Dred Scott Crankie Project

The following pictures document some of the research, design and performance process that GCAA students participated in as part of their Crankie project for The St. Louis Storytelling Festival with guest artist Adam Booth. 

Eli Mock Trial

Here Eli Bivins sits as Dred Scott in the re-enactment of the Dred Scott trial at The Old Courthouse in Saint Louis.

Students took a tour of the courthouse…

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which would later serve as inspiration for part of their Crankie…

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Students got a chance to experience the jury room in which the Dred Scott case was deliberated…

Posing in the Jury Room

(Here’s a view of the city of Saint Louis out a jury room window)

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Then we returned to GCAA and got painting… Here is image one of The Crankie, in which the Old Courthouse is personified, assuming its own personality:

Rotated View of Courthouse

Image two shows Dred Scott at work as a slave…

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Image three returns to an inside image of The Courthouse with handprints clamoring for freedom…

Old Courthouse Rotated

And image four presents an American flag with the face of freedom fighters and bloodied hands:

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Painting was long, messy, and FUN!

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Jay Emma Clare Adam

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In the end, we pulled it off!

Kareemah Ana Jay

 

 

Dred Scott & Adoption ABCEDARIUS

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According to The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers, “when creative writers use the alphabet to provide the structure for a piece of writing, it’s called an abecedarius.”

“Forcing yourself into a box like this does interesting things to your creativity. You end up surprising yourself. Oftentimes, the letters for which ‘you can’t think of anything’ provide the most fresh, original sections. The renowned poet Ezra Pound wrote an entire book, The ABC of Reading, using this form. Other well-known examples include Czeslow Milosz’s Milosz’s ABC’s, a book of brief prose essays. A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All is a memoir of reading the Encyclopedia Britannica in alphabetical order. 

The following abecedarius is a creative nonfiction essay that interweaves the writer’s personal experience with adoption with the struggle for freedom and self-actualization led by Dred Scott in the 1800s. The essay is essentially a rough draft that could use more imagery — the old cliché “more showing and less telling” — but it demonstrates how the abecedarius form can be used to interweave various topics, including the personal and the political.  

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Allowing Dred Scott to be freed as a black man is like me having been adopted. As usual, the terms used to be allowed in a world that is so disputed in races is usually a hard thing to do. It is not everyday that you can make a message mean something. It can only be processed by those who have experienced.

Being adopted is being taken away from your family, which is similar to be adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person’s biological or legal parent or parents, and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents. Slave, in that you get moved around a lot. Just like usual, it’s a strategic challenge.

Certain environments can be quite poisoning to your upbringing. The way you are brought up is important to what you do later in your life. It is typical of normal folk to not understand what it is like to not be able to see your mother or father for a major part of my life.

Dred Scott was a man who believed he should be free and took advantage of the opportunity. He was an enslaved African American man in the United States who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and their two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857, popularly known as the “Dred Scott Decision”. He made it his duty to make sure that he was taken care of and didn’t get thrown into a system of unorganized nonsense and not be forgotten.

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Even though being adopted is nowhere near as traumatic as being a slave, the two concepts share similarities. A lot of the times, you feel as though you do not belong. Though your fellow slave mates are told to be like family and to be one another’s trust, you can not seem to forget the fact that your life will never be the same. Most slaves are taken away from their families and separated. Especially if a slave has a baby, it can be with the birth parents for the first few years typically and then taken away from the family. This is to enforce an inferiority complex to make sure the slaves do not have much of a protection for their offspring.

For example, you are placed in multiple environments, never a healthy one. A lot of the time, it can be difficult to know when you are safe. As an adopted child, you do not know the people you live with, nor do they know who you are. It is not always the best solution for some children. As for slaves, you are in a constant fear of whether or not you are safe. It is quite demanding that you watch where you are and where you go every second of the day. “Never be disobedient and you will survive,” they say. And yet, slave masters will pleasure themselves to rape or simple whippings of the backs of slaves.

Going through an experience really separates the strong from the weak. You can either be separated the right way or the wrong way. It can never be both. If you picked up by a vile family, there is no way for you to be okay from the safety. It can never be argued that it can be safe to have a time of your life and be able to function as a normal everyday.

