The Mercy Academy 2017 Iron Writer Challenge

The 2017 Mercy Academy

Iron Writer Challenge

The Writers:

Beth T., Kalei M., Taylor L., Riley M., Jordyn S.

Mallory K., Natasha N., Logan B., Sarah M., Kelsie M.

Julianne W., Meghan W., Shelby S., Brianna B., Maggie H.

Kara K., Abby A., Abby J., Star A.

The Elements:

A pumpkin

Bubble Wrap

A cat on a leash

Start with the sentence “And I thought you were…”

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Beth T.

“And I thought you were going to stay with me through anything Jason. When we got married you said your vows and the most important to you was working everything out whether the problem was tiny or huge. Deciding which pumpkin to buy so that we could carve it for our first Halloween to buying our first house. We were supposed to love each other forever. I never said that I didn’t want kids I just said that I didn’t think I was ready to have them yet. We’ve only been married for a year, we both have new jobs and are still making payments on all the new furniture we bought for the house. Our marriage is still bubble wrapped it’s so new, I just want more time to get settled into our new life before we bring another person. Maybe for now we could get a dog, or a cat! A cat and we could take it for walks on a leach. Lets just wait, and get a cat until we’re ready for kids. I know you want kids right now, but right now I am just not ready. I am sorry. Please do not leave me. We will get through this I promise. One day I will be ready for more than just a cat on a leach.” As soon as i get my last word out he closes the door behind him.
A few seconds pass, then he re opens the door. He looked at me with that perfect smile of his and said, “ are you coming to get this damn cat or not?” Thats when I realized exactly why I married him. I grabbed my coat and ran out the door into the car. Giggle and happy, just like I was on our wedding day.

From Cat To Mole Rat

Kalei M.

“And I thought you were going to shave Ronaldo’s paws before today.” I was scolded by my mother who walked up to me with our other Siamese cat, Maximilian, on his bejeweled leash.

“This is no time to act a fool, Ryan. You know good and well that the Prestigious Feline Association has strict guidelines on the length of fur around their paws. I can’t have a repeat of last year happening again! It’s almost judgement time! Get those scissors out and trim about a quarter inch off each side. And when I return you better be finished.”

She walked away, Maximilian in tow. Hastily I grabbed the scissors which where still in the case and opened them before facing the feline. Ronaldo was ruthless, he is the reason I have scratches covering my arms and a couple lasting scars on my face. What he hated most: grooming. I approached slowly, making sure his leash was attached to the pole.

Things started off okay, until I got too close to his face while inspecting my work. That’s when the claws came out. God, this cat was ferocious, by the time I was done with his front leg I had three bleeding scratches. Man up Ryan! Think! I wasn’t going to sit here and take this. Looking around the venue, I noticed a box filled with bubble wrap that once held the glass trophy for today’s show. “Borrowing” the bubble I devised a genius plan. All I needed now was the helmet. It was November so what better décor than to have plastic pumpkins surrounding such a classy show. Cats, corn stalks, and pumpkins, oh how beautiful! Not. Who needs pumpkins at a Siamese Cat Show? Cutting the pumpkin with the scissors I made two eye holes before making an even larger hole for my nose. Completing the look I wrapped myself in bubble wrap, looking like a burrito.

Gingerly I approached the beast, scissors on guard like I was prepared for battle: which I was. I stealthy trimmed the other legs, protected by my shield as Ronaldo swatted and popped a couple bubbles. As I completed my grooming, I stepped back and removed my helmet to examine my work. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Apparently, I didn’t make the eye holes large enough and my perception of how much a quarter inch was, was off. The cat looked like a naked mole rat from the bottom down. On the plus side, we didn’t have a repeat of last year like my mother feared, instead we did worse.

The Witching Hour

Taylor L.

“And I thought you were too busy doing your chores,” Amber said as she examined my witch costume.

“Nope,” I exclaimed, “I was able to trick my dad into thinking that I left to get more cleaning supplies. Honestly, who asks their kid to clean out the attic on Halloween?”

Markus eyed my costume skeptically as he asked “He didn’t ask why you were leaving the house with both you and your cat in costume?”

“Nope! I told him that the store was offering a discount to anyone that came in with their costume on!” I smiled at my own cleverness. Amber laughed at my antics before picking up my pet, Roxy, who was not enjoying her pumpkin costume.

Amber asked “How did you manage to put your cat on a leash?” I pulled down the sleeves on my costume to reveal a few scratches that were caused by that demon cat. I should have dressed her as a little devil instead.

“It wasn’t easy, but after a bit of catnip I was able to slip it on. I also snuck a present for you guys out of the attic!” Amber and Markus both looked confused, until I pulled bubble wrap out from the  pillowcase I brought to collect candy in. Amber gasped and hugged me tightly in her embrace.

“Thank you Kathy!” I hugged her back and looked up to see Markus’s reaction, only to find his usual neutral expression.

“Thank you Kathy,” He said in his normal monotone voice. It fit well with his grim reaper costume. Amber pulled away from the hug and snatched the bubble wrap fro my grasp.

