Inklings Book Finalist: Julia Vajgel

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Julia Vajgel! Julia finished 4th grade this past school year. She wrote a mystery story about a missing family treasure. Enjoy!


 

Family Thievery
by Julia Vajgel

SLAM!! The front door swung open and banged against the wall as fast as a cheetah could run. A muddy, angry-looking girl stepped into the doorway.

“What now…?!” The girl screeched into the hall with pictures hanging on the walls.

Her house had few stairs with carpet spread across them. In the front yard was a lovely little garden with tulips blooming, since it was spring, and a small wood fence. Her garden was much prettier than the neighbors’ garden. It was outlined with beautiful rosemary plants that were quite small and bushy. There was an old, rusty, wood fence that outlined the garden.

“Hey, Missy! How was school??” asked a tall, brown-haired older girl with blue jeggings and a white shirt with a cute design of an orange cat that was covered with sequins, paws to whiskers.

Then a pale-ish woman with a grey shirt and black jeans walked down the carpeted stairs and into the room where the girl was standing. She said, “Inside voices, kids.” Then she looked at the girl and asked, “How was school? Something’s up. The way you came inside… did you need to slam the door like that? You know you’re not supposed to do that!” She then looked at the other girl who had the brown hair.

“Dear, did you ask her?” Asked the pale woman.

“Yeah, Mom, yeah, I did, she didn’t answer.”

The pale woman who turned out to be the mom looked at the girl and then asked her, “How was school?”

The girl looked at her and shrugged. “OK, I guess.”

Then the brown haired girl tried to run upstairs.

“Oh, no you don’t!” The mom screamed. “Veronica, you’re her sister, I need your help.”

Turns out the elder girl with thick brown hair was named Veronica and she stepped down a step but didn’t go any further. “Ugh. I’m supposed to be on my phone with Chloe.”

“IT WAS JENNIBE, ALRIGHT?” The girl blurted out suddenly. “Yeah, It was Jennibe, OK?
The girl’s mom walked over to the green couch they had bought a few weeks ago. It looked nice in the living room.

“Hun, sit and tell me, please.”

“Fine, mom.”

She sat down and began, “I was jump roping when Jennibe came over with her puny pal, Taylor, and grabbed the hand I was jumping with. Little did I know that I was right in front of a puddle that was huge.” It didn’t rain a lot where they lived. “Then WHAM, they tripped me and I fell in the puddle.”

“Then why aren’t you wet?” The mom said. “And didn’t Jennibe stop pestering you a few months ago? Hun, is there any other thing I should know about?”

“No, mom. And…. the water dried up.”

“OK, go into your room and do your homework.”

“OK.” The girl said quickly and ran to the kitchen, swung open the back door and sat down on a wooden chair in the yard.

“Veronica! I need your help. You’re her older sister, I need you to figure out what’s up.” Said the mom to Veronica who was upstairs in her black, green, BLACK room.

“Not now, mom! Chloe’s looking for a pic she wants to post! She’s gonna post it in a sec, I can’t leave my room right now!” Veronica shouted from her desk.

A brand new iMac computer was open with tabs involving Youtube, Google Docs, Facebook, Instagram, and a tab that was open at the time called “Serge the Flying Kitty Pet Episode 4” that soon changed to a tab about history and chemistry as Veronica’s mom walked in.

“Veronica, you’re not chatting with friends, watching Youtube videos including Serge the cat guy. Aren’t you a little old for it? Nevermind that right now, you’re gonna help me figure out what is on her mind. Your sister is being suspicious and she won’t tell me. Ask her some questions, please. She’s in the backyard.”

“FINE.” Veronica slapped down her laptop and walked down the stairs with her fists clenched and an angry expression on her face.

“HEY, SIS, I NEED TO TALK TO YOU.” Veronica said stiffly. She marched into the back yard and the girl was sleeping on a little wooden chair.

“WAKE UP, SIS.” Veronica tried not to scream at her sister.

“Huh? Who. Who? What. Wait- who…” The girl was pretty confused when she woke up.

“Veronie?” Veronie was Veronica’s nickname along with many others.

“Yeah, it’s me, GET UP, I need to talk to you about STUFF when I should be on my PRECIOUS-NEW-FANCY-SHMANCY COMPUTER.” Veronica had hard times when she wasn’t in her room with hot chocolate on her desk along with her “precious-new-fancy-shmancy computer,” looking up Serge the Flying Kitty Pet’s videos on Youtube and the pictures of his cartoon-self or going on Google Docs, Instagram, Facebook, Kik and all those other chat-apps and websites with friends.

“Poor you.” The girl said sarcastically. “Now, what do you want?”

“To talk to you about why you were acting so… suspicious? Like at the time you came in. The talk of Jennibe. She stopped pestering you, like, three months ago. And water doesn’t dry like that. You would still be half-sopping wet if that ACTUALLY DID happen to you.”

“It DID happen.” The girl got up out of the chair and stamped her foot against the ground when she said “DID.”

“C’mon, sis, we know it didn’t happen, what’s buggin’ you?” Veronica was confident she would get a realistic answer that made sense.

“Alright, a car ran into me while you were walking me to school and then a bus hit your dumb head so you’re dead right now and I survived but it took a lot of surgery. You’re in the hospital still, the doctors still want to fix you up, even though you’re STILL dead and the doctors know that already but they’re too stupid to realize you’re dru-ee-eumm-ing…” The girl almost laughed out loud when she saw the dismay on Veronica’s face.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! That did not happen! Besides, you can’t dream if you’re dead… well, probably.” Veronica didn’t really get what her little sister had just said. She looked so confused that she decided to change the subject. “Hey, I heard you got a 23/25 on your decimals test. Remember your fractions test? Only kid in the math class that got 25/25 was you!”

The rest of the talk was mostly about how the girl was way too used to bragging and how her test grades were great, but everyone didn’t have to know that. Then they talked about P.E. and the story of how she fell on a bush which had an ant hill next to it which was owned by fire ants which… well, I’d rather not talk about the next part. They laughed and laughed as they told each other little stories of how they got bruised and scarred, but seemed to be the funniest stories when they weren’t actually happening.

 

Later that night, the girl was about to brush her teeth and go to bed when Veronica entered the bathroom making a noise like an elephant and waving her arm in front of her mouth which was supposed to be a trunk. The girl was confused then remembered when they talked about earlier. The story of how cousin Jose fell off an elephant during his tour in India.

“Oh, that story was hilarious, Veronie!” The girl screeched with laughter. Then the girl’s smile started to fade as she saw the look on Veronica’s face.

Then Veronica stood next to the girl and said, “We never finished our subject.” Then she glanced at the girl’s tooth brush and remembered she should get ready to sleep too. “So,” Veronica started saying as the girl started to blush, “What was with you being all odd this afternoon?”

“I already told you, a bus hit you and you’re–”

“What REALLY happened, sis. You can trust me.” Veronica knew something was definitely up. Lies, blushing, Jennibe? All just clues to the real thing happening.

“It was…” the girl washed her toothbrush, took a cup of water, poured it on her face and opened her mouth while the water ran down her nose to her lips. “Cold…exactly what I needed. The water feels so fresh. Try some.” The girl said as she thrusted the cup to Veronica and ran out the door.

She ran and ran and ran down the hall to her room. “OCCUPIED!” She yelled as she sprinted into her room and slammed the door (again).

 

“Did you find out ANYTHING?” The mom asked Veronica.

“No, mom,” Veronica replied. “You should go give her a hug-kiss goodnight. She’s probably waiting.”

“Yes. I will. You should be heading to bed too, Hun. Goodnight.”

The mom kissed Veronica on her forehead.

“YyYyYeEeEeESsSSsS!” Veronica whisper screamed as she walked up the stairs to her room.

 

A while later the mom was on her phone in the kitchen. She clicked Facetime and then clicked some more, then some more then a face appeared. A woman with pearl earrings and a yellow shirt. She had lines under her eyes. She yawned.

“Hi, it’s Alida. How are things, hun?” The mom said to the phone.

“Good.” Responded a voice from the phone. “The kids good?”

“They miss you more than ever, Marra!”

“Remember Da?” The voice from the phone said.

The mom stood frozen. She looked slightly sad. “Why-y bring up Da? Of course I remember Father, Sis. Marra, what’s on your mind?”

“The locket. May I see it? Please, Alida.”

“Of course, Marra, but why?”

“Senia decided to play baseball which ended up in a disaster when he practiced at home. It hit Da’s photograph and wrecked the frame up. It’s at a repair shop. The photo’s fine, just the frame. I’ve been lonely without it. Can I see the locket?”

“Poor you, let me go get the locket.”

A few seconds later, the mom arrived with a golden necklace with a few silver-copper beads on a gold chain. “Here.” She reached down to open something such as a tiny, imaginary door but nothing changed. Same necklace, same people, same everything. No usual click of the necklace as the locket opened – wait, “NOO! The locket! It-IT-It’s NOT THERE. WAS I ROBBED? Who-What-Where-How…WHY!!??”

“Alida, quiet down, I know how much this means to you–”

“NO YOU DON’T!”

Beeeeep.

Marra had seemed to hang up.

“This is bad, bad, bad, BAD!” Alida ran up to Veronica’s room and pulled open the door. “The locket…. VERONICA, WHY AREN’T YOU SLEEPING?!”

Veronica was at her desk with her computer on Youtube watching Serge the Flying Kitty Pet. She also had several other tabs with Instagram and other chats. Her Walkman was on her and she was listening to disco music which could be heard very faintly if you weren’t the one wearing headphones.

“Huh, MOM… um, I… was… listening – no, putting sleepy music on my walkman to… help me get to sleep.”

“No you weren’t, I see those tabs, and I hear that disco music… Now, for really BAD news. THE LOCKET FROM DA IS MISSING. YOUR AUNT MARRA ASKED ME WHERE IT WAS AND I REALIZED IT WASN’T ON THE CHAIN.”

“Where was it, Mom? The last place you had it! Think! Grandpa gave you that necklace, we have to find it.”

“I don’t know.” The mom looked like she was about to cry.