He who shows weakness is more susceptible to a negative outcome. When you are aware of the past inconveniences that you have suffered, there is not much more needed to function and to accept the terrible and dire situations that may occur.

I can not recall an experience where he did not cry when he needed to. It is more unappreciable when you are forced to suffer and show your softer side when you are put into these type of situations. Men try so hard to force themselves not to show emotion in such situations, when you look more of a fool trying to keep everything pieced together.

Just being around your support is what can boost everything. Whenever you see someone in need, simply help them. You then become their support system. That can help anyone in any situation. Life support refers to the treatments and techniques performed in an emergency in order to support life after the failure of one or more vital organs. But personal help can heal any mental wound. That is why they say laughter is the best medicine.

Keen instinct and intuition is vital to making it through alive and well. Knowing what is ahead can greatly influence the chance that you will be successful in life. In the overall lifespan that you are alive. It can only be judged that you know who your friends and foes are. It is suspected that many people can only survive with the liability that you are successful and not interrupting the flow of time.

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Like Dred Scott, he surfaced the courts and stood for what he needed.

Most likely if he had not been stern and intense with my input, he would not be where he was a time ago.

Nonetheless, it takes time and patience to achieve the yet achieved.

Open-mindedness goes a long way. When you can approach things in many different ways, it makes life a bit easier. Whenever you can avoid discretion, you will always have a way of a better to live.

Putting together the puzzle pieces of a challenge like being adopted or being a slave can make you stand out.

Qualified people make impactful decisions that can alter the present and make the future better. When you decide what you want in life, it is easy to forget that your life can always get better. Most of the time, it takes a strong and

respectable humans compromise with respectable companions that make the leading impacts. When you work with smart people, smart people make things smarter. Just like my cousins say, it is always better to be wrong to be right. You have to learn the mistakes you make so you do not make them again.

Seek the unknown that do not want to be touched with the power of the known. It takes a genius to know an idiot. When it comes to power, whoever the conclusion may come out to.

The rest of the population hold knowledge to continue the process of having made conclusions.

Unless people like Dred Scott and me stand up and fight for what is right, nothing can be resolved.

Very much of the process that goes into a court case is stressful enough, let alone the hate and fighting that comes with it.

Words are much stronger than actions and when used right can be more importantly used.

Xenial visits and participants can majorly make any decision more applied.

Yourself alone can change the world with any idea with the support of others. Your power and influence can be easily taken to make huge decisions. Always say something when you think you the one to make the difference. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Like the show “13 Reasons Why,” there is always a lesson to be learned when you ignore the signs.

Zero effort is needed when we know what we’re talking about. It doesn’t take rocket science to make an effort to afford a better future for yourself. It makes most thing unintended attendable.

Poetry & Flash Fiction with Kim Lozano

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Today creative writers at GCAA talked poetry, creative nonfiction, and flash fiction with writer and creative writing teacher Kim Lozano.

Here are a couple things we discussed…

  • Honing our ability to see originally
  • Writing specifically
  • Avoiding vague words like “beautiful” and zeroing in on imagery
  • The idea that specificity & imagery apply to fiction, creative nonfiction — all types of writing
  • Embodying emotions in the form of objects: What can I do to show the reader that I’m angry?
  • Show, don’t tell is a creative writing cliché but it’s true –> learn the rules first and then break them
  • The power of our work is in our details
  • Think about gestures – for example, what a character does with their hands
  • Under-utilized element for a lot of poets is the title

Then we read…

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Power
By Corrine Hales

No one we knew had every stopped a train.
Hardly daring to breathe, I waited
Belly-down with my brother
In a dry ditch
Watching through the green thickness
Of grass and willows.
Stuffed with crumpled newspapers,
The shirt and pants looked real enough
Stretched out across the rails. I felt my heart
Beating against the cool ground
And the terrible long screetch of the train’s
Braking began. We had done it.

Then it was in front of us —
A hundred iron wheels tearing like time
Into red flannel and denim, shredding the child
We had made — until it finally stopped.

My brother jabbed at me,
Pointed down the tracks. A man
Had climbed out of the engine, was running
In our direction, waving his arms,
Screaming that he would kill us —
Whoever we were,
Then, very close to the spot
Where we hid, he stomped and cursed
At the rags and papers scattered
Over the gravel from our joke.

