by MHM, 11th (fiction)
Two licks and a full swipe of the tongue all the way around the corners of his mouth. As Johnny ate his steaming bowl of savory instant noodles straight from the pot he boiled them in, he was sweating profusely. Drip, drop went the sweat that had surfaced and accumulated on his skin. It steadily rolled down in streams off his plump face. His eyes began to water in complete joy at the exquisite smell of MSG that filled his cramped kitchen room after his twentieth pack of ramen eaten today was emptied into the abyss of which is his stomach, a bottomless pit.
The home phone began ringing. It ran for a full 6 rounds until Johnny reached over to swipe the phone and bring it to his ear to hear his mother screaming at him through the other end.
“Johnny, you better-”
“Sorry Mom, I’m in the middle of a very meaningful moment in my life. Now if you'll excuse me-”
“Don’t you hang up on me a-”
Johnny proceeded to press the “end call” button on the phone and placed it back in its phone holder. He then wobbled his way back to his too small seat and plopped himself down with a grunt and a sigh.
"When will she ever leave me alone?”
He glanced over at his empty pot, not a single drop of soup or a single strand of noodle left. An untouched pack of ramen sat there in the corner of his eye. He couldn’t control himself, no. The temptation hit him like a truck coming at him at full blast. He couldn’t handle it. Without even a second thought, he surged from his seat and reached his arms out towards the lone pack of ramen, relieving the tremendous amount of pressure put on the small chair. With the sight of the pack of instant ramen in front of him, nothing would stop Johnny from getting his hands on it; absolutely nothing, would stand in his way. He lied. He shoved his kitchen table to the side, leaving unwashed pots clanging to the floor. The lone stool at the center of the kitchen splattered into wooden shards as he threw it to the side of the room with only one goal in mind. That damned pack of ramen.
Just as his hands were mere centimeters away from the instant ramen, a framed photo stopped him dead in his tracks. It was the one picture that brought back so many painful memories. It was, a picture of a lone strand of instant ramen noodle from the shin ramyun collection.
“Johnny! What are you even doing? Come on, let’s go play tag!”
Paul started jumping around in happy circles. Even Johnny was excited, although for a completely different reason.
“Okay, Paul! You can go on ahead, I’ll go catch up to you later! I’ve got some things to do first.”
“Okay, whatever you say Ramen Boy.” Then Paul ran off to where the game was starting.
A light blush scattered over Johnny’s cheeks at the sound of his nickname his fellow classmates gave him. He couldn’t really decide whether he liked it or not because it was true, but he wanted to be more than Ramen Boy. He felt that people only saw him for his love for ramen when there were other things that he cared about too, maybe not as deeply as instant ramen.
Today was the day he was going to confess to the biggest crush he has ever had on anyone. Besides ramen of course. He was going to confess to Lydia, the girl of his dreams. She had long, black wavy hair, smelled like deep fried food, and was small. Oh, he just wanted to get his hands on her and lick her to taste that delightful MSG and fried goodness.
12 year old Johnny crept slowly to where his crush was sitting right under the trees next to the play structure. He felt all sorts of giddiness as he got closer. His heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird’s wings as he closed in.
“H-hey there…” Johnny stuttered there a bit.
Silence. There was only silence that answered him.
“I-I just wanted to let you know that you’re really p-pretty and that you s-smell the best.” Johnny’s face flared up and he felt like he was being cooked from the inside-out.
Silence met on the other end, yet again.
Johnny worked up all his courage and walked right where she sat and stood right in front of her.
“Here,” Johnny placed the item the was hiding behind him, and set it down before Lydia. It was a noodle ring. Specifically, a noodle ring made out of a instant ramen noodle strand.
"I know it’s not much, but I really tried my best. Please accept this ring.”
There was so much hope on Johnny’s face, that it would be apparent to anyone who walked by that he was so desperately, and foolishly in love.
He was yet again, met with silence.
“No reaction? Yeah, I figured you were shy.” Just when Johnny couldn’t believe that he could blush anymore, he blushed ten shades darker red.
Lydia just sat there in all her glory, staring off toward the setting sun, black hair a little tossed by the wind, and the solid dried curls wrapped around her body looking slightly more greasy than usual because of the blaring sun.
“So, what do you say? You accept? I’ll promise I’ll treat you better than any pack of ramen I have ever eaten.” A small smile showed it’s way up on little Johnny’s face. Then, it froze there when he heard laughs coming from behind the play structure.
“HAHAHA Ramen Boy is getting rejected by the pack of ramen he calls Lydia. And he loves ramen too! How sad, tsk tsk.” The boy wearing the hot dog shirt cried out in laughter and couldn’t stop laughing until his two other friends shushed him.
“No, Lydia is just a bit shy. She accepted me gladly. You can tell by the look on her face, am I right Lydia?”
Johnny turned around to face Lydia, still sitting there in all her instant ramen glory. He started to feel a bit more nervous and he was doubting himself. Did she really accept his ring?
"You see Ramen Boy, food does not talk. I hope you realize how dumb you are. See you loser.” The boy wearing the hot dog shirt sticks out his tongue, snickers, and begins to saunter off until Johnny speaks up.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Call you what?” Hot dog boy starts stroking his chin. “ Oh, Ramen Boy?”
