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Flash Contest #18: Use a classic opening line as a starting point.

The week commencing July 27 (Daily Creativity Prompt #91) was our eighteenth week of flash contests, and produced a lot of entries. Our entrants took the opening words of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, in all sorts of creative directions. The pieces we received ranged from stories about extreme weather, to family and family history, and to some introspective narratives. We immensely enjoyed reading all of the writing we received; well done to everyone for your work on this challenge, and especially to our Winners and Honorable Mentions, listed below. Read on after the list of winners to enjoy the winners’ work for yourselves.

Winners

Wash the World Away by Fern Hadley, 11 (Cary, NC)
Streaks by Rachel Feldman, 10 (Narberth, PA)
My Manderley by Anna Haakenson, 12 (Beach Park, IL)
A Letter by Shuyin Liu, 8 (Kirkland, WA)
Pour Your Heart Into the Sink by Alice Xie, 12 (West Windsor, NJ)

Honorable Mentions
No Possibility by Katherine Bergsieker, 12 (Denver, CO)
The Light Will Come Through Again by Sneha Jiju, 12 (Chandler, AZ)
Dream and Dream More... by Prisha Aswal, 7 (Portland, OR)
In the Kitchen Sink by Allie Dollar, 11 (Monticello, FL)
Deadly Heat Wave by Nishil KC, 10 (Chantilly, VA)


Fern Hadley, 11 Cary, NC

Wash the World Away

Fern Hadley, 11

Like Mom quoted Jane Eyre a few times: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” It perfectly describes today. I stare through the window, my chin propped on my hand as I watch sheets of rain fall from the sky in waves, bouncing off the asphalt. Rain is collecting on the window’s mesh board like dewdrops on spiderwebs.

For the most part, I love rain. Sometimes when humid storms sweep across the city, I go outside, my arms outstretched, my face turned to the sky. There I’ll stand, my eyes closed as warm raindrops fall onto my face. At night, rain is my lullaby. I can hear the gentle patter of raindrops through my window, and the melodic rhythm soothes me to sleep.

But today, the rain appears no more than a nuisance. Beside me, Luna gazes out the window with me with an intrigued expression. I stroke her silvery grey fur as I wonder if she ever wishes she could stand outside in the warm rain like I sometimes do. We don’t allow her out for her own safety, although I think she wants to.

“I wish it wasn’t raining,” I confess to Luna. “Now I can’t take a walk.” Or can I?
Luna glances at me with wide blue eyes before turning back to the window. Her eyes look like the window’s glass, clear and wet with rain. Sometimes cats are better companions than humans because they can’t talk.

“Honey, where are you?”

I look over my shoulder. “I’m over here. By the window.”

My mother steps into the living room. “There you are. What do you want me to make you for dinner?”

“I don’t know.” I rub Luna’s chin as I continue to watch the rain.

“If you don’t care, I’ll make lasagna,” Mom offers. She knows I hate lasagna. “Just make Dad’s favorite,” I sigh.

“Tacos?”

“I said Dad’s favorite.” I glare at her. “I didn’t say Stanley’s favorite.”

Mom sighs. She leans against the wall and crosses her arms. “Hon, we’ve been through this before.”

“You asked me what I want for dinner.”

She ignores me. “Look, I know Stanley can’t ever replace your father. But both you and me had to get through the loss of your father, so please don’t make this any harder than it needs to be, okay? Stanley’s doing his best right now, and I am too.”

“Mom, all I said was that I want Dad’s favorite for dinner.”

Mom shuts her eyes. For a moment I regret what I said, but then she just turns and walks back into the kitchen.

I feel even worse. I keep staring out the window, hoping that the rain would let up.
Pulling my phone out, I check the weather app. It tells me that it won’t stop raining until ten in the evening. I grumble and shove my phone back into my pocket.

Suddenly, an idea escapes from the depths of my mind. I quickly catch it before it can flutter away as swift as it came. Memories emerge to the surface.

That, I inform myself, is a stupid plan.

I decide to do it anyway and race out the back door. The screen door slams behind me.

