Writing Contest For Participants
Students at participating Cavalcade of Authors West schools are invited to participate in the short story writing contest. Stories can be in prose or verse. There will be a middle and a high school division with a winner from each division.
All submissions are due March 26, 2021
The best story from each school will be judged by a panel based on originality, unique style, creativity, and use of descriptive language. Stories must be original work of no more than 1,500 words.
Writers: Each school is allowed to submit one entry (Yes, librarians/teachers get to find the BEST one!). Submit an electronic copy of your original work to your librarian or lead teacher by the "to be announced" date at your school.
Librarians/Teachers: Schools must submit all entries through an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "2021 Writing Contest Entry." Be sure to include the writer's name, school, age and grade in your email. Winners will be announced at #COAWest21 and will receive awesome prizes from Barnes & Noble and COA West! We will also publish the winning stories here on our website and promote on all of our social media channels.
2021 Writing Contest Winners!
Keep an eye out in this space... our winning stories will be posted soon!
2020 Writing Contest Winners!
A Second Chance
BY SOPHIA FOSTER, DRUM INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL
University Place School District
Luna looked out at the rivers of cars, automobiles and motorcycles running through the highways at top speed as if they were each racing against light. She could just spot a terrible accident in the distance, on another lower highway than hers. A blue Chevy was rammed almost inside the windshield of a red Lexus. Glass was everywhere, and an ambulance and police cruiser was nearby, helping the victims inside.
That’s what Luna wanted right now. Help. From this terrible world. From her horrible bullies and her horrifying family. Luna hated them all. She wanted to end it all. She set down her backpack, which had helped her all along the way. It had helped to carry food and supplies that she needed when she traveled to this street, with the red and blue lights flying back and forth like fireflies on a journey. It had done its job.
But not all of them did something wrong. Some of them tried to end it without it coming to a result like this. But there was nothing they could do. It all wouldn’t work if someone threatened her parents with the laws or if a principal fed them the threat of expulsion to the bullies. Five therapists couldn’t stop her fate.
Mother. Remarried. Father. Gone forever. Her mother was a good mother, your average mother. She was on her computer when the bell rang. Luna revealed herself from her bedroom in light blue pajamas, 9-years-old at the time. She was oblivious to what her mother had done. Luna had hated changes. And when a change lumbered through the door and her mother immediately left her laptop, Luna instinctively hated the change. Too bad the change was a living being.
Luna took one step forward, exhaling her anger and fear from her body. The full moon shone on her skin, reflecting her gray-blue eyes. She trembled as she looked down at the world, then glanced at the moon. The clouds almost seemed to part for her so that she could get a better look at the glowing wonder in the night.
Her father was never to be seen again. He never showed his face but he sometimes sent her toys to play with when she was little. Sometimes for her birthday when she was older he would send her small gift cards. She used to love them and be fine with him gone, but now it affected her completely. Luna didn’t care about money anymore.
Luna took another step towards the edge, the highway blocker right in front of her feet. She reviewed below her, blinking down at the cars oblivious of what was happening above.
The lockers were too cold. The floor was too hard. The bullies were too mean. How many times she was sent to the ground she practically knew everything about. How many times she felt the lockers she almost knew the exact temperature they usually were and each dent in each specific locker. She knew every single bully, their full name when they got scolded and what they liked to wear on particular days.
Everything was too terrible. School was something she would not accept anymore.
She placed one leg over the edge, and sat down on the blocker, so that her leg dangled over the highway. The cars and trucks below still remained inattentive.
She was hiking with her family in the forest. She was picking leaves off branches and feeling the adhesive sap between her fingers. Luna was always yanking small branches of evergreen off trees and rubbing them in her hand so that it would continue to smell of it for nearly an hour. If she saw a river or a small stream of some sort, Luna would run her fingers in the water, allowing them to freeze despite how frigid it felt. Her family and friends would call her weird for doing it, for interacting with nature as she pleased. They would point fingers and stare and make her swallow her sobs so that she wouldn’t cry. So that Luna wouldn’t reveal that they had hit her weak point.
Luna placed her other leg over, so that the only thing keeping her on the highway was the weight of herself sitting and her hands grasping the side. The rushing cars right behind her sent chills up her spine, but she wouldn’t have to feel it anymore soon.
A monster, a black monster that was wolf like with big white shining eyes and a thick snout with two top black fangs and a sharp white tongue. It represented everything against her in life. All her dire, bloody thoughts. It signified the people who laughed at her, it expressed the people who betrayed her. It symbolized love, that if you try to find someone and go somewhere that you would end up brokenhearted in the end. That people still die, whether you like it or not. It rips the soul in half, the monster. The creature was almost life in a form. The white in its eyes could indicate something beautiful, something amazing you see one day. Maybe that one moment when your best friend comes out of the hospital in great shape. But its vicious looks still overpower the glowing paleness. There is more dark than light. Where there is shine, there is always more shadow. And now there was too much shadow and too little light.