She shouted “Mine,” before proceeding to pop every bubble on the plastic wrap. Her bouncy and loud personality also went well with her clown costume. She probably dressed like that to freak out Markus since he hates clowns. I smiled before linking my arms with theirs.

“Let’s make this night the best Halloween ever!” I proclaimed before marching down the sidewalk with my friends, and cat,  in tow.

Remember Me

Riley M.

“And I thought you were going to visit your mom today?” I questioned. Jeremy visited his mother at St. Jude’s HealthCare Center every Wednesday and Sunday. Melinda was always extremely nice to me, she had never been the type of mother-in-law you would come to despise. We moved her into the nursing home five years ago when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Melinda didn’t remember her son Jeremy, her grandchild Ethan, or me. Although, she did remember her deceased husband Mark. I never knew Mark because he passed away when Jeremy was only seventeen years old. Jeremy and I met when we were nineteen. Jeremy always told me stories about how Melinda and Mark would send each other small, random trinkets by mail because they went to different colleges and that’s how they decided to express their love. It was a miracle that she remembered Mark, but it was only because she believed Jeremy to be him. Every time we visited her she called him Mark. I know it broke Jeremy’s heart for her not to know it was him, but I think he was also happy that she still had some piece of her life left.

One day I had just come home from work and I went out to get the mail. There was a tiny box in there that was from Melinda. When I opened the box a card sat on top and read, “To my lovely Mark. Another token of my love!”. Inside the box, wrapped in bubble wrap, was aceramic pumpkin. That was the day we realized she thought Jeremy was Mark. Another day she sent a stuffed animal cat on a leash, which Ethan loved. He walked it every morning, while we went to get the paper. Each time she sent a trinket, it was addressed to Mark. I eventually had to start hiding them from Jeremy, it got to be too hard for him to bear. It was enough for him to be thought of as his mom’s husband by his own mom, but to receive love notes as well, it was just too much for him.

Melinda is gone now and every Wednesday and Sunday Ethan and I go visit his father at St. Jude’s HealthCare Center bearing gifts because unfortunately for my husband, he has the Alzheimer gene.

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Jordyn S.

And I thought you were the one. All of the times I saw you working at the Pet Shop and you would smile at me and asked if I needed any help. I thought you were the one when I saw you packaging up things in boxes wrapping them with bubble wrap and you would laugh as one of the bubbles popped. I thought you were the one when I watched you pick up Pringles and a Reds Apple Ale at the gas station because those are my favorite chips and my favorite beer. I thought you were the one when I saw you watching Stranger Things through your window because that’s my favorite show.  I thought you were the one when you were running outside with your kids and laughing as you all were trying to catch lightning bugs through the night. I thought you were the one when I saw you trying to walk your cat on a leash in the snow because that’s the kind of odd thing I would do. I thought you were the one when you went to Hewbers to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween because I use to go there as a child. I thought you were the one when I saw you driving and singing your favorite song out loud like you were performing a concert. I thought you were the one but you have another man in your life. But I will always wait for you and watch you until you become the one.

Is She Dead?

Mallory K.

“And I thought you were a nice person. But I guess not!” cried Angela. “Angie, it’s nothing. And I’m sure Ms. Essie is fine.”  Elle defended. “Doubt it!” Michael said sarcastically. The three teens stood in front of a ransacked house on the end of the street. “And on Halloween, it’s like an actual horror movie!” Angela sniffed. “I’m sure it’s just a haunted house or something. It’s probably just a set up.” Elle said, leading the other two away from the house. The front door had been left ajar and the lights had all been turned off. “Do you really think Ms. Essie would have a haunted house? She’s like a hundred. I think an actual crime happened here!” Michael screamed. “Keep it down, Michael! We’re gonna walk away and act like none of this happened!” Elle said, still trying to usher the other two off the front porch. “What if she needs our help? What if she’s dead?” Angela gasped. “Oh for the love of God, Angie, she’s not dead! If we walked in right now, she’d probably still be sitting in there knitting for her cats! But just in case she isn’t, we should just leave!” Elle snapped, shoving at Michael and Angela, who were still fixated on the porch. “You were the one who told us it would be more fun trick or treating at midnight! Now look what we’ve found!” Michael snapped back. “Okay, okay! It’s all my fault! Can we get off this porch for someone sees us?” Elle nervously said. “I didn’t even see her walk her cats tonight on those leashes. She always walks them. Can’t we just go in and make sure she’s okay? Every light in the house is off and Essie never goes anywhere.” Angela pleaded with the tense looking Elle. “Fine, you two can do whatever you want! I’m going home!” Elle stomped off the porch in frustration and walked down the driveway. She called back at them in sarcasm “Well, are you little babies gonna go in?” “We’re working on it!” Michael sassed back. Elle mumbles to herself in anger as she walks down the street. As she about to turn around and make fun of them again, she notices that they are no longer on the porch. “Guys?” She called. She slowly walked back to the house. “Okay really funny guys! Real mature.” She went up to the front porch and peered through the open door into the hallway of Ms Essie’s house. “Ang, Michael! You guys in here?!” She nervously called. “Elle! Come here! Hurry!” Angela wailed.  Elle found Angela and Michael in the living room huddled around a body wrapped in bubble wrap. “She’s dead!” Cried Angela. Essie suddenly sprung up and cackled “Stay out, you brats!” The teens screamed and ran out the house. Elle tripped over a pumpkin on the front porch as the teens ran away, never to return again.