“It’s ok, Mom,” Veronica walked over to her mom (she forgot to take her headphones off so it got un-plugged and the whole house could hear the disco music, but the mom paused it and closed the tab, which made Serge the Flying Kitty Pet Episode 6 pop up which the mom paused as well) and hugged her.

“Thanks, Sweetie, now why don’t you REALLY go to sleep.”

“OK, Mom.”

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The next day Veronica was thinking about what to do to help find the locket. The locket was an ordinary, silver locket and when you flipped it open a picture of the Rossine family was there. The Rossine family was Alida’s family. Alida’s great grandfather, Marra, Alida, Alida and Marra’s da and mom and their great-grandmother along with many others. Friends were on one side of the locket and family was on the other. Her friends felt like family to her. To Alida it felt like losing a family if she lost her precious locket.

“WAKE UP FOR SCHOOL, KIDS.” She said stiffly as she took off the covers of the girl’s bed.

“Ehhh…. hehhmm… nooooo, hmmm.” The girl whined.

“WAKE UP NOW, I CAN’T HANDLE THIS.”

The girl sat up in confusion. She was very surprised that her mom talked in a deep, angry tone like that unlike her soft, soothing tone she used every single day. That was all the girl remembered.

“Mommy, are you ok?”

“I’M FINE.” The mom responded firmly. “It’s just…” a tear appeared in the corner of her eye but she quickly wiped it off along with her sad expression and began to be pretty angry again.

“I HAVE MIXED EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW.” The mom paused. “Get dressed.” Then she left the room.

The girl got dressed then put up her hair and picked up a white headband which she put on her head. Then she went down the stairs and into the kitchen for breakfast. It was 6:25 A.M. and school started at 9:00. She had plenty of time. But there was one odd thing. She was usually awakened by her mom at 7:30 which lasted until 7:50 if she didn’t have much sleep. But the girl was being woken up at 6:25. How strange.
Was it something special? Something involving a good spanking? Or was it something that could be fixed by a talk and hug? Was it even bad? Was it good? What happened? Veronica’s up early too? Why? What did she do? What did I do? Does it have to do with daddy? The girl had many questions of why she and Veronica were up so early. She couldn’t take it any more.

“Mom, why are we up early?! Is it special!? Or bad?! Or goodie-goodie?! Did I do something!? Will I get spanked or hugged?! Why is Veronie here?!” She blurted out which made everyone look at her. The girl started to turn red. “Oh…”

“Oh, what? Do you know why you’re here? Was it YOU?” Veronica sneered.

“Mum, wa-hi-y am I up thsoo eely?” The girl said as she stuck a big piece of toast in her mouth.

“Small bits of the toast, don’t wanna choke.” The mom said. “I have to talk to you.” She looked at the girl. “Do you know… about the locket… that my da gave me. Your grandpapa?”

“Grandpapa? Yes, I know about the, the, um, the locket.”
Strange… Though the mother.

“Uh, what about it?” The girl asked nervously.

“It’s missing. Do you know where it is?”

All of a sudden the girl went cold. She seemed to have froze. “Aye… No. No, I don’t know where it is.” The girl said in an uncomfortable tone.

“Do you know who could have–”

“I have… homework, buh-bye!”

The girl ran up the stairs as Veronica shouted, “It’s six A.M.! You don’t have homework!”

“Whatever!” The girl shouted back.

Then as the slam of a door (the girl’s door to her room precisely), Veronica looked at her mom and said, “It’s obvious she’s lying.”

The mom sighed and walked to the living room. “Finish up your breakfast and grab your bag.”
“School starts in an 2 hours!”

“Do it. We’re going early.”

 

Later in the day Veronica arrived at school. Chloe, Lucy, Mackenzie, And Kenny were talking to each other in the front of Veronica’s classroom.

“Oh, Veronica! I love how you helped Kioria!”

“She’s so cute!”

“And she auditioned and I helped her sing for the Up For Town play!”

“Isn’t it fab? New girls rock! Hashtag: WorthANewPairOfHighheels!”

The girls blurted at her. Then they did the high-pitch-girl…n“SCREEEE!!”

“Hey Veronie! Hang over here! I gotta tell–”

“Oooohhh! It’s the NEW GIRL!”

“I have to go meet her!”

“OMG, her shoes are adorbs! She’s probably worth ten-million glittery-fab-sparkly-diamond-and-opal-cutsie-patootsie UNICORNS!” Chloe screeched.

“Well, her high heels are probably worth that much, which means-”

“Be right back, best friend!” Chloe scampered off to the new girl was talking to Lucy, Mackenzie and Kenny because they had already ran over to her.

“WHICH MEANS SHE HERSELF IS WORTH NOTHING.” Veronica said angrily. “New girls always take your friends. It happened to Liv. Hey, where is Liv? LIV?!”

“Here!” Came a voice from the sparkly hall. There was such a crowd that Veronica could barely see who said that. Finally the crowd moved along slightly and she was able to squeeze through the remaining people to see a Red-haired girl in a plain ol’ white T-shirt with brown jeans that looked exactly like Veronica’s jeans.

“Matchies!”

“Yep, I got your type of jeans! They looked so cute and comfortable I just had to buy a pair.” The red-haired girl said. Her name was Liv, Veronica’s BFF.

“You look legendary,” Veronica said as the hall cleared and every pale red locker became visible.

“Hey, people are starting to head to class. We should move along too. The ol’ bear ain’t got enough hair.” Liv’s favorite saying was “the ol’ bear ain’t got enough hair” which simply meant they couldn’t stay in that place forever. If a bear stood in one place forever, life would be hard. Veronica had heard her friend say this many times. She knew what this verse meant. They walked off to room 72 and went inside.

 

Later in the day at dismissal, Liv, Chloe and Mackenzie were talking with Veronica.

“So about Kioria…” Mackenzie started.

“Kioria is fab!” Chloe said for the one-hundreth time, “You must meet her!”

“I don’t know guys, I feel like… nevermind.” Veronica was worried her friends like Kioria better than her.

“Any problem, Veronie?” Liv asked.

“Liv, many problems, many.”

“Like what?” Mackenzie asked.

“The locket I’ve been talking about has gone missing.” Veronica responded sadly.

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow, I gotta walk home. Chloe, c’mon. Our playdate?” Mackenzie said.

“I know, I know, gimme a sec!” Chloe shouted at Mackenzie.

“If your sis or friend took it, just search their room or something, that’s what I do when my bro steals my iPad to record a video and post it while his is charging. Now I gotta go with Mackenzie. Hope you find it, see ya!” And then Chloe ran up to Mackenzie who started walking a while ago.

“Hey, Liv, don’t we have a playdate today?”

“Oh, yeah! I forgot! Let’s go!”

 

During dinner, later that day, Veronica asked if she could be excused. She had barely eaten anything so she came up with the excuse “I had a huge lunch” which was not true.

She ran upstairs and scampered as quiet as possible with Liv up to her sister’s room (Before that she stopped in her room and grabbed a detective magnifying glass and hat. Then she put on a cool lab coat that she got at an intervention. Yes, an intervention, long story).

“Cool coat, Veronica,” Liv commented.

“Thanks, now let’s snoop around my sister’s room. We have to find that locket.”

“You’re using Chloe’s idea?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?”

“OK.”

They crept into her room and looked in drawers and shelves and books and on her desk. Even under her bed which was was voted “Top Stinkiest Under-The-Bed Award since the 1st year of life!” named by Veronica.

“I can never un-smell that.” Veronica winced.

“OK, Veronica, never mind that keep searching.” Liv responded.

“I found a bracelet, a shovel, candy, possibly a dead rat….” Veronica was really freaking out about that smell.

“Hey, Veronie, I found a toy shovel. Why would she have a real and toy shovel?”

“The only place there are real shovels is the garage and she’s not allowd in the garage! That sneaky little–”

“OK, let’s just figure out why she has it, Veronica!”

“Liv, there’s dirt on the shovel. And next to it is a… red and green rat?”

Liv rolled her eyes and looked under the bed where Veronica was looking. She took Veronica’s magnifying glass and pointed it at the “red and green rat.”

“No, silly. It’s a tulip. A pretty nice red one. Does your family have tulips in their garden?”

“YES! We have many in the back yard!”

They sprinted down the stairs and swung open the back door. SLAM!! They looked for the tulips.

“They’re right next to us!” Liv yelled in glee.

And sure enough there were trails of red tulips along the edges of the pathway. Oddly, there was a clump of dirt where a bright red tulip was supposed to be.

“There!” Veronica screamed, pointing to the clump.

“I brought the toy shovel by accident.” Liv said then laughed and Veronica joined in.

“The real shovel would’ve been useful, but this is good enough!” Veronica grabbed the shovel out of Liv’s hand.

“Hey, Veronie! Why?!”

“He, ha, he, revenge.”

Then they both laughed again. They eventually stopped fooling around and dug up the clump of dirt.

“This won’t take long, how far can a 3rd grader dig?” Veronica laughed again.

“How far can a 6th grader dig? Hashtag: NoneForLife.” Liv laughed when she saw the look on Veronica’s face.”

“Um, I’m a 6th grader? L-O-L. 7th graders are too old to dig! They break their backs.”

“Oh, c’mon, Veronie.” They both laughed and laughed as they dug and dug deeper into the ground.

“I feel something!” Veronica said as she banged the toy shovel against something that made a clump-clump sound.

She did it again. “Music!”

Clumpity, clumpity, clump, clumpity, clumpay, clumpoo, clumpaa, clumpity , cluuuump, clump, clump, clump, cluuu-oooh-umppp! Liv danced the chicken dance and the sprinkler and tried to do the moon walk and but tripped on a large stick.

“I’m OK!” She said as she got up with her hand on her hurting back.

“Do the disco.” Veronica said.

Liv got up and did the regular disco moves but they failed pretty bad. They both laughed and laughed.

Finally Veronica pulled out the wood object from the ground.

“It’s a box,” Liv said after a while. “What’s in it? Hmmm…”

Veronica sniffed it and put her fingers on her nose so she couldn’t smell it. “Ewwwwwww….!!” It smelled like and old decaying shack with worms sliding all over. Turns out there were a few worms on it which Veronica and Liv plucked off and put back in the hole.

Veronica shook the box. Clatter, clatter, clump.

