The Story of Amelia

Written by Holly DeHerrera

The whole family spread out across the yard at the dairy farm, perched like chickens on colorful folding chairs. Holding plastic cups, they talked a mile a minute and laughed too loud. In a nearby field, cows mooed and munched the lime-green grass. I sat cross-legged on the front steps of our house and squinted into the sunshine.

Mom stood up and whooped like she’d just won a contest, and I closed my eyes for a second. Even though I loved her, I didn’t like when she drank so much that she acted wild. But the whole bunch of them did it, and nobody was ever ugly, just sloppy and tripping with red-faced smiles.

“See ya, Harold.” My cousin Peter used the nickname Grandpa had made up for me. Everybody called me by that instead of my real name, Amelia, but I didn’t mind. Almost nobody was called by his or her real name in this family.

Wearing his Coke-bottle glasses and ready smile, Peter scruffed the top of my head clumsily and winked, swaying like a tall tree in the Michigan wind.

“Bye. See you soon,” I replied, leaning back on the step, crossing one sneakered foot over the other.

“Yes, you will!”

He pointed his finger at me and then walked in a zigzagging line toward the gravel drive. He yanked open the door to his pickup and climbed inside.

“Bye!” he yelled to the family.

And everyone yelled back, “Bye!”

Later, when the sun sunk lower in the sky, spreading across the fields like a fan, we got the word.

My cousin had driven off the side of the highway into a ditch and then stumbled out onto the road, right into the path of a semitruck.

Just like that, he was gone.

Gone like a firefly’s light.

Gone as if he’d never even been there at all.

The Story of Lucinda

Written by Arlene Baker

What time is it? I shifted my weight with a silent groan. Nothing relieved the ache in my back or legs.

Minutes passed. Or was it hours?

My head and stomach ached. In fact, every cell in my body screamed for relief.

Where is he?

Finally, I left my perch and moved from room to room on whispered feet. I found him in a bedroom.

He’s sleeping. Sleeping! I stood in stunned silence. I feel like I’m dying, and he sleeps. My shoulders slumped.

Can’t do this … can’t … can’t. I’ve got to get out … out … out.

I stumbled to the kitchen through the blur of fatigue and terror.

Has to stop … stop … stop.

I opened a drawer, took out an item and stumbled back to where he slept. Moments later, I laid it on the bed and dialed the police with shaking fingers.

“What’s the nature of your emergency?”

“I just killed my husband.”

The Story of Jasmine

Written by Holly DeHerrera

Monica wanted to see her boyfriend, so I went along with it, even though I knew Mom would whup my butt if she found out I’d ditched school. I couldn’t afford to lose friends by being a rule-follower. Besides, Monica didn’t put me down like the others, and I owed her for that.

We stepped into the apartment, where a group of older guys stood around the room talking. Monica spotted her man, Mark, and the two disappeared through a door. I folded my hands in front of me, then commenced looking around awkwardly. What am I supposed to do while she does who knows what with her boyfriend?

“Hey, there.” One guy approached me as if he knew I needed to be rescued. I could tell he wasn’t 15 like me. He had to be in his 20s.

“Hi.” I didn’t have moves like Monica. I wasn’t used to talking to older guys and holing up in rooms with them, so I just looked up at him and smiled so he’d know that I appreciated him caring.

“I’m Derek. What’s your name?” He rubbed a dry hand over his prickly jaw.

“Jasmine,” I said, feeling uncomfortable with my friend gone.

Get-Out-of-Life-Free Card

The Story of Bethany

Written by Holly DeHerrera

Even the lamps looked sad. Dull, as if they got covered by a thin, brown cloth. I wonder why they don’t put new bulbs in them so the color doesn’t make people want to cry more. I scanned the room full of family and strangers, all holding hankies and dabbing swollen eyes.

A group of relatives surrounded us, and I couldn’t get a good look at Devin. Everyone whisper-talked, as if he might wake up and climb out of the big box in the back corner and say, Tada! It was just a joke!

But the sad feeling told me that couldn’t happen, and the room smelled like overly sweet flowers. It didn’t feel like a live place. I swallowed at the glob in my throat that kept making me think I’d be sick.

“Such a shame,” someone said, shaking a gray head.

“No one could have guessed. Don’t blame yourself.”

The Story of Rick

Written by Kim Rojas

 

As the last metal door slammed and locked behind me, I felt the weight of the place lift. Even the gray November sky looked inviting.

For the first time in almost a year, I’d be under it as a free man.

I vowed never to return to jail.

Inhaling the cold, damp air, I felt as relaxed as if I basked on a beach in summer. At 210 pounds, I barely fit into the clothes I’d worn when I arrived. The button-down shirt showed my skin between each of the taut buttons, but at least it covered the top of the pants I couldn’t snap shut. I looked a mess, but I felt better than ever.

Thanksgiving dinner meant more to me that year than it ever had. Sitting around the table talking and laughing with my family made me realize this was the life I wanted — spending time with people I loved and trusted.

Life was good.

Then, honestly, a little boring.

I decided to get in touch with an old friend.

“Hey, Rick, you called just in time. We’re headed out to this party. We’ll come pick you up.”

Nothing Scares the Fighter (Except Fred’s Mom)

The Story of Tony

Written by Monty Wheeler

The man came out of the thick darkness, brandishing a shiny blade. “I need money,” he said in a voice that rumbled like rolling thunder. “And it won’t bother me to kill you rich kids.”

Fred and I wore blue collars, but even that could look rich to some, I guessed. I turned to face him, and years of informal training in martial arts kicked in. My hand shot up quick as a snake’s strike and caught the knife wielder’s wrist. I twisted. He screamed. Music to my ears.

The downtown area of Flint, Michigan, had not been a safe place at night for as long as I could remember. But Fred and I loved to hang out with our 10-gallon keg of beer under the bridge on Saginaw Street that spanned the dirty waters of the Flint River. A simple handrail along a concrete pathway kept people from falling 15 feet into the black water.

I could have disarmed him, sent his knife clattering to the concrete walk and sent him packing. Instead, with my temper fueled by just enough beer to burn hot, I pulled his arm hard toward me, twisting the knife away from my torso. His momentum carried him past me and into the waist-high railing. He tipped, then toppled. I let him go, and he disappeared

headfirst into the abyss.

“One thousand one,” I counted slowly to myself, “one thou —”

Powder into Rock, for a Belly Full of Pizza

The Story of Samuel

Written by Alexandria Asmus

I heard the jingling of keys. Tap. Tap. Small hits to the door, jabbing, trying to fit the key into the lock. Click. It opened. The windows were black behind the tattered blinds. The smell of polluted air and car oil drifted in as he clumsily pushed open the door. Thomp. Thomp. Thomp. His feet were heavy on the floor. He let his bag crash to the ground. Leaning over to take off his boots, he fell sideways into the wall. Thud! He smelled of foul sweat and liquor.

Daddy’s home.

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