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Natasha N.

“And I thought you were the sun,” Avariella admitted to Nemo. “No one else saw you like I did. You were overlooked by everyone like the smallest pumpkin in a pumpkin patch, but I saw you. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. You consumed my every thought without me even realizing it. When I fell in love with you, I had no idea it was love. I didn’t think I was capable of comprehending what love was. It just happened. Before you, I had a bubble wrapped heart. I did everything I could to keep from having feelings for anyone because I was afraid of getting hurt, but that all changed. Whenever I thought of the moments we had together, my stomach clenched with this overwhelming excitement. Whenever I would think of you too much, I would become so anxious that my breath was taken away from me. Every single time I thought of you, or whenever anyone mentioned you, my heart rate would speed up. All I had to hear was your name, and my mood was ten times better. My most favorite times were when we talked. Spending all hours of the night speaking to you about who knows what… I’’ll never forget those conversations. That was when we bonded the most. You were so easy to talk to, and you made me laugh so effortlessly. You could make a joke, but you could also have a serious conversation if you wanted to. You were nosy, but it was cute. I think what pulled me towards you the most was the way you always had me chasing after you. We’d have this long, sentimental conversation one day, and the next day you wouldn’t text me back. You would act like you liked me one second, and then you’d ignore me the next. It confused me so much, yet it kept me on my toes. The one thing I was truly afraid of was annoying you to the point that you wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore. Sometimes I felt as if you were like a cat on a leash, and I was at the end of that leash trying to tug you back towards me. You were the one guy I liked that didn’t seem to show me enough attention. There were other guys who showed interest in me, but I didn’t care about them because they weren’t you. Nemo, it was you. It has always been you.”

Pumpkin, the Pup

Logan B.

“And I thought you were a cat!” Annie, my owner yells at me as she walks past the left over pieces of my torn up bedding. I am not typically described as a cat to my friends, we consider ourselves alpha coyotes. Ever since I was a little kitten, I have felt my calling as a wolf-dog. Being a cat never tickled my pickle. Annie doesn’t understand me. Even when I bark at her to let me outside, or stare at her when she’s eating dinner, hoping for some leftovers, she doesn’t understand.

Annie huffs as she starts to clean up the mess I made. I decide it’s a good time to evacuate the premises. I walk out of the apartment and jump from the balcony to the ground beneath me, landing on my feet, the most cat-like thing I will ever be able to do. I stroll past old takeout boxes, bubble wrap from packages, and garbage bags in the alley. I spot my fellow canine friends on the corner getting ready for their afternoon walk from Derrick, the dog walker.

“Hey, Pupkin.” He greets me as he puts on my leash. Derrick is a great companion because, unlike Annie, he respects my decision as being a canine. To show my regards for the free walk, I run up to my friends without holding the pack back.

“Hey Roscoe!” I greet my German Shepard friend.

“Hey, Pupkin.” He replies.

“Why is your fur matted, Pupkin?” Candy, a Pomeranian, asks me.

“I tore up my bedding and Annie is really mad.” Derrick stops and ties our leashes to a pole for a hot dog pit stop.

“Your owner is mad at you and you aren’t at home taking the punishment?” Roscoe asks sternly.

“ She doesn’t care about me anyways.”

“Pupkin, Annie loves you, she’s just mad that you’re acting this way. Help her understand what you want.” Candy says.

Annie really is an amazing owner. She buys me tuna that gets my cat feels all tingly. She scratches my head late at night when she’s watching the Netflix show of the month. And when she comes home from lunch she gives me her extra grilled chicken. You can’t beat that.

“You guys are right, I’m going home.” I tell them.

“Good luck, pup.” Roscoe tells me as he takes off my leash with his teeth.

I make it home just in time, as Annie walks through the door with grocery bags. I run up to her and rub my head against her legs.

“Hey, Pumpkin. Get into anything while I was out?” She bends down to my level,

“I got you something,” She smiled as she put a big bone in front of me. My very own dog bone! I bark in response to express my gratitude. Rubbing my head, she responds, “Good boy, Pumpkin.”

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Sarah M.

“And I thought you were finished packing already!” My sister exclaimed. “We are leaving to go to Florida tomorrow and you still have stuff in your attic! You haven’t even opened the box of bubble wrap I gave you last week!” She climbs the ladder into my attic and nearly falls over from the sight of everything in there. I don’t blame her, I can’t recall the last time that I ever cleaned out my attic.

“What do you see up there?” I call out. “Anything we can sell?” For about a month, my sister and I have been saving up money so that we could both move to Florida to be closer to our family. We did save up enough already, it’s just that having some extra cash wouldn’t hurt anyone.

