Title: "Like a Rat"
Author: Max Zegans
The morning started like any other for Mr. Humphenphrey. He fell out of bed, bruising his head on his nightstand, pulled on knickers, a shirt, an undercoat, a coat, and an overcoat, followed by underwear, socks, and an inside-out hat. After he was dressed, Mr. Humphenphrey (called Humpy by most) brushed his teeth with a feather duster, applied a fresh coat of paint under his forearms, and proceeded to his front door. But alas, here is where Humpy’s day diverged from its original path of normality, for as Humpy attempted to turn his crystalline doorknob, he found out that it wouldn’t rotate an inch. And at that moment, Humpy realized he was trapped, like a rat.
Humpy didn’t bother to try turning the knob again; he knew it was no use. Instead, Humpy proceeded to his telephone and called his only friend, Shverdshverd Pattlebottom. Shverdshverd answered immediately because, aside from his occaisional trips to the horse races to smell the manur, Shverdshverd spent all his time in a closet with a lifetime supply of linzer tarts and a telephone.
“Hello Humpy.” said Shverdshverd as soon as he picked up.
“How did you know it was me?” asked Humpy.
“Because no one else calls me,” said Shverdshverd. “Why are you calling anyway?”
“I’m calling because I recently found out that I’m trapped in my house.”
“Wow, we have more in common than I thought.”
“Listen, you sorry sack of gashlumper,” said Humpy, “I need to get through my front door, down the street, up the steps of Mrs. Flackergan’s house, down the steps of Mrs. Flackergan’s house, into the sunrise, over the hills and far away, and through the back door of my job because the front door is currently overrun by rabid monkeys donning purple bowties.”
“You sound stressed,” said Shverdshverd. “I recommend you take up the closet life. It’s much more mellow.”
“I don’t have time for your lectures on the closet life,” said Humpy. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“Oh, all right,” said Shverdshverd. “But you owe me a linzer tart.”
“Very well, very well,” replied Humpy. “I have an acquaintance who’s Norwigian, and I need you to phone him. His number is 1-800-EAST-VEST, but in Norwigia you say the phone numbers backwards, so his number would be TSEV-TSAE-008-1.”
“That’s all very good, but why do you need me to call him?” asked Shverdshverd.
“I need you to call him because he promised that if I ever called him again he would walk all the way from Norwigia to the front door of my apartment and yodel uncontrollably until the cows came home,” replied Humpy, a hint of fear in his voice.
“Well, I surely don’t want that to happen,” said Shverdshverd. “If your Norwigian friend really did follow through on his promise, your neighbors would probably blame you and throw you out of the building, in which case you would most likely come to live with me, and this closet isn’t big enough for the two of us.”
Humpy didn’t know what to say in response to this remark, so he just told Shverdshverd to dial that number, which Shverdshverd proceeded to do in an unusually rushed manner. A few minutes later, Shverdshverd called back, sounding a tiny bit aggravated, a little disappointed, and just maybe slightly constipated.
“I have bad tidings from Norwigia,” said Shverdshverd, “when I called the number you gave me, all I got was a gravelly voicemail saying that your Norwigian friend had died in a fatal paddle boating accident and that he is very sorry for any inconveniences and will call back as soon as he gets the message.”
“Oh phiddlesticks!” exclaimed Humpy. “He was my best shot at getting out of here!”
“Any other ideas?” Shverdshverd asked in a muffled tone while devouring a linzer tart.
“Well…” replied Humpy. “On Penny Lane there is a barber-”
“Does he know how to get you out?” interrupted Shverdshverd, still chewing.
“No, he doesn’t know how to get me out,” answered Humpy, “I need my hair cut.”
“You only have one hair?” inquired Shverdshverd. “If so, I would hardly think you would want it cut.”
“No, I don’t have only one hair,” Humpy shot back, annoyance in his voice, “you knew perfectly well what I meant.”
“No point in wasting a perfectly good joke,” said Shverdshverd absentmindedly, “besides, how will this barber cut your hair if you can’t even get out of your apartment?”
“Well, to be honest, I hadn’t considered that,” replied Humpy, “I suppose he was just the first person that popped into my mind. Say, can’t you help me get out of my house?”
