I slumped in my armchair. It was the usual one in which I sat after the sun had fled each day. Aware of my sloth but unable to summon enough mental fortitude to correct my declining posture. Lately I had been more and more inclined to relax in that seat far too early in the evening. The long days at the Steel plant left my body drained to the bones. My usual stack of books lay beside me, illuminated by the overhanging lamp. The room seemed dull, aside that one center of homely light that brought colour to all things around it. After several unsuccessful attempts I gave up on reading and let the weight of the day take its course, the book fell against my chest and my eyes drifted shut.  In the calm of ensuing inactivity there came the sounds of my wife and daughter from the loft, laughing, giggling at some kind of flouncy Frenchman on the television. Miranda was turning 7 tommorrow and as a special treat she got to stay up till 9 tonight. 
     I wasn’t used to all this stability and order, in my life or my families. Until
  my 42nd birthday I’d been an underpaid kicker and had stepped in to play Quarterback when the starting man had got himself injured during the pre-season. We won the superbowl that year. Every now and then they even put me in pass formations because, after all, I wasn’t a bad receiver either. I can remember the thrum of the crowd. Some of the team loved it. I always found the noise distracting. I can still see the road, covered in muted reds and oranges, the golden haze of fall, as I walked away that day. It was the 17thof November, still surprisingly warm for that time of year. Then again, that sort of weather is the norm in the tropical setting of the Port of Jaav.  It’s a small place, just what you’d expect of a tropical port, thatched houses, tiered town structure with fish sellers down by the docks. The Thinker lives in a small hutch out on the main pier, he played for the Deckswabbers for quite a while, but in the end the quiet life by the water drew him back to his musings. I don’t remember much of my life outside the Port of Jaav. The day I got my letter from Bunchman Steaves began a tyrade of activity that lasted 23 years. I’m not sure how I did it but I managed to marry and we’ve lived well here since my retirement. 
     Further reminiscing was interrupted when my ears received a sound, a knock, specifically. Funny thing that, we come to think of knocking as a mundane occurance and consequently not of much importance, but on this particular occasion the transient seemed to hold an unnerving quality. Perhaps it was the effect of being startled out of a dream or the unusual slowness with which they without rapped, either way I was almost hesitant to answer. I strode
slowly to the door. Letting my hand grasp the knob and twist expertly, I stepped back to allow room and bowed deeply to our visitor. Several moments passed and I began to wonder for I had only heard the sound of rustling clothes. Under the circumstances I felt it quite alright to break tradition, I rose my gaze to peek out from beneath the brim of my tweed bowler. From my limited vantage I saw only wet pavement and rain, stretching out to the road, the occasional flash of lightning. I straightened myself and looked about, bushy eyebrow raised, lower lip quivering. I had a vague suspicion as to what might be going on here but I had to test it. I withdrew, shutting the heavy door with a clunk and turned to rest my back against it. Gathering my wits I glowered at the room in front of me, scanning for any disturbance, seeing nothing I moved on. Muscles tense like a lizard preparing to leap I drew up against the doorpost leading into the sitting room, with infinite precaution I peeked around the corner. There it was! A shimmering patch of air, like body of mist standing at my coffee table.  I knew what I had to do... It would require all of my collective skill, all my  years of training. After all my wife and child were up stairs oblivious to this phantasmal item in our living room. I had to show this ghost how to kick!
    In
  a whirl I rushed round the edge, coat tails flying and dashed across the room,
  sliding into a whirlwind kick aimed straight for the shins of the translucent
  being. But my efforts were met with nothing, I slid right through and tumbled
  into a messy heap on the other side of the room! From my very unstudious
  position on the ground I could see the shape quiver slightly and moments later
  I could hear laughter, faded, like the sound on an old
record.
    “Oho, you old rascal Foon! I knew I did right in choosing you...” He went on chuckling for several more moments before I had sufficiently collected myself.
