I'm Yours

By: Aviva Nathan

“Idiot,” she murmured when she saw the white Whirlpool refrigerator standing condemned on the curb with a sign scotch taped to the front: “I’m Yours.” Who would want to get rid of that? For a second, she let herself believe in divine intervention and even promised to say a prayer or write a thank you note or go to church or do whatever you are supposed to do when you get what you asked for. That was before she had to wrangle the hundred- and twenty-pound mass of the refrigerator with the help of a borrowed dolly down 163rd Street in the oppressive summer heat. She had to shimmy it down the six steps to her basement apartment and turn it on its side to get it through the door, and then she realized the freezer didn’t work, but she had a refrigerator, damn it, and she would never have to eat canned pineapple for dinner again.

It was her second piece of furniture, if a refrigerator can be considered furniture, and if a sheet on the floor can be considered a bed. When he came over and his gaze called her place shitty, she defended her four hundred square feet with a fierce solemnity. She wouldn’t trade it for his studio on 110th Street.

Eventually the freezer became her dresser. She invested in a two-dollar pack of magnets. This she deemed the best spent two dollars of her life because every day she woke to the magazine cut outs of a Bali sunrise and a bustling street in Sri Lanka and the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains of Peru.

By the end of her first summer in New York City, her refrigerator bore not only foreign places but also three polaroids, an eviction notice, two unpaid bills, a photobooth strip from the time he took her to Coney Island and the “I’m Yours” sign she had found tacked to the unwanted Whirlpool.

He too had added his contributions inside and outside the fridge. Two days before, she had found a size zero Bordelle lingerie set wedged beneath his bed. Not hers. As an attempt at reconciliation, he had arranged Crayola-colored alphabet magnets on the fridge to form the chorus of her favorite song, Cry by Cigarettes After Sex. And inside her fridge, he left a chocolate cake from Pierre Hermé, which she ate in fistfuls on the floor. She was relieved briefly of her insatiable hunger.

The eviction notice became a court order but she didn’t care. The apartment was a hell hole anyway. The walls could be cut with a butter knife. The window was so close to the ground that the only thing visible were people’s shoes. Plastic flip flops and sneakers with holes in the toes. There was no air conditioning, just the noise of neighbors fighting, laughing, drinking. She had saved enough tips to afford half the rent of a walk-up in East Harlem. She would be closer to him this way. And maybe, because of proximity, he would see her more. Eventually, she told herself, she’d be able to afford an apartment like his, in a building with a doorman. She prayed she’d be able to find a roommate on Craigslist who wasn’t a user.

Packing took fifteen minutes. He let her borrow his 1998 Saab. The last thing in the room was the Whirlpool. With the magnetic letters she arranged the words: I’m Yours. And with his help, they put the fridge next to the trash cans.

 

Aviva Nathan is fifteen and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She's a religious reader of the New Yorker and hopes to eventually live in Manhattan.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

 



Sit By Me

By: Sonia Mehta

“Excuse me.  Is this seat taken?”

Anika glances up to see pleading eyes.

“Sorry,” Anika says, looking past the girl. “Our friend asked us to save the seat.” She resumes her lunch.

The newcomer leaves.

From the corner of her eye, Anika watches the new girl navigate through the crowded cafeteria. Two noisy upper classmates jostle her to the side.  Anika clenches her fork, but they keep walking as though the girl is invisible. The newcomer chooses an unoccupied table in the corner and sits.  Anika’s chest tightens.  She takes a deep breath.  No relief.

“Anika, you’re cold,” Cynthia says.

“Her name’s Darsha,” Meghan adds from across the table.

“Who?” Anika feigns.

“The new student,” Cynthia replies.

“Oh, I don’t know her.”

Meghan pushes her thick glasses to the top of her broad freckled nose. “Is she from the same part of India as you?” She tugs at her thin red hair.

“No. Different region.”

“She looks a little like you, Anika. But darker.” Cynthia twists her wavy chestnut hair around her plump index finger.

Anika feels a guilty pleasure hearing these words.  The desire for lighter complexions in parts of India is a poorly kept secret.  The classified section of the India Today newspaper is filled with matrimonial ads.  Prospective brides are described as having “wheatish” or “cream” complexions.  The defining characteristic of men is “successful.”

