Wild Heart Free by Emma B

“What the… hey no!” I screamed as water splashed everywhere, soaking the carpet and me with soapy water.

Earlier that day, I stirred from sleep to the dawn appearing over the stunning Rocky Mountains. It was a gorgeous summer day, probably one of the last ones before fall arrived.  Today, I’ll bathe Ginger, my golden-furred guinea pig. I thought, sitting up in my soft, frosty white covers. I mean, how hard could washing a shy, little rodent be?

I wouldn’t believe it at that time if someone had told me bathing a guinea pig is as hard as getting a small baby to go to sleep at a rock concert.

I got out of my snowy white, warming covers and went down the hall for breakfast as usual. Dad was in his exercise clothes, doing push ups on the living room carpet. His bald head went up and down as he did it. His head was shiny from sweat and as I passed him, he greeted me with a classic “Good morning.” Mom was preparing a family special breakfast for my little brother called, Cocoa and Toast. Her brown-grey hair gently bounced behind her as she worked. She was only 38 so I don’t know why she has grey in her hair, but she blames us kids. Mom says it’s us that gave her grey hairs because we stress her out… a lot. I went over to the fridge for something to eat. I’d bathe Ginger after I did my usual morning schedule. I got myself a hurried bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, which I ate up like I had been famished, even though I was just in a bit of rush. This would be the first time I ever attempted to give Ginger a bath. Most female guinea pigs with short fur hardly needed baths at all, but I figured to the saying, “Better safe then sorry.”

I went upstairs and got an old T-shirt and a pair of jean shorts. I knew bathing Ginger was going to be as simple as Albert Einstein reading a picture book, but that didn’t mean it was not going to be messy. I slid into my clothes and practically danced my crocs. I headed outside and into Ginger’s house.

Ginger, my guinea pig, lives in an old playhouse of the daughter of the person who really owns the house. It’s painted a vivid purple and white. Painted pictures decorated the inside along with a chalkboard and a couple windows. It had a nice carpet on the floor. The only bad thing about it was that it let heat and cold in real easy and in the winter we had to keep a heater in there. The other thing it lets into the shed is bugs. I don’t mean the ladybugs, ants, and butterflies. I mean crickets, and cockroaches and the grossest of things. They certainly love to take our hospitality in the Spring and Fall.

I opened one of the two doors. The other one was jammed shut, so really there’s only one that works. I gasped at what I saw. There was a bunch of hopping crickets in there. Some cricket must have had eggs in here. Some were hopping so high and some were as dead as a doornail. There were cricket legs everywhere, as crickets lose their feet easily. Ginger was running circles in her cage, freaked out (like me) about the gross crickets everywhere.

Dad came over and helped me shoo out the dead crickets, alive crickets, and cricket legs with a broom. I relaxed a little, but there was still tension. I could almost feel the crickets around me. I shuddered.

I gave a sigh with relief and went over to Ginger’s cage. I carefully opened it, still scanning for hiding crickets, but saw nothing. I stroked Ginger’s fur and spoke to her softly, saying, “Alright, girl. Today’s the day we clean that beautiful pelt of yours. I promise I’ll do it exactly like the guinea pig care book says. Maybe I’ll treat you when I’m done!”

I knew Ginger hadn’t a clue what I was saying, but the gentle words calmed her down after the cricket chaos. I gave her a couple pieces of hay to nibble on and shut the cage. I had to go get the bathing supplies.

I went back into the house, passing my siblings as they played with Dad.

“Can I borrow the big green bowl to wash Ginger?” I asked Mom, who was doing the dishes, “You know, the one we use for spaghetti? I promise I’ll wash it really well after I’m done, so its not all gross.”

Mom nodded and went back to her dishes, while I got the big green bowl. I went over to the sink and filled it up with water that was slightly too hot. By the time I would be ready for Ginger’s bath, it’d be a perfect warm. I didn’t want to have a boiled guinea pig or a guinea pig ice pop!

I set the big bowl of water on the table for a moment and ran to the bathroom. I picked up the old bottle of Baby Shampoo and Body Wash. This was recommended by the guinea pig care book I owned. I also grabbed two washcloths to dry Ginger off with to use as tiny towels. If she was wet and cold overnight she’d get sick and I didn’t want that.

I took the items back in the kitchen where the big green bowl of water sat. The tiny waves splashed against the side. I filled up a pink cup with warm water to rinse off the soap that would get on Ginger’s fur.

I brought the items one by one to Ginger’s little shed and put them on the carpet. I went over to Ginger who was done with the hay I had given her and I gently took her out. I sat with her for a while, assuring she was okay. I had only adopted her about a year ago. For all I knew, this may be her first time bathed, if her old owners didn’t wash her. When I tried to get Ginger into the bowl after petting her for a while, her claws flew everywhere, trying not to let one bit of her touch the water. I had to smile, because it was pretty funny, but I still managed to get her in there.

I cupped my hands and got some water from the bowl in them and gently dripped the water onto Ginger, letting her settle in the water. Ginger struggled, trying to escape, not yet sure of the water, but I used my cupped hands to also hold her steady.

As I held Ginger down, not willing her to escape I began to wet her fur. I reached for the soap, letting one hand loose of the grip and then I heard a cricket sound and froze. Disgust and fear flooded my mind. I let go of Ginger for a moment, trying to listen for the sound. Then, Ginger took her chance.

Ginger dashed out of the bowl, spilling the water, soap flying from her fur and headed outside.

“What the… hey no!” I screamed, as water splashed everywhere, soaking the carpet and I with soapy water.

For a few moments I was silent, in shock of what happened, and not allowing myself to get up. I felt like breaking down into tears. Right then, I didn’t believe that I would be able to catch my little Ginger and I just knew it was hopeless. Then, another part of me told me something I hadn’t thought of. Emma, get up and go get Ginger! If you don’t get off your bottom and try to catch Ginger, then of course she’s going to get away! Now, are you going to sit all wet and do nothing while your only pet is going to escape and die of a cold with all that soap on her?

                  I couldn’t argue with myself. I had to do this. That part of me was right. Sitting on this carpet while there is a good chance that Ginger will run away from her natural wild mind and freeze tonight was no help to anybody. I had to try.