I tried to remember which of us
That red shirt had belonged to,
But morning seemed too long ago, and the man
Was falling, sobbing, to his knees.
I couldn’t stop watching.
My brother lay next to me,
His hands covering his ears,
His face pressed tight to the ground.

In this poem, the title Power hints at the physical power of a train, the power of little kids to pull a prank, and the kids realizing their power at the end of the poem. As this poem does, it’s wise at the end of your work to leave it a little unwrapped.

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Feared Drowned
By Sharon Olds

Suddenly nobody knows where you are,
your suit black as seaweed, your bearded
head slick as a seal’s.

Somebody watches the kids. I walk down the
edge of the water, clutching the towel
like a widow’s shawl around me.

None of the swimmers is just right.
Too short, too heavy, clean-shaven,
they rise out of the surf, the water
rushing down their shoulders.

Rocks stick out near shore like heads.
Kelp snakes in like a shed black suit
and I cannot find you.

My stomach begins to contract as if to
vomit salt water,

when up the sand toward me comes
a man who looks very much like you,
his beard matted like beach grass, his suit
dark as a wet shell against his body.

Coming closer, he turns out
to be you — or nearly.
Once you lose someone it is never exactly
the same person who comes back.

As this poem demonstrates, you’re choosing metaphors and similes, think about the world you’re in and the kinds of images that fit with your theme. In other words, choose descriptors that fit your emotional angle. Descriptions convey mood, tone, and message. Description shows how your character feels.

Writing Exercise Number One

Given the emotional angle you take, you can generate really different descriptions of the same place. Given that, try one of the three following writing prompts…

  1. Describe this classroom from the perspective of a person who has time-traveled here from ancient times. Do not mention time-travel.
  2. Describe this classroom from the perspective of someone whose favorite pet has just died. Do not mention the pet or death.
  3. Describe this classroom from the perspective of a snake. Do not mention the snake.

Here one of our responses to prompt #3:

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Nobody in here has a clue. When all these ridiculously behaved kids file out each and everyday, I give a good stretch like the sun spreading across the horizon. Then I have my fun. A quick slide down the cold metal bookshelf, gleefully unfurling myself in the black wire bins of wrinkled papers. “An artist cannot fail; it’s a success to be one.” If only Mrs. O’Donnell could watch me strut across those black letters when she shuts the door behind her at night —

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Review of Creative Nonfiction 

  • Not talking about reports, newspaper journalism
  • Nonfiction is true to the best of my ability — there’s room to play with things that are incidental– things that are major have to be true
  • The creative part of creative nonfiction is sensory details, imagery, figurative language, using the techniques of fiction: dialogue, plot, metaphor, simile
  • Examples of creative nonfiction: memoir, travel writing, humor pieces, blog posts

Intro to Flash Fiction

  • With the internet, it’s become super popular to write short pieces
  • Flash just means short — definitely under 2000 words; there’s not a set word limit, but often 750 words; depends on the editor or magazine

Flash Nonfiction Toolbox

  • Need “heat” from the first sentence
    some sort of urgency, word one, sentence one
  • Focus on one thing
    Don’t trim a long piece down, flash fiction is like a poem, it’s a distilled form
  • Offer a fresh perspective
    Everybody has a fresh perspective, but beginning writers tend to rely on their first thoughts or rely on language clichés
  • Energy hinges on a rapid-fire of information
    Use specific details/avoid the abstract/turn your emotions into objects – set a mood
  • Waste nothing. In other words: every image must carry weight
  • Show the most, tell a little bit, and never explain
    a cliché of creative writing, know all the rules, then break them
  • Weave in your own reflections
    This isn’t the same as ending with a formulaic conclusion or a “moral of the story”
  • Don’t just label the work with a title. Make your title do double duty.
  • Revise, revise, revise – very little creative writing comes out in one shot
    Writing that is easy to read is hard to write. 