Johnny slightly nods in his head in silent determination yet fear.
“Well what else am I supposed to call you? That’s all you are and all you’ll ever be, Ramen Boy.”
No matter how much Johnny saw his words coming, the words still struck deep in his heart. He knew that he was more, he had to be more than just Ramen Boy.
“Y-you’re wrong.” Johnny said.
“No, I’m right. What type of boy has a crush on a pack of ramen with a black wig on it? It’s not a human, it’s food that’s been sitting outside for months that no one has bothered throwing away. Can’t you see? And all you ever do is eat instant ramen, play with ramen, talk with ramen. I have never seen you do anything else.”
“Y-you’re wrong.” Johnny repeated again.
“Oh yeah? Fine, I’m wrong then, if you say so.”
Some small part of Johnny felt a bit better when he heard those words, although he knew they didn’t mean much, but then things got infinitely worse.
Hot dog boy then stomped over to where Lydia was and brought up his foot above Lydia, holding it up there with a smirk on his face. That’s when Johnny’s face had stricken in horror and realization in what he was about to do.
“NO!” Johnny ran over to Lydia, ready to use his own body to save her but he was too late. Hot dog boy had already made the big leap, and stomped on Lydia, all over her. He squashed Lydia with the bottom of his shoe, squashing it with the ball of his foot like a bug and shrieked out in joy and laughter over crushing Lydia.
On the other hand, Johnny was screaming in pain and heartache. How could he let this happen to Lydia? She didn’t do anything wrong. These thoughts kept on running through Johnny’s head as his vision blurred and his eyes brimmed with tears. Anger, sadness, regret, all these emotions flickered through Johnny’s mind.
It all happened so fast when he felt a blow in his abdomen that came from someone’s leg. It all hurt too much. He didn’t care anymore. He just wanted out. He felt the blows come again, and again, and again as more people joined in the kicking, scratching, and clawing. Tears streamed down his face as he curled up into a fetal position and began whimpering.
“Pathetic. The hot dog boy snarled. “Absolutely pathetic.” Then Johnny faced the ring he made for Lydia. His Lydia. And it had been stepped on, ripped into bits of cold, chewy ramen. His heart shattered into a million pieces right there.
“What a loser. You will always be Ramen Boy. Let today be a reminder.”
Hot dog boy kicked him in the stomach one more time before he and his group of friends left.
This time, he didn’t try to deny it. He didn’t try to deny that he wasn’t ramen boy. Any sort of hope he had in being more was gone, all gone in a matter of minutes. How could he let himself reach this point? He didn’t even think about the tag game he was supposed to be at or that he should probably get up. He just stayed there, sobbing his heart out. He was utterly broken. Completely broken, and 12 year old Johnny didn’t know if he could ever be fixed.
Johnny stared at the photo of his ramen ring again, and then looked back at the pack of ramen that he was so desperately trying to reach before, and… it seemed less appetizing. He was revolted by it, by himself and the way he had let himself become. 9 years of his life down the drain wasted and poured down the drain just like that. He stared at that pack of ramen sitting there again. He was furious. Furious at everything.
He ran over, snatched the pack of ramen and brought it under his foot. Then he crushed it. Crushed it the way Lydia had been crushed that day 9 years ago. He threw the remains against the wall and stomped his way to the bathroom. He needed a bath, immediately. He felt filthy after stomping on the ramen like that.
He let the tub fill with steaming hot water, and then plunked himself in, squeezing himself into the inconveniently small place. He let out a sigh of relief as the hot water befuddled his senses and he just let go. He let everything go. He let go of the pain, the emptiness, all feelings and let himself sink further into the tub. He was ramen boy. He didn’t know how to be someone else. As he sat there in the tub, his face became wet. He couldn’t tell if it was from the bath water or if they were his own tears.
How to Help Your Special-Ed Brother
by Kimberly, 11th (non-fiction)
First. Balloons, bubbles, and flowers-
You see a beautiful premature baby, he has no defects or anything. His eyes are not nearly wide open, but you can see a little pupil. His body is small and red, the color of our latin ancestors, brown.
Second. Weeks pass by, my sister and I are called in by our parents. The news that we are going to have to take extra care of our sibling. ‘Deficiency 13’, cracked skull, are what makes him “different”. I look at him, and see nothing but a healthy baby.
Third. The doctors said he will not be able to talk, they suggested surgery. My parents said no because that meant putting a few weeks old baby to sleep. There were no guarantees if he survived.
Fourth. The doctors once again came, said he would not walk due to his skull and brain. “He will never learn to walk”. My parents fell apart, and us as well. 2 years, and still not crawling…
Fifth. We had him in therapy sessions so he will talk. We wouldn’t give up on him. It was more work, yes. Saying things out loud for him. He proved the doctors wrong. He learned to talk little by little.
Sixth. More therapies, at the doctor, at his school, and at home. They had us make him do exercises on his legs. Every time I would change him, I will grab his small feet and move them in soft but firm circular motions. I will help him. Few months later, he started crawling and holding up his own head. Then he took his own steps, and once again proved them wrong.
