First Day of School

Write about a first day of school—it can be your very first day, it can be the first day of a particular year or at a particular school, it can be a fictional first day. Dive into the emotions you felt as well as what you thought that year may hold.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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103 thoughts on “First Day of School

  1. itsnowonder

    The thought of returning to the smell of old sandwiches and foot odor makes me nauseous.
    The ‘Back to school’ sales have only increased my dread.
    The skin on my temples seems to have tightened overnight and there is an irritating ache at the base of my skull.
    Polish the shoes, clean the face, smooth back the hair, take the glimmer off the insecurities.
    I’ve picked out a neat skirt that falls just below my knees coupled with a blue top that stretches over the right parts and hangs lose over the others. I agonised over this choice of attire. It has to be the right amount of nice with the right amount of confident.
    I look at myself in the mirror and try to think about what others will see. The ache in my neck becomes more intense.
    Shoulders low I grab my bag, pick up the car keys, turn to look once more adjusting the name tag sitting just under my right collar bone.
    “Miss Jones – Teacher”

  2. Cailin

    I clutched a crumpled schedule in my hands. I unfolded it and scanned the schedule up and down then looked around and crumpled it again. 
    “Why is this so confusing!” I huffed.
    I had already spent 20 minutes fiddling with my stupid top locker. I’m a sad 5’even and the top lockers locks are a whole head above me. Its like the principal saw me and said “give that midget a top locker make her life hell”.
    “STUPID NEW SCHOOL!” I yelled 
    Students glared as they passed. A group of kids who looked my age started to whisper. As I continued to crumple and uncrumple my schedule I heard an urging cough from behind me. At first I didn’t turn around, but when I heard the cough again I turned around. My eyes were met with a chest I backed up and finally met eyes crystal blue eyes. Behind him was that group of kids. Teenage boys with blondes hanging from their arms. 
    “You shouldn’t yell” He said calmly 
    “especially in our school!” One of the blondes added. 
    “your school?!” I scoffed 
    A grinned formed on all of there faces except the blue eyed boy who towered over me. Everyone but him started to cry out in laughter
    “your pushing your buttons missy” one of the blondes scoffed
     “you don’t sass us girly” another blonde added. 
    Before I could say anything my crumpled schedule was snatched out of my hand by blue eyes. He read over it, he handed it back. 
    “follow me” he said dryly 
    He walked down the hallway and the group shuffled behind him trying to keep up with his long legs. I suspiciously followed behind them we all halted at a door.  
    “this is your first period class…but we’re skipping” 
    “what?” I asked more as a statement then a question 
    He nodded “you heard me we’re skipping and your coming with” 
    The blondes started to whine, he put up his finger and they immediately closed their mouths. He hand slipped into mine as he tugged me along.
    “But I have to go to class” I said 
    He ignored me and continued to pull me. I didn’t even know these kids who I assumed were the popular ones of this giant school. I didn’t know any of their names, I didn’t know what grade they were in. I didn’t know anything about them. 
    We walked out two large green doors. I was greeted with his hands grabbing my waist and hoisting me in the air. I was carried to large black Dodge Durango. I panicked I tried to squirm out of his grip. He put me in the back two other boys climbed in next to me. He got in the front seat and started the car.  
    I was now in a car with three boys all different colored eyes, blue, green, and brown. Blue eyes was driving the car, while green and brown eyes stared at me  
    “Nice acting Emma… or should we say Wren” Green eyes said coldly 
    “What, how do you know my name? whos Wren?” I asked honestly confused 
    “the gig is up! Now tell us who hired you?” Brown eyes asked 
    “I don’t know what your talking about!” 
     “Just tell us who hired you and we’ll let you go” Brown eyes said annoyed 
    “No one hired me because I don’t know what your talking about” I said for the second time. 
    “Was it Mr. McHain?!”  
    “McHain?” I asked, thought popped in my head my eyes widened 
    “you mean McHain as in Mason McHain?” I asked hoping the answer was no 
    “So you were hired by him” Green eyes said 
    I shook my head “No he’s the jerk my mom cheated on my dad with” 
    They all looked at me then green eyes turned toward blue eyes 
    “you kidnapped the wrong Emma you idiot!” Green eyes yelled 
    “No you gave me the wrong information” Blue eyes argued. 
    They continued to bicker as we headed back towards the school, when we arrived they let me out of the car 
    “sorry for the mix-up Emma see ya around” Green eyes said closing the door 
    I walked into the school hearing the bell ring loudly signaling everyone to go to second period. I walked down the hall with my schedule in hand. That’s one way to start off a school year. 
    THE END 

  3. kitten_girl5

    I’m nowhere before the world comes into focus and I see green lockers. I’m in a school hallway. There’s white around the edges of my vision, but every time I notice it, I’m distracted so I forget again.

    The lockers pass me by as I speed walk down the empty hallway. I don’t know why, but I have to hurry up and get to where I’m going. I hear steps behind me.

    I spin on the spot, almost falling flat on my face. There’s no one there. I shake my head at my foolishness and turn back around to continue my walk.

    The white comes back and I go to look around to see why when I’m yet again distracted by a loud bang behind one of the doors to my right.

    I stop and stare at the door for a minute. I’m hesitating, wanting to see what’s in there when the whispers begin from the left side of the hall. I swing around my back to the door to see who’s whispering.

    There’s no one there.

    I blink and turn to keep going. I have to get to class.

    The class. Now I remember, that’s where I’m going. I have to make it to class. I’m jogging now and I hear it all over again: I hear the voices whispering, the footsteps, the bang. I hear it all, and now they’re laughing, every single one of them. They’re laughing and calling and I feel a leg trip me forcing me to the floor.

    Now I feel it too: I feel their feet kick at me like I’m some sort of soccer ball; I feel them pull at my hair calling for me to get up and fight; I feel the slaps in the face; I feel the hate, every ounce of it that comes smashing into me verbally and physically.

    The white comes filling in from the side and everything is blocked out: their voices; their faces; their hate; their punches; all of it.

    The only thing there now is my own voice telling me this is where I belong; I only make things worse anyway; if it weren’t for me she would be happy, they’d all be happy; I have no purpose, no reason to be here; I drove him away from her; I don’t deserve her love; I don’t deserve happiness.

    This is where I belong: on the floor; in pain; crying; worthless; pointless; useless; broken; helpless; voiceless; wrong; hopeless; losing; dying. I deserve it all, every little bit of hate they have for me for breaking the people I care about. I deserve every ounce of the pain.

    This realization causes me to wake up with the decision made.

  4. c.horta

    Next Tuesday I start my thirty-eighth first day of school. Well, I’m cheating a little on the tally. It includes the first days as a student myself, along with the seventeen first days of being the teacher.

    What many people don’t know (unless they are a teacher themselves or married to one), is that the teacher is as nervous as the students on the first day of school. Most of us have slept poorly the night before with restless dreams. Not being able to move ones legs to walk down the hall. Not being able to find the classroom. Not being able to find the papers to distribute. Not being able to stop the children from climbing on the desks. Irrational, anxious, nightmares.

    It’s a relief to just get up and go to school. It can’t be that bad, can it?

    The first day of school, the teacher needs to brace herself for a gigantic effort. It’s a physical, emotional, social, and psychological challenge. To learn their names! To see and hear everything that is going on around the room. To respond empathetically to the student who needs your extra attention. To react firmly, but instructionally, to behavior that needs to be cut off, right now. To convey enthusiasm. To cleverly motivate. To read, understand, and prompt each child.

    On the first day of school the teacher needs to be ready to fall in love with her children. Even the ones that are a little less lovable. To get them, really get them. To figure out what they need to move forward. It will consume her thinking on school days, on evenings, on vacations, and in her dreams — until June. Then abruptly, she will have to give them up. Most of the time we never know what happens to them.

    The first day of school? The room is ready. The curriculum is planned. The xeroxing is done. Bring on the children — so that the exhausting, wonderful work can begin. Then I can sleep again, too.

  5. dustymayjane

    “Smile now.” Mother pointed her instamatic camera at my siblings and me for the customary photo of the first day of school. Our new clothes worn proudly. Our unscuffed shoes stiff and in need of breaking in.

    “Hurry up Mom. The bus is almost here!” This from brother Tom on the one and only day he’d willingly ride the bus. From tomorrow on, he would be arguing the many virtues of having his own car now that he was a licensed driver. We all rooted for him so we too could ride in his car and be freed of the ritualistic taunting and bullying by our upperclassmen.

    “Hold on kids. I need the flash in this dim light.” This made no sense to me with the morning sun on the edge of the horizon making us squint. Mother clicked and cranked the film advance with no flash of the bulb, making her curse.

    The bus careened around the corner and came to a squeaky stop at the curb. Leaving Mother on the curb, we piled onboard, anxious to meet our friends while praying the older kids wouldn’t pick on us.

    I found the first seat available, next to tiny Karen Kowalski. Her little face wet with tears. Her little shoulders trembling. First day of Kindergarten with no older siblings to help her adjust had proven too much for the shy six year old.

    “HI Karen. Are you scared?”

    I found my brand new pack of Kleenexes and offered her one. The fear on her face was unmistakable and my heart went out to her. She mopped at her face and tried to be brave for me.

