Win a Kobo eReader

This is your chance to share your story – a memoir, or the story of a family member. Write a non-fiction essay describing a personal experience. You’ve got 1,500 words or less, so make them count!

Stories may be submitted in a branch or here by April 30.

The first prize is a Kobo ereader. Runners up will receive bag of CCPL goodies and a journal.

Your stories become the property of the Clermont County Public Library and will not be returned after the judging.

Need some help or inspiration?

* Books about authorship
* Creative writing
* Short story writing
* Our Williamsburg Branch has a weekly writing group.

15 Comments
  1. The Inadvertent Teacher
    By Jennifer Robbers

    People file in and out of our daily lives as quickly as one can say “hello”. Some stay close for many years and never leave an impression. And then there are others whom you’ve only conversed with for a short time that stay stamped in the mind forever. I met such a person; she came and went with the winter winds. Although Sasha’s time in my life was only a couple of months during high school, I learned about hardship and self-destruction from an expert.

    A sulky pale girl draped in a long black leather coat ascended into the belly of the yellow bus when the light was still hidden from the waking world. I made the observation of her existence and forgot her until the bus ride home. She sat talking about several loud bands – the kind your mother hates – and that’s when I joined the conversation. We chatted about live shows and CD collections. She was hardened against society; she hated rules and rarely followed them, and felt that anarchy would create a perfect world. Her ideals and morals were the opposite of the “norm,” just for the sake of being different. I’d be lying if I said I thought I had found any kinship with Sasha, but she was searching for a friend. She had just moved to Louisville a month before and was already on high school number five and it was just after the New Year. She cut her classes, smoked a little too much and had a boyfriend five years her senior. At fourteen, she herself was closer to a child than even I had been at that age.

    I was going through a period of adjustment because the closest friendship of my life was quickly disappearing down the proverbial drain. He had hurt me just enough to make it impossible to say, “Let’s just forget about it,” so I was ready to talk to someone new. I was ready for new friendships; I wanted to meet different people. Sasha fit the bill so to speak. Her home life was much different from my own, her mother was not in the picture anymore; she lived with her father. They had moved to Louisville from Indiana, selling everything they owned to come down here so her dad could take a dream job managing a restaurant. Her father was not a kind man and I’m fairly certain that he hit her. I’m sure she feared him. Her life was never easy, but she was almost fun to hang around. A plan for escaping school or fooling her father kept her brain cranking at all times. Quick with her tongue, she never let anyone get by without returning fire.

    She and I often landed at the local mall, wandering penniless through the high-priced record stores and the food court. One evening as we were waiting for my mom to pick us up, she offered me a cigarette. I had never tried one before and the idea was scintillating while in Sasha’s consequence -free presence. They were strong cigarettes like an old man might have smoked. Of course great coughing ensued, but Sasha didn’t bat an eyelash. She said that I would get used to the rushing pain and it would soon be replaced with great relaxation. It was odd to be receiving such advice from someone two years younger than me. Sasha was a world apart from anyone I’d ever known. I saw her living her life like a person with a death wish. The cost of her actions did not add up in her wondrous realm, there were no punishments. So she got caught smoking in the bathroom, who cares? She’d come to school the next day with another pack. Watching someone care so little for the world and people around them is very scary.

    Embittered from the fall of my deepest friendship, Sasha had offered me a sarcastic look at the world that I could revel in. Sasha helped me to realize that the problems I had, while valid and painful in their own right, were nothing compared to some of the alternatives: wonderful prospects like abuse, low self-esteem, and shallow friends. She made me grateful for the good things in my life and the possibilities that were held in my future. Sasha and I spent time together both in school and out. I learned that she was a lot to handle. She liked to steal stuff and just stir up trouble, which was very much unlike my style of mallrat/Denny’s fun. She definitely wasn’t a great influence, but I stayed with her anyway. But by April, only two months after arriving, Sasha announced that the restaurant that had hired her father was losing its lease. Just as quickly as she had arrived, Sasha was moving once again.

    I have not heard from or spoken to Sasha since she left. I think it is better that way. Not to say I wouldn’t mind hearing about her life and what-not, but until I do, she remains a flash in my memory of a girl that was trying to come of age just like I struggle to everyday. She was reminder of the anger and sorrow that burdens so many young people and of which I am free.

    My life is far from perfect, but I see her dreamless world and I want to cry for her. She has no idea how much she touched my life and even if I told her she would only reply with a clever remark and go on about her world. I learned lessons from Sasha that she will never know she taught; lessons about my strengths, my weaknesses, my terrors and joys, and myself. I look at myself with new eyes because Sasha was in a downward spiral that I would have quite possibly followed if I had not seen its effects first hand. Thank you Sasha, wherever you are.