I ran out, chasing Ginger into the grass of the backyard. Dad was still playing with my siblings, so I yelled at him, “Dad!!! Ginger’s somewhere running in the grass! Help me find her! She’s all wet and soapy! If she gets away, she’ll die of a cold!”

Dad nodded and began to search everywhere. I suddenly noticed a shuffle of grass near Dad and shouted, “Dad! She’s right next to you, I think!”

He yelled back, “Okay! I think I see Ginger! Hold on…”

Dad searched the floor around him and in a few moments picked up Ginger, who now was wet, soapy, dirty, and had grass all over her. I ran over to her and laughed with relief, thanking Dad and took Ginger back inside her little shed.

I put her back in the water and this time, paid close attention to Ginger. I used the warm water come to gently sprinkle water on her to get the soap out. Then, as soon as I was sure Ginger didn’t have any soap in her fur, I lifted her out of the bowl and on to the floor beside me, holding her with my hand.

I got one of the two white washcloths and dried Ginger up in it. I got the second one and rubbed it over her fur in case I missed some damp spots. I smiled, and wiped the sweat from my head. Bathing Ginger was hard.

I lifted up Ginger and sat on the little chair in her house. I talked to her softly and brushed her fur. By the time I was done, Ginger looked beautiful. I looked back to her cage and saw that Dad had cleaned it out for me.

I thanked Dad as I reached Ginger into the cage. I could imagine that Ginger was exhausted. I went inside, deciding that Ginger deserved a reward for what she did. Sure, she had run away, but that was in her blood. Who could blame her for that? I opened the fridge and took out a few lettuce leaves and a couple of baby carrots. I went back outside and into Ginger’s little house.

I opened the cage and spoke a soft “hello” at Ginger and took out most of her hay, because if she ate the treats and the hay, she’d get sick. Ginger began squeaking with protest at her food being taken away, but as soon as I put the carrots and lettuce in her cage, she began munching it up like it was the last piece of food in the whole world.

I laughed as she ate her food in that cute, noisy way. I watched her for a while and then shut the cage and left her to eat in peace.

I went over to Dad and hugged him. “Thanks, Dad.”

“It’s okay. Ginger may have just needed a good run and this was her perfect chance to go to a perfect get away in… Hawaii?”

I laughed, “Every week I let her out in her shed to take a good run, but I guess she prefers grasslands to a suntan on the beaches.”

Dad went with me back to Ginger’s cage. To my amazement, she had finished all of the baby carrots and lettuce. Dad and I gave each other a wide-eyed glance, because he had see me put those veggies in there only a few minutes ago. We laughed again. Pets are sometimes trouble and hard to work with. Yet, we still keep a wide place for them in our hearts… and usually our families. I thought to myself.

That night, snuggled under my covers, I thought, Bathing Ginger is as difficult as trying to wrestle a bull! I guess you can adopt a pet and take it as your own, but you can never take away its wild spirit.

 

 

Boahimaa by Ingrid N

The wind brushed against the hills as if teasing the hills to leap in to the wind and join the wind. The tall grass swayed outside. Here I’m inside! Listening to the teacher, but I already know all of this already. If the others really wanted to get an education then they should study like I did. I gazed outside dreaming about playing outside in the grass. Maybe if we’re lucky enough we could finish the grass rope, today.

No… Not today. TOO much to do, I thought as I turned my head back to the front of the classroom. There wasn’t much hear to admire or even look at. The walls were a rugged brown, every now and then it would creak especially when there was a lot of wind. Some times I wondered why this building hasn’t fallen down yet.

“Now, class I suggest that you begin to study because the exams are next class day,” the teacher informed us. She twisted around and walked around the classroom glaring into the eyes of the other students. Many of the other students looked up from their papers, books, or popped back into reality, all except Kehmuile, as usual. Most of the other kids here were Christian, including me. Which meant that our parents wanted us to have a good education. Sadly most people here can’t afford to go past primary school. And I will (hopefully) be one of those few people that will make it! But that is if I can be able to make enough money to go before I’m over whelmed with other work.

The teacher’s frown increased as she walked closer to Kehmuile. The unsuspecting Kehmuile continued to foolishly goof around quietly.

“Kehmuile!” growled the teacher. Everyone in the class could tell that Kehmuile enraged the teacher… again.

“What is this?” the teacher growled again holding the piece of grass and other scraps up for the entire class to see.

“It’s an…um,” Kehmuile stuttered fumbling over the English words showing she hasn’t practiced her English at ALL! To admit it wasn’t a surprise.

I sighed as I turned my head back to the gap in the wall. I wish that we didn’t always have to speak English during class. The wind was low, but even though I could still hear the sounds of animals being herded. My mind raced what if she squealed on us, and said it was our idea and we were going to blackmail her if she didn’t do it. She always lies; I don’t think the teacher will believe her though… But, her dad has money and that may do something.

“Class dismissed,” the teacher snarled not moving her eyes from the grumbling Kehmuile.  Wow! The teacher is mad. My mind kind of repeated thoughts as I scuttled in behind everyone else as we all walked out of the classroom, except Kehmuile, that is.

As I walked out of the small little school, I heard a patter of feet behind me. I turned around and saw a girl that was around my age running towards me. She was really thin; she probably was thinner than all of the trees here. That may sound as if she was really big, but since there was little water the trees were really, REALLY small.

“What should we do today?” the girl asked as she catched up with me.

“Not, sure Afyea,” I respond practicing my English.

“Maybe… we should… finish the… um… um,” she stuttered trying to respond back in English.

“The grass rope?” I suggest.

“Yes! That’s it! How in the world did you know what I was going to say?” Afyea shouted in our hometown dialect out waving her arms around.

“Because you’ve been talking about it all month long!” I pointed out.

“True,” Chipo answered in English walking by.

“Besides I need to study for the exam. …Sorry, … Afryea,” I said sadly as I walked in the direction of my house. Afryea stood there for a while; I could easily see that she was super disappointed.

“Hey! Boahimaa! C-Can you help …me …study? For the uh…um… Exam?” Chipo asks stumbling over the words. The weird part was that she wasn’t sure. Also she was asking me, and I saying ME, her opponent, to help her. WEIRD, AND VERY suspicious…

“Sure!” I respond still a little shocked. I waited for her to catch up.

