At our most recent Book Club meeting on May 29, the Stone Soup Book Club read Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds (you can read about the meeting here). As a writing activity, we decided it would be fun to make our own Look Both Ways, an anthology by our participants about what happens to people on their walk home from school. Each of our participants wrote their own stories, and then several of them submitted their writing to be published in an "anthology" format, right here.
Below you can read some of the writing from this Book Club. Some of the stories are based on real life, and others are fictional. Enjoy!
1. Untitled - Jordan and Jared Ashman, 14
Jordan was your average 12 year old kid. He walked home from school alone each day, and got home to play video games and eat candy. One day, after a particularly tiring day at school, he decided he wanted to take a shortcut home from school. Before, his mother had warned him about taking this shortcut, for she said it could be dangerous. However, Jordan was particularly tired today, and ignored his mother’s warning. He started walking into the forest, and after only a few steps, he found himself lost in the forest. Was he supposed to turn left, or right? There was barely even any light here. After almost an hour, he discovered a thin path of pebbles that he decided to follow.
At the very end of the path, he discovered a temple! After pausing for a moment to take it all in, he walked inside. When Jordan walked inside, he found a deep tunnel going down to what he could only imagine was a secret layer. Walking down, he heard weird sounds inside. Coming to the bottom of the tunnel, he paused to stare in awe at the massive gate that hadn’t been there before. Walking in, he saw a massive monitor with arrows pointing all over… was that the world? He barely had a chance to register what he saw, before he was hit on the head by something from behind. He woke up in his bed, and realised it must have all been a dream. Or so he thought...
2. Apricot Street - Anya Geist, 14
I walk quickly down Main Street, joining the crowd of kids rushing toward the buses. Main Street’s not an actual street; it’s a hallway in my school (and it smells like a subway station), but because it’s a pretty big hallway, everyone calls it Main Street.
Outside, the roar of the buses, all lined up in a row, threatens to drown out the joyful laughter and yells of high schoolers out of school for the day. I find my way over to my friend Lily, standing with a boy on our bus, Owen. “Is the bus here yet?”
Lily shakes her head. “Nope. I walked all up and down the line with Sara.”
“Again? Really?” Lately bus 51 has been coming later and later. I think our driver is kind of senile.
“At least we didn’t miss it,” Owen says, half-jokingly; a few weeks ago the bus left me and him at school and the assistant principal had to give us a ride home.
“That’s true,” I laugh, “but still.”
Eventually the bus does arrive, though, and we load onto it. There’s not a ton of kids, because of COVID, so it’s pretty quiet as it barrels down Apricot Street, where our school is located.
In middle school my bus took a different route, one that went up Goddard Memorial and Airport Hill, then through the traffic jam that is Tatnuck Square. I liked that route. I liked when the bus drove past the airport; on clear days, you could see Boston from up there (or at least that’s what Liam Forester said; I never saw it myself). But now we go down Main Street (a real street this time), alongside the rest of the buses from school, until they each break off to drive their respective routes.
I think it’s pretty funny how all of the buses drive together at first; it’s like a big, yellow army, slowly separating to carry out different missions. My bus’s mission has only a few stops. Owen’s is the first.
“I wonder what happened with your neighbor,” I ask him when the bus is pretty close to his corner. This morning he came to school saying the police were looking for his neighbor; it was all he could talk about in first period.
“Yeah . . .” he says, “I wonder if all the cop cars are still there. No kidding, it was scary when they showed up this morning, just knocking on the door, asking if we’d the guy a few doors down. I bet he did something pretty bad, though. It wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Well,” I tell him, as the bus pulls to a stop, “let me know what happens.”
“Yeah, I will. Bye!”
The bus shakes as he and a few others get off.
Coes Pond flies by as the bus navigates the city, and the rows of grey seats slowly empty, till it’s just me and Lily, talking about our classes.
“Where’s your class in Romeo and Juliet?” I ask. Our English teacher is making us read it.
“Act 3, I think.”
“Okay. Okay. George and Jonathan” (they’re two best friends in my class) “read the balcony scene the other day—they insisted on it.” I’m laughing now. “But Jonathan couldn’t stop cracking up, so he totally ruined it. He also pronounced Capulet wrong, it was hilarious—everyone in our class was trying so hard not to laugh.”
“Yeah, he said, like, Capultet, or something. It was so funny.”
Now the bus is wheeling through Newton Square, down Pleasant Street, where Berry Fusion is located—a frozen yogurt place all the kids in the neighborhood love to go in the summer. It’s closed right now. I’m not really sure how much money it has.
Down the fork in the road, past the triple-deckers of Richmond Avenue that turn into single-family homes, and then—my stop. At 2:12. Right when Flagg Street Elementary School (my old school) is getting out.
“Oh, great,” I grumble. “I swear,” I tell Lily as I stand up, slinging my backpack over my shoulders, “I’m gonna get run over one of these days.” My bus stop is at a fork in the road, so if I want to cross to get home, I have to walk through two rows of traffic.
“Ooh, yeah. That’s rough.”
“Well, bye. See you tomorrow morning—probably.”
And then I’m off the bus, thanking the possibly senile driver, skirting the cars and parents and little kids—and I’m on the sidewalk, walking up the dead-end towards home.
3. Wondering - Lina Kim, 11
Noelle was wondering.
Noelle always wondered, whether she was at school, or at home, or anywhere. She daydreamed all day. She wondered what they were doing. Were they walking home from school like she was? Were they walking to school? Were they in school? Were they asleep? Were they eating? What would they be eating, if they were?
