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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: Why Not?
By Steve Uppendahl


I’ve been dreading this spring for as long as I can remember. Senior prom. Two sisters and a mother, all prom queens, all still seemingly in a spotlight. It’s always been surprising to me that they haven’t burned to a crisp. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that I haven’t.

“The next six weeks are crucial, Cassie. Nothing but smiles and compliments from here on out. People remember rudeness…”

“I found three dresses for you, Cassie. Once you lose those last few pounds, any one of them will be perfect…”

“Always remember, stay focused at all times. One slip can ruin everything, for all of us…”


I hold my breath as I stare at another gaudy poster for prom queen, “Be classy, vote for Cassie!” I grimace at the pathetic slogan. Of course, I’ve yet to see any prom slogan that isn’t followed by nausea.

I’m about to head out for lunch when I see him, Chet Wexler. Our eyes meet. My chest tightens and I inhale. Immediately, my brain kicks in and begins to chastise me.

“Why him? He’s thin, gawky, has glasses, acne, he trips over his feet at least twice a week.”

But then I think of those words he writes in Honors English and that soft voice, almost a constant whisper, how he never looks up, yet says the most amazing things. A strong shiver goes through my spine and shoulders and seems to wake me up.

“Come on, Cassie, not again! He’s a nobody. Let it go.”

I close my eyes and groan inwardly. I turn around and see exactly what I expect, my fellow members of “The Squad”—the seemingly untouchable and elite of our school—I plaster on a smile and try.

“I wasn’t—“

“Oh, yes you were, girl! You should keep your mouth closed when you look at any guy you like, but especially that one. You know, you won’t win if you’re seen with him.”

For the first time in recent memory, puzzlement wins over fear.

“Why not?”

Courtney looks at me in disbelief.

“Come on, Cassie! Prom is everything! One wrong step and its over! No crown, no scepter, nothing! Haven’t your sisters told you about this?”

Instinctively I put my hands up and move them in sync with each word. “Yes. All. The. Time.”

She gives me a close-mouthed smile, “Good. Let’s eat.”

I give in and shrug, “Why not?”


Towards the end of lunch, Tessa runs up to our table laughing hysterically.

“Guess who’s running for prom queen. Shelby Arliss!”

I feel a tremble in my gut and my appetite vanishes. I force myself to laugh along with the rest of them, but can’t help thinking the girl must be suicidal.

We stare at a huge poster stretching atop twenty lockers. No one speaks. We just look at the brilliant blue rectangle with “Shelby Arliss for Prom Queen” in yellow letters, followed by her slogan, “Why Not?” written neatly in white paint. I tilt my head and hide a smile with my hand. Not bad.

Courtney finally cuts through the silence, “Oh, this is too good. We’ve got this covered, Cass. Don’t we, girls?”

Something about the look in Courtney’s eyes and the Squad’s response worries me.

“Don’t do anything, Court. She doesn’t have a chance. She’s a geek. You say so all the time. Just…leave her alone. For once.”

Courtney rolls her eyes and laughs.

“I’ve been waiting for something like this, Cass. This will be perfect.”


That night my phone receives a picture, as does every member of the football and basketball teams and God knows who else. Shelby Arliss in the shower. I’m immediately sick.

I text Courtney, “Why?”

I’m not surprised at her response, “Why not?” A happy face icon wearing a crown is at the end of the message.
Suddenly, I feel just like that icon. I’m standing in the middle of a spotlight, a crown on my head and a phony smile on my face. I stare down at my cheering classmates and realize I don’t know most of them, and no one really knows me, just my name.

Later, she stops me.

“Why? I’ve never done anything to you.”

“It wasn’t me.”

Shelby smirks and looks up, “Enjoy the crown. You’ve earned it.”

Later, I see Chet. Our eyes meet, but nothing is there. Not anymore. I see Shelby being comforted by true friends and feel pangs of jealousy. My crown feels heavy as I walk home, alone.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Betty Castleberry02/01/08
Excellent message. Unfortunately, this stuff really happens. It's too bad young people don't understand their porpularity in school doesn't mean diddly in the real world. Great job.
Karen Wilber02/03/08
So much to consider here - glittery crown, glittery friends, glittery illusions of happiness. Sad that she even knew it was worthless - but let herself pursue it anyway, not questioning "why not". Like the last paragraph.
Joanne Sher 02/04/08
Very, very realistic - great job with the dialog and characterization and the "cattiness" of these years. This one stabbed me. Wonderful.
Peter Stone02/06/08
Great story of achieving a desired end that seemed full of promise, but ended up an empty victory.