Luna took her hands off of the highway. She balanced herself on the side, breathing the fresh air. “Soon,” she told herself. But more memories hit her, like someone had thrown a rock at her soul.
For once, there was actually a good memory. As if contrast came in and turned the eyes black on the monster and the rest of it white. As if there was more brightness in the world. Luna had friends. Yes, of course she had friends. Everyone has a friend they just haven’t met yet. Or maybe fate wants them to wait a little longer and make them crash into each other at the perfect moment.
Luna had two friends, a boy and a girl. All three of them were greatly associated with each other. Naturally, the boy, Matthew, should’ve been the leader of the group. “Not in a million years!” The girl, Sarah, had exclaimed, whipping her short brown hair defiantly. Luna had smiled and grown on Sarah a great lot. Her two friends mostly argued a lot, but sometimes Luna would come in and part them up. But she mostly went with the flow. She was very secluded and decided that they were just doing their thing.
Those were the best friends anyone could ask for. They were two kids she could slap on the shoulder and call “friend”. She had always wanted one of those when she was little, so she had been overjoyed to earn one. Two, in fact. But now she wouldn’t see them again.
Her body started to move. She didn’t want to fall now. She had friends to get back to. She didn’t want to die.
But she was already falling.
A young girl about the age of 15 was found dead under Highway 5 who was identified as, according to her parents and the police, Luna Parry. It is unknown how she had died, but it was determined as suicide, according to evidence found where she had fallen. Luna had a backpack with her, according to the
investigators, and that she had a journal full of horrifying notes about how “life was unfair” and “the beast of life will come to get her”. Case taken by Robert Gohn. Maria Parry and Joe Parry arrested for child abuse for a few days, according to what the young teenage student had wrote. It seems Luna had traveled for more than two weeks to get to the highway, where she jumped. No further significance of why she had fallen in such a particular spot or what the “beast of life” was.
BY SKYLAR VIENE, SPANAWAY LAKE HIGH SCHOOL
Bethel School District
The first note is played. A deep low note from a bass that expresses the inescapable pain of loneliness. The longing call for a companion who has yet to answer. It floats like a phantom lost in the wind. Then it stops, having vanished just as easily as it appeared.
The next note: a crisp, clean sound from a violin that subtly turns into a tune that tries to soothe the aching cry of the first, beckon it from its cave of solitude, and end its solo dancing. She begs the bass to hear her song and bask in its beauty, the only price is to save her from her tower at the edge of a still, silent sea. But soon, it too starts to end. Feeling wounded and heartbroken and rejected she curls up into herself, leaving only a quiet echo as evidence that she was there at all.
The bass being a cautious creature that it is, answers with an almost inaudible response. The violin had taken him by surprise, and now he wasn’t sure how to respond to the genuine care she seemed to feel towards his pain. He played a tune that was guarded, like a vault in the deepest dungeon of a stronghold that housed an entire army. It was the unyielding clash of steel against chainmail: tough, brutal, and protective. The violin having heard his response wasn’t frightened, she was just happy to finally have freedom.
For the walls of her tower to finally crash and crumble into a sea that was no longer still and no longer silent. She played her song for the bass, now a piece of joyous movement that welcomed him to come and sing with her. And slowly but surely he did. The clambering clang of metal halted, and in its place was a gentler more compassionate tune. It molded to the violin’s music and amplified it into something stronger.
Now it was no longer an unorchestrated mess sound. It was a gorgeous melody that blended into a harmony so perfect that none would ever find music as pure and beautiful as theirs. They were so enchanted, so engulfed in their newfound love that they didn’t notice the steady, pulsing beat of drums. But the thunderous crash of cymbals quickly awoke them from their trance. Their song started to morph into something tainted with worry. Worry that quickly become fear as they realized who had appeared. The grand organ, the king of the land, followed by a host of all sorts. Trumpets and trombones blaring their displeasure at being so close to a common bass. Violas and cellos still teary eyed and crying about the betrayal of their queen. Clarinets and flutes and drums and cellos not wanting the high nobility’s attention. The grand organ watched it all from the side. He watched as the trumpets and trombones belittled and degraded the bass for his lowly status. He watched the violas and cellos screech and scorn the violin, his queen, for falling out of love with him and for refusing to sing to him. And he watched the bass and the violin frantically try to reach each other through the onslaught of noise, to continue their song of love.
