Beatrice Hedge 10 Gardiner Rd, Edinburgh February 12 1891
Dear Cousin Beatrice,
I am sorry that I have kept in little contact with you since my mother's passing, and I hope you understand that my intent was not malicious in my retreat from the family. However, I write to you not to simply apologize, but because I wanted to discuss what truly happened to my father, and how his spirit visits me, even as I write this.
A year before he died, when I was eleven, my father had beat me. I had not cleaned his boots and when I arrived at your door with a broken nose, and hair full of mud, you ordered your servants to draw me a bath and feed me more than I had eaten in six days. I only learned later you also sent your cook and your driver to have a row with my father, and now I apologize for their injuries.
Beatrice, dear sweet Beatrice, you knew who my father was. You knew he was a man who could not hold in anything. His anger was like a cup filled to the brim, any disturbance causing a downpour. Beatrice I remember how you doted on me as a boy, and how you watched over me after my father died, this is why I make my confession to you and you alone.
My mother was innocent of it all, in fact, she was more a victim than he ever was. The night that he came home had been a prize night. As you know, my father was never one for holding a job and he took to betting on himself to pay for his gin and the rent. My mother had been bent over the fire, I had been in the kitchen's corner across from the door, which he came through.
She said something, something about how she wished he wouldn’t put his muddy boots up on the table, or how dinner was going to be a little late, I don’t remember, she had said it so softly.
He had lost his fight that night; he sat down at the kitchen table, the bottle of gin in his hand. He did not need to stand up. He did not need to grab her by the hair and threw her to the ground. He did not need to. I do not know if things would have been different if he had won the fight, or if he had not started drinking until he got home, or if he passed out in the street. But he did not do these things, and he is dead now.
I was in the right with what I did; he had a knife, but most nights he would not bother himself with such formality as that. Instead, he preferred to use a broken bottle or the back of a frying pan, or a shovel full of hot coals, but that night he used a knife. That night I knew something had to be done, something which is sinned in every book of prayer, by man and beast alike, which I did, and I was in the right the same way that I would be in the right to say that an object undisturbed by another force would fall to the earth.
I did nothing but defend myself from him, and yet, he follows me, whispering, hissing like a serpent, like something that slithered through the grass and into the tree, the serpent who spoke into Eve’s ear to take the fruit, because if anyone was to be compared to a serpent it would be him. That putrid man, how he would stumble into the house, his shirt and vest soaked in wasted gin, his blood or someone else's, from whatever prize fight he had fought, dribbled on his collar. Oh, how he would beat her, how he would drag her out into the street, kick her in the teeth, shattering her jaw on the cobblestone streets blanketed by snow. Oh how it would seem as if the snow was bleeding when she cried with her mouth open. Would you have told me you wouldn’t have done the same to a man, a creature so vile as this?
But he is here now, and he has been following since that night, first as a whisper which he spoke into my ear, then after a year, he manifested, a pale version of himself, with a ribcage so filled with cuts and holes. His eyes, which would have been a brilliant blue when he went into his rages, are now a stormy gray. He is a hideous man, with no notable features, other than a nose resembling a lightning bolt from all of the times it had been broken by a boxer's fist, and those eyes, my god those eyes.
I do not know which cut was fatal but I know it was not clean. The knife was small and I was not that strong, but a mix of fear and anger pushed it deeper, again, and again, and again twelve more times into his stomach, between his ribs. My mother took me into her arms and sheltered me from the result of my actions, I did not cry.
My father was a bastard, a man who never saw a future for himself or his family, and when I told his spirit that my mother had sold his coat, and his watch, when I told his spirit this body was sold to the local university he lunged at me, only to realize he had no substance behind his hands, no force with which he could throttle.He is a smog barking and hissing at me, a caged animal.
I should have used something duller to end him, something like a spoon.
Beatrice, I know my mother was shunned by our family and condemned as his killer, but they were wrong. My father's spirit is hovering over my shoulder and I know I must tell the truth. I killed my father, and the bastard deserved it. Xavier Hedge 431 Tyburn Rd, Birmingham
Aidan Neidingeris a junior creative writer at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. He is the product of when a young boy reads too many books with big words without knowing the meaning behind them. Born in Santa Fe New Mexico, a state which by some people’s opinions doesn’t exist, Neidinger adopts Texas as his homeland. He began his storytelling by lying to teachers about who fed pop rocks to the class gerbil and about where his homework had gone. Influenced by Kerouac, Kesey, and his family of writers Neidinger shows his love for the southwest in a soft-spoken twang that could put your toddler to bed.