“Honey, what are you up to?” my mom calls from the kitchen.

“Be back soon!” I yell back. Only moments after I leave the house, I’m soaked. I didn’t bother to bring a sweater, and I don’t care. I fly down the block, the sound of my footsteps lost in the storm. Past the forest. Over the fence. Through the field. Make a left. I run past my house, where Mom may or may not be making Dad’s favorite. I run past the school, the library, the cafe. I run past the mall, the warehouse, the police station. All the while, the storm is relentless.

I decide I need a break. I sit down on a bench in the park, catching my breath as the rain drenches my hair.

The first time I ran in the rain was before I even joined track. Dad had still been alive then, and he used to run with me all the time.

“Where are you two going?” Mom stuck her head out of the kitchen.

“Just taking a walk or something,” Dad grinned.

Mom shook her head. “ ‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.’ ”

“What is that—Peter Pan?”

“Jane Eyre.” Mom put her hands on her hips. “You shouldn’t be taking a walk in the rain. You two could catch pneumonia.”

“Pneumonia?” I repeated dubiously. “In the middle of spring?”

“It’s possible.” Mom shrugs.

“Don’t worry, Emma,” Dad assured Mom. “Jules and I won’t be walking in this weather. Right, Jules?” He nudged me.

“Right!” I agreed.

Mom gave us both a suspicious glance, then went back into the kitchen. “Come on,” Dad whispered to me, and we both crept out of the house. Outside, it was pouring.

“What are we doing again?” I asked.

Dad smiled. “We’re not taking a walk. We’re going to run.”

“In the rain?”

“There’s something special about running in the rain,” Dad informs me. “It’s more fun than regular running.”

So we ran through the storm, laughing without a care in the world.

I hadn’t run in the rain since Dad died from that accident. Now, with the rain and tears running down my face, I realize how much I missed it.

Dad was right. There is something special about running in the rain. It has a way of washing away the world around you. It makes you forget about the mess going on in your life. I just wish that I could run before Dad died, where I didn’t have a mess for the rain to wash away in the first place.


Rachel Feldman, 10
Narberth, PA

Streaks

Rachel Feldman, 10

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

The wind blew harshly through the streets, sending random fallen leaves swirling up. The sky was a gloomy grey, and the temperature was freezing. You would need about five coats to go outside, but then it wouldn’t be fun.

I usually go on walks in the morning to clear my head, but this time it was impossible. My mom told me to stay in and hang with my siblings, but I could name a million things I would rather do then hang with my siblings.

It’s not like I don’t like them.

I love them.

It’s just… they’re not the reasonable, smart, calm, clear-headed type. Like…. *ahem*...me. At least that’s what I’ve been told, but it seems true. I barely even yell, but everyone knows not to mess with me. I don’t throw tantrums like some of my littlest siblings, and I can beat anyone in a strategy game. My mom always says “L, loosen up! Have some fun!” And I always roll my eyes and respond with, “Mom, my name is Ellie.”

My mom always throws me a half-dirty-half-shocked-half-exasperated look after I say that.

But it’s true.

And as somebody said a while ago (who I keep forgetting- and maybe nobody actually said that) ‘The Truth Deserves to be Repeated’.

This morning is a long one. After I look out the window and sigh at how I can’t come out and take a walk, I get dressed. My older sister Luna says I have no fashion style. That’s not true. I just like to pay more attention to other things than how I dress.

Luna excepts everyone to be amazing at fashion. Like her. And amazing at sports and school and pretty much everything you can think of. Just like her also.

I pull on my outfit and turn to my open closet. It’s neat; with a low bookshelf, and some dresses hanging from the rack. I have a poster behind it; a phone ad for the phone of my dreams. Hopefully if I keep it up there, my parents will see how much I want it and decide 11 is a good enough age for someone as smart and responsible as me to get a phone.

My closet has a huge mirror opposite the door. Luna gave it to me. She said that sometimes you just need to see yourself in the mirror, to see your outfit, to see if you need to make any changes to your hairstyle or outfit or put a necklace on.