Seventh. It doesn’t stop here. He started school, he started mimicking everything. As a sister, don’t be hard on him. Remember, he’s special. He hits you, grab his hands and say “No Brandon, I don’t like it”. He starts to stutter or say a word five times, instead of getting mad and yelling at him, say, “Brandon, only once please”. If he’s throwing a tantrum, don’t make him even more mad, try and calm him down. It’s not healthy for him because he might get a seizure.
Eighth. Teach him manners. Don’t expect him to learn in a few weeks, he functions differently. Have patience with him, and don’t try to get frustrated easily.
Ninth. Try and play and interact with him more after his therapies. Give him 15 minutes of your time, leave homework and friends for later. Talk to him, dance with him, play with him, sing to him. These are things that will help him grow. I want him to live, to learn to live without depending on anyone.
Tenth. 4 years old, he’s only interested in balloons, bubbles and flowers, It’s okay. He may not like the cars and legos we get him yet, but as long as he’s happy. Tell him to be kind to people and animals. To give love, and not hatred.
Eleventh. When you’re outside in public, don’t get mad or embarrassed when he starts yelling or talking loud. Tell him to calm down, but in a good way. You will see eyes glaring at you, but mostly your brother. Give them the evil eye without words. Or don’t pay attention at all because they don’t know what it’s like.
My little brother, how I love you and sorry for not treating you as well. It’s difficult, but God gave him to me for a reason. How much some simple things can change everything. Some balloons, bubbles, and flowers.
Homework Made it happen
by T.D. 11th, (fiction)
I hate having to expose myself like this, I should be used to it after 5 years but I'm not, I may as well be naked but I have to make a living somehow. I hear the announcer call me to the stage by my stripper name. “Please welcome are beautiful, sexy Cici, to the stage!” He says my stripper name as if I'm a queen, as if I’m the most respectable lady about to do the most respectable thing, which couldn't be further from the truth. My stripper name comes from my name Cianna, I've never liked that name I knew it wasn’t professional. My coworker who is also my best friend, Ashanda loves this job and has been my biggest and only supporter when it comes to being a stripper.
“Go on girl, go out there and make your money.”
I just laugh at her but she's right I better get out there the people are waiting for me and I need the money. I have on such a revealing outfit that I refuse to even describe it, no wonder my mother is ashamed of me but when I complain to Ashanda how my own mother can't even look me in the eye anymore, she always tells me that I’m only 23 and I have my whole life ahead of me to make something of myself. I doubt it, putting former stripper on a resume doesn't really qualify me for any respectable work and it's not like I even have my high school diploma, all I have is a GED and it's not paying the bills so here I am. I walk on to the stage and do what I'm supposed to do to get them to throw money, no matter how degrading. Sometimes I decide to enjoy myself. I mean it is my life I may as well enjoy it but nights like tonight make me hate my job and sometimes even my gender.
I just finished my performance, I'm off stage and I'm in my waitress uniform serving drinks. The show wasn't enough for this drunk, middle aged, waste of space man. He starts off flirty and I just politely brush it off. “Hey gorgeous that was quite a performance you put on up there, how about you come home with me and give me a private show.”
I give him a little sass and kindly decline, personality is important when your a stripper they throw more money if they like you. He hits on me a few more times but it's always the same story and I'm starting to see his agitation with being rejected but I keep brushing him off. I've dealt with guys like this eventually they get bored and move on to easier prey, at least that's what I thought. I'm behind the counter now working as a bartender, I do a lot at this club and it pays off, he’s finally stopped hitting on me but he didn't go away. He’s sitting at a table to my near left it’s really late so there's not many people in here other than the usuals. He’s staring at me and I’m feeling really uncomfortable but my shifts over in about 5 minutes so I’ll be out of here soon. I grab my bag with all my stuff, clock out and begin to leave, he still hasn't taken his eyes off me and I swear I saw him get up to follow me from the corner of my eye. I leave through the back door where only employees can get through, it leads into an alley a few blocks from my bus stop. It's dark and the city is mostly asleep, I start walking towards the end of the alley so I can continue my journey to the bus stop on the sidewalk. He's here, as soon as hit the corner onto the sidewalk I see him, right in front of me. I try to walk past and continue without confrontation but he has other plans, he grabs me by the arms and angrily pushes me back into the alley.
“You think that you’re too good for me huh! You're nothing but a dirty stripper and I threw money so you owe me this!” He throws me onto the ground hard and I hit my head even harder, I'm disoriented for a moment and the things spilled out of my bag next to me. I weakly reach for it but my mind is foggy and my actions are slow, too slow. I try to scream and yell as loud as I can but he tells me to shut up and there's no use because there’s no one around to hear me and I'm too far from the club for them to hear me. He climbs on top of me and pins me down but I'm regaining my composure and I fight back, I knee him in the groin hard enough so that his grip on me weakens. I quickly look to my spilled items and my eyes focus on the pepper spray, I grab it as fast as I can and I mace him. He’s screaming and yelling and he's rolling on the ground in pain, I use this to my advantage and get up. I'm very light headed and I'm pretty sure my head is bleeding but I have to get away from him. I muster up the hardest kick I can and connect with his head, it wasn't extremely hard but it was enough to give me time to run. I race towards the back door of the club, which they keep locked so I bam on the door as hard as I possibly can and I yell as loud as I possibly can. When I turn my head I see that the man is not as hurt as he was and he’s starting to get up, his eyes are red but he found the water bottle in my bag, rinsed out his eyes, and now he’s not in as much pain. I continue to yell and bang on the door but the man is coming towards me and he’s getting closer. The door nearly knocks me over and I see the face of my savior, his name is Steve and he works here as security.