“Do you want to study here? So… you… know…um… can go home easier?” I ask in English. I don’t know about you but learning another language is like super hard especially when you’re talking to your rival. We studied the rest of the evening till the sun was a little bit off of the horizon.

“WOW! That was intense! No wonder your top in the class! But be aware! Only the top five get in. For your information everyone is taking the test, … and … the ones with the highest scores will have a chance to go on!” she said smirking as she walked away in a very arrogant way.

“Okay?” I whispered to myself as I turn away and begin to make my way home.

“Oh! And by the way! Thanks for helping me. …And don’t think that my …English is bad. It’s very …good. …Kehmuile has… a ‘tutor’ that her parents know …that …um…speaks perfect English. And that um…‘tutor’ helps me,” she added as she walked away still smirking.

Oops! I can’t believe that I helped her! She is the enemy! Wait! … What does she mean by Kehmuile has a friend that speaks English? Will that help her pass me? Is this her strategy? Make me worry… then… she thinks that I’ll study super hard, and wouldn’t go to bed. Get bad sleep the day before the day of the test, and do horrible. I mustn’t fall into her evil plans! Besides how stupid can I be? Wait! Doesn’t it mean that when Chipo stutters that she is telling a lie? Can’t be! The test is coming soon, why would she lie? Anyways! I need to make a plan!

Now to make a plan to avoid it! First I’ll study really hard. Even if it is bad for my sleep! I must study hard! Especially the day before the test! Wait… is… that… her plan? Can’t be… if it was I would of already figured it out! Besides I have to pass the test. I think quietly as I walk down the beaten road.

Soon I came across a path that was a little smoother, but it still was pretty rugged. I stopped, observing the world around me. Even though I’ve seen this place millions of times (well probably) it’s still beautiful. I imagined, there was only going to be one sunset like this…ever! I think that it’s best for us to be content with where we are in life, but we also we have to work hard to be in a better place in the future.

A small house came into view. Its walls were made of sticks connected by mud. The roof was made of grass. Small holes in the wall were meant to be windows. Just by looking at it could probably make some people think these people are super poor. They have nothing valuable/Others would think that the small building was abandoned or a shed. But to me it meant warmth, happiness, kindness, safety, respect, and most importantly it meant family. A smile lit up on my face as I came to the door of the familiar building.

“I’m home!” I said as I walked inside, hoping that everyone was here. Oh, yah. I forgot… Mom and Dad are working this month. Hey! But it’s near the end of the month so they should be home soon, and by soon I mean in a few days! As usual I made a little bit for dinner, studied, then I went to bed late that night.

“Hi Boahimaa!” Chipo said smirking, as I walked along the road in the morning.

“Did you get any sleep?” she continued laughing.

“Yah! Did you?” Kehmuile asked laughing along with Chipo.

“Hey! Leave my sister alone!” Tumelo shouted at Chipo and Kehmuile.

“Tumelo please be quiet, your giving me head ache,” I told my little brother, holding his little hand, small and soft.

“Sorry Boahimaa,” Tumelo responds, lowering his voice and his head in embarrassment.

“Ha-ha! Sorry Boahimaa!” Chipo’s older brother mimicking Tumelo.

“Very funny! But if I must remind you Shona, that you were too stupid to pass the exam!” I responded, defending my younger brother. “Besides please leave me alone… my ability to withstand stupid is running low, especially when there is so much standing around me.”

“Really? …Must I remind you that my parents are here for work, and that my brother actually had a chance to take the exam?… While your brother had to herd animals! Besides we are better off than you!” Chipo says in a very stuck up way.

“Besides Chipo and I will pass the test because we have the correct answers for every-!” Kehmuile boasted.

“Shut up!” Chipo hissed, jutting her elbow into Kehmuile’s side.

“You know what? Shona, at least my sister and my family didn’t cheat on the tests. And besides we a least worked our way up, instead of lying to get where we are,” interjected my older brother, Uuka, ignoring Kehmeuile’s and Chipo’s argument.

“Oh! You’re SUPER scary!” Kehmuile said laughing at Uuka.

“We have a place to go though,” I replied.

“What?” Chipo and Kehmuile said together.

“Heaven… when we die we will go to heaven… we believe you don’t,” I continued.

“Yeah! So what? We believe too! We’re Christian,” they answered.

“No you don’t. You’re only because of the name…you don’t really believe.

“Boahimaa we should go… don’t we have to earn some money, so when you do good on the exam we can afford for you to go to the next stage in your education?” Uuka asked me, “Besides we can’t waist our time on stupid people.”

“Boahimaa, … I have a question about the exam…” Tumelo asked me as we walked away. I nodded answering ok.

“So you have to pass the one they are give you into school. Then afterwards you have to pass the one they give you afterwards, with is the actual exam. But only the highest score takes the actual test … Right?” Tumelo continued.

The day’s work was hard, but it was worth it. Tomorrow would be the same and so one with every free day we have till next class day. Most of the work we do is normal nothing super complicated or really hard. Other than that the day goes as normal. In the end I studied really hard again. I went to bed a little late.

Today is the day of the exam. I’m super nervous and all. My head begins to get a little fuzzy as I walk along the dirt path. I wonder if I got any good sleep last night. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. I think I got good sleep because I remember going to bed early yesterday.

Along the path is a light green grass. I hear the sound of the animals, and people calling to each other as they herd the animals. Sometimes if I listened really hard I could hear Uuka’s voice. Right now is the best time to study instead of goofing around. The rest of the time I practice my English, math, and science since those were the most pressured subjects.

“Hi! Boahimaa!” chirps Afryea, swinging her arms around acting as if there wasn’t a big exam at all. The way she acts also made her look a little silly, but everyone knew not to make a remark on how silly and immature she is, because everyone know Afryea is in the top five in the class.

“Morning Boahimaa and Afryea,” the teacher says greeting us as we get in view of the school. The teacher walks along side of us as we go to the school.

“Morning class,” the teacher says with a small smile as we enter the ragged building. The walls where still the same mud brown color and the “windows” were still no more than holes in the wall in different shapes. There is only one difference. There are sticks tied together to make a big folder thingy that had only three sides like a triangle of that shape with only three sides. Instead of all three sides being closed off two of the sides aren’t connected.