But I always look in the mirror to make sure I haven’t changed.

If I do.... Like Luna…. Like my mom… Like all of my siblings...Who knows what will happen?

I look in the mirror and smile approvingly. My peach-going-on-pale skin is the same, so is my former warm brown hair (that I dyed amber) that is flowing down my back, and my sparkling periwinkle eyes.

I pause.

Something’s off.

Of course! With these blue jeans and plain white shirt, I need to put my hair up. Just because I’m not addicted to fashion doesn’t mean I’m not going to put in an effort to look nice.

I open my drawer, seeing my bows…. Headbands… ah, here, hair ties-wait, what? All my hair ties are gone, replaced by neon scrunchies.

Luna.

I pause, breathing deeply. My stomach is twisted together, but I untie the fierce knot. The volcano in my chest will not come out. It will not.

And it doesn’t.

“LUUUNNNNAAA!” I yell, trying to sound melodious.

“WHHHHHAAATTT?” I hear her respond, copying my sing-song tone. “ELLIE, IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO ME, COME DOWN TO DO IT!”

“IT’S IMPORTANTTTTT!” I yell back.

I can almost hear her sigh and get up. A few seconds later, my door opens. “What?” She grumbles, her black hair hanging on her shoulders, with multiple pink and blue Streaks. Her most prized one is yellow, and always on display so everyone can see it.

I hold up a scrunchie, raising my eyebrow.

“Try them!” Luna nods, and then leaves. I sigh but put a blue one on. I have to agree; it does look good.

I open my door and exit my room, almost tripping on a soccer ball in my way. “CAMERON ALEXANDER ASTER?” I yell.

A little boy comes running towards me, with his blond hair Streaked with different colors. “Sorry Ellie!” He gives a smile and runs off. Cameron is only seven, but he’s a handful. Then there’s Mia, who is 9, Griff, who is 5, and Luke, who is 3. They all have Streaks. So does my mom. I don’t.

I don’t want Streaks. They symbolize personality. Each of them has a different color with a different meaning, but I want to be calm and controlled, not wild. Even if people give me weird looks when they see my unStreaked hair.

I walk downstairs, and see my mom giving Mia, Luke, and Luna some of her famous scrambled eggs. Luna sees me and gives a big smile. “I love how the scrunchie looks!”

I think so too, but I don’t want to give her the satisfaction, so I grumble.

My mom turns to look at me. “No Streaks?” She says.

I shake my head. “Maybe it’s a good thing.”

My mom gives me one of her looks but turns away. “Anyway, Ellie, I was thinking today you could play with your siblings! After all, today is SIBLING DAY!”

Luke gives a cheer, then pauses. “Wait, what Sifling Day, mama?”

My mom gives a bright smile, tucking her blond hair behind her ear. “I invented it. It occurs four times every year, on the 30th of every month. And since it’s November….” She grins wider, her teeth looking like they might crack. “SIBLING DAY!”

“Oh, cool.” Luna’s eyes brighten as she puts her phone down. Luna is the oldest at 13, but she always hangs out with us.

“But mom…” I whisper.

She gives me a harsh look.

I sigh and finish my eggs. I have so many things I want to do today since it’s a Saturday. I want my friend Cara to come over… and my other friend Oliver… and I want to continue writing my story about the adventures of Ellie the Great…. And I want to take a walk…. And do so many things. And none of them include hanging out with my siblings. But my mom is not easy to persuade. So, I give in.

After we all eat (and Cameron and Griff come down from their indoor soccer match), Luna turns to me. “I know you don’t want to do this but do it for us. Maybe you’ll get a Streak!”

I hope not.

“What should we do?” Mia asks. “How about hide’n’seek?” Griff offers. “Sure!” Cameron concludes, before I can protest. And before I know it, Mia is declared It. She’s not pleased. In my family, being It is something like a curse.

I don’t know where to run, but then I see Griff’s amber streaked black hair turn around a corner and I follow it just to see the basement door close.

Oh no.

The basement.