In general, think of writing like a good magic show. There’s not real magic happening — there are tricks. In writing, you’re the magician, and you know the tricks. We learn the tricks that make people feel a certain way, and we tug on that (similes, metaphors, alliteration, the list goes on…)

The following flash fiction piece is written by Naomi Shihab Nye. She has an American mother, a Palestinian father, and is known for her poetry. She wrote this piece after 911. This is a piece about family, relationships, plants, confusion… She uses a lot of the tools in the flash fiction toolbox in this piece:

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Someone I Love

Someone I love so much cut down my primrose patch. It looked like an oval of overgrown weeds to him, in the front yard, beyond the stones of the flowerbeds, near the black mailbox on the post. He did not know that for weeks I had been carefully tending and watering it, as a few primroses floated their pink heads above the green mass, unfurled their delicate bonnets. With dozens of buds waiting to shine, we were on the brink, everything popping open, despite the headlines, all sweet flower beings from under the ground remembering what they were supposed to do.

He mowed it down with the old push lawn mower. I was out of town – he didn’t ask his father, who knew how precious it was to me – his father was in the back while this was happening and didn’t see – there wasn’t a second thought – why would we have such a tall patch in the yard – what does my mother do when she comes out here with the old shovel and the bucket and the mysterious sacks of rose food and mulch, poking around in the earth, trimming, the clippers in her pocket, beinding to the wild tangle of jasmine on the fence, the Dutchman’s-pipe, the happy oregano, the funny cacti crowded together in complicated profusion like a family, the miniature chiles – what does she do, why is this here?

He just cut it down. It wasn’t easy.

He must have pushed really hard to get it to go.

When I stood outside in my nightie the next dreamy-sweet morning at dawn after returning home on the midnight plane, watering my bluebonnets snapdragons butterfly bush lantana, wanting to feel tied to the earth again, as I always do when I get home, rooted in soil and stone and old caliche and bamboo and trees, a hundred years of memory in their trunks and bushes we didn’t plant, and the healthy esperanza never losing her hope, and the banana palms poking out their fine and gracious greenery, when I suddenly saw what was gone, what wasn’t there, not there, impossible, I was so shocked I let the hose run all over my bare feet. The cold stun of fury filled me, sorrow rising and pouring into questions: who could do this, why, why, how could anyone? I thought of the time my daddy cmae home to find every head cut off his giant sunflowers fight after they had opened their faces to the sky, and only the empty stalks remaining, heads slashed to the ground, his disbelieving sorrow as he went to his room and lay down on the bed and closed his eyes, and I thought, I will not mention this, I am too sad to mention it, this is the pain of people everywhere, this is the pain this year deserves.

But at breakfast I went a little strange like the lady down the street who shows up at people’s doors with a snarling dog and a hammer in her pocket, I went wild and furious and he swore they just looked like weeds to him, why hadn’t I warned him, why did I only tell Dad?

I pointed them out to you weeks ago, I said.

He said, I don’t remember flower things like that.

And it was the season of blooming and understanding. It was the season of pulling weeds in other corners, hiding from headlines, wondering what it would do if the whole house had been erased or just the books and paintings or what about the whole reckless garden or (then it gets unthinkable but we make ourselves think it now and then to stay human) the child’s arms or legs, what would I do? If I did not love him, who would I become?

Another flash fiction piece worth reading is Confessions by Amy Tan from…

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Writing Exercise Number Two: Flash Fiction

Generating Ideas…

  • Recall a house in which you once lived
  • Recall an incident that filled you with dread
  • Recall something dangerous you did as a child
  • Recall something that happened at a holiday get-together
  • Recall an important or magical person from your childhood
  • Recall an incident that happened at school

Choose one of your ideas and write as many specific details as you can recall. 

  • Ask yourself what impact the incident had on your life. Why do you remember this? Was it a moment you grew or changed? Did you learn something important about yourself or the world? Was it something that wounded you deeply?

The DBC Adventures, William-Miskel Barker

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Like typical cats enjoying a lazy day, Drake, Blake, and Celie are lying on a king-size bed with an orange comforter. They are watching one of their favorite TV shows, “Too Cute: Cats.” Blake and Drake are falling asleep, while Celie, the only girl among the three, is paying close attention to the cute boy cats.

“He is one hot kitty. Me-wow!” Celie says with excitement. Drake and Blake look at the TV screen and then look at Celie with blank expressions.

“What?!?” Celie says. Sometimes Celie thinks her brothers are just out to get her. She hates being the middle sibling and hates even more that both Blake and Drake are a soft gray color. She is a mottled mix of orange, brown, white, and black.