“What happened?! Your head?!”
I'm frantically screaming and pointing in the direction of the guy. I guess she heard all the commotion because I see Ashanda approaching and I run into her arms and begin to sob. Steve restrains him until the police gets there and I tell Ashanda what happened, I gave the police my statement and they take my attacker down to the station. My head needed stitches but luckily I didn't have to go all the way to the hospital, my injury was treated in the back of the ambulance. I'm really out of it now and I'm way too shook to take the bus alone so Ashanda eagerly and happily offers to drive me home. I don't live far and she drives pretty fast so we should be there in about 3 minutes. "Why didn't you say anything? This dude was stalking you all night and you thought it was a good idea to just walk out into a dark alley all alone?”
I tell her that I didn't think much of his flirting and how I never expected anything like that to happen but she keeps fussing, I stopped listening when she started bringing up ‘what if’ scenarios. We finally pull up to my house and all her nagging made that 3 minutes feel like a lifetime, I know she’s just looking out for me and I really appreciate her always being there so I invite her to stay the night. It's not like I want to be alone but I will soon find out that being alone is nothing I need to worry about. I walk up the stairs and pull out my keys to unlock the door but something isn’t right. I look to my left and I see the glow of lights through my window but I'm almost positive that I turned out all the lights, I just shrug it off and continue to unlock the door. I unlock the bottom lock then turn the knob but the door is still locked, I never lock the top lock. At this point I know something is off and so does Ashanda.
I tell her about the lights being on and the door being locked, she suggests that it might be the landlord and I don't even voice all the reasons why that sounds stupid, I just give her a look of bewilderment that questions her sanity. She laughs and tells me that I’m probably just paranoid from all that happened tonight. I consider it and continue unlocking the door but I’m not convinced, when I open the door my suspicions of someone being here are confirmed because I'm positive I hear music that I don't even listen to. I step into the doorway and look back at Ashanda and she just shrugs her shoulders and gives me the ‘I don't know’ look. I walk down the hall and peep around the corner into the living and I see my little sister passed out on the couch, fully dressed, with the TV on Pandora, I forgot I gave her a key. I turn off the TV and walk over to the couch to wake her up. I shake her and call her name but she’s completely still, I shake her a bit harder and say her name but it's like she’s dead. I slap her arm and yell her name she stirs but she's still not waking. Ashanda comes from around the corner, from the direction of the kitchen and hands me a cup of water. That woke her up, she sits up coughing and rubbing her eyes then she looks up and finally acknowledges our presence.
“Hey big sis, Hey Ashanda, what are you guys doing here? Oh yeah this is your house.” She goes into a fit of giggling and it's automatically clear to us that she's drunk I go get a bottle of water and some pjs for her to sleep in and Ashanda gets straight to questioning her.
“How did you get here and why are you drunk?”
“I snuck out and went to a party I had a little too much fun and I couldn't go home to my mom like this you know she trips way too much. My boyfriend dropped me off here what's the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal Diana!? I'll let your sister deal with you.”
I help Diana put on the pj's and I make her drink the water, I tell her that we'll talk in the morning and then I tuck her into my bed. I’m super tired and I just had a very long night. I tell Ashanda that she can use the guest room and then I go to sleep beside my sister. I wake up to my phone ringing, and my head pounding, and I missed the call, when I go to pick up my phone I remember what happened last night and I look over my shoulder and see a sleeping, drooling Diana. I look at my phone and see that I have 5 missed calls from my mom and texts asking if I know where Diana is. I decide that me and Diana need to talk before I talk to our Mother so I wake her up and of course she groaning and complaining about a headache. I tell her that she can’t go down this path and that she needs to do better and be someone in life so she won't end up like me.
“Cianna I promise this won’t happen again last night was a mistake and I'm sorry. I'll do better I swear.”
I accept her apologies and tell her that next time I'm going to tell Mom. I call my mom and apologize for not answering sooner I tell her that I came by late last night with Ashanda, picked up Diana and brought her home with us for a girl night. After a few more minutes of fussing she calms down and concludes the conversation with wanting Diana back in her house within the next two hours. She didn't really want to stay on the phone to talk with me because of my lifestyle, she basically disowned me. She doesn't even trust me enough to have my own little sister at my house. She probably thinks being a stripper is contagious. It’s all really hitting me, I can't live like this and I just break down and cry because homework ruined my life. I wish I could go back, back when I was 16, back when I was a 4.0 student, back to High School.
Of course my hand was the first to shoot up, I know the answer, I always know the answer and I always participate.
“Anyone else but Cianna, no, well it seems that you’re the only one who knows the answer and the only one who did the homework.”
I give him the answer and of course I’m correct, I’m a 4.0 student I can't afford not to do homework or not know the answers. He gives the class independent studying time and I open up my well organized planner and find out all the upcoming tests, quizzes, and projects and start studying for them accordingly. I jump out of my studying daze, I see people already walking out of class and the bells automatically signals for me to pack up and leave for lunch, I meet with my friends.