I am terrified of the basement, but it’s the best hiding spot I have, so I gulp, and creak open the door. Mia’s counting fills my ears; she’s at 20, and she has to get to 50.

I quickly get through in the pitch-black darkness, close the door, and whisper, “Griff? It’s me, Ellie.”

“Ok.” I hear a voice say somewhere. “Find a place to hide, quick!” I creak down the steps, and as I get further down, my eyes adjust, and I see Griff peeking from behind a box. I start to go towards him, but he signals no, so I step away and hide behind a bookshelf. It’s not the best hiding spot, but the basement freaks me out.

I’ve never been close with Griff. He’s too hyper for me and always wants to do this, do that, go over there, go over here. What if I don’t want to go over there? What if I don’t want to do this? What if I want to be hanging with Oliver right now (who has plenty of Streaks but never harshes on me for not having any), typing Ellie the Great together, or what if I want I want to be hanging with Cara right now (who has two Streaks and sometimes harshes on me for not having any), watching a movie?

Griff is still behind his box, but I can’t sit still. “Ugh, Griff, how do you do this?” I sigh.

“Practice.” Griff whispers. “Practice.”

Silence.

“Ellie?” He whispers.

“Yeah?”

“How come you never play with me?”

I open my mouth to disagree, to say something else, to tell him it’s nonsense, but I don’t.

“How come you have no Streaks?” I hear Griff say again.

“I don’t know.” I answer.

“I wish you could be more fun sometimes.”

I start to feel anger coming on, and this time I can’t hold it in. But it’s silly anger, so I take a breath and let it roll off me like water rolling off a hill.

“I’m sorry. I’ll play with you more.”

“Ok.”

Griff can be surprisingly mature for his age. “Sometimes you are just too hyper.” I say sheepishly.

“Do you want me to work on it?”

“Maybe sometimes. Should I work on being more fun?”

“Maybe sometimes.”

I turn to Griff and smile. He does too.

And then the light comes on and Mia stands there, smirking. “Found you and found you!” But when she turns to me, her smirk falters and her mouth opens. “Ellie, your hair!

I swing around to look in the mirror and I look the same; same pale-going-on-peach skin, same amber hair, same periwinkle eyes, except one tip of one thread of my hair is dyed lime green.

“A Streak.” I say, heart beating, eyes wide.

“Well, it’s starting.” Mia notes. “It’s the sibling Streak, to finish it you have to get close with all of your siblings.” She sounds like a human encloypedia. “Griff, did you and Rock-Hard Ellie bond?”

“Bond?” Griff tilts his head. “We had fun together though.” I laugh as Luna, Cameron, and Luke come around to marvel at my beginning of my Streak. And somehow, I’m happy with my Streak.

Weird.

After that we play soccer (the weather is better now), Cameron’s favorite sport. It’s all of us against him and Griff, and somehow, they win, even if we have Luna on our team, and she’s tall. Luke slows us down though, because he’s so little he doesn’t really know how to play.

Me and Cameron have a talk together about school, and I give him some advice. Then my Streak spreads up. Another bond made.

Then lunch. I get a sandwich with turkey and cheese, and make sure to sit far away from Luke. He’s a messy eater. I get closer with Griff when we sit next to each other and I read him a book. My Streak spreads up further.

Then we play school. Luna and Griff are the teachers, and it’s a lot of fun. Luna’s very strict and she gave out the hardest homework. Me and Mia are sisters in the game, and when we all take a break so Luna and Griff work on grading our homework, Mia shows me a book she got from a store another day, and we laugh together. My Streak spreads further up now.

I don’t know how to get closer with Luke; he’s so little it’s hard for him to understand a lot of things. And Luna either. We’re so different in many ways.

I vent to Mia about my frustrations, and she shrugs. “It can’t be set up, getting a Streak. It has to be genuine, but we could play one of Luke’s favorite games, that could help.”

Luke really wants to play The Floor is Lava, and I’m actually having fun jumping from cushion to cushion like a ballerina. Cameron is the best at it out of all of us.

Luke needs help going from cushion to cushion, so Luna assists him. I wish I could be like Luna; kind, pretty, fashionable, sporty, perfect.