“What are these thingies?” Afryea asks with a goofy smile on her face, as she uses her fingers to carefully pick one of the things as if it had a disease. Her arm is straight. She holds the thingy away from her body.

“Those you can call a trifold,” the teacher says in English.

“Dr-i-e- fol…s?” Afryea stumbles trying to copy the new word that teacher told us.

“No, Afryea it’s tri like in triangle with folder added on. Trifold,” the teacher repeats sighing.

“Try-fo-gle? Wait! …No! Uh…um…it’s…um…uh… Try-fold?” Afryea repeats.

“Try-fold?” I say, “I don’t think that’s it.”

“The correct way to say it is trifold, but I guess that ‘try-fold’ is the closest I can get you guys to say it,” the teacher signs again.

“Morning,” Chipo says from behind me as she strolls in to the building, “Did you get any sleep Boahimaa?”

“Actually I did. And I must congratulate you for caring so much,” I say in English turning around to look at her. When she sees my face and notices that there aren’t any circles under my eyes to show that I haven’t gotten any sleep, she seems scared. Good! I thought. Now you have a real competition.

We take our seats as the rest of the rest of the class slowly comes in. Chipo and Kehmuile both sat in the front row, but not next to each other. Afryea sat far away from me. I wasn’t shocked or anything.

“No looking at other classmate’s paper,” the teacher begins after all the students are in the building. She continued to talk and all, but I didn’t pay any attention. No one else did ether and she knew that, but that was what she had to do. After that she walked around that rows passing out the test. When she came to my row I was freaking out, but I accepted the paper politely and began. Before I began though I heard the teacher say, “good luck Boahimaa.” Impossible! Or is that supposed to be WEIRD? Did I just hear that right?

Around half way though the test I lifted my head, observing the room. There wasn’t a peep at all. Everyone was focusing, but I noticed that Chipo and Kehmuile were both looking at something. Especially Kehmuile. Weird… are they cheating? I shouldn’t think anything f it, I should focus on my test like everyone else; so then I went on to continue my test.

What I didn’t know was that the thing that they were looking at was something important.  As I looked at my finished test, I was sweating, though not seeable sweat. I heave a sigh as I look back though it. Ok… today is the day I need to do the last job to have enough money for incase I pass the tests. Wait! Isn’t to day also the day Mom and Dad come home? …No I don’t think so, I think that it’s to early, but still I hope that they come home today.

“You are dismissed class, but first you need to turn in your test,” the teacher says at the end of the day, “you have one day off of school. Next time we meet, which will be in two days, I’ll give you the grades.

“I’m SO glad that that’s over. It was SO scary. I hope that we both make it into the top three,” Afryea says quickly.

“Hey! If we do make it and get good jobs then we wouldn’t have to rely on anyone to support us!” she whispers into my ear as we walk out of the building.

“Anyways, Bye Boahimaa see you tomorrow!” Afryea shouts as she turns around and walks in the direction of her bigger house, clean and tidy.

As I walk home I begin to think of the test.  Um… Weird I wonder what that paper was that Kehmuile and Chipo where both looking at during the test. …Maybe they were looking at the answers. That’s possible. I know Kehmuile and Chipo will do anything to beat me in the scores, and knowing the history of Kehmuile, it’s possible that she bargained or stole the answers. Also Chipo will go to any extent to beat me in the scores, and then brag about it the rest of her life. But… if they cheated then that means that they will get in… Okay! Now I’m worried. Right now I need to forget that. It’s over now. Besides I need to earn enough money in case I passed. Now, I need to look at… the positive side for a little bit.

The next day there wasn’t any school so I just did chores. After I finished all of those I did some other minor jobs to get enough money. During lunch I began to make a doll. Straw was the hair. Wire was that base of the body. I wasn’t too sure of what to have for the skin so I just left it like that for a while. As it got closer to nightfall I became more anxious about the test scores.

That night I made dinner. Soon after dinner was done cooking, Tumelo and Uuka came in from herding the animals. As we ate there wasn’t much to talk about, except the fact about that one of the animals had a baby.

“I think that there will be a drought so save up on the water Boahimaa!” Uuka declares leaning against the wall of our house, “This time it may be big and dangerous.”

After we eat we cleaned up. Even though Mom and Dad are family and know how inelegant we are, it seems that we still remember that they like for the house to be clean. There wasn’t really anything to clean because the house is so small that with three people was super easy to clean.

I can’t wait for the test results tomorrow. Before I went to bed that night I prayed to God. Even though I do this almost every night I must do it extra hard this time. I have to pass that exam or my dream will not come true. I hope I can sleep well tonight. Wow! I slept splendid tonight! I thought quietly as I go up and began to get dressed.

A yawn escaped from my mouth as I walked along the road to the building. Hum… thinking about it we never called it school? Ha! That’s interesting we only call it the building, as if it wasn’t really important or anything. Oh! I hope I did well! I think dreamily looking at the colors of the sunrise. The orange color streaked across the sky. The midnight blue seemed to be retreating. In between was purple. It was beautiful since there will only be one sunrise like this in the world. As I turned back to the road my shadow shortened in front of me.

“Morning class!” the teacher said waving her hand in greeting after shaking everyone’s hand. I observe everyone as I was sitting in the back row. Chipo and Kehmuile were both snickering with a huge grin on both of their faces. It seemed as if something bad was about to happen or did happen. Wait! A flash back to the test reminds me that they were both looking at something. I wonder…

“The five highest scoring people are Boahimaa, Afryea, Zweleka, Matseliso, and Teboho,” the teacher declared at the end of class. At the sound of this Chipo and Kehmuile both turned paler than a ghost.

“WHAT?” Chipo and Kehmuile both scream at the top of their lungs. Jumping up from where they sat.

“Impossible! We had the answers! There is absolutely no way we could have not made it!” Kehmuile continues.

“Aren’t I right?” Kehmuile shouted looking at Chipo for support.

“Um…a…what in the…um…the world are you… um… talking about?” Chipo stutters glaring at Kehmuile from where she sat. Chipo may have good grades. Everyone knows that she is horrible at acting. It’s easy to know because she stutters, and this habit of hers got her in trouble.