“Heeeee is a girl,” Drake and Blake say at the same time.

“Oh, I thought I saw something. Nevermind then.” Celie says. Drake and Blake roll their eyes.

All of a sudden, they hear Wilferd, a tall, muscular, attractive 16-year-old boy yelling at his video game. Wilferd is a decent kid, but has a lot of energy and sometimes makes a lot of noise. He makes Blake, who is the oldest and rather shy, really nervous. Celie just finds him annoying. Drake, on the other hand, isn’t frightened by Wilfred at all. Wilferd received Drake as a Christmas present and they are pretty alike:  one minute laying around quietly and the next minute having a crazy outburst.

“Why aren’t you working you dumb, inconsiderate game. You are such an idiot. I HATE YOU!” Boom! Wilferd throws his Xbox 360 on the ground and begins wailing his eyes out. He holds his legs and rocks back and forth in his chair with his thumb in his mouth. He’s been bugging his parents for a new game system for months, but so far they haven’t given in to his begging.

“Uggghhhh. He must be going through super early menopause or something. He sounds like an immature baby,” Celie says.

“Hey, we should start heading out if this plan is gonna work,” Drake begins. “We don’t have forever because Wilferd is gonna lock all the windows at 9:00pm like he always does. I also don’t feel like hearing him cry all day. What do you guys think?”

Blake looks very nervous.

“Guys, I don’t really know about this. Remember the last time we escaped and Wilferd cried for five days straight. I felt so bad that we upset him by running away. I mean, I had fun on our last adventure, but maybe tonight isn’t the best time for a repeat. And we are basically treated like kings and queens around this place. How about if we just stay here for a while and see if he calms down?”

“Shut-up blossom head!” Drake says angrily. “We’re doing this. If you don’t do this, you’re not gonna be part of the DBC Adventure Club ever again. Us leaving isn’t so bad anyway, so chill out! We’re only gonna be gone for one week. We have all the things we need, I think.”

“Oh-Kay,” Blake says with uncertainty. All three cats put their paws together and yell, “1! 2! 3! DBC Club!”

“Alright. Do you both know the plan?” Celie questions.

“Yeah.” Blake and Drake say.

“Ok then. Do you have the cell phones Drake?”

“Yes, I have the two iPhones and an iPad for me because sometimes I get bored with the two of you.”

“Whatever,” says Celie. “Do you have the money, Blake?”

“Yes, I got $150. Do you think that’s enough?”

“It’s plenty. Let’s get our tails moving!” yelled Celie.

“Hey wait. I need to get something really quick. I’ll be right back,” Blake says.

“Ok. Hurry up snail,” Drake says. Blake goes upstairs to Wilferd and jumps in his lap. Blake is feeling guilty for leaving and wants to make Wilferd feel better because he’s crying. While Wilferd makes Blake nervous, he had been watching him sleep since he was very young. Wilferd was cute when he slept, usually drooling a little bit. In his quieter moments, Wilferd was nice to Blake. Blake licks Wilferd’s hand and purrs very loudly. Blake finally gives Wilferd a lick on the cheek and hops off his lap. Wilferd stops crying and smiles at Blake as he trails off to meet his brother and sister. I hope he feels better. I’m glad I stopped his sadness, Blake thinks to himself. Finally, Blake meets up with his siblings and they sigh with relief.

“What took you so long, butthead?” Drake asks.

“I just had to take care of some things,” Blake answers.

“You always have to do something. How about you stay with the pack once in a while?” Drake says with anger. Drake is only two years old and often gets very impatient with Blake who is eight years older than him. Drake often finds Blake to be a drag on his style.

“Well, there are important things that can’t be left undone,” Blake says sadly.

“Shut up you two. Both of you are such lame boys. We need to hurry. It’s 8:50pm. We only have 10 minutes. Let’s Go!” As soon as Celie says that, they scurry out of the house and into the streets of New York. They have the most delightful looks on their faces. Their eyes glow with excitement and they have the most dazzling smiles on their faces.

“This is always the best part of our adventures! The fun is all ahead of us,” says Drake. They begin running down the alley, taking in all the sights and sounds and especially the smells. It takes them more than 30 minutes to go a block because there are so many interesting things to investigate.