Until we are outside, Luna lets go of Luke’s hand for a second to talk to Griff about safety and boundaries, and I see Luke fall towards the hard concrete and I run towards him, not caring that I’m running through the lava, and… he falls.

The concrete collides with his knee, and Luke howls in pain. Luna turns around and gasps, but I run to Luke and pick him up.

“OOOWWW!” He screams. I look at his cut. It’s not that bad, and it’s not even bleeding, but I carry Luke inside, and set him on the kitchen table. “You’ll be ok.” I say. Luke nods, sniffling up tears, and then sneezing. Which is weird. But Luke has some weirder habits.

I get out first aid kit and give Luke a selection of different band aids. He picks the dinosaurs one, so I put one in his knee. “Are you ok?”

Luke sniffles and nods. “Thanks Ellie.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Luna always does this stuff. You don’t.”

“Well, people can change, can’t they?” I try to give a warm smile, but I guess I’m still pretty shaken up from Luke’s fall because it turns out into a smirk. Oh well. “And cuts can heal.”

On my way outside, I turn to the mirror, and smile brightly, because my Streak is almost all the way. But it hasn’t reached the top yet, because of Luna.

Luna.

I’m never getting this Streak.

I don’t know why I want this Streak. I’ve never wanted something this badly before. But now it seems like I really need it, and I feel that I need it my bones.

We eat dinner that night, and I try to avoid Luna’s eye contact. I know what she’s thinking. She knows what I’m thinking. I’m starving, but I barely eat my food, desperate to go watch TV with Cameron the Quick Eater so I don’t have to look until Luna’s all-knowing grey eyes.

After I watch TV, I change into pajamas. But all my pajamas are so bland, so I put on the pair my mom got me that I left under my nightstand in its bag. The pink and blue and green one. The one that says: Streaks Rule! The one that feels like me now.

As I put my hair in a bun and grab out a book to read (Harry Potter, of course) my door opens, and Luna is there, looking beautiful in her silky blue nightdress. She smiles. “Want to talk?”

“Not really.” I answer.

But I only say that in my head, so Luna isn’t offended. Out loud I nod. Luna sits on my bed and turns to me. “I’m proud you got a Streak. Or started to get one, anyway.”

“Thanks.”

“Why were you so anti-Streak for so long?”

“Because I thought it changed your personality. I don’t want to change. But now I see it doesn’t change you.”

“It doesn’t. You can still be calm and cool and smart and have plenty of Streaks.”

“I know. Well, now.”

“I know. And I’m proud you have one. The sibling Streak is special.”

I nod, still frosty inside.

“Are you ok?”

I shake my head.

“What is it?” Luna asks, taking my hand.

I gulp, and tears stream down my face. “You’ll hate me if I say….you will….” I sniffle in my tears, then sneeze. And then somehow, I laugh. Luna does too.

“I won’t hate you.” Her face grows serious.

“It’s just…. You’re so perfect all the time and I feel so weird compared to you and…-“Nobody’s perfect.” Luna cuts. “Especially not me. Honestly, I’ve always envied you.”

“Really?” I say in shock. Luna envies… me?

“You always think before you speak, and I say things I regret.” Luna sighs. “I’m sorry I feel perfect.” “I’m sorry I’m not any fun.” I say back. We smile at each other.

Then Luna hugs me, and I freeze, but then I hug her back.

When Luna leaves that night, I feel happy and free and light. I don’t even check the mirror to see if my Streak is finished. I just go to sleep and have the happiest dreams I’ve ever had.

 

That morning, I jump out of bed, my smile wide, my eyes giddy. Sunlight streams through my window and I check my clock. It reads: 8:23.

So, my family should be up by now.

I run over to my closet and pull it open.

Same pale-going-on-peach skin, same amber hair, same periwinkle eyes, except a lime green Streak is in my hair. And there’s a feistiness in my eyes I’ve never had before.

I smile.

I can’t wait to show everyone my Streak.