But the disdain in the air was tangible and impenetrable, the pound of the drums too insistent, the deafening complaints of the trumpets too loud, a whole symphony of chaos arriving at its crescendo! Neither the bass nor the violin could come close to the full overwhelming rage of an orchestra. Their voices were drowned out by the unrelenting typhoon of hatred, betrayal, devotion, and lust. They were being cleaved apart by the king and his forces. And it was when the violin could no longer hear the bass’s song that she let loose a cry that could shatter souls. Everything fell still. Her heartache, her sorrow, her desperation, all of it could be felt in a single note.
But the king remained unmoved. And so, with the violin still pleading for freedom, he and his forces marched back to the kingdom. And when the violin’s voice finally started to fade into the distance, the last note was played. A deep low note from a bass that expresses the inescapable pain of loneliness.
2019 Writing Contest Winners!
BY ISABELLE TAGUE, GRAHAM-KAPOSWIN HIGH SCHOOL
The damp night sky slithered through the clouds, banishing the few remaining wisps of
daylight. A heavy fog settles in the town, mingling with the lingering smog that never seems to
evaporate. The thick brume permeates my clothes, adhering them to my clammy skin as I toss
the garbage into the can. Peering into the dark, my heart skips a beat as I see a figure standing in
the yard - but a couple of blinks later, the figure fades away. The last refill of pills I’d gotten was
ages ago. I need another dose. Shivering, I hastily walk back to the house, closing the rickety
garage door behind me. I push through another door, which gives way to the living room - once
vibrant and cozy, now dreary and dank, plagued by the mildew creeping through cracks in the
walls. Plopping onto the loveseat, I run my hand through my wild hair. Beside me, my father
snores, lulled to sleep by brandy and television. Sighing, I change the station and gather the
debris strewn at my father’s feet. After tidying up, I pour the last of the cat food in Meg’s bowl.
Purring, she rubs against my leg and follows me back to the sofa, curling up on my lap as I lower
the television volume a few notches. Waking my father when he’s in this state is like asking for a
beating. Oftentimes, I wish I had a sister. Someone to share this world with, other than a boozy
father and an irritable cat.
The television flickers, a manufacturer's error that got my father the television set at
half-price. On the screen, the news anchor babbles on about missing girls in the area. Rubbing
my eyes, I turn it off. Our area is known for the mysterious kidnappings of teenage girls. All the
victims are between 12 and 16 years of age. I’ve never been worried. Our house looks
uninhabited as it is, and I can’t see anyone slogging through the overgrown weeds and muck to
reach our abode. The kidnappings are a mere inconvenience at this point - it’s the only thing ever
on the television. Their parents go on the screen and blubber, begging for their daughters back.
They are never returned.
Once, however, a girl did escape. She turned up in the woods surrounding the town, hair
shaved, with an ‘S’ branded right in the middle of her forehead. She was mumbling incoherently;
no one could make out what she was saying. She passed away in the following week, of
trauma-related complications. We don’t know what happens to the girls; and I don’t intend to
Shaking out an old, moth-eaten blanket, I drape it over my unconscious father before
climbing the creaky stairs to my bedroom. I wait at the top for Meg, but she refuses to come,
planting herself at the garage-entrance door, hissing voraciously. Muttering under my breath, I
retreat to the bathroom. Meg hops onto the counter, surprising me. I swear I can still hear her
hissing at the door downstairs. I brush my teeth and swish with the faucet’s metallic water before
climbing into bed. My room consists of a mattress on the floor, a single, dusty blanket, and a
faded poster clinging to my chipped wall. If I squint, I can still make out Freddie Mercury’s face.
A love of the band was the only thing my mother and I had in common. I like to think she gave
me the poster; in reality it was just another scrap she’d left behind when she left. Forgotten, like
She couldn’t take the abuse anymore.
Tying my auburn hair into a messy bun, I flip off the light switch and close my weary
eyes, falling into a fitful sleep.
I awake, my neck and torso throbbing in pain. My whole body aches, in fact. Rubbing my
eyes, I roll over in bed and set my feet on the concrete floor.
I open my eyes and gasp - I am not in my room.
Cracked, concrete floors sit beneath my feet; the ‘bed’ I’ve rolled out of, is actually just a
jumble of pillows tossed in a heap, a blanket atop them. The walls seem weary and worn,
plagued by mildew and speckled with stains. A draft whistles through the rafters and I shiver,
wrapping the blanket around me. Examining myself, I realize I’m clothed only in my pajamas -
my shoes sit at the door to the room.
Door. Room. Pajamas.
Not my house. Not my bed. Not my walls.
I’ve been kidnapped.
In shock, I just sit there, bewildered that I slept through the whole thing. Perhaps they
knocked me unconscious; that would explain the gaps in my memory. How I got here, where I
Oddly enough, I’m not frightened. There’s something unusually familiar about this place.