“I’m really tired of school we never get a break.”
“We do get breaks, the weekends and a little after school, also the holidays.”
“Those are not breaks if the teachers still give us piles of homework to do. I know I don't get a break, at this point it's making me fall behind.”
"If the homework takes me more than five minutes I just don't do it because after a long day at school I'm way too tired to be worried about some homework.”
I'm listening to my friends complain about homework and I completely agree with them. Even I, as a straight A student, I don't see the point of all the homework the teachers give. It becomes overwhelming and really stressful and I personally think that it causes failure within schools, my friends are a perfect example of that. They're good students but just like for most high schoolers, homework becomes overwhelming and causes them to lose motivation and fall behind. Those few hours of free time after school and the two days of the weekend are truly needed for rest, studying and free time but homework takes over all of that and becomes stressful. The bell rings and it's time to go to class I easily get through the rest of the school day but of course by the end I have accumulated a great amount of homework from each of my classes. After school I get on the bus and get off by my little sister’s school, she's only seven so she needs someone to pick her up and my mom is working at this time, so I pick her up and then we walk home.
The first thing I notice is that my mom's car is here, I ask my sister if she knows why mom is home and she shrugs and runs off to play in the backyard. I take out my key and unlock the door, as soon as I step in I see my grandma sleeping on the couch and she doesn't look well. I frown and get ready to go look for my mom but she's already approaching me.
“Cianna I need to talk to you.”
She sounds serious and we go in the kitchen and sit down. I ask why grandma is here and if she's ok but she just gives me this sad look.
"Your grandma has a bad virus Cianna and because of her age it's harder for her body to fight it. She's here because her insurance doesn't cover her staying in the hospital until she gets better and I can't afford it right now.”
She pauses then looks at me as if that wasn't the worse part, as if that wasn’t the bad news and what she's about to say is.
“Cianna, well your grandma needs someone to look after her, give her her medicines, and nurse her back to health. I have to stay at work to provide for you and your sister, you're going to have to leave school just until your grandma gets better.”
Leave school, she wants me to leave school and play nurse I give my mother a look of pure rage, but then it turns to understanding and I say ok. I know that I'm the only one my grandma has to take care of her and I understand but I'm upset and I know that this will hurt my grades and my attendance. My mom lets my school know that I won't be there and she works it out so that I will still have to make up assignments and tests but it will be on my own pace and I will only have to make up a modified amount of the work. I still will be behind, I would have to teach myself the lessons to understand how to do the assignments and there won't be much time for that between taking care of my grandmother and watching over my younger sister. I prepare to lose that 4.0 gpa.
I’m finally back in school… and I have no idea what's going on. The teachers are on completely new lessons and I have tons of work to catch up on. I know that there’s no one to blame and that it's irrational to be mad, but a wave of anger washes over me at the fact that my grandma got sick. After 3 months she's finally well enough to take care of herself, so here I am, back in school completely and utterly lost. My teacher calls me to answer a question and for the first time I don't know the answer. It's embarrassing and I hate it, I hate him for calling on me knowing that I've been gone, knowing that I don't know the lesson or the answer. It's the same story all day I’m lost and confused and by the end of the day an overwhelming sense of defeat sweeps over me.
The whole week goes by and then the next and I have already had two meltdowns. I’m still struggling to catch up on work and I have so much make-up work that it is interfering with me completing my current work. Some of my teachers try to help by cutting my workload for their classes in half. It helps but not as much as they think since I still have to attempt to teach myself the lessons that I've missed to even be able to complete the assignments. I am overwhelmed with assignments and catching up, I’m ready to just give up. Through the mists of all this catch up work I had to study for the first make up test and today's the day I have to take it. My brain is fried but I have to meet the deadlines of the teachers, I take the test and I think I did well, at least well enough to pass which is still a very low expectation for me, I was completely wrong. I failed the test and that almost crushed my motivation. I was ready to give up in school and life but I tell myself that I can still get through this and pass my classes.
After school I go to the library and use every resource available to me so I can complete some assignments. After a few hours I feel like I get a sufficient amount of work done, so I go through my backpack to see all the assignments I still need to do and what tests I need to study for. My stomach drops and my face twists into a frown. I feel the lump in my throat begin to form, I feel the tears begin to moisten my eyes and I feel the overwhelming sense of stress, failure, anger and discouragement sweep over me. I still have so much work to do and I hardly understand the concepts and lessons that I need to know to complete these assignments. I'm so focused on trying to catch up that it's putting me behind on my current work. If I do everything I can to catch up on old assignments I'll fall behind and fail, if I put aside my old work and only focus on my current work, I would still fail. On one hand I fail. And on the other… Well you get the point. I grab my stuff and leave, I'm defeated, at this point success is impossible and I give up. For the next few weeks school was just a place that I went to to do nothing. My teacher's were concerned and they couldn't comprehend how I could go from a 4.0 student who never missed an assignment, to a student who seemed nonchalant and uncaring about her education.
"Tell me what I, as a teacher can do to help you. It's like you lost all ambition to succeed. I know you've been out of school for a while and you feel like you're very behind but you're so smart. I believe that if you really dedicated yourself you could catch up."