“Oh. So you did have the answers,” the teacher says smiling while her eyes glinting in the dim light, “you two stay after class.”

“Uho…” Kehmuile signed, looking down at the ground, depressed and scared.

“Do what ever you want! Just please don’t tell my father,” Kehmuile whimpered.

“You idiot!” Chipo whispers, glaring at Kehmuile. Chipo’s glare could have paralyzed a demon! It was so deadly. Everyone stood up and began to walk out of the building, except the scared Kehmuile and the enraged Chipo.

“HA! I guess they got caught this time! Eh?” whispers Afryea with a smile as we began to leave.

“Huh? Did you hate them that much?” I ask, turning my head with a big question mark probably written all over it.

“Don’t you remember what they did to me when I first came?” Afryea responded looking at me like she was just slapped super hard.

“Uh? … … Oh! … Yeah sorry about that,” I say, trying to act as if my memory was normal. I remember when Afryea just came to the village after her dad died she was bullied. Everyone wasn’t surprised when she came here because of that. It’s traditional for when the father dies that his brother will inherit his family and his stuff, if he doesn’t have a son who is old enough.  Kehmuile and Chipo picked on Afryea because she was so minuscule.

Oh well. I had to get home to tell Mom, Dad, Uuka, and Tumelo the good news! Well…I’m not TOO sure about Mom and Dad, but they may be home! I thought as I raced home, leaving the shocked Afryea behind. To admit I feel a little rude, because I should of said, ‘Good bye Afryea’. That reminded me…

“Bye Afryea! I have to spread the good news!” I shout over my shoulder as I rushed off down the road. As I raced down the dirt road, I thought of all kinds of places that I could go to now that I have the money to go since I passed the first exam. Wait! That means, that I need to be able to pass the next one. I skidded to a stop. Eh! So what? I passed which means that I still have a chance! I should give up hope just yet! I took off again. The sun was half visible on the horizon. Wow! And if I can pass the test I can go see the world! … Hey! Maybe if I’m lucky enough I can see what the thing called ‘snow’ is. They say it’s white and cold. … I wonder what cold is.

“GOOD NEWS EVERYONE!” I shouted as I skid to a halt a few paces away from my house. Where is everyone?

“Boahimaa!” Tumelo shouts, rushing out of the house.

“Uh?” I say a little startle.

“It’s Uuka, something’s wrong! He isn’t getting up!” Tumelo shouts tears running down his face.

“SHOW ME!” I respond. I let Tumelo grab my hand and lead me. Please God let it be nothing bad at all! Nothing horrible at all! I silently pray as my eyes get watery and my vision blurs.

As I entered the house I saw that Mom and Dad weren’t here. The little table that we eat on was cleared except for some bottles. On it was a ragged cloth that Mom made several years ago. Uuka was lying down on the dirt floor in the corner breathing hard.

“Get the doctor. Why didn’t you do this before?” I shouted at Tumelo, while tears streamed down my face, blurring my vision.

“Okay. I didn’t before; I didn’t want to leave him alo-“ Tumelo began

“GO!” I screech at him.

“Okay!” he said turning around and running. I hope they get here quick! … I begin to look at how he is acting. Weird what is that? I look at a lump like thing that appears to be moving. What in the world is that? It seems to be alive, but it’s under his skin. Is it an animal inside of him? I gaze at him, but I don’t get closer no matter how bad I want to. Why can’t I hold my brother? … I begin to question my self. Because! You have no idea what it is! And it common sense to not go near it… but he’s my bro-… Oh! Shut up! What will happen if you do hold him or get close and the ‘thing’ goes into you, huh? You would get sick. And your family wouldn’t be able to buy help for both of you! Sometimes I feel as if there are two sides to me: on negative and the other positive or which can be considered the nice side. I hear feet, but I don’t pay attention.

“We’re here!” Tumelo panted as he lifted his arm pointing at Uuka. A woman wearing a tunic, old and beaten down, walked in caring a bag slung over her shoulder. Her clothes were ragged and dull. She didn’t seem to be well off, but she looked like she was educated.

“You take your brother out, I’ll see what happening,” she demanded pointing her finger at me and making a shooing motion with it. In an instant I leaped up and lifted Tumelo off the ground and escaped. I didn’t go far, but I carried the crying Tumelo over to the edge of the plateau. I sat down trying to stop the flow of tears. But they seemed to never stop.

“UUKA! I HAVE TO SEE HIM. I HAVE TO MAKE SURE HE IS OK!” Tumelo screeches wriggling vigorously in my arms, but I only held tighter.

“Ow! You’re hurting me!” Tumelo squealed as he went slack from exhaustion in my arms. At the sound of his words a new wave of tears run down. I buried my face into his back.

“Just look at the pretty sunset,” I said sniffling, “you can’t see him.”

“Why he’s my brother, … and he’s your brother,” Tumelo wailed looking at me.

“Because he’s,” I paused, should I lie?

“Because he’s going to be fine… … he …um… he just needs to rest,” I whispered.

“Bu-“ Tumelo started.

“No! There are no buts,” I said, a little harsher that I meant to.

“Okay…” Tumelo mumbled looking away from me. I feel horrible! How could I be so mean? Especially to my brother? In this situation? We sat in silence waiting for the doctor to come out, hopefully with good news. Cough! Who is that? Tumelo and I both turn around to see the doctor walk outside. Her head was hung she didn’t look us in the eyes, but tells me that she would like to see me in private. Okay something bad happened…please let it not be big!

“Okay,” I responded lifting Tumelo off my lap.

“Can I see him?” he asked as I place his feet on the ground.

“No,” the woman sighed somewhat nicer than before, “come on hurry!”

“What is it?” I asked when we were out of ear shoot of Tumelo.

“He has a parasitic condition,” she informed me.

“What is that?” I asked stupidly, wiping my face still trying to hold back the tears.

“What does parasitic mean?” she asked.

“Um… when something is attached, and drains the host?” I answered.

“Um. There for a parasitic condition is when there is something inside of him. I don’t have the specialty to get it out, but there is a bigger city near by that has a surgeon that will do it at a hefty price,” she continued.