It’s comforting, even. Standing up, a groan escapes my lips. Pain radiates throughout my
midsection, accompanied by a disagreeable aching in my left leg. I hobble towards the door, and
begin to turn the handle. To my amazement, it is unlocked, and the door creaks open.
I begin to stick my head out, when I hear voices. Shutting the door much too loudly and
bolting back to the bed, I cover my ears, trying to block them out. They are shrill and persistent;
it seems that the tighter I press my hands to my ears, the louder they become. I can’t make out
what they’re saying. Soon enough they pass, and I make my way towards the door.
The peculiar thing about the whole ordeal, is that I never heard any footsteps.
Opening the door for the second time I slip out, leaving my shoes, in fear of the noise
they’d make. Slinking along the floor in my socks, I run my hand along the wall. I make my way
through the halls, passing door after door. A nagging notion in the back of my head tells me no ,
what I’m looking for - whatever that may be - is not behind those doors. My feet will guide the
I stop in front of a ladder, which descends into what appears to be a dimly lit cellar.
I suppose there’s only one way to find out.
As I climb down, my hands grip the ladder as if it was completely natural. When I come
to the missing rung, I had anticipated it, like it was already mapped out in my memory. A chill
runs through my spine - something’s not right.
I reach the last rung and drop onto the floor. The lights are off, and I get the feeling that
the switch is nearby. Feeling around on the wall, I find it and flip it. Fluorescent lights flood the
room, and a gasp escapes from around the corner, followed by aggressive hushing. I creep
around the corner, and stumble into a cluster of frightened girls, all huddled together.
Shaved heads. Branded foreheads. Bruises and weariment cloud their faces.
These are the kidnapped girls.
Which means I am one of them.
Almost unintentionally, I move my hand to my forehead, wincing as my fingers graze the
skin. But, to my surprise, I am not met with pain. There’s no branding. Cautiously I reach to my
scalp - but rather than feel prickly stubble against my fingertips, my hand becomes tangled in my
I furrow my unscathed brow as I wonder why I haven’t been branded like the others.
Sinking to my knees, I crawl towards them. It seems that the closer I get, the further they slink
into each other, as if they want to stay as far from me as possible.
I decide to risk it. “Why is there an ‘S’ on your forehead?” I whisper, inching closer. I
wait a moment, before the smallest one speaks up.
“Because you told us we are your sisters. You didn’t want us to forget”. She trembles as
Confused, I ask, “Who took you?”
Her eyes widen.
“You took us.”
My breath catches as I freeze, my mind spinning.
The familiarity I felt.
I'm not branded.
My head isn’t shaved.
Realization crosses my face.
When I was younger, I used to leave in the night and wander, but I could never remember
where I went. At first we thought it was sleepwalking. That’s when the doctor figured it out.
Multiple personality disorder.
My medication. When was my last refill?
“I-” I try to choke out something, anything.
I look at the group of girls huddled before me. They don't look scared anymore.
They see an opportunity to take their lives back.
And they intend to take it.
The last thing I remember before the horde envelopes me, is the last thing my mother told
me before she left.
My only monster is your father. I can run away from that. You can’t run away from
yours. You have to be stronger than them.
BY ALANA NELSON, EATONVILLE MIDDLE SCHOOL
They were stark opposites. Death, dark and terrifying, and her sister Life, so sweet and so beautiful.
Nothing grew in Death’s garden, but thorns and black roses, sap falling from the bark of the plants like tears weeping for the life they might once have had.
Everything grew in the garden of Life, from sweet fruits to bright blooms, each reaching up to the bright sun with joy.
In the willow bower by the creek, in Life’s realm, the two sisters played their endless game of chess.
Life, perched on a flowery swing of living, leafy vines, was beautiful as a summer rose, her eyes as green as fresh grass and her hair a flow of liquid bronze. Her smile was brighter than the sun, but now those lips were pursed in concentration.
Life reached out a slender hand, her skin golden from countless lives spent under the bright sun, and slid a piece - a marble knight - forward on the board of diamond and onyx.
Death sat in a deep chair, her face veiled in shadows. Had one been able to see her, they would have looked upon a face as corpse-pale, skeletal face, her cheeks sunken and her ebony hair dull. She was beautiful as Life, though; in a terrifying, ghastly way, but beautiful nonetheless. She raised a black eyebrow, examining the board with eyes like swirling sapphires. “That was a poor choice, sister,” she purred, capturing the knight with a bishop of her own and a swirl of her black silk gown as she knocked it off the table.
It shattered against the polished wooden floor, the shards capturing the light and sending it spinning in dizzying flecks around the bower. Life’s emerald eyes widened at the sudden noise, and she pressed her ruby lips together.