I explain to him that I've really tried and that success seems to be impossible. I try to make him understand my frustration but he doesn't get it, no one gets it and I feel so alone in my failure. I quit trying to make him understand and I just give up in school all together. Not that my grades were even that great but now I’m pretty much failing everything and I'm ready to drop out. I've lost all motivation and there's a lot of good jobs that don't require a high school diploma. I have thousands of dollars that I have been saving since I was able to talk, it was for college but now I'm thinking it can be for rent and food because I’m ready to drop out. I know my mother wouldn't support this at all and I would have to get out of her house, my father’s a dead beat and I know that if I were to rent a place he would let me put it in his name. It's not like it would be costing him anything. I'm convinced, I'm going to drop out.
I've decided that I'll suffer through school until the end of the school year and I'll move out during summer this gives me the time I need to find a place, contact my father, get a job, and finally the hardest part, tell my mother.
I do all of this successfully, my father as suspected didn't care, I’ll be 18 in a few weeks and getting a job as a waitress wasn't hard, I got a place under my dad's name and I've already paid the first 6 months of rent, I've slowly been moving my things into my new house, now all I have to do is tell my mom.
“No! No! No! I know it's been hard but no child of mine is going to be a high school dropout. I don't know what your idiot of a father was thinking but ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
My mother, as expected, has gone into a rage and believes she can stop me from dropping out. I stay calm and let her know it's too late I have a place and a secure job, I have enough money and I don't need her help or her permission.
“THEN GET OUT AND DON'T COME BACK UNTIL YOU REGAIN YOUR SANITY.”
So I leave and I guess I never regained my sanity, because I never go back. I have the summer of my life, parties, hanging with my friends, making money and my 18th birthday. School rolls around and of course I don't go back, my life is great without it.
I get a call from my boss, also the owner of the small restaurant I work in, I don't know why she's calling so I assume she just needs me to come in early.
“Hi Cianna, I am so sorry to tell you this but we're experiencing low wages and I have to let a few people go. I'm sorry but your position at the restaurant is terminated. If you have any personal items at the restaurant please collect them. Bye, have a good day.”
Well that was unexpected, I'm still shocked when the mailman comes by. I get up and get the mail and I see my phone and PG&E bill. I can afford it but I won't be able to if I don't get another job soon. I don't have a car so I look for places in my area and I must have applied for at least 8 jobs. I wait about a week and all the hiring committees have emailed me and the emails look almost identical, all of them deciding not to hire me. I still have money from my savings and I won't have to worry about rent for a while but I have bills to pay, groceries to buy and this money won't last forever. I find more jobs in this area and apply for them but it's still the same story, I need a job so I start applying for jobs even further away. I still get turned down by all of them and I'm just in shock out of at least 17 jobs not one of them wants to hire me.
It's been almost a month now and I really need a job. After the bills and the essential living materials my money is slowly starting to run thin. I look for things I can do to make money at 18 for a few hours, I take a break and go on Instagram. That's when I see videos of strippers holding stacks and stacks of money. At this point I'm desperate for a job and I look for hiring strip clubs in this area. I find one and I'm old enough to work there which is a plus, I don't know if I'm qualified, I have thick, curly auburn hair, sharp and attractive facial features and golden brown eyes. I'm thin but I have curves, with a nice shape. I guess that this is a nice body for a stripper and I'm a pretty good dancer. So I apply and they get back to me within the next week, for the first time in a while the email looks different and I've landed an interview.
I get off at the bus stop a few blocks from the club, I walk the rest of the way and when I approach it I notice that it's a pretty nice club. Security greets me at the door and he introduces himself. His name is Steve and even though he looks pretty scary he's very, very, polite and kind. He shows me to the office of where I need to be for my interview and I see that there’s another girl here waiting to be interviewed as well. She’s has welcoming kind eyes, she’s attractive and she looks about my age.
“Hi I'm Ashanda and I just wanted to let you know that I love your hair and you’re very pretty.”
I smile, thank her, introduce myself and compliment her as well. She tells me that she’s here to apply for a stripper position and that this club is very popular so the pay will be good. She continues to make conversation with me until I get called in for my interview. I can tell that if we both get the job and become coworkers, we would be good friends.
And I soon find out that I was very right.
Seat Belt Letter
by Isaiah 9th, (non-fiction)
Dear Papa, I know it bugs you when either Nani or I tell you this, but you need to start listening to us for a change. You need to put your seatbelt on in the car before you even start or drive the car. Saying that “I never put on my seatbelt working as a cop when we got in the police cruiser. It’s just a natural habit of mine” is no excuse. You haven’t been working in any type of law enforcement in the past 40 years. It’s not safe because you can seriously hurt yourself if you get into an accident, which happens occasionally with you. If you get into something serious, which has not happened yet, it can affect me, but more importantly, it can affect your wife. What made me want to write this was that every time I hear on the news or on the web that someone dies in an accident by not wearing a seatbelt, I always get a picture in my head of that happening to you. The law specifically says that you have to wear a seatbelt while driving 24/7, 365, “You and all passengers must wear a seat belt or you and/or your passenger(s) may be cited. If the passenger is under 16 years old, you may be cited if they are not wearing their seat belt” (4- pp.2).
