Congratulations to our Short Story Contest Winners! Below are the winners of our Grades 1-3 and Grades 7-9 categories.
A Slight Misunderstanding, by Susannah Neblett, Grade 3
It was a boring old Monday: school, homework, soccer practice then home. But it all changed when my brother and I sat down at the dinner table that evening.
“Kids,” said my dad, with a big smile on his face. “Pack your bags.”
Oh no! I thought, They’re kicking us out! It’s because I didn’t clean my room! My mom must have sensed my fear because the next thing she said made me feel better, “We’re not kicking you out, sweetie. We have tickets to a water park with the world’s biggest water slide!
“Really?” my brother and I asked.
“Really,” Mom said. “We are going tomorrow morning, at 10:00 am, OK?“
“OK,” we said.
After dinner we got ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and then got my pjs on. A little bit later my mom came in and kissed me good night.
In the morning my mom made pancakes for me. Then I put my clothes on and I brushed my hair and teeth.
It was finally 10 o’clock, so we got in the car. We arrived at the water park and proceeded to the changing room. Then, we went to the world’s biggest water slide.
As we got to the slide, we heard a commotion from in front of the slide. We heard a voice in a foreign accent say, “I am soory, boot vee haff noo vater.”
I told my mom, “Apparently, we have new water. I wonder what that means? Oh well, let’s go!”
My mom replied, “I think that he is saying something about re-booting the Wii.”
We retrieved one of the floats and all four of us got in it. We were about to go down the slide when the foreign accent guy ran toward us, shouting something about “new water.” He accidentally knocked us down the slide. My brother suddenly looked queasy, and I asked him why.
“I think he was trying to say that there is no water.”
Now we all looked queasy. “Uh-oh. That’s not good, “ I said.
Suddenly, we came to a halt. We looked around the slide. Then I looked where the water was supposed to come out, and saw how the water couldn’t come out. All the water holes were blocked with very sticky pieces of tape!
So I exclaimed, “Look!” Mom, Dad, and my brother looked where I was pointing, and saw the very sticky pieces of tape. I said, “Help me pull the tape off the holes.”
We started to pull the tape off of the holes, and finally the water was running. We slid down the rest of the slide and into the pool. We put the float away and did a few more water slides until we were exhausted. Then, we went back to the changing room and put our clothes on.
We went to the car and drove home. That night for dinner we had spaghetti. That was the end of my adventurous day.
Lost Souls, by Elysia Lopez, Grade 9
The school bell shrilled, tearing through the quiet classroom. My head snapped up and I immediately began loading my backpack, along with my twenty-or-so classmates. 3 o’clock p.m. had been long anticipated.
“Don’t forget, your family tree projects are due next Friday!” I heard my teacher yell as I zipped up my backpack to go home.
The students filed out of the classroom, and soon I slung my bag over my shoulder and joined the crowd. We filtered outside, and everybody segregated into their respective friend groups for hanging out after school. I walked home alone.
That night, I finally talked myself into going up to the dusty attic to look for some photos to use for the project. In the attic, there were bags of old clothes in one corner, an old rocking horse and some dusty boxes. I crept over to the boxes and wiped the dust off of one labeled “photos”. I set a few of the photo boxes aside, then something caught my eye. It was a smaller box that seemed to be hidden away in the corner. It was labeled with my mother’s name and “photos”, but that wasn’t my mother’s handwriting. I grabbed the box and opened it up. The contents fell into my lap and what I saw made me gasp.
There were photos—dozens of them—of my mom in a hospital bed. In the corner of each photo was a digital mark of the date and time, all marked to be on the day I was born. I’d never seen pictures from the day I was born, and before now, I’d never really questioned why.
My mom was sitting in the hospital bed, wearing a white hospital gown and looking extremely tired with purple bags under her eyes, yet somehow, she wore a warm, bright smile.
But I wasn’t focused on that; I was focused on the fact that in her arms, she held two newborn babies.
My heart skipped a beat. Confused, I slowly picked up the photo and stared at it. Two newborn babies, born on the same day, looking exactly alike. Twins.
This didn’t make any sense. I was an only child.
I shot to my feet, grabbed the box of photos, and made my way to the kitchen, where Mom was setting up to cook a dinner of steak and mashed potatoes.
“Hi, Sweetie,” Mom said, turning around as I came into the room and set the box down on the table.
“What are these?” I asked.
Mom glanced at the box, and immediately, her maternal smile faded. She already knew what photos were inside.
“You weren’t supposed to find those,” Mom said.
“Is this real?” I prompted, unsettled by Mom’s sudden graveness. I looked at her, wondering, but my stomach churned with anxiety. She just set down the bowl she was holding and looked me in the eye. Were those tears?
Feeling increasingly more uncomfortable with each second that passed, I pressed, “Is this me in the picture? Was I—am I—a twin?”
She took a heartbeat to answer. “You were.”
I paused, taken aback. Immediately, any memory of the family project due this week faded as questions whirled around my head. Only one found its way to my voice: “What happened?”
Tension stilled the room. Mom’s eyes focused past me, into space, and I could only assume her mind wandered to some memory, like she was watching it all over again. This was the first time I’ve ever seen her like this.
Silently, I picked up a chair and brought it across the room to her. She slowly sank into it. After an infinite moment of silence, she spoke. “Her name was Cecilia. When you were both only a few months old, your dad and I took you two to the park. You’d started crying, so I set down the basket and picked you up, and this man—he just ran by, and—” Mom’s hand sought mine, and she grasped it and looked up at me, eyes glistening with tears. “He snatched the basket with Ceci.”
I froze. My chest pulsed as my heart starting pounding harder. “What?”
“One moment she was on the bench, and the next moment she was just—gone. Your dad ran after him, but the man climbed into a car and drove off.” Mom wiped a tear from her cheek. “He just took her. It happened so quickly, I—I just can’t believe I let it happen.” The words tumbled out of her mouth, and my world tumbled around me. I couldn’t speak. My voice was lost in the riptide of my thoughts.
“I’m so, so sorry I never told you,” Mom whispered, but in the quiet room, her voice filled my head. “Your dad and I were overwhelmed with guilt—we couldn’t do it, Jen. I’m sorry. We couldn’t tell you. We tried looking for her for months, until the police located her kidnapper. They both died in a car accident.”
A car accident took the life of my sister fourteen years ago. For all fourteen years I’ve been alive, I would’ve given anything to have a sister.
How does this even happen? How could anyone be so selfish and cruel as to take a child? And how could the world be so cruel as to take her life away?
How could my parents never tell me?
At the moment, I didn’t feel angry; I just felt lost, drifting around my existence. I’d lived my entire life with being rooted down to anyone or anything: I was always lonely. All my friendships faded and my parents were rarely home, and I thought I was fated to be alone.
To think that I could’ve had a sister hurt me too much.
Mom squeezed my hand, bringing me back from my thoughts.
“Are you okay?” she asked in a broken voice.
“No.” I felt too empty to cry. “I’m not.”
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