“Why, you -” she exclaimed, then cut herself off abruptly. Having nothing else to do, Life flicked a pawn up a space, determined to get it to the end and reclaim a piece she had lost early in the game - her queen, taken by Death’s knight and a foolish, ill-thought through turn.
Death shrugged and reached out, the black silk of her sleeve knocking several pieces out of their rightful places in a seemingly clumsy maneuver. Life caught an obsidian pawn as it tumbled toward the ground to save it from the same fate that had befallen her knight.
“Why, I truly am sorry!” exclaimed Death, righting several pieces. As Life straightened from where she had bent under the table to catch the pawn, which she returned to the boards, she narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“Death never apologizes,” she said cooly. “Why do you now?”
Death smirked, the expression both alluring and repulsive on her pale face. “There’s a first time for everything, sister,” she replied. Life just shook her head, stands of her auburn hair falling across her face. “It’s your turn, and please don’t upset the board again,” she said, a touch of sarcasm to the words.
In the commotion, she didn’t notice Death’s queen two spaces from where it had sat before.
“Why, certainly,” Death replied, satisfied Life had not noticed anything different, and moved the queen forward a square - a position that should not have been possible had Death not cheated.
“That, I believe, is checkmate,” she purred, letting out a tinkling laugh at the expression of rage that crossed Life’s face.
She stared at the board, eyes whipping back and forth frantically as though determined to find an escape for her king. Then she stilled.
“Me?” Death replied, her face the epitome of shocked innocence. “I would do no such thing!”
Life shook her head, disgusted. “I should have known. You always cheat, don’t you?”
Death said nothing, only folded her hands in her lap and stared at Life. Life stared back, blue eyes digging into green.
Then she rose to her feet and brushed past Death, storming toward the archway that led into her bright realm. “I refuse to be cheated in my own home,” she snapped.
Then she stopped in the doorway suddenly and asked, her voice quiet and trembling, “Why is it that everyone loves me and hates you, sister?”
Death had risen to her feet as well and replied in an equally low voice, “Because you are a beautiful lie, and I am the painful truth.”
2018 Writing Contest Winners!
BY ISABELLE TAGUE, FRONTIER MIDDLE SCHOOL
Eighteen months. That’s equivalent to 1.5 years. 13,140 hours, or 788,401 minutes. 788,401 minutes and one second. Two. Three. Four-
My heart pounds as I let the pencil fall from my trembling grasp, re-reading the calculations. Tears well in my eyes- yet I clench my teeth, forcing them away. I don’t cry anymore. Worthless tears won’t bring him home. I slam my fist against the desk, scattering all my useless crap about. His paper boat tumbles to the floor. Sobs threaten to penetrate my chest but I hold them at bay, sliding off my stool onto the hardwood floor. Pulling my knees to my chest, I wrap my arms tightly around them, until I can
almost imagine it’s a hug. But I don't do that anymore either. No physical contact at all.
I sit there for another minute, rocking back and forth. Drawing in three deep breaths, I force myself to stand up, the hem of my shirt catching on a small nail protruding from the loose floorboard. Underneath, lies the last of his belongings- I couldn’t let them go. Ambling down the stairs to the kitchen and snagging an apple and a crayon, I turn and creep down the hall until I reach his room. Trying the door handle-
only to find it locked- I pull a hairpin from my curls and insert it into the keyhole, wiggling it around until the lock mechanism clicks. Slipping into the room and gently closing the door behind me, I collapse to my knees and tip my head back against the dresser- this and the desk being the only decor left in the room. They took everything else with them when they filed in one day, wearing strange masks, and bunchy white suits. They took everything he’d touched away, and never brought it back. They wouldn’t let me in- not even after they took away the stretcher covered with the white cloth. When I asked, they
told me it was him. My brother. But I simply told them the truth- no, it was not. They were incorrect, I said. My brother couldn’t be under there, because he was already gone. He’d run away, I would whisper, eyes darting side to side. He’s run away, like we always planned. Except he forgot me on accident- that’s why I have to wait right here for him to come back, so he can take me too. The baggy-clothed men would merely fake a smile and pat me on the head, as if I was a child. But seven is far past childhood- that’s
what he always told me.
“Annie,” he’d whisper to me, “to be seven, means you get to have adventures; to
go places and meet new people.” He’d tell me tales about how he was going to run away- and he’d take me too, now that I was seven. He even made me my very own adventure vest, sewn from his old Boy Scout outfit. He and I would race out to the backyard, me in my vest and him in his baseball cap. We made maps of where we would go once we ran away together- and we hid them under the loose floorboard in my bedroom. Except one day, we were out in the yard, when he started to cough. He did that a lot- but this time, some of the strawberry jam from our PB&J sammies had come back up I suppose- pooling on the ground and making him sway.
