 8/27: Our winner is Emma Callahan; the runner-up is Dylan Kapstrom. A big thank you to everyone who shared their work with us!

August 03, 2015 02:36:39 PM





The sun rose and everything fell into place. It was the first day of school, and Carly Floss for once was actually happy about it. She had spent a horrible summer working as a sanitation engineer's apprentice, a position she had taken because she thought it would look good for college. "Gahd!" she had said, her first day on the job, wearing canvas overalls and a banana peel on her head, "I'm such an idiot!" But now she could forget those horrible memories. Carly was excited to meet her new English teacher. "Ohmagahd Kristy, I heard he was hot! Have you seen him yet?" Carly asked her friend as they walked through the hallway. Kristy said "No, I haven't, not yet. I bet he's really nervous. You aren't going to be mean to him, right?" Carly exclaimed "gahd Kristy! You think I'm a monster or something? I just like a bit of fun, that's all– MOVE FRESHMAN!" She barked, and then said apologetically "Oh, I'm sorry, Ms. Margaret! I didn't recognize you... Yeah, well, mistakes happen– sorry... See you in precalc!" She smiled brightly as the teacher walked away, then scowled at Kristy, rolling her eyes. "What a bitch!" Kristy said. "Gahd!" replied Carly.

The bell rang and a portly man dressed in a tweed three-piece suit entered the room. Kristy stared meaningfully at Carly. "He's not hot," she mouthed. But Carly was not terribly skilled at lipreading. "What!?" she whispered. "He's not hot!" Kristy mouthed, overemphasizing the syllables. "Oh" Carly mouthed back, suddenly understanding. She was a little concerned for her friend, as she had interpreted her saying "he's got that bod!" Carly would have to have a talk with Kristy afterwards about her taste in men.
"Hello students, I'm Mr. Portsnatch. I'm thrilled to be your teacher this year!" the new teacher announced. "Is that right?" Emilia asked. Emilia sat in the front row of every class. "Oh, hoho, you caught me there–" Mr. Portsnatch chuckled. "What's your name– Emilia? You are sharp! What I meant was that I am–! Positively! Absolutely! My name is Portsnatch! Oh, yes! That's what I meant." "Is that so?" said Emilia. "Exactly right!" The teacher cried, nearly shouting with glee. He continued "so, to be a correctly awesome teacher to all you adorable munchkins–" he scanned the room of angry-looking teenagers nervously, "I want to make sure that I am doing nothing to distract you from your education. You should tell me directly and spare no sympathy for my admittedly easily bruised feelings if I am doing anything to hinder your learning!" "What!" Emilia gasped, and began furiously taking notes with a freshly-sharpened purple crayon. "Quite right!" barked Mr. Portsnatch, "I remember one student pointed out that whenever I discussed ancient Egyptian marginalia techniques I would tap my right foot on the ground! I understand how annoying that must've been, so I got it fixed straightaway!" He pulled up his pant leg and revealed a bloody stump where his foot might've been.
Carly fainted. Then she woke up because fainting was boring.
Mike requested that Mr. Portsnatch lower his voice, "I was trying to sleep!" he complained.
"Oh great suggestion! I just want to be a good teacher to all of you, do my poor deceased relative proud!" Mr. Portsnatch said. "Oh!" the class whispered in horror. Said Carly, "did your mother or father die?" "Yes" Mr. Portsmouth responded weakly, wiping his eyes with his flabby hands "but other relatives as well." "Which ones died then?" She asked. "All of them!" he said dramatically. "It was a dark and stormy night and all 68 of my relatives were on a boat off the coast of New Orleans. It was summertime, so the waves were strong. My family was having a boatload of fun! Auntie Ellie was knitting a vegan cotton saddle for the donkey and Grandpappy Ned was busily cooking up mutton stew. My mother and father were practicing taking the second root of an imaginary mimber, because they valued education! But this happy scene was not to exist forever! No! For a huge shark burst out of the boiling Black Sea and swallowed the whole boat whole!" Silence echoed throughout the room. Several students burst into tears."Wow!" Exclaimed Emilia breathlessly. "Wow!" Agreed Mr. Portsmouth, wiping off his brow.

Over the course of the school year Mr. Portsnatch listened eagerly to the students' requests. He cut his hair, gave out chocolate, and came to school everyday wearing an Easter bunny suit. He always listened concernedly and promptly obeyed the students' directions. One day Carly confronted him after class.
"You're the worst teacher I've ever had! You don't know shit about English and you smell like eggs!" she said. Mr. Portsmouth cunningly smiled at her furious face. He slowly lifted his face up from the roots and flung Mr. Portsmouth's wrinkled face into the recycling bin. Carly gasped. Mr. Portsmouth was really Leonardo DiCaprio. Carly fainted in his fuzzy bunny arms. Leonardo DiCaprio, whose real name was Alex Portsmouth, put her gently on the ground. He was doing research for his upcoming movie. But by now he was super sick of students. He walked to the door eagerly. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 02:22:55 PM





It was the first day of school, and Carly Floss was excited to meet her new English teacher. "Ohmagahd Kristy, I heard he was hot! Have you seen him yet?" Carly asked her friend as they walked through the hallway. Kristy said "No, I haven't, not yet. I bet he's really nervous. You aren't going to be mean to him, right?" Carly exclaimed "gahd Kristy! You think I'm a monster or something? I just like a bit of fun, that's all– MOVE FRESHMAN!" She barked, and then said apologetically "Oh, I'm sorry, Ms. Margaret! I didn't recognize you... Yeah, well, mistakes happen– sorry... See you in precalc!" She smiled brightly as the teacher walked away, then scowled at Kristy, rolling her eyes. "What a bitch!" Kristy said. "Gahd!" replied Carly.

The bell rang and a portly man dressed in a tweed three-piece suit entered the room. Kristy stared meaningfully at Carly. "He's not hot," she mouthed. But Carly was not terribly skilled at lipreading. "What!?" she whispered. "He's not hot!" Kristy mouthed, overemphasizing the syllables. "Oh" Carly mouthed back, suddenly understanding. She was a little concerned for her friend, as she had interpreted her saying "he's got that bod!" Carly would have to have a talk with Kristy afterwards about her taste in men.
"Hello students, I'm Mr. Portsnatch. I'm thrilled to be your teacher this year!" the new teacher announced. "Is that right?" Emilia asked. Emilia sat in the front row of every class. "Oh, hoho, you caught me there–" Mr. Portsnatch chuckled. "What's your name– Emilia? You are sharp! What I meant was that I am–! Positively! Absolutely! My name is Portsnatch! Oh, yes! That's what I meant." "Is that so?" said Emilia. "Exactly right!" The teacher cried, nearly shouting with glee. He continued "so, to be a correctly awesome teacher to all you adorable munchkins–" he scanned the room of angry-looking teenagers nervously, "I want to make sure that I am doing nothing to distract you from your education. You should tell me directly and spare no sympathy for my admittedly easily bruised feelings if I am doing anything to hinder your learning!" "What!" Emilia gasped, and began furiously taking notes with a freshly-sharpened purple crayon. "Quite right!" barked Mr. Portsnatch, "I remember one student pointed out that whenever I discussed ancient Egyptian marginalia techniques I would tap my right foot on the ground! I understand how annoying that must've been, so I got it fixed straightaway!" He pulled up his pant leg and revealed a bloody stump where his foot might've been.
Carly fainted. Then she woke up because fainting was boring.
Mike requested that Mr. Portsnatch lower his voice, "I was trying to sleep!" he complained.
"Oh great suggestion! I just want to be a good teacher to all of you, do my poor deceased relative proud!" Mr. Portsnatch said. "Oh!" the class whispered in horror. Said Carly, "did your mother or father die?" "Yes" Mr. Portsmouth responded weakly, wiping his eyes with his flabby hands "but other relatives as well." "Which ones died then?" She asked. "All of them!" he said dramatically. "It was a dark and stormy night and all 68 of my relatives were on a boat off the coast of New Orleans. It was summertime, so the waves were strong. My family was having a boatload of fun! Grandpappy Ned was busily cooking up mutton stew and Auntie Ellie was knitting a vegan cotton saddle for the donkey. My mother and father were practicing taking the second root of an imaginary number, because they valued Education! But this happy scene was not to exist forever! No! Suddenly a huge fish burst out of the boiling Black Sea and swallowed the whole boat whole! It was a giant man-eating salmon!" Silence echoed throughout the room, and then everyone clapped furiously. Several students burst into tears."Wow!" exclaimed Emilia breathlessly. "Wow!" agreed Mr. Portsnatch, wiping off his brow.

Over the course of the school year Mr. Portsnatch listened eagerly to the students' requests. He cut his hair, gave out chocolate, and came to school everyday wearing an Easter bunny suit. He always listened concernedly and promptly obeyed the students' directions. One day Carly confronted him after class.
"You're the worst teacher I've ever had! You don't know shit about English and you smell like eggs!" she said. Mr. Portsnatch cunningly smiled at her furious face. He slowly lifted his face up from the roots of his hair and flung Mr. Portsnatch's wrinkled face into the recycling bin. Carly gasped. Mr. Portsnatch was really Leonardo DiCaprio. Carly fainted in his fuzzy bunny arms.

August 03, 2015 02:14:57 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
In Alex's stomach not all was well.
She ran to the bathroom,
she locked the door.
There soon was a mess on the bathroom floor.
Not just the floor, all over the walls,
under the door frame, and into the halls.
Alex heard footsteps and three quiet knocks.
She froze by the sink where she washed her brown socks.
What would she do? She let out a small sob.
Alex stared at the door handle, and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 02:13:46 PM