  2. What a Difference a Year Makes
    by Tom Callahan

    What a difference a year makes. In October of 2009 we were planning for Halloween without a care in the world; October of 2010 we were burying my daughter. Although it seems like I just gave away the ending of the story, I really didn’t. You see everyone eventually dies at the end. Cinderella died, Prince Charming died, Goldilocks and the 3 bears died but their stories weren’t about their deaths but about a part of their lives when something interesting happened. That is what I’d like to do here. This story is not really about the death of my daughter, but about the courage she showed during the fight and the people whose lives she helped change.
    My daughter was Amy Machelle Callahan Meranda, she died October 2, 2010. From the time she found out she had cancer on November 18, 2009 until just weeks before she died she kept a blog detailing the events as they happened. Many of her posts were just updates of her treatments as she went through surgery and chemo therapy, but others were poignant reflections of the changes she went through. Unfortunately I don’t have room enough to share all the insights that she shared during those eleven short months.
    Some of the posts meant the most to those people in her life, for instance she wrote one titled “My Rocks” where she talks about the four most important women in her life; her mother, grandmother and two of her aunts. I’m glad she took the time she had to tell those closest to her how much they meant to her, I know how seldom I have actually done that.
    One of the more touching posts was called “Loss of Innocence” and was about when she told her 8 year old son that she had cancer. Amy wrote “He knows that I am going to have to go back to the hospital and stay a long time each time I go back. We did not talk about me dying because he didn’t ask but at some point if he does ask, I am going to be as honest as possible with him. I never want to make a promise to him that I may not be able to keep. I feel like my job as a mom is to protect him but at the same time prepare him for what may happen. It is a very fine line to walk. I just feel like he had to grow up a little bit today and I hate that. You are only little once and kids should get to enjoy it and not have to worry about adult things like their parents being sick. I hope I did the right thing.” I believe that she did.
    When you’re dealing with the medical system things seem to run on a different clock. When I hear a nurse say the doctor will be right in I am reminded of my kids saying they will be right down to start on their homework (as soon as their thumbs fall off from playing the video games). In other words dealing with the medical system is a lesson in patience. Amy was never a patient person, but her attitude changed. Here’s what she wrote “I am always planning and looking forward two steps so all this waiting is hard for me. Waiting has also been a blessing for everything that it has taught me. I used to think life will be better when…or life will be easier when…but it doesn’t get better or easier it is just different. Sometimes I spend so much time planning for what is coming I forget to enjoy what is happening now. I will be 29 years old this year and I have accomplished a lot in the past ten years but the whole time I always felt like I was waiting to “start” my life until I reached some step. What I didn’t know is my life “started” without me and I needed to enjoy what I had. I still have plans and dreams for the future but I know the important things are those that happen along the way to reaching those goals. Not everything can be planned.”
    I think the post that made me proud just to know Amy much less to be able to say that’s my daughter was titled Just Another Monday. Here it is in its entirety:
    “It is just another Monday, just another doctor’s appt., just another poke and a stick, just another lab test and blood counts, just another infusion and drugs, and just another day that I have won the fight against cancer that day. Just another day turns into just another week, and just another month, and just another year. This fight has taught me many things…
    I know that everyone deals with things in their own way and in their own time. I was lucky because it was easy for me to move past the denial and anger and go straight into fight mode. I’m not saying that there aren’t times that I feel some of each of those emotions but I have always been able to move past them. I know others have a harder time. I was with you as you worked through the denial so I will be there too as you work through the anger. I will be waiting silently on the other side. I will forgive you for the choices that you made along the way and know that your anger was out of fear, for that is the hardest emotion to face. Some may think that anger helps you fight but it does the opposite, anger will eat you from the inside out. Only peace and acceptance will help you fight the battle which cannot be won but endured. Life is not about the battles that you have won but how you have walked the journey.
    Planning is now an art form because you must get used to living in the realm of the unknown. It is a tightrope walk between making plans to look forward to, not making plans that you may not be able to keep, planning for the what ifs, and knowing that any day maybe a life changing day.
    I have learned that no one can take from you what you do not give them and that you cannot get from people what you do not give. So be generous with your time, love and kindness and be careful with your power and respect. Only say things that you would want repeated about yourself. In your darkest moments you will learn who is a true person and those that will turn away when things get hard. I am lucky to have so many true people in my life that are with me through all the ups and the downs however long they may be.
    Most importantly, no one will ever love you like you love yourself. Putting yourself first is not a bad thing as long as you also give yourself to others. Once you have taken care of your needs you will have more to give. I have been so lucky that so many people have given so much of themselves to me not wanting anything in return. I have learned that it is not about quantity but quality of what you give to those around you.
    I know that God gives us angels when we need them most and will never give a weight that we cannot bear with the help of others. Thank you to all my angels who are helping me carry my weight every day. I could not do this without you.”

    I hope these few posts I’ve shared will give you some insight into how influential the last year of my daughter’s life was. It has often been said that a parent shouldn’t have to bury a child. I am just lucky that my child was old enough to give me such an education before she died. Kids always think they know more than their parents, in this case it was true. Thank you Amy for the “education of a lifetime.”

    • Tom, as a parent I cannot imagine what you went through. I can only say I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your daughter Amy’s powerful messages.

  3. My Greatest Fear
    by Bonnie Link

    “You have cancer,” the Oncologist sitting across from me pronounced matter-of-factly. Throughout my entire life, getting cancer had been my greatest fear, and now that fear had come true. My mind began swirling a thousand thoughts at once. Who would take care of my six children? What about Thanksgiving? Will I die? I numbly felt my husband take my hand, and I wasn’t even aware that I was speaking, but I heard these distant words come out of my mouth, “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I was amazed at my own sense of calmness, so abnormal for one so well-known for frenzied reactions in emergency situations.

    The Oncologist continued, “I have reserved a spot for your surgery tomorrow.”

    Tomorrow? Two days before Thanksgiving? The doctor told me the surgery I required was the equivalent of open-heart surgery. How could a mom possibly prepare a large family for all these changes? How would we survive?

    We left the doctor’s office and went into top speed. Our first stop was the grocery store. Usually, I try to feed my family healthy foods, which typically means making food from scratch. But that would be too hard for my young kids to do. With no relatives to help, the responsibility of cooking would go to my oldest son and daughter (ages 15 and 13). We had no other choice. Survival mode now meant meals that were quick and easy for my teens to prepare, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds due to food allergies in our family.

    Loaded up with enough groceries to feed a small army, we headed home for the hardest part: telling the children. Everyone gathered in the living room for a family meeting. I looked into the anxious eyes of my dear children, ages 5 to 15, two boys and four girls, as their daddy told them the devastating news. “Your mommy has cancer and will be in the hospital for a week.”

    “Is Mommy going to die?” 9-year-old Brandon voiced aloud what everyone was thinking.

    “The Lord will take care of her,” his dad assured him, and I knew that was true even if I died. And death was a real possibility. My college roommate had died of the very same cancer, leaving behind her own three small children.

    We put the kids to bed and began cleaning the house. If I was going to be out of commission for who-knows-how-long, I wanted the house to be clean. We worked into the wee hours of the morning. Next, I wrote instructions for meals and found simple recipes that my children could prepare. Finally, my husband, physically and emotionally exhausted, went to bed. I sat alone at the computer in the quiet of the night, contemplating the future. I knew if I died I would go to heaven, so I wasn’t afraid for myself. But what would become of my children? I wrote each of them a personal letter, telling them how much I loved them, asking them to be strong and helpful, and to stick together as a family. Lastly, I wrote to the love of my life, expressing my gratitude to him for his faithfulness all these years.

    And then before I knew it, the sun was coming up and I hadn’t even packed. It had been a long night, but I felt that my house was in order, and I was prepared to leave. My husband, on the other hand, who was usually so calm in the face of medical emergencies, was not so ready.

    “I feel I should be strong for you, but I can’t think of the right words to say,” he confessed tearfully as we drove to the hospital. “God has given me the grace to handle this,” I assured him. “And you don’t have to say anything.”

    Later that night, immediately following my surgery, my prospect of survival was looking dim. The doctor was worriedly considering a repeat surgery to determine why I was losing so much blood. I awoke from anesthesia in ICU to find my husband sobbing uncontrollably beside me. “What’s so funny?” I wondered aloud, mistaking his loud shaking for laughter. His face was in his hands. On his lap lay a surprise he had purchased from the hospital gift shop–a fluffy, white stuffed puppy just like the real dog I’d always wanted. But he didn’t know if I would even live long enough to see it. He had called everyone he knew to pray for me.