With no warning, the skies open up and it begins to rain. Not just rain, but pour. They take cover under a thick bush, but the water finds its way down and begins to drip on their heads.

“Why are we here again? This is possibly the dumbest decision we’ve ever made. Why can’t we just go back home?” Blake asks with exhaustion in his voice.

“I have to agree with ‘stupid’ over here. This is starting to get boring…and wet,” Drake says.

“Well, since you twerps don’t wanna do anything, I’m gonna explore the city with enthusiasm, not sorrow,” Celie says. “A little rain never hurt.”

“Sis, I don’t think we should split up. This is the biggest city in the world. It has like a trillion people in it. We should all stay together and find our way home. Wilferd is probably balling his eyes out right now,” Blake says.

“Look. I knew you two were gonna be party-poopers,” Celie says, as she begins climbing out from under the bush. “I’m gonna go all by myself and nothing bad is gonna happen to me. So stop worrying and shut– Ahhhhhhhh!” All of a sudden, a woman picks Celie up and begins walking away.

“Celie!” Drake and Blake both yell. They scurry towards the lady and begin clawing the woman. Celie wiggles wildly while she is distracted and jumps down to the ground with her brothers.

“Geez Louise. That was a close one. Thanks guys. You know what? You guys aren’t dummies after all. I love you both so much,” Celie says with warmth in her voice.

“We love you too, sis,” Blake and Drake say.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s not get all emotional.” Celie mutters.  “Let’s just get home before Wilferd gets too worried.” As soon as they get home, they notice Wilferd has forgotten to lock their escape window. They all run to the bedroom and see that another episode of their favorite show is starting. Blake and Drake nod off, while Celie starts watching the cute boy cats again.

Prom, Ariell Shaw

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I ordered a dress online and then it didn’t come in the right size so I had to take it back. Then I went to St. Charles to look for a dress – I found a dress there – but it wasn’t in my price range, so I couldn’t even get it. So now I am in between looking for dresses or just not going to prom. My ideal dress is a royal blue color with African print around it, fitted around the body with a mermaid tutu flare at the bottom. I have to look better than everybody else at prom.

Finally I couldn’t stand it that I didn’t have a dress. So I decided I had to take some action. I was staying with my cousin Tina because my mom went out of town. Tina lives in Bell Fountain – it’s a three-story house with brown bricks, a garden in front of the yard, and a bright yellow mailbox. I wasn’t that close to Tina until my mom asked Tina if I could stay with her. I, Crystal, was forced to live with Tina. I really wanted to stay with my cousin Ashley, but Ashley had to work a lot and Tina lived closer to my school.

Tina had a lock on her front door – I guessed it was the same code as the one on her safe. It was the day of her anniversary, 07/28/2015. I came home from school, poured myself a bowl of Cheez-Its, and watched Love & Hip Hop on TV. I knew Tina wouldn’t be home until 6:30, so I made my move fast. I sauntered up to the safe, my fingers trembling slightly, and tried the code. It worked. Inside the safe I saw five stacks of neatly pressed green bills in 100 dollar increments. The outside of the safe said “Bill Money.” Will she know I stole the money, or how much is gone? I thought to myself quickly. Then I quickly reached in the safe, grabbed a stack, and made a plan so Tina wouldn’t know that her money was stolen.

The plan was this: first, I put the money in a shoebox under my bed. Then I started tipping over chairs and messing up drawers and broke the back door window with a loose brick so Tina would think someone broke into the house. I opened the safe door wide and tousled up the cash to make it look like someone was stealing.

As soon as Tina got home, I ran to the door and yelled, “I called the police already! Chelle broke into the house and stole your money, Tina! I didn’t know what to do!” Tina looked like a bundle of nerves. She started crying immediately. The first thing she did was to go check the safe. She started counting the money, her cheeks coated in mascara, and I watched silently, wondering how I would be able to tell Tina that it was me who stole her precious bills.

In a panic, I decided to call Chelle and see if she would cover for me. Tina and Chelle had fought before – they stopped being friends a week ago because Chelle took Tina’s baby’s piggy bank. What Tina didn’t know was that Chelle also stole something bigger: Chelle stole Tina’s wedding ring, but Tina just thought she had lost it. Chelle was jealous of Tina’s husband, Tee, and wanted what Tina had. I thought I could convince Chelle to confess because she was already feeling guilty about the wedding ring.