Note: This story was written sophomore year.
The Pigs Who Flew, and the Man Who Did Too by Gabriella Ganoe
Eric Wilkins has never believed in anything. Not magic, not religion, and certainly not himself. Which is why he’s finding it hard to understand how his pigs have suddenly sprouted wings. Real, feathery wings that have just jutted out from their sides, and now ripple slightly with the stormy breeze. Eric takes a step closer to the pen, and stares. He’s not sure what to do.
This is not at all what Eric would have expected out of his morning. He had woken up to a storm, lightning echoing through the fields, and rain slipping off the roof. He had gotten himself prepared to trudge through it, to spend hours sweating over animals that showed no appreciation. He had expected to go to sleep with his back aching in pain that came as it did every day, and fitfully sleeping as the pain spread, throughout the night. Instead, there had been a knock at the door, which revealed Bernie, the local tax collector. The rain had been falling onto the man’s hat in a consistent rhythm.he had told Eric that the bank was repossessing his farm. “You’ll have a chance of keeping it when pigs fly,” he said. The words hit the air like a command rather than a joke. And then he was gone.
Eric struggled with this. The farm he’d built his life around was being torn from him, spitting it out of his mind like it had gone sour. But there was also something in him that perked up at the news, a voice whispering to him that he could finally be free. It was drowned out quickly by a memory of his father. He could practically hear his dying voice in his ear as he walked in the storm, to the animal pens. It taunted him, burnt itself into his thoughts and made Eric realize that he was letting down all of the Wilkins generations before him. That's when he sees the pigs.
“What the hell,” Eric mumbles, scanning the wings with caution, as though he’ll grow them himself if he gets too close. The pigs oink loudly in response, and stare straight back at Eric. Normally, they’d be in a jumbled mess, knocking each other around and fighting over food. But today they seem mature, standing almost silent and aware.
Eric jumps over the fence, and they scramble, one even hovering slightly in the air. “What the bloody hell,” he says again.
His first instinct is to try and remove the wings, so he leans over and pulls on one. It must be a trick, Eric thinks, maybe something the local kids planned. A little tug should do it. Instead, it does anything but. The pig flinches in pain, and lowers the wing against his round body. All the other pigs notice, and scatter away from Eric as he tries to get close.
“This isn't real, it can't be,” he mumbles, massaging his forehead. Maybe he’s seeing things, maybe all he needs is to rest for a moment. He collapses onto a stool next to the pen, and rests his head in his palms. He breaths, sliding his hands away. The pigs are still there, still with wings, and still staring at him. “What in HELL,” he shouts, kicking the stool over as he jumps up and runs for his house.
It can't be real, certainly it can't be. In the real word, pigs don't just sprout wings. They cant, that's not something they do. There's no explanation, which means there's no answer. It's not real. Eric’s thoughts bounce around in his mind, keeping other thoughts from getting in. Like the fact that he’s losing his farm. Like the fact that might actually be some kind of miracle.
The rain is still spilling from the sky, but Eric doesn't mind now. He gets to the door, but only stares at it. It’s the door his father built so many years ago, after the wind kicked down the first one. He remembers how for days, in the midst of winter, they had a gaping hole in their house that invited the cold inside. He remembers how he had to do twice the amount of his usual farm chores while his Dad worked on fixing it.That's when he’d gotten thrown to the ground by the cattle. He can’t remember his Dad ever saying thank you.
Rains slips down his cheeks and off his nose, the hollow sound of him kicking the door echoing throughout the emptiness of the air. Eric’s not kicking the door to break it down, he’s kicking it because he’s angry. Angry at the bank for threatening to take his farm away, but even angrier at his father for raising him to think that would be a bad thing. Eric’s always known that he doesn't like being a farmer, but he was ordered to look after the family’s land. His Dad lived and breathed farming, and maybe Eric thought that he could make him proud if he did the same. Soon enough the rain is melded with his tears, both leaving trails on his reddened face. He’s desperate. In all his years of living, he’s never had the chance to think for himself. His life has always been planned out for him, controlled to the point that he’s never been comfortable questioning whether or not it's what he wants. The blindfold that has been smothering him for years is now, suddenly, pulled away. But that makes it worse. Now there's nothing to hide him from his truth. And all because of some damn bank payments and some pigs.