Mother wouldn’t let him outside after that, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. Every other day, a man in white with a funny crooked nose would visit him in his room, then come out and whisper to mother. Sometimes however, when I got bored of playing by myself, I’d sneak into his room and sit by his bed as he whispered me stories (quietly so mother didn’t hear), occasionally having to pause to wipe strawberry jam from his lips. One day after I snuck into the room, he asked me to grab some paper. A big thick stack, he’d instructed. So I did, and he did something wondrous-he made me my very own boat! I loved it so much, that I begged and begged until he taught me to make one all by myself. He then leaned over to me and whispered, “When we run away, if we ever get separated, just send a paper boat down the creek, and I’ll find it and come back to you-underst--” he was interrupted by lots of coughing, and red jam spilled all over him- onto the floor, and all over me. His eyes widened, and he desperately lunged for my hand. But I had grown frightened and drew back, scurrying out of the room, tears streaming down my cheeks. I ran to my room and slammed the door, crumpling on my bed. I sobbed and sobbed, terrified that mother would find out I’d been in his room.
She found me later on and sat beside me on the bed. She stroked my hair and cried with me for some reason, even though she was the reason for my tears.
We cried some more, then she enveloped me in a stifling hug, not noticing the jam stains splattered across my shirt. She squeezed her eyes shut, and told me he was gone- that my brother had gone to a better place. I was so shocked that I simply stopped crying, jumping off the bed and sprinting to his room- but the door was locked and I couldn’t get in. So I just sat, waiting for him to come out.
But he didn’t. He had run away without me, it seemed. And had locked the door behind him. He must’ve told mother he was going somewhere better, I suppose. And I’ll bet he was gonna take me with- if only I’d had the guts to take his hand. This was my fault. So when the baggy-clothed men showed up, I corrected them. He ran away, so no, he wasn’t under some blanket. And after they patted my head and whisked his belongings away, I grabbed paper and began making as many boats as I could- writing messages on each of them; that I’d still like to run away, and that I was still at home, so he should come and get me now. I ran to the creek and sent them free, one by one.
I awoke the next morning, but he hadn’t come yet. So I made another, and sent it down the river. Each day I did this, while gradually pushing the rest of my family away. If I had grabbed his hand, I would’ve been with him now. If I hadn’t spent so much time crying, I could’ve caught up with him. So now I don't allow contact or crying because I’d thrown away my chance, and I don’t need to risk missing another one.
Eighteen months. Equivalent to 547 days- and each day I’ve sent another boat
down the river for my brother, waiting for the day he comes back to take me away.
I’m still waiting-
And will as long as it takes.
Whiskey and Lemonade
BY EMILY HOPPE, OLYMPIA HIGH SCHOOL
“I’ve never liked this time of day,” he mutters, in the same aimlessly bitter way that I’m used to and no longer attempt to challenge. He gingerly lowers himself into the wooden lawn chair with a breathy sigh and a flicker of eyelids that indicate the simple task as something far more difficult than it should be. He doesn’t complain. In the time that I’ve known him he’s only ever complained about trivial things, never serious ones.
The chair has sat on this spot as long as I can remember, about ten yards back from the porch and just under the apple blossom that has been here even longer. It’s old and withered with a handmade warmth that only my grandfather’s woodwork possesses. A couple boards are wiggly and if you press too hard on the left armrest it’ll squeak in protest, but otherwise it’s as sturdy and practical as it ever was. There’s no second chair and I don’t expect there to be, just the spindle-legged side table onto which he places a drink and yesterday’s newspaper. I take a seat in the grass, cross legged, and ignore the dry tendrils that try to scratch at my legs. The grass is different here, more compacted and with thicker blades, different than the soft and skinny ones back home. I think they developed that way to conserve water.
I glance around at the sky, which has taken on a distinct yellow and orange sheen in the time since we left the house. The few clouds are touched with a bright and nameless pinkish yellow color on one side and the area surrounding the sun is vivid and blinding, though parts of the rest of the sky retain their baby blue hue. The grass and trees look almost aflame on the side facing the sun, turned the same color that candlelight turns paper, but they’re still green and dark on other. The apple blossom casts shifting grey patterns across my legs, reminiscent of lace, or coral. It’s stunning.
“Why not? Everybody likes golden hour, even Grandma.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment and I wonder if he even heard me. I know his hearing is going, fraying a bit at the edges and worn in the middle, just like his memory, though he won’t admit to either. It’s a point of contention between my parents and him, and though I try to remain on the sidelines I know that hearing aids would make his life a little easier. Unfortunately there no such thing as memory aids, though I think he’d be too stubborn to use them if there were. He shrugs and takes a sip of his whiskey and I follow suit with my lemonade, waiting patiently.