    After a blood transfusion and many long hours but without more surgery, the bleeding finally stopped, and the Lord spared my life. But it would be several years before I fully recovered. Along that difficult road, however, I learned the true meaning of love. I learned that love is an action and not just an emotion. I learned that God uses real people to show His love through acts of kindness and sacrifice. And I began to understand just how much God loved me, a love I was neither deserving of nor could ever repay.

    Our church and friends worked together to provide meals for our family of eight every day for four months! Our neighbors welcomed my kids into their home to share Thanksgiving Day with all their relatives. Teenagers came and cleaned my house. One friend shopped for slippers for me to give my husband for Christmas, and her daughter wrapped them. A sweet lady from church brought over a small artificial Christmas tree, which became our sole holiday decoration and the home for our sparse gifts. Another friend’s mother volunteered to iron my husband’s shirts, and still another drove my children to all their activities. On Christmas morning, a family personally delivered a bountiful homemade turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The Sunday School preschoolers made me a huge “Get Well” banner with each of their names lovingly scrawled on it in colored markers. And just before I began radiation treatments, the ladies from church delivered a huge green basket with 28 small gifts of encouragement to open, one for each day of treatment.

    My husband was able to go with me to nearly every doctor’s visit and radiation treatment. My favorite memory was when he took me to Meijer after a particularly painful appointment and pushed me around in a wheelchair so I could buy craft supplies (making homemade thank-you cards occupied a great deal of my time while being confined to my bedroom for so long). I was so weak I could barely stand up to look at the wooden stamps, but we had so much fun laughing and shopping and zipping around the aisles of the store. I felt like a queen in that wheelchair.

    It’s been nearly ten years since that monumental event in my life, and I’ve often wondered why I was spared when others in similar circumstances were not. Was it just to raise my children? To be a good wife to my husband? Was it my work with inner-city children? Or is my purpose something that hasn’t happened yet? The answers to those questions may never be revealed in this life. Maybe the reason I was spared is just for me to show God’s love to others like it was shown to me, one day at a time, one person at a time, one act of kindness at a time. I do not know how many days I have left on earth, but one thing I do know–my greatest fear of getting cancer came true. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

  4. Michael Freeman

    (Missing)

    The aura of darkness still clings to my mind as I jerk upright in bed, clinging to the everlasting nightmare that had made itself known in my head. I grip the sheets tightly as the nightmare starts to slowly dissipate from my mind, leaving only foggy thoughts and a raised heart beat. I have been having this nightmare for years, it seems. The nightmare of which I cannot escape, of which I live fully into it. It is the dream of death, of destruction, of hate. A faint memory rubs its slimy tentacles around my head, transforming my silent cry of despair into a shadow of a scream. I can’t live like this anymore; I think to myself, I can’t stand the lies and the hate.
    Slowly, I raise myself upright and glance at the clock. The blue numbers somehow read ten in the morning, yet this can’t be. Last I remembered, I was lying down sobbing into my pillow at the unexpected turn of events that had unfolded in my house in the last few days. I suddenly jolt forward, a wave of nausea mixing with a bitter sweet revelation. Today was the day of solicitation of fear, of knowing that everyone would be there yet no one would see me, hear me.
    A silent joy crept into my mind as I reached the shower and got in. The hot water seemed to pour down into my soul, yet there was no pain dullment involved in the cleansing. I only felt the need to be there, to not feel obligated to be there because I was family. I reached the end of my shower and got out, dried off and shivered as I stepped out of the warm, alluring bathroom and into the cold, April morning. It was spring elsewhere around the world, yet here it felt like winter had betrayed Mother Nature and smothered her beauty from rising when it was supposed to. A pair of coal black slacks and a lighter, yet still black dress shirt greeted my eyes as I looked in the closet. I couldn’t believe that I actually had a purpose to wear my dress clothes, let alone at a thing like this. Once again, my mind was nearly overcome with grief and reluctance, yet I still managed to soak up the excess amount and pull my slacks on.
    The blue undershirt fit perfectly as I raised the dress shirt to my eyes. The silver buttons gleamed in the slight sliver of sunlight peeking through the magenta curtains. I tugged my shirt into place and glanced at myself in the mirror. This wasn’t normal attire for me to wear; this was a slap in the face towards my values and beliefs. I sighed a low monotone and reached for my socks and tugged them on before pulling on the disgusting pair of black dress shoes that were sitting on my dresser. I held my breath for a moment and let the air release out, giving me instant gratification and a moment to think. The door handle loomed before me and I reached for it, opening it to the world of insanity that was sure meant to be below.
    My family greeted me as I reached the landing of the stairs. My mother and sister were dressed in black dressed with blue cardigans wrapped around their abdomens. My father was dressed in accordance to myself, except his undershirt was green, giving me a slight jolt of self-esteem as I stared at the morning rays lighting up the once dull grayish-blue carpet, giving it a glow of purity almost. I smiled at this slight glow, giving me a sense of indignance and life. My father led us all out into the family car, ironically the same color that we were all feeling, black. I felt weird as I sat down into the backseat. Not being able to understand this, I silently stared at my watch as the car accelerated. The watch read twelve-twenty in the afternoon. Had it really been two hours since I had woken? Had it been really three days ago, at almost this exact time, which my whole world had almost fallen apart?
    The drone of the car seemed to drown the thoughts in my head, so I just stared the trees outside my window as our little pack of a family slowly and surely moved on towards its final destination. I have a moment of panic in the car. Can I do this? I ask myself, Can I really be in there with a person whom had been my mentor for a number of years? Could I stand to be in there at the final moments when, as we were filing out, the lid to love and hope was closed just as if he were a dead pet that we bury in the backyard? I grasp the questions in my mind and simultaneously rid myself of them, not wanting the wave of despair to overflow and myself to succumb to the deepest pit. I put on my best poker face (now it seemed more a grimace) and stared at the big, hollow looking white building that seemed to have an actual aura of sorrow and depression.
    A long row of cars stretched before us, somehow mingling in beautifully with the gothic theme of the home. There were only a few of our family members outside the door, either smoking a cigarette or crying profusely into a handkerchief/tissue. I couldn’t see the widow of my mentor; she must be inside with the director, staring lovingly at the vessel of a man who once was. My father was staring at the stained windows; wishing, I think, that he were in the colorful rays of light that seemed to glimmer and shine unto the light. Our car pulled up into an empty stall and my mind seemed to crawl back to reality as the motor chugged its last breath and we were greeted by an eerie silence; the silence of an abyss of lost souls.
    Suddenly, it seemed the world had stopped spinning and I no longer needed the necessity of oxygen. I was panicking again and this time, there seemed to be no diminishing to its force. My heart seemed to thud inside my throat, causing the air to be pulled from my lungs, slowly pulling me into the shadows of unconsciousness. I had to stop this, dammit, I just had to grow up and face the darkness by myself. An inner strength ran through my veins, stinging the blood to circulate again and my lungs to inhale. I smiled at my newfound strength and walked forward with my family into the chapel, following the trail of black lace and the scent of death and chemicals that surely greeted us. A lump formed in my throat as I stared at the coffin; the final resting place of my grandfather. A flood seemed to break through my dam of silent empathy and composure.
    Tears rolled down my face as I stared at the pale hands that gripped each other with a force that only death can produce. No longer keeping the convulsions inside, I leaned over the coffin, saturating the silk interior with salty tears. I closed my eyes and touched his hand; cold and clammy, but still my grandfathers. There was the scar he’d had for as long as my mind could reminisce, the mole that he’d pull on when no on was looking, the deep wrinkles of experience that penetrated down into the skin. The most remarkable, though, was the smile that lit up his face. Even through the filmy mask of death, he remained smiling, giving the room a glow of light and warmth. I understood now. He was happy, no matter his love now a widow and children fatherless. I smiled now. The darkness had lifted, giving in to the deep light that gleamed through the room. The tears on everyone’s face were factored by the one expression that can destroy the most ancient evil; a smile.