“I feel bad for her,” Meghan says.

“Someone should talk to her,” Cynthia adds.

Anika knows this means someone else.  The friends look at Darsha.  She is short and thin. Her long black hair, which glistens with coconut oil, is pulled back into a messy ponytail, exaggerating the roundness of her face.  She wears denim pants that are a size too large and a dull green t-shirt.  Darsha stares at her plate, playing with uneaten food.

Anika rakes her fingers through her freshly straightened caramel-tinted hair that accentuates her heart-shaped face.  She tugs on the collar of her cropped Brandy Melville shirt.

“We can’t associate,” Meghan says, “or we'll be losers too.”

Anika considers protesting but does not.  She has ascended the school hierarchy to the level of blending in.  She can live with that.

Three years ago a girl from India entered a classroom.  She prepared for life in the States by watching every movie available to her in Surat, India.  She expected to be introduced to the class by her new teacher, such was the custom in her country.  Instead, the teacher directed her to an empty seat.

Within minutes, an American girl raised her nose and sniffed loudly.  Other students mimicked the action: a pack of hyenas catching the scent of a prey.  They soon triangulated the smell to the backpack under the newcomer’s desk.  Disapproving looks followed.  Her mother’s khichdi sat in a plastic container, the least spicy and malodorous dish she knew to pack for lunch.  After class, she rushed to the restroom and dumped the lentil dish.

Next period she made the mistake of answering a question about Alexander Hamilton.  She did not know that her thick accent sounded like her mouth was full of marbles,

“Hamilton was a veddy important patriot. He reeelly cared about a strong federal government.”

A boy jeered, “Did he reeelly?” Snickers followed. She never volunteered another answer.

The worst introduction happened in the cafeteria.  The room, the size of a football field, buzzed with a slow-moving current of American teens.  Each table was prefilled with students laughing and gossiping, their backs turned to her – a phalanx of shields.  She found a corner table and sat alone, staring relentlessly at her watch, willing the minute hand to move faster.

From her left, she noticed sunlight coming through a window and separating into a rainbow on the wall. She pretended the colors were a palette of paint. She imagined dipping her brush in the red and produced her grandmother’s beet pickle.  The cinnamon-anise smell touched her nostrils.  A smear of green brought her Auntie’s fried elephant leaf paatra.  Was that the scent of coriander?  With a dash of orange, her mouth watered with the sweet cardamom-flavored jalebi.

She suddenly felt better looking at the rainbow -- her color palette.  Colors were a part of her life. She used to toss the powdered dyes at her cousins during the Holi Festival every year, the colors transforming the children into living canvases.

“Earth to Anika,” Meghan says.

“What?” she mumbles, coming back to the present.

“I said, time for fifth period.”

Anika glances at Darsha's now-vacant seat.  She tries imagining the new girl leaving alone, but instead, Anika sees a girl from Surat who once filled the emptiness in her heart with colors dancing on a wall.  Anika has recognized the aching loneliness in another but has chosen silence.  She leaves with her friends.

The next day, Anika joins her two friends at their usual table.

“Did you hear about Darsha?” Cynthia asks.

Anika looks up from her phone.

“She dropped out,” Cynthia continues.

“So soon?” Meghan says.

Anika’s stomach knots and she stares at the seat Darsha was in yesterday.  Empty.  That deserted table used to be hers.  Her eyes drift to the window where it’s sunny outside, and a rainbow flickers through.  My color palette, Anika remembers.

“Does anyone know why she quit?” she asks.

“Probably hated being a loser,” Cynthia answers.

“Where did she go?”

“I guess where she came from. Where was that again?”

“Somewhere else,” Anika whispers.

'I wish you had stayed, Darsha. I should have shared my color palette. I could have.'

Anika looks again at the rainbow flickering merrily, unmoved by her thoughts, while a single cloud rolls in, its shadow obscuring the colors.

Sonia Mehta is 17 years old; she lives in Dublin, Ohio.  Sonia is an emerging writer and a junior at a high school in Central Ohio. She has been practicing Korean martial arts for ten years.

