Second Annual Tracy Hurley Contest Winners

We had a record breaking number of entries this year for our Second Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest. The competition was tough, so congratulations to all who entered. Mobile Writers’ Guild is pleased to present the winning stories first, right here.

Middle School:

middle school winners

(Pictued from left to right: MWG President Carrie Cox, Hunter La Force, Nicholas Carley, and India La Palme.)

Third Place


Hunter La Force of Covenant Christian

“Just stop Dad!”
“Honey how many times do I have to tell you I’m sorry?”
“Sorry, you think sorry is going to bring her back?”
“Your mother loves you very much; she’s just upset right now.”
“I don’t blame her, after what you did to her”
“Honey I am so sor…”
“Get out of my room!”
“I love you Meg,” said Dad
“GET OUT!”  Meg yelled.
Dad drooped his head and took a small sigh. He walked over to the door, and out of the room. Then he quietly closed the door shut. After he shut the door a stream of tears came running down Meg’s face. She had never felt this way before; she felt so angry yet so upset at the same time. She wept,
“Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to feel this way?!” she screamed to her latent door. She just couldn’t take it anymore
“I have to get this out.”
Then she looked to the right side of her bed and saw her journal. After her mother left, she left a journal of hers when she used to work in the newspaper. It was a smooth hard leather brown notebook with the words Love in beautiful script impressed into it. Her mother filled the book with her ideas and everything she did, so Meg learned a lot more about her mom and so much about her life in the newspaper.  She took a sigh, and a small tear streamed down her face. She opened the book and began to write.
“Dear journal, my parents have finally filed the divorce papers, and now are officially in the final stages of their divorce. I just can’t believe my dad would do something like that. Everyone thought they were so good for each other, but dad blew it.”
Two more tears streamed down her face. She continued,
“Did I do something wrong? I mean it was Dad’s fault, but was there more than that? Was I the actual problem and the other thing was just an accessory to the reason of the divorce? “She closed the book, laid on her bed and went to sleep.
            Meg woke up early the next morning. She didn’t know why, but she suddenly felt the urge to get out of bed. She went to her bathroom and looked at her mirror. Her jet black hair was always the first thing she saw in the mirror. Then she saw her bright green eyes and her long narrow nose. She did not have any freckles or any facial blemishes, but her skin was very pale. No problems with her teeth, luckily, she was one of the few kids that did not have to get braces in middle school. But everyone said it was always her smile that they always noticed. Everyone said that her smile made their day because it was always…happy. Meg loved to share the joy of her day with others so she smiled and used her words of encouragement to help others. Meg didn’t really think of herself often. After all Meg always had a lot on her plate, even when there was nothing on her plate. She had to please her teachers, her parents, her classmates. She had to make good grades always make sure that she does not forget to do any of her homework. (Although it happens a lot) Meg never thought that she was stupid; she always knew that she was smart but didn’t like to talk about her. That’s why she smiles all the time and laughs at everyone’s jokes (even if they’re not funny) to make everyone around her, happy.
            Meg walked back to her room, plopped back on her bed, and tried to go back to sleep. She woke up at 7 o’clock every morning and this one was no different. Meg’s routine was, wash face, breakfast, brush teeth, brush hair, and everything else, then she was done. Meg tried to ignore her dad, at least until she felt like forgiving him and talking to him again. She walked over to her car got in the front seat, and with her dad, drove to school. Westbrook High was where she was heading and she was prepared for the day…or not. She knew she had all of her school stuff completed, but she didn’t know if she had everything settled from what has been going on lately. No, she could do this, she was always able to do it, and she would do it today. Meg walked out of her car and walked to her school.
“I can do this, I can do this” she kept repeating to herself.
She walked into her school and then remembered something. Her school is a total wreck, fights in the hallways, smoking in the bathroom, teachers making out in the teacher’s lounge. The only reason she knew the last one was the 11th grade Calculus teacher Mr. Nimadi decided to leave the door open. Several kids were scarred for life and never saw the teachers the same way ever again.
“Yep this school is definitely a wreck.” She said to herself.
She never knew if her school was the same as every other high school in the county but she wanted to know just in case if she ever needed to switch schools if a major accident happened in school. She never thought it would ever come to that but in this school, you never knew what would happen.
            Meg walked into homeroom and sat down waiting for whatever crazy thing Mrs. Napalm would come up with today. Mrs. Napalm was her 10th grade English teacher who loved to use insane teaching methods. One time she set a rabbit on fire and let it run throughout the school to help us get inspiration for our writing. It worked, but the bunny didn’t survive after the first 5 minutes. The only reason nobody reports her to the authorities is because nobody really cares enough to do so. Meg always thought that the name “Napalm” suited her because you never knew if she was ever going to explode.
“Good morning class!” she said in her usual happy sing song voice
“Oh my gosh.” Meg said to herself.
She had officially done it, she thought, Mrs. Napalm had finally, officially, lost her mind. Mrs. Napalm walked into her class with a blue spiked wig (or what she thought was a wig) and a spaghetti strap top with what seemed to be a tube top with the word s PINK embroidered on the front.
“Today we are going to dig inspiration from the deepest caves of your mind with an activity that will cause your mind to blow.” She said
The students sat up from their slouching positions and started to listen intently to what the apparently delirious teacher had to say.
“And you might be asking your selves, gees Mrs. Napalm, what is so inconceivably awesome that you would say something like that? Well, I have the answer in this box.”
Then she pulled out a giant cardboard box from behind her desk that was the size of a small doghouse. The students all gasped and wondered what could be in the box.
“Now, if anyone comes up with what is in the box they will pass the test, but if they don’t, they fail the assignment and do not get the whole point of the assignment. Any questions?”
The kids were astonished. Never did they have to do any real thinking in her class or do any real work. They were officially stumped. Then the bell rang and class was over.
“Alright off you go; off you go out into the world,” Mrs. Napalm yelled with glee
So the kids packed up their stuff and left the classroom.
            Every other class that day was a blur, Meg not really remembering what the teachers talked about. She was so bummed about the divorce that she had no idea how to process it. She could always write about it, but it didn’t seem like it really took care of the problem. She knew there was some way to get it out, but yet she didn’t.
            She kept walking through her day just waiting for it to be over but sadly, that wish didn’t come to pass. It was lunch time at Westbrook High the busiest time of the day. All the kids finally woke up from their boring class mode and turned on their crazy hungry jungle cat mode. At lunch, the kids could not be more focused because the food was simply amazing (contradictory to most school lunches) soft warm bread, thick juicy steaks, anything you could ever want was in the cafeteria. Meg loved lunch as much as every other kid but unexpected visitor came to the lunch table.
“Hey sweetie.”
Meg was shocked to see what appeared to be her mother. After Meg’s mother and father got divorced, Meg’s mother simply disappeared. Meg’s mother was gone for five months and was expected to be gone for good.
Meg had no idea what to say.
“What…What are you doing here?”
“Oh just coming to pick my little sis up.”
“Little sis?’ Meg thought “that’s new”
“Mom? Where have you been” said Meg
“No time to explain now, come on ill explain on the way.”
“O…kay” Meg perplexedly said
She walked out of the cafeteria and into the parking lot. Meg saw an unfamiliar car and her mother walking towards it so she assumed it was hers. So she got in the old unfamiliar van, but it was her mom driving the car so she guessed it was hers. Her mom stared at the driver’s wheel for a minute but then got a hold of herself and started the car. She drove out of the school parking lot and onto the road. Meg started this random encounter by asking the important question.
“Mom where have you been?”
“Why are you calling me mom, do I look old enough to be your mom?”
“Yes” Meg thought.
“No” She said.
“Then why did you act like I was your mom?”
“Because you are…” said Meg very confused
“Oh I get it now ha ha very funny” Carol said with a surprisingly sarcastic tone.
“What is wrong with her?” Meg thought “This must be one of those mid-life crisis things.” “Maybe if I go with it, she will realize how crazy she sounds.”
“So… Carol, where have you been?”
“Oh you know out and about.” Carol said “You know, why don’t we talk about this when we get to the diner, k?”
“The diner?” Meg thought “I remember when she used to take me there all the time.” “She started taking me right after her sister died of cancer because they used to go there all the time.”
So Meg went along with it
“Sure, ok” she said
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Carol
It took a long time but they finally got there, Hungry Joe’s Steakhouse and Diner. It was a little bit dirtier than she remembered, but the memories of the place were still as fresh as when they happened. Carol walked up to one of the ladies that worked there and said “We’ll have table number 6.”
“Right this way” the lady said with a tired aloof voice.
She escorted them to the table gave them their menus and left. Meg started the conversation again.
“Mom, where have you been?” asked Meg.
“Oh you are never going to believe this, I think I found the one!” exclaimed Carol.
“Apparently she didn’t hear me” Meg thought.
“Oh… that’s great” said Meg not sure if she should be happy or angry.
“His name is Robert and I feel like that we are perfect for each other.” cried Carol
“Dad’s name is Robert” Meg said thinking it was different that she fell in love with someone with the same as Dad.
“What, Dad’s name is Stewart.” She said questioningly
“Isn’t grandpa’s name Stewart?” Meg thought curiously.
“Isn’t grandpa’s name Stewart?” Meg asked.
“No, grandpa’s name is Michael.”
“Isn’t great-grandpa’s name Michael?” Meg thought
“Carol, what is the date?”
“November 20th, 2012” Carol said.
“Well at least she is not completely crazy” thought Meg
“Oh!” Carol exclaimed
“What?” Meg asked
“I totally forgot, I have to get you to your ballet lesson.” She said
“What?” shouted Meg.
Carol grabbed her by the arm, ran to the van, and made sure both of them were in the car then drove away.
“Mom, I don’t take ballet!”  yelled Meg
“Mary, what on earth are you saying of course you take ballet.” said Carol
“Mary” Meg thought “Oh no, is she talking about dead Aunt Mary?” “It all makes sense now; Mom is under the delusion that I am Aunt Mary.”
“Mom listen to me.” “I am not Aunt Mary!” Meg yelled.
“Aunt Mary, ok now you have officially lost your mind Mary.” Carol said
“But Mom, I’m not Aunt Mary it’s me, Meg your daughter.”
Then Meg saw something in the rear-view mirror that she could not believe.
She panicked; she exclaimed “Mom there is an 18-wheeler heading right towards us!”
“Stop making up stories Mary, we are almost to your ballet lesson.”
Then the truck crashed into the van.
            She woke up in her bedroom covered in sweat. She cried with relief and with pain that, that was all just a dream. She ran into her parent’s bedroom hoping everything she saw was a dream. She saw that both of her parents were still in the same bed, and her mom was still alive. She remembered why she felt so stressed last night. She remembered her parents having a really bad argument before she went to bed and didn’t know how it would turn out. But seeing her parents were in the same bed, she assumed they eventually made up. She walked over to her parents’ bed and hugged her mom. Carol hugged her right back apologizing for last night and assuring her that everything would be alright.