The people Noelle referred to as ‘they’ are the people on Earth, in the solar system, in the Milky Way, in Universe 1.2. Noelle mainly wondered about them— she knew enough about Universe 1.1 to get by. But Universe 1.2 really caught her attention. Was it really a universe if there are multiple? That’s what they called it. But they didn’t know that they were called Universe 1.2. They didn’t know there was a Universe 1.1, or 1.3, or 1.4, or any of the other universes. Noelle wondered what her friends were doing. Their homes were much closer to the school than hers, and they were probably home by now. Ina was probably pestering her older brother. Blossom was most likely reading. Did people in Universe 1.2 do things like that?
Everyone in Noelle’s astronomy class knew about Universe 1.2. Everyone in Universe 1.1 who got an education in universes— namely, everyone between the ages four and three hundred twenty-six— knew. Maybe some forgot, the knowledge left in a corner of the mind, but they knew. Meanwhile, no one from Universe 1.2 knew about Universe 1.1. How come? Universe 1.1 had always tried to get the attention of Universe 1.2, but they never heard, saw, touched, or smelled Noelle’s world. Maybe fate had decided that Universe 1.1 and Universe 1.2 would never be in contact. Maybe fate had decided that Universe 1.2 would never know about Universe 1.1. Universe 1.2 had no idea about any of the universes at all.
All of this ran through Noelle’s mind as she walked home from school. Noelle continued to wonder.
4. High Street - Samantha Lee, 11
If a person happened to be looking both ways, rather than just one way, as they made their way home, they would have seen someone. In other words, if they weren't too wrapped up in their own self, they would have seen a girl. Depending on who this person happened to be, they may or may not have known her name was Sam. Any person who saw her or didn’t, knew
her or not, would certainly not guess that she’d been forgotten.
And maybe there were other things they wouldn’t guess. They might not guess that she was an author. Of children's fiction specifically. Or that she was an obsessive reader. Or that sometimes she could be suppressingly shy. They would probably guess none of these things, not one.
Sam paced back and forth anxiously. She scanned the entire premises. Parking lot of the nearby grocery store? No. Parking lot or front yard of the church across the street? Nope. Somehow magically appearing on the road leading to her house? Notta. She had certainly been forgotten.
This anxious girl was a walker. She was dismissed every day from the front doors of her school to. . . wait for her dad. Some walkers quickly disappeared down Main Street. Others had a destination they had to find. And others, like Sam, had to wait for their parents to pick them up and drive them home. It was essentially the same as being a pick-up.
This set-up had once seemed independent and responsible. But that was two years ago. Now, with most students walking their own way home, being picked up seemed boring and childish. Sam wanted to feel independent and responsible again. And, most of all, she wanted to feel like the heroic book characters that walked by themselves on a regular basis.
Sam scanned each point once again. It had been hardly 30 seconds, but it was worth a try. She spotted a large white car coming down the street. Could it be? But no. It was an unfamiliar minivan. Sam watched all her classmates and a few of her friends vacate the school like the plague was coming. There was just one teacher, the library sub, left standing at the door. She was clearly waiting for her to be picked up or leave.
Sam twisted her brown hair around her finger. Not tight enough to cut off circulation, but tight enough to hurt a little bit. She kicked her typical Nike sneakers in the dead, tannish-green grass. She shook her bag that should’ve been heavy with books and journals, but wasn’t for reasons to do with her shyness. She would be utterly humiliated if one of her notebooks was read, or even if someone found them and made fun of her. She walked over to the tall evergreen tree, looking so out of place in the flat lawn. She walked back over to the forever-unused bike rack sandwiched between bulging bushes. The teacher was still there. She felt scrutinized. Like an ant under a microscope. She could practically hear the teacher’s patience
ticking away. Tick, tick, tick. It did nothing to lessen her anxiety and fear of the teacher who from past experience could be rude at times.
Trying to take her mind off her unfortunate position, Sam reminded herself that this wasn’t the first time she’d been forgotten. Once, two years ago, she’d been forgotten when her dad’s meeting had run long. Another time, she’d been so frozen with terror that she’d needed some assistance from another parent. She’d quietly accepted her kindness in waiting with her and letting her use her phone. This time was no different. Except now she should be more calm because of her experience. That’s what Sam told herself to calm down. It didn’t work.
Anxiously, she glanced back up at the teacher. Was she going to go inside now? Should she follow her parents’ advice and ask if she could use the school phone? It had hardly been two minutes, if even. But the teacher could leave at any second. Sam wasn’t one to take initiative like that. This type of situation provoked her shyness at its best. It would not be easy to talk to a person she didn’t know well. But wouldn’t it be better to at least make sure someone was coming? To call? All this went through Sam’s head in a rapid fire back and forth.
She couldn’t decide. It was so hard! She knew getting over her fear would be an accomplishment, but it was difficult. She didn’t want to have to do anything, and at the same time she had to do something. She had to make a decision. A hard one.
What would someone brave do? Maybe a hero from a book. Or even a villain . . .
“Um, my dad was supposed to pick me up, but he’s not here. Can I call him?” Sam said quickly as she hurried up the school’s steps.
“Yeah, sure, come inside.” It wasn’t a terrible response at all, it would’ve been good, even, if the teacher hadn’t been crossing her arms with a tight expression on her face. Sam slouched down as she entered the building, making herself as small as possible.
“Here.” the teacher said, pointing to the school’s office phone. A small note stated to dial ‘9’ first for outside numbers.
Carefully and quickly, Sam dialed her dad’s number. She hoped, really, really hoped that he would pick up.