“Sorry, Humpy,” said Shverdshverd, “I don’t come out of my closet on Tuesdays.”
“But today is Thursday!” Humpy yelled into the phone, getting more exasperated by the minute.
“Oh, I suppose you’re right.” said Shverdshverd. “I was just looking for an excuse not to come out of my closet.”
“You’re really coming over?” asked Humpy, astonished. “Usually you excuse yourself from coming six ways to Sunday before hanging up. This time you only go to around Friday and you’re still on the line.”
“Well, this may be promising for you, but I must disappoint again,” answered Shverdshverd. “Look out your window and you’ll see what I mean.”
“What are you talking about?” questioned Humpy. “I thought you lived on the other side of town, and that your closet didn’t have any windows, or air vents, or high speed internet.”
But the phone had gone dead. Humpy was starting to think that Shverdshverd may be off his rocker when he heard a startling sound outside his window. Not knowing what the sound had come from, Humpy decided to investigate further. As Humpy reached his immaculately carved plywood windowsill, he saw a surprisingly obese woman belting out “This Little Light of Mine” in a voice that sounded like nails scratching on a chalkboard, under a train track, in a hailstorm.
Being the kind of person who always hoped that there was one last shot of a Chihuahua eviscerating a bed of marigolds before the credits rolled; Humpy decided to try the door again.
With his ambitious, lofty, and elusive goal in mind, Humpy proceeded to his front door, put his hard, calloused hand on the doorknob, turned it, and pushed a little on the door, which proceeded to swing open like it usually did.
“Drat!” yelled Humpy. “I had turned the wrong way again!”
Title: "Peculiar Happenings"
Author: Dasol Lee
It was my friend’s tenth birthday,
And I was deciding what to get.
This thinking was most difficult,
For she was my newest friend just yet.
I went into the toy store,
Alas…nothing quite so awesome.
I ran into my papa’s office,
But everything was law-some.
As I began to stroll towards home,
Ready to give-up,
I saw a freshly opened pet store
With dogs barking “Yappity, yup!”
I entered this new pet store
For my newest friend,
And there were gazillions of animals,
I thought it wouldn’t end!
There I bought a couple of cats,
A parakeet or two,
A good-sized pair of horses,
And a white baby gnu.
I then came upon the next section,
Filled with dogs, oh so sweet!
I just couldn’t help buying all of them.
My presents surely can’t be beat!
One more aisle left to scan,
What more could I possibly buy?
A beautiful red and gold parrot,
Caught my searching eye.
But something nagged my eager brain,
There was something I’d left out.
Yet I ignored this little nuisance
For I was much too busy to scout.
Hold on! There was also one more thing
My weary brain had simply forgotten.
A fact about my newest friend,
Which from my memory was trodden.
I shrugged my shoulders up and down,
“It’s not important,” I carelessly say,
Little did I know it made all the difference,
In its dreadful way.
I lugged my things to the counter,
The cashier looked very shocked.
I took out my fat, yellow wallet,
Brimming to the top.
“One billion, five million dollars,” she shouts,
Looking quite very strange.
She ogles at my little figure,
“Is that between your money range?”
I nod and smile up at her,
The plump woman looks
Like an alien had given her a kiss,
I snatch out my mother’s checkbook,
And write, “My mother will pay for this.”
Then I take out a mini cell phone,
And call the moving men,
Who rushed into the store.
I’m not sure if this is right, but I think there were about ten.
They loaded everything up,
And headed for the house.
Yay! I’m just in time for the party,
On the lawn I see the spouse.
My friend comes out of her house,
Looking purely traumatized,
With the same expression the clerk gave,
So shocked, she couldn’t have talked.
When she finally recovers,
She slowly ushers me in,
So I run into the mammoth house,
Where kids are making a spectacular din!
As I sat down at the table,
We all were served some cake,
And I was so very hungry,
That I admit I was opaque.
It’s time to open presents!
The birthday girl chooses me first,
The moving men brings in the animals
While the boxes looked ready to burst.
My friend started to sneeze,
As loud as a sneeze can be,
Her mom asked me what was in the box,
I said, “A couple of chimpanzees.”