Second Place


Nicholas Carley of Covenant Christian

Matt is an 11-year-old, blond haired, green-eyed boy who is always looking for adventure. Once, when he was five, Matt rode his bike down Old Mill Road, the steepest hill in Ruton County, with his hands taped to the handlebars so he couldn’t chicken out.  Matt lives on Pale Moon Drive in the wooden house with blue chipping paint, dying grass and mat on their porch that says “H p y F ll” because its been used so many times.  Here Matt lives a happy life, but that’s all about to change.
 BEEP! BEEP! Matt slapped his alarm clock for the hundredth time this year. “Ugh!” thought Matt.  “Another boring day at school.”
“Breakfast!  Get it while it’s hot!” yelled Mrs. Jeanne, an intelligent redhead and Matt’s mom.
“Ok.” Matt replied with a sense of annoyance in his voice. He got dressed for school: gray khakis, a white and gray polo shirt and his wristwatch that he always kept with him.  As he came downstairs he recognized the smell of pancakes.
“Hey sweetie.” said mom.
“Hey” Matt groaned.
“I made you your favorite, pancakes with maple syrup.” Said mom.
He ate quickly and left for the bus stop.  Matt checked his wristwatch, 6:48a.m.  He could still see the stars.  When Matt was about a block from the bus stop, he saw it.  A fist size rock that was pulsating a strong red light that lit up everything within two feet.  He cautiously approached it.  After a minute of just staring at it bemused, he finally found the courage to touch it.  After three seconds, it started to glow violently.  Matt knew something big was about to happen.  He started to run.  He ran faster than he ever had before.  Finally, when he felt he was a safe distance away, he turned around and saw a flaming mushroom in the sky.
 “It wasn’t me!” yelled Matt.
“Then how do you explain the explosion?” asked officer Patton, a high-ranking police officer. He was African American, very well built, and had enough will power to catch every criminal in Ruton County.
“I already told you.  I was on my way to school.  I saw the rock on the sidewalk, touched it, and started to glow brightly; so I ran.  When I turned around, I saw the giant cloud of fire in the sky.”  Matt had a touch of desperation in his voice.
“Right,” said officer Patton sarcastically.  “I’ll just call your parents.”
The car ride home was long and tense.  Once home, Matt was told to go to his room until dinner. He felt dazed.  He thought about it until 6:30p.m. when he was called down for dinner.  Matt didn’t feel like eating, but he knew he should.  It was just he and his mom at the table because Matt’s dad was on a business trip.  The meal was eaten in silence.
After dinner, Matt went straight to bed.  He had a fitful night’s sleep.  Once or twice he woke up, and could have sworn he saw something glowing in his closet.  Every time he leaned in to get a better look, the light seemed to go out.
The next morning before he even opened his eyes, Matt knew that something was wrong. It was the smell. It smelled like a combination of that new car smell, hospitals, and a strong metallic scent.  He opened his eyes and confirmed his belief.  This was not his house.  He was in a 12’ by 12’ room with 10’ ceilings.  As he examined the room closer, he found that the only thing inside the room was the bed.  There was a small window with blinds controlled from the outside.  The only other thing was a small black camera constantly watching him.  Everything in the room, with the exception of the black camera lens, was white, even his clothes.  He went to check his wristwatch and found it gone.
“Great.” He said frustrated.
Just then he heard footsteps.  He stood and waited as they got closer.  Finally they slowed, and the blinds on the little window opened without warning.  What Matt saw startled him.  It was a purplish creature with dull man-like features.  The creature was holding a thin sheet of metal on which he quickly tapped something into and walked away.  Matt started to run toward the window, but before he reached it, the blinds flickered closed, leaving Matt’s imagination running wild.  Nothing else bothered Matt for the rest of the day.  The second day, Matt conjured up a plan.  He was going to hide behind the bed and hopefully when the alien saw him missing, someone would come in and investigate.  He would force his way out, that is, if everything went according to plan.  Matt hid behind the bed.  After what seemed like an hour, he heard muffled footsteps.  Soon the blinds opened. After a few seconds, they closed again.  Just when he thought all hope was lost, he heard a hissing noise, and saw a small block of the wall slide out of place.  The two-foot tall alien walked in.
Matt seized his chance.  He lunged at the “thing” and easily overtook it, apparently knocking it out.  Matt searched the alien and found only what looked to be a flare gun with a small glass cylinder loaded inside it, a strange box with symbols and buttons under them, and what looked like a map of this place.  Outside, lying on the ground was the sheet of metal the alien was using.  Matt picked it up, pocketed all of his newly acquired items, and assessed the situation.  He was standing in a long corridor with two options: left or right. He chose left.  When he got to the end of the hall, he found a code on the door.  Matt checked the remote-sized box and, sure enough, one of the same codes was on it.  He pressed the button under the code, and the door opened. Inside was a huge domed area with dozens of tables and chairs scattered about.  To the right was a long cafeteria-like line of strange colored and shaped fruits.  He then began searching the perimeter for other doors.  He found one.  Using his box, he was able to open the door.  Inside was an elevator.  Matt saw that there were 5 floors to the place.  He pressed floor number 1 and waited.
When the doors opened, he braced himself for what lay ahead.  The doors opened into a room that looked like an experimentation lab. There was a creature standing in the back of the room, guarding a door.  Matt knew at that moment he had to get behind that door.  Suddenly, an alarm went off.  He guessed they found out he escaped.  Matt lunged behind a table as the guard ran past him to the elevator.  The guard heard Matt dive and stepped out and looked around.  It startled Matt, but he remembered his flare gun-looking thing.  He slipped it out as quietly as he possibly could and took aim.  He tapped his foot against the table to draw the alien guards attention. The guard looked. He fired. The glass cylinder shattered against the creature’s chest.  At first nothing happened, but after a second, the glass shards started to shimmer.  Matt hid behind a counter.
The shimmering became more intense until finally, they seemed to set fire to the whole room. When the light died down, Matt saw that everything within 5’ of the shards had been completely incinerated!  Matt knew at that moment he had seconds before more aliens stormed this place.  He ran to the door in the back of the room.  At first when he opened the door, he got confused.  It looked like a small broom closet.  The only thing that was inside was an electronic box on the wall.  Then he recognized it.  He had seen something like it a hundred times on SyFi TV.  It was a teleporter.  He noticed the words above it said “MATT HARRISON, NORTH AMERICA, EARTH” Matt realized that this was how the aliens came into his room and kidnapped him – through his closet!
He needed to destroy this thing, but how could he do it before teleporting back to his house? Then he remembered. The glass cylinders! They took awhile before incinerating anything around it! Matt looked around and found a bundle of them lying on a counter.  He jumped as he heard the elevator.  He chunked a glass cylinder at the elevator door and the teleporter.  He pressed the enter button just as light and heat engulfed him.  A moment later, he was in his closet back home.  He walked out exhausted and flopped on his bed.  Matt knew nobody would believe him or his gut feeling this wasn’t over.  He was just glad he was alive.
He looked at his wall clock, 9:26p.m. It was time for bed.