  5. Please realize that I am of 18 years of age and are currently in senior year of high school.

    For the longest time, and it still continues today, I am alone. Not physically, but emotionally. It has helped a bit with the finding of my true love, but I am still alone. Just a figure on a shelf, with nothing for me, but myself.
    My life line never came, I had to learn to care for myself. That day, that cold winter day, no snow or frost but a wind that could snap your head off. My reddish hair blew around my face and tiny strands captured themselves in the cracks of my chapped lips. I brushed them away into a fine single rope with my dry hands as I got ready.
    It was six thirty then, but I recalled the past two and a half hours that I had been awake. Obstinacies to my mother would be shouted as my father woke up. In his exact words, if he couldn’t sleep, why should anyone else? With stomping feet he marched to the radio and switched it to the A.M., while also steadily switching the volume to twenty five, reasonable if this was a frat house party, but for a quiet country farm house it meant I was to wake up. A psychologist report played a narrative of a patient as I sat upright in my warmish bed. Heated by my body from the night, I tried to stay warm for a few hours, and if I was lucky, maybe this time he would give up and try to sleep again. The radio droned on with the slight hum of the A.M. wave. The report, a story of a woman who was afraid of candles, slightly interested me. The woman, to continue with the story, was anorexic, had a fear of candles, and hated the color red. From these instances, the leading psychologist concluded she may have been part of a satanic worshiping as an infant or young child. Sitting there in the dark I could only ponder to myself ‘What kind of doctor would take that idea as the first conclusion?’. My mother went to a psychologist, but they obviously didn’t help her. Last fall, as she swallowed several lithium pills could prove that. As the radio report continued, I was able to hear the rest of it before my father turned it down slightly. I suppose his throat started to hurt from yelling over the radio. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be angry. For him to curse was a natural as a dragon breathing fire. And there he was, this tall, horrible dragon that burned us with his hot fire words.
    Eventually the clock broke out in its master-of-horror ringing. The constant buzz, buzz, buzz still rung in my ears long after I had turned it off. I cried a bit in those two and a half hours. The hot tears warmed my face and the action of it pacified my hunger. Now it was my turn. Mom had hers all morning, and it was time for me to be hit with his piercing arrows.
    I was right on time, as I had expected. It was the usual hateful words, my ignorance, my stupidity, my laziness. I left with my mother. I felt the worst for her. Because I had to work right after school, she would be left alone in that house, that horrible house, with that horrible dragon, spitting fire words at her for hours on end. I hugged her as I left the car, I used to feel comfort and security in her arms, but now I know its me who feeds it to her. I felt I must give her a smile, it’s the least I could do to try to prepare her for her day.
    My cracked lips stuck together as a stared at the white board in front of me. Of all the lines and symbols of the black marker I know none. I have been at the verge of failing my classes for a while but it doesn’t perturb me. I look at my arm, the prick of the needle that had slowly drawn my blood plays out its scar. Like most things it was a ruse, a cover for more complex life dwelled.
    It was lunch again, and again, I hadn’t ate. There is something about food after three days of not eating that makes you disgusted of it. I sat on the cold, dirty bathroom floor as I leaned my head over the porcelain. Trembling, I pulled myself away. Just stomach acid again, this time it burned a little, right in the back of my throat. Not to uncommon for me, stress vomiting that is. A mental problem, that helped me cope.
    And again I know what would help me calm myself down. A needle, a simple sewing needle, sharp as if to bite into my skin and drink my blood, only to be full within seconds and allow the excess to flow as a river down my arm. I did it again, in a better spot this time, one I particularly liked. The blood flowed more easily there, and I dug the needle deeper into my arm. Adrenaline, simple human adrenaline made me much better, calmer, but a steady person. My heart beat faster inside my chest, but it was better than before, much better. I knew I wasn’t alright. I knew. I was tired of it, but also tired of living. I help everyone, with no one to guide me. I never had a life line. I stared at the blood wound dripping from my arm. I was tired of this scene, I couldn’t handle it. The soft paper I wrapped around my arm, a clean start to clean my wounds. My phone shook in my hand and my heart raced.
    “Dr. Derringer’s office”
    My breath was hot as I let my sigh reach full capacity.
    “Hello,” I said in my quiet, trembling voice, “I’d like to schedule an appointment.”
    That was a while ago now. Things haven’t changed, but I
    I’ve been a bit better. There was a chance, a slight one, of the pills making it worse, but so far it hasn’t. I’m still here, reaching out my hand to those in need. Still I receive no help. But I am stronger. I know when it feels wrong. I know now. I know. And hopefully, someday I can receive a life line of my own. But until then, I must live each day supporting myself and others, being my own life line.