Liv stood up getting ready to dance, but Veronica signaled her to get down. She didn’t feel like dancing right now. This could be anything. It could be the locket which they hoped it was. It could be an ancient object buried under the ground for several years. It could be anything.

“Let’s open it,” Veronica suddenly said.

As she said that the mom and girl walked over to the hole.The girl looked very nervous, but she walked to it anyways.

She flicked a little lever on a metal hinge and the box flipped open. All of them peered into the box to see a round glistening beauty. Veronica and Liv stood in pride as a silver beam seemed to reflect against the sun, coming from the box. Copper streams of light swirled into it and gold details took the center. The words, made from copper, “Hope” were on top of the center in beautiful cursive script. It flung open as Veronica grabbed it and you could see a young, beautiful family. Gold details swirled inside.

“The locket.”

Inklings Book Finalist: Lila Tierney

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Lila Tierney! Lila finished 2nd grade this past school year. She wrote a poem describing just what she would do if she wrote the fairy tales we all know. Maybe next year she’ll write one for us!


 

Why?
by Lila Tierney

 

Why do they put princesses
in every story book?
Why are they considered
just by how they look?
Why do they expect girls
to just sit there,
wasting time for HOURS,
only to end up
being picked like flowers?

 

If I was the writer
of the stories from afar,
I would make each girl
like a superstar!
She wouldn’t wear dresses
and high heels and rings.
There wouldn’t be “Prince Charmy”
to mess up things.

 

She wouldn’t get married.
She’d live on her own.
She wouldn’t be perfect.
She’d break a bone!

 

The girls would live together
Supporting each other.
They’d have no fathers,
only a mother.
And this, my child,
is what I would do
to these ancient stories
passed down to you.

 

The End

Inklings Book Finalist: Thi Nguyen

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Thi Nguyen! Thi finished 5th grade this past school year. She wrote a story about a teenage girl learning to appreciate her family. Enjoy!

 

Gratitude
by Thi Nguyen

 

Chapter 1

“Krissy! Krissy! Wake up! Wake up! Happy Saturday!” he screamed.

I turned over and groaned. Five-year-old wild, irritating, and crazy Teddy Sanders and his curly chocolaty poodle-like hair were all over the room, rushing here and there. Having Teddy in my room meant trouble for me.

For some random reason, I always get in fits with Teddy, I thought. I pulled my favorite purple polka-dotted blanket over my head.

“It’s too early Tedd,” I murmured, “Go back to…” I fell deep into a deep dreamy world where nothing would get to me. Florence, Abigail, and Jesse, my friends, were all there smiling with Crazy Crape’s sweet smelling drinks, waiting for me to join them…join them…

“Krissy, Krissy, it’s morning you and you promised to…er…take me to the fair!”

“Go away. You’re not allowed in my room without permission,” I yawned sleepily. I flung my pillow at my now scampering poodle headed brother. Throwing the pillow revealed the time which threw me out of my bed immediately. I jumped at the window, tore apart the curtains, and stared. The brilliant Saturday sunlight blinded me as robins sang their morning songs. I shot a glare at my brother. I tackled him, pinning him down, brought my face as close as it would ever go and hissed.

“Why didn’t you wake me earlier? You knew I had a party! I’m almost late!”

“I did. I woke you as early as I woke,” His scared, cracking voice and innocent green eyes starting to well up stopped me. I knew Mom wouldn’t approve.

I pulled him into my arms and howled as loud as the thunder, “This little piggy goes to breakfast downstairs with the big bad wolf!” I imagined Mom’s nod of approval as I carried Teddy into the kitchen and sighed of relief. If Mom knew what I was doing to her son, she would rage.

I dropped the act as soon as I passed Mom’s room. “Teddy, no matter what, you will not ruin my Saturday at Jesse’s,” I said through clenched teeth. “No ifs or buts. You will stay with Mom, Dad, and Miss Latera from upstairs.”

“Krissy?”

“Don’t call me Krissy. Only my friends call me that.”

“Kristina? I still have my butt.”

 

Chapter 2

Mom came while we ate breakfast. “Hey kiddos,” she croaked, “what’s for breakfast?”

Teddy was slurping his Honey Cheerios and milk. “I LOVE CEREAL AND THE FAIR!” He gurgled. The poodle threw his hands in the air flinging honey covered donut shaped wheat o’s all over the place. “Mommy, Mommy are you taking me to the fair?”

“I’m sorry honey, but I’m busy today. I have a meeting at the office, and I can’t take the day off. I’m so sorry.” She coughed. “Daddy’s busy too. He has some important work to do. Poor Teddy, no one to take him to the fair. Oh! Maybe Miss Latera would take you,” Mom rambled. “I’ll call her now.”

Mom got on the phone, and all we could hear was, “Hi, I was wondering if you would take Teddy to the Saint Florent County Fair today…Oh, I’m sorry for your loss…No, it’s okay, I’ll get Kristina to take him…Yes, yes, Kristina is a wonderful teenager…Yes, I’m sure she won’t mind…Okay. Buh-bye.”
It took me a while to comprehend, but before mom got off the phone, I dashed to the bathroom and slammed the door. I breathed deeply with both great concern and relief.

It’s okay Kristina. Calm yourself girl. You’ll still find a way to go, I thought.

I knew that if mom saw my face, I would have to take Teddy to the fair. The only way to go to Jesse’s was to sneak out. Gee. Sneaking out is kind of a harsh way to deal with my parents. Shouldn’t I just ask them? No, mom will make me take Teddy to that kid’s fair. I shivered.

I knew that there were 3 doors to the outside world from prison. One from the living room, and one from the garage. Both doors had bells that dinged when the doors opened. If I wanted to go outside being unseen and unheard, I would have to go through a window. They only windows in the house were in the kitchen, the dining room, the bathrooms, and my parents’ room.  I couldn’t go through the kitchen or the dining room. Mom and Teddy were occupying that area. The bathroom windows were too high to reach, so I would have to go through my parents’ bedroom.

Even though dad is sleeping there, it’s the only way. Without completely thinking it through, I crouched in the room where dad resided and stared. You can do this girl. I know you can! If you want to get there, move it! You know that Jesse, Abigail, and Florence are the coolest friends you can ever get! Be there to let them know that you care about being cool and about your friends. No. Mom will find out I’m gone. Jesse, Abigail, Florence! Just do it!  I argued with myself in my head some more, but then, I went on. But then, I stopped. Why should I do this? I’ll get grounded. But, if I don’t go, I won’t be their friends anymore. Go for it girl!

Dad snored soundly as if he was reliving the time he met mom. As I slunk past him, he rolled on the floor right on my foot. With a yelp of panic and pain, I slowly shifted my weight on my free foot and wiggled my other foot out. Opening the window I crawled on the grass and out the gate. Before I could to close the window, Teddy came in. I felt like a gazelle with a cheetah hot on my tail. Without thinking I left the window open as and escaped out to liberation.

Running off into the distance, I heard Teddy’s voice, “Hey mom! Dad’s on the floor!” As much as I tried not to, I snickered feeling elated and free all at the same time, being able to carry out such a feat.

 

Chapter 3

Running along, I thought that I was responsible for taking care of Teddy. Being fourteen, I wasn’t supposed to act all silly. I was supposed to be mature.

“Sorry I’m late!” I breathed to Abigail and Florence when I got to Jesse’s house, “I had trouble leaving the house.”

It was 11:11 a.m. and I was 11 minutes late for the party.  After panting, I took a glance around and soaked in my surroundings. As I stared in shock, I thought that I was literally standing on Mars. Everything around me was red. Red carpet, red walls, red…oh wait. There was blue chairs, blue tables, and blue ceilings. And that’s when it hit me. Have I been hanging with a gang this whole time? I shouldn’t be here. This-this is dangerous! I need to go home. What about Jesse’s birthday? He didn’t come to mine! What about Teddy? Poor Teddy. No one to take him to the fair. Wait! Poor me! I’m in danger! I thought.

Out of the blue, Florence snorted, “You’re always late because you have a little brother.”

Abigail let out a loud whoop of laughter. I remember just yesterday, she was a shy quiet girl, though we were always were giggling around boys, especially Florence and Jesse. Now she was different. She even cut her hair short and dyed it red. I thought the best thing to do was to run.

Florence snickered. I never really liked Florence. He had a nasty tongue, but he knew what was happening around town, so I asked him, “Where’s Jesse?” As if he was on cue, he came.

“Whattup, whattup?” Jesse questioned casually.

“Surprise!” I shouted to him, but then as soon as I exclaimed it, I wish I could pull it back. None of the others chimed in, and I sounded like a fool of a baby. I received several glares from my “friends.”

I’m so impulsive, I thought, saying things and then looking around and thinking. Jesse too was wearing those two colors, red and blue. I started backing towards the door.

“I was busy picking up the phone.” Jesse began, “It was for you, Kris. Your mom wanted you to come home.” As soon, as he said my name, I felt a wave of admiration. He smoothly swished his head my direction and grinned. Then, I remembered where I was.

“Your mom?” Abigail giggled. “By now, I can do whatever I want!”

“Excuse me! As my mom always says, ‘Family is most important,’” I retorted.

“Yo momma’s wrong, miss goody-two-shoes,” squawked Florence.

And that was what infuriated me. These people were my friends for so long. Now, they make fun of my family?

“We’re here to celebrate, not fight.” I shrieked. “And FINE! I’ll go home. I’d rather take my brother to the county fair. I can find better friends than you lot.” I stomped out, not caring about Jesse’s surprised face, blinking away tears, feeling alone and surprised.

I knew our relationship was breaking down, but I never thought that they would suddenly turn on me. Though they have been unfriendly before, I thought, they’ve never been rude. Marching home, neighbors would think that I was angry. But inside, I felt a wave of sadness. Who would be my friends now?

 

Chapter 4

Getting home, I was summoned to the kitchen table by the queen of the house. (Not me.)

“Kris, dear, we know where you went, who you were with, and how you left. What you did wasn’t good.” Mom scolded. “Family is more important than friends.” She lectured.

I sat there gloomy and sulking.

“Honey, if you want to go somewhere you have to tell me. We all knew you wanted to go to that party.”