    “Confound it all Paulding! Of all people I would expect at least you to have the manners to at least give a chap a fair 'hello' at the door!” I nearly shouted in a dry voice, brows quivering in annoyance. In haste I gathered myself from the floor, noticing that several of the buttons on my coat had come loose. When I looked up he stood before me, the man I had known so well
in my career, or at least the begginning of it. It was a sortof greyish representation of him, though he was exactly as I remembered. A moment of silence passed between us before we stepped forth and embraced as old friend do, patting eachother on the back (as accurately as could be managed given the state of things) and laughing heartily.              
     “How are you after all these years?”I asked.
    “Oh, it's been absolutely fantastic Harry, I've gone and seen so many places, I only wish I could still do things the way I used to--”
    “Your telling me, old friend! It's been quite a while since I've tried a kick like that...” I scoffed and grinned like a boy. 
     He smiled and looked away a moment before carrying on, 
     “The temples of Greece! Oh, they are really something to see. Even I probably couldn't get the ball all the way across those halls in one go! And the pyramids of Egypt, they have the most fascinating writing and designs, I've even tried my hand at copying some of their work to try and understand it better. Not that I can show you..” He gestured down at himself, a pained look coming over his face momentarily. I nodded to show I understood and wanted to hear more. “I even visited the peaks of Antarctica, it is a view, let me tell you! I only wish I could have tried a kick to see how far it would go... The snow and the wind would've posed a bit of an issue, I admit but it's not as though I didn't have the time to find the blasted thing after the fact!” We both guffawed at his ghostly expense, good heartedly, of course. 
     He asked me all about how the end of my career had come about, what I had done since he had known me. He wanted to know about Sally and Miranda, how I had met my wife and when we had decided to have a child. He was particularly interested in knowing every detail about our superbowl win.  I told him every excrutiating nuance of the pressure, the fall behind and how I had gathered my courage and rallied the bedraggled offense to a stunning conclusion. He was clearly enthralled with the tale and I found a great deal of satisfaction in recalling the memory myself, though, I don't fancy I'd tell anyone so...
    At last the hour was growing late and though it didn't matter much to him my eyelids were drooping and my body ached for sleep. He graciously offered to remove himself and though I protested, true to form, he insisted and I led him to the door. At the threshold he turned as if he knew it was as far as he could go. I saw in his eyes a yearning look as he started back into the vibrant life of my house. I felt pity for him, I really did, however sadly, there was nothing I could do so I did the best I could. I told him he ought to come back whenever he felt lonely and that he'd always have a friend and a colleague to share his explorations with. 
    Donning his hat he turned, looking back with a spark in his eye. “Good luck to you, and thank you, old chap.. Perhaps I'll be back next week, or next
month, at any rate I'll see you again!”


With that he stepped away and passed into the moonlight,
blending seamlessly with the night.

 
 
    “Hau Mitakuyawasin, Ish NaNa Nazin Emaki Yapaydo.” Hello my relatives, my name is Stands Alone. My real name is Arthur Red All Around Him. I am a Native American, Dakota, but to be more accurate, Wahpe Kute. My band of Dakota, have been the front of the line, sort to speak, in a majority of the great battles fought against the United States. Our band was known as being fierce and proud, not to back down from any fight, and great leader skills.  This brings pride and dignity to me, knowing that I am following in the footsteps of great people who have done significant things to carry on to their future bloodline. Thinking about the rich and beautiful culture that I have descended from, brings a sense of honor, knowing that my ancestors have fought for what we have today. 
    Along with my great history, I carry many burdens.  My health is slowly deteriorating because of a chronic disease called Diabetes. I have three fingers on my left hand, my index finger and middle finger and thumb, three and a half on my right, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of my ring finger, which I am still able to where a ring but unfortunately falls off. My toes were the first to go before any of my limbs, brief lesson on how a diabetic body works. The feet are the limbs that are the most highly affected due to the high levels of sugar in the blood, it can cause a clotting in the vessels which cut off circulation, which causes no oxygen to the feet, which can actually break the skin and get infected, therefore causing
gangrene, which eventually will lead to chopping off the foot.   Luckily, the doctor was able to stop the gangrene at my toes, so he only took my toes. I guess you can say that I am living up what my great ancestors have fought for. I look at myself in the mirror, which is broken because I let loose some rage I had well gazing at myself, and I think about what was it like
to live in the past, to roam free on the plains? How did our forefathers not become affected by the complications that we face today? Why do we face these  hardships, these trials and tribulations? Why? Why is it I have to watch what I eat and drink? So many questions that I have to ask but who will answer these questions.