“Unless you want to try to sell a rotting pumpkin, then yeah, we can totally sell something.” She replies sarcastically as she begins to toss things down to me to pack away. From the looks of the things that I’m getting though, it might be better to just put them in the trash pile which has grown in size since we started to clear my house out. “Why on earth do you have a framed picture of a cat on a leash up here? Who do you know that puts their cat on a leash? And why would you take a picture?” She questions.

“You just have to learn how to live a little, take a leap out of your comfort zone and put a cat on leash sometimes.” I answer with ease. She steps down the latter with a heavy box in her arms and gives me a weird look that seems to say, “How am I even related to you?” She hands me the box and I take it out to her car, readying myself for whatever comes next.

The next day, the two of us shove the last box into her car and slam the trunk door down. I take a final look at my house, where I lived for a good five years of my life. Lots of strange stories have been made and told inside those rooms, but I suppose it’s time to start a new chapter in my life.

“Are you ready to go?” My sister asks me. I simply nod, ready to see what happens next.

Almost Insane Agatha

Kelsie M.

“And I thought you were stalking me!” I exclaimed with a sigh of relief.

“Oh heavens no! I was merely following you from a distance,” giggled my crazy neighbor Agatha. All week I had noticed her popping up at the same places as me, following me into stores, and keeping an extremely uncomfortable gaze on me from her porch. It all started when I was walking out of an antique shop carrying the newest piece for my glass menagerie. As I turned the corner, Agatha bumped into me knocking me and my precious glass pumpkin to the ground.

“Oh my, someone sure is eager to finish their walk,” Agatha remarked as she dragged her cat on a leash across the sidewalk. My newest prized possession had been destroyed and the only thing she was worried about was a cat on a leash!

Agatha was the neighbor that we all tried to avoid. A real crazy cat lady type person. Everyday she would groom, dress, and walk her cat, Romeo Maccabee III. Talk about a sight for sore eyes. The duo appeared everyday with matching sweaters. Romeo even wore booties on his feet because Agatha was worried about his “sensitive paws.” Meanwhile, the only thing I was worried about was keeping Agatha away from me.

At first I tried being nice. I would smile and wave whenever I saw her. I would engage in small talk. I did all of the polite things I could think of hoping she would leave me alone, but it wasn’t working. She was everywhere. When I went to the grocery store. BOOM, Agatha. When I went to get my mail. BOOM, Agatha. Everywhere I turned there was Agatha. It was maddening. The next time I saw her she was following me around Target. I quickly hastened my pace and weaved in and out of the aisles. I was determined to lose her. With Agatha out of my sight I headed to the bathroom to take care of some business. Sitting in the bathroom stall I finally felt at peace, that is until I noticed Agatha’s cat-decorated Sketchers in the stall next to me.

“Agatha, are you kidding me!” I exclaimed as I quickly hurried out of the stall. “This is outrageous. You can’t follow someone into the bathroom!” Agatha slowly opened the bathroom stall and walked out with a bashful look on her face.

“I’m sorry, I really am. It’s just that I felt so bad for breaking your glass pumpkin that I bought you a new one. I just wanted to give it to you at a good time and make sure you didn’t buy another one,” she said as she pulled out a box and handed it to me. Inside the box was a new glass pumpkin carefully encased in bubble wrap. I guess Agatha wasn’t that bad of a neighbor after all.

Ms. Grunfield

Julianne W.

“And I thought you were dead,” I thought, watching the old woman emerge from her house. The blackened house emitted a gloom like no other. The shingles were hardened by the weather and had been decomposing for years. Leaves collected in the gutter, while poisonous ivies thrived upon the walls. The door creaked open as she peaked her head outside. The wind caught her grey hair as it blew over and around her face, hindering me from looking at her face. Come to think of it, I don’t recall that anyone has ever seen her face.

She hadn’t been outside of her house in weeks. I wondered what went on behind those closed doors. All I saw was loneliness. Here she was again, walking Nixon. I was unsure of his real name, but that was what we called him. The black cat was plastered to her side at all times. She cared more for Nixon than anything on Earth—including herself. She placed Nixon down, handling the leash.

“Ms. Grunfield!” I pushed open the gate, running across her lawn. She ignored me. I shook her shoulder. She whirled around, looking stunned. “I apologize I didn’t mean to scare you” I assured. No answer. Then I realized, she was deaf and mute. I took pity on her.

She nodded opening the crimson door. Into the mysterious house I walked. I could hear the door shutting…and locking? She was holding Nixon again. She reached for the glass cloche, which sat upon a table, revealing magnificent looking pastries. She grabbed the appealing sweet, placing it within my hand.

“What’s this?” I asked. She grabbed a notepad and pen.

“It’s an apple streusel muffin” she wrote.