First place


India LaPalme of Christ the King

The important thing to remember when you’re hunting  fairies—or other magical nuisances—is to wear full body armor. And I do mean  full.  For those of you who are  scratching your heads, I’m part of an organization that hunts them.  They are real.  I can’t tell you the name—it’s  classified. But I will tell you this: It’s not the greatest job, but it beats  working at McDonald’s.
I slipped on my protective chest  plate and squinted at my magic detector.
That’s weird. It’s picking up a lot more  magic than usual. The more  magic you pick up, the more powerful the creature you’ve detected is, and the  more powerful the creature you kill, the more respect you get in the  monster-hunting community. Hansel saw the excitement on my face and frowned.  Whenever I got a rush, he got nervous. Which was smart, considering I usually  got excited when I was about to do something dangerous.
“What?” My brother asked  hesitantly.
I grinned. “Look how much magic I’m  picking up!”
“Gretel!” His eyes widened. “You know we can’t take down something  this powerful. We don’t have the right equipment, or enough experience, or . . .  .” His voice trailed off, and he sighed. “You’re not going to listen to  me—again.”
I shook my head. “Are you coming,  or not?”
“Of course I’m coming.” He gave me a  defeated look.  “What would you do  withoutme?”
I rolled my eyes. “I can think of a  couple hundred things.”
“I’ll forget you said that,” he  grumbled.
We followed the trail to an arcade.  When I pulled on the door handle, it opened easily and of course, my cell phone  rang—right at that moment.
“It’s Penny.” I whispered to  Hansel. “Go in without me.”  
Penny’s not evil. In fact, I think  she’s really sweet as far as stepmothers go.
“Hello?” I asked innocently. 
“Honey, I was so worried about you!  Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. I’m spending the night at  Jenna’s house—”
“Jenna?” Penny  interrupted.
“Her mom is right here,” I lied.
“I guess it’s okay.” Penny sighed.  “Don’t stay up too late,  sweetie.”
“I won’t.  Love ya!” I hung up and hurried inside  the store.
Complete darkness.
What was that sound? Hansel? Taking  another step forward, I felt something under my foot. Picking it up, I realized  it was his phone.
Great. I stuffed it in my pocket and  headed for the back of the arcade.  But I only got a few more steps before I heard the croaking voice. 
“Who’s nibbling on my house?”
I rolled my eyes. Doesn’t she know this is an arcade?
“Come on dearie, don’t be shy.”  I sensed disappointment that I didn’t  answer.
I’m nobody’s “dearie.” I thought  about pulling the dagger out of my boot but decided against it. “Who’s there?” I  asked, instantly feeling stupid for giving away my location. 
“Well, if you must know, I’m Matilda.” The voice darkened.
What are you?”
“I’m a witch, child.”
“You got that right,” I  muttered.
“You’re such an amusing little girl,” Matilda cackled.
I clenched my fist and bit my  tongue to keep from insulting her. Ordinarily, I would have called her all sorts  of names, including the one that rhymed with witch . . . but she obviously had  Hansel.  For now, I would have to  play along.
“Where’s my brother?”
“Oh! The little boy?”
I couldn’t keep from snickering. “That’s him.”
“Come along, dearie.”  She snapped her fingers and the weirdest  thing happened. I was forced to follow her.   “Time to join your brother.”
The pull was impossible to resist. I was dragged me  through the arcade and into a back room. The witch flicked her finger to the  side, and the lights flashed on.
“Why didn’t you just  cast a spell to make some light?”
“Well, I would but that’s a  Category Three.  Too much energy if  I’m going to—”  She stopped. “Never  mind.”
Going to what?
We were in some kind of storeroom  filled with boxes and crates. Hansel was sitting on a chair in the corner.
When he saw me, he waved. “Hey!  Give me back my phone so I can get to level fifty-five on Galactica’s  Revenge!”
“In case this important thought hasn’t  occurred to you,” I said, my eyes burning into him, “you should be a less  concerned with your precious video game and way more concerned with getting out of  here!”
“Yeah, whatever. Just give it to me.”
“Give your brother his phone, dearie,” Matilda laughed.
Tugging itself out of my grasp, the  phone flew into Hansel’s hand. I shot him a look that said, If you don’t put that stupid thing down and  tell me why you’re not trying to escape, I’ll kill you. But my idiot brother  ignored me. Before the witch could do anything, I marched across the room and  snatched the phone back. Then I stomped on it as hard as I could.
Hansel moaned. “All my progress is  lost!”
I rolled my eyes. “You’ll  survive.” 
“Well! I declare it’s been a long time  since I’ve seen a little girl act so unladylike!”  The witch perched her bony fingers on  her hips. “Don’t worry, darling, I’ll fix it.” She cooed to Hansel. He grinned  and stuck out his tongue at me.
Something was seriously wrong with  my brother.
   Muttering, the witch left the room. Isn’t she worried about us escaping? But  I understood when I walked to the doorway. The air was rippling slightly. I  cautiously reached out, and then quickly yanked my hand back. My skin was  slightly burnt from touching it. I had no doubt that if I tried to walk through  the doorway my clothes would burst into flames. Since escaping was no longer an  option, I turned my attention to Hansel who was staring at the floor, looking  bored.
          “Why are you acting like an idiot?”
Hansel jumped at the sound of my  voice and glanced around, making sure Matilda was gone.
“I’m pretending I love her so she  won’t be suspicious.”
I crossed my arms, waiting for  more.
“Matilda said since I’m such a good little boy—” he scrunched up his  face and said it in a super high voice that hurt my ears—“she won’t put any  spells on me to keep me from escaping.”
“So what’s your plan?”
“Run like heck. Oh, and grab some  candy on the way out.”
“Run like heck . . . and grab candy . .  .yeah, that’s really going to work,” I snorted. 
Hansel folded his arms and stared  at me. “Okay, genius, what’s your plan?”
I sighed. “I’m thinking.” Then it  hit me. “My phone!”
“Are you going to give it to me  since you destroyed mine?” my brother asked hopefully.
I laughed. “No. But sorry for  breaking it. I thought that you were under some kind of spell or something. But  it’s so simple. I can look her up  using the OME.
(That’s the Online Monster  Encyclopedia for those of you not in the know.)
“Why don’t you just call headquarters for  backup?”
“Are you kidding me? I’d never do  that unless it was a life-or-death situation.”
“And this isn’t?”
I ignored my brother and took out  my phone. After I’d typed in the secret code, I looked searched for witches.