    This is the type of conversation that I have with my doctor, “I’ve been having this numb feeling in my leg, and it feels cold all the time.” Doctor responds, “you have heard it before but, it is hard for me to tell you this, I’m going to have to operate and remove the bottom half of your leg. Because there is no circulation there, the infection will become too severe to treat. I am sorry.” 
     Blank, empty stare towards the window, which faces a playground where kids are running free and wild, having a good time and not thinking about the future, just living in the moment of life. I was young once; hell of a runner, probably one of South Dakota’s finest. Used to be able to put down a mile at a pace of four minutes and twenty seconds, yeah that’s fast. Used to run three miles in fifteen, run two in nine and a half, used to run every where, didn’t have a car so I had too. I was careless and young, didn’t give a damn about any thing. Had girls, partied on the weekends, and drank like a fish. I swear I look back on my life now well sitting on this examination table. I would do things totally different. I regret that day I put that bottle of alcohol to my lips, man, if I could go back and time with the mind frame that I have today, I would tell those bastards, HELL NO!!
    Why did I consume that drink, was it because of its’ taste, was it because it would give me great powers, or was it because I was a little bitch with no backbone who would do any thing to be cool and fit in? Yeah, I was a little bitch with no backbone, I did do what ever it took to fit in, to be accepted by other people. I wasted forty years of my life, forty years, drinking. I started when I was sixteen, quit five years ago. I am fifty-one years old, I look back and think, “Damn, did I really used to dig in garbage bins for corners of bottles and change?” Hell I was homeless, used to live on the streets of Webster, South Dakota. White folks walk by and say “Just another Indian, drunk, not like it’s new”.
    Not only did I carry the burden of drinking but also the burden of my own skin. If I was drinking in small hick towns, I guarantee there was going to be a fight and some one was going to the ER. Racism in South Dakota still exist, stands out like the Mona Lisa painting on an art gallery wall. It’s sad that a person like me has to carry these burdens, well more like deserved due to the lifestyle that I have chose. I come from a proud race and decadency that most people would dream about, but sitting here in this cold, bright room atop this paper cover. I have nothing, no will to live but wanting one more day, one more day to give inspiration and lead by example? My family was taken by this disease I now face, I grew up watching my great-grandparents and parents give themselves shots in the stomach, injecting insulin and I always told myself that I would never follow in those footsteps. Watching them as they stab their own flesh and overcoming their fear of needles just to spend more time in this fucked up world. 
    Why? 
     Well look at me, I am doing the exact same thing, hoping that this medicine will give me more time here, more time to be around people, people like me who have made decisions that they regret but come to live with and pass on their hard endured knowledge. As I step off of this examination table I will go to the outside world, a cruel cold world, and I will show people what bad choices can
do to you, show them what alcohol can do to you. My face is bright red and full of deep pores, my nose is twice its normal size, and I hardly have any hair. Truth be told, I hate looking in the mirror, I haven’t looked into a mirror in years, the mirror in my bathroom is broken. When I walk by a store window I walk with my head down, when I walk down the street I don’t dare make eye contact with any one because I am afraid that they will laugh at me.
    Alcohol effects people in different ways, white people are fortunate, they can drink all their life and not be as ugly as I am today. If were to show you a picture of me back in high school, I
doubt you would recognize me. A devilishly handsome young man with wavy black hair, I always dressed in fine clothes and I was healthy. I had it all, appearance wise I was able to fit in any type of crowd, whites, Indians, trashy, or classy. After high school, which I finally graduated due to the wishes of my parents, I went on and spent a year in college, it was there I learned how to handle my booze and stay drunk. Man it was fun to go to a party and hang out.