Eric spends a while outside, the rain pelting down just as hard as before. Soon the Sun is ready to set, and he lets himself into the house to sleep. But his thoughts keep him awake, screams from his father overlapping with mental pictures of the pigs. Everything feels so foriegn to Eric, his mind still trying to reject their legitimacy. Maybe none of its real. Maybe it's all a dream, or some kind of mind trick. Yeah, it's not real. Of course it's not real, he repeats in his mind, letting the thought dissolve everything else.
The next morning, a knock reveals Bernie once again. The storm has stopped. “Hello Mr. Wilkins,” Bernie says softly, taking off his hat. “I’ve come to check up on you, and see if you’re ready to discuss the process of foreclosure.” He tries his best to smile, but it drained of all warmth.
Eric agrees. He opens the door a little wider, and leads Bernie into his kitchen. He offers him a chair, and takes the one across from it.
“Now Eric, I’m sure you remember me telling you that there's no possible way for you to keep your farm,” Bernie says. Eric recalls the conversation and nods.
“When pigs fly,” Eric says under his breath. A shock of realization shoots through him.
“Im sorry, what was that sir-”
“When pigs fly!” Eric shouts, leaping up from his seat, and dragging Bernie out the door. “You said I could keep my farm when pigs fly. Just come look.”
The two make their way to the pig pen, and Bernie lets out a gasp when he sees what's inside. There are the pigs, still with their wings, that have grown even larger in size. Yesterday, they looked like rooster wings, thin and disproportionate. But today they’re eagle wings.
One of the pigs stretches his out. He hits his pen mates with layers of thick feathers. Eric isn't sure how to react. He’s fortified his head with the idea that this is all fake, his non-existent imagination, but Bernie’s reaction causes that to crumble. He hops into the pen, and gives one of the wings a tug.
“They aren't even fake.” Eric says, shock creeping into his tone. The pig squeals, but instead of running away, it starts flapping its wings. Eric jumps back as the animal starts to soar over the top of the pen, then the barn, and then the fields. Soon, it’s up in the sky, a joyful oink echoing back to the ground.
Bernie stares, at a loss for words, stepping closer to the pen.. He mumbles something about how crazy this is, and how they both must be insane. He steadies himself and runs back up towards the house. Eric does not say goodbye. Soon, all the pigs begin their ascent into the air. Eric feels a part of him go with them. And then, like magic, something clicks within him. It all settles.
He looks up at the pigs as they glide through the clouds, the blue hues of the sky contrasting with their light pink bodies. The rising sun slips off them, still managing to make its way to the ground. A breeze falls with the sunrays, as soft as a whisper. Maybe the breeze speaking to him. Maybe he can finally listen. The pigs take a formation, what ducks look like when flying south, an arrow pointing in one direction. Forward. And that's exactly where Eric needs to go.
Gabriella Ganoe is a student at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, currently in her junior year. She enjoys writing in all genres but particularly enjoys Drama, because of its structure and possibilities. In her free time, she likes to play video games, cuddle with her dog, and get really competitive in board games with her family.
Note: This story was written sophomore year.
How To Get Kicked Out of Boarding School by Ali Clingan
Don’t make friends. Your therapist will partner you with a boy named Will in every activity, and even though he seems nice, don’t get too close. Will sleeps in the same dorm as you and has scars climbing up his arms. He will try to talk to you at 2 o’clock every night. You will still be awake, of course. Talk back, but only if the conversation is interesting. Remind yourself why you were sent here. Remind yourself that you have no friends, only acquaintances.
At 1:30 a.m. on your third night at Creekville Therapeutic Academy, pretend to listen as Will tells you about his biggest dreams of life, how he wants to become a cartoon artist, how he wants to travel to Europe and make enough money to pay back to his parents for everything they’ve done for him. Roll your eyes. Watch the tiny elephants stomp across the ceiling in the dark. They aren’t real. At least, that’s what you’ve been told for years, by your parents, your therapists, your countless doctors. But if they could see the elephants, their backs blanketed with colorful quilts, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to say what’s real and what isn’t.