Witches are some of the most  dangerous of magical creatures because they were once human. Therefore they are  smarter and much more cunning than any other monster. To become immortal, a  witch endures a long and painful spell cast by another witch. Much black magic  is used to ensure that they will never die from illness or old age. So far,  witches have proved themselves impossible to kill.
I shoved my phone back in my  pocket. Thanks for all the useful  information, guys! Still, I was determined not to call for reinforcements.  Everyone else was busy enough without cleaning up our mess, and it would make us  look stupid. Besides, how much help would they be, if you couldn’t kill a little  old witch?
Just then, Matilda reappeared and  smiled at me. I tried not to look disgusted. Black magic might have given her  eternal life but it certainly hadn’t done anything for the huge wart on her nose  or her crooked teeth, an orthodontist’s worse nightmare. 
“Follow me, my pets! Time to take a  little nap! You can rest in the kitchen.”
I snuck a look at Hansel. He raised  his eyebrows.
Without any other choices, we  followed her. 
Matilda’s kitchen was definitely  not what I had expected. Everything was pink and girly. It looked like a regular  old lady’s place to hang out, eat burnt toast, and forget to feed the dog.  Except Matilda was no regular old lady. She was evil and determined to kill us.  Appearances were very, very deceiving in this case.
She pointed her finger at a spot in  the corner. Two beanbags appeared.
“Sleep there. Feel free to move around  the kitchen, but don’t try to leave, or you’ll get a nasty surprise!”
Matilda handed Hansel his phone. “Here you go, dear!  Good as  new!” 
I started investigating the room  for any useful weapon. Pink potholders and napkins? Nope. Boxes of  cake mix? Don’t think so. There was plenty of silverware but no knives. Then  I noticed something on the counter—a cookbook. The title read: Better than Peanut Butter and Jelly: Great  Recipes for Immortals with Nut Allergies.
Finally! Some useful information! I  turned to Hansel and whispered, “Hey, do you still have that bag of nuts in your  pocket?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“I need them.  Now!”
“But Gretel,” he whined. “What if I  get hungry in the middle of the night?”
“Unless we get out of this,  tonight’s your last night!”  I  pointed out.  
He gave me the nuts. 
I returned to the cookbook.  After ten minutes of searching, I found  a pie recipe. My mom had taught me how to bake when I was eight, so making it  would be easy. Ignoring Hansel’s complaints, I poured the entire bag of nuts  into a pan, smothered it with a custard pie filling I’d found, and put the pie  into the oven.
While it was baking, I searched  again.  I had to be thorough; it had  to be here somewhere.    Predictably, Matilda put it in the  drawer next to the silverware. The Epi Pen was wrapped in a black felt  cloth.  Just the thing to cure those with deadly  peanut allergies. I opened the  kitchen window and threw it as far as I could.
Do you think I’m a horrible  person?
Although I hadn’t told Hansel, I  knew exactly who Matilda was and that she was very capable of making us into  kiddie cuisine. Our names weren’t just a coincidence. Matilda was the very same  witch who had killed my ancestors, the original Hansel and Gretel. The fairy  tale was totally wrong, though. She did force them to jump into a gigantic  oven and slammed the door.  Even  sang a sick little song while they were baking.
Gross. I know.
A few minutes later, I took the pie  out of the oven and hid it in a cabinet.  Then, I fell asleep on a beanbag. 
The next morning, I woke up.  Thank God it’s Saturday!
No one would notice we were gone  for at least a few more hours. Hansel was still asleep, snoring so loudly that I  was surprised the walls weren’t shaking. Suddenly, Matilda entered the kitchen.  She looked relieved to find that we hadn’t escaped. I nudged Hansel, and he  opened his eyes.
I leaned over and whispered into  his ear. “Remember the pie I made? Help me convince her to eat it.”
“Why are you whispering, dears?” Matilda crooned. 
Hansel gave me a confused look but  nodded.
“Good morning, Matilda,” I said,  standing and stretching. 
“Good morning, dear. Did you sleep  well?”  She didn’t seem suspicious. “I hope the beanbags were comfortable enough for you.”
I gritted my teeth, playing along. “Of course; they were nicer than the Ritz Carlton.”
“Good,” she said.  “I hope you’ll behave much better today  after your rest.” 
“Look what I made for you,” I said,  walking to the cabinet and taking the pie out. “I love to bake!”
“That makes two of us!”  Matilda squealed, clapping her hands  excitedly. “Oh, I do love pie!” Then  she frowned. “Does it have any nuts in it? ”
“My sister hates nuts,” Hansel assured  her. I could tell he meant that she too, was included in that group.
Matilda nodded approvingly.
“Well, I’ll have some later.  After I kill you.”
My heart sank. We were  doomed.
And after she forced us to eat some  breakfast, Matilda sat at the kitchen table and pointed at the oven. It  magically expanded until it covered the entire wall. She turned it on, rose  suddenly, and rummaged through a wobbly cabinet.  She emerged with another cookbook and  opened it to a dog-eared page. “You’ll taste delicious! Any last  requests?”
Crossing my fingers, I stammered, “J-j-j-ust one. Will you eat a slice of my pie?  One slice?” 
“Oh, I just love a child who doesn’t  struggle.”  Matilda smiled fondly at  me. “It’s such a refreshing change  from the ones who resist.”
She produced a knife from up her  sleeve and cut a giant piece of pie. Hansel and I watched, holding our breath.  Matilda shoveled it into her mouth and swallowed.
I gulped.
What if it didn’t work?
Suddenly, Matilda’s face began  swelling up. She wheezed, and  clutched her throat. Hansel and I watched, both interested and incredibly  grossed out as the witch fell to the floor. She mumbled something, but we  ignored it. 
Without warning, the building began  to shake. Hansel and I dashed out of the room. As we ran toward the door, he  snatched a box of Junior Mints from a candy display, knowing I had more  important things to do than yell at him for being stupid. I darted out the door,  my brother following. Seconds later, the arcade vanished. All that was remained  was an ugly concrete lot filled with weeds and trash. There was no sign that  that a building had ever been there.
I smiled triumphantly.
Run like heck, and steal some candy on the way out.  I guess Hansel’s plan worked after all .  . .
“I’m hungry,” my sibling announced.  I grinned, so relieved to be alive that nothing he said could annoy me.
Nothing, that is, unless he started  talking about video games . . .