The free booze, sex, and just being wasted off my ass, spending nights in the drunk tank, only to be released and greeted by real good friends with a bottle of Jim Beam and a case of Bud. I can remember when my mom and dad would send me money. I would go get the survival kit, the essentials, basically which consisted of a bottle of 150 proof and four cases.
    Walking down this cold and bright-lit hallway, hearing the sound of heart-rate monitors
beeping, knowing that they are beacon of living or dead. I think about my survival kit know. A pillbox marked, Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs-Fri-Sat-Sun with little compartments that hold on the items that determine my fate and a small vial of Insulin and a pack of syringes. When I stab myself in my abdomen, I can taste the bitterness of the insulin as it streams into my blood. I can grimace as if there is pain, but I’ve become so used to taking the insulin that its routine,
heck if I wake up in my sleep my body would know what to do.     
     As I approach the scheduler, I am greeted.           
     “Hello Art, how are we doing today?”
    I reply, “Another day alive, so I guess you can say I’m doing good.”
     She says, “Let’s see, what are we scheduling for you?”
    I know she knows what I am going be scheduling but its her job to be polite, in her mind she’s probably thinking, “Taking another limb are we?” but yet again she isn’t as cruel as I make her out to be, she is just a young beautiful woman, who was thinking when she went into school for this line of work, “I’m going make a difference”. Little did she know she’d be setting up appointments to chop off limbs of diabetics. 
    I am a bitter man, no will to live but yet I want to keep on living. I have endured turmoil and tragedy, which I have bestowed upon myself, made choices that make me an incomplete man. No family, but living for some thing, hoping the youth and young adults hear my cry and listen to my story. I come from a proud race and strong bloodline, a once dominant people who fought for our future, who sacrificed so we can live a better life. I did nothing to honor my forefathers and I am hoping that all of the young can look at me and realize, realize that they have the opportunity to honor our ancestors by excelling in their lives, by living out their dreams, and by realizing that we are bigger then what we make ourselves out to be.  


 
 
    Across the colva sack from the house I grew up in, was the house of Mr. Peabody. I never thought it was a very attractive house, even when it was new. Before Mr. Peabody moved in, the place was empty. All the high school kids would go there at night and make a lot of noise. The mold encrusted wood paneling and dirt caked windows gave it a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe. For a little boy, this was not a great image to have outside my bedroom window every night before I went to sleep. I would have frequent nightmares about a werewolf or an axe murderer coming out of that house and chasing me. 
    One day a moving van was parked outside that crusty, old, dump. I watched to two movers unload every box and piece of furniture into that place, but no one else showed up. Not until midnight did another vehicle pull up to the house.  It was an old black Lincoln with dark windows and light rust spots on the bottom edges. From that funeral car came Mr. Peabody. From what I could tell by the light of the street lamp was he was older about 45 or 50, had a slightly balding salt-and-pepper part, and stood about six foot five. He was a giant of a man. He had very broad shoulders and a slim waste. He resembled a body builder from a mid-day television, home gym commercial. That was the only time I really got a good look at Mr. Peabody. 
    Before I knew it, weeks went by and I never saw that old Lincoln leave it’s spot on the street. My friends kept on joking that he probably died from all the gross things the high school kids left behind. I could only think about, ‘what if he did die? Should I do something? Should I tell someone? Should I go investigate?’ I would always shrug off my friend’s jokes because they didn’t see the beast of a man that I saw that night many weeks ago. I never did tell them what I saw; not that night, or any other. 
    One night as I sat up in bed, staring at that house, I noticed the car was gone. I never noticed anyone leave, or come at tow it. Nobody mentioned anything about him dying, so a wave of relief slowly washed over me, knowing that this man didn’t simple move in and die. I must have sat there for an hour before I saw that Lincoln pull up to the house. When Mr. Peabody got out of the car he had three large trash bags with him. I couldn’t really get a good look at him, or what was in the bags because for some unknown reason the street light above his car was out. And for the next few days those bags were the only thing I could think about.