“It sounds lovely” I told her. I broke a piece off, tasting the sweetness of the apple. Then I tasted the familiar, sweet-savory spice. Looking towards where I had bitten, I could see the orange flesh. Pumpkin. I could feel myself becoming hot. I grabbed my throat. I couldn’t breathe. My lips began to swell. I fell onto the floor, slowly crawling away. I had no more strength to move forward. I could see Nixon out of the corner of my eye. He stood still, almost too still. He never flinched nor breathed. His eyes remained open. My eyes looked toward the old woman. Her head was perched on top of her hand. She rested it there while she watched me. I exhaled my last breath, looking into those cold blue eyes.

*****

The old woman taxidermized me. She would drag me around the house wherever she went. She enclosed me in bubble wrap so I wouldn’t break. I would sit at the table with her while she would eat. She would entertain me, pretending to water her dead plants. She would brush my hair when she became bored. And when the night came, she would fixate my arm around Nixon, keeping his cold, hard body company. Company. Ms. Grunfield didn’t need company. She had Nixon and me.

No Leash For Me

Meghan W.

“And I thought you were going to like the pillow idea,” Miss. Waylon said to her orange haired cat, Pumpkin. For almost a week she has been trying to walk her cat, but every time she takes him outside he starts to flip around and hurt himself. To avoid injuries, she keeps putting different costumes and items on Pumpkin, but none have worked. Most recently she attached small pillows to him, but when they went outside, he still continued to jump and flop around. It was time for his afternoon walk and when she went to grab the leash, he made a dash for the back room, but she caught him before he got away.

“Not so fast little man. You’re going to love today’s protection idea,” she said cheerfully as she pulls it out from behind her back. “It’s a bubble wrap costume! I made it myself, it has little holes to put your little paws and cute face through!”

She struggled to put it on his twisting body, but she finally got it on him and headed for the door. Before they even reached outside, he began squirm about in attempt to get out of his collar and the bubble wrap.

“Come on Pumpkin, just give it a chance,” she pled as she picked him up and walked out the door. “See, it’s not so bad.”

Once she set him down, he froze for a slight moment while he frantically looked straight ahead. He seemed calm until a small lizard made it’s way across the cat’s path, causing him to flip around like a fish out of water. He managed to scramble his way out of his collar and made a dash for the door, going as fast as the wrap would allow him. His face collided with the closed glass door, causing Miss. Waylon to cry out in worry.

“Pumpkin!” She shrieked as she ran over to pick up her cat before walking inside. “No worries, momma’s got you.”

Once she took off the collar and the bubble wrap, he ran to back room, the farthest place away from the door. When she walked back to get him, she found him watching squirrels through the window.

“You’re always staring out that window, but whenever I try to take you out there, you freak out. It’s like right when I put on your leash…” she stopped talking as a thought popped into her head. She picked up Pumpkin and without any protection gear or a leash, she opened the back door. Pumpkin was hesitant at first, but then began to run around and chase small creatures.

“Run Pumpkin,” she said watching him, “Run.”

The City

Shelby S.

And I thought you were never going to show up, but you proved me wrong. Let’s hurry before I miss the flight. It’s finally time to see the world, I’m ready, New York City here I come. The flight wasn’t so bad for it being my first time flying, I thought I was going to have to wrap myself in bubble wrap to keep myself from being so scared of crashing or brushed up when turbulence would hit. For some reason coffee in the sky is much better then on the ground, More of the coffee landed on my writing book then it did in my mouth. I wander what it is like to be a flight attendant, getting to travel while being paid sounds exciting. As I looked out my window I could see New York City miles ahead.

I couldn’t wait to step foot in to the city that never sleeps. As I waited impatiently for my bag in the airport I couldn’t stop thinking of every bit of fun I am going to have. I grabbed my bag got into my first taxi and headed to my hotel. I found myself in Central Park, It was bigger than I had imaged. I never knew it was so big I always thought you could stand at one end and see all the way to the other end, but nope. The craziest thing happened to me in Central Park, I saw a girl walking a cat on a leash. Who does that, I guess the people in this city do. I walked for miles as I saw things I never though I could see in this life time.

The Statue of Liberty is humongous, I never knew it was so big. I always assumed it was big enough for people to go to the top but I never knew it was that massive. As I dreaded the day I would have to leave the moment I arrived, I took every bit of sight in that I could. From the crazy New Yorkers running around without a care in the world to the people that would hand you their mixtape on the side of the street, once you grabbed it they would pull you in and say oh that will be 6 bucks, then why the heck are you acting like you are handing them out for free. To add on to random people passing out things there was always a  bunch of people handing out flyers for the New York City pumpkin patch Festival, that was about the only thing that I was handed and I actually attended. It was quite a thrill, sadly my time with this big city will come to an end in the morning, but not to worry I will see it soon again.

The Life of Andy

Brianna B.