Don’t tell Will that he won’t be able to become an artist. Don’t tell him that every kid in this school is a lost cause, and all this talk of “a better future” is just bullshit. Don’t tell him that you’ve given up your dreams long ago. Tell him that you want to get kicked out of Creekville Academy. He will laugh and say, “You already got thrown in this shithole. They don’t have anywhere else to send you.”
Say, “Prison.” You’re only half joking. Pull your eyes away from the elephants to find Will smiling at you sadly.
“Don’t get yourself thrown in prison, Connor,” he will say.
In group therapy, the therapist smiles with all her teeth, but not her eyes, and asks you to share something about yourself with the others. Do not smile. Do not tell them about the schizophrenia, which you know the therapist wants you to talk about. Tell them that you got kicked out of your first school in second grade for bringing your mom’s kitchen knife to class and threatening to stab anyone who stood within five feet of you. Tell them that you’ve been everywhere-- public, private, special needs schools, charter schools, online schooling. Your mom even tried homeschooling you for a couple months, and it resulted in slammed doors and a broken window and eating dinner in your room instead of at the table. Tell them that you’ve never spent a whole year in the same school. This speech usually scares kids, and deters any rude “new kid” comments, but these kids look disinterested, bored. Realize that this school will be more difficult to get kicked out of than others, and bask in the thrill of the challenge.
Always take note of your surroundings. You’re good at this. During cooking class, notice the fire extinguisher on the wall, the matches and knives in the locked drawer. During reading class, listen to the voices that travel through the walls, as if people are running up and down the corridor. Hear the footsteps. Don’t listen. Listen. Don’t. Read the book the English teacher gives you. You’re used to hearing people who aren’t there. The voices have always been real to you, but not to anyone else.
When the counselors lead everyone outside to wander around the courtyard for fresh air, notice the large number of statues-- most of them are famous disabled people, or some historical figure who overcame great adversity. Some of them will try to talk to you. Don’t respond, even if the conversation seems innocent enough. Beethoven, who you remember being told went deaf, will mention something about the weather. Turn away. Nobody else here is like you. Stop talking to it, your mom used to say. People will think you’re crazy.
In the coming weeks, cut back on telling your therapist about the things you see, and then stop telling her anything. She will only convince you that you are, in fact, insane. Say yes when she asks if the medicine is helping. In reality, it makes you sleepless and dizzy. But it quiets the voices to a deafening silence, and the statues don’t try to talk to you as often. It makes you as normal as you can be, but it makes you something you’re not, and that scares you more than you’d admit.
Instead, tell your therapist that the quickest you’ve gotten kicked out of a school was four days. Tell her that one time, it took seven months before they finally got rid of you. Her smile will grow soft, which will make you angry. She will say, “You don’t have to worry about that here. We’ve never had to expel a student, and I doubt you’ll be the first.”
Raise your eyebrows, but say nothing. Challenge accepted.
In art class, Will sits next to you with his charcoal pencils and sketchbook. Don’t tell him, but he’s actually pretty good at drawing. A dragon roars from the page, golden fire shooting from its mouth. If Will wasn’t labeled as a “troubled kid,” he might even be able to get into a decent college for art. Don’t acknowledge your jealousy at his talent.
Will sticks with you at lunch, and during mathematics and journaling class. Don’t say much to him, and he won’t say much back. No matter how much you wonder why he was sent to Creekville Academy, don’t ask, because you don’t want him to ricochet the question back at you. Besides, you’re not friends. Yet he seems to understand you, at least on some level. You both enjoy silence, and you don’t always feel the need for words. Most conversations are irrelevant. Will seems to feel the same way-- he only comes alive in the night, which you don’t mind, because you’re always awake, anyway.
Before he leaves for his one-on-one therapy session, ask him if he knows where any paint is. He will look at you a little strangely, head tilted. “There’s plenty of paint in the art room.”
Shake your head. Say, “I mean big cans of paint. Like, the kind you use to paint walls.”
He will frown. “I think there’s some old paint in the supply closet on the second floor. Why?”
Tell him no reason.
After all your classes are over for the day, go down to dinner early. Knock on the locked kitchen door and ask the cook if you can help. Of course, he will welcome you openly. Wash your hands, and he will let you cut the grilled cheese sandwiches with a sharp knife, a job you know you shouldn’t be trusted to do, but that’s how Creekville Academy operates-- by giving kids the trust they don’t deserve and expecting them to rise to the occasion. Offer to wash the dishes when the kids come to the window to fill their plates. He will smile and thank you. Scrub the plates, soak the silverware. Enjoy the way the water makes the knife sparkle and glisten. The knife drawer is unlocked. Put the knife away, but calmly take the box of matches and stick it in your pocket. Thank the cook for letting you help. Don’t bother eating dinner.