    That Friday was my neighbor Ricky’s birthday. I didn’t really want to go, but my parents didn’t give me much of a choice because they are friends with Ricky’s parents. We were having a sleep over and at every middle school sleep over people played truth or dare. It would usually involve something stupid like licking your foot or telling everyone which girls you liked at school, except when it was my turn. Ricky noticed that all I did during his party was sit by the window and watch Mr. Peabody’s house like some federal agent, so when he asked me truth or dare and I for some reason said dare. 
    “I dare you to walk across the street, go inside creepy Peabody’s house, and come back.” He said with a grin.
    After wining and arguing with everyone else there I had to buckle down and does it for fear of getting beat up. The walk across the street was the easiest part. Except I could feel the eyes of all the other kids at my back, and I could almost hear them chuckling and making jokes from so far away. As soon as I crossed into that yard, my entire body got hot and my stomach felt like it was in my throat. Every step I took felt like an hour elapsed between each one. I  crept ever-so slowly till I got to the front door. I felt like I was watching my own body move without my mind telling it to when my hand reached for the antique brass door knob. The door unlatched and cracked open without a sound. I knew the kids across the street were absolutely speechless. I felt like it was some unnatural force pulling me through that doorway and into the living room.
    I stood there a minute and grasped my surroundings. There were no electric lights; there were candles on every table. The entire place smelt of wax and must, like an old basement. None of the furniture could have been from this century. It all had to be at least a hundred years old. The final thing that hit me was the sound. The sound I would never forget.
    At first it sounded like a high speed fan or something. Then I started to move toward the source; a strange door just past the living room. Then I realized that it was some sort of machinery, a saw perhaps… but that wasn’t it. There was more, as I listened closely I could hear another element to that buzzing and whining sound. It was a slight screech or a gurgle, like a hurt animal or small rodent. As I stood and listened with my ear next to the door the
noise went from a steady squeak to a piercing, gut twisting scream!  
    I moved so fast from that house I didn’t know how much noise I made, if I even shut the door, or if the kids across the street even saw me. I went straight home, and into my room. I could still hear that sound ringing in my ears. I could feel my heart beating threw every inch of my body. I stood by the window staring at that house for another half an hour before I closed my curtains and shut my eyes to try and keep myself from throwing up. 
    I always debated what was making that noise that night and why. I always wanted to tell someone what happened, but never could. Ricky saw me at school a few days after and tried to ask, but I ignored him. I thought it best not to tell any of the other kids. I feared they would investigate themselves and suffer a fate worse than mine. I never did look out my bedroom widow again and I never did see that old Lincoln move from that spot ever again.         
 
 
    At this time of year the sun lays on black top like a flame spread over a flat cast-iron griddle. The vast plane of sand and cacti surround the residential neighborhoods that inhabit the salinas along I-80. Driving in a cramped station wagon with two people and a dog doesn’t that comfortable, but for Andy and Steve it was a great opportunity to experience life and learn about themselves. 
    “Let’s stop over at this cross street up here and let the dog out. I’m sure he’s had to piss for the last hour,” Steve says. He calls for Andy’s attention and waits for his head to nod.
    As the boys pull off of I-80 onto a single road that evaporates with the heat, their dog, Zeppy, gains a sense of whats going on and starts to whine. The wagon pulls into a lot where there rests an abandoned ranch plot. 
    “He really has to go,” Andy says as he chuckles.
    Steve opens up the back door of the wagon and Zeppy jumps out to find the nearest object that contains any residue of a previous animal. Zeppy ends up finding an old ranch post that had been degrading into the earth and submerses it with a steady stream of dog piss. Steve kicks up a rock to Andy and waits for the return like a game of hacky sack. As the rock goes back and forth between the boys feet, Zeppy starts to get involved by barking and dancing in the sand. 