“’And I thought you were crazy.’ Those were some of the first words Andy ever said to me. I mean, I was wearing a top hat and carrying a pumpkin around just a few days before Christmas. But it was a dare that my friends gave me. I was supposed to go into Dallies Market and see if I could get someone to take the pumpkin. Random, I know. Anyways, I was walking around the market when all of a sudden I spot this beautiful girl and all I thought was ‘you have to go up to her and ask her.’ First impressions are everything, right? So I went up to her and she actually accepted the pumpkin and walked around the store with it in her hands. I waited a little until I went up to her again, explained the dare, and slyly asked for her number. That was when I heard her voice and her words telling me she thought I was crazy. Everything about her blew me away.

That was almost three years ago. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I decided I was going to take her away from her little white room and go on an adventure. At that point, time was precious to us both. I was somehow able to sneak her out. How, you may ask? Well according to Andy, it was my magnificent ninja skills and I guess she was right. Let me tell you, she looked beautiful that day. She had on a new shirt from her favorite band “Cat on a Leash.” Who names their band that? She loved them though so I didn’t say anything. They did sing our song so I guess I could let it pass. She also had on these worn out jeans and converse. Her scarf matched her shoes.

We went to the pier and spent the day riding the small coasters and playing the arcade games there. That night, I took her to the beach and we had dinner. Right before we left, I went to my car and grabbed a box that was wrapped in bubble wrap. Can you guess what was in that box? Yes, it was a ring. I wanted to promise her my love before she went. Although we didn’t get married, I believe that this ring was enough for her. I wanted her to know that I was there for her before she was diagnosed with cancer, all during it, and even after she passed away. And now that she has, I cannot thank God enough for the time I was able to spend with her. Andy was such a beautiful soul and even though she is gone, she still shows herself through the little things in my life and our love for each other is still here. Thank you all for being apart of her life in some way and coming to her funeral. I know she’s up there smiling down at us.”

Happy Pills

Maggie H.

“And I thought you were Muffins,” the boy said to the pumpkin. The pumpkin smiled at him and the cat meowed, trying to get the leash from around its neck.

“Oh it’s okay, Clouds. I’ll try to get it off soon,” he said to the cat. The cat meowed contentedly and curled up on the floor. Under it’s body, the bubble wrap popped and the boy and his pumpkin smiled at the sound. They’d come to love the sound of bubble wrap being popped.

“I wish I had some candy, Muffins. They only give me some every now and then,” he said. Muffins didn’t reply, but only smiled. Clouds purred at the sound of his voice.

The boy absentmindedly reached down to get more bubble wrap and pop it. He giggled and kept popping. Eventually, he grabbed a small roll of it and began wrapping it around Muffins, who smiled more at the new wrap.

“You look lovely, Muffins,” he said. Muffins modeled her new dress, spinning around.

“As for you, Clouds, I’ll get that leash off for you. I know you hate it,” the boy said. He grabbed Clouds and began to try to remove the leash, but to no avail. Clouds pouted and ran off with her own leash. She curled back up into her previous place, popping more bubble wrap under her.

“I’m sorry, Clouds. I thought today would be the day I could get it,” he said. He frowned and played with more bubble wrap to try to distract himself.

He closed his eyes and put his head on a small wad of bubble wrap. “I wonder when they’ll bring my happy pills back. I don’t feel happy,” he said. His fingers tapped over the bubble wrap. The bubble pops no longer gave him the twinge of happiness it had a few minutes ago. He just stared at it, watching the plastic crunch under his fingers.

Outside the door, the nurses stood. One was just coming in to train, and she had a lot of questions about the patients since her trainer would be leaving in a week.

“So, as I was saying, every four hours you’ll have to give him his medicine. He’ll be really excited about you being there and he’ll ask you to stay. The pumpkin is named Muffins and the cat is Clouds,” the trainer said. She smiled at the boy, who couldn’t see either of them. He loved the inanimate objects.

“Do I go in this time or will you? Or do we go together?” The new nurse asked.

“I’ll have you watch me this time. I don’t know how he’ll respond to others,” she said. She opened the door and went in, and the new nurse watched as the boy sprang up and his face lit up with excitement. He took the pills happily and hugged the nurse, offering her to join him and his two friends.

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Kara K.

“And I thought you were getting better, mom.” Mary sighed, hopelessly.

“I have no idea what you mean.”

“You’re walking our cat on a leash!” Mary exclaimed.

“He likes it, don’t you Boris?” The mother cooed.

Boris emitted a low growl from the back of his throat as he lay flat on the ground, refusing to move. The mother kneeled down on the concrete, stroking Boris.  A smile danced on her lips as the old cat began to hiss and scratch at her face.

“Mom, stop it!” Mary screamed, horrified at the droplets of blood sprouting from the cuts on her mother’s fair skin.

The mother stood up suddenly, a piercing, dangerous look glimmering in her eyes.

“You will never speak to me in that tone!” She yelled, stepping closer to Mary.

“Oh no, not again.  Mom, you have to find yourself.  This is not who you are!”

The mother kicked an unsuspecting Boris, sending him flying through the air.  Boris landed roughly on the cold, unforgiving pavement.  The cat sent an annoyed scowl towards the mother and began to stalk away.

“Mom, stop it, please!” Mary gasped, picking up the discarded leash from the ground.

“Stop what, honey?” The mother asked.