  6. How a Love of Reading Changed My Life
    By
    Martin L. Clock

    Looking back now, from my mid forties, I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not read. I don’t even remember learning how to read; it’s almost as though I was born with a book in my hands.
    I remember visiting the musty library tucked away in my grade school’s basement. We were allotted only a short time to pick a book. I would frantically try to decide but often I would check out the same favorite book again and again. The title and author are forever lost to the tide of time, but I remember that it was about deep sea divers, treasure and sharks. Even now I can close my eyes and see those wonderful color illustrations. In those days, while discovering the potent magic of written words, I would get as excited about the Book-Mobile as other kids did about the Mr. Softy ice cream truck. Around the age of ten I borrowed a comic book from a friend, and I was hooked.
    If my dear mom could recover all of the dimes and quarters I wheedled from her during the next few years to keep myself in comics she could take a cruise. But then, if I still had all those comics – Spiderman, Superman, Green Lantern, Thor, Hulk – I could sell them, send Mom on a cruise and still retire early! Alas, they are long gone, but their impact on me remains. I know there are some who hold such lowbrow entertainment in disdain but comics served a vital purpose for me: they bridged the gap from picture books to full-fledged novels.
    The first novel I remember reading was Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. That dog-eared paperback, with its cracked and yellowed cover, still rests somewhere on one of my bookshelves. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit came next and from there I devoured books like a starving dog eats steak. During that whirlwind of reading I recall the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, all the Narnia books, and lots of Hardy Boy mysteries.
    Reading became a much-needed escape during a turbulent time in my young life. My father had lost his job and my parents fell on hard times. As a consequence we moved often. Such a gypsy-like existence took a toll on me, academically; in just five years I attended eight different schools. Finally, at the age of fifteen, I could not face being the new kid in school one more time and I dropped out.
    I got a job stocking and cleaning a pub after hours. The owners, friends of my mom, paid me in cash. I realize now that they took a huge risk in hiring a fifteen year old kid to do such work, which was surely illegal. I walked to the bar, which was only about three miles from our apartment, started about 2:30 in the morning and returned home well after the sun was up. Eventually I got my learner’s permit and after that I drove to work. As hard as it was, I considered the situation a vast improvement over going to school, especially since I could now help my parents with the bills. The little money that was left over I spent on books. When I wasn’t working or sleeping I was in a book store or a library.
    After leaving school my love of reading did not diminish but rather morphed into an odd, incongruous quest for learning. I read widely in those days, fiction and non-fiction. Meanwhile my hours increased; besides stocking and cleaning at night I was also working some lunch shifts as a short-order cook.
    I was sixteen when my parents announced that they needed to move again, this time to a suburb of Cincinnati. I had a decision to make: go with them and find another job or keep working at the pub and find a place to live. I had more or less made up my mind to stay behind and somehow fend for myself when a cousin called and offered me a job near my parent’s new apartment. At the time this seemed like divine intervention although in retrospect I’m sure my mom had something to do with it. The opportunity was as an usher at a movie theater. The one requirement was that the applicant could not have acrophobia, since the only other usher refused to climb the ladder and change the marquee. Not suffering a fear of heights, I got the job.
    It was a beautiful art-deco theater from a bygone age, with an enormous silver screen and wide, carpeted stairs that led to a balcony. I embraced the job, which was wildly different than my solitary work at the pub. By seventeen I was the assistant manager. While working at that theater I fell in love twice over: I developed an enduring love of movies, which offer the same stories that books hold only in visual form; and I fell in love with a very cute concessionist.
    Sadly, within a few years the beautiful old theater died from an acute case of Cinema-plexia. Adhering to the motto if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em I applied for and was hired as a manager at a major cinema chain. On the application I had to fabricate a high-school diploma and while this was easy for me to fake, it resurrected the ghost of the colossal mistake I had made. Rather than continue to be haunted by that mistake I decided to rectify it. Without even studying, I walked into a career development center and took the high-school equivalency exam. I easily passed. I do not share that to boast, but rather to illustrate the power that reading can have in our lives, for reading and reading alone was my saving grace.
    I somehow convinced the cute concessionist to marry me (we’re about to celebrate that event times 27). We rather quickly had three sons. Life careened on. I continued to work as a theater manager for many years but the career clashed with the ideal family life so I decided to get a “regular” nine-to-five job. I found one in manufacturing.
    When my dad had been laid-off it had spurred the transient lifestyle that eventually led me to leave school. When the same thing happened to me therefore, I vowed to view it as an opportunity rather than a calamity. Since my boys were all grown and my wife had a decent job, I enrolled full-time in college. A few years later the guy who dropped out of school at the age of fifteen graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati with a business degree.
    I reiterate that this story is not meant as prideful boasting. It is a humble acknowledgement of a great debt owed. I shudder to think of where I would be today had I not developed a deep love of reading. Now, as a burgeoning author, I hope to repay that debt by making my own meager contribution to that vast pool of words from which all readers go to drink.

    Martin L. Clock

    • I add this addendum to my post in defense of my parents, because to an outsider reading the above story it might seem like I suffered child abuse; I did not. I’m the youngest of five kids and I came along late in my parent’s life. My four older siblings were taxing to raise and I think they literally wore my parents out to the point that when it came to raising me they were somewhat blasé. True, my mom had to sign for me to leave school but that was no easy decision for her. I was extremely headstrong; I battered my parents down until they finally gave me what I wanted. Further, I was no helpless waif from the pages of a Dickens novel: at fifteen I was almost six feet tall and wore a mustache. At seventeen I had a full beard and I could buy drinks in bars without being carded. Despite my non-traditional upbringing, I know my parents loved me very much.
      My dad was a hard-working guy who spent decades working for the same machine-tool company. When the place went belly-up I think it tilted Dad’s whole world sideways; he just could never get his footing in another job after that. On a stormy night in April of 2002 my dad died. The miracle that took place that night is the basis for the one story I have thus far published. It was in the Family Christian store anthology “Encounters with God.” (I don’t think it’s available in the stores anymore but it may be somewhere online). I still talk to my mom everyday and we remain very close.
      M.L.C.

  7. Christmas Eve

    Christmas Eve was always spent with my Mom’s side of the family. It was a night to goof around with the cousins, and gather the firstfruits of the solstice gift harvest. We would pack into the car, dad sighing audibly, mom clutching her perfect layered salad on her lap, Sister and I would be decked out in Polly Flinder’s dresses, tights, patent leather shoes, plastic Scotty dog barrettes springing open from the effort of trying to contain our naturally curly brillo hair.

    We would get there, throw our shoes onto the pile by the bathroom door and race to the tree to ogle and fondle the presents, trying to gauge who was our best bachelor uncle’s favorite by the size and heft of our gift from him. The tree made a tinkling sound as we shoved and jostled, wrapped shirt boxes sliding to the middle of the room like dominoes. We would be shooed away by moms who were slightly embarrassed at our savage greed. Presents were for after dinner.

    The food would be artfully arranged, chopped and garnished, restyled on chipped platters after arriving in Tupperware and Ziploc bags. Aunts scurried and wedged by each other’s polyester clad bellies and butts in Grandma’s cramped kitchen. The sole of your tights stuck to aqua linoleum that had been baptized by many dropped spoons of chocolate or sour cream.

