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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)

TITLE: When a Band-Aid Won't Do
By Joy Faire Stewart


The freezing January afternoon only added to my misery. Driving sleet stung my swollen eye as my high-top Keds pounded the grassy path carrying me to the safety of the small, wood-framed house where Mom and I lived.

I raced to the back porch not bothering to keep the screen door to the kitchen from banging closed behind me.

“Marcus, don’t slam the ...” —Mom almost got the familiar words out before she spied the ripped shirt, with buttons gone, hanging from my left shoulder. “No, not again,” she moaned.

“Why can’t I have new, store-bought clothes like everybody else?” I hurled the words at her like a fly ball over centerfield. The stinging words hung in the air and slowly etched their place into the face of the person I loved most in the world.

I must be the worst person God ever made. A wimp, a coward—all the things Greg and his buddies called me.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” I mumbled as I closed the door to my room and flung myself across the faded bedspread. My back ached from welts caused by rocks shot from Greg’s rubber band.

If only the accident hadn’t happened, or Dad had lived through it .... If only I’d been in the car with him when it hydroplaned and crashed into the bridge .... If only Mom had gotten a job in another town .... If only I were bigger, smarter, better looking .... If only ...

My first day at the new high school—that’s where it began. I’d just paid for lunch and was carrying my tray to a corner table. As Greg walked past me, he twisted my elbow sending the tray of spaghetti, peas and applesauce splattering across the cafeteria floor. He and his buddies doubled over with belly laughs. The cafeteria monitor didn’t see what happened and demanded I clean the floor and the guck from my jeans.

I dreaded gym class most. My gym clothes would be missing, so I’d lose points for not dressing-out, or my shoelaces would be tied together making me late for lineup. The coach usually picked Greg to be one of the team captains, and the other captain knew he’d better not choose me. I was always last man on a team.

“This bullying has to end.” Mom insisted in a meeting with the principal.

The following day, Greg was called to the principal’s office from American Lit. When he strutted back into class, he gave me a smirk and Lou Ellen a wink. She buried her head in her book and giggled. My face turned red, and I felt sweat trickle from my armpits. I’d wanted to be friends with Lou Ellen since the first time I saw her, but now ...

Mom’s meeting with the principal did make a difference. The bullying got worse. Greg or one of his goons now followed me between classes, and I became the target for their rubber bands. Then, this afternoon, the gang jumped me when I got off the bus.

I took my dad’s bone-handle pocketknife from the top drawer of the night stand. In my hand, the three-inch blade was power ... strength ... courage ... control. Turning the blade to its dull edge, I drew an imaginary line across my wrist. Then, with the business edge of the blade, I shaved a small patch of hair on my forearm. Brushing the hair aside, the sharp point of the blade nicked my skin. I watched as blood dripped to the bedspread seeping into ripples that reminded me of bobbing corks when Dad and I fished the river behind our old house.

Mom called from outside my door, “Marcus, we need to talk.”

I slipped the open knife under my pillow as she came and sat on the edge of the bed. She put her arm around my shoulders and patted my knee. “I’ve called Pastor Glenn,” she said. “He’ll be here any minute with a deputy sheriff to take your statement. This bullying is going to end tonight!”

She hugged me and went to answer the doorbell.

Taking Dad’s knife from under the pillow, I closed the blade and placed it back in the drawer.

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This article has been read 748 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 04/23/09
An all-too real scenario. Good work.
Bryan Ridenour04/24/09
A very life-like scenario. Nicely written. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 04/28/09
My heart really goes out to those who are bullied, so I thank you for writing this piece.

I have ambivalent feelings about the ending--the bit with the knife was so powerful that it made my heart beat faster, so the pastor and the police almost felt like a cop-out. But on the other hand, the hopeful ending is the "right" one.

Powerful story that just begs to be expanded.
Chely Roach04/28/09
What a powerful, gripping entry. Well done!
Dee Yoder 04/29/09
Yes, this IS a powerful and well-written story! It got my blood boiling--I just can't stand bullies.

I have to say that, while my heart likes the ending, I tend to agree with Jan that it seems this kind of scenario usually doesn't end, this soon, this way. But saying that, I think there is only so many word numbers available, and you just about had to choose whether you wanted to project a sad, happy, or cliff-hanger ending. If you get the chance to expand this, go ahead and send the MC down all those dark alleys the hints of before he reaches the happy ending that we all like so much! This would be a powerful read for teens.
Dee Yoder 04/29/09
Sorry--I left out the words "this story" hints to. LOL.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/29/09
The emotions of your MC were very real, and I liked the wisdom revealed by the mother in her solution to the problem in this well written story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/29/09
I liked your beginning and ending of a marriage story very much. It was a nice touch to have the son protect his mom from being chilled as her husband had done.
Beckie Stewart04/29/09
I'm glad that the mother came just in time with a solution. This definitely shows the torture some have to endure with bullies. Thanks for sharing this. It was well done.
Carol Slider 04/29/09
I could really feel the tension at the end, and I'm glad that there was some sort of resolution... though, of course, it would take time to solve a bullying problem this entrenched at the school. Very intense and vividly described story... well done.
Myrna Noyes04/29/09
Your title is so perfect for this excellently written story! Your word choices are wonderful, and you do a great job of showcasing the all-too-prevalent problem of bullying.
Kimberly Russell04/29/09
As a "recovering bullied kid", I wish my own situation had had such a happy ending. I really liked the fact that the parent did not discount what the child was going through. You did a great job.
Karlene Jacobsen04/29/09
I can see this as a teen book. I like the ending in that it suggests to me, a postponement of what this teen sees as inevitable, probably. After all, the visit to the principle only escalated the problem, what would a cop do?

See? This can't be the end.
Joshua Janoski04/29/09
The scenario in this story is very real and the MC's voice is very authentic. I could feel the pain and the fear that he was feeling as I read this. The ending was cool. I like how it started to go one way and then went a different direction. Good job! I enjoyed reading this!
Laura Manley07/14/09
You were so kind to leave me a comment on my recent entry in the Writing Challenge. I want to reciprocate. The title of this story drew me in. Although I'm not real good at titles yet, I do believe they are the substance of what causes a person to want to open the piece and read it. This was the case with this title. But as important as the title is, the subperb writing kept me here, devouring each and every word. I see you are where I hope to be some day. I love the imagery you use to keep this reader's interest. I write, but I learn more by reading. Thank you for sharing this story with one who has truly appreciated it. Blessings, Laura
Laura Manley07/14/09
I had one more thought as I closed my comments to you. This story is so power-packed that with all the bullying that happens in our schools today, you may very well have a book in the making. Something to think about. Laura