Out of all of the drivers in California, you are outnumbered 1 to 6 because, “The overall seat belt use rate was 87% in 2014” (3- pp.2). Therefore, you are in the minority of people not wearing a seat belt, because only 13% of people do not wear their belts. This is because, it is not only against the law of the land, but it is also against the law of our religion to take our lives for granted and not value them. On the other hand, “2,500 more lives would have been saved if everyone had buckled up in 2016” (2- pp.3). The positive way of surviving is to wear your seat belt. And in fact, the positive of wearing a seat belt outweighs the negative of not wearing a seat belt because of the amount of lives that are saved everyday by people wearing their seat belts. Not wearing your seat belt is very dangerous as, “More than 2.6 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency department as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2016” (1- pp.5). If you want any chance of surviving every time you step foot in any motorsport vehicle, you should put on your seatbelt. In addition to being taken to the E.R., “A total of 23,714 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016” (1- pp.4). Since you are a former Insurance Agent and probably have spent a lot of money covering insurance, I know this statistic will mean something to you, “Non-fatal crash injuries to drivers and passengers resulted in more than $48 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs in 2010” (1- pp.7).
This means something to you because you have had your history of making payments of car accidents throughout your insurance agency days. More than half of these accidents occurred when people weren’t wearing a seatbelt. I know that putting on your seatbelt might seem stupid & worthless to you, but Papa, this isn’t the 1960s anymore where you didn’t have to put one on, it’s 2018. I heard you say many times that just because other people are doing something, it doesn’t mean I have to, as well. So the same logic also counts for you, as well. Just because men don’t wear their seat belts as much as women, you should know better as a retired police officer. How many times have you witnessed a car crash and someone had died because they were not wearing a seat belt?
In short, Papa there are too many lives lost to car accidents for you to ignore wearing your seat belt. What would you do if I decided not to wear my seat belt when you take me out to practice driving? Would you get mad at me, or would you let it go? Papa, set a good example and wear your seat belt!! Remember, Nani and I care about you very much and we can’t even think about you getting into a serious car accident or possibly dying just because you are not wearing your seat belt.
1. “Motor Vehicle Safety”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 02 June 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/seatbelts/facts.html . 11 Oct. 2018.
2. “Seat belts save lives” . National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 05 Mar. 2018, https://www.nhtsa.gov/seat-belts/seat-belts-save-lives . 11 Oct. 2018.
3. “Seat belts” . American Automobile Association, 11 Oct. 2018, https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/safety-belts/#.W79-1KQvzIW . 11 Oct. 2018.
4. “California Driver Handbook - Occupant Protection” . State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, 27 Oct. 2018, https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/hdbk/seatbelts . 27 Oct. 2018.
The Unpacked Baggage
by Lani (9th)
The children sit in the grass, the woman standing behind them next to her husband. A shaggy dog runs around their feet happily, tongue lolling out. The cameraman is cleaning his lenses, preparing to take their picture. They are patient, keeping silent smiles in place.
The house behind them is what could be called the American dream, twin shutters on every window and trimmed bushes surrounding the front. The house resembles all the other houses in the neighborhood, the same repetitive shape and clean white door, concrete pavement steps and big yard. From outside, you can’t get a good look of what’s inside besides the cotton curtains that hang in the windows. But if you went inside you would see a tidy, little kitchen and a living room with an old-fashioned couch and a black and white tv.
The woman wears a practical blouse and pants, her hair shoulder length in frizzy, dark curls. She burned it on the curling pins in her haste this morning and hid the cut off piece behind her ear. She is tired, but it does not show besides in the small lines beneath her eyes. All unvoiced worries have been packed away with everything else. The man’s small doctoral business has been given over to the Wilsons, next door- for now, until the family returns from their trip.
The man wears a button up shirt with faded stripes and office pants pulled up all the way over his hips- he has pushed his thinly framed glasses to the very top of the bridge of his nose. His hands are shoved down his pockets. He is too hot and misses the air conditioning inside already. He tries to hold very still.
The children are squinting at the camera, the woman cringing slightly as the sun cast their shadows dark over the freshly hosed down green lawn. She has a hand on her son’s shoulder either to hold him in place for the picture or to offer comfort. She gives him a little squeeze of reassurance.
The woman’s and man’s shoulders don’t touch, equally spaced apart- their marriage had been arranged by their parents. The woman had been top of her class and a good cook. The man had been close to his doctoral degree.
The families had both immigrated from Japan and had met a few times before; to them, the man and woman looked like a perfect fit on paper. The woman clutches her handbag. She grips the handle so hard her nails cut into her palms. Of course, the camera will not catch this. Her husband tries to stay even stiller, tries not to move at all, his back is so tense, it hurts. He still does not move.
The woman and man keep smiling as the camera clicks and the picture is taken. They hope they look happy. Their baggage is packed, the house cleaned out; sheets ripped off beds and drawers emptied.
When the family finally returns from their trip, the man will have gotten used to the heat.
1940, Manzar, an Internment Camp
The woman’s name is Hiromi and the heat is making her head boil like it is filled with hot water, cooking on a stove. She glances at her husband who is buttoning up his shirt in front of the mirror. There is a line of sweat on the back of his neck as he tucks down the collar. He doesn’t turn to look back at her though he feels her eyes on him. She looks away to glare at the ceiling. She had a crack shaped like a dog on the ceiling of her room at home. This ceiling only has a leak.