    Then the repast would begin. The family room, (a remodeled garage) would be fitted out with card tables and sheets of plywood to extend the dining room table enough for the matriarch and her five progeny, their spouses, and spawn. Orange tinted light from electric candelabras glinted on the pipe cleaner and cotton ball Santa centerpieces, re-purposed from the Eastern Star Christmas Gala. Plates tilted crazily on the seam where plywood met Formica. The most righteous uncle would say the prayer, my sister and I poking each other in the ribs the whole time to try to make each other laugh in the reverent moment. We would usually have a ham, cooked in a Coca-Cola glaze and a big turkey. We kids tried to avoid looking at the gravy boat in which was jellidly contained grandma’s special homemade gravy, a brownish grey semi-solid with mysterious dark brown lumps and slices of boiled egg staring up at you with jaundiced retinas. But the rest of the food! Rich casseroles of sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows of perfect toasted brownness, green beans, potatoes, broccoli, all swimming in butter and or cheese, as befitted dishes at a proper Southern table. There would be much fuss and clatter, aunts getting up and down to refill drinks or replenish empty plates for husbands and kids. Aunts and moms never seemed to sit down to eat dinner themselves. Dishes would be loaded into the dishwasher, which was rolled, groaning, to connect to the sink spigot.

    Then the moment we kids were waiting for, the mad dash to the tree! The smocking on my dress would be hot and prickly against my chest. The crotch of my tights drooped to my knees, hobbling me and handicapping me in the race. Cousins and aunts called names from tags simultaneously, a glorious cacophony: “Now where’s your pile, sweetheart?” “Make sure you open the one from me first!” “I swanny, look at all these gifts”, “Don’t step on the dog!”, “There’s no tag on this one!”. Then we were made to wait AGAIN, as it was tradition to open from youngest to oldest first. Yes, this made the festivities last longer, but also ensured an audience for each gift opening. You’d better act excited about that plastic clown shoe organizer from Grandma, by God! If any of us cousins had aspired to be an actor, we would have needed no formal training after our years of Christmas Eve. The big girls always got bottles of Bonne Bell Ten o’ Six astringent, the holiday version with Lipsmackers tied in a smart bag around the top. We second tier girls lusted after these trophies of adolescence as we dismantled our Sweet Storybooks of Life Savers.

    After the gift orgy, we kids would retire to the family room to play with our gifts and compare fortunes. “My mom will be so mad that we have to buy batteries for this”, “Really, aren’t you a little old to ask for a My Buddy doll?”, “How did you score a purple sweater and I got a brown one?”, “How many zits have to pop out on my brow to merit some friggin’ Ten O’ Six, already?”, “Do they think I’m a lumberjack? What’s with the plaid?”.

    Then we would all hit the dessert table again, fighting over who got the last piece of Old-Family-Recipe-Chocolate Pie, or partaking of another piece of chocolate mint cake, shaped like a tree, professionally star-tip iced and bedazzled with sprinkles and spangles and those little edible silver b.b.s.

    About this time, dad would be clearing his throat and pointing toward the door with the top of his head. After many protest and delays, we would start a flurry of shoe searching, gift gathering, and coat wrangling. Back out to the Monte Carlo with our Shilito’s bags full of loot, invariably leaving behind an Avon lip gloss or a tube of M&Ms. Fall into a carb-overload coma across the backseat, unencumbered by the seat-belt laws of the future. Schlep your bags up the top half of the split-level’s stairs, then read the book about a mouse you received tonight from an attentive aunt until you fall asleep and wake to a somewhat too-quiet-by comparison Christmas Morn.

  8. A Lesson in Appreciation

    Each season has its own beauty and rewards, but autumn has become my favorite time of the year. All life and beauty that we know is fleeting, and too often we take much of it for granted. Autumn reminds me to appreciate every day and each loved one. The reason why began on a summer day years ago. I got off work and drove to a hospital for a CAT scan. I had been plagued with increasingly severe headaches, but doctors had been unable to determine the cause. The CAT scan showed that I had a large, abnormal mass in my head. I was twenty-two years old, just out of college, and devastated by the news. The doctor’s words about possible paralysis, radiation, chemotherapy, and survival chances sounded surreal and certain. My heart sank.

    The two main things I remember thinking about before surgery were wanting to tell the people I loved goodbye, and that I wouldn’t see autumn. I was very fortunate to have an excellent surgeon. The surgery went well, and a blood clot the size of a golf ball was removed from my head. The bleed was sealed off and my prognosis was good. I wouldn’t have to do radiation or chemotherapy since the mass was not a tumor. I could go to physical therapy for the paralysis, and take medicine to prevent seizures.

    One day that autumn, my dad carried me to a chair in their yard. The brightness of the sun and the sound of the chattering leaves in the gusty wind were hard to tolerate, but so wonderful to experience. Though my view was limited, I thought it was the most beautiful autumn I had ever seen! Why do we have to almost lose something before we appreciate it?

    Now it is twenty-five years later, and I am even more grateful to still be alive. I’m married, have a fantastic son, and a great life. The recovery process was a humbling, frustrating, learning experience. I still have frequent headaches, but feel very blessed. Every autumn I pause to soak in the ever-changing beauty and it reminds me to enjoy life, relationships, and each day. It is my hope that in every season of life, you and I will take time to appreciate the simple beauties and special people in our lives.