The sun rose and everything fell in its path. The stars fell into the ocean, slipping in one by one. It was cold, but they all jumped in, even the troublemaker stars in Orion's Belt because they had been adorably twinkling the whole night and "needed a rest from that sentimental shit".
The sun's name was Hank and he was a real bad boy. Hank, as he ascended into the sky, was feeling pretty good about himself. He was wearing a new pair of kicks and was even sporting a dark sunspot on his left bicep. Hank passed the moon, who was sliding leisurely down, and said, "sup?" The moon yawned loudly in response, and Hank was sure he could see something inside its open mouth. It looked like a man. Hank shrugged and continued rising. On his way he saw a pair of geese flying together. 'That's sweet,' Hank thought wistfully, then quickly said, "eww," aloud, to anyone who might think he was soft. Hank wasn't soft. If he was a person he'd be the leader of a biker gang and drink Goose and have full-sleeve tattoos and in his free time watch My Little Pony. You know, if he wasn't a supreme celestial body with RESPONSIBILITIES and OBLIGATIONS and a MINIMUM WAGE JOB. 'I didn't choose the sun life,' Hank thought to himself plaintively, 'it chose me." Hank sighed but lit up when he realized it was noon. "It's getting BRIGHT in here, baby!" he crowed, and began doing the Macarena. He was pretty high. A fighter jet passed by the dancing sun and Hank saluted it goodnaturedly, saying "make love, not war". He was a pacifist sun. The jet was duly impressed. It was a North Korean make and as such did not have a very developed sense of humor, being composed primarily of re-runs of The Interview. "You're so cool and funny, man. You're like the B.J. Novak of the sky," the jet said (The Office is also quite popular in North Korea).
Hank was enjoying the compliments but as he tried to slip downwards (it was evening) the jet flew right down with him. Now Hank was getting annoyed. He didn't need groupies, he was already a star! "Will you please leave me be?". But the jet followed, spouting strange advice all the while:
"Don't do drugs, do mascara!"
"Be kind, wipe your behind!"
"A friend is the best flavor of ice cream!"
"Go away," grumbled Hank.
Still the jet followed.
"I just want to be friends!" the jet said earnestly.
"I'll get a restraining order!" Hank threatened.
"Nobody wants to be friends with fighter jets!" the jet cried, weeping profusely. "It's not my fault that I carry three armed missiles, bioengineered viruses and small sweaty men! I NEVER WANTED THIS!"
The jet's tears seemed to be made of gasoline, as they soon caught fire. The aircraft shuddered and gasped as the flames crept over the entire vehicle, encasing it. "NOOO–" the jet cried, but was cut off by each of the missiles exploding in turn. Ba-dum ba-dum ba-DOOM, and the annoying jet was gone. Hank was relieved for the silence. And then he realized what he'd done. He had killed an airplane. That was involuntary manslaughter! He knew he would get caught– the sheriff would find him and he would be done for. Hank wouldn't survive in interrogation– he was tough but even he couldn't hold up against the big gas giants, Jupiter and Uranus. They would pry the truth out of him. He would be sentenced to being a moon, or an asteroid, or a bit of worm poop. It had happened before. But it couldn't happen to him. And Hank realized he knew the way out of this mess. He would reincarnate! He didn't know what he would become, but it would have to be better than becoming a second-rate space rock, a nobody. The once-proud and majestic sun closed his eyes and when he opened them he was a star no longer. Hank became a 24th century 5 year old boy named Alex. Alex was in his bedroom, waiting for his favorite old hologram show to come on. He rubbed his tiny hands together in anticipation. Oh, how he loved My Little Pony! But there came a knock at the door. "Pray tell, who comes a-rapping at my door?" Alex asked, hoping it wasn't his parents. They didn't like him watching vintage shows, believing them to be overly sexual and violent. Alex's parents were very conservative: they spoke in 21st century dialect and dressed only in white overalls.
"Little Alex, why, I have come to check on your well-being and sanity. Also to bring you some vittles. How do you feel about grilled cheese?" That was Alex's father calling from the hallway.
Alex hated to be interrupted, but perhaps it was for the best. He was rather hungry. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 01:59:40 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. And each day as the sun did it's thing, Alex would wake up to his alarm, set to the same elevator jazz music that nobody would admit they liked, and open his eyes on the count of twelve. He would sit up, hum for a bit to the alarm and sharply put the machine back to sleep with a quick and fatal tap. Standing up, he would put on his favorite suit with a checkered button shirt, and comb his hair back over his sweaty bald head. Alex was ordinary. He was bland like the white toast with cream cheese and unsweetened green tea he had every morning. It could have been monday or saturday or any other day and there would be no discernible difference- he even played a recording of a 1996 radio broadcast every morning instead of listening to current events. By all accounts Alex was destined to the kind of life that the majority of people live, one that began with a panic as his parents discovered that they had birthed a son and that the name Sylvia wasn’t going to work, (they choose Alex in 2.5 seconds after looking at the first name in a baby book and alerted the doctor so they seemed prepared and competent, a ruse that unraveled pretty much the first time Alex needed a changing), and that ended with a funeral congregation of his office mates who still, STILL, called him Alec, and was only punctuated by the occasional tragedy. Tragedy, it seems, always makes a person feel special, and that's exactly what it did to Alex.
After his Grandfather Holstine passed, which of course felt to Alex like the first passing in all of history, Alex felt unique in his sorrow, alone in his wallowing pit of depression, and special in a dark sort of way. It made him overlook his life, that so far, statistically, would mean waving good bye to his hair by 35, a divorce, 2.5 kids that he loathed but would battle for in a heated custody debate, a heart attack before he was 60, and a hidden erectile dysfunction problem that he would not be able to recognize due his way above average dry spell. This taste of perceived individuality was like the first drop of blood to a vampire, or a vampire to a squadron of teenage girls, and set him on a full scale rampage to discern himself from the crowd. He would get rid of the thin, old microwave smell of “statistically average” if it killed him (before, probably, heart disease did.) He would find himself, and hopefully, like that guy better.
He tried everything. He attempted being political, but the fact that he thought ‘thats what she said’ was a campaign slogan for Hillary Clinton got in the way. He tried being funny, but ended up being the first person to ruin a Monica Lewinsky joke. He tried self deprecation, but everyone just thought he was venting and suggested a sabbatical. He tried becoming a woman and agreed that athletic leggings used solely for leisure purposes was a great idea, but decided it wasn’t really for him. He tried flirting, but had a knack for choosing prostitutes every single time. He went backpacking in Europe and said things like “dude my blood blisters will be so worth it when I climb this mountain” even though all mountains look the same and the view is pretty much the same and nothing is ever really worth a blood blister. He tried hanging out in hipster coffee shops and having intellectual discussions, not once allowing himself to order a green tea, but had to bail when for the millionth time the conversation turned to the merits of Nietzsche. Not everything is Nietzsche. He played competitive ping pong. He wrote slam poetry. He spoke exclusively in metered rhyme. He went to jail. He decided that orange is not the new black. He found Jesus. He lost Jesus. He realized playing hide and seek with Jesus was a super rigged game.
Years of trying to carve himself out of the lumpy, unexceptional, bargain brand stone that was his personality, eventually lead him to a carnival in the midwest. The smell of rotating, heat lamp hot dogs and funnel cake combined with the symphony of electronic scooters sighing under the weight of too heavy mothers pulling their children by leashes, was promising. Alex saw in the distance, past the cheap machinery and 40 year old, recently paroled clowns, a clear glass house. He walked up to it, finding that, like most things, it was just what it was: a glass house and nothing more. “Say, what’s inside this glass house,” Alex asked, certain that a carnival oddity would have something to it. The stoned, gangly, red haired teenager in a green and yellow striped bowling shirt selling tickets to the thing sighed. “Dude,” he groaned, “It's a glass house. You can see through it. There’s nothing in it. It's just a glass house.” Alex, flustered, furrowed his eyebrows and quizzed the boy, “Then why would anyone want to pay,” pausing as he glanced down at the ticket price, “this exorbitant amount to go inside.” The teenager, taking another puff of his joint, replied, “I dunno man, but you seem pretty interested in it.”
Fifty dollars later, he was standing at the very front the massive glass house. He remembered something about how people get stoned in glass houses or something along those lines and mentally prepared himself for more characters like the ticket boy. Maybe, the glass house, and what he was certain was a menagerie of hidden treasures inside of it, would be the definitive thing in making him the exciting, interesting man he was certain he was. He thought about how much more intriguing, smart, and attractive he would be after this, another experience in a long list of swings and misses. But, just as he was about to step into the house, he felt a soft pang at his chest and a profound tiredness in his head. An idea flickered briefly in the front of his skull, and for a moment, he thought that maybe life wasn’t about finding yourself, but instead learning to how to be okay with who you already were. Quickly he shook off the thought, because who was he to say? He was just an ordinary guy. Looking up at the glass house, mansion really, he breathed in deeply. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 01:53:08 PM





The Rise of a Fallen Zero
The sun rose and everything fell. Alex was stupefied as he laid on the ground, falling under the category of everything. He lifts his heavy eyes but can’t do the same for his exceptionally heavier body. His small bachelor’s pad, another word for cheap apartment for someone who only needs a bed for one, looked as if it were taken, placed in a blender with some kumquats and a hint of sawdust.
His eyes gazing around the room, searched for something to support himself, or at the very least an idea of what the hell was going on.
He found his answer as he looked past the Finding Nemo he excused as blinds. As opposed to seeing his normally nude neighbor- ninety-three year-old Mr. Nam, named accordingly as he was naked save for his war medals and an American flag bandana- he saw something far less pleasing, a vast wasteland quickly approaching him.
Now he was getting frantic, well his eyes and his mouth were. The g-forces from the fall made it near impossible for him to lift his overly sized head. His beard scratched the wooden floor-boards. The hair he normally kept in a man-bun now mopped his floors that grew exceptionally dusty from the lift.
He learnt now that he must accept his fate despite not fully understanding it. All his mistakes: his failed lovers, his successful lovers, that time he pleasured himself to Mr. Nam, all of which came in the blink of an eye, as he did.
He thought of his downstairs neighbor and how he always wished he had the courage to just approach her and ask for her number. Just to declare his powerful feelings for her that undoubtedly only existed out of extreme loneliness, now only exist out of fear of dying a 24 year-old virgin.
“I love you 2-B”
“Alex? Alex from upstairs is that you?”
Of course! It doesn’t make any bloody sense for his room to be the only one lifted off the ground. His whole building is off the ground! He can now die sans the regret of declaring his lust for a woman he doesn’t even know the name of!
“2-B listen to me, I…”
A green light shot through the room and Alex, and just as quickly as he was going down, he was going up. He hit the ceiling, and then all of his belongings rushed towards him. A guitar flung towards his face as he quickly shifted right, a small decorative horse went towards his gut, but he ended up with a small AXE struck him right in the baby-maker.
Just as he was recovering in the fetal position, getting comfy on the ceiling, the floor reached him at break-neck speed.
But the g’s eased off and he could now stand on his size 9 feet. He peered out the window and saw what looked like a robotic nest of green larvae. Alex had seen enough sci-fi movies to know these were aliens trying to eat them and take over the world. He also knew he was the perfect candidate for seemingly unexceptional earthling with no luck on his planet who could get just lucky enough to save it. And the girl at the end would have to fall in love with his heroics.
This was all fiction of course but then again, what is this anyways.
Alex stared at the door handle, and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 12:59:38 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell.” Ah, the perfect narration of daybreak. The sun can signify beauty, sure; the dawn of a new day to do new things and meet new people, blah, blah, blah. But in bumbfuck Iowa, its difficult to experience anything avant-garde, especially when you’re in high school. So in my eyes, the sun is the arsonist to my crappy life.
My mom woke me up at 6:50am on the dot and that’s when I saw the sun for the first time. That pesky motherfucker creeped its way through the sliver of space between my windowsill and the shade covering the window. Intrusive to say the least. I hate those lines in books like, “The sun engulfed my body bringing me into a state of complete tranquility.” Bullshit. The sun takes its entitled ass and forces itself on you. It’s like those people who invite themselves places. Leave. Basically, the sun is a prying, assertive asshole.
After my mom woke me up, I reluctantly rose from my bed with only that smidge of unwanted light to guide me to the bathroom because I refused to give the sun what it wanted, full shine-ability into my room. I closed my eyes and traveled to the bathroom. I got to the bathroom and made a clear effort to not flip the switch for the artificial sun. I now had only my incredible memory to guide me to the toilet and then to the sink. I left the bathroom when I successfully completed my blind obstacle course. (Emphasis on the incredible memory) I walked to the stairs, opened my eyes (just a tad) and paused for a moment. I evaluated the suns’ tour de force in flooding my house with its disgusting incandescence. Gross but definitely unrelenting, I’ll give it that.
The beautiful smell of waffles wafted into my nose and forced me down the stairs. I closed my eyes again to block out that nasty vexation (underrated how great I am at walking around in darkness, by the way). I navigated to the kitchen and gave myself a pat on the back when I reached it victoriously. Lucky for me, my kitchen doesn’t have any windows. (Okay, maybe a little prison-like but perfect for a gal like me!) Unfortunately for me, however, my family consists of non-vampiric humans who enjoy the light. So I have to deal with the small lamp in the center of the ceiling. When I entered the kitchen and opened my eyes, they instantly reacted to the unprecedented light. My twin brother, Alex, was already at the table devouring his waffle.
“Mornin’, weirdo,” he said in between bites.
“Hey,” I responded with an overtly harsh eye roll.
My waffle was already on my plate so I rushed over to sit down. I was too busy dodging the sun to feel my stomach growl so after five seconds of my sitting down, my waffle was gone. I chugged my orange juice and sat back in my chair. I looked up to see my mom, dad and Alex staring at me like they just witnessed a starving lion ravaging its prey.
“Hey, even angsty teens need to eat,” I pointed out.
They proceeded to raise their eyebrows, nod slowly and look down at their plates. I got up and put my plate in the sink because I didn’t need any extra negativity in my day, as I believed I had enough of my own, thank you very much. I walked to the door, closed my eyes and went to my room (Okay, I’ll admit I tripped on the steps on that voyage but I survived and did not see the sunlight!).
After I got dressed and packed my bag for school, I sightlessly traveled back downstairs to catch the bus with Alex. When I arrived at the door, I took a long, deep breath.
“Ready?” Alex asked while placing his hand on the knob. (He knows my antagonism toward the bitch that is sunlight.)
“As ready as I’ll ever be…” I replied.
He looked back at me and gave a supportive smile then turned back around. I opened my eyes and winced. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 12:53:44 PM





First Date

The sun rose and everything fell,
Raindrops the size of nutshell.
Although from the outside you can't tell,
Alex's inside started to yell.

The convertible he rent with his last dime and cent
In order to please a girl who leaves him no repent,
Once new, shinny and disguised him as a gent,
Is now soggy, destroyed and sending him torment.

Staring at the rain through the window,
Alex's vision got blurry.
His girl said without mercy,
Maybe you can pick me up another day. Now, goodbye!

His extravagant suit and tie,
Which's tags and receipts he had saved,
Can not be flawed at all,
Cause they have to be returned.

A light "See ya" his said with hundred pounds at heart,
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 12:52:39 PM





The sun rose and everything fell, that’s what it felt like when I woke up this morning. It’s strange how on Monday mornings that what the initial feeling feels like when you have to go to start the day. It’s something about Mondays. I groggily rolled out of bed, hoping that if there was an audience they would notice my dramatic movements out of bed. “Anna! Get up!” My mother from behind my door. I sat still until I heard her footsteps fade away in the hall. The thing about summer is that some days you really don’t know what to do with your life. I grabbed my laptop from my nightstand to see if my boss sent out the schedule. Working at a pizza shop has been probably the epitome of life. It’s the place where most people my age hang out, so I have to socialize a great deal. Seeing that I had to work from 12:30 to closing I figured I should get some of this dreaded summer work out the way. It irks me to the point of jumping off a cliff that this big assignment is only twenty points. Twenty measly points is not a lot at all.
“Hey, Alex” I smiled at my best friend. He’s your average nerdy high schooler. Moppy brown hair, glasses, the impossibly possible smirk, the works. “Hey, Anna” Hey looked around the store to make sure there wasn’t anybody coming and nobody in line. It was only 3:30 and usually it’s pretty slow because who in the right mind would want pizza at 3:30 in the afternoon. Its like when parents go to an ice cream shop with their kids just before dinner. Where is logic in that? “Kids, we’re about to have dinner, so no toppings” they would say. Why did you bring them there in the first place? Any who, Alex smiled at me, as if he had something to tell me. He did.
“So, guess what” he said, leaning against the counter. I looked at him as if saying “really?” He just rolled his eyes and continue. “My parents decided that it best for us to move near my grandparents, I knows this is not really something to happy about but for me it’s a big deal. They have program that can help me be that actor that I could be.” He smiled as if this was the best news in the world. I looked at him
“And this is good because of a good program. Dude, your leaving your best friend, the girl that you shared your first kiss. The girl that you spent all of pre-school through high school together.” I said angrily. I knew I was being selfish but I think that my selfishness was justified.
“I didn’t know that you were going to be so affected by it. Besides unless you want to come with me, you need to be supportive. That’s what best friends do.” At this point the kitchen staff were eavesdropping I couldn’t see but I could feel the stares in the back of my head.
“Alex just go…..” I said
“Dude, be fair….”
“I think I am….”
“What was the point of that reply, I think that yiu were saying just to say it.”
“Don’t act like you go around not saying nonsense.”
“Sometimes I wish you were like a bug so that way I can squish you with my fingers”
“I hope I become a hornet so can sting you.”
In the background I could hear the kitchen staff snickering. I guess they found the arguing petty. It pretty was, I’m not going to lie. I looked at Alex at he was smirking and his eyes were laughing. “I’ll go” he started to suck his bottom lip. You know when somebody is trying to hold back a sob. He looked back, all sad looking even though I knew that he was faking. “What did you do?!” Jeff yelled from the kitchen. “ That poor kid.” Alex looked back eyes to the sky. God he’s dramatic. He looked back, and glared saying “ I’s tricked you.” I jaw dropped my mouth, so basically I fell for the classic I’m-moving trick. No wonder he was smile. Heck his grandparents live near me.
“Go away.” I yelled laughing at the same time. Alex dramatically looked away. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:04:04 AM