    “Thanks.” She mewed.

    “Hey you don’t have to be scared. You’re not alone.” I was older and more experience by five years. A veteran to this school business.

    Karen looked doubtful with her pink bottom lip quivering.

    “Do you know who your teacher is yet Karen?” I prayed it would be Miss Tunseth, the same one I had for kindergarten. She was sweet and soothing. Miss Riddell would put Karen over the edge and she’d probably pee her pants like my sister Mary did for fear of asking to use the little girl’s room.

    Karen shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”

    Karen had a death grip on my hand as we stepped off the bus and in through the glass doors. I promised to help her find her room but I was anxious to get to my own classroom. I’d be so embarrassed if I were the last on in and late to boot.

    We walked the hall of the kindergarten classrooms and I cringed when Miss Riddell hovered in her doorway with a look of doom on her colorless face.

    “Hi Miss Riddell. This is Karen Kowalski. She doesn’t know which classroom she belongs in.”

    Karen looked down at her black Mary-Janes and positively quaked. That’s when I saw the tell tale sign of a darkening on the floor below her shiny new shoes. Miss Riddell ‘s back remained rigid and her mouth pursed like the hind end of a goat. I recognized the look as she opened her lipless mouth to rail on Karen’s inexcusable weakness of bodily function when Miss Tunseth quickly interrupted.

    “You must be Karen. Hi, I’m Miss Tunseth your new teacher. Welcome to kindergarten!” Miss Tunseth rescued poor Karen and shared a pair of clean panties and white knee highs kept for this sole purpose.

    Before I excused myself to head to my own new classroom, Karen actually smiled at me. Thank God for teachers like Miss Tunseth!

  6. DemureLemur

    An olive car with tinted windows made its way through a dark forest.

    “We look decent, right?” Caspar turned to Cole, who was still fidgeting around with his seat belt.

    “More or less, decent” He replied. The look on his face obviously disagreed. They both knew that the academy of Jesters didn’t pay any respect to plaid shirts and corduroys. The car made a sharp right into the underbrush and into a clearing, where the surroundings changed in a sudden burst of Technicolor. Polka dot hedges and confetti grass blended along smoothly to the limestone castle that sat directly in the middle of the clearing. Students in plain white laboratory gowns and belled hats pranced, relaxed, and littered the fields. Once they made it to the front gate of the academy, the driver in the front looked at them with a smile. Cole shifted in his seat while Caspar looked at the chauffeur warily.

    “What?” Caspar asked the driver. But Cole was the one to respond as he mumbled through his clenched teeth. “Hold o—“

    And they were up in the sky, screaming for their lives. Caspar was quick enough to see the spring-coiled passenger seat recoil from below. Cole however, was about a feet above Caspar. It was when Caspar’s ascent started to slow down did his view line up to the window of a tower from which a girl tossed an odd looking pouch. Before Caspar could shout out to her, a blur plunged in front of him, which was odd until he realized Cole wasn’t anymore above him. Caspar’s fall came two seconds later and he held on to his pouch for dear life. A cord flapped and slapped Caspar’s forehead as he struggled to keep his face away from the whip. Finally, Caspar caught the cord between his teeth. Luck had it that Caspar began to float with his newly acquired parachute, and he sailed toward the courtyard.

    He landed safely next to Cole who was curiously drenched from head to toe. Cole combed his bangs away with a finger then pointed toward the headmaster who was patiently waiting for them by the barracks doors. Cole muttered something about dive bombing into a fish pond as they walked. Caspar wondered why he didn’t have a parachute.

    “Ah the Maverick twins” the headmaster exclaimed with a smile.

    “What was that all about?!” Cole grumbled.

    “Why, all the entrees go through the selection process.” The headmaster replied innocently, “Who’s the fool and who’s the acrobat.”

    “I’m guessing I’m the fool.” Cole said.

    “And I’m the Acrobat?” Caspar inquired.

    “The high fall with their might, while the low laugh at the sight” The headmaster explained. “The acrobat is nimble and aware of everything, and the fool knows how to fiddle and misdirect.”

    “But what does that mean sir?” Cole asked.

    The headmaster turned and sighed with a glint of mischief in his eyes. “I welcome you to the halls of spies, assassins, and traitors; All jesters of different natures.”

  7. UnclePizza

    Of Sins and Ash – Part 11: Sky

    The boy watched the lone rider approach under the heat of the late afternoon sun. As the rider drew near, the boy recognized him as the tall soldier who had killed the old woman. When the tall man in the saddle looked at him and smiled, the boy ran into the church to get the priest.

    The priest stepped outside as the rider dismounted and the two men walked toward each other, meeting in the middle of the short path between the church and the road. The tall soldier dropped to one knee and kissed the priest’s ring as the man of God made the cross sign with his hand. Noticing that the boy was back in the doorway, the soldier asked, “The boy; does he speak yet?”

    “Some,” said the priest. “He quickly learned the words for many common things, but he has not yet learned much more since. But then, it has only been four months since you brought him to me. I expect he will learn in time.”

    The soldier waited for the priest to tell him why he had requested this visit, but the priest just looked at the sky, saying, “Have I ever told you that I find the sky here fascinating?”

    “It does have a certain beauty,” the soldier acknowledged.

    “Beautiful, yes, but there’s more to it than beauty. What fascinates me is that it seems as if this sky can be many skies at once. Here, look to the south, see how dark the sky is with afternoon storms? Yet at the same time the sky to the north and the western is simply a broad, cloudless expanse of the deepest blue. And finally the eastern sky is full of high white clouds throwing shadows on the hills. Today it’s as if we have three skies, and there are days when there are even more”

    “True,” said the soldier, knowing that the priest would not be telling him about the sky unless it helped make a point, a point that he would make only in his own good time. “The sky in this country can be something to behold. Surely, though, there is more on your mind today than the weather?”

    The priest paused for a moment, not liking to be rushed, before turning toward the soldier and simply saying, “You remind me of the sky.”

    The soldier laughed, “Father, if I didn’t know better I would think you were trying to pay me a compliment! But I am but a simple soldier and do not always understand poetic references. Please, Father, feel free to be more direct with me.”

    “As you wish. I make reference to the sky because depending on how I look at you I see something different. If I look one way, I see a strict and ruthless soldier dedicated to conquering this new world for God and for Spain. If I look another, I see a man who tolerates the ways of the heathen as if they were a natural complement to God’s creation. And if I look yet another way I see a man who is keenly aware of his mortality and fears for the fate of his eternal soul. You may think of yourself as a simple soldier of God, but I fear He sees you as more than that.”

    “And the lesson you are trying to impart?”

    The priest looked blandly at the soldier and said, “That there is only one sky in the Kingdom of Heaven. You know which one that is. You simply need to settle on it and remain steadfast; to prove yourself to God in a confident and unwavering fashion. To do his bidding without question, without hesitation, and without doubt. The alternative is to bring doubt upon your own place in His Kingdom.”

    The soldier now understood why he had been called to meet with the priest – the cleric only made allusions to his place in heaven when he wanted the soldier to do something for him. Returning the priests gaze, he asked with what he hoped was enough innocence to mask his suspicion, “And by what means do I do that, Father?”

    The priest looked once more toward the sky before answering, “I understand that there is another sin eater living in the desert.”

    The soldier had also heard about the new bruja, but he was surprised that the priest already knew of her. The villagers had not quite come to fully trust this new priest, especially since he had had the old woman killed, and so kept many secrets to themselves. Still, the soldier had learned quickly that this priest was crafty and ruthless in his own right. With the power of the Church behind him, and his willingness to use the confessional to his advantage, it made sense that the priest could gather information in his own way.

    Turning his own gaze to the sky now, the soldier said, “I expect that putting this new blasphemer to the sword will prove to God which man I am. Do you agree, Father?”

    “Doing God’s work will always secure one’s place in His Kingdom, of that you can be certain.”

    Looking to the west, the soldier replied, “I do not have time to round up my men and pay her a visit before dark, and so will wait until morning. I expect that I’ll be back for absolution by the time you finish your morning prayers.”

    “If you left now then this matter could be closed this evening.”

    “Are you suggesting that I approach this new bruja alone?”

    “Are you suggesting that you are scared to face a young woman alone?”

    The boy watched as the two men glared silently at each other. He had learned more about the mouth noises than he let on – the old woman told him not to let the priest know – and although he understood what the men had said, it seemed as though they were now letting each other know things without making the noises. It surprised him, for he thought that only he and the old woman/raven/coyote could do that. As the men stared at each other, their looks reminded the boy of how his coyote brothers sometimes looked when deciding whether or not to fight. Finally the tall man turned, and without a word he mounted his horse and rode into the desert.

    —————————————

    The full story to-date (parts 1-11) can be found in one posting at https://unclepizza.wordpress.com/of-sins-and-ash/

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Another great episode. I think the priest knows the soldier better than the soldier knows himself. The sky usage was perfect. I was reminded of how Tony Hillerman wrote about the sky. Looking forward to the rest of this story.