Her mom saw more coming,
And asked, “What are in those, my dear?”
“Just some animals,” I timidly reply,
The mother opened her mouth as if standing for a pose.
“What?” She almost screamed out loud,
“Are they animals with fur?”
“Yes,” I simply answer her,
She immediately turned into a blur.
She ran to her pale looking daughter,
Blooming with red spots,
Then dashed to the telephone,
And pressed some little dots.
She takes her daughter to the car,
“What happened to the birthday girl?” everybody says,
They look at me expectantly,
I just shrug and put on my fez.
Her father comes running into the house,
“Who brought these animals?” he asks,
I raise up my trembling hand bit by bit,
Oh, why am I always in difficult tasks?
He looks at me quite angrily,
“Didn’t you know about my little girl?
Did you at least buy her one fish?”
He suddenly becomes the perfect picture of a big rude churl.
“About what?” I asked quite frightened,
But it had already come back to me,
This girl, my newest friend…
This girl named Marie was allergic to fur at a very high degree!
Author: Coby Gray
I had never been in the house before. In fact, I’d never known I had a great Aunt until two days before today. I had always thought that I had no living relatives because my mom and dad died in a mysterious car crash and they had no relatives that are living. The letter had been delivered to the orphanage where I lived on the South Side of Brixton, a rough neighborhood in London. The letter arrived while I was eating lunch, crammed on a bench, shoulder to shoulder with several other kids. When it was delivered to me I immediately opened and read it. The letter, which was from my Great Aunt’s lawyer, said that her house was going to be sold on the occurrence of her death and that I should go there, “being her only relative,” to pick up most of her belongings. The belongings that I didn’t pick up would be sold along with the house to pay off the enormous debts that she owed various people. Also included in the letter was a key to my Great Aunt’s house.
When I first got this letter my reaction was, “Oh great, I have a relative. Maybe she will take me in.” But as I kept reading I got to the part about her dying and my hopes were crushed. After I got even further in the letter I got some more hope when I read the part about her stuff. After finishing the letter I was left with a feeling of loneliness. After this rigorous change of emotions I had a whole lot on my mind, so to get all of this off my chest I went to talk to my best friend Tig. Tig is quite a small guy. Most peoples’ first impression of him is that he is totally harmless and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but if you think that you are totally wrong. Tig is probably the most feared guy in the whole orphanage. You never want to be on his wrong side. Luckily he considers me his best friend. He’s really good to talk to and one of the advantages of having him as a friend is that if anyone threatens me he’ll beat them to a pulp. Tig was sitting on a bench outside. I went over to him and said, “Hey, guess what I got?”
“Tell me,” Tig said.
“I got a letter.”
“A lawyer saying I had a Great Aunt that died a few days ago.”
“Really? That stinks.”
“But the lawyer said that I got some of her stuff.”
“That’s cool. When do you think you are going to pick up the stuff?”
“I don’t know. Maybe in a couple days.”
But I was wrong. As soon as the words came out of my mouth the Patron came over and pulled me away from Tig and away to the main hall. A man with a black suit was waiting there. The Patron said I should go with him. He took me outside to a black car.
“Where are you taking me? Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m your Great Aunt’s chauffeur and I’m taking you to her house to pick up the belongings that you inherited from her.”
The events of the past hour were going through my head as I stepped out of the car. The first thing that I noticed was the state of the house. It looked like it hadn’t been lived in for years, with peeling shingles and most of the shutters hanging by their hinges. After inspecting the outside, I went to the door and turned the brass rose encrusted key that I got in the mail and nudged the door open. As soon as I stepped in the house I was greeted by the smell of rotting wood and stale perfume. The inside looked like it was once luxurious but now it looked like all the luxury was sucked out of it by a giant vacuum cleaner and replaced with rotting wood and termites. The furniture was covered over with a white cloth and all the wallpaper was peeling. After seeing the decrepit main foyer I proceeded to the kitchen wall. It showed a woman in a gray shawl, spectacles and almost snow white hair. He stared at it almost loathingly like he hated the person.
“Who is she?” I asked.
“It’s your Great Aunt.”