The Mathletes

The sun rose and everything fell. Exhausted and angered, Jonah had managed to knock over half the chemistry lab equipment just as the sun rose, marking a new day in the embarrassing life of Jonah Miller. Not only would he have to face his teammates, but there would be no mercy from the entire school for the nerd who had spent the night in the chemistry lab with a hot beaker instead of a hot girl.
Losing the Mathletes competition the night before took all the energy left in Jonah’s body, which truthfully wasn’t a lot considering he was a sleep deprived teenager and the only one who stayed up doing homework instead of going to parties or playing video games. Unlike all his other teammates who had the courage to attend a party, Jonah found himself up all night in the lab going over every single mistake he had made because of his one distraction, which to no surprise was Alex, the other Mathlete team’s prettiest and by far, smartest girl of the group.
Jonah had organized a ‘mathletes run’ that took place every Friday afternoon, when the teammates would “run” a quarter of a mile while solving pre-algebra questions under pressure. Critics had called the quarter mile race ridiculously short, but what they didn’t seem to understand was that it took an extraordinary power of force to solve the pop up equations displayed on banners at various distances around the track while running.
His mother was so proud of him for coming up with the idea that she made him and his teammates ‘Mathlete’ jackets with their chosen names embroidered on the back. Jonah’s best-friend, Radar, was given the name Mr. X for ridding the world of one algebra problem at a time by posting all the homework he did online for the students to see. Noor, Jonah’s second in command, called himself Mr. Q, for, ‘question’ because of his ability to confuse the other team by asking the teacher an absurd amount of questions. Everyone would seem confident and ready to start their assignments, but by the time Noor finished asking his questions, everyone would forget what the problem was about… dun dun dun… Noor, (aka. Mr. Q).
Yarden, was named The B-Man. Yarden always received B’s in every subject, giving everyone the impression that he was a little bit dumber that his fellow teammates. What they didn’t know was that he was playing it down for a reason; tricking the other team into letting their guard down. All the while, the B-Man, stood for the The BrainMan!
The only girl on their team was Ademia. She called herself Miss Lucky Charm, for two reasons. One: If she didn’t know an answer she would guess the right one every time. Two: Since she was a diabetic, she needed her lucky charms by her side at all times.
And last, but definitely not least, Jonah… aka, The Mathnetic-Man. At any time, he could pull equations from his brain like a magnet, seizing the moment like a true super hero. All in all, they were one big tornado of nerdiness and they took the school by storm, except for an inevitable low point in the day, when each would have their head shoved down a toilet bowl or treated to the occasional wedgie.

Yesterday, his team, the Superletes, had faced off against their nemesis, The PiHighs, made up of the only other group of kids in the school socially challenged enough to take them on. No one on that team talked to Jonah except Alex. She was beautiful and easy to talk to, and she was the only girl who could listen to his insights on advanced calculus and not either call him a dork or walk away yawning. This time though, Alex had bested him. She was ready with every answer in a heartbeat, while Jonah, in a lovelorn fog, had completely forgotten the formula for the Pythagorean theorem. Child’s play! Yet Jonah had let his team down in the worst way, and now there was only a slim chance they’d even be able to score a tie. The sun was up, which meant the daily track meet was about to begin.

As he headed out to the track for his team’s warm up, Jonah summoned the courage to speak. “I’m sorry guys,” Jonah said, “I failed all of you.”
“You didn’t fail us Mathnetic-Man,” Noor said, “you helped us get here,” he pointed to the big Q, sewn on his shirt.
“I’m a loser though, everyone will hate us now.” Jonah whined, as he began running alongside his teammates.
“Jonah,” Radar laughed, “everyone already hates us… The masks don’t fool anyone. They all hate us. Yesterday I was in gym with the basketball team and they used me like a human shield.”
Ademia half sighed, half wheezed, as she tried to keep up, “Yea, I heard all the girls call us the suicide club, because of how much they want to kill us.”
“Dude,” Yarden huffed, “my Mom thinks I’m a loser cause I wear my mask to bed.”
“But guys, they don’t know it’s us… we wear masks… we’re hidden from the human eye.”
“They do know it’s us, everyone does,” Ademia ripped off her mask.
Everyone stopped running and gasped. Nobody on the team was allowed to show their true identity.
“Oh calm down,” she spat.
“We just need a plan…” Jonah said.
“And better masks,” Ademia said, “I can’t breathe through this. It’s really bad for my asthma. People have started calling me Darth Vader, because I have asthma attacks when I’m wearing this thing and I sound like an old smoker.”
“Oh calm down,” Radar mimicked her voice.
“Shut up asshole,” she yelled.
“Guys, guys,” Jonah said, “come on, we need to work together to create a plan-,”
They all heard shouts of students and suddenly a boom came from the lab.
“It sounded as if something exploded,” Radar said.
“No duh stupid,” Ademia remarked, “when you hear a ‘boom’ sound, that probably means something exploded.”
Jonah looked at his watch, it was 2:30pm. “Alex is in that class. She’s in there!”
All the guys looked at him and patted him on the back.
“Dude that’s really creepy that you know her class schedule,” Yarden said quietly.
“I can tell your imaginary relationship with Alex meant a lot to you,” Radar laughed.
“Shut up Radar,” Jonah said, “she could be hurt! I have to save her.”
“You do know we’re not actually superheroes,” Radar reminded him.
“I am very aware of that,” Jonah put on his mask that was tucked into the back of his pants, “I’m going to save my girl.”
Jonah dashed into the school and ran up the flight of stairs. In the rush out of the building the kids were pushing him backward and he almost toppled down the stairs. He charged on until he got to the door of the chemistry lab. It was locked for some strange reason, maybe the heat had melted the metal…but just like he had learned from ‘Star Wars’, he needed to use ‘The Force’. He backed up to get some distance, and then ran hard, slamming into the door and breaking it open. He knew that it might be dangerous, maybe even deadly, but he was willing to risk everything for this girl. Everyone else had run for their lives. There was no sign of Alex anywhere. The fire extinguisher was too far across the room and his feet felt planted to the floor. Jonah used his other worldly skills of parkour to skip from table to table. He opened the windows and the let the clouds of smoke disperse. From the top of the lab counter he was standing on, Jonah saw her.
“Alex!” Jonah yelled, “Alex, are you okay?”
“Jonah?” she cried from the floor. It was Alex’s voice.
“I’m here Alex. You’re all right now.”
She was on the floor, a scratch across her face. Even with the broken glass in her hair, she still looked beautiful, like a glass sculpture.
“You’re all right now. I’m here,” Jonah swooped up Alex and she smiled gratefully. He carried her out of the room into the light……

Jonah’s eyes slowly opened and he realized his feet were not touching the ground. He had saved Alex… or had he? He looked up into the eyes of a boy he recognized. The only person Jonah had ever hated, Alex’s one and only ex-boyfriend.
“Kyle?” Jonah asked groggily. The Mathletes team were following beside him as the nurse’s room came in to view. To Jonah, Kyle looked like a Hawaiian surfer dude, who had been exposed to so much sun that he now resembled a grape that had rotted into a raisin. Except for the fact that on the weekends he worked part time as a male model for a very expensive underwear line.
“Jonah, you were running, and I think you had a panic attack or like you had heat exhaustion and you passed out, or something,” Noor said, “luckily Kyle saw you and he’s taking you to the nurse’s office.”
Jonah cringed as he became aware of people laughing at him in the hallway as they passed. This was the lowest of the low. Jonah was the epitome of a loser. He was sure if he typed ‘loser’ into his search engine, his name would come up as the very first example, all in CAPS. Kyle laid him down on the nurse’s bed and Jonah smiled pathetically just as Alex ran in.
“Jonah, I heard what happened, are you okay?”
“Yea I’m fine.”
She smiled and wrapped her arms around Kyle’s waist. “He’s my hero of the day. Before you passed out there was an explosion in the lab and he helped me out before I could get hurt,” she kissed Kyle, and now more than ever Jonah wished he had died on that track.
“I’m glad you’re okay Jonah,” she leaned her back against the wall.
“Well, it was all thanks to Kyle. The hero of the day,” Jonah managed a sarcastic smile, and gave Kyle a very awkward high-five.
“I heard really high pitched screams coming from the track team and I figured someone was in trouble,” Kyle explained.
“Well, thanks again, man,” Jonah sighed.
Kyle took Alex’s hand, “Talking about the track, I hear the bleachers are very empty around this time.”
Jonah quietly moaned in anger. All he wanted to do was bang his head against the headrail of the nurse’s bed a few million times until he developed some sort of short term amnesia.
“I’ll meet you there. Let me just say goodbye to Jonah alone,” she whispered and Kyle left with a self satisfied grin.
“I’m really glad you’re okay,” she said.
“Oh, don’t worry, I probably only have a minor concussion,” Jonah sarcastically remarked, and to his surprise Alex laughed.
“You’ll be okay,” she said.
“So… are you ready for bleacher time with Kyle?” oh my god had he really said that?
“Wow Jonah,” she laughed, “I didn’t realize how much of a nerd you are.”
“Yea I am literally the nerdiness person you will ever meet in your entire life,” Jonah laughed and snorted a bit.
Alex smiled, “I like nerdy,” Jonah gulped and a flicker of hope sparked inside of him. He didn’t want her to leave, not after she had said that, but that’s not how life worked for guys like Jonah. Think about it. On the one hand the handsome athlete, on the other, the Mathnetic Mathlete. It actually had a ring to it.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 04:27:48 AM





The sun rose and everything fell. The news channels had been predicting the fall for some time, but now that it was here, no one knew what to do. A civilized, modern society, forced to live without an Internet connection. It was unthinkable! It was preposterous! What would they do without their online shopping carts and games of Clash of Clans? What would they do without their Netflix?
The government assured the people that the fall of the Internet was only temporary, that every possible measure was being taken to restore order. But things in the suburbs were beginning to go haywire. There was rioting in the streets, and windows of Apple stores across the country were smashed in. Lines wound for miles to get a futile turn at the library computers. One librarian commented, "More people have come to the library today than we've had in the past twenty years."
When twelve hours had passed since the last known Wi-Fi signal, everyone started to prepare for the worst. The shelves of the supermarket were scraped clean, people running out the doors with their arms full of stolen food, ready to hole up inside their houses. Homes grew dark with people turning off their lights in an attempt to save energy; they'd been advised that perhaps with enough energy, the Internet might work again.
Alex stood in the supermarket parking lot, watching people run to their cars, dropping bananas and pineapples and Kraft Easy Mac. Two plastic grocery bags dangled from his hands. As he lingered, the buzzing streetlights above him all clicked off at once, leaving the parking lot in complete darkness except for the little glowing rectangles of iPhones bobbing through the air, held up by people running aimlessly around trying to get a connection. Alex hefted his grocery bags and went home.
He entered the basement of his house, where his wife and two kids were huddled together under a lone lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. His daughter's eyes were glued to her phone screen as she endlessly tried to refresh Instagram. Her thumb swiped down, over and over, to no avail.
Alex put down the food and reached behind some books--the only books in the house--that had been down there in storage for at least ten years. He pulled out a silver rectangular box with a strange wire sticking straight out of the top of it.
"What's that?" his son asked, squinting.
Alex furrowed his brow. "I don't remember," he said. He looked on the side of the box. "The last few letters are fallen off, but I think it says. . .A.M. rad."
"An amrad," his wife murmured. She stared off into space, her eyes hollow, haunted by the withdrawal of not chatting with her Facebook friends every forty-five minutes.
Alex pressed a button on the amrad, and a burst of static sound jumped from the machine, making his wife shriek. His kids huddled, wide-eyed, with their arms around each other.
Alex turned the dial, hearing nothing but static, until suddenly they heard a tiny blip of a voice.
"Go back!" shouted his son. Alex turned the dial back to where they had heard the voice, and they listened.
"Surely this is the greatest challenge our nation has had to face since the television shortage of 2044," the deep, sonorous voice said. "All are advised to--" There was a pause. Then the voice returned. "This just in," it said, gravely. "I have a new leak from Washington's technologists.
"We have no indication of when the Internet will be coming back," the voice said, with a hint of panic trembling in its bass rumble, "and there is no sustainable evidence that it will be coming back at all. Please--"
Alex shut off the amrad as his kids burst into tears and shouts, and his wife wailed wordlessly. It was later reported that enough tears were shed at that moment in basements across the country that the salt in them could have kept all the streets of New York, in blizzard conditions, dry for twenty-seven hours.
"Shut up!" Alex yelled, and the wailing diminished to a whimper. "Shut the hell up, all of you."
"But, Alex," his wife protested, "what if the Internet never comes back? How will I get anywhere without Google Maps? How will I cook anything without What will . . . "
Alex stood up. "That's it," he declared. "I can't take it anymore. I'm going outside."
"No!" his wife cried hysterically. She got up and placed a trembling hand on his arm. "It's too dangerous . . . "
He shrugged her away. "I'm going." He started up the basement stairs, his steps growing slower and slower as he neared the top.
He stood in the dark stairwell for a moment, listening to his own breathing.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 03:25:27 AM