High School:

high school winners

(Pictured from left to right: Carrie Cox, Carl Thomas, Jr., and Jacob Sims.)

Third Place


Carl Thomas, Jr. of Citronelle High School

“Addie Mae! Addie Mae! Come on here! You been’ brushing your hair so long, you ain’t gone have none when your through!”, shouted Bobby on his way out his pale yellow wooden house.
It was a crisp Friday morning, 1963, in Birmingham, AL, and we were on our way to school. I was in the driver’s seat, since I was the only one to have a driver’s license, Bobby, my best friend, and Addie’s big brother was in the passenger, and the back seat would be reserved for Addie and her girlfriends.
“Finally! Lazarus has arisen!”, teased Bobby.
“Boy, hush! Morning, C.C.!”
“Good Morning Addie Mae!”, I replied. Addie skipped daintily to my 58′ Chevy Biscayne, and hopped seat to seat, to see which one she wanted to sit in today. “Buckled up back there?” I asked Addie. She looked in my rear view mirror and gave me a salute, like she always did. “Well, let’s get a move on!”
“Who’s house we going to first today Addie?”
She thought tediously for a moment. “Let’s pick up Carole first.”
“You got it ma’am!”
On the ride to Carole’s house, Bobby turned around to study Addie. “So sis, whatcha’ so dolled up for? That little Jones boy in your class? He don’t want you!”
Addie rolled her eyes and replied hastily, “Yes he does! I gave him a pencil in class the other day, and he said he wanna’ be my fee…my…fee… Oh I remember, my fiancé!”
“Your who?”, replied Bobby with concern.
“We’re at Carole’s now, quiet down!” I slipped in to ease the tension. Carole stood on her door step with her bag in both hands. She raced to my car, looking down, refraining  her urge to smile. Carole had a crush on older guys, one that made her awfully timid.
“Morning Carole!” said Bobby.
In a tiny, almost inaudible, high-pitched voice, she replied, “Hi.” She slid next to Addie and began talking about their new church dresses. Addie’s last two girlfriends stayed in the same neighborhood, so one would wait at the other’s house until I arrived.
We drove for a 15 minutes and finally made it. “Here it is! Dynamite Hill Neighborhood.”
Cynthia and Denise were the most outspoken of Addie’s girlfriends. They wore scarves and pillbox hats, and carried themselves like First Ladies. They walked like runway models, with much attitude, switching back and forth. Something they dare wouldn’t do in front of the elders.
“Good Morning Ladies!” I said.
In a sassy voice they replied, “Morning Mr. C.C.” Every older fellow they met they referred to as “Mister”. They cozied themselves along with the other girls, and immediately began chatting about dolls, dresses, and even Addie’s “fiancé”, which made Bobby make the most disgusted faces.
“Next stop, Denise to the elementary school, and Addie, Cynthia, and Carole to the high school.” I always found it amazing how the girls remained to be such great friends, through the common ground of being church mates, and their age difference.
After I dropped off Denise, we made our way to the high school. Me and Bobby had about every class together. We told stories in Science, cracked jokes in Math, and sung Smokey Robinson in P.E. After those classes, we had English. We were on our way to English class, and Bobby suddenly halted.
“Why did you stop?”, I questioned him.
He inched closer to the “Whites Only” restroom. “Come. Listen”. I made sure no one was coming and put my ear against the door.
“What are they saying Bobby?”
“I don’t know. I just heard John Chambliss say something about his daddy and his friends, and he mentioned 16th Street Baptist.”
“Isn’t his dad in the Ku Klux Klan?”
“I guess. My question is: Why would they mention our church?”
“I don’t know.”, I replied.
“The talking stopped.”, said Bobby, “Hurry, move, move!”, we ran from the door and hid behind the trashcan.
They all came out of the restroom, single-file, laughing. “What are they laughing about?”, said Bobby. “I wish I knew.”
After school that day, Bobby, the girls, and myself went to the park. “Man, I’m still wondering about that conversation. I cant shake this feeling. Why would they be talking about our church?”
“I don’t know. We’ll just have to pray about it Bobby.” He nodded his head as he kicked rocks around his feet.
Addie and the girls formed a circle and began playing patty cake. They all began to sing in unison: “Little Sally Walker, Sittin’ in a Saucer, Ride Sally Ride, Wipe your weepin’ eyes. Put your hands on your hip, and let your backbone slip, I want you to shake it to the east-“
Suddenly, Bobby interrupted. “Y’all don’t need to be shaking nothing!”
They all turned around and said at once, “Hush, boy!”. I laughed heartily at Bobby’s expense.
“Alright y’all, it’s getting late. Let’s Go.”
A chorus of moans and wails came out of the lungs of the young girls.
“I hate to be the one to end the fun,” I began, “but it’s dangerous for us here at night. It’s been 6 bombings this week.”
“Six!”, exclaimed Addie.
“Yes.”, replied Bobby.
“Girl, you know they call this place ‘Bombingham’ now?”, said Denise to Addie.
“That’s scary. I hope my house don’t get bombed!”, said Addie.
“Me too!”, said all the girls at once, followed by a bellowing laugh. They all jumped in the car, and we started back our trip, to drop everyone back off.
“Hey C.C.”, said Cynthia.
“Yeah”, I replied. “Turn on the radio.”
As I turned on my radio, a voice rang out, “This is Mr. Donny D, with all this hits, your #1 station for Soul and R&B! Here is Martha & The Vandellas with their hit, ‘Heatwave!”
The normally quiet Carole screamed, “I love this song!”
All the girls chimed in, and began singing in a quartet, “Whenever I’m with him, something inside, starts to burnin’, and I’m filled with desire. Could it be, a devil in me, Or is this the way, love supposed to be, it’s like a Heatwave!”
Bobby and I couldn’t fight it ourselves. Even we started snapping and nodding our heads to the rhythm. One by one, I dropped off all the girls, until no one was left, except Bobby and Addie.
“Night Addie.”
“Night C.C.” She crawled up to the front seat and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“Night Bobby.”
“Night C.C.”, he said as he jumped out the passenger side. Bobby waved goodbye, and I started on my way back to my house. It was nights like these that made me forget the evil times of racial prejudice and injustice I was living in.