     The rock finds its way into Zeppy’s mouth and the boys watch and laugh as their dog dirties himself in the sand. Beads of sweat start steam rolling their cheeks to the creases of their grins. An overwhelming sense of freedom inhabits the boys. No rules. No restrictions. Freedom to drive spontaneously with no caution.
    “This feels awesome,” Steve says. 
     “Ya.”Andy find’s himself agreeing.
    “It was pretty nice seeing your parents place. How long have they lived there.”
    “A couple years.” Andy loses the grin on his face.
    For the boys, the past has been filled with many escapes from home. Andy did all he could to avoid another night alone with his father. Steve was always there to pick him up and drive. Scars mark the endless battles between father and son, although Andy never acknowledge that Willie was his real dad.
    The sun starts to set over the mountains to the west and the temperature acts as the sun’s faithful sidekick. Andy goes to the back of the wagon and grabs the canvas sleeping bags and tent from underneath boxes and bags. As the wind starts to push through from the west, the boys use the wagon as a wind break and set up the tent on the opposite side of the gusts. 
    “This wind is killer,” Steve says.
    “Ya, we’ll get use to it,” Andy says. He nestles in a spot to lay down.
    Steve stares at the ground for a moment with a look of contemplation. He thinks of all those times Andy and him traveled to different towns in the region to escape from home. He remembers Andy fighting with his dad a lot. 
    “Hey, remember that time you pushed your dad down the stairs?” Steve asks.
    “Ya. Why?” Andy responds.
    “Why did you push him?”
    “He hit my mom.” Andy says. He lays down on his back and puts his hand underneath his head and uses his fingers as a pillow.
    The last remnants of the sun disappear into the horizon. Color has vanished leaving the contrast of flickering lights on black canvas. Not too often do the boys get to see such and amazing display of stars in the sky. Not even from a small town. Street lights and strip malls usually blanket the detail of the stars with an orange hue. Now they can see every single detail the sky has to offer. The galaxy expands further than they can imagine.
    Zeppy, pushes himself underneath Steve’s arms and sighs. He’s ready for sleep. The boys follow Zeppy’s lead and trail off into their dreams where the second part of the adventure starts. 
    The east side of the sky shares a colorful assortment of magenta and blood orange as the sun lifts off the eastern hills. The air is still cool but the sun gently rests over the boys like a warm blanket. Steve is the first to get up and walks with Zeppy to stretch their legs and relieve themselves at a distant corner of the plot. Andy lays still, unaffected by the footsteps grinding against sand as Steve explores the plot. 
    “Andy. Get up. We have to start driving. We need to grab some gas and food at the next gas station about 50 miles from here.”
    Andy doesn’t respond.
    “Hey buddy, get up. I’m serious. I’m hungry man.” Steve chuckles a bit at the silence. He thinks Andy is playing an old game they had called “Ignore Steve.”
    “Dude, you okay?” Andy is motionless. His body is still and his lungs don’t seam to push up the top of the sleeping bag as it did before the boys fell asleep last night. Steve stares intensely at the body of his friend looking for any movement or sign that he is ok. Nothing. Nothing happens. In a panic, Steve runs to Andy and turns his body from being on his side to his back. A plastic white face. Unreal. This has only ever happened in movies. 
     At no point in time has Steve ever shown any regret for these impulsive trips away from home until now. The boys made these trips to get away from it all and now Steve finds himself further than he ever wanted to be. The desert now seemed to him as an alien planet with no way to get home. 
    Steve begins to investigate his dead friend to find any sign of his sudden death. He placed his hand in every pocket of Andy’s clothes in hopes to discover a pill bottle or a message. Anything that would clue him in to what happened. At this point in time, Steve’s eyes were swollen from the sadness of his deceased friend and blurry vision acted like clouds possessing a white-walled cell. His hands were shaking more vigorously as he went from pocket to pocket. Nothing left to check. All of Andy’s pockets were empty. Steve fell back as though he was pushed over by the disappointment. His tears consumed him like a wave taking over a city with a tourist shoreline. 
     Zeppy was still there.  The dog that has been part of Steve’s life for the past 6 years was still there. Accommodating to the needs of his master, Zeppy began to do a search of his own.