“It’s not how I remember it.”
He says it with the same childish defiance that he uses when he talks about politics and before he finishes the last word I’m ready to argue. It’s dumb to expect something to look the same in your head as it does in reality, selfish to assume that the world will bend to our preferences. Best appreciate what’s in front of you, enjoy beauty without expectation. I prepare to tell him this, but when I look back he isn’t watching the horizon anymore and isn’t seeing how the sunrise burns through grandma’s poppies with enough ferocity to turn them translucent. He can’t even see how my lemonade has been turned amber by the bright sky. Instead he’s looking at the sudoku puzzle in the Arts section of the New York Times, writing in a seven. I breathe out through my teeth and try to remember that he’s allowed to be both right and wrong at the same time. That’s the privilege of the elderly. Of those who built our livelihoods. Of the dying.
“Yeah, I guess it isn’t.”
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BY DENISE GONZALES, LOCHBURN MIDDLE SCHOOL
Fissures. Valleys. Canyons. Earth always, and always will have cracks, my it be big or small. Some disappear after a while but most linger. There's actually an old folk's tale about how each crack symbolizes a person's heartbreak; in a way, Earth is the book that documents the history of lost loves. Some say that the gods created Earth this way to make life interesting, others say it's merely impossible and coincidental. Eventually, more and more people started to believe as more 'coincidences' happened and generations and generations believed it ever since. The government, however, is still skeptical; they say that there are too many variables to consider: sudden earthquakes, sudden gaps on roads, the possibility of something on the other side. They enlisted scientists to figure things out. All that did was create more questions. However, they did find a connection between the size of a crack and the person it's linked to. The more damaged the person is, the wider the crack. Alarmed, they built a machine that predicts which people can create the most damage based on personal data and kept tabs on them. However, it failed to predict the Grand Canyon. After all, how broken would a person have to be to create a hole that size?
You've always found the idea of soulmates utterly ridiculous. The concept of cracks actually being broken hearts even more so; you vaguely remember your father saying the Earth is connected to everyone — that it feels what we feel. You find these ironic considering humans have always taken nature for granted. A lot of people have tried to convince you otherwise, your friends, your foster family, your 6th-grade teacher, but you refuse to make the same mistakes he did. You hate everything about love — it reminds you too much — until you met her.
You were meeting your friends at the Flaming Heaven Cafe for a surprise, it already unsettles you. Your friends aren't exactly the "good kids." Nothing good ever comes from their surprises, usually ending with a trip to the hospital of a night in jail.
"Come on, you've been working too hard on that job of yours," he said. "Besides you won't leave me with those animals, will you?"
"They're not animals, and if they are, that would make you one too," That earned you a punch, "I'm only coming since I have nothing else better to do than babysit you guys."
"Sure, keep telling yourself that. You know you love us."
"Nah, I'm pretty sure I love my job more," Another punch, " I better not regret this."
You instantly regretted saying those words feeling like you jinxed it. In the corner of the cafe, you see your friends setting up a stage. Of course. You should have known this would be another plan to get you to sing. At least this is better than the time when your friends somehow got everyone to sing spontaneously for three days. You really needed new friends. "I really hate you guys, you know," That caught their attention.
"Oh come on. Do you always have to be in a bad mood?"
"Only when I'm around idiots."
"You wound me."
They merely rolled their eyes and continued setting up. After spending so much time with you, they got used to your sarcasm seeing as that's how you show affection. Honestly, they would've been more worried if you started being nice. Humoring them, you started going to the stage."That's the spirit! Someone get a camera! We need to get video evidence of the royal highness singing."
Ignoring your rowdy friends, you began to strum a familiar tune — the one your father used to sing to you as a lullaby. As you sang, more and more customers came piling in, but you paid them no mind -- all except one. It bothered you — you're used to shutting everything and everyone out especially when you sing — but there's something about her that draws you. It's not her golden hair that seemed to shine like the sun, not her lips that curls into a beautiful smile, it isn't because she looked like the incarnate of beauty and grace. It's her eyes. Those familiar blue eyes you felt yourself drowning in. You were so busy staring, you didn't realize you finished the song until you heard the applause. You turned away blushing, both from the attention and the shy smile she sent you. You didn't see her again until she came up to you. It freaked your friends out when you sported a big, dopey smile for the rest of the week. Maybe, just maybe, there are such things as soulmates.
You were never supposed to fall in love. It was a simple job: go on a few dates, make them fall in love with you, break their heart, create chaos. You weren't supposed to fall in love with your target, be jealous because of them. It's your family's fault. All you had to do was break the heart of the person deemed the most dangerous. You expected big, scary, even evil, but you didn't expect a sarcastic puppy. You thought you convince your parents to stop. You were an idiot to think you could ever find love, not after what you've done. The lives you destroyed. You should have never walked in but you did. You could have refused to do it but you didn't. Now your whole world is falling apart.