Stay in your dorm. Listen to the voices grow stronger. Just get it over with. Hurry it up. They’re real. They’re not real. It doesn’t matter. Will comes in at 10 o’clock, your counselor says goodnight and turns off the light. Wait another hour. When you finally get up, Will asks you where you’re going. Lie. Tell him you’re going to the bathroom. Close the door behind you. Tiptoe down the hall-- you know the nighttime caretaker is wandering somewhere nearby, so listen for footsteps. You won’t be able to tell if they are real or not.
Find the maintenance closet on the second floor. You saw the janitor restocking the toilet paper earlier today, and luckily, the door is unlocked, like you’d been counting on. You know how forgetful that janitor is. In the rare cases your mother praised you, she always admired how observant you are-- a skill that comes in very handy when trying to get kicked out.
Like Will said, five cans of paint sit on the floor. Grab three handles with one hand and two with the other, and sneak down the back stairwell where no one ever goes, let alone at this time of night.
You aren’t an artist like Will. You can’t make something out of nothing. You can’t take a few cans of colorful liquid and turn it into beauty. You can, however, make a mess of things. You’ve had a lot of practice.
The dining hall is empty, the wooden benches vacant, a strange darkness hanging over the building. Bask in the solitude, then begin. Tear off the lids of the paint cans. Blood red, white, black, blue, and green. Pick up the black one first. March around the dining hall, pouring the paint out in a steady stream. Make a spiral on the ground, without meaning to create any shape at all. Continue with each of the colors. It will take some time, but that doesn’t bother you.
Save the red paint for last. Remember why you were sent here. Remember that, after the last time you set fire to something, your mother looked at you like you were an animal. Like she was scared of you. Remember the way the flames grew and grew and you just watched them, watched the wood bend in the heat, watched destruction without feeling any remorse.
The same kid couldn’t make the same mistake twice, and definitely not on purpose, right?
Splatter the red paint. Throw the can. It doesn’t matter if someone hears it, they’ll be awake soon anyway.
Light as many matches as you can fit in one hand. Don’t think too hard when you throw them into your splattered, flammable art. You’re in too far to back out now. Don’t watch the flames grow, like last time. Don’t stick around to feel the heat on your face. Run out the emergency exit, away from the flames, away from the wailing siren, away from Will and your caretaker and therapists and the place you’ve known for less than a week, but already hate. Run until you hear the fire truck coming. Don’t hide. Sit against the tree on the top of the hill. They’ll find you. You won’t care. Close your eyes. Pretend it isn’t real. It might not be, after all. Pray for your family, who hates you, and Will, who will probably hate you once he finds out what you’ve done, and your countless therapists, who seemed to actually believe you’re a good kid deep down. Pray for yourself. Maybe you’ll manage to get hit by a car as you’re running away from the police officers, or maybe one of them will accidentally shoot you. Maybe you will be dead before you hurt anyone else. Your prayers have never been answered before. Only voices. Pray anyway.
Ali Clingan is a senior creative writer at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. Her life dreams include, but are not limited to, riding in a hot air balloon, skydiving, and taking a nap in a hammock. In her free time, Ali likes to go on bike rides with her brother, do handstands in the grass, play her ukulele, daydream, and stargaze.
Note: This story was written junior year.
50 Things I Learned from Bonnies' Bedroom by Hailey Stoner
It’s very dark when all the lights are off.
The walls are yellow. Not a bright, obnoxious yellow, but a soft yellow.
There are cut-out pictures of birds from magazines on the wall above her desk.
She always leaves her window cracked, even when nobody is home.
A cup of black pens sits in the left hand corner.
Open notebooks and papers cover the desk, but the folders are perfectly stacked and the paper clips are organized by size in the drawers.
A bulletin board between the windows is covered with pictures. A photo strip of her and Lacy is stuck in the center. Lacy isn’t my biggest fan. She told Bonnie I “give off the wrong vibe”.
She doesn’t like to write in her books. Sticky notes bush out of them, marking different pages.