The sun rose and everything fell. The month was April and the year was 2065. The time was 6:45 PM. And, if I recall correctly, the soup of the day was Chowder.
Every newspaper was printing the same story using different words. Days earlier, U.S. President Richard Butchkins announced his infamous 'War on Aliens'. Billions upon billions of dollars were being spent on defenses against any outer-space life forms. Most of the country was bothered by his reasoning for declaring war, though President Butchkins continued to give the same answer:
“There is silverware missing in the White House and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let those slimy green bastards go unharmed because of it!” It should be noted that he’d forgotten to take his Flintstones Gummy Medication every day for the seven weeks leading up to the announcement. But the country was obligated to comply with his demands.
Meanwhile, in Southern Canada (which became U.S. territory in 2048), Alex Mitchell was rolled out of bed earlier that day, around noon. Alex, age 42, was not the brightest crop of the cornfield. No one could blame him, however. When he was three months old, his parents were killed in the park due to a kamikaze attack conducted by squirrels operating miniature helicopters.
He wandered off alone, and by the age of 8 months, he was a member of a small family of nine. All nine were human children being raised by a single mother, who was a poodle. Alex lived a difficult life and had no formal education. In fact, he didn’t have much informal education either. And beyond salivating on command, he had no skills whatsoever.
At this point, Alex was unemployed, though he received a huge cash settlement five years earlier from NASA, his former employer, after a freak-accident. He lost an arm, three ribs and a kidney while trying to use the office’s electric pencil sharpener. All ribs, the internal organ and the limb were replaced soon after, and Alex had enough money to never work again. These days, Alex Mitchell hadn’t a care in the world. Though the world he and everyone else knew was about to change forever.
On Mars, Alien Life got word of the Earthling-President’s declaration of war. They were offended that President Butchkins would assume they were responsible for his missing silverware. And this was not Butchkins’ first offence against Alien Life. He has launched warning missiles in Mars’ direction every time the remote control for his TV was missing. Or when he ran out of his favorite breakfast cereal. He would always blame Alien Life. And they had enough of it. They were prepared to retaliate this time.
On the aforementioned day, April 8th, 2065, at exactly 6:45 PM EST, every person on Earth fell asleep. Americans, Chinese, Russians, even the Eskimos. If they were on the couch, they laid down to sleep. If they were driving, they fell asleep at the wheel. If they were sleeping — well, take a guess, Einstein.
And exactly one hour later, at 7:45, all human life woke up. Their ankles had heavy metal bracelets around, which were chained to the person next to them. They sat at tables that were hundreds of miles long. And each person found themselves knitting socks. In a matter of 60 minutes, due to Alien hypnosis, every doctor and lawyer and stockbroker and human in the world was now an employee of the sock business.
Four sleepless days and about 263 Billion pairs of socks later, Aliens landed on Earth. All heads turned to witness what would be the first public appearance on Earth of Alien Life. The head of the species, whose name is spelled with a lot of symbols and silly drawings, stepped out of the spaceship. He said in a squeaky language that all humans understood: “We are here for the socks.”
They demanded 300 Billion pairs, as winter was approaching on Mars. They knew the humans would not have that many socks knitted in only four days.
“We don’t have that many. Come back on Tuesday! We’ll have ‘em for you!” said a desperate President Butchkins.
The Aliens laughed in response to his plead. “Well, if there are not enough socks here, I guess we’ll be taking you all up to our planet so you can knit us socks forever. For our children. And our children’s children. And so on.”
And as all humans panicked, one man entered the scene to save the day. And that man’s name was Alex Mitchell. Alex was not chained like everyone else, as he was the only human on the planet to have purchased 'Alien Hypnosis Protection' years earlier from Trojan.
“Hey, Mr. Alien. I know our President has been a little tough on you guys. And I get that you think of us as those stupid humans, over on Earth, obsessed with pot and sex. But look at us. We are simple people with simple problems. We’re not accustomed to having good things done for us, so we don’t understand happiness as much as we could. But I think forcing this planet to knit socks for four days straight, that punishment will help us realize our own happiness better than anything else ever could. And if you set us free, and allow us a second chance to enjoy our lives, we will have love for you, out neighbor, for the rest of time. As you will have taught us that we have had happiness all along.”
And it was in that moment when it was clear. Alex lost multiple parts of his body to that pencil sharpener. But his heart remained full. He understood that, sometimes, freedom and happiness has to be taken away from someone for them to realize how free and happy they truly are.
“Thank you, fine neighbor,” said the head of the Aliens. “Your people are now free. We would like for you to show us back to our spaceship.” And, becoming the first member of NASA to ever make contact with an Alien Spacecraft, Alex took the hand of his Alien neighbor, and walked him toward the ship. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 01:06:50 AM





The sun rose and everything fell. Alex woke up with a paralyzingly painful headache, seemingly induced by the bottles of open vodka strewn about his apartment. While the headache rushed and pounded at his brain, the memories didn’t seem to get the memo. They waltzed away from his conscious, as the alarm clock blazed from the bedside table. Alex had thrown away almost a year of sobriety for one night of drinking to forget. One thing he did remember, oddly enough, was Step 3 of the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery process: find a higher power. Alex’s sponsor’s voice corroded at his mind. “Your higher power could be anything. Even a doorknob.”
Alex had questioned this for many reasons, but a prominent and reasonable inquisition was the obvious—how could a doorknob be a higher power when it lacks a voice, or a mouth, or any animate features for that matter? If a doorknob couldn’t speak, how could Alex possibly look to it for guidance through his recovery process? As Alex thought about this, he sat up in bed, and reached for the glass of water on his bedside table. The water was unpredictably corrosive to his throat. It wasn’t water at all. Alex picked up the glass and threw it at the door.
“Watch it.”
No. This couldn’t be happening.
“Who’s there?”
“Your higher power, sir—er—um… Adam? Artie?”
“Alex. Why am I answering you? Did I take hallucinogens or something? I’m officially crazy.”
“Oh, Arthur, darling. You’re far less than crazy. Those bubbles needed a good fight put up against them!”
Alex, entirely baffled, couldn’t help but to answer. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“I hear you talk on and on every day about your soap rioting. Quite an underrated cause, if you ask me.” For a higher power, Alex’s doorknob knew very little about him, other than the fact that it had been chosen for a higher power.
“Sobriety. My quest for sobriety.”
“You don’t need to lie about your cause just to make yourself seem edgy. I think that soap rioting is very important!”
“I’m not lying. Why would I need a higher power in my quest for soap rioting?”
“I could offer guidance as to where the majority of the soap lies. Mostly under sinks, in sinks, children’s baths… things like that. I have a feeling by looking at your face that soap-related guidance is not what you’re looking for.”
Alex couldn’t hold his anger back a single second longer. He snapped. “You dumb idiot! Were you sleeping when I brought home five bottles of cheap vodka?”
“Albert, I may be a doorknob, but I’m no monster. I have a schedule. If you shimmied down here between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m., then you better believe I was sleeping!”
“I was sober for an entire year an—“
“Woah. Let me stop you right there, mister. I think you meant ‘I was a soaper for a year’. Just a little correction.”
“I never knew a doorknob could be so frustrating. My life has absolutely nothing to do with soap!”
“Ick! You should really try and use some every once in a while. Particularly after wiping your—“
“No, I don’t mean—that’s beside the point. I was sober for a year, okay? A whole year. As in, did not consume alcohol for 365 days sober. Then my sponsor moved to Paris to pursue a better life. She was the only one I could talk to when I was in a bad place.”
“Well, sometimes you have to let loose a little bit when someone dreadful goes out of town.”
It became clear to Alex that the sassy doorknob was not listening to his tale of agony. Why was he even talking to the doorknob? It obviously knew nothing about the mess that was his current situation. Alex reached for the doorknob.
“Aaaaaagh! Hey! You’re—constricting—my—air!”
Alex let go.
“Ahh. Thank you. Gosh, were you trying to kill me?”
“Not originally, but now it doesn’t seem like such a bad plan.”
In the only way an expressionless object could, the doorknob looked hurt. “C’mon, Alfonzo. I just want to help. You know, I didn’t come out of such a super dandy life myself.
“It was the year 2011, when New York City was bustling with star potential. But, as you probably know, not everyone can make it in showbiz. I thought the world was at my fingertips. I was sure my name would be in lights: DANNY D’OORKNOB AS ROXIE IN A BRAND NEW RENDITION OF CHICAGO! My audition was a bust. Actually, it was cancelled halfway through. They told me that Roxie had never been played by a round, 3½ inch kind of guy, especially with such a flat chest. But I persevered! Even if Roxie wasn’t the role for me, there were more productions on the rise. So I auditioned for doorknob #3 in Book of Mormon. And guess what? I got the part, Austin! It was quite a saucy role for me. Those fine fellows touched me all over.
“After the last show with my cast, I decided Broadway wasn’t for me and fulfilled my true calling: serving people by opening doors on the lower east side. I guess you could say that when one door closes, another opens. What I’m saying, Alejandro, is even though you failed this time, you still have a full life ahead of you to do whatever you want. And I’ll be right by your side! From now on, you’ll always have me. Open a new door. This doesn’t have to be a downward spiral. Keep your head up. Come on. Open this door. Go out and enjoy yourself, without the drinks. Audition for a Broadway show! I don’t care. Just show yourself a good time. I know you can do it. Open this door, Alex.” Alex stared at the door handle, and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 11:26:01 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. This was the lie my roommate, Melanie, told me when I saw our junk lying all over our apartment. While visiting my family for the weekend, Melanie texted me that it was time to get our lives together. Apparently, our current lifestyle of watching Big Brother while downing a family sized bag of Doritos wasn’t “together” enough for her. She would clean the apartment and pick up some books while I was responsible for picking up groceries and getting the bathroom sink fixed. Melanie convinced me that cleaning up our act was necessary if we wanted a half-way decent roommate. She persuaded me that we needed a third roommate because it would cut the rent, although I knew the real reason Melanie wanted another roommate is because she loved being around people. Melanie without people was like a dragon without fire; useless and sad.
“Really?” I asked as I dropped the grocery bag onto the kitchen counter. “Everything fell because the sun rose? You can do better than that. What about a mad dish maniac rifled through our cabinets looking for a favorite coffee mug, or how about a bunch of teenagers went on a rampage in search of a Frappuccino?”
Mel stuck to her story. “All the clothes were put away. All the dishes were clean and in the cabinet, and then this morning, before you came back, all of our stuff just fell down, like me after a night of drinking.”
“They forgot to tell us at Dracula’s Closet that the clothes are possessed,” I said. “But that doesn’t explain the dishes all over the floor.”
“Hey, I picked up some books,” Mel changed the topic as she walked into her bedroom and emerged holding a stack of books.
“Do you really think that having books in the apartment will attract a decent roommate? I thought that’s what free Wi-Fi was for. Ok, let’s see what you’ve got here,” I said grabbing her stack of books. “Post-Partum Depression for Dummies, Baby Boy Names, and Surprise Child.”
“Hey, that’s all they had,” Melanie said. “They are surprisingly interesting, even for those who are yet to be impregnated.”
“I bet this’ll get us a roommate, a pregnant roommate. Just what we need. A mouth who will eat all our food.” I responded dramatically.
“But at least they won’t drink all of our booze. Or the people applying to be our new roommate will assume that one of us is pregnant and they’ll come prepared to wait on us for a few months.”
“You’re insane.” Her plan impressed me. I liked that Mel came up with unusual ideas. Sometimes they worked, more often they didn’t, but it made things interesting.
“We need to get the bathroom sink fixed,” Mel reminded me suggesting that the “we” was really me. As she started clearing space on the coffee table for her pregnancy books, I picked up my phone and called Alex or should I say, “Mr. Alexander Pastel Ascot the Eighty-Seventh.” This was a nickname Mel and I bestowed upon him because it had a regal air about it, and it sounded better than the alternatives. There was Our Al Pal (sounded a little creepy) and Alexander the Alligator (too juvenile). But we knew that it had to be said in a foreign accent to get the full effect. Alex didn’t mind it though. I actually believe that he secretly enjoyed the attention.
“Hello,” squeaked an unfamiliar female voice through the receiver of my phone. Alex messes with us all the time. Lucky for him I was feeling extra playful today.
In my best French accent, “Eez zis Alexandair ze feline?” Okay, so maybe I wasn’t as sharp as I thought.
“Um, do you mean Alex?” The female voice inquired as if she were trying to help a foreigner find the nearest McDonalds. Shoot. This wasn’t Alex.
“Sorry about that,” I apologized, “I was calling to speak with Alex Murray. My sink’s broken and I was hoping that he could take a look at it.”
“Are we talking about the same Alex Murray? Yeah,” she continued. “He stepped out to get his mail. I can send him up when he comes back. I’m his sister, Olivia. I only answered the phone because the ID on the phone read “Evil Sink” and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to an evil sink.”
“Oh, that sounds about right. Thanks for giving my message to him though.”
“Of course, bye, Evil Sink.”
I hung up.
“He’ll be up soon.” I said.
“Great, in the meantime we can discuss the origin of the name Ethan.” Melanie said as she looked at the Baby Boy Name book.
“That might be a discussion for later. But be sure to put that at the top of your ice breaker list.”
“Sometimes I don’t even think you’re interested in what I have to say. Next you won’t want to discuss how to make our apartment more Feng Shui.”
“I just think that our new roommate might want some input.” I said as I walked out of the apartment with a bag full of garbage. Not much left to do. As long as all the junk is cleared out of the living area, then we’ll be done. Baby steps.
“Hey Alex.” I said as he exited the elevator. He turned toward me.
“My sister told me a psycho with a French accent called and asked for a cat. Was that you?” he asked.
“And why am I on your phone as ‘Evil Sink’? I’ve got feelings, ya know.”
“Don’t be mad,” Alex offered. “I just put in the first thing I think of that reminds me of the way I met the person.”
“But evil? Really?”
“Not you. You’re sink was evil. Alright lead me to my victim. To the sink,” he commanded with a dramatic wave of his arm. We entered the apartment to the sight of Melanie running into my bedroom with a tall pile of clothes.
“You’re trying to sneak your mess into my room.” I yelled.
“No I’m not,” Melanie yelled as she dumped her pile in my room.
“See what I have to put up with?” I looked at Alex. He shrugged.
“A man needs to confront these things alone.” Alex said. I rolled my left eye, that’s right, only one eye…it’s a talent I’ve had since I was a kid (a real crowd pleaser at the talent show).
Alex stared at me disgusted and confused, “Stop it. That’s gross,” he said as he walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” I heard him say through the closed door.
“Our hero,” I said sarcastically. “When is the first candidate supposed to arrive for her interview?” I asked Melanie.
“Any minute now. And by the way, it’s Tim from college.
“I heard he went downhill after college,” I mentioned.
“He seemed normal when I ran into him at the gym.”
“What were you doing at a gym?”
“I was buying my favorite cookie dough flavored Oreos from the vending machine,” Melanie added matter-of-factly.
“So did you talk to Tim for all of two minutes? I’m serious. He got weird. Tim got into intercepting alien transmissions through his sunglasses. And he might have done just a tad of acid,” I said.
“Are you serious? Stop him from coming. Tell him we moved. Tell him that you’re allergic to his sunglasses.”
Alex emerged from the bathroom. “Ladies,” Alex announced. “I grant you bathroom privileges. I conquered your sink. It now works. Also you guys hung out with a weird group in college.”
“We just thought Tim was an astronomy nerd.” I said.
“What are we going to do? Tim’ll be here any minute now.” Mel said stressed.
“Just don’t answer the door.” Alex added.
“That’ll set him off. Let’s answer the door and act like everything’s normal and just not call him back.” Melanie proposed.
There was a knock at the door. Melanie looked scared.
“Alex, you have to answer the door.” I said.
“Unless Tim is made of pipes and screws I don’t really see my skills applying here. My only other skill is playing clarinet. Thousands of dollars of clarinet lessons down the tubes. Defeating a sink doesn’t qualify me to take down a nut-job.” Alex responded.
“Come on. You can eat whatever you want from our fridge,” I offered.
“That and a case of beer.”
“Fine,” I said.
“But not the imported stuff,” Melanie quickly added.
The door handle started to turn from the outside. I looked at Melanie. As usual the door was unlocked.
“You guys don’t lock your door?” Alex said.
“We’ve never had a problem before.” Melanie said unapologetically.
Alex walked over to the door. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 10:47:22 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.