I stared down at my striped kitten socks feeling a warm rush of anger flowing through my body.

“We were worried.” The angry flow ceased and instead, I felt gratitude. Gratitude for such a great family, gratitude for an understanding mom.

“Okay, so what happened?” she prompted.

My eyes started filling up, and one solitary salt wet drop fell on the table.

“When you’re ready, I want you to tell me.”

 

For the next 6 hours, I wasn’t ready. I paced back through my brightly painted purple room preparing what to say, what to say. By dinner, I had a whole speech all planned out. But when I reached the table, my throat grew a dry lump. Everything I thought of those past six hours blew out of my mind, and instead of traveling into my mouth, it flew away.

“So m-mom, about what h-happened today, my f-friends were m-mean to me and our f-family. I decided to not be their f-friends anymore,” I stuttered. Feeling more confident, I announced our family quote. “‘Family is the most important.’”

Mom came over and hugged me and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”

 

Chapter 5

Late at night when everyone was asleep, I kept tossing and turning. The sound of rain clogged my head. Finally, I gave up and decided to go clear my mind. In the kitchen mom was sitting, silently sobbing while looking at something.

I tiptoed right behind, and just as I was about to lunge on her fuzzy pink robe, she chirped, “Kristina, come and look at this.”

I stared down at the picture in her hand. On the table was a picture album with an empty space. In that last space, mom slipped the photo in the clear pocket. It was a picture of my last birthday party just two months ago. Sadness welled up inside me as I remembered.

 

I waited several hours at the window, sighing. Each time mom echoed, “Honey, it’s late, they’re not coming,” I sighed pretending I didn’t hear her and pretending I still had hope.

My 14th birthday party was at to be at 12:00, but as I glanced down at my watch, I freaked. It was 5:37 and almost dinner? I rushed into my room and gave up hope. Squeezing my eyes closed, I tried blinking away the tears.

“It’s okay Krissy.”

I looked up. With Teddy watching me, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. None of my friends had come. Not one of them. Not even Abigail. Back when we were younger, we had such a powerful connection with each other. They promised everything for me. Now they were different. I just wanted Abigail who was my friend since second grade. She seemed so grown now, and she’d rather have cool friends than I, who was silly. I still had to forgive them on the outside. They were the coolest friends ever. Being with them meant being popular and cool. Still, deep in my heart, I couldn’t forget this.

 

Looking at mom’s beautiful face, I vowed to do better and never to let the pressure of others bring me down.

Concluding the night and silent conversation, mom mouthed, “I’ll always be there for you.”

 

Chapter 6

I woke up to the urgent sound of high-pitched screaming. Teddy must have being trying to be exasperating. No! I had changed my personality. Teddy probably spilled milk all over himself or something, but whatever it was, I dragged my floppy self downstairs, and I almost fainted when I saw it.

“What happened?” I shouted, “Was there a robber?”

“No! Mom was making breakfast saying she felt tired and dizzy, and the lights flickered off, and, when they came back on, mom was on the ground! She fell splat on the table!” He bawled frantically with tears in his shiny bright eyes. For Teddy’s sake, I tried to stay calm, but truly not only was the storm thrashing outside, but so was my mind. I was really frantic!

Remembering my safety classes and videos, I soothed myself, took a deep breath, and lectured, “Teddy please listen to me. Today I am not going to make you do anything, but my one request is for you to listen to me. It’s for the best. Mom fainted and we have to…” The flickering lights and storm outside interrupted my thoughts. “We have to call 911. Where’s Dad?” I questioned.

“Dad went to the store.”

“I hope he’s safe in this storm. Okay, Tedd, check to see if Mom’s breathing. Put a blanket over her. Get the battery-powered lantern. I’ll call 911 and Dad.”

While making phone calls in lantern light, I caught a glimpse of my purple blanket over Mom. That’s my blanket! My head went wild but I remembered my vow. I will do what I can for Teddy and I will not let others take away my love and time for my family.

Dad came straight home and drove us to the hospital right behind the loud and irritating ambulance as best he could in the rain. Sitting outside the weird smelling hospital room, I slipped my hand in Teddy’s and squeezed it. He looked up to me with scared and admiring eyes when I looked down to him as a pesky fly. Remembering how it felt looking up to Jesse, and losing my role model, I stayed and comforted Teddy.

“It’s okay, Teddy. Mom might be in a coma so she might be there for a while longer. Just pretend we are waiting in line for the bumper cars in Roller Land.”

“Miss Kristina Sanders and Mr. Teddy Sanders, your ride is here,” announced Dad.

“Daddy!”

 

Chapter 7

At bedtime, I couldn’t stop thinking how just the night before, Mom said that she would always be there for me. Will she be here for me now and later? I hope so. Just as I was about to drift off into my beautiful colorful dream world where I secretly showed my love for unicorns, I heard a whimper. Teddy came in holding his “blankey” and a book.

“Krissy, uh, Kristina? Can you read me this book and turn on some music?”

“Yes, and you can call me Krissy. You are now allowed in here.”

We spun, arms and all, twisting. We let our bodies loose and swung them to match the sound the rock music. We stayed in sync while we danced. We made silly faces at each other, and Teddy even gave me an evil eye. Reading all the stories in our house kept us up laughing. And that was how the night ended. Two siblings laughing, enjoying life, and appreciating each other.

 

On Monday, after we left for school, Mom came home. She limped into her office. When she came in, the computer turned on. She checked the cameras she had secretly placed in the house to make sure the children didn’t murder each other. When she saw what had happened, she stopped her sadness and felt grateful for her two beautiful children. She smiled a completely thankful smile knowing I would know what to do and who to trust with the strength of the family.

Inklings Book Finalist: Tej Bade

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Tej Bade! Tej finished 6th grade this past school year. He wrote a fantasy story about a young boy overcoming fears in strange circumstances. Enjoy!

 


Bravery Ruins
by Tej Bade

 

I, Alastair James was steps away from my new job at the Roseville County Library. My parents were eager for me to finally get a job, even if it was only volunteer work at a crummy library. I, on the other hand, was not so thrilled. I didn’t want to work in a dusty, old building. Looks like my life had taken a wrong turn. Even working as a janitor would be nice. At least I would get to do something, no matter how gross it would be. Instead, all that I would be doing was replacing books and organizing messy shelves.

 

My parents parked the car and joined me on my journey to the end of my life. “Alastair, are you happy to finally get a job?” my mom asked excitedly.

“Sure,” I said sarcastically.

“It is not that bad you know. You will get out of the house and meet new people.”

“It will also teach you responsibility and discipline,” my dad said.

“Dad, I was made for more than a librarian! This is a disappointment!” I sighed. With
that, I dragged myself up the steps to the Roseville County Library where I would l be spending my entire summer.

 

I stepped inside. What an old place it was. Never had I seen a such an unusual place in all of Texas. There were rows and rows of what seemed like thousands of old books. There were several grubby countertops and desks. Shelves filled with cobwebs and dirt lined the black walls and there was no one in sight.

 

“Hey, there’s my new employee!” a tall, plump man said joyfully.

I turned around. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I am the owner of this library. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mr. Michaels!” he said excitedly.

My dad went up to shake his hand. After a second, I shook his hand too, followed by my mom.

“I have been waiting to meet you. I am sure you will find that this place grows on you,” he winked.

Don’t be so sure, I thought to myself.

My dad and mom gave me a hug.

“Have fun honey” my mom said.

“Give us a call or a visit anytime. We will miss you very much,” my dad had said.

 

After my parents left, Mr. Michaels showed me everything I needed to know. He walked me through the bookshelves, showed me how to stamp the library book when checking it out, showed me how to use the computers, and showed me how the books were organized by the dewey decimal system. I listened halfheartedly though.

 

“Now if there is anything you need to know from me, just tell me. I will in the back office,” he concluded.

 

I shook his hand once again, and then he started to leave the library. I sighed once more and started to think about all the things I’d rather be doing. Sleeping was a good option. I laid in the huge chair at the front desk, waiting for someone to come to me for help. Wind blew in and out through the floor­-to­ceiling windows that flanked the front door like a Louisiana shotgun house but no one came.

 

After fifteen minutes of resting in the chair, a sudden crash sounded. I looked around, frightened. What was that? I thought to myself.

 

A tall, massive person stomped in. At that moment I wished I could disappear. The person was Brad Finklehorn, the meanest and rudest guy I had ever met. Brad loathed me and bullied for my shyness. Although I was content being by myself, some people just couldn’t accept it, I guessed. I couldn’t let him see me as a librarian now. I would forever be a laughing stock.

 

I ducked down in my desk in panic. Brad started to get closer and closer. As soon as he crossed the desk, I popped out and started sprinting through the rows of bookshelves. Suddenly, I tripped over an open book lying in the middle of the hallway. I fell to the floor with a loud thud. I heard Brad’s fat feet stomping his way through the bookshelf. Panicking, I struggled to drag myself into the corner, but the only problem was my face wasn’t hidden! In desperation, I grabbed the book that I tripped over, and I pulled it to my face to block myself. As I heard Brad’s footsteps come closer, I shrunk farther and farther into the corner and shoved my face into the words of the book. His steps got louder and louder. I closed my eyes and the words began to disappear. Suddenly, Brad’s footsteps were gone. I opened my eyes. But I was no longer in the Roseville County Library.

 

As I opened my eyes, I examined the terrain around me. Swamps, marshes, and several plants surrounded me. I stood up straight. I was in some sort of jungle. I was so confused. I looked around once more and rubbed my eyes several times to make sure. Several marshes were still surrounding me. From the sunlight, I guessed it was the afternoon. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I was alone. Suddenly, I heard a foot stomp on the plants.

 

“Hey Jake, can we keep going? I didn’t come all the way to the middle of nowhere just so you can lie in the plants!” a man exclaimed.

“What? Sorry, I think you have mistaken me. I am Alastair James. Why did you carry me out to the middle of the marshlands?!” I asked. “Who are you anyway?” I said.

“What is wrong with you!” he squealed, “Have you been knocked on the head by a Peruvian Gopher? I am Earl Mackenburg, your trusted trail guide. I didn’t take you out here.”