“How much?” I asked not really caring what the price was as long as Uuka has a chance of living.

“Well, …you know how much it cost’s to go on from primary school?” she inquired.

“Yeah…” I replied.

“Well. A little more than that,” she says lifting her head, looking me straight into my eyes, “ I can take you to the city. If you want, but I can’t give or loan you money.”

“Boahimaa! Tumelo!” two familiar voices shout joyfully.

“Mom! Dad!” Tumelo cried running up to greet them. I turn around to look at them. They had circles under their eyes. Their clothes were in rags like ours but even more so. Still, though they were grinning from ear to ear at us.

“Who is this Boahimaa?” Dad joyfully asks me, walking up with his arm around Mom’s shoulder.

“Um… well …Uuk-“ I began.

“Hey! Where is he? …Where is Uuka?” Mom interjected, jolting her head around.

“Yeah… where is he?” Dad continued, looking around like Mom. At the mention of Uuka, Tumelo and I look at each other with worried expressions before looking at the ground. Mom saw our expressions and asked…

“What happened, Boahimaa? What hap-“ she began to ask, her voice that was normally so joyful and happy was now filled with worriedness.

“I’m sorry. But will you please lead let me speak with your parents?” the doctor asked looking at me.

“Of course.” I lifted Tumelo up again and walked towards the edge of the plateau again. Tumelo sat down, knowing better than to try and see Uuka.

“Why can’t I hear about it?” Tumelo asked looking up at me.

“Because it’ll make you worry more. Besides I doubt that you’d understand it,” I responded looking at the sky. This time the darkness was attacking the light it seems and the light is running away, except there are little speaks of light that is holding it’s ground even though the rest is running away. I wish that I could see what the stars see. I wish that in the future I will be able to make a difference in the world. That I’ll be able to help people who’s family or friends who have fallen ill and need help really bad. … I wish that I could become a doctor and help save lives. And guarantee that they would be fine.

The night sky grew bigger. Soon it encased us in this little world, imperfect and cruel. After the sun went all the way down, the last streaks of light held on, grasping with it’s last bit of daytime energy. Mom came walking over.

“Are you two okay? How was the test Boahimaa?” She asks unenthusiastic sitting next to me, as she picks Tumelo up and resting him on her lap. It looks like she’s trying lighten the mood by asking about the day, but everyone I so worried it doesn’t matter. Besides no one want to talk really.

“I passed… and no I’m not ok,” I whimper.

“Congrates,” Tumelo slurs really unenthusiastic.

“Okay, …” she sighs, rocking Tumelo, “ The expense is really high. A little bit more than the school fee, your Dad and I are going to work closer to the village and we’ll take turns watching over you guys. While we try to get enough money.”

“Can’t we use the money Boahimaa saved up for the scho-” Tumelo asks looking up.

“Tumelo! That is the money Boahimaa saved she’ll do as she pleases with it,” Mom hisses at him.

“But it would help,” she whispers under her breath.

“It’s okay,” I say instantly.

“Really? Are you sure? ‘Cause we all know that going on from primary school is your dream,” Mom says with hope creaking in her voice.

“Of course. I’ll use the money I have saved up, to help Uuka. I can have multiple chances to get a good education, but there will only be one Uuka like him in the world. Just like the sunsets. Besides education may be important and hard to achieve, but it’s not more important than family.” I respond gazing at the sun.

Ice Falls by Nathan C

This is seriously a bad idea, I sometimes still ask myself why I still do this. This is way too dangerous. I am doing a job five times more dangerous than about an average job and I am only getting a fifth of what an usual person would get in the West.

“What should we do now? We can’t see. It’s so dark,” asked a Westerner.

“We sleep. Wait for sun ri-rise,” I stammered, for I hated speaking English. Why are they so stupid, use common sense. It’s pitch black and all we can do is set up for the night.

My partner, Newang, and I sighed with relief as we slipped off all that equipment on our backs. After we hammered in our tent, and set up for the night, I set down my sleeping pack. Even though the bulk of my clothes made it uncomfortable to lie down, it was comforting to rest.

 

I hope I can afford a private school this year. Otherwise this whole trip would be useless. Man living in Nepal makes it hard to earn money. I have one of the biggest jobs in the country and I am still struggling to put food on the table. My son shouldn’t be a Sherpa like me, it is far too dangerous. I don’t really have to worry about my daughter because she isn’t going to be a Sherpa. I think she should just stick with the olden days, just be a good mother an-

 

BOOM

 

“We are going to die!” cried a Westerner, also shouting words I had no idea what they were. The words sounded like they were words I did not want to know about.

I rolled my eyes. These people definitely didn’t know anything about climbing the Himalayan Mountains, especially Mount Everest. “Very natural. Common, no die for sure. Big boom, no danger, Ok?”

 

One by one, every one of the Westerners went back to sleep. I sighed, happy that I could finally think in peace without anyone to interrupt me. Finally, I fell asleep.

 

“Wake up Lakhpa. We should go now.”

Newang had woken me up because we had to go prepare for the Westerners. After deciding who carried what, I had to lug a ladder, while my partner carried the nails and drills to place the ladder in place. As we approached near the place where we would need the ladder, I instantly recognized it. The Khumbu Ice Falls.

 

The Khumbu Ice Falls had a reputation of danger. Even the name said it all. The Khumbu Ice Falls was a dangerous part of Mount Everest because very often, ice fell on many Sherpa guides, sometimes killing them. I never learned exactly how it happens, but I think the sun slightly melts the ice. This causes the ice to crack and fall on people. It was a good thing that we came here near dawn, because it had a lower chance of ice falling on us.

 

BOOM

 

I flinched. Even though I was in one of the most dangerous places on Everest, I remembered last time I was here, I had made a big fuss. I remembered how my face turned red from embarrassment. So this time I said nothing. When we were done, we started to head back towards our tent to wake the others. However, the noise continued to get louder and louder. As I looked up in curiosity, the last thing I saw was a huge clump of white.

 

My world blacked out.

 

“How is he?” a voice asked?