Alex, who had been determinedly running down a steep hill, collapsed suddenly as his eyes dropped shut. The last thought he had concerned his hair, which had been expertly cut in the latest emo style. I hope it still looks nice when I wake up, he thought desperately.

When he awoke, a full moon blazed overhead and he had no idea where he was. His usual dark coffin had been replaced with what appeared to be a dimly lit barn, complete with the quiet sounds of sleeping chickens.

“Yo, dude, you awake?” asked an unfamiliar voice. Alex blearily looked up and saw a guy’s face. Way too close to his own.


“Dude, chill, bro. You were, like, rolling down a hill and I brought you home. Welcome to my chicken palace.” He looked around proudly. As Alex’s eyes adjusted he saw that this guy had wavy blonde hair and a giant and slightly terrifying grin on his face.

“You live in a barn? I mean chicken palace?” asked Alex doubtfully. “I live in a coffin. So I’m going to go now. Thank you for taking me out of the sunlight, though.”

“My name’s Jon. Are you one of those teenage vampires? So cool.”

Alex was already tired of this conversation. “Yeah, so?”

“You don’t sparkle in the sunlight,” whispered Jon, looking more disappointed than he should have been. “What’s it like, being what you are?”

Alex sighed. The last thing he needed was some idiot surfer dude blowing his cover. Being an emo teenage vampire was hard enough as it was; he needed to find his coffin, and if he didn’t get there in time, the sun would knock him out yet again and--

Alex stood suddenly. “I have to find my coffin. It’s in a cave around here, I think.” He strode to the open barn door and wondered if the moon had started setting yet.

“Wait, I want to have a deep conversation with you, dude,” said Jon. “Are vampires structured differently from the average human being? What exactly do your internal organs look like, bro?”

Alex flipped his cool emo hair and rolled his eyes, pretending not to have been affected by the topic. But Jon had struck a nerve. He slumped heavily to the ground, looked at Jon closely, and then spit it out.

“I don’t have a heart.”

Jon covered his mouth. “Bro.”

Alex pulled out a small knife and cut the back of his hand. Nothing happened. No blood, no visible injury at all.

“Why would I have a heart when I have no blood to spill?” he asked dramatically. “I don’t even drink blood. It’s a common misconception. I eat daisies.”

“Well,” said Jon with a grin. “Let’s go find a heart, dudebro.”

Alex narrowed his eyes. “How would I know where to look? This isn’t the Wizard of Oz, dummy.”

“There’s no place like home,” said Jon reverently.

And that was how Alex found himself on the literal midnight train with a crazy surfer dude. Who apparently knew where to find Alex a heart.

Jon turned to Alex, who had brushed his hair into his eyes to look more emo/angsty.

“My mom’s a witch. She can fashion you a heart and then you can be a vampire with a heart. The first ever. Isn’t that...gnarly?”

Alex smiled a little. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without your services,” he said formally.

“Bro, anytime!”

Surprisingly, Alex found himself growing fond of this loser, as the train took them downstate to New Orleans. Jon was a teenage nomad, who took refuge in different barns and bus stations as he traveled the U.S. This was probably why he talked like a typical California surfer dude, having spent almost a year on the West Coast. On the 2-hour trip, the couple discussed a variety of ethical dilemmas and bonded over their shared love for eating daisies.

Finally, the train screeched to a halt. Alex and Jon looked at each other, both displaying a fair amount of nervous energy. As they exited the train, Alex looked at the sky anxiously. The first sign of dawn had given the sky a pink glow, as the sun had begun its ascent up the horizon.

“Hey, Jon. I kind of…” Alex looked around nervously. “I need a coffin.”

“We can find shelter from the sun somewhere else, bro,” said Jon cheerily. “I think there’s an abandoned barn nearby.”

“I’m homesick,” Alex mumbled embarrassedly.

“Let’s go find a graveyard.”

New Orleans had exactly 42 cemeteries, and the duo quickly found one that suited Alex’s emotional needs. He broke into the undertaker’s little shack and found a cozy-looking coffin.

“Thanks...dude,” said Alex, in a very un-emo-like fashion. “I appreciate your assistance.” Jon smiled so hugely that his face almost broke in half. He slept under a desk in the shack while Alex got cozy in his wooden coffin.

They slept peacefully that day, until a scratching sound abruptly made its way into Alex’s consciousness. He slowly awoke, and realized someone, or something was attempting to enter the shack. Fortunately, the sun had begun to set, and Alex was able to exit his coffin without passing out.

“What’s that noise?” he whispered nervously. Jon twitched a little and stared up at Alex from his alcove, the whites of his eyeballs glowing in the darkness.

“Dudebro. Cemeteries are creepy; we should leave. I saw this great ditch nearby, and--”

“--but do you hear that?”

Jon listened. The scratching grew louder, until the entire place was covered with the sound of dry fingers scraping the walls.

“Alex…” said Jon nervously.

“Hold on,” whispered Alex and slowly approached the creaky wooden door.
He pried it open without thinking and was suddenly overwhelmed by a barrage of hands, desperately grasping at him and attempting to mess up his beautiful hair. Jon shrieked slightly and hid behind the coffin. Alex slammed the door shut and hurriedly fixed his hair.

“Jon, we need to leave.”

“You go on without me, I’ll catch up.”

“Liar. Come on, you milksop.”


Alex went behind the coffin and found Jon with his eyes nearly bugging out of his head. He sighed and then lifted him up and ran out the door.

“You’re too heavy!” yelled Alex as the corpses continued to attack them.

“Nice corpsie,” babbled Jon. “Pretty corpsie won’t hurt the baby. Jimmy, hide the kids.”

Alex groaned and finally managed to arrive at the gate of the graveyard, which he kicked open, still desperately trying not to drop Jon. A noise suddenly split the night air: “This is my swamp. Which fool has been moronic enough to enter my domain?”

Alex foolishly turned around while Jon sang a useless nursery rhyme about a bowl of porridge. A tall, menacing woman stood a few feet away. Her long, black hair carried a strange blue tint and her face appeared to be naturally sad-looking. She approached them slowly and then suddenly froze, staring intently at Jon, who was still singing sadly.


Jon stopped singing and slowly looked up, his eyes widening. “Mommy? Is that you?”

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I brought Alex,” he said smiling up at Alex, who immediately dropped him.

“Sorry,” Alex said sheepishly and hauled Jon to his feet. He turned to Jon’s “Mommy”. “I was told that you could create for me a heart. I want to be able to feel true emotions.”

Jon’s mom tilted her head at him, studying him closely. “I might be able to manage that. But first, you must make a choice.”

“Pepsi or Coke?” asked Jon with a small smile. His mom petted his hair and dismissed the still at-attention corpses, who reburied themselves with ease.

They followed Jon’s mom to an unmarked tomb. “This is where I currently practice my business,” she said as an explanation. “Everything’s about business, kid. You can’t be a witch without being a damn good businesswoman.”

Alex nodded dumbly and followed her into the tomb. Jon was left above, and gave Alex a reassuring nod as he followed his last hope down a narrow set of stairs. She turned to him at the bottom, where there wasn’t a corpse. Thank god, thought Alex. He was a vampire, sure, but corpses were his natural enemy.

“I’ll get straight to the point, like any good businessperson, son. You must make a choice.”

Alex nodded putting his hand to his chest, where no heartbeat reassured him.

“You don’t need a heart to feel emotions, you know.”

“But...I’d feel more whole if I had one, you know?”

“Please! Stupid teenager. You don’t feel whole or whatever purely because you’re a friendless loser. Most teenagers have approximately 425 Facebook friends, you know.”

Alex winced. “Who wants to be friends with an emo teenage vampire?”

She slowly looked up to the tomb entrance, where Jon waited patiently on the other side. Alex followed her eyes, and understood at last, what he had been missing.

She shook her head. “Should have charged you at least fifty bucks for that piece of wisdom.”

He smiled widely at her. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just go away.” Alex walked up the stairs to the small door and turned back to Jon’s mom. She nodded at him and rolled her eyes. “You want an Oscar, kid?”

Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 10:33:02 PM





Saving a Book from a Movie

The sun rose and everything fell. The beautiful dream that was there just moments ago was replaced with a ceiling above Alex's head. She groaned as she was faced with another long day at school. I guess I'm kind of lucky she thought. At least I don't have to get up at six in the morning five days a week. Yet this did little to comfort her as she put on her uniform, a knee-length black skirt and white shirt, and pulled up her long, light brown hair for another long day.
Before she had fully closed the door to her dorm room, another girl with long dark brown hair came running down the hall way with a huge smile on her face, frantically waving a stack of papers in one hand.
“AAAALLLLLLLEEEEEEEXXXXX,” she said as she approached. “I did it! I figured it out!”
“What did you figure out?” Alex asked while pondering why she was friends with such a morning person.
“I figured out how I'm going to end my novel! You know, the one that I've been working on for months! I'm going to end it in a romantic scene between the prince and the protagonist, like a wedding or something. Don't you think that will be fantastic!”
Alex, still blinking sleep from her eyes just nodded along. This happened every time Maddie finished a book. She always acted as though it was her first ever writing, even though now she was a well known and published author at the age of sixteen.
“Oh, I'm so sorry to have jumped on you like that! You probably haven't gotten your morning coffee yet, poor thing. I know how grouchy you can be without it.” With that, the energetic Maddie pulled her zombified friend down the hall toward the snack room.
“Snack room” probably puts an image in your head of a few snack machines, a refrigerator, and a microwave in a small room along with a plastic table and some folding chairs. This room, however, was quite the opposite. It was a large room with long tables set up on every side filled with all kinds of snacks and beverages. There were people attending to the food behind the tables, making sure nothing was too hot or too cold. In the center of the room were several round tables surrounded by chairs. Although the room appeared to be enormous, it could only seat about a hundred people at once, exactly the population of the school.
Once entering, the girls make a bee-line toward the coffee station. Different creamers and sugars line the wall next to the coffee brewers. Maddie, already energized enough but still wanting something sweet, filled half her cup with sugar and various creams. Alex took hers black and was soon awake enough to function. They walked around the snack room and each picked up a few pastries and some fruit for breakfast. The school has a Cafeteria that is even bigger than the snack room and serves hot breakfast, but the two always preferred the quiet of the snack room. Or rather, Alex preferred it.
For her, she had found a school with a total population of about a hundred people and that still seemed to be more than she could bear. She kept reminding herself that it was an honor to get into this school and that it was only a few people to deal with in terms of schools, but in her opinion she was stuck with the most annoying people on the planet.
As the girls ate their breakfast, another person walked into the room. “Hey Jack!” Maddie called out to the boy with blond hair and bright blue eyes.
“Hey Maddie! Hey Ale-” he stopped when Alex turned and glared at him, sending the message of it's too early for your energeticness! He took a slight step back. Alex just went back to eating her muffin. Maddie, however, didn't seem as eager to end the conversation.
“So, what are you working on now?” she asked him.
He glanced at Alex, awaiting another death stare, but receiving none, he approached with caution. “I'm doing this new movie with the drama club. They want me to play the male lead in some sci-fi adventure. Some adaptation based on a book. Star lookers, gazers, something like that.”
“Star Watchers!” Alex said, suddenly full of energy. “I love that book! Wait... you're going to play Frank?”
“Yeah, that's the character's name...” again he stopped, this time because Alex was looking at him even closer than ever. She pulled out her phone and flipped through her pictures, finally landing on one of a drawing of the character in question, a boy with curly blueish-black hair and green eyes.
“Hmm... I don't see it.” she said after holding the picture up to his face for a moment. She was really concerned about this, considering that the drama club movies often ended up as record-breaking movies in the theaters. They've done book adaptations before, but never of one that she cared about.
“What are you talking about Alex, I mean look at him!” Maddie chirped in. “And all he has to do is dye his hair and get some of those green contact lenses and he'll be perfect for the part.” Alex internally groaned, not just because she was being told that she was wrong about something that she knew she would never be wrong about, but because most of this outburst from Maddie was because she had a crush on Jack.
“Nah, I don't see it. I mean, he doesn't even know the title of books.”
“I wouldn't call it the 'best book ever' I mean, the script looked kind of stupid” Jack said.
“Well, that's just because those idiots in the drama club always take out half a book before writing a script.”
The story is about a town that is constantly under attack by creatures with wings that come in the night called celestials. The people believe that the creatures come from the stars themselves, however the heroes discover a cave where the celestials reside until nightfall when they can move around. They infiltrate the cave during the day and defeat all of the celestials, thus saving the town. And now, Alex thought, they're going to ruin it for everyone, just like the Sunset Chronicles!
Alex was now determined to save her book. “When's the next drama club meeting?” She demanded standing up and slamming her hand on the table. Poor Jack looked like he was about to faint.
“Um... r-right after first period, during recreation period...”
“Alright, Maddie, are you coming with me?”
“Where are we going?” Maddie asked nervously.
“After first period, we're going into that drama room and making sure that they don't ruin this book!”
“Um...” Maddie looked like she was about to refuse the offer, but then she looked at Jack and appeared to factor in spending more time with him. “Alright!” She says almost too enthusiastically.
“Excellent! Now then, Jack, do you have an extra copy of that script?” He pulled out his extra copy and Alex snatched it out of his hand and walked away from the table, even though they still had a half hour until first period started.