  8. klmcafee1511

    This school year was not going to be like any other school year Mrs. Long had experienced before. After being laid off from her Kindergarten job the year before, Mrs. Long was venturing out to substituting. She did not have enough lone classroom experience to find a job over the summer, but this would be a new adventure. She would have to be more flexible and positive (and even braver) than ever before, but these schools were about to meet an amazing teacher. Mrs. Long was as nervous as could be, but it was going to be an amazing year. She just knew it.

  9. agnesjack

    One more…
    ___________________

    “The Physics of Everyday Life,” was the title of the very first class I took when I returned to school at the age of fifty-three to finish my bachelor’s degree. It sounded intriguing and fun and reminded me of the awe and delight I had felt as a child when watching “Mr. Wizard” on television. No doubt we would learn the concept of a vacuum by imploding a tin can, or experience velocity and propulsion by blasting a plastic bottle into the air using baking soda and vinegar as fuel.

    The textbook weighed about twenty pounds. The conceptual aspects of physics were beautifully illustrated and concisely explained.

    I sat with my brand new notebook opened to the first pristine, softly lined white page, pen hovering. The professor began. He talked about energy and force, matter and motion, space and time. He was euphoric. Euphoric, not about the concepts, but about the math. He filled the blackboard with equations and symbols and formulae. Mathematics had always worked on me like a sedative. Numbers made me want to take a nap, but I fought the urge and dutifully wrote down every number and symbol and arrow and slash. Fascinating patterns filled page after page. I understood none of it.

    What the hell have I gotten myself into? I thought.

    I wasn’t alone. Week after week the students would file out looking shell-shocked. I think there were two people who actually understood what he was doing. They were both math majors.

    One woman grabbed my arm in the ladies room.

    “I have a 3.8 average.” she said. “This is my last semester before I graduate. I HAVE A 3.8 AVERAGE!”

    It was heartbreaking.

    The inevitable happened. People began to cheat. The professor graded on a curve and had open-book tests. He always picked his questions from the back of the book. A girl in the class had a friend who was a physics major. He would write out the answers to all the questions for that particular test, which she would photocopy and hand out before class. I declined. I didn’t go back to college in my fifties to cheat — but I had a dilemma. Since the professor graded on a curve, the cheaters would distort that curve and those of us who were doing our legitimate best would end up on the bottom.

    I e-mailed the professor before the final exam and told him what was happening. On the day of the exam, he did nothing. The cheaters got their cheat sheets and I got a headache. I didn’t even answer the last two questions.

    When the grades came out, mine was higher than I deserved. I e-mailed the professor and asked if he had made a mistake. He said, no, I had done rather well on the final. Perhaps he meant that I had at least tried to do well. Perhaps I was graded on the honesty curve.

    I only had to take one more math class after that, which is a good thing because my husband threatened to stay at a hotel if I ever took a third.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is a most thought provoking situation, and I’m still thinking. I also went back to finish my degree a bit later than some, but thankfully didn’t have to take a math class.

      1. agnesjack

        Yes, Reatha. It was my first class and I didn’t quite know what to do. My husband said, you have to tell someone, so I chose the professor so as to not go over his head. Eventually, when I spoke to my dean advisor after the class was over, she said I should have told her, because they would have monitored the class. It was actually quite awful, because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, but I didn’t want my grade to be hurt by the cheating. Fortunately, in the six years that followed before I finally got my degree, I never had to deal with anything like that again. I had wonderful professors who were inspiring and encouraging and I loved the experience.

  10. Beebles

    Mrs McKenzie’s room is dark.

    Dark like hard wood. Hard like mistrusting eyes, half shut, like the blinds on the Edwardian fenestration. Mrs McKenzie, is our new form teacher, old corpuscled face crowned in red briar; horn-rimmed, horn-shaped glasses, a millstone mouth possesses a voice to shatter cities into dust.

    I sit bewildered on my plastic chair, mourning Miss Snowden, her marshmallow tones and soft white jumper, check skirt, angel brown hair. She graced me a smile as we stood in line outside Mrs McKenzie’s door, then led the tottering tots into class, heads always turning, eyes wide, fingers in noses, mouths and ears. Mrs Snowden’s room is bright and sunny, decorated in an orchestra of poster colours.

    Mrs McKenzie’s room is dark.

    All this sunlight used up in one summer, hot and conspiratorial, concealing its barbed tail beneath the smell of tarmac, the sound of ice-cream chimes and the pock, pock of tennis behind sighing curtains. Had I forgotten my left from right in those scorching days; down on the beach, the stranded pools, climbing the rocks to penetrate where dragons dwelt and steal their glistening treasure to skim it into the ocean, to hit the rock, like Hylas did to join the Argo’s crew?

    I know my left from right. I do, but Mrs McKenzie’s room swallows my sense, my right, my left. Those proud wonders, brought lovingly from the beach shop, stored safely in my tray, forgotten amongst the blurred numbers and my panic.

    Which sums did she say? The sums on the right? Did I mis-hear? Was I day dreaming? Which is left? Which is right? Stephen, my friend, the boy who doubles me over in laughter, like a workhouse child now, head down, face hidden by his straight blond hair, scribbles, says nothing.

    McKenzie strides amongst the islands of knee high tables; Talos, the castigator, the numerator and denominator. I scribble numbers, sums into my yellow maths book. I want her to see and I don’t. If she sees and says nothing I’m right, if she sees and I’m wrong …

    I’m wrong and my city falls. Before the entire class my error is laid bare in screeches, like Phineas’ harpies. I am stripped by the winds of her scorn, naked and exposed, tears and shame.

    The right, the right. The other page. And show them when I am done.

    The class has moved on by then: free time, the trays of coloured blocks or felt pens. There are a few smudges on my neat columns as she takes the yellow book, brandishing her green pen, green like venom.

    The ticks, like tears, fall one by one until none remain and beneath those hearth warm curls she beams a red gloss smile. ‘Well done.’

    And I’m rushing to my tray, all smiles and my pride is a stranded pool at high tide. I bring the paper bag to Mrs McKenzie. With such delicacy she holds up the two silent skeletons. Not like the ones that Jason fought. These are seahorses, tiny bones translucent in the light.

    The light in Mrs McKenzie’s room.

    1. agnesjack

      This is wonderful. The descriptions the mood the emotional underbelly. You’ve captured a child’s inner fear, isolation, wonder and joy so beautifully.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Beebles, you truly turned darkness into light. Loved the classical references used in a child’s early school experience. Also, the descriptions of the two teachers are so perfect. I actually read this several times, so enjoyable it was.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I have to chime in also. The whole story read like a poem, so descriptive, so definitive of a young child’s thinking. This was wonderful to read. You’re on top beebles.

  11. Kerry Charlton

    NATASHA IVANOFF

    THIRTY THOUSAND EMAILS

    PART FIVE
    [Part one – four are posted on kerrybcharlton.blogspot.com]

    By the time the police arrived with ambulances and military and they finished their probe, it was four o’clock in the morning. As Vince pulled away in the first Range Rover, the other two followed closely. A hazy sun had just appeared when they pulled into McConnell AFB. Met by a bird colonel, Vince and Natasha were given the base commander’s house to stay in.

    “Do you want a cup of coffee, Nat?”

    She started to tear up, :“My Father always called me Nat. I loved it. My Mother hated the nickname because it rhymed with Rat. He passed several years ago from cancer and I miss him so. Is it fate you called me?”

    “Let’s just skip the coffee, we both need a shower.”

    “As you say in America, I know how to economize.”

    “And how is that?”

    “Two people, one shower, saves water.”

    “I‘ve always been a champion of economy.”

    “I bet you have, you little devil. Okay as long as you wash my back,” Natasha said.

    “Consider it done.”

    Both had bathrobes on and stared at the tiny show, tree feet by three feet.

    “We need to be contortionists, Nat said.”

    “Watch me.” Vince entered first and spread himself tight to the tile wall. Natasha followed spoon type and was barely able to reach the controls. Immense giggling and laughter erupted as they bathed each other.

    “How many times have you done this?”

    “Never,” Vince answered.

    “Oh come on you expect me to believe this? What about a first kiss?”

    It was nine in the morning when they settled in bed and Vince just held her tight and stroked her damp hair till she fell asleep. The jangle of the phone awoke both and Vince answered the phone.

    “Breakfast is coming in fifteen minutes, we better throw some clothes on.”

    Natasha threw the sheets off her sculptured frame and crooked her finger toward Vince,

    “Breakfast can wait outside, I have a better idea.”

    An hour later Vince opened the front door and slid the tray in. It seemed like a week since they had eaten and they devoured everything in sight. A polite note from the base commander suggested dinner at six and they were to be transferred to Edwards AFB in California. Edwards had dispatched two F16B Fighting Falcons to McConnell. They were two seat fighter jets, fully armed and had Mack 2 speed capacity at 50,000 feet.

    “Boy, they must think you’re platinum. I certainly do.” Vince quipped.

    Natasha gave him a special look and he quit teasing.

    “We don’t have any clothes to wear to dinner“.

    “ We never got our luggage. It was in the Rover they destroyed,” Vince said, “I’ll call the base and ask.”.

    He had an intense look as he listened, then broke in a wide grin,

    “Guess what Nat?”

    “Tell me what I’m going to wear to dinner?”

    “There’s a service vehicle pulling up in the driveway. Some of the wives have sent clothes over for you to try. The PX is also staying open if you need them.”