“I’m going out looking for a job today,” he tells her.
“Good,” she nods affirmation at him out of habit.
“I think maybe you should get a job too. How do we survive off of so little money? We need two incomes,” her husband reasons. He waits for her response, to this she isn’t sure how to react. Her job is taking care of the children, managing the household. Without her in the house who would fold all their clothes and do the laundry? Who will make sure everything is exactly where they want it?
“I just think that you should start contributing to the family a little more,” her husband continues, walking to the other side of the room before she can give a full answer.
“Contributing to the family?” She mindlessly echoes his words. Her skin itches with the heat, her skirt sticking to the back of her thighs.
“What about the children?” she insists, trying to keep the sharpness from her voice. She looks over at her children, who lie awake, pretending to sleep- their chests rising and falling too fast to be sleeping. She rests her hand on the back of Kaito’s small, round head with a sort of protectiveness.
“I know that this might be a hard adjustment for you,” her husband keeps his voice low and hushed, his eyes pointedly eyeing the piece of cloth that separates the Satos and the Watanabes rooms.
“But they can go to school now,” he is talking from on the far end side of the room, his voice sounding distant even though it is only a few feet away.
“Okay,” she gives in.
“Yes?” He re-inserts.
“Yes,” Hiromi repeats, making a small nod, her teeth pressing against each other to the point of aching.
“Where did you put my pipe?” Her husband is going through all the neatly folded clothes. His hands scraping the sides and bottom of the suitcase.
“It’s in the side pocket,” she’s quick to answer.
“The children's clothes are a mess now,” she points out
He doesn’t apologize, “Why have you not unpacked already? We’ve been here for at least a week.”
“I haven’t had the time,” she looks at the ceiling again to find that disappointingly, the leak is still dripping.
“Do it today,” her husband tells her. He wipes the sweat on his hands off on his nice pants. Hiromi tries to breathe but the air is suffocating.
All the women are wearing white blouses with their hair up in curls like Hiromi. The women are meeting in a classroom of some sort with a chalkboard and old wooden desks and chairs. One woman has brought an old Vogue magazine she kept in her suitcase. All the other women scramble to get a seat peering over her shoulder.
Hiromi sees the page the woman’s turned to. On it is a beautiful white woman. The woman is dressed in a winter ensemble, a beaded headscarf and two strings of eggshell pearls close around her neck. She is casually leaning against a wall, holding a luxurious grey fur loosely around her shoulders and looking out to something in the distance.
All at once, everyone in the room is discussing the girl in the picture.
“Look at that! Those pearls sure do look expensive,” remarks one woman eagerly, craning her neck to see better. A few agreements are murmured.
“I could never afford that…” One woman trails off, laughing to a friend.
“And the fur, what is that… rabbit?”
“If I had that I would wear it every day out to the town,” one woman laments, looking down at her own coat with disapproval. Hiromi hears the sound of the page flipping, but she’s stopped paying attention. Her hair feels like a wig, itching against her scalp.
“Of course Hiromi isn’t interested in this,” Akari teases. “Too rich.”
Hiromi’s mouth tastes dry, she musters up a retort, her tongue fat and limp: “That’s not true..”
“Don’t lie,” Akari is smiling, but Hiromi isn’t.
“You still haven’t unpacked,” Hiromi’s husband frowns at this.
“I know, I will soon. I was busy today,” Hiromi insists.
“Any luck on finding a job?”
“No,” he says in a gruff voice, taking off his coat. He is ashamed. She can tell by the way her husband looks away from her which he does whenever something is not meeting his standards. His back is stiff as a wooden board as he fishes for some clothes from the suitcase.
“I heard some rumors,” he says.
“What kind of rumors?” She places her hands in her lap, trying not to get too nervous.
“They’re going to make us sign a loyalty pledge.”
“What does that mean?”
“We pledge allegiance to America, it’s to make sure we’re not spies. It’s not a big deal. There’s going to be a war.”
“But we’re not spies,” Hiromi insists.
“Precautions? Was taking us away from home just precautions?” She wonders out loud frustrated. Her husband doesn’t answer, instead, he just zips the suitcase closed with a single motion and goes to lie down. That’s her cue to get the children to sleep.
They are already lying down on their beds, patiently waiting for their parents to finish the conversation.
All the lights are off and shadows stretch and twist into monsters over the creaking floors, old irrational childhood fears rise in her stomach and Hiromi finds herself listening to the sound of the leak again. Drip… drip..
“Are we ever leaving this new place?” Haru suddenly asks in tune with Hiromi’s own thought trail. Hiromi tries to make out the expression of her son in the dark. Is he sad, should she offer some comfort to him? She knows Kaito is listening in too.
“Well-” Hiromi can’t think of anything to say. There is the obvious answer. But she’s never liked being the one to deliver bad news. Her husband has already closed his eyes, meaning he isn’t available to help her out or he purposefully is leaving it up to her.
“I hope we’re not leaving! All my friends are here!” Haru interrupts enthusiastically. Not being able to wait any longer. “I love it here!”
Hiromi wakes up at one in the morning and starts to unpack the bags, her hand shakes slightly as she closes a drawer. There’s going to be a war.
Hiromi falls back onto her mattress to sleep.
Students 6th-12th Grades