“So, Alex, what exactly are we going to do?” Maddie asked as they walked towards the drama room.
“Simple...we're just making sure that they don't disgrace one of the best novels of all time.”
“Huh, do you think that they'll let us act in it? I've always wanted to be an actress! I've never gotten the chance so this would be my first time.”
“They might, who knows. All I want is to make sure that they do everything exactly as it is in the books.” When they reached the drama room, Alex just burst in without knocking. The drama club was in the middle of working on scripts when they came in and they all stared at the girls with confused looks. Jack was in a corner giving Alex an I didn't think you would seriously do this look. Alex glared around the room while Maddie just nervously waved around at everyone.
“What are you doing here?” an annoyed voice spoke out from the circle of people. The owner of a voice was a blond girl with a sour expression on her face.
“Good to see you too, Hannah.” Alex replied in a tone as cold as ice. Hannah was the head of the drama club, and one of the people Alex could stand the least. She considered herself a “proper actress” and thus acted as if she were above the rest of the human population. The worst part about it though was that most people let her get away with it.
“I'm here because I was curious about your latest project.”
“Oh, so you've heard about our next movie. Yes, we are doing a lovely reenactment of a darling little book someone recommended. I will be starring, of course.”
“And it's this kind of thing that I am here to prevent.” Alex said. “Jackie, the girl in the 'darling little book' is a brunette with hazel eyes and tan skin. Basically the opposite of you.”
Alex knew she would hit a nerve with that comment, since Hannah's one insecurity was her pale skin. Her green eyes she didn't mind, but being told that they were not good enough as well still stung. “Well, that's what hair die and video editing is for.”
“Well, that's not my only complaint.” Alex continued. “You took out almost the entire middle of the book, you replaced one of the best characters with some other random person, you changed the celestials' wings from dragon wings to bird wings, you made one of the nicest characters a total jerk, added an unnecessary love triangle that wasn't there before, and completely changed how Jackie got the moonstone. And that's just the stuff you changed off the top of my head, would you like for me to continue?”
Hannah looked like a volcano about to burst, but seemed to remember that there was an audience and decided to cool down, though that still seemed to take her a while. Alex knew that she had won the argument, right now it was just a matter of whether Hannah would kick her out for it or actually take her advice. Most likely it would be option number one. Instead, she did something that surprised everyone in the room.
“Well, if you think you know so much more about making this movie than I do, why don't you take my spot.” she said rather catty. “You can manage all of the video and you can write the script and you can be the main actress. You can do it all, and when you fail, I'll come back and say I told you so.” and with that, she stormed out of the room, her high heals clicking down the hall.
The room was silent. Maddie's eyes were wide open in shock. Alex herself was stunned at what just happened. This either was better than planned, or worse. She couldn't make up her mind which one it was.
After a moment, someone called out, “Someone needs to go get her!”
“You can if you want to,” another nervous voice from the crowd said. “But right now she might actually tear your head off if you get in her way.”
Alex finally awoken from her stun-pore and walked up to the crowd. “Well, you heard her. I'll be taking her spot now.”
“Um, Alex,” Maddie whispered in her ear, “you don't know anything about directing, or acting. How are you going to do this.” Alex knew that her friend meant no harm in saying this, but it still worried her. How was she going to do this?
“First thing's first,” she said, not answering her friend, “I've already read the script and I have a few suggestions to make.” And so started her not-so-fabulous job of directing.

“Who do we have to play Margret?” Alex asked Ben, one of the boys in-charge of the crew castings. Margret was the character who originally gave Jackie the moonstone in the book, whom the drama club had cut out of the movie.
“We don't have any extra actresses...” he said. It has been two days since Alex took control of the drama club and so far the “Pro Geek” as they called her was not off to a good start. It wasn't an insult she was unused to, in fact it was her first identity at the school on account that she got in strictly based on her computer skills. However, she hadn't heard it for a while until recently.
“Well, can't we find someone outside the drama club to play her?” Alex asked. “I've already put her back into the revised script.” Ben looked annoyed, but then Maddie came running up from across the room.
“Do you need an extra actress? I would be happy to do it!” she exclaims. Ever since Alex took control of this project, Maddie has been getting snacks for all of the club members and making sure that everyone is happy, it was obvious that she was just waiting for something like this to happen.
“Can you act?” Ben asked, as if he could not care less.
“Hand me a script,” she said. She studied it. “Oh, Alex, help me with this scene here. The one where Margret gives Jackie the moonstone.” Alex took out her own copy, nervous. This would be her first time ever acting.
“Ahem,” Alex began. “Why, what is this place? Hello, is there anyone in this castle?”
“Margret enters, why who is-”
“Cut!” Ben calls. “Maddie, you aren't supposed to read the things in parentheses, those are just stage cues.”
“Right, gotcha.” She replied, looking slightly embarrassed They tried the scene several other times, but Maddie kept raising and lowering her voice in weird points and, despite her best efforts, kept reading the stage directions. Alex did no better, by not talking with the right tone and at one point having to stop because Ben couldn't hear her.
“Oh, why am I so bad at this?” Maddie said, quite disheartened. “I think I'm much better at creating situations rather than acting them out.”
“That's it, we're doomed!” Ben exclaimed.
“Well, you can't blame us, we've never even had acting lessons,” Alex said, already embarrassed enough.
“I can help them,” Jack said, walking over. Maddie's face grew even redder
“Y-y-you heard all of that?” she stammered.
“Well, I heard you alternate from yelling the lines and whispering” he said this with a smile that was probably meant to ease Maddie's pain, but it only made her face turn the shade of a tomato.
“Yeah, these two need all of the help they can get!” Ben said, although he got really quiet once Alex turned her glare on him.
“Ben's right though,” Alex said, “we do need some help in basic acting. Do you think that you can give us some pointers?”
“Sure, lets head over to the rehearsal stage.” Maddie seemed to have finally calmed down and followed jack over to the huge stage. After another moment to glance at the lines in her hand and wonder why on Earth she did this, Alex followed.

After Jack's coaching, the girls were able to complete their lines correctly and move around the different stages with ease. Alex had spoken with the technical producers, and managed to help them create accurate celestials based on the book. They would be edited in along with the backgrounds. The art club helped out with the props and background designs. Alex managed to convince everyone in the drama club to get the band to do the music instead of just getting songs off the internet. The school had always gotten permission before using any songs that they did not own in the drama club's movies, but it was much easier to just use the school band.
Finally, when they had finished acting out all of the scene and the video had been edited, they finished the movie. It was a full hour longer than the original script, but no one seemed to care. Even though at first everyone was skeptical of Alex's changes, they were now very excited for the movie.
As Alex was locking up the drama room the day before it premiered, she heard someone coming down the hall. She turned to see Hannah, with her usual look of superiority.
“Well, how was your little project?” she asked very snidely.
“We sent it off and it is premiering tomorrow in the theater downtown. You're welcome to come watch how good a movie can be if you follow the book.” Even though Alex had new found respect for the drama club members, she still couldn't stand Hannah.
“I will be coming, but only to be able to say four specific words.” She mouthed the words “I-told-you-so” and gave a wicked smile.
“You know,” Alex said, “After all of this, there's talk of letting me join the club permanently. I guess really anyone can do your job.” Now Alex gave her own sly grin as she watched Hannah's fade. Hannah said nothing in response, only walked away.

The day of the premiere, the whole drama club showed up together. They all wore their school uniforms with pins the art club maid that said “Drama Club Productions.”
“Well, this is it.” Maddie said standing next to Alex. “Our first movie premiere!”
“First? You say that like you would want to go through this again?” Alex said.
“Well, I may be more in my element writing the stories, but it is fun to act one out for a change. Wouldn't you do this again?”
Alex thought for a moment. This experience had been full of both happy and horrid moments for her, and way more stress than what was healthy for any normal person. “Absolutely.” She said.
“Hey, come on you two!” Jack called from across the parking lot. “You're falling behind!”
“Coming!” Maddie called, and they ran to catch up with the group.
When they were inside the theater, they bought their tickets and walked to the room that was showing their movie. Sky Watchers streamed across on a board above the door, with flashing lights around it. They all stood there, in awe of it. For most of the drama club, they had experienced this many times before. However, for the two new members, this was the experience of a life. Their movie was right behind that door. When the rest of the group went through, Maddie and Alex were still starring at the title.
“Are you ready?” Alex asked. Maddie nodded, and Alex thought that she could see a small tear go down her face. Alex stared at the door handle, and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 10:27:56 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Whether everything fell apart, or whether everything fell into place, Alex couldn’t tell. The world swirled round and round, in and out, upside down or downside up… Am I in a washing machine? Colors and shapes and sounds all became a gargled mush, everything losing meaning and gaining new meaning at the same time. Any ordinary boy would have been terrified by this point, but Alex wasn’t just any ordinary boy- same shirt two days in a row, nonchalant, oxygen consumer. He was extraordinary. Like EXTRA-ordinary. Which meant that his averageness was pretty darn average.
So he stared in wonder, until he realized that this would probably be a really great opening movie sequence. Alex in Wonderland. After about 2 seconds, Alex got worried. Where those brussel sprouts last night in Mom’s pasta really brussel sprouts? Worry level 50%. I don’t see any cute girls, so why does my stomach feel like it’s having some gastrointestinal issues? Warning: Worry level 79.8999% (censored teenage fury), John must’ve force fed me hallucinogenic mushrooms ‘cause I didn’t let him have control of the remote last night!!!
Then everything stood still, and Alex warily opened his eyes the same way he does after the screaming ends in a horror movie. Who said I was scared? I felt like this was the perfect place to meditate! You guys need spiritual guidance. So Alex collected himself, combed his hair with his fingers, and walked to the gates of hell. He knew it was hell, because (1) he heard screaming, (2) there was a sign, (3) he saw his math teacher.
“Welcome, Alex! I am incredibly glad to see you here. You are so dead,” pleasantly explained the Devil/Math teacher. “Mrs. Hellen, I had no idea! You, the Devil!” blubbered Alex. “My dear, the linear programming that I bedeviled you with, my devilishly charming good looks, and not letting you go to the restroom should have given it away!” chuckled the Devil, “and yes, devils can be female too. I just get paid only 78% of every dollar.”
“Oh, I’m sorry for you, Devil,” noted Alex remorsefully. “Well, I’m sorry for you, Alex. It says here that you have 7 more days to live. I’m afraid you were a premature arrival.” frowned the Devil while flipping through pages on her laptop. Alex was filled with hope. “Does that mean I get to go back?”
“Definitely… not. Alright, this is just normal protocol, so bear with me. Are you involved in any STEM career pathway?”
“Are you a child prodigy?”
“Are you God or Michael Jackson?”
“No! Why are you asking me this?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time. An eternity exactly,” huffed Alex.
“Ah, going native already! Well, hell is overpopulated, and I am trying to find engineers who can find an innovative solution. The winner gets to have lunch with a famous dead celebrity of their choice!”
Suddenly as though it were a flash of lightning, Alex was struck with an idea. Actually, it was lightning; the idea came afterwards.
“Why am I in Hell? I’ve only lived for 17 years, I haven’t had a chance to do anything deadly!”
“Good question… let me Google it!” guffawed the devil and in 0.55 seconds she had her answer. “Your book of Good Deeds has been misplaced by my secretary. I’m very sorry.”
“Well, isn’t there like a Book of Bad or something that you can look at to see that I’m innocent!” asked Alex desperately.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. Besides, I know that you always took the larger slice of the cake, you laughed when John split his pants, and you cheated on a test in kindergarten. Nevertheless, I’ll give you one chance. Name one good thing you did within the last week”
“Umm… I didn’t murder my brother, John! There! I’m free!
“That doesn’t count. Besides, you only did half of your homework. And you tried the ‘my homework flew into the sea while I was on a cruise’ trick”
“Bloody hell”, cursed Alex indignantly, “Can’t I appeal to God?”
“You could try. But you are so young, and he might not like your teenage attitude. God is very old fashioned, because… he is very old.”
“Is there another way out?”
“Do you know Ancient Greek?”
“No. Why?”
“The Ancient Greeks were right about afterlife and God and Gods and pretty much everything actually! You get an automatic pardon if you know the language!
“But that wasn’t even a foreign language choice at school! This is unfair!”
“Life is unfair, Alex. But people forget to tell you that Death is unfair too…All right, Alex. I really must move on to the next client. Please take the door to the right for your punishment”
“Punishment? Wait! What?
But the Devil had already disappeared.
“Aw hell, it can’t get any worse than this, right?”
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 09:06:25 PM





“The The-ah-ter”

The sun rose and everything else fell.