I was still confused. “I don’t recall,” I said.

He looked at me as if I were crazy. “Don’t you remember me?! You are an archaeologist requesting me to guide you to the entrance of the lost ruins of the Muau Ruins. Just follow me into the wilderness!” he said annoyed.

 

In total, I must have followed him for at least 3 miles into the marshlands, and must have tripped 20 times. Twice I had to stop recover my breath from all the winding slopes. The hills seemed like they went on forever! I finally reached the lost cave of the ruins of the Muau as Earl had told me. I was steps away from uncovering the secret of the Muau Ruins which lay in my hands. From what Earl had told me, the Muau Ruins held some ancient writings and other sneaky traps that laid in the walls of the temple. In the heart of the temple, and most important of all, was the golden gem of Pandæmonium.

 

While the gem of Pandæmonium was as beautiful as Earl described, I could not bear risking my life to go into such a temple as that. I wondered how Earl knew about the idol. I asked him, and he said his father died looking for it. The temple was not that big, covering only one floor. Moss grew on the sides of the temple and the rustiness lent an air of mystery to the temple.

 

Earl said, “It was our choice to go through this dangerous temple. Let me tell you one fact. Everybody who has gone in has never come back. It was your crazy idea to volunteer to get the gem, so good luck.” With that, he shook my hand and started to walk up a hill.

 

I stood still, stunned. I knew from what Earl had told me that people were counting on me to retrieve the cursed gem. Why did I have to do this? I started to wonder. I gathered the little courage that I had and entered the temple.

 

It was dark and dry. No traps to be seen at all. But I had spoken too soon. I stepped on a pile of leaves which actually was a trap, and it sent me falling through the leaves into a pit. I hooked my hand onto the cliff. I started to regain my confidence as I pulled myself to the side of the cliff, but as I stood up straight, the slab of rock I was standing on eroded, and I landed on an even lower cliff. I couldn’t just keep doing this! I started to get mad, angry, and exhausted. I pulled myself up and started to run. I didn’t even think how stupid I was. I just kept running while slabs of cliff eroded and spears shot at me from inside of the walls!

 

I entered a room that was even more rugged than the last. I saw Peruvian writings on the walls in many places and in another, I saw claw marks which made me shudder with fear. Suddenly, I stepped on a trigger that closed the room behind me. As I looked around the room, I found the rarity of Pandæmonium. There it was: the golden gem of Pandæmonium which was more shimmering then I thought it would be. It was glittering in the only sunlight that barely shone through a crack in the ceiling. I ran to it, not thinking of what traps lay before me. I raced to it and picked it up. I started to examine its fine texture when I heard a noise. I looked back, and the pedestal was gone. The walls started to close on me. I didn’t know where to go or what to do! I was doomed. I tried to find a way to escape, but it was no use.

 

I examined my escape route. Outlined in the center of the door, was a figure in the shape of a head that was hollowed out. Was it some type of puzzle? Was it a key? There certainly was no key I could find. I started to look at things shaped like heads. My head was the only one. I shoved my face in there, and it obviously didn’t work. That is when I realized that the gem was also a head, a very shrunken, glittery, and deformed head.

 

I stuck it on the wall. The wall started to move and the door opened. The walls were closing in on me. I dashed toward the door and landed on another underground cliff. As I took my first step, I looked down, but there was nothing beneath! The bridge was broken and I couldn’t go across. The wall was going to push me down! There was nothing I could do now. I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith. I felt myself falling and falling into the bottomless pit. I screamed. Suddenly, I landed on a hard surface with a large thump. I couldn’t believe it. I was alive. I opened my eyes but I wasn’t at the Muau Ruins anymore.

 

What I saw was a book that sat open on the floor. I got up from the corner and soon remembered that I was hiding from Brad. That was such a weird dream. It seemed so real. How was it a dream? I thought to myself. I stood and saw Brad. He had a sly grin and came over to me. I turned white with fear.

 

“So, trying to foolishly run away from me. You were really cute drooling all over that book,” he said.

I started to gather my anger. “Brad, I don’t care what you think of me. I will never be afraid of someone so dumb as you,” I said.

Brad chuckled. “You’re a weakling. You think that you can even survive from what I am going to do to you,” he said proudly.

“Go ahead. There is nothing to survive from.”

 

Brad got angry. For a second, I thought I was going to get punched in the gut. I was fortunately wrong. He took one last look at me and and stormed out of the building. He knocked into two familiar people on the way out. My parents didn’t see me before I could see them.

 

“Dad! Mom!” I screamed and ran towards them. They caught me by surprise. “I had­­–” I stopped. I was no longer at the Roseville County Library.

 

My vision was blurry and I was lying down on a bench. “Mom. Dad. Is that you?” I said.

“Oh honey, you are finally awake! Do you know what happened? You suddenly fainted in the middle of street. We were doing our errands.” my mom said.

“What? Wasn’t I working in the lib­­–” I stopped in terror. I was in the exact place where the library was. Except, there was no library!

“What happened to the library?” I asked.

“Oh Alastair, there was never a library here. Here you should take rest more. We should go home.”

 

I learned to make my own stories and learned the value of books. I had underestimated them. My dream didn’t feel like a dream. It felt real. It may have been somehow real.

Inklings Book Finalist: Sahana Rao

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Sahana Rao! Sahana finished 2nd grade this past school year. She wrote a short story about books that come to life and try to escape from the library. Enjoy!

 


 

Mystery of the Walking Books
by Sahana Rao

In Oregon, the land of milk and honey, a boy named Johnny was checking out books in the library. Johnny took care of the books more carefully than anyone else did. The librarian was very impressed. The other kids crumpled the pages, spilled milk, and spoiled the books. The books were mad and sad at the same time.

All the books in the library wanted to meet, but there was only one problem. Kids would see them! So the books made a secret meeting place where the kids wouldn’t spot them.

In the meeting, All about Bamboo Trees book said, “We should all hide from the kids.”

How to Make Pancakes book said, “Let’s go to Johnny’s house secretly.”

Then they would go to Johnny’s house.

 

The next day, Johnny picked out five books. When he got home he didn’t notice books following him. Soon, the library started to look empty. The librarian got very concerned and hired a detective. Her name was Serena, detective Serena.

Detective Serena came to the library and looked around. After about 20 minutes she saw something very strange. There were bookmarks all over the ground. Each one of them had different colors on them. Then she saw one of the books following Johnny. She followed them all the way to Johnny’s house.

Detective Serena asked Johnny, “Have you seen walking books?”

“No,” answered Johnny.

“Then help me find them,” said the detective.

They kept searching until they saw the books in a book fair in Johnny’s room.

Johnny asked the books, “Why did you come here?”

The books replied, “All the other kids don’t treat us well, except you.”

 

Johnny explained whole story to the librarian.

The librarian asked Johnny, “Why don’t you join us as a librarian? You can read books to all the students and teach them to how to respect the books.”

Johnny decided he would. The moment was so extraordinary that they threw a party.

 

The Spectacular End.

Inklings Book Finalist: Sophia Bertoldo

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Sophia Bertoldo! Sophia finished 7th grade this past school year. She wrote a piece of historical fiction about a young girl going on the Hajj – the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. We found her story exciting and captivating.

Here’s a little more information Sophia shared with us about the Hajj: 

The Hajj is a trip all Muslims must complete once in their lives. They travel with camels who are great animals for crossing the desert. Once the people arrive, they must complete 7 circles around the Hajj area. This is part of their religion and the king usually takes large groups of people along on this journey. 

Enjoy!

 


 

Hope
by Sophia Bertoldo

 

Prologue

When Kankou was born in dry and hot Niani, West Africa in 1312, she was born into a family with a mother named Ameenah, a father named Aabis, one seven-year-old sister named Saamiya, and one eleven-year-old brother named Jaad. This family was not considered poor, but was far from rich. Trading was something that you had to do to survive and one day, when Kankou was three-years-old, her father went across the Sahara to trade and never came back. His family always assumed that he was killed by the Tuareg Warriors.

At the time Kankou’s mother was pregnant and nine months later, she gave birth to a baby girl named Muskaan. By now Kankou was four-years-old and at this point, her brother Jaad had gone somewhat insane. Jaad got out of control, and killed Saamiyah. That night when Ameenah came home and found Jaad holding the bloody knife and Saamiya dead, she was horrified. They got into a horrible argument and Jaad shot an arrow at Ameenah as he backpedaled off a cliff and fell to his death. Kankou was now by herself with her three-month-old sister to care for. She traveled by herself, not knowing where she was going and one month later, the heart of Muskaan stopped beating.

A short time later, she was captured by Mansa Musa (the sultan of Mali) and became a slave to all of his scholars. Now she is twelve years old and is assisting a scholar on Mansa Musa’s Hajj.

 

Niani, 1324, Morning.


The sun rays fall directly on my neck as I hold on to the rusty old handle to pull my tired self to the seat near the front of the caravan. The air has begun to absorb the heat and my head starts racing with thoughts and ideas. The dehydration has already settled inside me and we have not even begun the journey. The mumbling between people has surrounded my thoughts as I see everybody working to get ready for the Hajj. What have I gotten myself in to? I then remember that both of my parents participated in the Hajj and suddenly feel a great sense of connection to them. It’s almost as if my mother and father are now a part of me, calming me down and reassuring me that I will be fine.

The small gust of wind transfers my attention into the distance and I try to remember the faint memories of my family that I still have. Suddenly a rush of wind passes by and I lose all sense of connection I was just feeling. My brain channels a memory of the griots (storytellers) and all the stories my
 
siblings would tell me about how Mecca is 4,000 miles away from Niani and how there are usually about 60,000 people that will be participating in the Hajj. That seems like so many people to me! It is almost as if I am falling into a deep daydream, thinking about the stories of Mansa Musa and how he was given the name Musa because it means king or sultan.

In the midst of my daydream, the scholar I will be assisting, named Sologon, enters the caravan and drops a huge trunk of what I am guessing is gold on the dirty floor.

“Hello, who are you?” she asked with a curious expression on her face, her big blue eyes looking at me patiently awaiting an answer.

I manage to stutter out a few words, “Umm. I will be uh, assisting you on this journey.”