Mary’s mind boggled at the sudden shift in her mother’s mood, but decided not to waste her breath trying to question it.  She looked back at her mother, noticing her tender fingers touch the dried blood coating her cheeks.

“Oh, that silly cat!” Her mother laughed.  “I’m going to put bubble wrap on so the wounds will heal quicker.  Do be a dear and go fetch Boris for me, we don’t want him to get hurt, right?”

“But mom-” Mary started, but realized her mother had already left.

She quickly located Boris hiding underneath a small shrub in the backyard.  Opening the back door to their house, she picked up the bag of cat food and proceeded back outside.  Enticing Boris with the shaking of the cat food, Mary quickly shut the old cat back inside.  Mary gave an annoyed sigh and walked down the hall to talk to her mother.

“Mom! Where are you?” Mary called out to the silent home.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of a blade coming into contact with a cutting board.  Confused, Mary walked into the kitchen to see her mother hovering over the counter.

“Mom? What are you doing?” Mary asked.

“I’m making a sandwich.”

“Ok, but why is there a pumpkin?”

“You know I like sliced pumpkin, Mary.”

“Mom, I need to talk to you about something.”

“Can it wait, honey?”

“No, it can’t.  This has gone on for too long, mom, you need help.  I’ve tried my best to care for you, but your condition has gotten worse and I can’t be here all the time.”

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Abby A.

“And I thought you were wanting to get adopted” my foster care advisor Joey asked.

“I don’t even care anymore” I added annoyed.

“Sam you’re running out of options you’re already 15” he said frantically.

”Fine they can adopt me I’m sure their better than the stupid smith’s that are watching us now” I said in a mocking tone.

“Grab you’re stuff and pack it up were leaving soon” he said angrily. He handed me two garbage bags to put our stuff in. I grabbed the six pairs of clothing I had, and packed my brother Timmy’s stuff. Which consisted of ten items of clothing and of course his stupid roll of bubble wrap. Our foster parents never gave us any toys so the only thing Timmy kept to play with was his bubble wrap. Timmy was sleeping in our bedroom we shared so I woke him up and told him we finally got adopted. Of course because Timmy is six he got all excited and started jumping up and down. “Yes! Finally I get a mommy and daddy!” He screamed, I handed him his trash-bag.

“You have my bubbles right!” Timmy asked.

“Yes of course” I said annoyed. Joey shoved us out of the foster house and into the car.

Me and Timmy both fell asleep for about an hour when Joey woke us up and told us we we’re almost there. When I looked outside I saw the most beautiful green hills each house having six acres in between them. The houses looked brand new and shined brightly in the sunlight. Timmy and I exchanged excited glances we’ve never had a Yard before. While driving through the neighborhood Timmy spotted a cat on a leash. “Joey cats wear leashes too?” Timmy asked.

“Only crazy rich people walk cats on leashes” Joey categorizes. We pulled into the driveway of the biggest house I’ve ever seen and got out of the car. “Sam and Timmy welcome to you’re new home” Joey said with a smile. As We walked up the driveway Timmy saw a pumpkin. He’s obsessed with pumpkins because his favorite color is orange. But he’s never even touched one let alone seen one carved. A woman with long blond hair with a bright smile and large muscular man with brunette hair came to greet us. “Welcome were so excited to meet you! The woman said.

“Sam, Timmy meet the Green’s.” Joey said.

“What do you guys have there?” Mrs. Green asked pointing to the garbage bags.

“It’s our stuff.” I addressed “why are you’re things in garbage bags?” Mrs. Green asked.

“It’s all the system can afford for moving transportation” Joey said disappointedly.

“Well we will have to buy suitcases for the both of you when we go on our family vacations” She said excitingly. It was that moment on that porch I now call home that I realized what it means to have a family.

Beautiful Chaos

Abby J.

And I thought you were sane. I must admit, the way you conned me into believing your facade of falsehood was a clever feat indeed. You presented yourself in such an effortless manner that I played right into your twisted hands, not once second guessing your motives. I had even considered you a friend.

Now, as I stare out into the sterile and desolate hallway of the psychiatric ward of the hospital, I can’t help but feel trapped by your insolence. It was your mimicked charm and charisma that enticed me, that took my guard down and turned it into something heedless. It also was your pretend smile and your fabricated movements that landed me in this prison cell furnished with nothing but a table and chair so carefully wrapped in bubble wrap. The best part is, nobody knows it was you.

You took my face, my name, even my mannerisms, but I still have the one aspect you lack – my mind. It is the one place that you could not fully access, and yet you still managed to fool them. It’s incredible, the way you tap your foot in the same way I do, and the way you tuck your hair behind your ear so diligently. What may be even more concerning is the way you fooled me. I wanted so desperately to believe that I was imagining your slow accumulation of who I was, but you became my mirror image. You became me.

Now I’m surrounded by nurses with concern and pity as their only accompaniment.