    “That’s really sweet of the ladies to help, I’m sure I’ll find something.”

    The base commander drove them to the runway after dinner where their planes were parked. Vince took one look at the fighters and knew the Air Force was taking every caution possible. Vince climbed in one fighter, Natasha the other, she felt at home in the trainer seat up front. Vince on the other hand was apprehensive. .

    As the planes catapulted off the runway and did vertical climbs to 50,000 feet, Vince almost lost his dinner. They flew in formation style, close enough to wave to each other. An uneventful flight was interrupted as Natasha’s pilot broke silence and talked to the other plane,

    “Do you see them on your screen?”

    “Yes, looks like four missiles were launched ten seconds ago. Bill are you suggesting we outrun them?”

    “Yes, stay in touch. Deploy your anti ship missiles immediately. Burn it Joe.”

    Vince felt the G’s push him to the back of his seat. Noise split the cabin like a run-a-way freight train and he came close to blacking out as the plane soared to 53,000 feet at Mach 2.2. He felt a desperate need for Natasha.

    .

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      My goodness, Kerry, no one else could combine water conservation, with the kindness of strangers, with borrowed transportation. I have no clue how this all might end, but I’ll bet it will be fun to read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reatha. When you figure it out. please let me know. At the present I have no more ideas than you do. I do know they are in mortal danger from the ground to air missles. The Russians seem to know everything ahead of time. Maybe one plane will go down. But them maybe not.

  12. write_never_wrong

    Each ring of the bell brings a new mystery. Every hour, on the hour, that rusted brass hammer slams against the equally rusted blood red circle of medal. Is that a vintage firehouse alarm? Each hour brings chaos and banging of traditional-blue metal doors; bodies swarming in all directions, no one really knowing where they are going. And these people, dressed in what they deemed to be the perfect attire for this moment. Eyes dashing this way and that, daggers of self-entitled judgement and sour insecurity. The lingering scent of challenged masculinity and hopeful sweet romance entangled amongst this complex dance. The air is heavy with questions and bubbling pressure that this one day will set the cement tone for the next 17, 280 hours.
    And there you stand; with uneasy sweat gradually collecting between your armpits and argent gray fitted t-shirt made of rayon. What an ironic pick. Pressing through the crashing wave of bodies, you fervently make your way to the next four-walled room of mystery before the second painful set of chimes sound off. Do I have what I need to survive this next test you wonder as you are now a decent distance from where you stowed everything to survive the day. Your mind replays many stories of those who came before you. Their detailed description made you think they were only pretending; attempting to strike fear into you innocent mind. You wonder if you’re being dramatic, but the relief that overwhelms you when you step across that threshold assures you that you are thinking perfectly clear. The others who have made it are now sitting in an almost too organized fashion. Their backs are too straight and eyes glued to first of the four walls. There are some who dare to talk in whispers, laughing with a nervous chuckle, trying to appear confident, but the mask of assurance slowly unravels to reveal the true layer of diffidence. Hurry, make your way to your spot. Don’t you dare get caught being the only one standing, looking like a trapped owl with nowhere to go.
    A wave of relief comes when you recognize a blurry face. Dammit, should have grabbed those glasses. Another survivor from the last round. The round where the challenge of displaying strength was the only way out. Where the 3,600 seconds ended with standing underneath a blistering water fall of steam; yet you still shivered from the exposure. She smiles, daring to attempt to wave; you can see fear in her eyes that she’ll be noticed. It seems, with her frail size, intentionally sunken but blushed cheeks and boney protrusions; it’s her goal to slowly disappear. You make your way to your fellow survivor, unexpected nerves dancing in your stomach. Trying not to trip over the collection of bags and books in your way. Sit.

    “Welcome class of 2020! Welcome to a new school year!”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is a most thought provoking piece. Almost sounds like preparing for war. I did like how it ended, the girl’s description was very good, you said so much in just a few words.

  13. UnclePizza

    Of Sins and Ash – Part 10: Student

    The boy slept on the floor his first night in the rectory. The priest had tried to get him to sleep on a bed, but the wild-raised child could not get used to the feeling of being off the ground. Finally, the priest relented and left for his own room.

    Once he was alone, the boy settled in amongst a pile of blankets but could not sleep. The image of the tall man killing the old woman flooded his mind, and he was still confused about why the woman had made herself into a raven. Finally, shortly after midnight, the boy stood and looked out the window. The raven was perched on a post in the yard, surrounded by four coyotes who sat as if keeping watch while she waited for him.

    He let her know that he was confused, and she reassured him that he was where she wanted him to be. Be patient, she reminded him. There is work to do, but it will take time. He wanted to know what he should do and she let him know that he needed to learn how to make the noises with his mouth. He began to bark and yip, the coyotes now sitting up ready to join in, but she let him know to stop, that nobody should know that she was in the yard. She then let him know that it was the other noises that he needed to learn. What noises he wanted to know. Patience, she reminded him, and the raven flew off with the coyotes running beneath her.

    The priest woke the boy in the morning and brought him to a chair in the room where the stove and the food was. The old woman had had a chair, so the boy knew what it was for although he had never used it. There were four chairs in this room surrounding a wooden table that had some food laid out on it. The priest led the boy to one of the chairs, and despite his apprehension at using it, he knew that the old woman/raven/coyote wanted him here, and wanted him to learn, so he sat. The priest sat as well, smiling at the boy, but when the boy reached for some food the priest frowned, made the noises, and grabbed his hand. Then, the priest put the boy’s hands together in front of him and then did the same with his hands. He lowered his heard and made the noises some more and when he stopped he used one hand to touch his forehead, his stomach, and then each shoulder. The boy did the same and the priest smiled.

    After they had eaten, the priest cleared the table showed the boy where to clean his plate. He had learned how to clean while living with the old woman, so he was able to satisfy the priest on his first attempt.

    After the kitchen had been put back in order, the priest sat the boy back down at the table and laid out an assortment of objects: a feather, a stone, a spoon, and so forth. He then picked them up one at a time and made the noises with his mouth. The boy was puzzled, and a bit apprehensive, but he knew that the old woman wanted him to learn to make the noises, so he made himself try.

    Soon, the boy realized that the noise the priest made was different for each object. He paid closer attention and noticed that the noise was always the same for a particular thing. Each different from the others, yet each one always the same. In a flash the boy understood that the man was using noises the same way that the old woman had helped him know things, but while the woman could do it with her eyes, the man did it with noises from his mouth.

    The boy watched intently now as the man lifted objects and made noises, and when he was sure that he knew the noise for the stone he pointed to it and used his mouth to make the noise. As the priest smiled broadly and made happy noises, the raven landed on the post in the yard. She let him know that she was pleased.

    —————————————–
    Parts 1-10 can be found in one posting at https://unclepizza.wordpress.com/of-sins-and-ash/

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This should be a novel, there’s pleanty of meat here to do this. When you are finished with the story please consider expanding at least into a novella. The fascination continues, may it never cease.

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Kerry. I actually am planning to make this into something bigger. It’s looking like I’ll have at least 10,000 words by the time I’m done here – “only two or three more posts”! And that’s with trimming everything down yet still blowing word counts. I’m just working now on getting the framework for the story out of my head, and then I’ll probably take a hiatus from this site to focus on Of Sins and Ash for a while. I do have a full time job that keeps me pretty busy, so it’s a matter of making the time… Maybe try to hammer it out in November for NaNoWriMo?

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          UP, commenting here on the story and your plans. First, great continuation, description of learning human speech was fantastic.. I also went to your site and reread everything. While each episode has been great, I think #5, Conquistador, is the best. You really pulled me into the minds of the priest and the soldier by using their internal narration (not certain if that’s the term I want, but hope you understand). That was also the most intimate episode, at times I’ve felt a bit distant from your people and actions. These are just my reactions, everything is pretty amazing so far. Good luck with the big plan. I’m taking a break from The Girl stories, and plan to go back and start serious editing after I do some more with Annie. I hadn’t thought of using November to do that, but might. Best of luck, but try to stop by now and again. Looking forward to the wrap up of this.

          1. UnclePizza

            Thanks for the comments Reatha. I’ll have to go back and look at #5 and see what makes it better and if I can replicate that in the other chapters as I rewrite them.

            As to the “distance”, I think I know what you mean. One reason I’ve gone so over the wordcounts is that the stories seem to lose depth if I cut too much. Each “chapter” was anywhere from 50% to 100% longer but I trimmed them to try (not very successfully) to get close the word limit. I’m hopeful that once I have license to just run with it that I can add the necessary depth back in.

            Thanks again, feedback is always appreciated!

  14. agnesjack

    After my husband Mark died, my sister said to me on a particularly despairing day, “You know, Nance, there was a time in your life when Mark was right around the corner.”

    I’ve thought of that often in the five and half years since. Life is a series of surprises and shift changes, both good and bad. Yet, no matter what may be waiting right around the corner, we need to resist stopping short in the middle of the block, paralyzed and afraid. We need to keep moving.

    Kindergarten was a monumental shift change for me. My strongest recollection of being dropped off by my dad, was gluing myself to his leg and wailing.

    “Nooooooooooo!”