 

 

image: MacDestroir on Pexels



Dreams

By: Anusha Upadhyayula

A strange land of familiarity
Yet ever unpredictably changing
Flowing in deep rivers of memory
Where our minds reside and start creating
A new universe yet to be explored
Where dogs talk and stars play merry-go-round
Where I’m not a puppet to be controlled
A place to live in is what I have found
Free from any responsibility
I can become anything I wish
If I believe there’s possibility
The time when all my fantasies come true
Happening in both darkness and daylight
I can envision a future that’s bright

 

Anusha Upadhyayula is 13 years old and lives in Campbell, California. She goes through phases where she can't pen her thoughts fast enough. She loves to read, volunteer with shelter animals, and watch Bollywood movies. 
 
Image by Comfreak from Pixabay
 


Queenie and the Boot Shaped Library

By: Safyre Joseph-Etheridge

 

 

At one particular time in my life, I lived in Manhattan. I had recently moved there for my job as an editor. One day, I was walking down the street from the main library, disappointed I had not found The Book Thief. I had heard such good things about this particular book and wanted to get my hands on it. I love libraries but today it was too crowded. The noise level, even with the librarians shushing everyone, gave me a headache.

I was looking for a cab to take me to the closest café, when I stumbled onto an empty street. It was so quiet; I could hear my boots clicking on the concrete sidewalk. I turned and stopped, stunned. There stood a building shaped entirely like a boot! A painted mural replicated lacing rising from the foot up the ‘leg’ of the building. The tip of the building was curved slightly, pointing up towards the sky.

I looked closer to see a small green sign that read ‘Library.’

I couldn’t help myself. I pushed the door, the tinkle of a bell sounded as I entered. The inside was only one small room, with books all stacked neatly on top of each other. The place smelled of dust, fur, and something unfamiliar, it resembled the smell of pineapple, but was different somehow.

A small, white cat sat on the counter, her tail big and fluffy and her nose pink. I stroked her fur, her sapphire-blue eyes locking with mine.

I read the name tag. “Queenie. Huh.”

I looked around but nobody else seemed present. I noticed a silver bell, lying on the table. I picked it up, flicked it, and waited.

“Hello?” I called.


Nothing.


I rang the bell again.

“Hello?” I said a little louder.
 A small man jumped from under the desk.
“Ah!”


“Ahem, hem. Yes?” he asked impatiently.


“Uh, yes, I’m looking for The Book...”
The man held up a hand, interrupting me.

“We don’t have that. Good day.” He started to disappear again under the table.


“Wait! Wait! Can you double-check, please?” I wasn’t giving up—not yet, anyway.


The man frowned. “Wait here.”
He bent down, disappearing from view, and popped back up again. “Hmph. Sadly, I have the book you need. Do you have a library card?”

“Yes!” I said and handed him my card from the main library. “Will this work?”

“You have two days to return the book or there will be a fine," the man replied, not answering my question.


“Two days? That’s not much time!”


“Well, then, I guess you better start reading.”


I frowned and left the library, book in my hand and bag slung over my shoulder. 
At home, I fixed myself some tea and grabbed my bag looking for the book I’d shoved into there on the walk home. I felt something furry inside and when I pulled it out, the white cat nibbled at me to free her.

“Queenie?!” I asked as she leaped onto the table and sauntered over to my cup of tea, to lap at the hot liquid with her pink tongue. I stroked her soft fur and considered keeping this perfect,
 friendly, and curious cat. I thought about keeping her, but I couldn’t. Certainly, the shop owner would be looking for her, so I decided to return her come morning.

I read through the night, Queenie asleep beside me, purring as I stroked her fur.

The next day I followed my same route to the library, Queenie tucked into my leather bag, snoring quietly, but when I turned down the quiet street and then left, there was no building shaped like a boot, no library, nothing at all.

I stood, puzzled, trying to make sense of it all, only my mind was blank. I wondered if yesterday was some kind of dream but yet I had read the book all night and Queenie was in my bag.

Was this some sort of prank?