She looks at me and says, “Ok,” a smile appearing on her face. “My name is Sologon. Umm. Do you want to help me package things onto the camels? We have about four hundred out of one thousand done.”

“Sure,” I say proudly, happy to be asked for assistance on what seems like such a big duty. I look up at her light blue eyes and add, “My name is Kankou, by the way.”

Now, off I go to assist Sologon and I hope to fill my journal with many tales of the journey I will be taking.

 


Walata, 1324, Morning.


The date tree provides much needed shade. Sologon is a wonderful scholar and is treating me well. I hope one day I can become a scholar like her. The luscious date palm cools my throat as I think about the amusement behind the trading. I find it so interesting how people can trade without speaking.

The salt is definitely one of the most important trade items. This I have learned from Sologon. The salt can preserve food and carries lots of nutrition which is needed on this tough journey. The rainy season is starting, although there won’t be much of it. Sologon has informed me that Mansa Musa will be following his existing trade routes to Cairo. This means that from Taghaza to Cairo it will be about 2,100 miles. Hopefully there will be enough water so that nobody dies of thirst.

We have been traveling for a few days now, and the agony of continuously stepping on the hot sand without many breaks is pushing me over the edge. I hope the next leg of the journey will be better or maybe I will be used to it soon. The oasis is beautiful today and I love seeing the camels drink. Their long necks reach down into the water and slowly they raise back up as the cool water sloshes down their dry throats.

Mansa Musa’s dry voice is an alarm in my head reminding me we must meet him by the caravans.
 
As I begin to get up my legs remind me of what agony they have been going through and a scowl appears on my face. Off I go because as much as it hurts, I need to push through it.

 

Taghaza, 1324, Dusk.


The sun has finally given up and it’s strong, hot rays are disappearing into the darkness. I lift the burlap water canteen to my dry mouth and the taste of salt slips down my throat. It seems so ludicrous how they get so much salt from one mine. I feel bad for the slaves who have to live here. I certainly would not want to live here and be forced to dig up salt and package two slabs of salt to each camel every single day.

From what I can tell, there are no other ways to get across the Sahara except for going north which worries me, because I have heard lots of chatter and worry over on the Hajj. The route that the Hajj has taken so far has been difficult, however I feel a sense of relief when I start to walk again because I have gotten used to this journey; walking long distances, burning on my little toes and the heat settling on my face.

This journey that the Hajj has taken has definitely opened my eyes to different lifestyles and stories. The journey has been long and challenging but I know that I must do it because I am a Muslim
 
and I must do this at least once in my life and now I get the opportunity to do it in assistance to a scholar. Hopefully, I will be able to follow in her footsteps as she has been immensely helpful to me. Allowing me to learn more about how to become a scholar. This afternoon, when we arrived here, I noticed the slaves cutting up the gold and silver. I assume they are most likely using it for transactions.

The little house made of rock and camel skin offers a nice resting spot. I can’t help but focus my glance on a light that is slowly appearing to be closer and closer. My face starts to sweat and my body is shaking. The light is coming closer and I hear soft and gentle footsteps. A warm tear trickles down my face like a snake. Suddenly the door swings open and I turn, my whole body alerted.

I then hear Sologon’s sweet and gentle voice, “Kankou,” she says, her voice drifting off.

I slowly turn my head and respond, “Sorry Sologon, I don’t know why I got so frightened just now.”

She looks at me and smiles. “It’s fine.” She says She looks at the stone wall and continues, “On my first time participating in the Hajj, I was your age and every time any type of noise came near me I was startled.”

I look at her and smile.

She looks back at me and says, “So, I get it. Now it’s time to get some sleep. We have lots of work to do tomorrow.”

She turns and exits the room.
 
I feel so lucky to have someone that is actually looking out for me and caring about me. Now, it is best I do what Sologon says and fall asleep. Goodnight.

 


Cairo, 1324, Afternoon.

The afternoon heat, exhaustion, and dehydration began to sink inside of me. Mansa Musa has begun to pass out the immense amount of gold. I can feel the excitement in the air as the local Cairo villagers hold out their dirty, tired, rough hands to accept the wonderful glistening gold. I feel happy for the people but it worries me that the gold’s value will go down due to the fact that all these people are getting the gift of lots of gold from Mansa Musa. Although, I am trying to put these feelings behind me, because I think it is so great to see all these smiling faces in this town of Cairo.

Outside of the tent I pitched as we arrived with Sologon, I hear some soft voices.

“Did you know emir Abu was talking with Mansa Musa and apparently was not able to persuade him to see the Citadel and meet the Sultan?” said the girl with long black hair twisted neatly into one long braid. She looks as if she is fifteen or
 
sixteen. Her hands and feet are extremely small and she wears a small loose gold chain around her neck.

The other girl is standing tall with curly brown hair that reaches her shoulder. Her light blue dress falls just short of her ankles and she drops her jaw open. She closes her mouth and takes a deep breath. She looks up at the fluffy clouds and turns her focus back to the other girl. She begins speaking again and says, “That’s absurd,” she continues, calming her voice, “I wonder why?”

The small girl faces her and says, “I heard he said something about wanting to keep his pilgrimage the same, but­–”

The tall girl cut off her sentence with her extreme laughter.

The short girl continues, “But I believe he just doesn’t want to pay respect to another sultan.”

As she grimaces, she turns and makes eye contact with me. I move my startled face away from the fold in our tent and hope she didn’t notice me.

Five minutes have passed by and nothing has happened so far. I think I am okay now and I must go assist Sologon as she is writing down stories a griot is telling her.

 


Niani, 1375, Evening.


I look at my old and wrinkled face as I pull out the golden necklace. This will look wonderful on my granddaughter, I think, and place it on the near toppling tower of belongings I will be passing on to her.

Lying beneath a layer of dust, I see the torn and ratty cover of my journal. I flip through the pages. I follow the sharp ink lines and remember about my journey on the Hajj. Tucked inside one of my journal entries, I find an ink portrait of Sologon.

I look up to the old cracking roof of my shed and shed a tear as I whisper, “I hope you are doing well Sologon, I thank you.”

It has been twenty three years since her death. She was nearly a mother to me and when her soul left her body as she let out a heart wrenching scream, a part of me left, too. Now here I am writing what will be my final entry of my journal during the Hajj. The journey turned out to be way more difficult than I expected.

During the Hajj, there were many stories about Mansa Musa. One of the most commonly heard story was of how he was the most rich and noble king of all. I, however, encountered Mansa Musa and do not agree with that. He was extremely rude and treated most people horribly. He drowned himself in riches and caused the gold to lose its value.

However, I do feel that this journey was worth the cost and
 
time. It was an incredible experience and allowed me to do the duty that I had felt I needed to do for so long. I love who I am and I was able to appreciate it more after completing the Hajj. I am a Muslim. I wear long veils that cover all my facial features but my eyes. I slept in tents and have caravans of camels. And, yes, I completed the Hajj.
 The lasting significance of Mansa Musa’s journey was that I truly became a Muslim and was able to connect with my family.

As I end this journal entry, I would like my final words to be: Never give up. Life can always turn around.

Inklings Book Finalist: Dylan Lefever

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Dylan Lefever! Dylan finished 4th grade this past school year. He wrote a short story about drawings coming to life. How fun! 

 


 

Monster Drawings and the Escape of the Drawings
by Dylan Lefever

 

One day, a child named Jack was drawing a picture of monsters in his math notebook. His father called him in for dinner after Jack drew a fire-breathing snake.

Jack’s baby sister was whining at his mother for putting peas in her bowl. His mother made mashed potatoes, apples, steak, milk, and peas. After dinner Jack drew a swimming dragon.

When his mom called him up for bed he finished drawing the swimming dragon. His room was small but had lots of posters of monsters and it had a small lamp with a snake wrapped around it. That night he dreamed of a dragon attacking man-eating lizard soldiers from England.

When he woke up it was 8:00 and his school started at 8:30. He ran downstairs and grabbed a box of cheerios and shoved them in his mouth and ran out the door. In math class he realized he had forgotten his math book. They had a math test. He had forgotten his shape names. When he got his test he didn’t know the first question. It took him 20 minutes to finish. On page 6 he drew a flamingo with razor sharp teeth. When he received his test back – he saw that he had scored a D-.

When he got home no one was there. His math notebook was on the table but there were no drawings. He heard a noise upstairs and at the front of his door was a fire-breathing snake! He turned and right behind him was a beaver with teeth about 3-feet-long. Then, a one-eyed crocodile with 500 razor sharp teeth came out of his closet. A swimming dragon popped out of the toilet! Then, a 100-handed monkey with one big and sharp tooth came from under his bed holding his mom, dad, and baby sister. Then the fire-breathing snake blew fire right at Jack, Jack dodged it and the fire went right at the beaver and the beaver went flying backward! The beaver ran straight at Jack, who jumped over the beaver but landed on the beaver’s back causing them both to go flying out the window on to the street. The beaver landed on the ground with Jack still on his back and kept running.

Jack could hear the other monsters running behind him. Cars were crashing into each other. The sight of all the monsters made people go crazy. The beaver started wiggling Jack off its back. Soon the beaver knocked Jack off of its back.

All the monsters soon passed him but he kept running after them, but he couldn’t catch up! After about 20 minutes of straight running he fell to the ground in exhaustion. The next day he went looking around but there was no sight of his family.

Then, after about an hour of searching he found a cafe. He only had 2 dollars and 25 cents. He went into the cafe and ordered a bagel and some water. After about 10 minutes of eating and resting he got an idea.

He thought if he could get his math book and trap them in there he could get his parents.

He found a taxi and said,”1st avenue.”

It took the taxi driver about 30 minutes to get to his house. The taxi driver said,”20 bucks, kid.”

Jack said, “I’ll go get it.”

When he got inside he grabbed his math book and grabbed about 50 dollars for the taxi driver and himself. Jack gave the taxi driver his money and asked for a ride to E 149th street.

It took the taxi driver almost 50 minutes to get there. “It costs 30 dollars, kid.”

Jack gave the taxi driver the money and went looking around. It took Jack about 10 minutes till he found woods.