Everyone froze as a monstrous shadow arose from the very depths of the Woodrow Wilson Middle School Theatre. A chill cracked through the terse air like a lightning bolt and heads swiveled towards the growing shadow. The dark silhouette loomed over the actors, seemingly shifting into a cumulonimbus cloud into a demonic bear into a hooded and cloaked figure. And from the profile of the hooded figure emerged a very small man.

“Joey,” it called in a quiet, quaking voice, “please come out here.”

Silence held for a few moments, and then there was the sound of rustling and hands pushing and a pudgy little boy of around 11 or 12 stumbled onstage from the wings.

“Y… yes Mr. Wright?

“Joey,” the quivering man took two careful steps towards the stage, “please explain to me what is happening in this scene.”

“Well, it’s… it’s the first scene of the show, and Curley comes whistling from the back and walks onstage and starts singing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”

Mr. Wright took another step closer to Joey. “And, Mr. Grayer, can you please tell me what your job is in this scene?”

The little boy looked down at his beat red and blue sneakers and picked at a scab on his right wrist. “I’m supposed to pull the red and green ropes so the sun and the rest of the scenery goes up…”


Joey shrunk a little more into his striped sweatshirt. “And I’m supposed to make sure they don’t fall by holding onto the ropes...”

“YES! That’s it!” The petite man bounced eagerly on the balls of his feet. “You’re supposed to hold on to the ropes, aren’t you Joey? Aren’t you?”

The boy’s shoulders drooped lower to the ground. “Yes.”

“And did you do that, Mr. Grayer? Did you?”

“I…I held onto the red one.”

“But how about the green one? Did you hold on to that one?”

His head hung so his chin brushed his chest. “No.”

“No, no you sure didn’t. And through that you completely ruined the composition of the opening of our great musical. It’s called Oklahoma!, Joey, not Sucklahoma!”

A tear trailed down Joey’s robust cheek.

“Get out of my the-ah-ter. Out!”

With the speed that Joey ran out of that theatre, you would have thought that his father was a Kenyan and his mother was a cheetah. Mr. Wright watched the doors of the theatre slam closed, and then proceeded to step onstage to face the actors watching in the audience.

“Alright, actors, in light of our comrade’s hasty retreat, I think that now is a good time to regroup and re-establish our fundamental beliefs. And when I say fundamental, the emphasis is on?”

“Mental!” The children yelled.

“That’s right! F, U, and N are just extra letters.” Mr. Wright spun around on the polished heel of his leather boot to face the wings.

“Technical people, get out here! We’re having an important conversation!”

After a couple of moments, a group of scrawny and pimpled tweens climbed out of the jungle of wires that was Backstage and clambered into the empty seats of the theatre. When the dust settled, Mr. Wright turned to face his young audience once again and called out in a commanding voice.

“Children, I think we’ve lost focus on what’s truly important here. What’s at stake.”

The teacher’s beady eyes swept over the crowd of children.

“We are forgetting the very essence of Oklahoma! Nay, the essence of the the-ah-ter itself! We have been so caught up in our own selves, in music notes and electric wires and sparkly costumes, that we have forgotten that the the-ah-ter is about more than just one actor or one nerd or even one Rockville County The-ah-ter award nominated director! It is about bring glory and honor to the art form! It is about making people feel things, things they would never dare feel even in their wildest dreams! It is about chivalry and creativity and redemption on the people who told you that you were to short to audition for the part of Curly in Wagner The-ah-ter’s revival of Oklahoma! It is about life, children, it is about life.”

A quivering hand slowly rose from the sea of terrified of middle schoolers.

“Ex… excuse me? Mr. Wright… Sir?”

A wave of fear rushed over the crowd at the sound of the voice.


A very skinny girl stood up.

“W… well, my mom told me that theater was about having fun?”

A gasp shuddered throughout the audience. Mr. Wright inhaled deeply, closing his eyes tightly in irritation.

“First of all, drama is a verb, child, the-ah-ter is a noun! Secondly, we have been over this, child, fundaMENTALs! Only amateurs truly believe that fun is somehow infused in the art form.”

The girl looked down at her intertwined knobby fingers.

“Well my mom thinks…”

Mr. Wright strode in long, quick strides over to where the little girl stood and bent his knees so his eyes met hers in the same plane.

“Your name is Jessica isn’t it?”

She sniffled a little bit.

“They… they call me little Jessica.”

The small man scoffed and his thin lips turned up in a smirk. “Yes, yes they do, and do you know why?”

“Because I’m smaller than the other Jessica?”

“No,” He leaned in closer to her, so that they were nearly nose-to-nose.
“because you’re a little shit, little Jessica.”

“Hey!” The crowd gasped once again as a burly eighth grader burst from her seat and stalked down the aisle to place her large hands on Little Jessica’s shaking shoulders. “You can’t talk to my sister like that! You can’t talk to anyone like that! You’re a teacher, you’re not supposed to be the one bullying people!”

One would have thought that Mr. Wright would have been at least a little intimidated by the hefty girl staring him down, especially since she was larger than him both in girth and height, but the tiny man simply drew himself up to his full 5’3 frame and looked the girl squarely in the eye and laughed a long, hearty laugh.

“Alexis, do you dare tell me what I can and cannot do? In the world of the the-ah-ter, I sit on the iron throne and you, Ms. Shaloe scrape at the filth at my feet!”

“Was that a Game of Thrones reference?”

“Never mind that.” He clasped his hands and smiled a sickly sweet smile up at the girl. “Alexis…”

“My name is Alex,” she snarled through gritted teeth.

“Alexis,” he continued, “if you continue to give me such attitude, I will have to ask you to follow in your classmate’s footsteps in the path out of my the-ah-ter.”

Little Jessica clutched at her sister’s muscular arm, but the burly girl stared aggressively back at her teacher.

“It’s not your theatre. It’s the school’s theatre and we’ll leave, but not because you told us to, but because we don’t want to put up with any of your bullshit anymore.”

The little man seemed to flit up in the air with excitement. “Was that a curse word I heard, Miss Shaloe? That’s a Saturday detention for you, missy!”

“But you called my little sister a little shit…”

“And there’s another one! Friday detention! I would watch your mouth in my the-ah-ter, Alexis!”

“Alex! And why do you say it like that?”

“Say what like that?”

“The-ah-ter.” She imitated Mr. Wright’s accentuated vowels and pursed lips. “It’s pronounced ‘theatre””

“Yes,” he insisted, “that’s what I’ve been saying. The-ah-ter.”







“The…” Alex drew in a sharp breath of irritation and grabbed her sister’s hand. “Whatever. C’mon Jess, let’s go.”

As the sisters began to turn around to walk to the exit, Mr. Wright turned brightly to his cast and crew and clapped his little hands together.
“Let little Jessica, Alexis, and Joey’s exits teach you a lesson! Do not toy with the the-ah-ter or with me, for I did not leave the hallowed halls of the Kansas City the-ah-ter district to make mediocre amateur actors less mediocre. I came here to make artists! Artists!”

Alex stopped in her tracks and spun to face her director once again. “But didn’t you just say that the people at the theatre didn’t cast you as Curly because you were too…”

“Desist! Be gone already, Alexis! Leave these hallowed halls and never return!”

“It’s Alex!”

“Potato, potahto. Dissipate!”

After one, last, long, hateful look, the larger girl took the smaller girl by the hand and led her up the long aisle to the door of the theatre. And as the whole cast and crew looked on, Alex stared at the rusty door handle, turned her head back to glare defiantly into Mr. Wright’s eyes, and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 07:54:06 PM





Reward My Thirst, but Also Other People's: A Memoir

The sun rose and everything fell. Before my eyes, a fleet of pink used car ads tumbled across the pavement like a gaggle of wild geese in the early dawn light. The vested woman, head packaged in a plaid fringed scarf and brown sock hat, turned to me, the crosshairs behind the square lenses of her glasses lining up on me and the boy with the yellow sheepdog hair. “Climb up there and walk around – see if you can hold 'em down,” she said. The smell accompanying ages of mildew and dust descended upon me like a veil. As I boarded the grimy bars and swung myself into the pit, the boy shifted before me on the mass of weather reports and editorials, a lanky, wobbling paperweight.

As most teenagers have done, I have spent a considerable amount of time around dumpsters due to the dark magic known as extra credit. As if by witchy incantation, students’ Saturdays vanish from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. at the chanting of biology teachers across the city, and in this time slot habitually used for catching up on sleep, we find ourselves donning orange and gold fluorescent vests and carrying beer bottles from the back of someone’s van. I reflect spitefully on how I’ve been wronged as I separate piles of paper and plastic into their corresponding bins, hollow bottles clattering in a high-pitch rockslide as they rain from an empty cat litter tub. I will earn those ten points, I tell myself solemnly, swiping a grocery bag into its rust-stained bin with a flourish. At least I’m not doing the weird chanting.

Through the toil of many Saturdays I spent at Wesselman Recycling Center my freshman year, idle chat between students was customarily reprimanded by the adults at work, primarily the park groundskeeper, who held a brown half-peeled banana in one hand and brandished the other in the wind like a banner as he directed traffic. Likewise, I did everything in my power to avoid recycling as I waited for wheels to skid across the pavement and slow, fifteen-year-olds pacing round their trunks like a pack of ragged dogs encircling a stray cat, howling. I considered sifting through the discarded magazine bin to uncover the celebrity gossip of old as I kneaded my frozen, clammy fingers together, too grossed out to slip them into my jean pockets for fear of Miller Lite residue. Sitting on the concrete beside the aluminum disposal trailer, I was just recalling the Brangelina breakup of ’06 when a man with a silver, feathery head brusquely ordered get back to work. Begrudgingly, I did, and my world changed.

This is when I discovered Coke points.

I had never before noticed the thin, black letters inked in the guts of a flimsy, cardboard 12-pack, but as I shoed through truck bed after truck bed of junk, I sometimes noticed a long, rectangular strip clipped from the corner of a Coke or Sprite. As I would later discover, the codes inside the boxes were part of a Reward My Thirst campaign, an incentive to buy Coke products, wrangle in points with the box codes, and spend those points on prizes from the website. It was perfect. If other people weren’t going to use their codes, I would, and reap the glorious rewards of their points. Eagerly, I researched the prizes I could earn on the site, but the only one of interest to me was more Coke.

My family has long wrestled with an addiction for soft drinks, me especially. Considering that I was then newly proclaimed street-legal, working a minimum wage job, and just cashed my first pay check two minutes before the bank closed, I felt like nothing could hinder me from satisfying that desire for a 79-cent drink. The freedom was biting. For me, a short trip to town would almost always merit a Polar Pop from the Circle K, a tall Styrofoam cup filled with sweet, bubbly death liquid that flooded the lid when I punched in the straw. A gas station for me has since become a House of Vice. Drinkers get their booze. Gamblers get their lottery tickets. And for people like me, we get our Coke.

I realize how dangerous my artificially-sweetened addiction can be. In fact, I often imagine my future self in vivid detail twenty years from now, thirty years from now, still shackled to my old habit. My face comes into focus as I’m lying on the couch, reaching toward a lofty 44-ounce cup. It stands tall, proud, sealed with the shining red crest of Circle K. Stretching fiercely, my eyes form narrow slits and my features harden to rock. The table is maybe three feet away, but I can’t reach it because my upper arms weigh 500 pounds. It is a nightmare grounded in reality that daunts me and my family alike, but I can’t admit my true concern to my family for fear they would stage an intervention, take steps to slow the Coke intake. I’d go through withdrawal.

Just to back up and clarify, I am not an obese monster. I’m no stretch of wire, but I’d deem myself average in body mass. I’m healthy and seventeen, two facts I assert as my excuse for returning to the demon drink. And when Coke points came into my life like a sweet blessing from Jesus, I had all the more reason to keep Coke in my life, and to get it for free, mailed via coupon. On Saturday mornings, you could find me at the recycling center, hidden stealthily behind a green paint-chipped dumpster with my stash of cardboard boxes, ripping the codes free like a rat hunched over a discarded box of chow mein.

In this way, I succeeded in concealing this hobby from my friends and the other students in order to avoid being framed as a thrifty sociopathic weirdo. It was the high-school-world equivalent of a body in the freezer. Or it could be worse; the story could spiral beyond the realm of truth. I could already hear the rumors buzzing around violently like wasps in my head. “Did you hear about the Valerie girl?” someone would say in the cafeteria, directing her friend’s eyes to me, unsuspectingly eating my chicken sandwich tray a few tables over. “She collects cardboard. From dumpsters.”

“That’s not what I heard,” the friend would say, eyes shining with an air of scandalous importance. “I heard she takes it home and eats it. Like a goat.” And then a drop of ketchup would land onto the flap of my zipper.

Although I was self-conscious of this odd little quirk, it was not something I could hide from my family. As I amassed more and more points from the Cokes other people paid for, coupons sailed into the mailbox, and in turn, my family began saving codes for me. My sister, Jaclyn, would send me texts of upturned bottle caps and so did her fiancé, Gage. In a way, helping me get my codes had become a family rite of passage of sorts. My sister Susan’s new boyfriend began asking his coworkers for their bottle caps on his work trips to Chicago, presenting to me the plastic bag from his jacket pocket like a shiny gift with which to win over my heart.