    I didn’t want to be left in that strange, foreboding place. I wondered if he would even come back.

    “Peter is here,” my dad kept saying, as if that would make it better. Peter had attended the same nursery school, but his presence in kindergarten didn’t soothe or console me. He was a boy, after all, a roly-poly boy who made up poems, even at that young age. He made up one about me, called “The Girl With the Golden Hair,” because the summer sun always bleached my hair blonde. He would recite it out loud for all to hear. Very sweet, when I think of it now, but at the time, it was mortifying.

    “Peter’s here, Nancy, see?”

    “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

    I don’t know how my dad and the two teachers got me dislodged from his leg — it must have been so traumatic I’ve blocked it from memory — but eventually I was placed at a table and given paper and crayons. One teacher introduced me to the girl across the table. She said, “hi.” I said, “hi” back. I was okay after that.

    What I didn’t know at that time was that Stephen was right around the corner. I had always been a painfully shy child, but Stephen was one of those rare souls that just put everyone at ease. He was my best friend from Kindergarten through the fourth grade. His father was a Minister and they always had foster children in their house. It was a gloriously happy home. When he and his family moved away after the fourth grade, I was heartbroken. I would look out my bedroom window every night that summer and wish on the stars, Please. Please don’t let Stephen move away.

    Funny. I hadn’t thought of that in decades. Such a devastating moment, and yet, I continued on. I put one foot in front of the other and bumped into all sorts of surprises while turning those corners: meeting my best friend, Joey, in college; the inspiring, life-changing years living in Boston; the cross-country trip with my sister, Peggy, in a Dodge van that burned a quart of oil every hundred miles; the years in Manhattan directing and acting in plays; and, of course, the miracle Mark years. So many chapters in a book that is still not finished.

    And despite my misgivings about Peter that first day in kindergarten, we remained friends. For many years, as we turned our individual corners, we exchanged long letters, sharing our dreams and visions, as well as our frustrations and disappointments. I am no longer the girl with the golden hair, but thanks to Peter and others, I have that connection, that memory, that through-line to the moments that matter: the magic that is right around the corner.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I’m sorry, I’m not a pushover, but the tears of my own started to flow. Times past rushed forward, my brother’s death, my older brother Bill, my fighting partner, my protector, my best friend in our double wedding. H e ran like a deer in a rain forest, me a John Deere. Thank you so much for this and may we both find the answer to life’s puzzles some day but, not just yet. I loved the introspection the NOOOOOOOOQ! repeated. Remember if you were called the girl with the gloden hair, you shall always be.

      1. agnesjack

        Thanks, Kerry. This is life, isn’t it? You and I have more years behind us, probably, than in front, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still enjoy every minute. The memories of your brother are precious and you are lucky to have them. Same with Mark for me. We are blessed and that’s what I try to remember as the golden hair turns gray.

  15. Amaria

    Nikki was standing on the sidewalk where her dad had dropped her off. She looked at the other kids standing by the school entrance, chatting lively about their summer vacation. It was the first day of school and Nikki was the new kid. This was not a new experience for Nikki. She and her dad were always moving, mostly due to her father’s bad habits.

    Nikki noticed many of the kids were wearing brand new clothes – crisp jeans, trendy shirts and brand new sneakers. A few of the girls wore tunic blouses Nikki had spotted in the mall, but couldn’t afford to buy. She shifted her body away from the group, hoping no one would notice her faded jeans and slightly beat up sneakers.

    Just then Nikki noticed two girls standing by one of the doors looking at her. The one girl in the navy blue skirt had long, silky blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail, with skin as pale as milk. The other girl in purple jeans had chocolate brown skin with long black box braids. Nikki felt anxiety building up inside her. As the two girls walked towards her, Nikki nervously ran her hand through her brown curly hair, looking down at the sidewalk.

    “Hello” the blond girl said. “I’m Molly. Are you new here?”

    Nikki nodded. The other girl then chimed in, “I’m Tasha.”

    Nikki shyly replied, “Hi. I’m Nikki.”

    Molly asked, “Where are you from?”

    “Virginia,” Nikki replied.

    Molly smiled. “Oh, I thought I heard a southern accent. My grandmother lives there.”

    “Why did you move to Jersey?” Tasha asked. “I’m sure it was better there.”

    Molly rolled her eyes at Tasha. “Don’t listen to her. It’s not that bad.”

    “Yes it is,” Tasha retorted. Molly shook her head.

    “Well my dad got a new job here,” Nikki answered. She left out the parts about her dad getting fired from his job, the affair he was having the neighbor’s wife and that missing teenage boy from the neighborhood.

    Tasha then said, “I like your ring.”

    Nikki looked down at her right hand where she wore an amethyst ring. A gift from her mother. “Thanks. Not a lot of people notice it.”

    “Well, purple is my favorite color. As you can tell from my outfit,” Tasha replied.

    “Do you know which homeroom you’re in?” Molly asked.

    “I’m not sure. I’m supposed to go to the principal’s office. If I can find it.”

    “It’s easy to find,” Molly replied. “We can show you.”

    “And you can sit with us for lunch, so you don’t have to eat alone,” Tasha added.

    Nikki smiled and replied, “Thanks”, as the school bell rang. Nikki followed Molly and Tasha towards the school doors, now crushed with students. Nikki didn’t have many friends at her old school in Virginia, or Florida before that. So far she had met two people who seemed nice. The new school year was already looking up.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Such a tough time being a new kid. You presented it nicely to the reader. Also you draw a lot of sympathy for Nikki’s plight. Noce job on that. I’m also wondering about the missing boy.

  16. rapidbutterfly

    We paused at the main doors, that feeling of dread creeping through me again. It was the same thing every year, the fact that I was a senior this year wouldn’t change a thing. The past three years was like living in a bad 80’s high school movie with every tired cliche that you could think of thrown in the mix. I had spit balls, food, a desk and a dozen other things aimed at her head, like I was target practice. There really wasn’t anything else they could chuck my way. Nothing that I could think of anyway. Jenn pulled my arm trying to get me to move.
    ‘Must we?”
    ” We must. Let’s just get it over with, gotta see if Jen is here yet.”
    Slowly we made our way into the school that was so small we jokingly refereed to it as a house made out of a deck of cards. I mean seriously, who decides to use an old church as a school. The chairs were set up in rows in the main area, time for the yearly speech that never ends from the founder of the school. Jen stood in her usual corner waiting for us. She looked like she was out of her element but who could blame her, she was surrounded by heathens in every form you could imagine. One of the few people who spoke to us ran up behind me while we said hi to Jen, whispering “watch out for the little people”. I looked around, thinking that I was about to knock a freshmen over. He rolled his eyes, “I meant leperchauns, thanks for killing the joke.”
    Out of habit we took four seats. We had just lost one of our group over the summer, Jennifer’s parents moved out of state on a whim, leaving us with just three. Our teachers decided to start the year off acting out the rules and dress codes. Seeing one of the hairier teachers in short shorts and a bikini top lightened our mood some what, at least until I torn my skirt on both sides, sending the slight slits waist high. I tried to run to the bathroom but I was motioned to sit down, can’t interrupt the speech.
    When we were finally allowed to leave we made a run for the bathroom, my home away from home, my sanctuary. A group of wide eyed, overly scared freshmen made way for us to pass like they had just become the red sea. It was weird but my temper was on the verge of disappearing and I hadn’t been to one class yet, I didn’t want to deal with what was bothering them. We stood in the narrow hallway that was connected to the bathroom wondering what Jennifer’s day was like and staring in the mirror, Me and Jenn fixing our black makeup and pink and purple hair, Jen adjusting a bandanna that hung over one eye, trying to re create a Tupac picture. I still don’t know how we became such good friends.
    We stood there waiting for security to kick us out and send us to class. A freshmen walked in shaking, stuttering, completely terrified, she freaked us out. We went to her asking her what was wrong and how we could help her. She looked at us, she seemed so confused. She couldn’t understand why we were being so nice to her, why we hadn’t harmed her. After some explaining we realized that this year one of our classmates decided to get creative in a way that I didn’t think they could. They had started a rumor that we were powerful witches who were known for making human sacrifices. The poor girl was forced to ask us if it was true.
    I was so mad, I couldn’t believe it. How, after all of these years had we not come up with the idea ourselves. It was too perfect, a rumor that no one would question, that kept people from messing with us. The Jenn’s and I decided to keep the rumor going for as long as we could, bringing the girl in on it. She would go around school talking about the weird creepy things we did and we would tell people she was our protegee so she wouldn’t be pushed around again. We messed with people the rest of the year, it was so much fun.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, rapidbutterfly!

      I liked this story a lot, especially your MC’s reaction to the rumor about them being witches. That was fun and unexpected.

      The only thing that jolted me out of the story was this line: “at least until I torn my skirt on both sides, sending the slight slits waist high.” I was puzzled about how she managed to tear her skirt that high accidently. I assume she didn’t do it on purpose.

      Other that that small detail, I really enjoyed reading this story. 🙂

      1. rapidbutterfly

        Thank you, for the most part this story is true and I’m not sure how I did it. My skirt somehow got caught in the chair I was sitting on when I stood it tore.