People filled the used-to-be empty street as I headed back to my apartment. 
The day continued, and I did my best to make sense of it all then decided to return the book to the main library. Maybe I was hallucinating and I did find my book at the main library after all.
 But what about Queenie? Had I randomly decided to adopt a cat? No, it didn’t make sense. As I entered the library, the smell of people overwhelmed me. I walked up to the counter and handed in my book.

“This isn’t ours, Jamie. Where did you get it?” asked Margret.

“Um.......never mind.”


Suddenly, it all clicked. The answer had been in front of me all along. Why did I have to make sense of everything? Why couldn’t some things just be magic? Because then, I knew, Queenie and the boot-shaped library were magic, and I had been lucky enough to be a part of it.

I handed Margret the book and walked out shaking my head. That evening I stared at Queenie curled up on my favorite chair.

“Are you real?” I asked her.

She just purred in response.

 

Safyre Joseph-Etheridge is a twelve year old student in seventh grade. She lives in Salwa, Kuwait. She loves writing, physics and her dog Sandy. This is her first published short story.

Illustration by Aidan McDuffie

 



tonight the beach is calm

By: Lulu Pettit

 

they say the beach at night is calm,

and quiet. 

 

it's not, always, but tonight it is. 

 

it's calm, even as the children 

play in tide pools by the water, even as

birds fly above, waiting 

for the kids to drop something to eat. 

 

it's quiet, even as the waves 

crash enough to scare me, even as

you talk about the stars, which 

we know nothing of. 

 

it's calm, even as the water 

fizzes more than your champagne, even as

the scattered strangers amble 

along the sand behind us. 

 

it's quiet, even as my mind 

asks the questions we can't answer, even as

fireworks go off somewhere downshore,

a whole month too late. 

 

they say the beach at night is calm,

and quiet. 

 

it's not, always, but tonight it is.

 
 
Lulu Pettit lives in Philadelphia, PA. She is 16 years old. Lulu spends her days planning her next NaNoWriMo, watching an absurd amount of rom-coms, and roller skating in her friendly neighborhood graveyard.
 
Image by Jayson Delos Santos


The Sweet Scented Lilies, Soup, and Music

By: Tanvi Nagar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

We strung together the sweet scented lilac lilies with perfection,
and laced the low hanging air of despair with magical melodies.
The red, blue and green lines on the screens fluctuated freely,
tirelessly racing rhythmically, as if creating music.
The aroma of light-yellow luscious lamb soup escaped from the bowl
as if racing toward the white square tiled ceiling.

II

My glassy eyes, stayed fixed upon the skeleton before me- bones, flesh and a little you,
encased in a coffin of peachy pale skin and numerous twisted tubes.
The incisions in your skin were fresh,little red droplets of blood oozed out
And made my heart beat faster. It fluttered like a kite in the sky before its string is cut.
The skin on your hands and feet hung loose and lifeless,
making it harder to imagine how blood was gushing underneath this sheet.
There was so much movement in the molecules of your being and yet,
there was so much stillness in the spirit of your existence.
Your eyelids were closed shut, concealing the gateway to your universe within,
like the white sheet that covered the scars the sharp needles left on your body.

III

We strung together the sweet scented lilac lilies with perfection,
and laced the low hanging air of despair with magical melodies.
The red, blue and green lines on the screens fluctuated freely,
tirelessly racing rhythmically, as if creating music.
The aroma of light-yellow luscious lamb soup escaped from the bowl
as if racing toward the white square tiled ceiling.

It was hard to imagine the life of a human, so powerful yet dangerously delicate,
hanging on the monitors, meters, measurements.
It was still harder to imagine what pulling the plug from a socket
can do to the life hanging on like threads of loose cloth ripped at the ends.

IV

The lilac lilies danced in farewell, to some sad song it seemed
the monitors were singing slower, slower and slower still
with their constant repeating beat- beep.
The beat resounded and repeated
until the notes on the screen
refused to go up and down
and the fumes from
the soup didn’t
escape at
all.

Tanvi Nagar is a high school senior at Delhi Public School, Gurgaon, India. She has been writing for the past eight years and is passionate about public speaking, travelling, playing sports and reading. She has contributed to national newspapers, has authored four books, and won several literary awards. She loves listening to Halsey, eating traditional Indian cuisine, and singing in the rain. 