When I got home, I discovered my mother and father already asleep. I washed up and slipped into my pajamas. I crawled in my bed, but the last thing I could do was sleep. My mind wondered all night. I couldn’t stop thinking of why John Chambliss and his friends were talking about 16th Street Baptist. They couldn’t be attending service. Could they? What was being planned? The plethora of questions, slowly dulled my busy mind into a state of slumber I didn’t know I even had.
Sunday morning, I woke with a steady fear deep in my heart.
“Good Morning Baby.”, entered my mother.
I jumped a little. “Hey mama.”
“What’s wrong honey? You almost jumped out your skin.”
“Nothing.” I lied. I wanted to tell my mother of how the white boys at school mentioned the church, and how I was scared of what it was, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
“I ironed your black suit, is that okay?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Well, it’s on your dresser. Get ready, we’re leaving in a little.”
As I sat in the backseat on the way to church, I couldn’t help but stare out the window, looking at the treetops. I tried to ease my mind of the hysteria, but it wasn’t helping. My mother who sat in the passenger seat tapped my knee. I jumped once again. “Boy, I called your name about 4 times. I was asking you if wanted a peppermint. What’s wrong?”
“Stop lying Charlie Lee Copeland Jr.. There is. You’re going to tell me too, or I have the right mind to get a switch.”
“Sounds like you don’t have many options there son!”, teased my father.
“Fine.” I began, “I heard some boys at my school talk about their dads, and they said something about the church and-“
“And what? That don’t mean a thing! Listen baby: No weapons formed against our church shall  prosper. Right?”
I hesitated.
“Right?”, she said again forcefully.
“Right.”, I answered.
“Well then good. It’s settled.” I watched mother as she adjusted her pearls, and fixed curls. She put on her silk gloves, and grabbed her bible case and pocketbook.
“We’re here.”, declared my father. “There goes your little friends baby, see, Bobby Collins, and his little sister Addie, and all her little friends. Gone over there. You’ll forget all about your worries.”
I got out the car, and walked towards Bobby, each footstep, making my heart jump.
“You look terrible!” exclaimed Bobby.
“Thanks, that makes me feel wonderful.”, I replied sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, not like that. Have you been thinking about what those boys said at school?”
“Don’t even worry about it C.C., everything will be okay.”
“I hope.”
I walked over to Addie Mae and her girlfriends. “Good Morning C.C.”, they all said in cheerful, innocent tone.
“Good Morning Ladies! You all look beautiful this Sunday morning!”
“Thank You”, they all replied.
“Today is Youth Day!”, said Denise with much excitement.
“We’re all going to be singing in the choir.”, said Addie Mae.
“I can’t wait to hear it!”, I replied.
“I can!”, said Bobby.
“Hush, boy!”, they all said. After Sunday School, me and Bobby went outside with some of the congregation until everything was set for Youth Day.
“Feel better?”, asked Bobby.
“I actually do,” I replied.
“Where’s the girls?”,I asked.
“Oh, they’re in the basement lounge. They said they wanted to practice their harmony before they go into the choir stand.”
“Oh.”, I told Bobby.
“Probably won’t help them much!” he said jokingly.
We shared a good laugh. “What time is it?”, I asked Bobby.
“It’s 10:2–“
All of a sudden, a deafening, earsplitting, “BOOM”, roared through the sky, as chunks of brick, mortar, and glass rained down upon us. A thick cloud of smoke rose to the sky, finally clearing away, showing a horrifying sight of a destroyed church in flames and ruins. Bobby and I were blown back by the blast, both of us getting up slowly, covered in soot.
“Addie!!!”Bobby screamed in a blood-curdling, shrill cry. He ran towards the church, only being stopped by myself, just in case another explosion would detonate.
I looked on in horror, as Hell had taken captive of Birmingham. The sound of ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars, we’re overpowered by the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. The high powered fire hose, like a fearful dragon, tried to extinguish the potent flames. The policemen escorted Bobby away from the scene, as he kicked, screamed, and dragged the ground, lamenting, and mourning in the terror surrounding him. My mother and father, covered in ash, rushed me into the car, and drove home. I stared back the whole ride home, crying all the tears I could cry.
That night as my mother turned on the news, the explosion played over, and over again. The anchorman began, “Four members of the Ku Klux Klan, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton, Bobby Cherry, and Robert Chambliss conspired to bomb 16th Street Baptist Church.” My heart stopped.
“That’s John Chambliss’s father,” I thought, “That’s what they talked about in the restroom that day.” The pieces of this horrifying puzzle came together to create a crystal clear picture.
The anchorman continued. “Chambliss was seen planting a box of dynamite under the steps of the church. The bomb detonated at 10:22 a.m., injuring 23 people, and killing 4. The bodies have been have identified as 11-year old Denise McNair, 14-year old Cynthia Wesley, 14-year old Carole Robertson, and finally 14-year old Addie Mae Collins.”
My mind went blank. An hour later, I remember waking up with my parents surrounding me. They told me that I had fainted. The grief of the beautiful little girls that I loved had taken the breath right out of me. That night when I went to bed, my eyes were swollen. My pillow case and shirt were soaked in my tears. I shed tears for Cynthia. I shed tears for Carole. I shed tears for Denise. I shed tears for Addie. This nightmare became a reality, a reality that was all too real. I was 17 years old, when those 4 beautiful angels, were sent to live with the King. Even now, at my old age, I still think about My friend Bobby. I still think about those little girls. The way they dressed, the way they sung, even the way they played. Even now, it still plays over, and over, in my head. My heart suffered so much pain that day. Just like the bomb that went off in the church, it was like a bomb that went off in my heart.