There are four different copies of Watership Down, each with a different cover. A hardback, a vintage looking one, a paperback showing cartoon rabbits, and one filled with sticky notes.
The tiny field journal on her dresser fits perfectly in my pocket.
So does the half-full mini bottle of perfume.
Her bedspread is soft beneath my hands.
The pillow on the right side looks more worn.
There are three tubes of the same strawberry lip gloss that she wore when I kissed her, before she pushed me away, on the vanity.
She sleeps on the right side of the bed.
She is very good at hockey. There are MVP trophies lined up from the past five years, and ten tournament trophies.
There’s a photo of Bonnie and a guy in a Michigan State hoodie stuck in the corner of her mirror. They look almost like twins if he wasn’t a giant.
Her record collection takes up a whole shelf on the book case.
The Kinks record she was listening to before going to practice is still on the turntable.
Movie posters outline her closet.
Bonnie is a badass.
The house is very creaky, and groans every few moments. It must be the sensitive type.
Stop motion films are her favorite.
Her records sound much better up close than from outside.
Most of her friend’s are guys. Hopefully there are none that are more than that.
The house knows when there’s someone who shouldn’t be here.
Bonnie’s car is either very loud or these walls are very thin.
I would get mauled by a bear if I were standing face to face with one. I would just freeze.
Going out through the window is almost impossible, without being seen.
There are lots of spare blankets at the bottom of the closet.
Hockey practice must have gotten cut short tonight.
She uses laundry detergent that smells like lavender.
She calls Jackie when she’s scared. Bonnie is very paranoid about the paranormal. She says she made sure the turntable was off before leaving.
The slits in the closet door are very conveniently situated to see through.
Jackie talks very loud, especially through the phone.
Bonnie’s parents won’t be back for another four days, but Jackie is out somewhere.
She watches Fantastic Mr. Fox when she needs to relax.
She keeps a box of gushers stashed in her desk.
She wears a very stunning pair of red short shorts to bed.
She prays before sending the room into darkness.
Almost half the closet is taken up with her sweatshirt collection.
The closet door is too creaky to open silently. Everything in this house creaks.
Bonnie knows when she’s being watched.
She asked Jackie to come home. She feels safe with Jackie.
I didn’t want to make her feel unsafe.
Bonnie screams very, very loud when she finds somebody in the closet.
Her skin is too soft. She bleeds very quickly.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
I thought I was supposed to freeze when looking at a bear.
Her lips are still warm and taste like strawberry.
Hailey Stoneris a senior creative writer who enjoys spending time outside with her hedgehog, Winston, and guinea pig, Mildred. However, most of her free time is spent twirling baton, watching movies, and breaking stuff with her brothers. She has no favorite genre of writing. She loves all of them all equally because they each offer something different that can’t be replicated. They each offer a different feeling and experience.
Note: This story was written junior year.
Don't Worry About Me, Love by Annabelle Smith
July 27th, 1944
My beloved Jeanne,
It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, and I’ve missed you dearly. We have left France and the little town of Saint Avold, where we had been stationed as we waited to move into Germany. Just two days ago we loaded into the transport, and we left behind the delicate countryside where everything was painted shades of lavender. I’ll take you there, maybe even on our honeymoon, and show you all the beautiful places I found there. I’ll take as many pictures as you want, pictures of you in a quaint town square or in flower gardens ten times the size of our living room. I’ll take you to Paris, too, where I’ll pretend to admire the art and the city when really, I only have eyes for you. We can’t go to Paris yet, though. The city is a dark kind of gray, the color of swastikas and bullets and newspapers with no good news.
Summer has finally come to Europe, and I know you’ve probably begun to pull your sundresses from the closet. I love that red one, with the lace and the sleeves that fall from your shoulders like wings. It’s the same one you’re wearing in the photograph I have of you, the one I keep in my left breast pocket, right over my heart.
I’m sorry if my handwriting is unsteady. The table in the new camp rocks from side to side, and I suppose it’s because so many tanks have rolled through this area that the ground is uneven. My hands are always shaky, anyways. I haven’t slept well. None of us have. But don’t worry, love, because when I finally fall asleep I dream of you.