  9. Misadventures in Paradise
    In April of 2010 my wife and I and my wife’s sister and her husband decided we wanted to take a trip to paradise (in this case Maui) in February of 2011. By mid April we had our flights, a condo, and our rental car all reserved. Now all we had to do was get excited about getting out of Cincinnati (and Springfield, MA for them) for a couple of weeks during cold weather. What we were hoping would be a dream trip of rest, relaxation, and sunshine turned into a nightmare. This nightmare started even before we left Cincinnati. Two days before our scheduled departure on February 1, the local weather gurus warned us of an ominous storm that was scheduled to arrive the day (naturally) we were scheduled to depart. Double Doppler super radar showed this to be indeed one of those ‘storms of the century’ types that could (and eventually did) paralyze the entire eastern half of the country. Not being one to panic easily, I decided the best course of action would be to leave early. Easy enough, right? WRONG! After three quick calls, I had the condo, the car, and the dog sitter all re-scheduled. I now had to call the airline. I discussed the situation for nearly forty-five minutes with the courteous ticket agent, and we finally re-booked the flight so we could leave one day early. The agent sent me my e-ticket and all was well, right? WRONG! They did not change my wife’s flight! I now had call again to tell a new courteous and friendly agent the entire story again in order to change my wife’s ticket. After another forty-five minutes we were all set, and we were not charged a change fee! Halleluiah! I had avoided a potential disaster with my quick thinking. This was actually working out for the best. We were getting out of town a day early, and no change fee! Too good to be true? You betcha.
    When we arrived at the airport, the scene at CVG was chaotic. It seemed that I was not the only one who was quick on his feet. We sent our luggage through with the exception of the bags we carried, and before we could get on the plane, an agent told my wife she would have to check her carry-on because the overhead bins were already full. This did not sound good. CVG was in complete confusion, and we had to make stops in Atlanta and LA before landing in Maui. This seemed like a prime time for LOST LUGGAGE! We arrived in Maui at 10:00 PM local time, but our body clocks said it was 3:00 AM tomorrow! We were exhausted, but glad we arrived safely. We patiently waited for our luggage, and every piece we checked arrived. The one the airline checked decided to stay over in LA! Go figure.
    We booked our rental car from a local company that specialized in “gently used” vehicles. Since it is a small agency, they were not open when we arrived, so we had to find our car in the airport parking lot. In a scene reminiscent of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, my wife and I are dragging our luggage through the Kahului Airport looking for a “white” car. Needless to say we were exhausted from the trip and a bit on edge. May I say that we shared some words? The good news is we found the car. The bad news was their definition of “gently used”. We decided that the explanation was one of two things. 1. The car had just been in a demolition derby, or, 2. It was just returned from a stint with a Mexican cab company. It was a piece of junk.
    My wife’s sister and her husband arrived the next day, and we all decided we had to return the car. So…… we called Enterprise to see if they had available cars. THEY DID, and they “pick you up”, right? WRONG! We returned the first car to its agency and went across the street to call Enterprise to come “pick us up”. We were told that the airport Enterprise does not pick up! Now my brother-in-law and I are on foot in Maui, and we have to go get our new rental. At a Border’s store in a strip mall we hitched a ride with a local… IN THE BACK OF A PICKUP TRUCK! Jed Clampett would have been proud!
    We were now ready to enjoy our vacation. All the problems were officially over at this time, right? WRONG! On Tuesday, February 8, we all decided to make it a beach day. We went to Wailea Beach to relax and maybe try some body surfing and/or boogie boarding. We could not have remotely imagined what was going to happen next. We had just finished up a picnic lunch when my wife, her sister, and I decided to try out the water. I was going to boogie board, and the girls were just going to enjoy the surf and take in a glorious day. It was all going so well, and then the “The Great Wailea Beach Wave Massacre” occurred. Cindy (my wife) and Beverly (sister) were standing in the surf near the shore when out of nowhere, a monster wave appeared. It struck them both at the same time; flipping them end over end causing both to be thrown violently to the beach. Beverly emerged holding her right arm; Cindy was holding her left. Both women were obviously injured, and we decided the best course of action was to take them to the ER. The ER was packed, and we had to wait for seven hours to get treated. They were eventually diagnosed with identical fractures in the exact location on opposite arms! And they are sisters! Are you kidding me? You couldn’t even make this up! Did I mention that after this happened we were told by locals that this beach is nicknamed “Breakneck Beach”? (for obvious reasons) After three days we could go out to the pool, and we certainly did not have any trouble determining a topic of conversation what with two sisters with slings on opposite arms discussing the accident. It was priceless! They were like rock stars!
    Our last week there consisted of trying not to hurt the girls. After all, this type of injury only hurts if you move, or think about moving; or sleep, or eat, or get bumped, or think about getting bumped. Did I mention breathing? Yea, it hurts when you breathe, too. It also hurts when you ask your husband to wash your hair! This put everything on Defcon five! Hairdresser? Me? Me thinks not! The first attempt was my only attempt. I nailed her in the face three times with the sprayer from the kitchen sink, and of course I bumped her arm, too! She decided it was much safer for her to do it herself. I did not argue.
    So now what do we do with the remaining week? Both women were being troopers, but they were obviously in serious pain. I started thinking about the trip home. It would be nearly impossible to travel under these circumstances, but we had to get home. I once again became the problem solver. I WILL UPGRADE HER TO FIRST CLASS, A BRILLIANT MOVE, A GAME CHANGER! The only problem was that in order to facilitate this, I had to call the airline again (see above). I knew it had to be done, and I decided it might take awhile, so I used the landline in the condo instead of using cell minutes. Smart thinking, right? WRONG! I explained the situation to the ever courteous, patient, and friendly agent, and after about fifty minutes we were almost ready to close the deal… key word here being almost. Before we could finalize the change, I heard a beeping from my phone. What now? THE BATTERY ON THE PHONE DIED!! Oh man! Now I had to call again and talk to another courteous, attentive, and ever so friendly agent, who after fifty-two minutes had my injured wife flying first class all the way home!
    Oh, did I mention that when we returned from our Misadventures in Paradise, our one year old British Cream Golden Retriever, Kirbi, was sick? In the NFL they call this piling on, and it gets punished!
    We are now nine weeks removed from our trip, and I guess all adventures, whether misadventures or not, come to an end. We keep trying to remember all the good times we had, and I’m certain we will look back on this at some point and have a good laugh. At least that is what all our friends keep telling us.
    The thought of getting away was really nice, but our next vacation will not involve surf of any kind. You can put that in the bank.
    Aloha.