  17. igonzales81

    It took me a long time to get to college. I always thought that education should open the eyes as well as the mind, that it should inspire and motivate instead of implanting numbers and rules and facts. After a full twelve years of never experiencing that feeling, I didn’t see the point in spending money to be disillusioned again.

    When I finally did enroll, after a lot of years and a lot of different jobs, I still didn’t expect much. Go back to school, get the piece of paper that says I went there, make the folks happy. Then get right back to making money and going nowhere.

    The first day certainly seemed to live up to my expectations. I had a nine a.m. psychology class, math right after, and then the most stultifying U.S. history class imaginable. By the time I headed for my last session of the day—English composition—I thought I knew how fully terrible the next two years were going to be.

    I filed into the room along with the rest of the students, almost every one of them a good six or seven years my junior. I couldn’t relate to them, couldn’t speak to them on their level. I knew more than a few of them, knew their names, knew how much trouble they’d gotten into; working at a town watering-hole gives you that insight. They all seemed so eager, so confident that what they learned in college was going to act like a magic potion and make their lives into these fairy tale stories. I didn’t feel that way at all.

    Since I was at the rear of the line, I ended up sitting near the front of the class. Never my favorite place to be; just because you want to see the lion doesn’t mean you want to be close to him.

    In this case, the lion was a woman of middle years. I’d read in her bio that she was a teacher with more than thirty years’ experience, that she’d come out of retirement to teach again. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to do that.

    Then she started her lecture. And I found myself listening.

    She spoke of what the written word has done throughout history, of the people it has influenced and the changes it has wrought. She spoke of great writers who could, with a few words, sum up the essence of any given time or place, writers who could communicate through time to show people today what it had been like before. Through their words, you could know what had been thought, see what had been seen, and feel what had been felt.

    And she was going to help us learn to do that for ourselves.

    I remember everything she ever taught me. I’ve used every tool she showed me how to use. I’ve done my best to show others how to do the same.

    One of the most important things I learned is that education can inspire and motivate. You just have to keep an open mind and open eyes.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Ah, this brought back memories of going back to finish my degree when I was twenty years older than some other students and even older than some instructors. I too had several classes with teachers like the “lion”. I will value those times forever. Really well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I felt myself in your place even though I went when I was eighteen. I wanted to go to my Father’s Alma Mater. The university of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. We lived in Miami and just couldn’t afford it. However, in a second rate school of Business at Mami, I had one professor who brought me alive. In big business for thirty years, he had a heart attack and retired in Miami and taught Marketing and Quality Control
        It took only one man to do it, regardless of the school.

  18. Kerry Charlton

    LOST IN PARADISE

    Three weeks before the University of Miami started classes, I went to six fraternity rush parties, three from Sigma Chi and three from SAE. They were thrown in fabulous houses located on Biscayne Bay, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. The Sigma Chi’s were the smartest, sprinkling beautiful girls along with the fraternity to keep us amused at their parties. So it was a no-brainer, I pledged Sigma Chi.

    One week before classes, we registered for our courses. I signed up for six, which caught the eye of my counselor, who after checking my high school academics, relented.
    So I registered for Monday-Wed-Fri, at eight, nine, ten and eleven Tues at 8 and nine thirty.
    First day with my Beanie clamped on my head, I walked a half mile from the parking lot. Dressed in a long sleeve dress shirt, gabardine slacks, and white buck shoes.
    I turned heads, especially from the coeds because my class mates wore tee shirts, shorts and flip flops to class.
    By the time I entered my third class in a row, my head ached. ’This isn’t high school,’ I surmised. My eleven o’clock class was even worse, brain dead. Staggering into my car, I drove over to the fraternity house to report to pledge class. What a surprise, it felt like boot camp or what I thought it should be.

    ‘Five months of being a pledge will kill me,’ I reckoned. Of all things it got worse. The fraternity house wasn’t finished outside. Our chapter had run out of money to finish it. The giant house needed paint on the stucco and paint on the concrete block fence with holes all through it. The brothers set the paint party up for six o’clock after most classes. There were fourteen pledges in my class, probably ten might survive.

    “Charlton,” one of the brothers said, “your fathers a builder, right?”

    ”Who squealed?” I answered.

    “Guess what?”

    “I think I already know. None of these pledges have ever seen a paint brush”

    I was dead on with that remark. We started on the fence first, six feet high and 700 feet along the property line. Paint sprayers didn’t exist in those day, only brushes. First I started my pledge brothers painting both sides at the same time, which evolved into a paint battle.

    At dark, the fraternity brothers lined their car facing the fence, started the engines and we painted by headlight. But no one could see inside the holes to find if any paint managed to get on them. I drove home at eleven that first night thinking, ’Praise God, I’m not living in the fraternity house. Took a shower, laid down on a pillow and reflected,

    ‘I must have seen a thousand co-eds today, Lord, I’m going to love college if only I can survive it.’

    1. igonzales81

      That’s a good story to remember, with a couple of clear lessons. And, as always, well delivered. Love that reflection at the end; sort of the way I feel about life in general. Well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you igonzalrs. You know I think we might have a lot in common between us. I’m sure I’m a lifetime ahead of you but I like the way think and write.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, because I think this is a true story, I suggest you do serious work on your autobiography if you haven’t done so already. I recall things you’ve shared about your professional life as well as other incidents, like this, from your school days that would all make for very interesting reading. Here I smiled at, “This isn’t high school”, and the image of painting that fence by headlights. Great story, great life.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha. I have written my autobiography to the age after my first year at college. Stopped there with 300 pages. I am about forty percent through my first rewrite
        I’m feeding each chapter to my youngest daughter for safe keeping. Thanks also for the inspiration. I’m having to go from first person present to first person past. It was the first thing I ever wrote seven years ago. By the way, it is a true story.

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Kerry!

      This is a great slice of (your) life story. I love all of the small details. Especially them painting by car headlights.

      This part made me smile: “First I started my pledge brothers painting both sides at the same time, which evolved into a paint battle.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Cosi. The problem with the paint job resulted from the ever-flowing keg of beer at the fraternity house. We nust have slopped more paint on ourselves than the wall, in fact I’m sure of it. Thanks as always for your lovely comments.

    4. UnclePizza

      This is great Kerry – I can just see you and your beer soaked buddies splattering paint all over each other under the glare of the headlights! I’m glad you survived, and look forward to more of your history lessons.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Uncle, happy times of my life. I wrote my autobiography of my childhood through nineteen and titled it , “Living In Paradise And Not Knowing It.” Now I’m rewriting it to try to get it under 300 pages. Look for part five of 30,000 emails and part two of Casablanca 1940.

    5. agnesjack

      You brought back all my memories of the first days of college, which consisted of a whirlwind of expectations, confusion, excitement and panic. Nice slice of life story, Kerry.

  19. ReathaThomasOakley

    Annie
    (Longest thing I’ve ever posted, story I’ve been trying to write for a long time, based on a true incident. Don’t know if it works for Annie or not. Input will be carefully considered, appreciated, and cherished.

    ​It was a double-dog dare and I ain’t never gone back on a double-dog dare, not even when I went into the woods after the girls’ kickball right after nasty ole Wilfred went in after the boys’. Now here I was, first day back in school after Christmas with a double-dog dare on my hands.

    Whole day started off wrong, Mama knew something, but didn’t say nothing ’til she went out the front door to wait for the truck to take her to work at the dry cleaners.

    “Annie,” she said, “you’re gonna wear out that battery you keep turning that flashlight on and off. Put it down and come on the porch with me.” The flashlight was from Daddy, for my detective kit; I was gonna take it to school. I was also gonna wear my new plaid cape from Mama. It wasn’t really a surprise, ’cause I had to try it on while she’d made from the McCalls’ pattern.

    “Annie, we got a letter last week. Seems like Miss Godwin won’t be your teacher rest of the year, Mrs. Knight will be–”

    “What? No Miss Godwin?” I couldn’t believe my very own ears. Miss Godwin was the very best teacher anywhere; she knew all about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

    “Now, Annie, don’t take on, letter said Mrs. Knight’s had lots of experience substituting.” Mama walked down the steps. “Be a good girl, everthing’s gonna be fine.”

    How could things be fine without Miss Godwin, plus I already knew Mrs. Knight, she’d substituted back in December when Miss Godwin’d got sick some mornings.

    Mrs. Knight was one of those portly ladies what wear church clothes for everday. She kept a flowered handkerchief with a crocheted border tucked down in her bosoms. She’d had a cold, and the boys would slump down in their desks and make piggy grunts while she rooted around in her brassiere until she found that handkerchief.

    Next bad thing that happened that day was we got a new boy.

    I was surprised when right after the pledge and Lord’s Prayer Mrs. Knight said, “Class, meet James Joseph Kinley”, and this skinny, really tan boy stood up, all slow and shy like. What with me being so upset, I hadn’t even noticed him until that very minute.

    “James Joseph, please introduce yourself to your fellow scholars so you might all become better acquainted,” Mrs. Knight talked like that.

    “Uh, mam,” he kinda stuttered, “it ain’t James Joseph–”

    “What?” Mrs. Knight got all flustered and grabbed up some papers. “Here, here is your name written right here, James Joseph. Did I receive incorrect information?”