“Oh, and who are you?”
“Oh, how rude of me. I’m your Great Aunt’s lawyer, Mr. Pain.”
“Oh, ok, and you’re here becau-”
“I’m here to show you around her residence so you can find the stuff you want.”
“Now I guess I should show you the bedroom,” he said. “Watch your head when you go through this door.”
I ducked my head and entered the same room that I saw when I first walked into the house. Then he led me up a flight of stairs, past a couple of portraits that were covered with white grimy cloth. Then the lawyer led me into a room that I assumed was my Aunt’s. Everything was pink: pink rug, pink sheets, and pink wallpaper. It looked like a six-year old girl had lived here, not a sixty-year-old lady. All it needed was some Barbie dolls and a little jewelry box with a dancing ballerina. After walking around and observing the room for a bit I wandered over to a giant chest (it was the only object in the room that wasn’t pink). I opened it. Inside there were a couple of sweaters and jackets and, right in the middle, was a journal. It was bound in leather with elastic holding it together. I opened it up and inside there was curly cursive writing done in emerald green ink. I put the elastic back around it and asked the lawyer, “Can I have this?”
“Well sure, anything you want can be yours.”
After my discovery of the journal, the lawyer continued with the tour. We went through some guest bedrooms that looked like the only occupants in them for the past ten years were dust mites. Unlike the other rooms, I saw nothing interesting. I felt distracted and tuned out to what the lawyer was saying. It didn’t really take long for him to notice that I wasn’t listening, and before I knew it I was back in the car with the man that took me to the house and heading back towards Brixton.
As soon as I got back to the orphanage I started to read the book. I flipped to a random page. The green writing seemed to possess me; I didn’t want to tear myself away from the page. Every sentence made the book more enchanting. The first sentence that she wrote seemed to grab me the most.
It seems that I am being followed. Every place I go it’s like I’m being watched. A couple of days ago my suspicions seemed irrelevant but then only today I noticed someone following me. It was a man in a tailored black coat with sunglasses. He was clean-shaven and clean cut. At first I didn’t notice him at all but then he started to show up everywhere I went: at the café, at the butcher’s and even at the lobby of my doctor’s office. Whenever I saw him he just stared at me. He looked like he only noticed me, not anyone else, just me. It scared me. I don’t know why he’s following me or anything about him. All I know is that he terrifies me and all I want to do is run. Run away from him and my miserable life. No debt, just me maybe sitting on the a beach no one there but me no man no debt not anything just me.
As soon as I finished the first entry and saw Tig walk in to the room.
“How was your old hag of an Aunt’s house?” asked Tig.
“Oh, you know, lots of cobwebs and old furniture,” I said in a dreamy, far away voice.
“You OK Dude? You sound kind of out of it.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said while shaking my head as if waking up from a long dream.
“You get any good stuff?”
“I only got one thing. All the other stuff was old and sort of creepy. But I got this.” I showed him the book.
“Cool, can I see it?” he asked.
“No,” I snapped at him “you can’t.”
“Ok, just asking, it’s not like I’m going to steal it. I got to get a smoke.” After that Tig left and the room fell silent. I flipped to the last page and started to read again.
Dec 25, 1992
The man is still following me. In the past few days it has gotten worse. He’s shown up in my driveway a couple of times. It’s starting to creep me out even more. I’ve started to see him in everyone and everything. I don’t know if I should call the police or just let it be. If I call the police they might think I’m insane. They could take me away and put me in a mad house. All that I know is this has to end sooner rather tan later. I don’t know how it will end but it just has to.
I closed the cover of the journal and set it down. The sun had almost set. The dusky evening light was coming through the one bedroom window. Had it all been in her head? Was she really insane?
I opened the journal once again to the back cover. Huh? Different handwriting – red. Almost looked like blood. “I’m coming for you boy.”
The floorboards creak. The rusty hinge of the door opens. A man stepped in- the lawyer. Then I made the connection. He almost looked like the man she described in the journal. A glint from an object in his hand.
And then a sharp pain and blackness.
