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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: Mt. St. Helens
By Anita van der Elst


The sweater flew across the bedroom and settled into a corner, a heap of scarlet fluff. Its owner stomped over and after kicking it for good measure, burst into tears. As the storm abated, the red sweater was used to mop up the flood and the accompanying sludge. It failed however to soothe Melanie’s flushed skin tone or mood. Turning back to her closet, she half-heartedly pulled out a gray hooded sweatshirt and yanked it on over her head. From under the hood’s shadow she glared at her image in the mirrored closet door.

“Slammin’,” she muttered sarcastically. “Totally psychedelic.”

Melanie slouched her way to the kitchen where Mom was making breakfast. From the other side of the breakfast bar she watched Mom’s slim hand beat the buckwheat batter with a wooden spoon. Heat waves from the griddle welcomed the heart-shaped pancakes Mom poured onto it.

“Good morning, honey. Happy Valentine’s Day. There’s fresh applesauce to go with the pancakes,” said Mom, looking up and smiling. The smile quickly faded as her forehead furrowed. “Aaah, honey, what’s the matter? I thought you wanted to wear that pretty new red sweater today. For the Valentine’s dance after school, right?”

Mom reached across the counter to push Melanie’s hood back from her face. Melanie dodged backwards, almost tripping over a dining room chair. Instead her rear end plunked hard onto the seat.

“What’s going on, Melly?” Mom frowned and came around the counter into the dining room. Sitting down in the chair next to Melanie, she cocked her head and peered into her daughter’s face.

Hot rivulets of tears leaked from Melanie’s eyes. Glumly she raised her face to her mom and pointed at her own chin. “It’s huge,” she wailed. “It’s bright red and as big as Mt. St. Helens and I think it’s about to blow. It wasn’t there last night. I guess it’s a zit.”

Mom surveyed the mountain Melanie had made out of her molehill. She took Melanie’s hands in her own.

“Yes, you’re right. That is a pimple, Melly,” she said, her voice compassionate.

“Why? Why did I have to get my first pimple on Valentine’s Day? It couldn’t be on a snow day, could it? No, I have to get it on the most important day of my life. No way Jordie’s gonna ask me to dance looking like this. And my red sweater? Forget it! I can just hear the kids laughing now. ‘Oh, look! Melly’s outfit and accessories are totally copasetic. Red sweater with pimple to match.’”

Melly leaned into her mother’s hug. “Couldn’t I just veg out at home today, Mom? I feel sick, like I could barf. I’ll bet anybody who sees me will wanna throw up too.”

“I’m not throwing up and I’m looking at you.”

“You’re my mom. You can’t throw up when you look at me,” Melanie half-grinned and hiccupped through her tears.

Mom chuckled and gave her girl another squeeze. “You know, I figured this day was coming soon. I can’t magically make that pimple disappear but I did buy a couple of things at the drugstore that will help it heal faster. Let me show you how to use them.”

Like a condemned prisoner Melanie trudged after her Mom to the bathroom.

“You already take good care of your skin and I’ve made sure you eat healthy foods,” Mom assured her as they applied the skin care remedy. “I can’t say you won’t get more pimples from time to time though. It just comes with the hormonal territory.”

“Far out, Mom,” Melanie rolled her eyes and groaned.

“If it’s any consolation, dear heart, most of your friends will get them too. And true friends won’t hold that against each other.”

“I’m still not gonna wear my red sweater. It’s all grose now anyway,” Melanie grimaced. “I used it as a handkerchief.”

The giggle Mom tried to hold back slipped out and Melanie caught it.

After the dance Mom waited in the car. As Melanie, sandwiched between two girlfriends, neared her mom’s open window, a boy called from the sidewalk, “You’re a rad dancer, Melly!”

“That’s Jordie!” Melanie answered her mother’s unspoken question. “And Mom, could you give Trish and Brenda a ride home?”

As her friends hopped into the back seat, Melanie whispered to Mom with a grin, “Don’t look too closely at those two, but Mt. St. Helens wasn’t the only part of the Cascades that came to school today.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 10/08/09
Cute and clever story--I never would have thought of this for the topic!

I couldn't quite place it in time; the girl seemed to use teen slang from several different decades. And watch the spelling of "copacetic" and "gross".

Having raised two teens, I think you nailed it on how the smallest thing can seem like a mountain. This would be a good read for a junior high youth group.
Eileen Knowles10/08/09
Very nice story! Loved the title :) You did a great job at capturing the agony a teenager feels...I remember having meltdowns like that and feeling like it was the end of the world!
Myrna Noyes10/08/09
I really enjoyed reading this painfully true-to-teenage-life story! Good descriptive wrting and your conversations were realistic.

I particularly liked the following "bits":

*“It’s huge,” she wailed. “It’s bright red and as big as Mt. St. Helens and I think it’s about to blow. It wasn’t there last night. I guess it’s a zit.”

Mom surveyed the mountain Melanie had made out of her molehill. She took Melanie’s hands in her own."*

*"The giggle Mom tried to hold back slipped out and Melanie caught it."*

I look forward to reading more of your work! :)

Allen Stark10/11/09
A very creative piece dealing with a very common issue. Clever use of Mt. St. Helens to describe achne. I'm going to let my teen read this one.
Robyn Burke10/12/09
Your precise details made it easy to see the scenes set before us.

Good job capturing the emotions that run so high with teenage girls. Aaaahhh! A pimple can ruin everything!!

Some of Melly's vocabulary may have seemed slightly out of place... maybe a longer version would fully reveal her as a witty sarcastic person. Hard to fully develop her personality in a short story.

Amusing story-- an unusual choice for the subject! You did a great job with the patient wise mom.
Shilo Goodson10/13/09
I like your story. It's a unique approach to the topic for the week. I'm not really getting Melanie's slang, though. Is she attempting to make fun of old slang, or what's going on?