    “No mam, I ain’t James Joseph, I’m jest Jimmy Joe,” he blurted out and sat down, looking like he was ’bout to cry. She kept on looking at her papers and didn’t see Jimmy Joe raise his hand, but the rest of us did.

    “Miz Knight, mam,” Acina said. “New boy’s got his hand raised, maybe he’s sick or something.”

    ​Mrs. Knight jumped up, all flustered.

    “James, uh, Jimmy, if you’re gonna be sick get on down to the bathroom.”

    ​“No, mam, I ain’t sick. It’s my mama.”

    ​“Your mama? Is she sick?”

    ​“Oh, no, mam, she ain’t sick, I was s’posed to tell you, she’s coming to lunch.”

    ​“Coming to lunch? Whatever for?” I looked at Acina. A mother coming to school for lunch? Mothers brought treats or came for PTA, they didn’t never come to eat.

    ​“She always does, she always comes to school for lunch, my first day.”

    ​“Well,” Mrs. Knight started, “well, I shall send a message to the cafeteria staff and make them aware of this unforeseen situation. I trust there will be enough food for the regular diners without this additional mouth to feed.” Mrs. Knight always talked that way.

    ​I forgot about Jimmy Joe’s mama ’til we were lined up for lunch and all of a sudden standing in the door was the tallest, brownest woman I’d ever seen. Her hair was long and black with white streaks and straight like she’d never put it up in pin curls. She had on a skirt that hung ever which way, and sandals, and I couldn’t help but stare, no stockings. Then all of a sudden Jimmy Joe ran to the woman and hugged her.

    ​Just then Bubba whispered to Willie real loud, “They’re Indians!” I looked at Acina, I hadn’t never even thought that and me a detective.

    ​“Welcome, welcome to our school, Mrs. Kinley” Mrs. Knight said like she’d just figgered everthing out for herself.

    “Thank you mam, but it ain’t Kinley, it’s Altizer,” Jimmy Joe’s mama had a low, kinda swishy voice.

    ​“I beg your pardon,” Mrs. Knight put her hand down her bosoms. “What’s Altizer?”

    ​“My name.”

    ​“But, I’m certain in my book James Joseph’s last name is…Oh, I see, I understand. Well, no matter. We shall do fine whatever the name. We did expect you a little sooner, a bit earlier, but we shall cope, we shall…”

    ​“It was the snake, a rattler.”

    ​“What snake, where?” Mrs. Knight had her hand way down her dress.

    ​“On that path to the footbridge over the little creek that flows into the San Sebastian by Riberia Street.” I was confused. I knew the creek behind the school and I knew the San Sebastian River, but I didn’t know they connected.

    ​“Well, yes. I suppose a snake in the path would cause delay. Yes, now we must hurry.” Mrs. Knight pulled out her handkerchief and wiped her nose.

    ​“I had to kill it. Children walk that path. I had to take care of the snake.” She pushed Jimmy Joe back in line.

    ​Mrs. Knight just stared before she said, “Of course you did, you certainly had to do that. Now, we must get to the cafeteria. Yes, yes. Now, Marian, lead our little band, our little troop.”

    ​In the cafeteria Jimmy Joe and his mama sat at a table all by themselves and he talked the whole time. She didn’t eat much, just kept on smiling at him like he was the most special thing in the whole world. None of us said much until we were outside.

    ​“An Indian? Why I never!” Acina said.

    ​“You sound like your mama,” I said. “What’s so special about being Indians? You see ‘em on television, I hear ’em on the radio. There’s Tonto and…well, Tonto.”

    ​“But, an Indian, right here?” Marian didn’t like not knowing something. “There ain’t never been an Indian here before.”

    ​“She don’t look so bad,” I said and that’s when they double-dog dared me to go over and say something to Jimmy Joe’s mama.

    ​I walked up to where she was pushing him up and down on the seesaw. “Hey, Jimmy Joe, welcome to our school, hey, Miz Altizer. See my new cape? Got it for Christmas.” My mouth was getting real dry.

    ​“Miz Altizer,” I had to talk fast, I could see Marian and Acina sneaking up behind the swings. “Miz Altizer, weren’t you scared?”

    ​She let the seesaw down real slow and looked like she was considering. Up close I could see she didn’t have anything on her face. I knew she wouldn’t have war paint, but she didn’t even have on powder. Her face had little lines around her eyes, like she squinted up a lot. She smelled different, too, not like Evening in Paris, like Mama, or Lysol like the preacher’s wife. She smelled kind of dry and warm, like towels just off the clothes line.

    ​“Of the snake? Was I scared of the snake?” She looked past me, over to where Mrs. Knight was talking behind her hand to Mrs. Kaler. “Was I scared of the snake? Girl,” she leaned down and looked right into my eyes, “girl, don’t you never be scared of that what you can kill.”

    1. jhowe

      Holy cow, Reatha. After you finished this, you must have leaned back, put your hands behind your head and said, “Yep, this will do.” If I were to try to list all the cool little tidbits in this, I’d be over the word limit. (How’s that for a backhanded dig about your story length without causing any pain?)

      That Annie is quite the kid. Loved the bit about the smells. Thank you for this excellent, highly polished gem.

      1. jhowe

        Upon reading my comment, I thought it might have sounded that I thought negatively about the story length. Actually, I wish it was about 450 pages long and I had a long flight to Australia in which to read it. Then I’d go and enjoy Australia.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Thank you so much. I doubt I have enough for 450 pages, but I do have several thousand words featuring Annie that I’m working on. And, the length did get away from me, I just could not stop.

    2. igonzales81

      That was incredible. The tone, the dialect, the characters: simply amazing. And that last line came out just right. Just one suggestion: in the line “​“She don’t look so bad,” I said and that’s when they double-dog dared me to go over and say something to Jimmy Joe’s mama” you might want to break the sentence after “I said” and start a new sentence–maybe even a new paragraph–with “That’s when…”. Adds impact to the connection point, I think. In any event, a fantastic story. Bravo!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, and I will look closely at your suggestion. I’m getting several things ready for submission and might include this. Thanks again.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          One diamond to read after another. I was there in the classroom, in the cafeteria while I read
          You’ve written great pieces before but when you turn yourself loose with no limit. You are magnificent!

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Thanks, Kerry. This is about twice as long as the longest until now, but, I wanted to get it posted in case I ran out of time for a part two.

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      You weren’t sure if this story was right for Annie, but I think it works just fine for her. It feels right.

      I love this whole part: “She smelled different, too, not like Evening in Paris, like Mama, or Lysol like the preacher’s wife. She smelled kind of dry and warm, like towels just off the clothes line.”

    4. UnclePizza

      Well done Reatha. You really painted very good pictures of each of the characters: Mrs. Knight did not seem like someone I’d want to have as a teacher, I could feel Jimmy Joe’s bashfulness and love for his mother, and got a good sense of Miz Altizer’s strength.

      And only since you asked (since I think even a longer version would be good) if you wanted to trim it I’d suggest doing so toward the beginning. Anything from when Annie got to school and after needs to stay!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, UP. Interestingly enough when I set this after Christmas break another scene started forming, Christmas morning. Lots of stuff from this story could be moved there, and I could move right into the classroom. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  20. The Passionate Crusader

    My name is Atticus Crane. I am 13 years old. I don’t like school. School is a place where kids treats you badly. Well, kids don’t really treat you badly; the main instigator of all this bad treatment is the headmaster who makes everyone thinks that it’s my fault if he detects the slightest discrepancy in the class. I told Mom about it, but you must learn to acquiesce, she says . . . besides, learning will help you grow into a responsible adult.

    This is the first day of a brand new school year. I’ve been feeling down-in-the-dumps ever since I woke up. I would much rather to go to the local high school instead of this all-boys boarding school in another state. That’s why I’m caught between a rock and a hard place: I want to please Mom and all but she expects me to go to The Harrison School because a long line of my relatives who have attended there.

  21. The Passionate Crusader

    My name is Atticus Crane. I am 13 years old. I don’t like school; school is a place where kids treat you badly. Well, kids don’t really treat you badly, the main instigator of all this bad treatment is the head master who make everyone thinks that it’s my fault if he detects the slightest infraction in the class.
    I told Mom about it, but she says you must learn to acquiesce . . . besides, learning will help you grow into a responsible adult.

    This is my first day. I have been feeling down all morning ever since I first woke up. I would much rather attend the local high school than this exclusive all-boys boarding school which is located in another state. So this morning, I got up early to finish the last leg of my packing.

  22. jhowe

    The first thing Jeremy noticed when he walked in the door was his mother sitting at the kitchen table with a blue ice pack pressed to her right eye. Her left eye was almost healed, just a faint blue smudge below the brow. He set his backpack on the floor and went to her. She blinked back tears and managed a small smile.

    “Hey there big guy,” his father said entering the room. “How was the first day of school?”

    “Fine.”

    “Did anybody mess with you?” He cracked his knuckles loudly. “Any trouble with the other kids?”

    “No Daddy, everyone was nice. I had a fun day.”

    The man frowned. “Here’s what you’re going to do.” He tented his fingers, tapping his upper lip with his thumbs. “Tomorrow, you’re going to go up to the biggest boy in your class and kick him right in the nads.”