A Night to Remember

By: Simona Ickia Ngaullo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There she stands, with tears in her eyes.
Talking to him, as this sleepless and anxious night arises.
Gloomy and dark as if a storm was making its way in the air.
A night to be remembered.
There he stands, with joy on his face.
Giggling and smiling, waiting for mama to tell one of her famous stories.
Sad and dark night, nothing could take away his joy.
A night to be remembered.

There she is, shaking and scared,
wishing he didn’t have to go now.
At that moment, age is not a barrier.

For her seven means sweet and unoffending.
Seven means stainless and guiltless, blameless and young.
For them, seven means virile and rough,
seven means responsible and though, rigorous and violent.

He is too young to understand
that he is embarking on a boat where,
the return and tomorrow are not promised.
But in situations like this,
he is forced to fight to survive.

She trembles with fear in her heart,
talking about how obscure, large and dry the cave is.
A cave that makes you cold hearted and careless,
where your innocent hands are washed in blood.

War
She tells him:
“As this cave extends deep underground, so your fear should reside”.
He looks at her with eyes wide open
and his head tilted to the side,
listening and trying to put the pieces together.
She knows he doesn’t understand,
but hopes that her words will forever be kept in his heart.

He starts crying,
it is time for goodbyes.
Ignorant about what awaits for him,
she tells him she loves him,
He tells her he loves her.
A mama only wants what’s best for her son, but in situations like this,
she is forced to do otherwise.
He stares at her, cementing this moment in his memory.
A gloomy dark night, his mama’s wet cheeks.
He says, “It is a night to be remembered."

Simona Ickia Ngaullo is a 17 year old girl, living in Maine. She is originally from the Republic of Congo. Aside from dancing, writing is the biggest part of her life, anbd has been since 7th grade. She strongly believes that she can change the world with her words.



All of Me, None of Me

By: Jada Essary

When I was born
I had an indigo purple streak
among the crop of bright orange hair.
My mother was so proud of that streak
though she had done nothing to cause it.
I was proud too.
I felt special,
I loved my purple streak.

But one day it faded
like all earthly things do.
My special streak packed up and left
and now I remain
with no purple streak to make my mother proud.

When I was seven
I was taller than everyone around me
in my seven-year old world.
I could reach up and pat the tops of skyscrapers,
and see over the tallest of mountains.
I inherited my height from my father
who was so tall
that when he picked me up and carried me
together we could brush the stars.

But one day it faded
like all earthly things do.
My father’s height dwindled as everyone around me grew
and now I remain
too short to brush the stars.

When I was fresh into this world,
a babe so small and fragile,
I was the brightest head around
with my fiery orange hair.
“Our furious little fire engine,”
my dark-haired parents said with a smile.
Do you know the odds?
It seemed like a sign
that I was spunky and unique,
full of bravery and life.
What does that say of me now?

Because one day it faded
like all earthly things do.
My hair is not brown!!
And now I remain,
with no fiery orange hair to proclaim that I have defied the odds.

What will leave me next?
My intellect, my kindness?
My passion for learning or my enthusiasm for reading?
My Native American heritage, or my headstrong outlook on life?
And what of my mother’s warm brown eyes?
What of my father’s mind for business?
Will they leave me too?
I am afraid of this woman I am becoming. 

I am afraid of her
because she is me, all of me and none of me.
I am afraid of her
because she hides all the things unique to me.

I want to un-mask the woman I am becoming,

to show that she is not made of plastic.
But she resists, and I no longer know who remains.

 

Jada Essary is 14 years old; she lives in Missouri.  Jada’s favorite season is summer, and some day Jada would love to build her dream home – a library ten stories tall.

 

image:Matheus Bertelli in Pexels



Boy is Alone

By: Noah Morales

Boy is Alone

Boy is alone. He lives on an empty planet. For thousands and thousands of miles, all that surrounds him is darkness. All he’s ever seen beneath his feet is the same colorless gravel. And all he’s ever breathed through his lungs is the same smoggy air. He never had anything to do — there was nothing he ever could do — except walk.

All his life, Boy had been walking around in search for something. Anything. In all his life Boy had never seen another human, but he always felt in his heart that there were more people out there — maybe he just couldn’t see them past all the haze. All his life, he’d lived this way, but today he had enough of it.