He went looking around in the woods and saw a dim glow. He started running after it. The light stopped and Jack looked up and saw a castle filled of monsters.

In the center of the castle was a big pool; in it was the swimming dragon! He saw his family locked in the last tower, guarded by a man-eating lizard. Then he ran to the highest tower and opened his math book and all the monsters got sucked back in, except for one.

It was the Dino-Rex. Jack didn’t know what to do! Then he got an idea; He quickly drew a scorpion and opened the book. The scorpion popped out and went after the Dino-Rex and swung its tail right at the Dino-Rex, but it dodged the swing and the Dino-Rex ate the scorpion up whole. Then the Dino-Rex noticed Jack and started running after him.

Jack quickly drew a sword. The sword popped out, but Jack caught it. Then right then, the Dino-Rex chomped at Jack but Jack dodged it. Before the Dino-Rex could do anything Jack stabbed it right in the forehead and the Dino-Rex dissolved.

Then, Jack remembered his family! He ran over to the left tower and sliced the bars to the jail cell.

Right when his family got out, His mom said, “Where did you get that?”

Then Jack said, “I drew it.”

When they got home they ate dinner.

Jack never quit drawing, but he never forgot his math book again.

Inklings Book Finalist: Claire Wong

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Claire Wong! Claire finished 4th grade this past school year. She wrote a poem about immigrants coming to America through the famous Ellis Island. We appreciated the way Claire used sensory details to bring depth to her descriptions. Enjoy!

 


 

Ten Thousand Miles
by Claire Wong

 

Ten thousand miles, a very long time.
On boat, at sea, past an old coal mine.
The journey was harsh, traveling through big waves.
For only the people that are strong-hearted can brave,
These ten thousand miles.

 

The ship and the trip, was terrifying and loud,
People were so hungry their stomachs made sounds.
My brother got sick onboard, for the food was bad,
He longed for fresh bread, but only a moldy potato was what we had.
While swimming through an ocean, an old whale spouts.
That reminds me that back at our town, we had a drought.

 

When we arrived at Ellis Island,
Inspectors checked us before we entered the highlands.
They poked and prodded, and they all nodded.
In a rush we were sent to the city.
My mother pitied the people who could not go,
To this place, America, which is now our home.

Inklings Book Finalist: Amy Gillson

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Amy Gillson! Amy finished 4th grade this past school year. She wrote a short story about the perpetual fight between cats and dogs. We loved getting lost in the alternate pet world Amy created. Enjoy!

 


 


Bud and Marmalade
by Amy Gillson

Animals are smarter than humans think they are…

 

Bud, a black Great Dane, felt his earpiece vibrate.

“Neighborhood 56-57,” a dog blared through the receiver, “Newspaper alert! Newspaperman coming in 5, 4, 3, 2…” Bud raced to the door, barking furiously.

“Okay, okay,” the man Bud worked and lived with sighed, “Stop barking. What is it now?”

As Bud’s human opened the house’s blue door, Bud hardly noticed that under Andrew’s curly black hair and denim jacket, instead of wearing a dog shirt, he was wearing a cat shirt. As soon as the door cracked open, Bud raced outside, grabbing the newspaper and chasing the paperboy away. Then he ran back into the house, proudly finishing his daily job.

Suddenly, a movement caught Bud’s eye. Behind Andrew, Bud noticed a cat lurking in the shadows before disappearing again. This got Bud thinking. Andrew, a total dog person, was almost definitely wearing a cat shirt. And a cat was in his house! The two things had to be related.

 

A few hours later, when Andrew was at work, the cat came into view.

“Dog 44-68-6. I repeat, Dog 44-68-6. Cat at House 56-72. Roger that?” Bud yipped into his earpiece.

“Dog 56-72-1. I hereby grant you permission to growl and make your dominance clear. Nothing more,” the voice of 44-68-6 commanded. Although he sounded fierce, he was merely a small black Scottie dog.

Bud nodded approvingly; he agreed that it was best to show his dominance.

“Hello, Dog. How are you today?” Bud heard the orange tabby cat in front of him say snarkily.

The cat is in my house, raged Bud, I can’t let him live here, destroying my entire life!

Grrrrr, Bud growled menacingly. Even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to answer the cat, Bud did. “Get. Out. Right. Now.” he snarled. Bud’s fur stood on end, and he was about ready to attack the cat.

Just as Bud’s receiver buzzed, he realized his grave mistake. Oh no! Bud thought frantically. He had disobeyed a strict order! Now he really was in trouble. Finally, Bud answered the call.

“Dog 56-72-1. You disobeyed specific orders and therefore defied the Dog’s Code. This is your third act of disobedience this month. Come to the council meeting held tomorrow.”

“Yes, Dog 44-68-6 –” Bud started, but was cut off by his receiver giving a warning.

“Turning off in 16, 15, 14, 13…” Bud sighed and started pacing. He had never liked the feeling of being ordered around by a voice in his earpiece, but how else would he be able to stay at House 56-72 and keep living his easy life as a normal dog?

Just then, Bud heard a familiar mocking voice behind him. He had forgotten the cat was there.

“Oh, poor pooch. In trouble, eh? Cats never have problems like that.”

Bud didn’t choose to think about what he might have heard under the mockery: sympathy.

 

After a while of thinking, Bud was surprised to find himself questioning the Dog’s Code. Since it sounded like cats didn’t get in trouble very easily, why did dogs have to follow precise orders from their “bosses”? Bud didn’t have an answer for his question.

Realizing that Dog 44-68-6 wouldn’t be able to hear Bud talking to the cat, he growled, “Why are you here?” His ruff was bristling uncontrollably.

“Oh, didn’t you hear? I’m Andrew’s wonderful new pet.” The cat’s voice was sickly sweet, and for a moment Bud believed him. But then he came to his senses and realized the cat must be lying. Andrew would never switch his loyalties to the cats’ side.

“Prove it,” Bud demanded. He was looking for the special metal sphere that was given out to a cat or dog when they were adopted. The cat smirked and pawed the certificate hanging off his collar with glee, watching the giant, gaping dog towering over him with amusement. Bud had to live with a cat the rest of his life!

To try to get the astonishment out of his mind, Bud asked Marmalade (that was what the certificate said the cat’s name was), “Does your kind have a Cat’s Code? Because it seems cats are the most uncivilized animals on Earth to me.”

“Excuse me, but if I may say so myself, our great and amazing Rule of the Cats is much better than what your Dog’s Code seems to be, rude animals you are,” Marmalade retorted.

As the insults continued, Bud started to get more and more worried about the council meeting.

 

Eventually, Bud heard his earpiece turn on. “Turning on in 16, 15, 14…”

Immediately after the countdown ended, Bud talked into his earpiece. “Dog 44-68-6. I request permission to talk to Dog 56-73-2 at House 56-73, my neighbor, for twelve minutes,” Bud said.

“Dog 56-72-1. I hereby grant you permission to talk to Dog 56-73-2, although you must be supervised. I will be listening,” was the reply.

“Thank you, Dog 44-68-6. This time, I shall do exactly as you say.”

As Bud walked to the other side of his yard where the fence was separating House 56-72 from House 29-73, he started to wonder why he wasn’t called Bud, and was called his House numeral followed by his dog number instead.

As Dog 56-73-2 saw Bud coming, she muttered some unintelligible words into her earpiece before looking up.

“Hi!” Dog 56-73-2 exclaimed. She was an ecstatic border collie called “Coco” by humans.

“Oh, hi. Did you hear? I broke the Dog’s Code and so now I must go to the council meeting tomorrow. Wish me luck.”

“Oh, that’s so sad! I hope nothing too bad happens. But after all, you did break the Dog’s Code. What happened to make you break it?” Dog 56-73-2 asked.

“Well, Andrew, the man running my household, adopted a cat. The cat had a certificate and all. I had been told only to make my dominance clear by Dog 44-68-6, but I told the cat to get out of the house anyway. It’s good I was caught, though, because if I wasn’t I might of started to break other parts of the Dog’s Code that are even more important.” Bud only said the last part because he knew Dog 44-68-6 was silently but intently listening at the other end of his earpiece. Bud could tell Dog 56-73-2 was having a hard time containing her words, too.

After a few minutes of them both whispering into their receivers, Dog 56-73-2 blurted out, “I have the most fantastically fabulous and amazing news! I had puppies!”

As if on cue, five adorable little border collie babies ran up to the fence. They were so young, Bud realized that they still didn’t have earpieces.

“This is Tory, this one Belle, then there’s Spot, Wags, and Muttles.” Coco rested her paw on each of their heads as she said their names. Dog 56-73-2 looked proudly down at her puppies before saying, “They don’t even have their dog identification number yet, the wee little ones.”

“Congratulations, but I need to leave, Co–uh, Dog 56-73-2. I have some business to do at home. Goodbye.”

 

With that, Bud rushed to his house, quickly found a satisfying spot behind a tree, and promptly pooped. Then, Bud slid his paws through the wet lawn before finding Marmalade smirking at him.

Is a dog allowed to have some privacy? Bud almost muttered before remembering his earpiece was on. What is with me today? Bud wondered. I’ve been breaking the Dog’s Code, almost speaking without permission, and questioning the Law.

“Dog 56-72-1. The man living with you is home. Go greet him in 5, 4, 3, 2…” Dog 44-68-6’s voice blared through Bud’s receiver.

Bud raced to the door and started barking enthusiastically before jumping up and licking Andrew’s face once the door was opened. Then, Bud followed Andrew into the kitchen for his food and a drink, where he found a cat food and water bowl next to his. Andrew then displayed what he had bought at the store, which consisted mostly of cat toys.

“Do you like Marmalade, Bud? I hope you do. You’ll be living with him for a while,” Andrew said casually.

The rest of my life! Bud thought bitterly, aghast at being reminded of the thought. Then a thought occurred to him: dogs didn’t need to be enemies with cats. Bud slowly ate his food, barely tasting his usually delicious kibbles before lying on his dog bed, thinking about all the things that transpired in the last day.

 

The next morning, Bud woke up to the sound of a cat clawing at a scratching post and his earpiece blaring.