Anna Haakenson, 12
Beach Park, IL

My Manderley

Anna Haakenson, 12

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

“But why worry about it?”

“I think I need to go back.”

“But Vivian, that place has been empty for two years now!”

“I don’t care. I’m going back.”

“Do you think it’s any coincidence that it’s called Manderley? What if it’s haunted too?”

“I’m still going back.”

“You might never come out.”

“Don’t be foolish.”

And then I walk away.

The memory plays itself over and over again in my mind as I lie in bed that night. So do William’s words. “You might never come out…”

But why else would I be having odd dreams about my old home? Why else do I feel I have to go back?

I can’t sleep.

Goodness knows I’m out of my mind.

One irrelevant, or maybe relevant question keeps rolling around in my mind.

“Why is it called Manderley?”

It was built before the book consisting of the fictional Manderley was even written. But the book written by Daphne du Maurier says that the fictional Manderley was haunted.

“What about my Manderley?”

I miss the enormous house with its many rooms, too many to even count. I miss sitting to tea in the library with Mama and Papa. I miss getting secret piggy-back rides from the footmen. Mrs. Bricker cooked delicious dinners that still make my mouth water. Old Henderson, the butler used to look at me with stern eyes, but I always knew he held a soft spot for me in his heart.

Now, all of these lovely things are gone.

Surprisingly it wasn’t the war who took everybody. It was the Spanish Flu.

My world, in just a few short days, was shattered.

I am no longer “Lady Vivian Hawthorne”. I am just Vivian, the rich orphan girl. I live with Grandmama Slade at Hetternick, but it’s not nearly as grand a house as my Manderley. Grandmama’s footmen won’t even give me piggy-back rides!

Anyhow, I have made up my mind to go back to Manderley. I won’t tell Grandmama, but she’ll find out once Boir, the chauffeur, spills it. By then, I’ll be exploring the huge house, thinking of happy times. Afterwards, I’ll walk over to the corner of the estate where the apple trees grow and the bloodroots blossom. There, I’ll say goodbye. After two years, I will finally be able to say goodbye.

Yes, I think I might be out of my mind, but I am going anyway.

After I make these resolutions, I drift off into a deep sleep. The next morning is no different than the start of any other day. I have my maid to dress me, to do my hair, and to tell me what Grandmama has planned for the day.

I listen to Midge, but pay no mind. Nope. Today, I am going to Manderley, not some silly garden party!

Midge leaves, and I quickly scuttle down to the kitchens before anybody sees me. I nick some bread and cheese for lunch, then stuff random foods into a basket that, I assume, are “non-perishable”. I ring for Boir and tell him to take me to Fountain Park for a picnic. (Fountain Park is within walking distance of Manderley.) Being clueless as to why nobody is accompanying me, Boir escorts me to the car.

The thought that Grandmama will be furious crosses my mind.

I stroll carelessly around as the automobile pulls out of the drive of the park.

Then I walk swiftly towards Manderley.

My home used to be so big, so exquisite. It’s still big, but now, it really does look haunted.

“Never mind that,” I say out loud.

Thinking out loud is a habit of mine.

I am surprised that the doors are not locked, but they are extremely heavy. I manage to squeeze inside, with much difficulty.

It is indeed very eerie inside, but I look at the Grand Hall in admiration.

I put the basket down and whisper, “Hello.”

I creep up the stairs towards the gallery, but then retreat and go back down. It
seems only correct to explore the first floor, first.

The rooms look very much the same. Although all of the furniture is covered in dust, I sit down. And I weep.

I don’t think I am much of a cry baby, but I often do feel very, very sad. Besides, who wouldn’t cry under my circumstances?

Memories of old times flood through my mind like the sea at high-tide.

But then, I abruptly stop and get up determinedly. I march up the stairs. I need to find out why in the world I came here in the first place.

Papa always said that I am very “impulsive”. I am having one of these moments now. I fling the door open to each room until I get to my own room. Then I realize that there’s nothing for me here. I had cleaned it out, or rather, O’Reilly, my maid, had. Decisively, I turn on my heels and walk calmly to Mama and Papa’s room.