“Four fractured ribs, and a serious head injury. I am not sure if he will make it. That avalanche really was really dangerous,” a second voice responded, “I think he must have hit his head. I personally think that climbing Mount Everest is a silly dream. People risk their lives just to feel good. People literally hire other people to do dangerous work. A Sherpa probably doesn’t want to be a Sherpa, just that people bribe them.”

“I know, it is pretty unfair. We should do our jobs though. How is this one?” came the first voice.

“This one is a lucky one. He only has two broken ribs and arm,” the second voice sighed.

 

I tried to show that I was awake, trying to groan or at least move my arm. But then the smell hit me really hard. I had never smelled something like this smell before. The smell was a sickly sweet and artificial scent, reminding me of perfume many Westerners used. My guess was that I was in a tent or a hospital. When I attempted to open my eyes, my eyes burned as if all of the snow on Everest was picked up and stuffed into my eyes. I wondered if my children were all right. I tried to move my arms, but found that my arms were as useful as if it being made out of rubber.

 

I tried to move again, but I couldn’t move anything. Finally I braced myself and opened my eyes. My eyes felt like they were on fire. However, I resisted the temptation of closing my eyes. During the brief time I had my eyes open, I had glimpsed a person in a white coat and someone I had no idea who he was.

 

The two people kept talking about things I didn’t know about, but it sounded like they were talking about something to do with medicine. As long as my vision goes back to normal and I can use my arms properly.  The talking continued for a few more minutes. Finally the talking stopped.

 

For the second time, my world blacked out.

 

When everything came back into focus, the first thing I noticed was that I could see. The next thing I noticed was that I was indeed in a hospital. I could tell because there where wires and tubes attached to other people on beds like me. The walls were all plain white. The beds were also white. It was as if every color except white was stripped from the room.

 

“Hello, I see that you are awake. Can you understand me? Do I need a translator? You will be all right. You have a broken rib as well, but you should be ok. You can leave in about a month,” said a person who I didn’t notice. I understood the gist of what he said, so I nodded.

“I English ok. Translator good idea.” I murmured.

 

A month later, I was discharged from the hospital with a sling around my arm. As I arrived and settled down at home, I asked around to see who else got injured. Heart sinking, many people had stories on how their husbands had been taken to hospitals and clinics.

 

I had counted a total of 25 stories of people being affected by that avalanche. Even though I might of missed a few, that was a lot of people severely injured. I hope my original Sherpa leader would be alright. It’s shocking how one avalanche can affect so many people. I hope Newang is alright. He is a brilliant Sherpa guide.

 

 So much for earning more money this year. I won’t regret my decision though, some of my closest friends have died, and I have to honor them. Even still, I am not sure if I should continue. Look at what happened to my friends, they were all severely injured and a couple died. But then my children can’t get a good education. Over the year, I had listed everything good and bad. I had talked to other Sherpa guides, and got their advice. I was resting in bed at home when I had finally made my decision. I had no choice but to go back to Everest.

Courage by Miguel A

VROOM! Angel pressed the gas pedal and the car propelled forward. Angel knew she was getting close to the mall. Angel weaved through traffic. As she was driving she saw the usual things she would see if was in the Philippines: Jeepnees clogging the road and the usual person selling water on the street. Finally, Angel passed the slums area and got into another part of Manila. Angel entered the parking lot and parked at the business parking area. She hopped out of her car and walked over to the elevator. “GRAND OPENING OF S.M MALL OF ASIA PHILIPPINES.” the banner over the elevator read.

Once she got into the crowded elevator, Angel wanted to get out. She hated small spaces.

The elevator stopped at ground floor. Angel forced through the crowd of people and ambled to her office area.

In her office, she turned on her computer and started working. Then, she got an email to interview someone. The moment she was about to stand up from her chair, fifty million more emails flew in. With this amount of work, the time spent doing the work could be six hours! This is going to be a long day, she thought in her head.

She went back to the garage. Chuck chuck chuck chuck BVROOM! The sound of the engine filled the car. Angel put the car in reverse and pressed the pedal slowly. The car slowly reversed. Then she put the car into drive. Angel went home.

She awakened with the alarm blaring in her ears. Her ebony eyes peeled open as she stood up to stretch her back. Life was getting stale. Angel put on her light blouse and went to her car. The car made the same sound that it made yesterday. Angel drove towards the mall and parked at the garage. She got into the elevator and on the first floor she got off. Angel went to her office and did her normal routine.

As she was working, she thought of something: This job is good and all, but I’m feeling stuck and I’m not getting enough salary. If this keeps on going, I won’t have enough money to support myself. Then everything is going to go into a downwards spiral.

      For minutes, Angel sat there, trying to do her work but the thought of not having enough money to support herself plagued her mind. Then, she mustered enough courage to go to the boss’s room to ask to quit.

Okay, if I don’t do this, my family won’t have enough money to survive. Okay, lets do this, for my parents. She got up and started dawdled towards the hallway where her boss’s room was. It was usually empty but occasionally, her boss went out to drink some coffee. As Angel opened the door, her stomach twisted into a knot. She took a seat on one of the chairs. A man with coal-black hair, with a bit of visible white hair, and dark skin looked up from his laptop and looked at her so hard, she thought that he was going to melt her with eye lasers. “Excuse me sir, but I feel the need to quit,” Angel said, hoping the boss won’t be angry.

“Quit? And why is that?” the boss inquired. Then she knew this wasn’t going to end well. But she gave him the honest answer.

“Because I’m not getting enough salary,” Angel replied.

He grumbled and started typing again. There was a thirty-second silence, and then he said it. “Fine, You are excused. Don’t forget to pack up your stuff.”

She walked out of the door relieved that the hard part was over.  Then she thought, Wait. What will I tell my parents? Will they be unhappy? Will they be angry?

      Several hours passed and Angel was driving to her parent’s house to give them the news. She parked outside and went in. She rang the doorbell. DING DONG!! Angel heard someone say, “I’ll get it!” and thumping noises. Then a young girl opened the door. The first thing Angel noticed is that she had jet-black, silky hair. No, it was darker. Her hair was so dark; it made obsidian look bright in the night sky. She whipped her hair back, as if it was a cape, as she walked back inside. All of a sudden an old lady came. That was her mom. She was about 67 years old.

Once they got into her moms house they started to talk but not about the fact that she quit her job. Not yet.