“Turning off due to the council meeting today. I repeat, turning off due to the council meeting today. Turning off in 16, 15, 14, 13…”

Bud sighed. He decided he should ask Marmalade about the Cat’s Rule while he could so he knew the differences between it and the Dog’s Code in case some of the information could help him have a shorter sentence from disobeying the Dog’s Code.

“Hey, dog,” Marmalade smirked. “I hope you have fun at the council meeting today. Maybe you could–”

“I was looking for you,” Bud interrupted. “I was wondering about the Cat’s Rule.”

“Well, first off, spy on dogs when you want, be mean to dogs when you want, and all of that jazz. Then we have the stuff like be clean, be annoying, rip stuff when you feel like it, et cetera. And then follow important rule: be free…” Marmalade rambled on, but Bud got the gist of it. Cats were allowed to do anything they wanted to.

“Thank you, Marmalade. I will keep this in mind,” Bud said politely once the cat was done speaking. Bud had to admit, Marmalade was a bit sympathetic. He assumed that no cat would tell a dog their Rules unless they wanted to help.

Bud looked up at a clock stationed on the far side of the wall, and realized how late it was. Registering this, Bud quickly muttered to Marmalade, “I need to leave. Bye.”

 

Bud ran across the driveway and crossed the street without watching for cars. He had to make the council meeting on time! After swerving around people and passing large buildings that were skyscrapers to Bud, he rounded a corner and skidded to a halt. A rustling in a bush caused Bud to turn around, but then it was quiet. He shrugged to himself and walked towards his destination. Finally, Bud found it. In the otherwise empty clearing before him, a rusty old trashcan loomed ahead of him with dog kibbles strewn across the ground.

“In here,” Bud whispered to himself, “Just go in here and you’ll be escorted to the council meeting.” Bud started sprinting towards the trash can, trying not to inhale the revolting smell that was so disgusting, it blocked out the normally appealing trashy odor of old food and interesting human scents. Slowly, he came to a stop and poked his head in. With a sinking heart, Bud came to the conclusion that the trash can was the entrance to Dog Central, the location of the council meeting. He slid his body into the garbage and found himself scrambling down a steep channel and landed in a stuffy, underground den. Bud approached a dirt passageway leading to a long hall. As he stumbled towards the dark path, he spied a doggy door ahead of him. Once Bud arrived at it, he stuck his head and front legs through it, sniffing the air and looking at Dog Central with sheer amazement; the bustling main room was made of thick quartz with many intricate doggy doors leading to other rooms and halls. On every wall, the Dog’s Code proudly watched over the citizens and other dogs in the massive metropolis.

Suddenly, two guards appeared in front of Bud and demanded to know why he was there.

“I was told by Dog 44-68-6 to go to the council meeting taking place today. I am Dog 56-72-1, and live with my human Andrew and a cat named Marmalade.” The guards growled slightly at the thought of a cat.

“Well, where’s your Adoption Certificate?” one asked. Bud jangled the certificate hanging from his collar before following the two rottweilers to the council meeting, where around fifty dogs were patiently waiting for him to be seated. Bud seated himself quietly as the meeting started.

 

Despite having waited for him, the Dog Council proceeded to act as if Bud wasn’t there. “First, we have this cat issue. Many dog owners are taking in cats, too…”

“There are starting to be as many cat owners as ancient times, before dogs became a man’s best friend. We need to do something…”

“ … And that brings us to the issue of this dog here who has broken the Dog’s Code.” Bud’s ears perked up and he started listening attentively to the pit bull speaker. “Why is this, Dog 44-68-6?” Bud searched the crowd and spotted his “boss” in the front row.

“Dog 56-72-1’s owner adopted a cat to whom 56-72-1 then told to leave, disobeying my strict orders to only show his dominance. This wasn’t his first act of disobedience. We must punish him at once, as the Law states, but what shall it be?”

“He must go to jail!”
“Be deprived of any rights for a month!”
“Be deprived of treats for a week!”

Bud shuddered at the punishments, but knew what he had to do. Over the past day and a half, his views of things had changed.

“Fellow dogs!” Bud called, his voice reverberating off the walls. “I am as sane as you are, but you must understand something. I do not care what punishment you give me for saying this now, because my perspective has changed.” His voice wavered before continuing his speech. “Cats are free. Dogs are not. Why is this? Cats and dogs are enemies. Why is this? Why is everything so different between the two species? It seems much better to be a cat.”

Outrage broke out. Shouts of “Treason!”, “Silence him!” and “Grab him!” rang from the Council. Bud had never seen them so angry, but then true chaos erupted. Not only had Bud made them mad, but suddenly Marmalade burst into the room with a pack of dogs chasing after him.

“Nice speech!” Marmalade yelled provocatively as he proceeded to gain attention. Bud realized that for whatever reason, Marmalade had followed him. Not only that, but he either accidentally or purposely helped Bud. Bud raced after the horde of dogs, an idea forming in his mind. He reached Marmalade in record time and pretended to herd him towards the guards, but instead led Marmalade to the exit of Dog Central where they burst through the doggy door and departed the building, panting.

“Th-thanks,” Bud said.

“To you too,” Marmalade replied gruffly. It was obvious that he didn’t thank dogs much, or cats, for that matter. “Well, onward! To home!”

 

At House 56-72, or, as Marmalade called it, home, Bud and Marmalade tried to figure out a way to change the rigid Dog’s Code.

“…If we make a protest, will that work?” Bud asked to no avail. Marmalade didn’t have the slightest idea. “Let’s just try it, and see what happens. We don’t have any better ideas.”

“Excuse me, but I never said that. And anyway, who else would be in the protest?” Marmalade questioned with his usual arrogant flair.

Bud sighed. “Do you have any better ideas?”

Marmalade looked uncomfortable. “Uh… of course not! When did I give the slightest hint I had any…” Marmalade faltered, and Bud cracked up.

Bud’s face turned serious again and he said, “There is the issue of getting dogs for the protest. You most certainly won’t be there when we recruit dogs, Cat 56-72-2.” Bud snickered at the term before getting back to business. “We only have one hour before my receiver turns on, and it’s stuck. Literally. I haven’t been able to pull the thing off since last year.”

It was Marmalade’s turn to give an exasperated sigh. “Well, get-a-goin’ then. I’ll write the speeches.”

The first place Bud stopped was at Coco’s house. He knew the border collie well, and was sure she would be grateful for a change in the Dog’s Code for both herself, the other dogs, and most importantly, her puppies.

When asked if she would join the protest, Dog 56-73-2 answered immediately. “Of course! Who has already joined?”

“No one, yet,” Bud replied, “You’re the first one I asked.”

So then, the two trotted off twelve houses away to a Saint Bernard, pug, and Great Dane’s house. The three looked like promising contributors, although only the pug, Dog 56-85-3, or Fluffy, joined.

The tan Great Dane immediately denied the offer, saying, “I’m an ol’ dog an’ the rules keep from us doin’ bad things, like hangin’ ou’ with cats.” and he shot Coco, Fluffy, and Bud a look.

Fluffy argued, “The rules are too harsh, and y’all know it. I’m-a saying it right into ‘da earpiece, ya know.” That received growling and barking from the other end of his receiver, which could be heard from five paces away.

Half an hour and three blocks later, three chihuahuas, a crazy terrior, four labs, two pugs, six German Shepherds, a sheepdog, Coco, three dalmations (one blind), and a few others had agreed to the protest. It was a surprising amount of dogs considering they all agreed to having a cat involved and were all found in less than an hour.

Each one had memorized their lines by the time the dogs and cat had to leave for the board meeting. Every dog was lined up before the fifty canines in the Council, with the only cat, Marmalade, in the front with Bud.

 

The protest began. Instead of a raucous demonstration, the dogs spoke their case logically and passionately so the Council would see that dogs didn’t need a strict Code to remain dignified and well behaved. Every dog in the Council listened intently, because they had to listen to the twenty-six canines in front of them if the Council was to keep its own dignity.

After the protest, the Council talked for a moment.

Finally, one of them said, “We have made many considerations. Numerous canines agree, as we can all see, but this cannot be changed at this very moment; however, we will consider changing the Dog’s Code, soon, though.” The dog spoke gruffly. “And… Dog 56-72-1. Your punishment will be revealed tomorrow.”

Thirty dogs and one cat marched proudly from the council room, savoring their victory.

“Let’s go home, Marmalade,” Bud said. “We should rest.” Cat and dog walked home, curled up in their beds, and let sleep fall over them.

 

The next morning, Bud woke to the sound of his receiver saying: “Turning on in 16, 15, 14, 13…”

Dog 44-68-6 spoke immediately. “Good morning… Bud. The Dog’s Code is being changed as we speak. The Council has also decided your punishment. You and the cat must try to make peace between the two species. And… thank you for helping the Council realize that the Dog’s Code was too rigid. That is all.”

Bud could hardly believe his ears! Dog 44-68-6 (Bud didn’t know what else to call him) had both called him Bud, thanked him, admitted the Dog’s Code was too rigid and was being changed, and given Bud the best punishment possible!

Bud immediately told Marmalade, who was just as astounded. (Although Marmalade, ever the cat, complained that he had to have a “punishment,” too.)

That very day, the two friends started their work to help both dogs and cats see a new, better, and happier way to live.

Inklings Book Finalist: Britton Cheney

Inklings

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Britton Cheney! Britton finished 6th grade this past school year. She wrote a poem with colorful visual elements. We enjoyed Britton’s use of personification in her poem.  Enjoy!


 

Paint on a Canvas
by Britton Cheney

“It’s the end of the day,”
Said the sun to the sky.
“Time to paint a sunset,
Time for the day to die.”

 

The sky got all ready,
Getting rid of its last blues.
The sky is a canvas,
Across it, the sunset sweeps its hues.

 

Then came the colors.
First an orangish-red.
Then pink and purple,
As the colors began to spread.

 

The people on the beach
Stared up in awe.
Some of them couldn’t believe
Just what they saw.

 

The soft hush of the breeze,
The salty smell of the ocean,
The colors in the sky;
This is nature in motion.

 

At last it was over.
The sunset was finally finished.
Stars filled the heavens,
Night’s beauty was not diminished.

 

Now the moon reigned the sky.
And the sunset was done.
But in the morning,
The sunrise would come.

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