The phone rang once.

“Chelle?” I said, nervously.

“Hello? Who is this?” Chelle said, as if she had just woken up from a nap.

“I got to tell you something. We both did something really wrong. And I need your help. We need to find a way to get Tina her things back without her knowing. You know I know you stole her ring, and today I took $1000 from Tina’s safe….”

Chelle screamed. “You did what??”

Then I got angry. “You did something worse, Chelle, so you might as well help me get out of this.”

Chelle let out a big sigh. She was kind of a push-over. “Okay, so what’s the plan?” she blurted out.

My eyes narrowed. I said in a firm whisper, “Chelle, you have to meet me tomorrow after school on the corner of Grenshaw and Pennsylvania. Bring Tina’s ring and I’ll bring the cash. I’ll make sure Tina ‘finds’ the ring if you pretend you stole the money.”

Chelle felt like Crystal was trying to put all the blame on her. With angry tone, she started going off on Crystal. “Girl, you think you’re so slick. You think just because you have something on me that I’m protect your ass? I’ll do this for you just once this until Tee and I work things out but after that, you’re dead to me.”

Little did Crystal know, Tina was listening to the whole conversation. For the rest of the night, Tina was really quiet. She went in her room and laid down. Meanwhile, Crystal went back to her room and counted the money over and over again. That she dreamed about her perfect dress and how Tina would feel. In her dream, she was wearing a princess-cut gold dress with glittery slippers. She was swaying to Rhianna’s “Needed Me” with her friends Brittany and Tyra when suddenly Tina, dressed in all black, runs into the middle of the dance floor and screams, “My cousin is a thief?” When she tried to run, the dress split down the middle.

Crystal woke up in a cold sweat at 3:00 am. When she realized it was just a dream, she ran into Tina’s room and shook her awake.

“Tina,” she cried, sobbing, “I’m the one that did all that. I broke into your safe this afternoon because I just want to look good for prom. And there’s more. You didn’t lose your wedding ring, Tina. Chelle stole it.”

Tina was eerily quiet. She stared at Crystal long and hard. Finally she said to Crystal, her eyes full of tears, “Honey, you didn’t have to steal that money. I was gonna make sure you had a dress for prom.”

Crystal started crying, trying to explain that she didn’t want to take the money. All of a sudden Tina’s phone started buzzing. It was Chelle. Tina picked up like a reflex.

            “What is it?” Tina answered.

“That little cousin of yours,” said Chelle. “She’s trouble. Listen to this: She was telling me that she wanted money for a prom dress and she went into your safe and stole $1000 and played like somebody broke into the house.”

Tina acted surprised, playing it off like she didn’t know anything.

“Okay, thanks for telling me Chelle,” she said softly.

Meanwhile, I sat on the bed, seething with anger

They all met up with each other the next afternoon. When Chelle saw Tina and Crystal get out the car, Tina brought a gun with her. Chelle tried to explain her side of the story and I tried to explain hers, even though I already tried to tell Tina. Tina shot Chelle in the stomach and that was that.

The Walk, Kayla Rollins

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“I want to go home,” I yelled at Ms. Johnson. I burst into tears when she screamed back, “You don’t have a home! That’s why you’re here! I can see why your parents didn’t want you!” It got quiet. Library quiet. Immediately a river of past thought, depression, and unworthiness streamed down my face. I ran into my room and took out my box from the dusty old closet. “So they didn’t want me huh?” I ripped the bandana cloth off of it as I began to take out what I keep inside. I have three blades, a small pack of tissues, and a tube of Neosporin. “Well to hell with them!” I take out my blade, and I slice it upward on my arm. Ms. Johnson runs in, “What the hell did you do!?” I grinned with a smile on my face showing a defeated battle. My demons won today. I was done. Done with everything. Ms. Johnson was right.  I had no one. I don’t know why my parents left me.  All my life, I told myself they had a good reason for leaving me here.  But I’m through believing. It’s over…. It all went dark.

I open my eyes, and the sky is blue. The air feels warm. It’s just right. I’m laying on my back on what feels like grain, something harder than sand. I grab a handful and run it through my fingers. Lying there, I wondered if I could move my legs. I can. I wiggle them and get up feeling strong. I look around, and all I see is nature — trees, birds, and bees. It feels so surreal. This is not how the real world is. The real world is cold, polluted.