"We have to do this, I'm sorry," That's what they said but you know better — they don't care. You've always been a pawn in their plan, "It was doomed anyways."
You struggled against them, this might be for the best but that doesn't mean you won't fight. It all happened so fast, first, you were fighting now you're lying on the ground bleeding. Maybe, you'll see your love again. Closing your eyes, the ground catching your tears as the wind carries your last few words,
"It's over, I'm sorry."
"I'm glad I met you."
Denise is from Lakewood, Washington. Her influences include Rick Riodan, Marissa Meyer, and hearing individual stories by aspiring authors. Her favorite genres are myths, fantasy and adventure. Denise loves writing, and especially enjoys creating different characters and situations for others to enjoy, creating new worlds and being able to control situations, the feeling that she is IN her own world (one she can control), bringing her ideas to live, and making people cry by capturing feelings and events that touch her readers.
BY ALYSSA YOUNG, LAKES HIGH SCHOOL
There are many stories in the world. So many in fact, only one man could ever know them all. His heart was so big and his dreams so true that Mother Earth asked him to watch over her while she slept, and to protect all the wonders of the night. They called him the man in the moon. He stayed to his post, way in the sky, and watched over all the night creatures. He gave them all hope.
The moon was overhead, one winter's eve, when he looked down to see a little girl alone in the forest. Her eyes were bandaged and she carried a stick, as if to cut down the entirety of her foes, viciously swinging back and fourth, this way and that, decimating small trees and shrubs until she had cut a circle of carnage. She fell to her knees, scraping them on the harsh foliage, weeping. The girl was terribly lost and had no hope of finding home, for the young girl was blind.
The moon, being so high, saw the girls father searching for her, not far off. The man took pity upon them both and took the circle of carnage and healed it, filling the space with luscious moss and never fading forget-me-nots and echinacea cone-flowers. The moss melted from the pool and dug through the forest underbrush to make the girl a path to her father. The moon whispered to the girl and told her where to find the moss and travel safely. So the girl rose, and with her stick gently bouncing on the spongy forest floor, the moon guided her home.
The moon returned one night, months after he first saw the girl, he again found himself over her grove. He saw her there, lying on her back, covered eyes facing him. Her hair glowed silver and gold in his light, and she twirled a wild bloom that he had given her. The warm glow shown brightly in the tears that not even bandaging could hide. She sat up and tore the cloth from her face. She felt the glow on her lids and lashes, and when the tears fell, they looked like liquid light. The moon smiled down at her in hopes of consoling her sadness, but she could not see him.
Nights came and went, the moon racing to catch his brother, and the whole world gawked when he finally did. As he passed Mother Earth’s other sun, he looked down in hopes the girl would be proud that he had again caught his brother, but she stood in the grove with a young man, not many years her senior. The moon saw the boy gently brush the not so little girl on the forehead with his lips. The moon gave them his blessing during his moment of triumph, and passed overhead in a great flurry of light.
Again the moon passed the grove, many moons later, and he saw the girl kneeling in the moss. The girl was no longer a girl but a beautiful young woman in a light cotton dress. She knelt in front of a babe swaddled in pink and white. The woman wanted the moon to share in her moment, so he smiled as he passed over her with a silvery bright warmth, and blessed her child, too.
The moon returned every month to the grove, when he was his brightest, to shine upon the woman and her daughter. She would smile upon feeling the quick silver dance on her skin and over her blind eyes, and her daughter squirmed and eventually the moon showed her the way home, too. The moon would whisper sweet nothings on the wind, to the woman and she loved him, too, though she never saw him.
The woman one night did not return, and the moon, not seeing her, assumed he was wrong about what day it must be. He came every night to see the woman, but she did not come.
Finally, eves later, he saw her in the grove, lying in a long box of dark wood lined with white satin and silk. Her hair was long and silver, her dress a soft white. A bouquet of sturdy forget-me-nots and echinacea cone-flowers lay upon her chest. Her eyes lay open and uncovered, looking forever at the open sky. The moon wept for his little ecliptic girl, whom he had saved from the forest so many, many moons ago.
Alyssa is from Lakewood, Washington. Her influences include Rick Riodan, Frank Beddor, Ally Condie, Brandon Mull, and J.K. Rowling. Her 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Tillman, also inspired her to do a lot of writing and encouraged her to just be herself. What she most enjoys about writing is putting her words on the page that another person can read -- She creates a lens for another person to look through and see a whole other world. About COA West 2017: "It's amazing that two of the people who have influenced me so much will actually be here at this conference!"