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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)

TITLE: What Shouldn't Be Normal
By Zac James


Today was the first day of 4th grade, and no one was more excited than Paul Goodman. The excitement was vibrant across his face as he virtually flew down the hallways. Hearing a loud "WALK!" from a teacher he ran past, he slowed to a speed-walk. He found his classroom, adjusted his glasses and walked in. His new teacher, Mrs. Brooks, was waiting for students to arrive. He was the first one, and she greeted him with a smile. She gave him a warm welcome and showed him to his desk. He liked her immediately. What a wonderful year of school this was going to be!

Other students began filtering in. Paul knew some of them, but most were unfamiliar. His two friends from 3rd grade were gone- one had moved away over the summer, and the other was a year older than him and was now in 5th grade. He hoped to find someone in this class who would befriend him. In the back of his mind, he processed the faces. Cory Daniels and Ben Dober were kids he would try to avoid whenever possible. Adam Horn was a possibility. He could be mean or nice depending on what everyone else was doing.

Paul had no more time to think about it- class was starting. At that moment, his eyes happened upon the occupant of a desk in the front row. Paul forgot to breathe. A girl. He didn't know who she was- maybe she had just moved here. Regardless, she was beautiful. Paul tried to focus on Mrs. Brooks, who was talking about class rules, and off of the brown-haired beauty.

This was something that seemed impossible. When Mrs. Brooks went around the room and had everyone say their name, Paul learned the name of the girl- Alicia Lynn. For the next two hours, he was spellbound by the mysterious girl in the front row.

When it came time for lunch, he chose not to sit with her. He would have been the only guy in a crowd of girls, and that would have been embarrassing. He chose a spot on the lunch table next to Adam. He was really popular, and if Paul wanted to be accepted, he figured he should hang out with the popular kids.

He opened the lunch his mother had packed him- a peanut butter and banana sandwich with celery, raspberry yogurt and a thermos of milk. He pulled out the sandwich and milk and began to eat away. He was not one to inject himself into conversation often, and right now he just listened. He was enjoying sitting with the "cool kids”.

And then all that was shattered.

"Hey Paul, are those...bananas?” Cory asked. Paul nodded as he chewed. Cory was incredulous- "You eat bananas on your sandwich?" He started to laugh. "Hey Adam, Ben! Paul’s eating a peanut butter and BANANA sandwich!" Adam and Ben started laughing and pointing at Paul. Paul was mortified. He looked at his bananas, his secret ingredient in a peanut butter sandwich, and back at the popular kids laughing at him. All the memories came flooding back. He felt tears welling up inside of him, but he could not let them show. He would be called a wimp, a crybaby. That would only make things worse. He would have to show them he was tough.

And somehow he wasn’t strong enough. He simply could not hide the pain.

He left the table, spilling his milk in the process. The laughter grew louder. As he walked past Alicia’s table, trying and failing to disguise his tears, he heard the one name he had always hated.


He fled from the room. He had hoped it would be different. Every year, it was the same. He carried high hopes that his classmates would accept him, only to become the brunt of teasing and ridicule. Again. He burst into the restroom. Didn't they care? How could they not know how badly they hurt his feelings? Was there no one who cared about him enough to defend him? At least his parents loved him. That was all he had to cling to. He felt so alone. Paul hid in the solitude of the farthest restroom stall and there he cried. And cried. And cried.

The Point: Teachers, lay down the law. Teasing should not be normal. Parents, get involved. Don’t let this fall through the cracks. Bullies, stop. The wounds you inflict are never forgotten. They define who we become.

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Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood11/24/06
I loved this story and its message! I could really relate to it because I was bullied and often rejected by kids all through school, and my older daughter also suffered through this in elementary school. It is a real problem and I applaud anyone who takes it seriously and addresses it!

I could see and feel with your little boy character; you made him come alive. Great job!
Marie Fieldman11/27/06
This is a good one.The detail was great.

There used to be a few people that teased me too. My Mom didn't stand for it. It helped it not to sink in really.
william price11/27/06
Good message that was delivered well. Keep up the good work. God bless.
Marty Wellington 11/28/06
This was well written and kept my attention throughout. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of a scene that is played out every day in our schools. The only criticism I have is it might be a little short on topic. Overall, though, it was a marvelous story.
Joanne Sher 11/29/06
Excellent detail throughout this story. I wish you had somehow woven your "point" more into the piece, rather than stating it at the end. This was a great description, though. Nice job!