Story Fragment #6

His spelling and handwriting were atrocious. His test scores were so low it seemed he was going out of his way to get the answers wrong. But somehow I knew this kid was different. He had this way of knowing when things were going to happen. Whenever he said that there was a storm coming, it came. He always knew the price of movie tickets without even asking. Yeah, weird right?

One time he predicted that Mrs. Paige would have a baby girl, and the next week Mrs. Paige announced that she was pregnant. And sure enough, 9 months later a healthy baby girl was born. They named her Berta after him. His name was Herbert. Yes, Herbert was a slightly odd boy. I should know, I’m his English teacher. One day after handing Herbert his report card with a big “F” on it, as usual, he froze. Suddenly, he fell to the floor and burst into tears. Under his breath, I could hear him mumbling about warning everyone.

“Herbert, whatever is the matter?”

I asked, slightly scared. Whenever Herbert cried it meant that something really terrible was about to happen. As suddenly as he started, Herbert stopped crying and stood up.

“We need to get out of here. Now!”

He yelled, pushing and yelling at everyone to get out of the 8th-grade classroom. I noticed that he left his report card on the table. When we got outside of the building, confused but trusting Herbert’s instincts, he rushed back in to warn the others. Then it started. A gunshot rang out. Students screamed. Alarms sounded, and another gunshot rang out. People began streaming out of the school in panic. I lead my students to a safe place. That day Herbert saved my life.

There were four victims of the shooting.

Herbert was one of them.

At the memorial service held at the school a few days later, I stated, “His spelling and handwriting were atrocious. His test scores were so low it seemed he was going out of his way to get the answers wrong. But somehow I knew Herbert was different.”

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Story Fragment #4

“You’re kidding me. You sing?”

“Umm…”

She whipped her phone away from my view and quickly paused the video that had been playing.

“Were you watching me over my shoulder?”

“Uh..”

I shifted uncomfortably in my shoes.

“Maybe…”

I knew she hated people watching over her shoulder. She sighed then lowered the phone back onto the table, her charm bracelet twinkling as she moved her wrist along the marble tabletop.

“I do sing, but I don’t like to tell people about it.”

“Why not?”

I asked curiously, pulling up a chair. She stood up.

“Becuase it makes me and other people uncomfortable.”

She gathered her green, fuzzy sweatshirt and her purse and began to walk away, her short hair bobbing up and down with the movement.

“Woah, wait.”

I took her wrist, stopping the jingling noise of her bracelet. She stopped and looked back at me in the eye.

“Wait, why does singing make you uncomfortable?”

“Just…because…”

She mumbled and dropped her gaze. I lifted her chin up so her eyes met mine again.

“Hey, hey, it’s fine. There’s no possible song that you could ever sing that would scare off your boyfriend.”

I took her hands in mine, and felt the cool metal of her bracelet charms against my palm.

She looked at me firmly.

“I don’t like to sing because I think I’m good at it.”

“What?”

I laugh.

“What kind of an excuse is that??”

“It’s not because I think I’m good at it, but it’s because I know I’m not.”

I squeezed her hands reassuringly.

“I’m sure you’re an amazing singer.”

I added encouragingly. I looked into her eyes for a sign of life.

“But if you don’t want to sing right now, that’s okay too. Whatever makes you happy.”

I lowered her hands and kissed them. She smiled a little then did that slight, head-jerking thing that girls do when they want to get their hair out of their face.

“Okay, I’ll sing for you. But that’s only because you’re my boyfriend.”

I smiled.

She took a deep breath and began.

I’d like to say that it was the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever heard. I’d like to say that her voice made me fall head over heels in love with her, but the truth was that she had a good voice. Simply good. Not terrible or great but just good.

As she finished, I stood there, not really knowing what to do. I studied her face to see what she felt; I could tell that she was studying mine. After a long silence, she looked down at the ground.

“See, I told you it made people uncomfortable. My voice is just… so ordinary that you can’t criticize or compliment it. It’s kind of just like a slice of plain bread.”

I lifted her chin a second time.

“That was beautiful.”

She took a step back.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying, that’s the truth.”

“But it didn’t sound good.”

I stared at her straight in the eye.

“Your voice doesn’t have to sound ‘good’ to be beautiful, Rachel.”

There was a moment of silence.

She looked at me. I looked at her.

“It’s perfect, just the way it is.”

She looked down at the ground and smiled again.

“Okay, but you still looked over my shoulder, and you know I hate it when people do that.”

We both laughed.

Story Fragment #2

“Rey-rey! Come play with me!”

Kyle pleaded as he watched his older sister, a blob on her beanbag, texting on her phone. She didn’t answer. Kyle sighed. He marched over to the bright pink beanbag and defiantly pulled one of his sister’s carefully curled locks of dark brown hair.

“Oww!”

Reyna exclaimed, recoiling and clutching her head.

“What’d you do that for?!”

“Play with me.”

Kyle ordered, crossing his arms.

“No.”

Reyna answered indifferently, returning to her online chat, and curling up into a comfortable position. Kyle stomped his feet then marched out of Reyna’s room. He sat angrily in the hallway, head in his lap. Mrs. Weiss was preparing dinner in the kitchen. He could hear the banging of pots and the running of water as Kyle’s mom made chicken for the family. Kyle heard Reyna’s shrill laugh at her friend’s rude joke. Suddenly, he noticed that no more sounds were coming from the kitchen, and he felt a soft touch on his elbow. Looking up, he saw his mom staring down at him lovingly.

“Sweetie, is everything alright?”

Kyle motioned toward Reyna’s room.

“Rey-rey’s not playing with me.”

Mrs. Weiss smiled.

“Did you ask her politely?”

“Well… no.”

Kyle admitted.

“How about you go ask her again? You might be surprised.”

His mother advised as she returned to the kitchen. Kyle rose from the floor and ran back to Reyna’s room. Taking a deep breath, he approached her fearfully.

“Rey-rey, can you play with me, please?”

No answer. Kyle touched her knee. Reyna looked up.

“Please?”

Kyle pleaded. Reyna sighed and reluctantly placed her phone on her desk.

“Fine. What do you want to do?”

Kyle’s mischievous eyes twinkled.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A few moments later, Reyna found herself blundering about the house with a smug Kyle riding on her back.

“It HAD to be a piggy-back ride.”

Reyna muttered, stumbling over some left out action figures. Kyle smiled and laughed.

“Isn’t this fun?”

He exclaimed. Reyna felt like she was going to throw up.

Story Fragment #1

Katie felt all of the bumps underneath her fingers, stroking them mercilessly. She rubbed her fingers over her sore temples as she stared at the blank white document on her computer screen.

“What do I want?”

She asked herself, digging her thumbs deeper into the sides of her head and feeling the sharp imprint of her fingernails.

“I want my daughter back, I want my daughter back.”

Katie repeated in her head, now drumming her fingers across the keyboard. Sighing, she glared at the computer screen, which stared back at her. Making up her mind, Katie typed quickly:

I want Valerie back.

Katie stared at the screen. That was all she had to say. Just four little words. Hesitatingly, Katie hovered her mouse over the “send” button. She stared hard, hoping to be able to finally have the nerve this time. The seconds ticked by. Katie refused to give up the struggle. Her palms began sweating. In disgust, Katie slammed down the top of her laptop. She had lost the struggle. She glanced around the room, blinking and running her tongue across her teeth. Silently, she pushed her chair away from the desk, stood up and walked away, grabbing her purse, jacket and keys before locking her apartment then catching a taxi to the office.