Title: "Reading Emily"
Author: Eva Koplow
I stare down at my paper, studying the smudged ink from my sweaty fingers and gripping the sheet as though my life depended on it. I knew what people were thinking of me right now. I knew that their thoughts were negative and most likely about how I could not read in front of people. In my hand I am vigorously holding a poem I had written for an assignment. My teacher, who obviously did not know me well enough to think I could read a poem in front of twenty three staring eyes, told me it was a great example of what the whole class should be writing . So she decided to have me read in front of the whole class. Well, I don’t know who she thought she was talking to, because in case I haven’t made my point clear enough, I can’t read in front of people. So I’m standing in the front of the class with nothing to do but feel sick to my stomach and wait for my teacher to do something. Finally after what feels like hours but realistically was probably less than a minute, I hear footsteps approaching me. I look up from my paper to see my teacher. I have never been so happy to see someone in my life.
“Morgan, you may take a seat.” It’s the last thing I hear my teacher say today in class, for as soon as I hear those words, those wonderful words, I feel like leaping to my seat. I know that would only draw more attention to me though. I quietly sit back down, feeling my cheeks burning. Fortunately for me, not a minute of classmates staring at me later, the bell rings and school was over. There was a catch to my “good luck” though. As soon as I am about to run out of the classroom, I hear my teacher say, “Morgan, could I speak with you for a minute?”
I hear the door slam closed with what is like for me a signal for my heart to skip a beat, because I know that’s when my teacher will start talking. That’s when I will get lectured for what would feel the ten millionth time on public speaking, and how by my age I should not be so shy reading in front of people. Ever since the third grade I have been getting these “lectures.” My teacher this year in seventh grade had seemed different than the rest, more thoughtful. And that’s why it scared me that she called me over. I was worried that instead of just lecturing me on public speaking, she would make me take action on not being so shy. And boy, I was right. I would have never have even guessed the conversation that followed the last student slamming the classroom door.
“Morgan,” my teacher began. “Do you want to be able to speak in front of crowds?” This question made my throat dry. I could hardly speak. Finally I manage to say something. “I guess,” I reply. “Well that’s good, because you need to learn. As you get older your teachers will expect you to know these things, and it will only get harder, the older you get.” I was silent. “So,” my teacher continues. “That’s why I have suggested to your parents that you sign up for the school play.” Inside I have no idea why a play, the thing I was scared of, would help this situation. But I am too shocked to say anything about that. “A play?” I ask hesitantly. “A play,” she replies confident and strong. I gulp as I realize exactly what this means.
As I walk home my mind swells up with thoughts about what Ms. Bailey had said. A play. How on earth could she think that I, Morgan Day, could be in a play? I mean I could help with the backdrops or control the lighting or anything where I did not need to speak in front of people. Unfortunately from the look in Ms. Bailey’s eye, I think she had something besides painting the backdrop in mind.
As I approach my house, I fear what my parents will say. I hope they won’t make me do the play. But if I know my parents, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be out of luck. As I walk in the door, I move slowly. Instead of dumping my backpack and coat on the floor as usual, I carefully hang up my coat and place my backpack against the stairs, hoping it will help my chances of not joining the play. I had nearly finished that task, when my mom comes in and says, “So, what do you think?” She says it in a stern, but calm voice. “What do I think about what?” I say, pretending I don’t know what she’s talking about. “You know,” she says. “About the play.” She seemed to emphasize the word play, for no reason I could think of. I rack my brain for an answer, but none comes. I feel overwhelmed, and all of a sudden I start crying. My mother comes over to hug me and my words are muffled by my sobs. “Of course I don’t want to do the play.” I say. “But I don’t really have a choice do I? I can’t speak publicly and what makes my teacher so sure I can start now? Everyone will make fun of me if I go up on stage and forget my lines. I mean, of course I wish I could speak in front of crowds, but if I try now and I don’t learn, I will be teased forever.” “Well in that case,” my mother starts speaking calmly. “I will tell your teacher to sign you up for the play.” “What?” I say, astonished.