Second Place


Jacob Sims of Mobile Christian

 Not long ago, a group of Boy Scouts were camping in the hill country of northern Alabama and decided to spend the night in a cave they came across. Tradition demanded that the troop leader tell a scary story, so he told one of those that begin, “A long time ago, in a cave like this one…” This is the story he told.
In the year 1829, a group of miners founded a temporary town near the cave to mine iron that they found there. They brought their families, of course, because it would be lonely otherwise. One man, Robert, brought his wife Anna and his son William. William was twelve at the time, and had a habit of going out to explore the cave networks that the miners uncovered. He found them very interesting, and could not wait until he was allowed to work with the miners.
One day, there was a particular scare as William disappeared for quite some time. His father saw him as he was on his way to the caves, but rather than tell him to go home immediately, he simply told him to be home by sundown for dinner. Two hours later, over an hour after sundown, he was not home. “If that boy is not home soon,” Anna said angrily, “I will wring that boy’s scrawny neck!”
“Calm down, dear,” Robert said soothingly, “I’m sure he just forgot or got distracted by an interesting geological structure.” Robert knew how to read, and read a lot when he was a boy.
“I’m sure you’re right, dear,” Anna said. “I overreact so much sometimes.” Robert smiled slyly.
The next morning, Anna went in to William’s room to see if he had just come in late, but he was not there. “He’s always asking to go to work with Robert. Maybe Robert decided to take him to the mines with little sleep as punishment for getting home late.”
A few hours later, Anna Robert came home for lunch — alone. “Is William not with you?” Anna asked anxiously.
“No, dear, but don’t worry. I’m sure I simply woke him up when I left this morning, and he went to spend the day with one of his friends.”
“I’m sure you’re right dear.” Robert returned to work, and a short time later Anna noticed that the family was running low on food. The miners in this particular town had an arrangement between the miners and any farmers that came to live with them. The farmers would trade food for iron tools, and the miners would share the food amongst themselves. So, Anna went to the communal market to get the things she needed.
When she arrived, she went directly to a stall run by the mother of William’s best friend. “Does William happen to be with your son?” she asked the woman.
“I wouldn’t rightly know,” the woman replied in her thick drawl. “I ain’t seen my son all day. They’re prob’ly off explorin’ the woods er caves.” Anna consoled herself with this and finished her shopping before heading home.
After putting the supplies away at home, Anna remembered that that night was the monthly town meeting. “Surely William would not forget that,” she told herself. “I’ll see him there.”
On her way to the town meeting, Anna saw Robert with William. “He fell asleep in the cave and was woken by a strange noise. He wants me to come hear it with him. You go to the meeting and tell me what happens,” Robert said as he passed by her. Anna, comforted entirely for the first time all day, continued to the meeting.
In the cave, William led Robert to a small alcove off the ground, forming a sort of natural bunk. From the wall behind the cave came a faint sound like falling gravel — or the scratching of claws on stone. “I think I know what it is,” Robert said. “There was a cave-in recently, and some gravel must still be settling.” Comforted, William and his father returned home. William’s punishment was that he would begin working with the men in the mines.
William did not see the punishment at the time, but once he began work, he did. Working all day in the mines, he understood why a certain maturity was required. It wasn’t the maturity; it was the strength. Day in and day out, due to the heat captured in the rocks combined with the back-breaking work of tearing rock from rock, sweat fell from his brow. Often his bare feet would be torn and bloodied, and even more often he would slip and cut himself on rocks, or rocks would fall and cut him. He suffered a broken finger and a sprained back within a month of beginning his job. And the scratching that his father had said was falling gravel seemed to follow his progress.
After a year of work, the mine was deemed nearly depleted, leaving William with admirable muscles and thick skin. But that scratching, which had bothered William day in and day out, just seemed to grow louder and closer every day. William, now almost six foot and easily as strong as any man, still worked in the caves every chance he got, despite no iron having been found in a few weeks. Because of this, he still heard the gravel daily.
One day, at a town meeting, a young man burst into the church. He was frantic, yelling unintelligibly. “Calm down, calm down!” someone said, “and start over.” The boy went to the head of the meeting, and no one noticed as his fiance slipped into the back of the room.
“I was in the caves because I was bored,” the boy began after calming himself, “when I found a trail of dark liquid. Worrying that a drunk had stumbled into the cave and worried about them, I followed it and at the end I found fresh bones, picked of flesh with little clumps remaining, and a human head topping it, the eyes missing, blood covering it, the mouth twisted into a scream of pain and terror, but still identifiable as the head of good boy William.” There was an uproar, equal parts anger, fear, disgust, and anguish. Anger that anything could have slipped by their guard, fear because William’s prowess in a fight was well known, disgust for obvious reasons, and anguish of those close to him mourning, among them the girl William was courting.
The men rallied together, took up arms, and began a march to the caves, complete with torches and pitchforks. Inside they went, spreading out in groups, leaving guards at the entrances and branches they encountered, until they found the blood trail, near the alcove where William first heard the scratching. The back wall was gone, and opened into a small cave, strange formations making it look like a stone cage. It smelled of long rotten flesh, feces, and urine, and was walled with the bones of prey ranging from hares to humans. There was a small tunnel in the back, and guards were left there. In the end, Robert and a dear friend of his were the only ones to make it to the bone pile, where they gathered the remains with all possible respect.
Robert and his friend reached the entrance of the cave after several minutes. The guard there asked, “Are the others looking for the beast that did this?” Robert and his friend looked at each other. They had forgotten about the others.
Just then, a faint, animal growl, like a high pitched dog’s warning growl, escaped the cave, around the pitch of a human voice. Movement caught the eye of a guard, and he had just enough time to stare in horror before he began lowering the door of the cave, which was made of wood and had been implemented to avoid flooding. A moment later a faint figure, a silhouette, could be made out, one with which none of the men were familiar. It was emaciated, rib cage and forearm bones being clearly visible, but seemed to contain an immense power. The other guard began aiding the lowering of the gate. The creature began running towards them very quickly
As it grew nearer, its appearance grew clearer. The head was little more than a skull with teeth sharpened to points, rotting, and with little pieces of flesh and blood still visible between and on them. The eyes were sunken, the surrounding flesh dark and unhealthy. The skin, where visible through the blood, was dirty but pale, with caked blood appearing in patterns resembling clothing. The torso, despite conveying a hidden power, was little more than the spine and rib cage; the legs, although clearly powerful by the goblin’s speed, were just bones wrapped in tight fitting skin, and the feet and hands were clawed and entirely skeletal, as if the skin had been slowly worn away over the years. Just as the massive door was about to close, the goblin stopped dead still and spoke. In an ancient, broken, dry, scratchy, baritone voice the creature said, quite calmly and certainly, “I shall enjoy the feast of thine flesh as I have that of thine friend and family.”
As the door slammed shut, the four men sighed sighs of relief, not doubting the fate of their compatriots, and relaxed momentarily. Then they heard the squeaking of the gear’s direction being changed, and they remembered the safety on the other side that allowed the door to be opened from the inside. The chain, however, was on the outside, and the men shattered it, permanently sealing the cave. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the miners covered the cave entrance with every spare bit of soil and stone they could find, and poisoned the nearby water so as to ward off any potential settlers before moving off.
            After the story was done, all of the Boy Scouts went to sleep, huddled together in their sleeping bags around their burnt-out fire. There was an alcove in the cave, elevated so as to form a kind of bunk. The faint sound of gravel falling could be heard coming from its back wall. Then, a voice echoed forth, and said, “I am tired of waiting.”