We haven’t seen anyone in Kyllburg, the town just outside of camp, but we are anxious anyways. The whole way here, we held onto our guns tightly, even though they were unloaded. After what we saw in Normandy, we didn’t want to load our guns, even if it was just in case. There are lots of things to worry about here, but we distract ourselves by telling stories of home. Just the other day, I told the boys the story of when I dusted your legs instead of the legs of the dining room table, and we laughed so hard that for a moment, everything was okay again. Even if you aren’t here, you make every moment so much more bearable.
I know you’ve been listening to the radio and all those horrible stories, but it isn’t all as horrible as they say. I don’t want to worry you with tales of war, so instead, let me tell you about Kyllburg. When we arrived, I was in awe. The sky was the color of forget-me-nots, and each of the brick rowhouses were covered in lazy swirls of ivy. The army transports must have dropped us off in the town center, because the roads spilled out around us in all directions, winding between the skinny buildings. We knew the town was deserted, but our commanding officer had us search through the town anyways. Tom and I slung our rifles over our shoulders and left down a back alleyway to look for anything suspicious, although I will admit we were paying the most attention to the pretty framed windows and yellow flower boxes. That’s when we saw it, abandoned in an alleyway, and it was the most beautiful thing I had seen since I waved goodbye to you almost four months ago. It was a motorcycle, leaning against the wall, with all the simple beauty of a Christmas present. The cherry red paint sparkled in the sunlight, and Tom whistled from between his teeth.
Soon enough, all the boys had come to the alleyway and were crowded around the motorcycle. They craned their heads and elbowed each other to say “look at that,” as if we could do anything else. Tom had brought his camera, and the younger boys pleaded for a picture. He finally caved, and we each took turns climbing onto the leather seat, posing for a picture with that lovely bike. An ugly black swastika had been smeared onto the side of the bike, and I guess it had hv belonged to some rich Nazi, but we kicked our feet onto the fender to hide it in our pictures.
I jostled through the crowd for my picture and sat down on the smooth leather seat. I flashed a big smile that made my eyes crinkle at the corners, just the way you like. The camera flashed once, twice, and I gave up my seat for the next boy to get his pictures. When the film in Tom’s camera was nearly used up, we gathered around the back of the bike and linked arms, smiling for a final group picture.
Lucky for us, we finished our rounds early and got to go back to where we had decided to set up camp. We spent the rest of the day pitching tents and unpacking our things, trying to make the dark bunkhouses feel like home. We played cards in the mess hall well into the night, and Tom even broke out his stash of American beer hidden at the bottom of his suitcase. I guess one of the boys had gotten a little too tipsy, and we found out the next morning that he had tried to smuggle the motorcycle to the post office so he could send it to his folks back home. Our officer caught him, though, and made him push it down a steep hill into the rocky river below. The next morning, we found the bike crumpled like a tin can with flecks of shiny, red paint scattered between the rocks along the shore.
You know, when we come here on our honeymoon, I’ll rent a motorcycle just like that one. We’ll ride through the countryside together, and you can rest your head on my shoulder while I drive. I think that would be nice, just you and me. Of course, it would have to be just like the one we found in that little German town, with paint that sparkles even when the sun isn’t out. I’ll do that for you if you like, but only if you promise not to worry about me. It’s not nearly as bad as it says in the papers, love, and I promise I’ll be home soon. When you miss me, think of me on that bike smiling just for you, my girl in the red sundress I keep in the pocket over my heart.
Forever yours, Jack
Annabelle Smithis a sophomore creative writer. at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts She is a lover of words, piano, and Van Gogh's Starry Night., and can always be found with her notes in a book.
Note: This story was written freshmen year.
A Long Trip by Ethan Yamashita
Our car pulled into the driveway of Bāchan’s small red brick home. The cherry blossom tree in the back was in full bloom, and its pink petals fell like snow. I jumped out of the car and ran to the front door. “Sora, wait up,” mom called.
I paced around as I waited for my parents to walk slowly to the porch. As soon as they got to the door I shouted “Can I ring the bell?”
“Sure bud,” Dad said, “but I think she knows we’re here after that shout.”
I stood on the tips of my toes to reach the bell, but as soon as I tried to ring it, the door flew open. “Bāchan!” I yelled as I jumped into grandma’s arms.
“There’s my little sunshine,” she said.
“How’d you know I was going to ring the bell?”
“Grandmother’s intuition,” she said.
We walked into the house and Bāchan put her finger over her lips. “Jīchan is sleeping so we must be quiet.”