However, as the school year winded together and recycling days grew fewer, I hungrily sought more codes to replenish the rippling stream of coupons. At weddings, I’d frequent the refreshment table, pour a Mello Yello from a two-liter, and forget to screw the cap back on, cupping it in the palm of my hand and slipping it into the narrow pocket of my pink dress. Gage would assist in the effort by going on brief missions of his own, feigning indecisiveness as he selected an assortment of shallowly filled bottles one by one and dropped their caps into his outer suit jacket pocket. We’d then return to the candlelight of our white, silk-clothed table, passing our little victories to Jaclyn who would then save them for me in her purse.

There was one person not compelled to love me by an everlasting blood bond with whom I did share my secret: my best friend, Erin. That fall, our moms dropped us off at the West-side Fall Festival on Tuesday after school. The oil and grease were condensing in the air, so heavy I felt them seeping into my pores as we filed through row after row of paint-scratched parish food booths. With bratwurst in hand, I took in the sights of festival season: the moms with cumbersome two-seat strollers, young children gripping puffy, foil-wrapped pretzels, the stoners giving each other tattoos in the grassy median. Suddenly, I dug my rubber heels into the blacktop, swatting Erin on the shoulder as we passed one burn-barrel-sized ice cooler. Folded stacks of cardboard in Christmas colors were tucked discreetly beneath, lighting up and glowing in the back of my head like the strings of bulbs on an evergreen.

I could taste the bubbles.

I turned to Erin. “Would it be wrong?” I asked. “Would it be wrong?”

We approached the dark-haired woman beside the cooler who sat in a green mesh lawn chair, wiping icy water from the cans with a dirty shop towel as she collected dollar bills. I bought a Cherry Coke and Erin bought a Mello Yello. “Excuse me ma’am,” I asked. “Do you think I could use that cardboard there for a school recycling project? It’s for school, I swear.”

She skimmed me up and down with her eyes, interrupting the rhythm of money-taking. “I guess so,” she said, flashing her gaze from me to Erin to her tin box of cash.

“Thank you!” I pulled case after case free and swerved in the opposite direction, laughing feverishly as I handed all but one box to Erin, and began to tear.

In May, I found myself at the final Saturday of recycling, my last haul. The air felt fresh, almost unusual, radiating with warmth. I quietly scrutinized each car, surveying the make and model, understanding from experience that older, rickety cars often demonstrated the owner’s more blatant disregard for health and safety, thus making them more likely assets to my cause, and also duly noting that old men tended to be more likely to buy name brands, a characteristic I speculated derives from their sense of comfort in the familiar, the reliable. My eyes were squinted in fixation at the “Proud Nam Vet” bumper sticker on a dark green Grand Am when I noticed a brown paper bag on a pathway directed straight toward the largest dumpster in the lot. In the arms of my bio classmate, Maggie, I could see the gleaming red and white cardboard flicker at me, a bittersweet goodbye smile, and it occurred to me that all this cardboard junk we’ve been collecting is basically Hindu; the image of a Raisin Bran box struck my mind like quivering thunder – this Coke in the next life. The scene rolled frame by frame as I saw the bag passed along to a boy hanging from the dumpster’s side ladder, preparing to fling it to its doom, its reusable, eco-friendly destiny.

“Wait!” I yelled, sprinting in front of a Buick which had just shifted to drive. “Can I see that one sec?”

Maggie’s eyebrows lifted. She dropped the bag to the ground, holding her hands up as if to surrender. “What are you doing?” She stared at me behind long, dark bangs as I sifted through the rubble, plucking out the Cokes.

“The codes,” I said. I handed the rest of the bag up to the boy. “I wanted the codes.”

I latched my eyes to my fingers bending the cardboard until I heard a laugh pulsing through the air. The lines of her face softened, eyes glinting. “Awh!” she said. “That’s so cute! You’re like a little old lady!”

I laughed shakily, ripping the fold from a Mr. Pibb with the other three flattened cartons pinched under my arm like a clothespin. My pockets bulged with the shape of folded cardboard.

And in that second, it was over. I had done it. I was reckless. In a fleeting instant, my secret was revealed, my body in the freezer uncovered. I searched myself for the aching sensations of dread, embarrassment, regret, but somehow I returned with pocketed hands as if I had taken a stroll through my heart and come back with little to show. Now that I had set the truth free, it didn’t feel at all like I’d imagined. The boy on the ladder was rifling through the top layer in the dumpster, glancing down at me and back. “Here,” he said, passing down a Sunkist box. “Does this help you out?”

It wasn’t even Coke brand; it was Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group Inc., but I guessed normal people wouldn’t know that. “Thanks,” I said, smiling, and accepted the empty box.

Around me, the same bustle as always churned in motion, melting into the smell of hot gasoline. My elbows swelled with cardboard, and quietly I ushered the pieces to the serene, deserted side of the corner dumpster. Sunlight seeped through the ladder spaces above me and onto the shoulder of my shirt like a warm hand. “Alex.” I heard the voice of the Wesselman Park woman, and down the lot the sheepdog boy moved in her direction. “Take these to the trailer. Watch it when you walk in, though – there’s tons of paper. Actually, I might have you climb back up there with the newspaper if the wind picks up.” From the corner of the dumpster wall, I followed the yellow head as he mounted the stringed bales of paper into the crook of his arm and stepped up the trailer’s metal platform. In a quick wrench, he tightened the stack to his chest. I could feel him take a breath as he paused, fingers digging into the pages. My mind swirled back to the two of us in the rusty dumpster, the pinch of frail slits of cardboard I had carefully concealed against my thigh, like the key to a diary. A moment passed. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 02, 2015 06:57:40 PM





“The Red Sweater”

The sun rose and everything fell. Everything being the dense, thick layer of freezing sugar that coated the city of Annapolis, that is. Miraculously, the temperature ratcheted up overnight, changing the city from a hazy winter wonderland into an expectant garden awaiting the flowers and new life that accompany springtime. Businessmen who'd spent hours battling snowy traffic and exhausted parents who'd wasted days off shoveling driveways rejoiced in the unexpected change of season.
But there was no joy in the Rhae household on that glorious spring morning, especially in the bedroom that held fifteen-year-old Alexa Marie, or “Alex” as her friends and family called her. For young Alex, the lack of snow was a punishment, a damnation that would thwart her chances of ever being happy again for the rest of her life.

“Alex!” her mother Karen cried out in a voice of pure glee that she reserved for back-to-school sales and Patrick Swayze movies. “Alex, wake up!”

The plump fifty-one-year-old, arrayed in mom jeans and a “Rhae Family Vacation Las Vegas 2005” t-shirt that didn’t fit her quite right anymore, burst into Alex’s room giddily. The idea of running into a teenage girl’s room on a Wednesday morning before her alarm went off was a rookie mistake, as Alex was about as friendly as a wildebeest before 11am, but poor Karen was getting a failing grade in Not Pissing Off Your Teenager 101. Her little sister lost her fourteenth tooth on a Saturday morning at 6am? Alex didn’t care. That Cute Boy that was in That Cute Movie Alex Liked When She Was Nine is on TV? Alex couldn’t be bothered. Final Puzzle in Wheel of Fortune is on? Alex didn’t give a damn.

Alex, who dealt with the chronic syndrome known as not being a morning person, barely moved, as if to avoid the fact that she needed to get dressed for school soon.

“Mom, what’s going on?” she mumbled groggily, rubbing her eyes slowly.

“It’s a miracle! It’s fifty-three degrees outside! The snow melted, and it feels like springtime for the first time in ages!”

“WHAT?!” Alex screeched.

This news seemed to lift the aura of exhaustion from Alex’s body and sent her flying towards her window. Much to her dismay, the snow had sunken far into the ground, leaving the city balmy and green.

“No, no, no; this is not happening,” Alex’s voice was full of tears and disappointment.

“Honey, what’s the problem?” Karen asked confused, trying desperately to understand her teenage daughter and, as usual, failing.

“Do you not know what day it is?!” Alex shrieked in frustration. “It’s VALENTINE’S DAY. The day I was going to wear my new red sweater and look fantastic and then Colin Blinch was going to invite me back to his house for hot cocoa and then kiss me!”

“Oh, Alex, it’s okay! You can still get some good use out of that sweater and look super cute at school today! Why don’t we look through your closet for another outfit to wear that you won’t get too hot in?”

“It’s no use!” the morose teen cried miserably,

“There’s nothing in that stupid closet that will look as good on me as that sweater! And if I don’t look super cute today, then Colin will ask another girl out and no one will ever want to date me and I’lldiealoneasanoldmaidwithabillioncatsandMYLIFEWILLBERUINED! I’m wearing the sweater!”

“Now, Alex, it’s awfully hot out for you to wear that sweater,” her mother warned.

“I don’t care!” Alex snapped defiantly, yanking the sweater from her dresser drawer and snipping the tag off with a pair of scissors.

To make up for the time she lost in her meltdown, Alex threw the sweater on with a pair of skinny jeans and riding boots, garnished it with her most extravagant jewelry, and prettied herself with her a ton of colorful makeup in record time. As she dashed into the kitchen and swiped a banana from the kitchen table, Karen marveled at her daughter’s usual speediness. Alex hadn’t even gotten ready that fast on Black Friday.

Alex strode into school confidently, ready to take on the day and win over Colin’s heart. She smiled and waved at her classmates but could barely contain herself when she made eye contact with Colin from his locker. He flashed her a friendly grin, and Alex reciprocated with a cute smile of her own. At least, she hoped it was. Maybe it was too big, and he thought she was an awkward loser? Maybe it was barely noticeable, and he thought she was an awkward loser? Maybe she already was an awkward loser, and he’d been thinking that the whole time?

Her internal freak out was interrupted when the school’s PA system crackled to life, wishing the students a happy Valentine’s Day while informing them of how lucky they were to have such nice weather (yeah, right) and how the school had been unable to change the settings on their heating and cooling system to accommodate the temperature change. Translation: the heat was on full blast. Alex’s stomach dropped, and she hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t turn into a sweaty mess over the course of the day.

Alex’s day was pretty steamy (in more ways than one!). She and Colin engaged in a lively conversation in English class where she made him laugh out loud, but the heater seemed to be aimed right at her chair and shot warm air in a direct stream to her like one of those huge tanks used in the army that lock their poor subject before ambushing them with ammo, causing tiny beads of sweat to begin pooling in the creases of her armpits and knees. At lunch, Colin invited her to sit with him, and they flirted playfully while Alex filled her boots with salty sweat. By gym class, Alex had never been happier to peel off her soaking wet clothes and trade them for her school’s crusty uniform, but was disappointed to learn that she had to spend an hour partaking in a vigorous basketball game before returning to her regular clothes, still bathed in sweat.

By the end of the day, Alex thought that her romantic efforts were for naught and trudged out of school despondently. I mean nothing to him, Alex assumed, I’m just another pretty girl in a red sweater who he can talk to and lead on and then leave in the schoolyard. What a sexist bastard! Women are not just objects of lust that boys like Colin can tease for their own gratification! Colin Blinch himself is the sole reason that our world is still as sexist and misogynistic wasteland full of-

“Alex!” A voice called out behind her, stopped her dead in her tracks. She swiveled around to find that Colin was trying to get her attention.

“Hey, Colin,” she greeted him, “what’s up?”

“Do you want to hang out right now?”

It took everything in Alex’s power not to run throughout the school doing backflips and crying tears of joy. Finally, she thought, finally I am going to go to Colin Blinch’s house and kiss him just like I’ve dreamt it! There is hope for our world after all! God bless America! God bless Colin Blinch! God bless all men!

“I’d love to!” Alex hoped she didn’t sound too excited (or was it worse if she sounded too nonchalant?!).

“I was thinking we could take a walk to get to my house, since it’s only a mile and a half away. Sound good?” Colin suggested.

Alex nodded, not processing exactly what Colin said. When the reality of what she was about to do sunk in, she panicked but, afraid to ruin her perfect plan with Colin, said nothing and began walking with him.

“So, you said you like Saturday Night Live?” he asked, and Alex nodded, trying to contain the sweat mustache, or “sweatstache” that was slowly making itself known atop her upper lip. The path to Colin’s house was completely unprotected from the sun’s rays, and they beat down on poor Alex intensely.
She fantasized about those cool ice baths that football players got after games and zoned out from her conversation with Colin. Was this heat stroke? She was pretty sure it was heat stroke.

“Hey, are you okay?” Colin asked her worriedly,

“You look kind of hot.”

“Oh no! I’m totally fine!” Alex lied through her teeth, her sweatstache dripping onto her lips.

Would Colin be totally creeped out if I took a long shower at his house when we get there? Alex wondered as her face glistened with her body’s salty tears.

Just as Alex thought that she would be better off burning in the fiery pits of hell, Colin exclaimed, “We’re here!”

He opened his front door for her, and Alex burst inside, beet red and sweating. As politely as she could, she flopped down on his sofa and accepted the glass of water he offered her, though, to her dismay, it was only lukewarm. He continued to make idle chat, and then reached down into his backpack for something.

This is it! Alex thought. He wants to kiss me! She was sure of it. “Leaning Away and then Turning In To Kiss” is one of Seventeen Magazine’s “Top 40 Unconventional Ways for Him to Kiss You!”. She slid across the couch to be closer to him, shut her eyes, and puckered up.

“Woooah!” Colin jolted back upon turning around,
“What are you doing?”

“You were going to kiss me, right?” Alex asked hopefully.

Uncomfortably, Colin took a deep breath and said,

“Look. You’re really nice, but I already have a girlfriend.”

“A girlfriend?!”

“Yeah. She goes to school across town.”

Cheeks flaming, Alex stood up and gathered her things, barely mustering out, “I should go.”

“But you are a really fun person!” She was just about to leave the house when Colin called out to her, trying to make her feel better, “And I really like your sweater, too!”

His words froze her in place for a split second, and she sighed. Despite the fantasy she’d dreamt of for six whole days, she knew what she had to do. Heart heavy with disappointment, Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.