After School today is my first play practice. The whole day I dread when I will hear the final bell ring. I wonder what people will say when they see me at the play practice. Amidst all my thoughts I hear the bell ring, signaling the end of school. I grab my backpack and slump out of the classroom. As I am making my way to my locker I see a cluster of girls giggling and laughing. Probably Alyson got some new shoes, or a new shirt, or something like that. Alyson is what you might call the “popular girl.” She is always wearing the latest fashion. Then there is what you might call her “posse”, Alisha and Courtney. They follow Alyson everywhere. They do whatever she wants. I finish gathering my school supplies into my backpack, and then very slowly I walk into the auditorium for my first (and hopefully last) drama class. As I stride through the doors I see eyes turn my way. Then to my surprise I see a pair of sparkling blue eyes look up at me. “Alyson?” I say.
“What are you doing here?” Alyson asks, with misery in her voice. I am about to answer but the drama teacher Ms. Campbell enters the auditorium. “OK, everyone,” she says. “Lets go around and say our names.” Alyson goes first, then a girl named Isabel goes. She seems nice enough, and so do most of the other kids. I’ve hardly ever seen them before. Then it is my turn. “I’m…I’m Morgan” “Nice to meet you Morgan,” says Ms. Campbell, for I was the only one who was new at drama class. “Lets Begin with some stage tips, to refresh our memory and help our newcomer.” I listen intently as people shar their experiences with the stage, and tips they have. I wish I had a pen and paper to write them all down “Next class,” Ms Campbell starts talking “will be the auditions. You can try out for a specific role or you can just read some lines if you don’t care which role you get. Our play will be a musical about a girl who moves to a new school and is shy, but ends up being popular. I will give you each the script and you can consider who you will want to be.” Ms. Campbell hands out the scripts and then dismisses everyone. But I hear the dreaded words I’ve been hearing a lot recently. “Morgan, could you hold on a moment?”
“Yes?” I say. “I have a couple of things I would like to go over with you,” replies Ms. Campbell. “Okay,” I say. “So Morgan, do you have any questions?” “Well…” I say. “Uh, no.” “Okay,” says Ms. Campbell, “Well I think I have a part for you in the play that you will do well at.” “What is it?” I ask. “I think you should play the main character, Emily” “But I’ve never done this before,” I reply immediately. “Plus I can’t talk in front of people.” “Well, I’ll tell you a trick,” says Ms. Campbell. “When you are up on the stage looking out on all the people, take a deep breath, and transform yourself into your character. Be your character up there, not Morgan. Not Morgan who is afraid of public speaking. You are your character, your character has nothing to be afraid of, because it’s not acting, it’s your character’s real life. Now I know you’re thinking ‘Be your character’ sounds kind of young, but it really works. So will you try it for me?” My heart is pounding.
As soon as I get home I run to my room, ignoring my mother’s questions about play practice. As I lie on my bed, I look through the play script. I look at each part carefully. As I flip the pages, I see what a big part Emily is. She has lines on every page, and is singing eight out of the ten songs. I start going through Emily’s part, looking at each and every line. I’m starting to think this play might be interesting. Now, I read through Emily’s lines over and over so I will be prepared for the tryouts.
The next day is Wednesday. No play practice today. I am not exactly sure how I feel about that. I do not know now if I am relieved or disappointed. All during the school day I replay the section of Emily’s lines I was going to recite for the tryouts over and over in my head. As for the song I have to sing to get the Emily part, I have not begun to practice. For me singing in front of big groups of people is even harder than speaking in front of them. I have no idea what I am going to do.
The next morning, the day of the auditions, I face the truth. I will have to sing. I do enjoy singing, and I have to say, my voice is not half bad. But singing in the shower and in my room is different than singing on stage with lots of people watching. I decide I have to go forth and audition. Besides, I really liked the part of “Emily” and I have spent a long time learning the lines. I have almost all her lines memorized, and I have been looking forward to the auditions to see how I will do. I’ve forgotten that other people would be auditioning for the same part, who would bring the same enthusiasm as me.
But if that thought did not cross my mind, Alyson auditioning for “Emily” certainly had not. Nor, the fact that I would get the part of Emily and that I would even shine on the big night. I didn’t think that I would actually be a good singer, and that not only would Isabel become my friend, but many other girls from drama class would too. And what certainly did not cross my mind, was that this play would change my life forever and, for the better.