I put my fingers over my lips too, as we walked into the living room. Mom and Dad talked to grandma about “grownup things” as I made myself at home. Once they finally stopped talking I ran up to grandma. “Hey Bāchan, in class we’re doing a project on our family history. I wanted to talk about when daddy was born. He told me it was interesting but he doesn’t remember much. Could you tell me?”
She took off her glasses and put her head in her hands. She shook herself, sat up straight, and patted her leg. I jumped into her lap and got ready for a story.
“You’re very little Sora, maybe too little to hear the story, but I will tell you because you need to hear it. But first, another story.” I bounced up and down on Bāchan’s lap and Mom and Dad leaned on each other as they got comfy.
“I’m ready Bāchan,” I said.
She laughed and said, “Alright, let me tell you a story. Have I ever told you about the first time your father opened his eyes?”
I shook my head. “Why would that be interesting?”
Bāchan just smiled and continued. “Your aunt Yoshiye was sitting with him, telling him to open his eyes and ‘wake up’. ‘You’ve been napping for days,’ she said, ‘wake up!’” Bāchan let out a chuckle. “And slowly your dad opened his little eyes to look at whoever dared disturb his slumber. I laughed as Yoshiye danced around in victory and my little Setsuo cracked a smile.”
I was enamored, picturing this lovely moment in their old house, a big family home. I imagined it filled with toys, snacks, and piles of Bāchan’s inarizushi.
“But your father wasn’t born near here,” Bāchan said.
I tilted my head. “Dad always said he grew up here. But he wasn’t born here?”
Bāchan shook her head. “No, he was born up in northern California. And we weren’t in the old house you remember. No, we were in a little shack we shared with another couple. All that separated us was a thin, cloth, curtain. We had lived there ever since Jīchan and I got married. We were under constant watch by big guards with guns. We didn’t want to live there, but we still did. It was dusty and when it rained, the mud was thick and made it hard to walk. It sounds terrible, but even still, that’s where Jīchan and I first met and fell in love. He was a star pitcher on the camp baseball team and an interpreter. Meanwhile, I was just a nurse trying to make people better. But we fell in love and got married in camp.”
“Wow. Jīchan liked baseball too?” I exclaimed.
“Yes indeed, he was even the one who taught your dad how to play,” Bāchan said thoughtfully. “Before we got married, during World War II, we lived in a big warehouse filled with people and bunks in a place called an internment camp. Once we were married, we moved into that little shack I told you about. It was a trying time. We lost almost all we had when we moved to the camp. Our house, lives, businesses, all of it was gone. We had to live with riots and violence daily. People weren’t happy about being imprisoned so many protested and caused trouble. When we were asked if we would fight in the U.S. army, neither of us could say yes. We wouldn’t fight for the country that put us in this very situation. So we were shipped off to a worse camp with large watchtowers and even more guards. It was terrible. All the bad things about the last camp were even worse. It was hard, but that is where your aunt Yoshiye and your dad were born.”
“Was it scary, Bāchan?” I asked.
“Very scary. Jīchan was away, working every single day, so I was alone with two kids as a new mother. In fact, once during one of the riots, we were caught outside. The guards were driving around in their jeeps and nearly ran your auntie over! We dashed home as fast as we could. I was always tired, scared, and worried about how I should keep my children safe. But we could do nothing else but live.”
I didn’t know what to say. I leaned onto Bāchan and saw her eyes holding in tears. Mom and Dad were both holding each other tight. The room was dead silent for a few seconds and then I asked “How’d you get out?”.
“One day, it was all just over. After four years of suffering, they let us go. We went back to society and tried to restart our lives. We didn’t know what else to do. We lost so much, and we haven’t gotten compensation for it. Remember, Sora. It already happened once, never let it happen again.”
“I will, Bāchan,” I said, thinking about every word Bāchan said.
“Thank you, Sora. I’m sorry if I brought you down. Shall we have lunch?”
“Yes, Bāchan,” I said as we all trudged down to the kitchen. I was quiet all throughout lunch and Bāchan’s stories never truly left me. To this day, I carry her story and wishes through my life.
Ethan Yamashitais a sophomore creative writer. He enjoys writing in all genres, although fiction is a favorite, and enjoys cooking, playing ukulele, reading, and short sleeve button up shirts, especially ones with tropical prints.