Therapists show me ink blots in attempt to pick at my mind, but I continually disappoint them when I tell them that all I see is a cat on a leash. This is what you’ve done to me; you’ve forced me to question my own sanity at the cost of my freedom. I’m under lock and key, while everyone else roams freely in the world beyond these walls. They enjoy supper with their families and can breathe in the fresh air of the place I once called home, but because of you I spiraled into what I now see as beautiful chaos.

It’s not the kind of insanity where you witness a carved pumpkin speaking to you, it’s the kind of insanity where you don’t even recognize yourself in your own skin. Mirrors become your worst enemy because you are terrified of what you might see, yourself or the one impersonating you. The elements of your being become obliterated by the confusion, but no longer. This place with its empty walls has served as a platform for self-realization and reevaluation of all you have taken from me. I have gradually found myself again and have noted my sense of originality that I initially lacked. I have rediscovered my light thanks to you. So, thank you. Thank you for pushing me to be me, and for helping me to find this space of such beautiful chaos.

Goodbye

Star A.

“And I thought you were coming with me!” I shouted at my boyfriend Jeremy. “Ever since I started this idea about going four-hundred miles away to college, you always said you’d be with me every step of the way. News-flash! A big and very important step is for to get in my car and come with me!” I can tell by the way he is looking at me that he isn’t going to change his mind about coming with me.

“Look, sweetie, this is where our story ends. And you can’t say I haven’t been with you every step of the way because I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t support you. I’m just cut out for the college life, I didn’t even apply to that school. I knew I wouldn’t get in, so why waste my time trying.” He looked like he was Ahmed to admit this to me, but I wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily.

“So the past two and half years, you knew you weren’t going to college and you would just let me leave you here? I distinctly remember when we had my family’s annual pumpkin carving contest you told me what you wanted to major in and how you planned to make that a career. I think becoming a sportscaster would be perfect for you.” Jeremy once told me he wanted to work for ESPN and I wanted to be a veterinarian, so I could work anywhere he was located.

“Look, babe, I had a dream last night about your vet shop. I could see all of those cats on leashes just waiting to get back there and see you. I knew then what I had to do, I had to let you go and become the best vet you can be. Here I got you this as a going away present.” He handed me a box, inside was something wrapped with lots and lots of bubble wrap. Jeremy knows how much I love to pop the bubbles. I couldn’t believe what he had gotten me, it was a picture of me and him in our very first date.

“Jeremy, this is the sweetest and most thoughtful gift I have ever gotten. You are the best boyfriend ever!” I started to tear up, Jeremy noticed and kissed me.

“I wanted you to have this picture of us, so everyone knows what a killer, hot boyfriend you have back home.” He laughed and opened my car door. I got in, started the car, and gave Jeremy our last kiss until Thanksgiving. As I drive off, I realized I couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving!

Sprinkles’ Dilemma

Melinda G.

“And I though you were normal!” The dog exclaimed, his expression showcasing both anger and disbelief, though it was difficult to tell which there was more of. His paws were balled into little fists that rested at his sides.

“I’m a human-sized cat, you moron. I’m the exact opposite of normal.” Sprinkles, or Gregory, replied, rolling his amber coloured eyes and letting out a low scoff. “And I don’t want you telling anyone about this. It needs to stay a secret. Got it?”

The Doberman Pinscher let out a huff, reluctantly agreeing in a less-than-enthusiastic manner.

“Fine. I’ll keep it a secret. But I got one condition.”

“And what is that, mutt?”

The dog growled, lips curling into a snarl, revealing sharp, white teeth.

“Make that two conditions. One, don’t you ever call me mutt. And two, you gotta keep my secret. Deal?”

Sprinkles distractedly fiddled with his red leash, lightly scratching at it with one single claw before looking up at Dinky, as if he hadn’t heard a word.

“What was that?” He asked innocently, trying to resist the urge to smirk at the infuriated dog in front of him.

“You heard me.” Dinky growled.

Sprinkles only nodded and walked away, trying to get his leash to look like a tie so he could go to work without worrying about it. His work day was uneventful, full of carefully filing paperwork and taking calls. So he was more than glad to get home, instantly heading to his bed and grabbing his pumpkin-shaped cat toy to scratch it. As Sprinkles played with it, he absentmindedly thought about the Doberman Pinscher named Dinky who threatened to reveal that he was a cat. There was no way he could let that happen. He’d lose his job and his house and everything he’d worked so hard to keep.

With a little huff, he pushed himself out of bed and made his way to the kitchen, accidentally stepping on a sheet of bubblewrap that had spilled from a package he had received days prior. Instantly, the idea of food was long forgotten, all in favour of popping the sheet of bubblewrap with his paws.

Eventually, he did regain focus and finished the day’s plans, which consisted of eating and sleeping. And when he woke up the next day and went to work, he found that Dinky the Doberman Pinscher hadn’t kept his promise, and for that, he feared the worst.

Upon arriving at his workplace, Sprinkles found that there wasn’t a soul who cared that he was a cat. In fact, most all of the staff thought it was pretty cool.

Seems that Sprinkles didn’t have a reason to worry after all.