  10. WOODSMOKE AND COUNTRY MUSIC
    by
    Doris Marcotte

    Sometimes the smell of woodsmoke brings memories of my Uncle Homer’s farm and the warm summer nights when we sat on the front porch and listened to the radio. This was back in the early 1940s before electricity had made its way out into the countryside.
    My uncle worked in the city all week as a mechanic at a cigarette factory in Louisville and drove home to the farm every weekend. He wasn’t much of a farmer, but he was very inventive; he found a way to power a small radio with a car battery. He would exchange the radio battery with the fully charged battery in the car when he came home at the end of every week, and that way the power would be maintained. In those days, besides the party-line telephone, the radio was the farm’s only connection with the outside world. It was an excitement that enriched a rural family and kept them up to date with weather and agricultural reports. But in the evenings, when all the chores were done, the main treat was to sit back and listen to music: old time country music.
    Today, classical music still sounds classical, jazz still sounds like jazz, but country music no longer sounds country to me.
    Once, when you turned the radio on, you recognized country music because the men sang with a yodel in their voice, and there were fiddles and banjos, Jew’s harps and jugs, ukuleles and slide-bar guitars, and all the women spoke with an Appalachian twang that was unmistakable: that lyrical Chaucerian English with its flat A’s that was unaffected and pure.
    Today, it must be difficult to make a living playing authentic country music, except perhaps in Dollywood or Nashville, because in all honesty old time country music was pretty awful. It sawed and it screeched and it stomped and it yelled. It was bad. But bad as it was it still made you want to dance a jig, or sing along with the families and friends who made music together for their own entertainment.
    Radio was the first great promoter of country music. It enabled isolated families who lived close to the land to share the joy of their homemade music with outsiders. Groups like the Carter Family were pioneers. Mother May Belle Carter played the guitar and all her family sang and every listener felt like a first cousin. Those were the times when the natural ability to sing harmony was a thing to be admired.
    It takes only a hint of woodsmoke in the air and I remember sitting close to the warmth of a pot bellied stove inside a small farmhouse, sharing a pan of parched corn, and waiting anxiously for the time to turn the radio on.
    When we finally tuned it in, the wavering static would distort the clear, sweet voice of a child who was encouraged to step up to the radio microphone and sing a sad “Mama’s gone over yonder” song. Then a man with a deep bass voice would come on and sing stories about coal mines, and company stores, jails, railroads, and trains with their mournful midnight whistles and their clackety tracks.
    And there would always be a woman: a woman you knew had a thin face and wore a feed-sack dress. She would sing the beers and tears songs about scarlet women, and lonesome lovers, and faithless husbands gone wrong.
    It’s such a pity that so few of my family and friends make their own music and sing harmony together anymore. Even if we wanted to, the only instruments many of us know how to play are compact disc players, WIIs, and IPODs. We’d be hard pressed to find a jug. I guess we might come up with some paper and a comb.
    Now days, I think rap singers may be the only ones making true country music. Country means “of the land” and rap singers are often people “of the land” or “of the streets” and they are making homemade music. It stomps and it yells and really sounds bad to me, but sometimes it sounds a little like old-time country, like family and friends making music together.
    These new country singers rap about cars and jails, bills and pills, about faithless lovers and plans gone wrong. The accent of the singers and the beat of the music are not the same as old time country, but the words sound familiar to me.
    However, rap singers don’t sing harmony and I like harmony. It would be so great to gather the family around the piano like we used to and sing the old hymns. I would love to sing harmony with all my cousins just one more time.

  11. Where Does The Ocean End?
    By Renee Crawford

    “Renee, it’s time to go,” My mom calls from the other room of our two bedroom apartment. I leap off my bed and excitedly grab my two little pink suitcases that have been packed for two weeks. I barrel into the living room. “Okay, I’m ready,” I announce to my family.
    After ten minutes of Mommy asking if we have everything and if we’ve gone to the bathroom, “It’s a long way to Virginia,” she says over and over, “We can’t stop and come back for anything.” We finally pile into our lime green 1987 Nova and set out for Virginia Beach. This is our first real vacation and the first time I will see the Ocean.
    As our apartment building fades into the distance, I wonder how big the ocean will be. I’ll swim all the way to the end I decide. My sister bets me I can’t. For hours there’s nothing but cities and enormous mountains as far as I can see. But there’s no blue water anywhere, and I restlessly ask when we’ll be there. Mommy says “Soon,” for the hundredth time. So I disappointedly stare out the window again.
    Somewhere between Ohio and West Virginia, I fall asleep. I dream of how blue the ocean will be. How cold is it? How deep is it? What kind of animals will I see? Suddenly Daddy interrupts my dream, telling me we’re almost there.
    I sit straight up in my seat searching the open windows for one glance of water but its all hidden behind the motels and shops. Finally Daddy pulls into a driveway and I eagerly pull my shoes off to feel the sand. Daddy parks the car and I open the dusty car door and jump out. The smooth sand burns against my feet. I look up at the sun which has never seemed so close or hot. My feet are burning so bad, I race for shade under the red awning of the motel. It must be a hundred years old, I think.
    As Mommy opens the door to our room, I shiver as I’m met by a wave of cold air from the air conditioning. I look around the dull room. The beds have plaid prints on the blankets with matching pillows. The walls are blank with only a mirror hanging over a small television. With no interest in the room, I run to the bathroom and change into my bathing suit.
    “Let’s go see the ocean!” Mommy tells us. We walk outside and my feet are once again burned by the scorching sand. Butterflies fill my stomach as I stand before an enormous blue ocean. The water and sky seem to match so perfectly, I can’t tell where the horizon begins.
    “Where does it end?” I ask, amazed. “It doesn’t,” Daddy answers.
    I can’t wait anymore. I cast myself into the water, excited by what I’ll find. My body feels frozen as I am drenched by icy seawater. As I hit the surface shivering, the taste of salt and dirt fill my mouth. I spit but the salty ocean lingers on my tongue. The gritty sand makes itch and the tiny sea shells on the ocean floor poke my feet, though I’m just too excited to care.
    Over and over the gigantic waves crash against the shore. I see my mom who has become entertained by a line of tiny white sea crabs leaving the water. “They’re walking sideways!” She laughs. I look up as hungry seagulls soar overhead, almost blending perfectly with the white clouds decorating the bright sky. They mischievously swoop down when a juicy fish pops his head above the surface, but the waves swallow him before the seagull can and he angrily floats back up to the clouds.
    As I pretend to be a beautiful mermaid under water, my sister and Daddy become knights building a mighty fortress of sand. As time passes, I watch their white skin become pink as if they were blushing. I watch my own skin which has now humorously changed from milk to coffee in an hour. My sister will be jealous of my tan I think, as I dive back into the now warm water to find the sea witches treasure. Isn’t that what mermaids do?
    As I leave the water and tired walk onto the shore, I notice that the miraculous blue sky was now a deep shade of violet. The tiny sea crabs begin their journey back into the ocean, running sideways as they go. A light breeze sets in, making me shiver in my wet sand covered bathing suit. The breeze carries with the fresh smell of salt and fish.
    I see my family’s fortress, now a destroyed castle b the changing tide. The sun is gone. Now it’s the moon’s turn to reign over the crashing waves. The moon seems close enough to touch. I wrap a warm towel around myself as the once burning sand feels cool against my feet. I’m ready for more swimming, when Mommy tells us it’s time for bed. I disappointedly walk up the path to the motel.
    As Mommy tends to Daddy’s unbearable sunburn, I lay awake wondering if I’ll find the sea witches treasure tomorrow. I look out the window unable to sleep. I look at the moon and think of the hungry seagulls and the tiny sea crabs. Will they be there again tomorrow? I will be. Bright and early, ready to do it all over again.

    • Due to the overwhelming response we got, we’ve given our judges some extra time to make their decision. The winners will be announced here and on the library’s homepage on June 11.

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