Sniffing the stiff body that lay on the ground, the dog stopped at the clenched fist that was pushed slightly underneath the car which blocked the gusty winds from the previous night. 
    “Did you find something Zeppy?” Steve asks.
    Steve ran over to the alert dog and grabbed the hand of his friend and pealed back the fingers one at a time. Slowly, a message was revealed: 

     To my dearest friend,
    We have been on many trips together. All of which have changed my life significantly. You have been the one and only true friend throughout my whole life. I’m sorry I had to do this. There was nothing left for me. Tonight the stars marked the last moment of my existence. It’s too perfect to pass by. I know you’ll understand when you reach your last breath. You’ll want it to end the same. Say good bye to Zeppy for me. He was a great companion and friend.
     Keep on keepin’ on,  brother,
    Andy

    This made no sense to Steve. Why would he just kill himself like that? What was going on? Puzzled, Steve decided to search the wagon for any answers.  He dug through all of the boxes Andy kept sealed tight. During all of their trips together, Andy was only ever particular about his boxes. He never let Steve move them. As any friend would do at this point, Steve opened the boxes to find answers. The first few items that were pulled from the boxes were old pictures of ex-girlfriends and panties. Steve has always known about certain attachment issues that were brought up in conversations but had never seen the evidence. As he dug further into the box, he discovered darker secrets. Black leather straps that have only been seen at erie sex shops lined the bottom of the box along side a rope that was covered in blood. Steve jumped back out of the car and started to gag. Vomit pushed out of his mouth in reaction to the recent discovery. All Steve could think about was his friend as a murderer. The
dark side of Andy that Steve always pushed to the side and ignored. He never wanted to think of his friend like that, but he knew that side was there. And still, there was one more box. Steve stood back with his hands grabbing the locks of hair that were standing up from the shock. What could be inside of that box? As Steve slowly crept to the box, Zeppy was already pawing and growling at the cardboard case that was strategically tucked away in the back of the wagon. Steve pushed Zeppy out of the back and the dogs paws imprinted the sand with
  perfectly placed marks. Both of his hands were shaking and the feeling of passing out was crowding his thoughts. The sun was getting higher in the sky and began pushing out heat like the inside of an oven. Steve felt like shutting down. He didn’t want to see the inside of this box. He was afraid. A pocket knife was resting on the front seat. It seemed to be staring Steve in the eyes, taunting him. He understand that he wasn’t going to like what was in the box.
    In fact, he didn’t want the box to sully the image of his best friend. Andy meant a lot to Steve. After a while of contemplating, Steve grabbed the knife and began carving the top of the box. A smell of plastic and dryer sheets invaded Steve’s nostrils. He realized that Andy had been hiding something from him this whole trip. Steve took the knife and pierced through the plastic. A smell of shit and rotten fish hit the inside of the wagon like an iron beam collapsing through the roof of a house. It was then that Steve caught a glimpse of the object. Willie. It was Andy’s father. He took the head of his father. 
    Moments passed and Steve finally forced his eyes to focus. Along with the head of Andy’s father, the box was filled with pictures of decapitated bodies that were bound by straps and rope. Dozens of pictures. Dozens of different men and women. All of which have most likely hurt and betrayed Andy in the past. I was his only friend. I was the only one he could trust. Zeppy and I.
 
 
    A cool crisp March morning I was driving with my girlfriend down a remote two lane road. 
The sun was blinding if you were to look in the rear view mirror.  The sounds of drums and strings were softly playing through the speakers.  We were coming down into a valley, nearing an intersection to reach our final destination, and tragedy was about to strike in more ways then one.  
    As we entered into the intersection a unexperienced driver was looking into the blinding sunlight at a stop sign. Unbeknownst to him he met the front end of our car when he entered the intersection.  My girlfriend tried to avoid impact by swerving to the left, in the midst of the turning the passenger side wheels came off the ground.   My brain started to flash rolling endlessly down the center of the road.   I remember hearing the screeching of the wheels and the sonic boom of a head on impact. The force pushed us head on towards a light pole off in the distance.  The last thing I remembered was going off the top of the ditch and feeling as if we were hit by another car head on.  The world went dark and all sound was completely cut 
off.