Afterwards, when everyone was sitting down she told her family the news. “Ummmm… Mom? I know this is might come as a shock to you, but I quit my job. Right now I’m still unemployed.” She uttered. Her whole body tensed when her mother said her first word.

“Oh, well that’s okay. Just a while back, one of our relatives in Beijing quit her job and ended up just fine!” Perfect! I’ll just go to Beijing. Then I can find a job there, She thought as she was leaving the house.

Nine days later, she was all packed up and ready to go. She was surprised how easy it was to get a VISA. She thought it was going to be hard. When Angel got to the Philippine airport, she got very excited. She thought she was, what people call, an adventurous type of person so this is the most fun she had since visiting her parents.
A couple hours passed and she was all ready for boarding. She gave the flight attendant her boarding pass and got on the airplane.  After three minutes, she was finally pushed back into her seat and the earth went lopsided. Here we go! I’m so exited! Her ears popped. Angel knew what was going on. The airplane was taking off.

The Weight of an Elephant by Shuan Hui T

“Rring! Rring!” the sound of my alarm clock rang. My eyes couldn’t open from the bright and vivid light, shining into my room. It was 6:00 in the morning. As I lazed back on my bed, I suddenly remembered that I have to go to work. I let out a heavy sigh. Why can’t it be a Sunday?

I dragged my feet to the bathroom and I put on my old, torn T-Shirt. I didn’t have anything better than that to wear. I walked into my daughters’ room. The two of them were still lying on bed sleeping soundly. I wondered when could I send them to school? I earn about 5,500 baht per year. How can I afford paying for their schools? I placed a gentle kiss on both their foreheads and went off to work.

As I went to the front of the doorstep, I called out to my wife in Thai, who was wearing Thailand’s traditional clothing, “Bye Mira, I am off to work!”

Mira replied in a soft voice, “See you, Maho,”

I slipped on my shoes that smelled of elephant dung. With a heavy heart thinking of leaving my family behind, I headed over to the elephant shed, which material was made of bamboo and rubber. Surrounded by towering trees, I opened the gate to reach the elephant. DoDo, my elephant, greeted me with a nudge with his trunk. He has done that every day since he came 6 months ago. I climbed onto the huge back of his, feeling the roughness of its skin rubbing against my thighs. The tough hide was caked with mud, especially near the bottom of his leg, like a cake covered with brunette coloured icing. My life depended on him.

Today was the 1st day of June. This month, the temperature was the warmest throughout the year. It was about 31 degrees Celsius. During this time of the year, sweat would roll down my back and all over my body. The sticky feel of sweat sometimes made me feel like I was a stuck in the mud. It was so uncomfortable. How I wish it were December now, where at night it would get a bit chilly and the hot and humid air would go away.

I started the 20-minute journey to the tourist camp. I swayed back and forth sitting on the elephant. Little drops of sweat dripped down to my eyes, blurring my sight and view. As I got to the camp, I hopped off DoDo’s back and greeted the other mahouts and the manager a good morning. The camp manager started aligning the elephants into a line. I think the camp conditions are awful. Yet, I dare not voice out my opinion to the manager, as I was afraid I would lose my job and wouldn’t find another. So I just kept quiet and bore with the pain. In order for other mahouts to earn enough money, they feed their elephants amphetamines, which is a type of drug to make the elephants work longer. At first I hesitated to feed DoDo the drug. However, later on, I started realizing that they earned more money than I did; I began giving DoDo amphetamines to make him work longer. When I fed DoDo the drug, I felt so guilty but I had no choice.

As the sun started lowering itself back to its home, I packed my bags and headed to the roads and streets along with DoDo. Every day after camp, I bring DoDo to the roads and streets to beg for food and money. The roads and streets were packed with people during peak hour. Now was the peak hour. During this time, I would stand on the sides of the roads. As the traffic lights turned red, I would bring DoDo in between cars. When lucky, in one hour, I would persuade five cars to wind down their windows, giving me about 15 to 30 baht. Yet today, not even a single car stopped to give me money. Even then, I still did not give up and hung on to hope.

When the sky got completely dark and the weather got slightly cold, I climbed onto DoDo and headed for home. When I got closer to my simple attap house, I whiffed the smell of Thailand’s traditional cuisine called Yam Wunsen Kung. Yam Wunsen Kung is a spicy Thai salad with noodles and prawn. Straight away, I knew Mira cooked that for dinner. Only once every six months, we would get that for a special meal. After I brought DoDo back to his shed, I skipped happily home. The scent of food changed my mood and my appetite.

As I opened the door to enter the house, my family welcomed me as they greeted me a hello. My two daughters rushed from the dining table to the front door. I gave both of them a big hug. Mira poked her head out of the kitchen and I waved my hands. I removed my shoes and put it on the bamboo shoe rack. As if I could fly, I glided over to the dining table. The small table was made out of wood. A small plate of Yam Wunsen Kung was set on the table. I waited for my family to sit down to eat together. Suddenly, I heard whining sounds from outside. At first, I didn’t know what was happening. I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. As the sound repeated a few more times, I wondered if it was coming from DoDo. I called out to my Mira who was in the kitchen “Mira, I am going to the elephant shed to check on DoDo,”

My daughters came over to me asking, “PaPa, is everything alright?”

I didn’t want them to worry so I simply just told them, “Yes, everything is fine,” I put on my shoes and went outside. I crossed my fingers hoping everything would be okay.

As I approached the shed, the sound came closer and closer. I closed my eyelids shut. I was hoping that everything was all right. Unfortunately, when I opened the gate, in front of me was DoDo in the corner of the shed. Straight away, I knew that something was not right. I quietly walked over to DoDo and patted his head. DoDo whined again. Something was really not right, and I knew DoDo was in pain. I thought to myself, maybe it might be the fact that I fed him amphetamines. I was now left with two choices: to stay in the camp where I feel miserable and where DoDo is suffering, or to leave the tourist camp, bringing DoDo with me to find a new livelihood. But deep down in my heart, I knew that my earnings and income was dependent on DoDo’s wellbeing. If my elephant was suffering and in pain, I would have to choose between DoDo’s health and earning money for my family. I thought about not giving DoDo amphetamines anymore, and that was my decision.