He was tired of walking, and he grew weak with the feeling of hopelessness. He laid down and rested for the first time in ages, running his fingers through the fine gravel under him. He reached his hand deep down and scooped out a handful of pebbles; he flicked them away, one by one, watching them fly into the distance. He looked back at the ground and noticed the small hole he just made. He scooped his hand into the dirt again and made an even bigger hole. He kept going. All his life, Boy had been travelling north, south, east, and west across the planet, but never once did he consider going down. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the hole became a crater, large enough to fit his entire body. He kept scooping up rocks and throwing them over his shoulders. For the first time in his life, he was having fun; for the first time in his life, he had a purpose. He needed to reach the bottom. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the earth grew darker, harder, more compact. As he continued his descent, his hands started getting blistered, but Boy stood determined. For the first time ever, he saw a clear path — there was no fog down there to block his view. The more he dug, the more of the world he could see. His heart started beating faster. He was excited to keep going. He continued to dig. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that he started to see a color glaring through the crevices of the rocks. It was a bright, orange color — the first color he’d ever seen in his life. He dug even faster now, even more eagerly to see where that color came from. With each rock he picked, the color emerged brighter and brighter. It also started getting hot, and it wasn’t long before he started to sweat. He felt exhausted, but he was determined to keep digging. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the warm, orange light completely engulfed him. It was blinding; it was all he could see; it was just like the fog at the surface, but this light was comforting. It was a constant reminder of his achievement and a constant motivation to keep digging. The rocks felt hot to the touch, and they were too heavy to be picked up anymore.

Boy was running out of options, but he wasn’t about to quit. He started punching, kicking, slamming, and jumping, trying anything he possibly could to break through the rocks. He was knocked back by the bright light, but he kept swinging. The ground wouldn’t budge. Boy started to burn in the intense heat, and his body told him to climb back up to safety. But his mind was set. He kept kicking.

Finally, with one strong blow, he cracked apart the bedrock and slipped through to the planet’s core. He fell for thousands and thousands of miles as beaming energy flowed into his heart and filled him with life. He looked back up through the hole and watched as his empty world drifted away.¬

He dug. And he dug. And he succeeded.

 

Noah Morales is an 18-year-old student born in Queens, New York. He is currently a first-year at MIT, and loves playing chess on his free time.
Photo by iStock Getty Images
 


Across the Marsh

By: Kevin Dunse

Across the marsh, the morning dew
Across the marsh, and through the slough
The hunter trudges, in the dark
Across the marsh, he does embark

Through the swamp, below the hill
The hunter searches for a thrill
In the eve or in the light
The hunter’s hunting’s never trite

For through the slough and in the marsh
In conditions, light or harsh
Up the valley, ‘round the bends
The hunter’s hunting never ends

For fresh game, the hunter searches
In the valleys or in the birches
A hunter’s hunting is eternal
Never ending, Fall or vernal

But when each expedition closes
A new recollection it proposes
Across the marsh and in his head
A hunter’s hunting’s never dead.

 

Kevin Dunse is 18 years old and from rural Wisconsin. When he is not writing, he loves to spend his spare time outdoors, and some of his favorite activities are hunting, fishing, trapping, foraging, and hiking.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay



A Mind of Its Own

By: Analise Braddock

 

The earth has a mind of its own,
Speaking to us,
Each sound, its own meaning.

Today I heard its heartbeat,
As an apple fell from a tree,
Like a gift into my hands.

I thanked it,
Always talking, whether we listen or not,
Its words a puzzle only you can solve.

I hear the cry of animals, in pain or joy.
I hear the sound of silence, striking me.
I hear the weather as it comes, gentle and warm, or cold and violent

I listen to the plants,
Growing with each shower
To become something beyond us.

Earth notices each movement.
It listens to everyone, even you.
It hears your thoughts,
All your fears and worries,
All you joy and passions.

Most of all, listen carefully.
The earth speaks,
With a mind of its own.

 

Analise Braddock is 10 years old and from Katonah, New York. She has four pets and some day she dreams of becoming a screenwriter. 

Photo by Louis from Pexels