Grandmama had come to collect me the morning after my parents passed away. I never got the chance to sneak into my parents’ room and take something to remember them by.

Mama and Papa liked to collect things, whether it was jewelry, expensive pipes, or stamps from France.

“Well! Now is my chance to...”

I rummage around in drawers. There’s nothing here! Somebody must have stolen all of Mama’s valuables, all of Papa’s collectibles. I sit on the edge of the bed overcome with frustration and on the verge of tears.

“No!”

I survey the large room. It certainly does look like somebody had broken in. Then I spot an old picture frame on the floor. Sniffling, I walk over to the corner where the photograph lay.

It is a picture of Mama and Papa on their wedding day. I stare hard at the photo. Mama looked so beautiful with her laughing eyes and her long silky hair. Papa looked like the happiest man in the world with that crooked smile of his.

“Dear Papa,” I say quietly.

I hold the frame close to my chest and smile through tears.

That is all I needed.

“I love you,” I whisper.

Then I walk out the door.


Shuyin Liu, 8
Kirkland, WA

A Letter

Shuyin Liu, 8

Dear Mother,

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink, hearing horrible cat yowlings down from the basement. But please do not worry, Teddy and Jimmy are all fine, so am I.

I have to stay in the sink because I cannot find another place to sit. The spice shelf is dumped with spices and broken bottles. Below the shelf lies the treat container with cat treats poured out. The broom, with half the handle broken off, stands in the dented soup pot. Three stools are hugged together in the middle of the kitchen, but left one leg beside the refrigerator. My math homework, which I have been working on the whole morning, is swimming in the cats’ water bowl. Oh, I have to tell you about your favorite vase, I know this is heart-breaking. It shattered on the floor, and Dad’s basketball with signatures he collected last summer stays next to it.

Mom, I know you may not believe it, but Jimmy and Teddy did it all. They have confessed. It happened after I left for soccer practice. Jimmy made the plan and Teddy made the mess. Here is what they told me:

The moment I locked the door and left, they committed their nasty deeds. Remember that I tucked the treat container on the top spice shelf since they figured out how to open lids? Jimmy suggested, “Teddy, if you can knock the container off the shelf, the lid would peel off, and we can crunch up the treats.” Teddy sprang his legs with all his might, but only landed in the middle shelf. His legs and tail knocked down the spice bottles. He sighed as he watched Jimmy hatch up another plan.

“Well, you can use this broom to bat off the treats,” Jimmy concluded after thinking a few minutes. Teddy scampered to the broom and rolled it over, even though the brush always turned awkwardly. Teddy sank his teeth into the wooden handle and slowly ascended the broom. The brush swished passed the treat box. He almost succeeded, but his body accidentally shifted and the brush rolled off a basketball. The basketball came plummeting down and crashed his head afterwards bouncing onto the vase. He yowled and jumped around. The broom catapulted into the soup pot, left a big dent, and broke in the middle of the handle.

Teddy rested for a while until his head was not so dizzy. Jimmy announced, “This is my last and best plan.” “Wait, you had a better plan!!!!! If you had told me the best plan first, my head wouldn’t ache so much,” Teddy interrupted angrily. “Always save the best for last! Anyway, you can stack a tower and climb up.” “Perfecto,” Teddy retorted cheerfully. Teddy stacked three stools (almost consuming all his energy), and added my math homework to secure the height. He slithered up the tower, arrived at the top, and knocked the container down. The container smacked to the floor and a shower of treats flooded out.

Teddy was just about to jump down, when I pushed the door open. Jimmy zipped away and Teddy kicked down the tower and scrambled behind Jimmy. You see it wasn’t me. Also, I have locked them up in the basement.

Your innocent child,
Benjamin

* * *

Hi Benjamin,

Thank you for letting me know. I forgot to tell you that I installed a video camera. Tonight we shall enjoy the cats’ performance together. I cannot wait to get off work!