“Where am I?” I start to walk across the sand and I turn around to see an ocean that wasn’t there before. Before my eyes, the sand turns to grass and I can feel coming up between my toes, so I looked around for my shoes.

“You are in a place that you chose to be in, but you have time to go back to your normal life.” a voice says. I spin around so fast that I almost get whiplash. I see no one.

“Who said that?”

“You don’t have to scream. I’m right here in front of you.” the voice says again. Then she appears.

It was a lady taller than me. She had the skin of melanin and the hair of a goddess. It was curly and big. She wore a gold dress that went past her feet although she could walk. Her lips were sparkling. She looked at me and talked as if she knew me my whole life. After getting over how beautiful she was, I spoke.

“Who are you? Where am I?” She came closer.

“I’m Disappointed In You Beauty. You know you chose to be here? You took that blade and let your demons win. You –” I cut her off. “What are you talking about?”

She said, “I’m sorry. I should let you know who I am even though I’ve been with you all of your life. My name is Aphrodite.” My eyes widened. “You mean the greek goddess Aphrodite? How did you get to me?” She looked at me. “Let me finish.” She spoke with confidence. Independence. Respect yet command. She opened her mouth. “I was cursed when I was little by my father’s worst enemy. The spell castes upon me said that I must change someone’s life for the good or mine would never be. It was a hard decision because as a teenager I was very stuck up. So now I’m here because I decided that I was going to pick someone to help a child who needed help from a young age. I picked you when you were a baby. You were heavily surrounded by demons and bad things. Even as stuck up as I was, I felt sympathy and I couldn’t let them take you. And sometimes you make it harder on yourself.” Everything overwhelmed me.

“Well I’m sorry lady or goddess or angel or whatever you are.” I paused and looked at her. “But I don’t want to be anyone’s charity case. Thanks.” I walk away not knowing where to go, but just wanting to get away.

“Do you know what happened to you?”

I stopped in my tracks and face her. “No. I actually don’t –”

She looks at me. “You tried to take your life.”

“Tried? Why aren’t I dead?”

“Because they are trying to save you.” She waves her hand and there is a projection of present time.

I see my body on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on my face. I have white towels wrapped around my wrist but I can see blood coming through. The doctors are dressed in all white and they have on masks. “She’s bleeding out!” one of the doctors yells. I look at my face. I see tears rolling my face. The same tears rolling down my face right now. The vision disappears.

“I can save you. You just have to want to save yourself.”  She placed her hand on my shoulder. I thought back through everything that happened in my life. And it dawned on me.

“I wanted to be dead.”

Aphrodite looked at me.

“But it wasn’t a good choice.”  

I could feel my blood boil. My eyes turned hot. Tears started to come out of my eyes.

“What did I have to live for anyways! My parents left me on the doorstep of someone they didn’t know when I was six months old! I have been passed around and around in different homes all my life and the feeling of rejection is so normal to me…” I pause and drop to my knees. “So normal, that I have began to reject myself…”

The ground changed again. It’s a field of flowers now.

“Why does the ground keep changing?” I can feel Aphrodite’s hand on my shoulder again.

“It changes with your feelings. You love flowers, so when you’re angry this place we’re in makes the things you love appear. You were scared and confused so to soothe you this place gave you an ocean and soft sand. It was grass because for a moment because you felt calm. Which is weird because that’s when you saw me.”

She sits beside me. “If you were to choose to save yourself your future would be so bright. You have an awesome future. The darkness took over your life because they didn’t want to see you shine and be happy. You have so much to look forward to. And you don’t even know.” I looked at her and looked back at the ocean that was now there. She could tell I was scared so she asked me: “What are you so afraid of?” I sit there. Asking myself why am i so scared, when I already knew. I get up and walk towards the ocean.

Why is it that I didn’t want to fight anymore? Should I stay? Here? Where there are no problems? Or go back?

“It’s time. Step to towards the ocean, or the step towards the grass. The ocean is living. The grass is staying here. Make your choice. I’ll see you wherever you go.”

Then she disappears. I sit there for what it feels like forever. Then I made my choice. I start to walk.