    Jeremy said nothing. His mother whimpered softly.

    His father glared at the woman and she averted her eyes. “You see son, you do this and everybody knows you’re not one to be messed with. It’s a deterrent to fend off any future bull crap.”

    Jeremy nodded.

    “Ok, good. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” He put his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder. “No wimping out, or I’ll have to make you sorry, ok?”

    Jeremy nodded again. His fingers found the knot on the side of his head and he massaged it gently, willing the tears not to come.

    From his bedroom, Jeremy heard the shouts. There was a crash against his wall that shook the ceiling and he heard his mother crying loudly. He ran to his bed and covered his ears with the pillow.

    Later, from the bathtub, his mother heard the gunshot. She jumped from the tub, ignoring the pain and quickly put on her robe. Her husband slumped in his desk chair with blood oozing from a hole in his forehead. Jeremy stood with his father’s revolver in his hand. She took the gun and wiped it thoroughly with the hem of her robe. She then gripped it tightly and fired a shot into the back of the chair. A siren wailed in the distance.

    “Jeremy, listen to me.” Her breathing was erratic. “He attacked me and I acted out of self-defense. Do you understand?” Tears streamed down her face and her hands shook. She pleaded with her eyes.

    Jeremy nodded. The siren whooped from outside and stopped. Seconds later there was a pounding on the door.

    At the police station, in a room separate from where they questioned his mother, Jeremy told the detectives exactly what happened. He told them that his mother wanted to protect him and that she was in the bathtub when it happened. He also told them everything about his father. They believed him and left him alone in the room. The door was left ajar and he heard his mother sobbing and heard her pleas to see him.

    Later, when they were finally together, they held each other tightly. Neither Jeremy nor his mother knew what would happen next. All they knew with certainty was that they were finally free.

    1. igonzales81

      Wow. That was a weighty tale. I hope it doesn’t speak to anything in your life. You did do a good job displaying the feelings of people caught in such a situation. Very good story.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a powerful story, extremely well told. Not too long ago my husband and I heard a similar story with a mother’s advice like the father’s here. I continue to be saddened that situations like these exist.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        John, you pulled the stops out here. It is certainly possible and I was proud for the son to tell the truth. No jury anywhere would find him guilty of anything. While. It was sad and so realistic. It made it’s point powerfuly and concise. Nice job here.

    3. agnesjack

      Powerful and heartbreaking, jhowe. They are free, but at what price. Justified or not, Jeremy, who seems to be such an extraordinary child, will have to live with that action and memory for the rest of his life.

  23. cosi van tutte

    This was the first idea that popped into my head when I read the prompt….

    ***

    Hashimali opened her eyes wide.

    Today was the big and important day. She had waited for it for so long, but everyone said that she was too little, too young. She had to wait one more day. One more day.

    One more day had finally arrived.

    Her parents had told her so last night. Right before sleep.

    And she couldn’t have been more excited.

    But where were her parents? They should have been right here, smiling down at her as she awoke. But they were not there.

    She opened her mouth wide and called for them – wavery and shrill.

    They responded to her call, which made her extremely happy.

    And there they were. There. There. Right up there. Just out of her reach.

    “Come! Come! Come!” they called to her.

    And she called back to them. Nervous and unsure. She didn’t understand.

    “Come! Come! Come!”

    “Back. Back. back.” she urged.

    “Come! Come! Come!”

    She got out of bed and hopped anxiously. “Back! Back! Back! Back!”

    They came closer, but it still wasn’t close enough. They called to her over and over. Their voices were urgent melodies.

    Her head hurt, trying to make sense of their command. They were so high above her. How could she ever come to them? Why wouldn’t they come to her?

    They opened their arms.

    And she understood.

    Today was the today she had been waiting for. And this…This was her Today!
    She opened her arms and flew up to her parents.

    It was a glorious feeling.

    It was a feeling she would know now for the rest of her life.

    Every day from now on would be her Today.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Your writing is so full of symbalism, that of a child drawing close to her parent. Or otherwise, from a cardinals perspective, first flight. It doesn’t really matter whixh one. The yearning for closeness and affection, travels through the universe with a search for perfection. Sometimes, it’s not there, not from the eye of a sparrow but rather on a human plane. And then of course, you have the window to look through of The Eternal God pulling his flock toward him, most fly, some don’t. The reason, we will undersand some day, but for the present, I will watch the cardinals in their perfection.

  24. Teatimeprose

    The first day of high school. It was the beginning of the best years of your life or so said all of the nostalgic adults I’d talked to over the years. My stomach churned with sickening excitement. I gripped my binders in front of me as I approached some familiar faces. I had insisted that, being in high school, I needed to grow up and opted for a sleek purse rather than a functional backpack. I realized later that that had meant lugging around very heavy books all day. All summer, as was the case of most summers, I hadn’t talked to any of these people who were now embracing me warmly with smiles and giddy hugs.
    I could feel the distance creeping in as I desperately tried to mimic all of the girls surrounding me. They were all tan, fit, and mostly cheerleaders. As we stood there talking, I could feel the rolls of fat spill over the band of my pants. Their looks were envied by everyone- even older kids- and here they were, still talking to ugly old me. They would tell me all of the exciting things they all had done together over the summer and I would act excited while hiding the sting of envy. I would laugh at their jokes that weren’t funny, feign sadness when we realized we weren’t in the same class, and when they all would leave me alone to talk to cute boys I would pretend like the loneliness wasn’t creeping in.
    I’ll admit, I was pretty shallow. Desperately trying to be liked, to fit in. My sole aspiration for the year was to be accepted by the cool kids. I’d died my hair blond and worked out all summer. Still, no matter how hard you try, there is no amount of makeup in the world that can cover up social awkwardness or self-perceived hideousness. But to hang out on the weekends with the cool girls would be a dream come true.
    The morning was hectic as all of us incoming freshmen spilled into the hallways in utter confusion. As soon as I had been handed my schedule, a feeling of excitement flooded over me. I was excited to learn something new, something that challenged me. As much as I had pretended that I hated school, I was always secretly excited to learn something new. The smell of classrooms, textbooks, and whiteboards were more comforting than I wished they were. The familiar screech of the first bell sounded and I slumped off to my first class confused about how to feel.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      You’ve captured those first day feelings well, whither school, new job, new community. I do hope the feeling of excitement prevails. Nicely done.

    2. UnclePizza

      Very well done. I’m embarrassed to admit how many decades it’s been since high school, but the memories of the social awkwardness and angst, and yes, the secret (because it was not “cool”) pleasure of learning are still there. Your story captured all of that well!

  25. rle

    Hi guys. I know it’s been just about forever since I’ve written anything here, but this has been just about the most trying summer of my life. I am still writing though. I’ve completed the first draft of my novel and have recently entered some competitions. Just yesterday I started my first blog. Still not comfortable with it yet but I did manage to post my latest competition entry there if anyone is interested. It’s at rewrites.blogspot.com. Keep writing and I’ll be back someday!

  26. Robin3486

    I woke with a start and was sitting at a desk in a classroom. The woman sitting at a larger desk towards the front I could only presume was the teacher. She didn’t look like any teacher I had ever seen. She wore a long robe that seemed to be iridescent, changing colors as she moved. Her eyes were brown and gentle.

    “Where am I?” I asked.

    “You’re back at school, dear.” She said kindly.

    I looked around confused. “I don’t remember being here before.”

    She glided softly across the floor and gently rested in the desk next to mine. “I think I can help you with that.” She waved a slender arm towards the whiteboard in front of us, turning it on like a television.

    On the screen two teenaged girls were sliding across a frozen pond laughing as they tried to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

    “That’s me and Pup.” I knew what would happen next and I wanted to cover my eyes.

    “You were kind to her.” The teacher said.

    “I felt sorry for the kid. When they brought her she looked so scared. She faced the wall on the bed across from me and just cried all that first night. She wasn’t like the other girls they had brought into the Group Home. That’s why I called her Pup. She was a scared little pup.”

    “Yes. She had been through some hard times, but had not given up loving. Keep watching.” She said.

    I didn’t want to watch but something about this teacher made me want to please her. I looked back at the screen just as Pup was falling through the ice. I saw myself lay down on the ice trying to reach her. The ice under me was breaking and when I reached for her hand, she was out of reach. I made the decision to just jump in and grab her.

    I reached for her in the water and got her by the hood of her coat. I started pulling but she was panicked. She kept pulling me back and then under.

    “We drowned.” I said, matter of factly. “So where is Pup?” I looked around the empty classroom.

    “When you couldn’t get Pup to the side you swam underneath, got your feet to the bottom of the pond and you pushed her back up over the ice.”

    “I remember. I tried the first time and I wasn’t strong enough but a voice kept telling me to try again.” I looked over at the woman and she winked at me.

    “You were there.” I said amazed.

    “Pup still has lessons to complete. She will do well.”

    “Did I do well?” I asked.

    “You earned these.” She waved her arm in front of me and I instantly felt a weight on my back. I stood up and walked towards a mirror in the back of the room. “Wow” I breathed, turning my back to look at the most beautiful pair of wings imaginable. “What now?”

    A smile spread across her face; her eyes sparkled with pure joy. “Recess!” she laughed and we both flew out a large open window.

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