Loving you,
Mom


Alice Xie, 12
West Windsor, NJ

Pour Your Heart Into the Sink

Alice Xie, 12

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. Which, frankly, is quite small. Not that it matters much, because I am also small. For a fifteen year-old, at least. Although most males my age are rapidly approaching six feet, my growth progression has not been that lucky. For the past three years, I’ve been stuck at four feet tall, the shortest kid by far in my school. It’s not as bad as you’d expect, though. My mom thinks my size causes me to get bullied, which is why I steal things a lot. She says that bullying makes me “emotionally unstable.” My mom thinks she’s not like those other oblivious parents who have no idea what their children are and are going through, but boy does she have a lot to learn.

My unwelcome habit of stealing is why I am hiding in the sink in the first place. Earlier today, I picked up the landline phone in the kitchen and overheard my principal calling my mom and tattling on how I had stolen from Angela Diaz, once again. I knew my mom would give me one of her infamous day-long speeches, and maybe do something worse, because she thinks my stealing has gone out of hand, so I immediately sought a hiding place, and the sink seemed perfect. I mean, who hides in a sink? It’s so random, it works. Although now, I feel a little exposed, since anyone who looks above me can easily identify my small but still clearly visible body. It’s too late to change spots, though, because my whole household is on a witch hunt for me.

I honestly don’t know exactly why I steal. My mom claims it’s bullying, but surprisingly, I get along with most people at my high school. My dad thinks it’s because our family is poor, and I don’t have the nerve to ask my parents to buy me things, but our family is not exactly unwealthy, and I’m satisfied with what I have. My sister thinks I steal because I’m a bad person at heart, but she’s my sister. I think I steal for multiple reasons. Maybe it’s for revenge, like the time I stole Randy Miller’s new airpods he was showing off all day to get him back for the time that he poured glue all over my English final. Maybe it’s for the thrill, like the time I stole a pair of diamond earrings from a top-notch jewelry store. Maybe it’s to help others, like when a little girl was on the streets crying because she was starving. It broke my heart so much that I stole some food from the local supermarket for her. The way her eyes lit up made my day, even though what I did was wrong. I am perfectly aware that stealing is not a good habit but-

Whew, that was close. My sister just came stomping through into the kitchen, yelling my name. I immediately stopped writing because my sister has a good ear, and can hear breathing from a mile away, let alone pen scratches. Luckily, the cabinets and pantries are nowhere near the sink, so my sister didn’t notice me.

Anyway, I think the deep root of my urge to steal is the fact that it makes up for my empty skillset. I mean, I’m pretty average(despite my height which I can’t control); my grades are average, I’m okay at sports; I’m not really adept at music and art; I really don’t have anything that stands out. But I’m really good-like really really good-at stealing and pickpocketing, and who knows, if I do become a thief when I grow up, it doesn’t sound all that bad. I’d be living life on the edge, which perfectly fits my intrepid personality. But if that doesn’t work out, I’d also be a pretty good spy, given my incredible sneaking abilities.

I actually have never thought of me stealing because I was good at it, but now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. But realizing that doesn’t change anything, and stealing really had ruined my life. Ever since Angela caught me stealing for the first time(she is the most annoying girl ever so my knee-jerk reaction is to always steal), everyone looked at me differently. My friends pushed me away-they thought I was a criminal and didn’t want to associate with me-my teachers were always biased around me, and my family always had a disapproving look in their eye. This somehow only fueled my desire to steal because at the end of the day, people are still going to look at me the same way, so stealing a few things won’t make much of a difference.

This sink is getting really uncomfortable, and I think I should get out and just turn myself in. Wow, that sounded like I did something really bad. I mean, I did, but still. Sooner or later, the same process will happen again: I return the item I stole; I apologize; I receive a long lecture about my future and random stuff I don’t bother to listen to; and everyone hates me even more.

Sometimes, I think I should just stop stealing, but that thought is a mere  daydream. It sounds wonderful, but stealing is an addiction to me, and I’ve been so consumed in it, it’s nearly impossible to stop. So I guess I’ll go back to the same old life, doing the same old thing, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to change my habits and turn my story around. After all, I’m only fifteen, and it’s not too late.

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