First Place


Ann Claire Carnahan of UMS-Wright

Upon achieving official adulthood, in the eyes of both her parents and the surrounding townspeople, May Louella Scott had taken part in a childish tradition, a baptism of sorts, wading through the little creek several miles from her back door. Her hair hung hot and sticky, thirsting for reprieve from the insufferable Alabama sun as she twirled slowly, careful not to slip on the moss.
            “I will see the world,” she promised her bare feet, which appeared greenish and distorted beneath the wild water. “With a good husband that I love more than life itself.” After whispering her dreams to the sweet hum of the crickets, she dove into the nearest pocket of deep, cool water.  On her eighteenth birthday in 1890, reality was indefinite. Anything could evolve. Her dreams could be realized.
            At the time, May Louella did not expect to meet Billy Franks. She did not expect to find love in the poor farmer’s son’s hands, or, that twenty-two years later, she would yet to have set a foot outside of the Mobile County line, never mind see the world.
            Instead, she taught at the local church, reliving her own youthful dreams in each of her students’ eyes. The children were enough adventure in and of themselves, she decided, content with long harvests and lousy pay, in hopes that she could affect positive development in all of her pupils.
            However, Paul Robinson and Sammy King both seemed to be lost causes. Sammy was short and stout, attached to his father’s ratty, old straw hat, no matter the occasion, while his compatriot was lanky as a corn stalk, with wispy black hair that never laid flat. Mischievous in nature, heart, and soul, the two were never far apart.  Today, the two reckless boys had continued their terror streak. Ms. May Louella had caught them with guilty smiles and red cheeks, right beside the shards of a once fine vase.
            “Boys,” the teacher sighed. “Another one?”
            “Paul done it,” Sammy immediately muttered, jabbing a chubby finger in the other boy’s direction. “Ms. May Louella,” he tacked on at the end, hoping to win some excess sympathy with a toothy grin.
            “I ain’t done it,” Paul hissed, crunching over the remaining shards of sweet porcelain, to jab his buddy in the side. “The fish done done it!”
            “Oh, yeah,” Sammy muttered, rethinking his earlier outburst. “The fish done broke it! We is innocent. Right, Paul?”
            “Right, Sam.”
            “Boys,” May Louella sighed, shooing Paul off of the shattered remains. “You’ve got some explaining to do as to why Preacher Wyatt’s nice vase is cracked to pieces.”
            “I told you, misses,” Sammy interjected, scratching the top of his Pa’s hat. “The fish done done it.”
            “We was fishing, see,” Paul began, as Ms. May Louella directed him to gather the remains with a handkerchief from the folds of her skirt.
            “When we was supposed to be in class,” Sammy added, somewhat under his breath.
            “Shut it, pork belly, I’m telling the story,” Paul hissed.
            “Boys,” Ms. May Louella added in a harsher tone of voice. “Stop your arguing and explain yourselves, so Preacher Wyatt can figure up a good punishment.”
            “But we did not do it!” Sam hollered. “We was fishing… and… and…”
            “And Sam dropped his pole, and it sunk right down to the bottom of the creek, a couple miles over, down by Mr. Carter’s plantation.” Paul said, picking up the story, without any hesitation. “And my momma had made me buy both poles in town, you see, with the money I made at Mr. Shepard’s store during the summer. So I said, Sammy, you go get my fishing pole. And he said, the water’s too deep. So I said I’d go with him.”
            “Did you?” Ms. May Louella asked, taking back the handkerchief to sweep the dusty leftovers of the vase into an empty wastebasket, adding the browning yellow daisies on top, who were now homeless and mostly useless.
            “Of course I did,” Paul continued, sitting cross-legged on the floor. “And the water was cold. And dark at the bottom. Sammy was scared.”
            “I was not,” Sam grumbled, frowning into his knees as he sat beside his friend.
            “Yes you was, and I was too. It was darker than Christmas eve, when the bitter winds blow in and stink your eyes so bad you can not see two inches down your nose. So we dove down and down and down, looking for my fishing pole, but all we found was a great big cave! Thinking it must have slid down there some where, we each got big, big breaths and swum down into it, feeling along for the fish pole. We saw lots of crazy stuff, like mermaids and pirates’ treasure chests and green ghosts!”
            May Louella smiled to herself, situating herself comfortably on the sanctuary steps.
            “There was even an underwater bear!” Sammy whispered.
            “But we couldn’t find my fishing pole, til this big, great orange fish swam out of nowhere, with it in his mouth, eyeing us like some angry beast. He growled, swear it is the whole entire truth, then charged us! So we swam like mad, trying to get out, past the mermaids, who suddenly wanted to hunt us down, too! But the fish didn’t slow down! We managed to get to the surface, by some God given miracle, and flopped out on shore, but the fish kept coming! It was the size of Sammy, here, I swear it, flying and everything just by flapping his silver tail back and forth. So we ran like mad, trying to get help! Then we ran in here, thinking God would save us or something, and the fish, it was trying to catch us, still, hit the vase and made it shatter into a million pieces! And when he saw what he done, he swam out, fast as he could, taking my fishing pole with him and leaving us to take the blame!”
            “Yeah,” Sam finished.
            Ms. May Louella loved how excited the two were, by both the imaginary fish and every single opportunity of the outside world. She saw much of herself in the two rascals, and could not find it in herself to report their obvious mistake to the Preacher for his disciplinary action. Instead, her own aged youth resurfacing to her tongue, she spoke.
            “My, oh my,” she said, grabbing her heart dramatically. “You two are lucky to have gotten away! I do not know if you know much about that fish, but, if you really must know-”
            “We got to!” Sam shouted, both his and Paul’s eyes gleaming in a frightened curiosity.
            “It is cursed, forced to pay the devil’s debt by eating little boys. He hunts any who swim in that there creek, pulling them down so deep into the cave you described, until they can’t hold their breath anymore, then he swallows them whole! And he chases any that get away! You two better stay away from that water, close to church, otherwise, the devil’s monster is going to come and snap you right up!”
            Both boys were frozen, unblinking, without breath or a heartbeat, it seemed.
            “Hurry home,” she whispered. “Only your Pa’s can protect you.”
            Before she could finish her breath, the two were gone, racing away down the dust path faster than could be physically possible for such small children.
            May Louella chuckled to herself, as she finished cleaning, enjoying the sweet adrenaline of youth, as it ignited her mind, reawakening her attention to the pleasant company of imagination.

About mobilewritersguild

The Mobile Writers Guild is an organization of professional writers and aspiring writers. Many of our members are published through agents and some are self published. Among our members are publishers, writers, aritists and people interested in the craft of writing. We welcome all to join us for our monthly meetings on the first Thursday of the month from September to May at 6 p.m. at the West Regional Library.
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