    When consciousness was regained, I remember looking around and seeing dust particles starting to settle down on the dashboard. The windshield looked as if a spider just got done weaving a web and devouring an animal that was twice its size. It looked as if he punctured the defenseless animal in an artery and blood splattered in every direction.  As I look in the distance through the passenger side window all I see was men running from every direction, tripping and falling trying to reach our vehicle. As I turn to ensure my girlfriend is coherent I asked, “Are you okay?”
    She wouldn't reply.  
     Her eyes were open and she had this scared and lost look on her face as if you just saw the hand of the devil.  So I shouted, “ Are you okay?”
    Again, no reply.  
     All of a sudden I hear banging on my window.   I turn to see who was at my window it is a slender built man, in his early 30's, trying to open my door to assess my injuries.  The car had buckled to the point that we were pinned in the car with no way out.  At this same moment,
another man was pounding and screaming at my girlfriend.  She just sat there staring into an oblivion out the front windshield.  I couldn't help but be engulfed in his screams but she would not respond what-so-ever. All other voices and cries out to try to help me were wiped away from my brain.  The only concern in my head was if my girlfriend was going to be okay.  
     This man was screaming, “ Ma'am can you hear me. Ma'am can you hear me. Ma'am can you hear me.”
    Miraculously in the midst of him screaming to the onlookers, “Someone please call 911.   We have serious injuries that need medical attention.”  
     My girlfriend's scared looked turned to horror.  As the guy screamed one more time, “Ma'am can you hear me.”   
    She started crying, looked at this gentleman and cried out, “ Why are you yelling at me?'  
     Oddly enough it was so comforting to here her speak.  It was as if she finally came to, and was back into reality.   Knowing she was coherent I could finally focus on this horrendous pain
that was coming from my leg and my head. I remember asking my girlfriend, “ Do I have a cut on my head.”  
    Blood curdling cries came over her, she just kept screaming, “ Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God.”
    Panic started to set in and fear came over me making me think it is my turn to meet my maker.  A gentleman asked my girlfriend, “ put something on his head now!”      
     She was panic stricken and just looking around but not reaching for anything. I remember I turned around and looked in the back seat for something clean that I could put on my head.  
     As I turned I realized I couldn't feel my leg. So I turned to sit back down and saw my leg at the thigh was raised up about 3 inches from my knee.  Realizing I have a serious leg injury panic and fear engulfed my whole body once again.  I tried to open my door to get out and every time I tried to push the door to get out the door wouldn't move.  No matter how hard
I pushed the door wouldn't budge.  
     A man told me, “You are trapped in the car.  Please be patient help is on the way.”  In the distance I could hear sirens slowly getting louder and louder.  
     In the far distance I heard a mans voice yell out, “We need the jaws of life.”  A firefighter yelled out, “Cover your heads with this tarp.”  
     My girlfriend's blood curdling screams got louder and louder as a sledgehammer bashed out each window.  I tried my hardest to console her and let her know we are getting out.  They informed us that she would be taken first so that they could get me out.  
     As they placed her on a stretcher she just kept screaming, “ I love you, I love you.” I heard one final scream from her stating, “I said I loved you.” I tried to yell as loud as I could to tell her I loved her too.  
     The firefighter's informed me that she heard me and they were going to take her to get help.  As they were pulling me out and loading me onto a stretcher I couldn't help but concentrate on the tremendous pain that radiated from my leg.  
     As I look up at the sunny blue sky I all of a sudden felt a cold wind getting stronger and stronger.  I shut my eyes trying to concentrate on warming my body.  
     As I opened my eyes I see helicopter blades spinning right above me.  I asked them what the helicopter was for and they informed it was for me.  I was told I needed immediate medical attention and the fastest way to the hospital was via a helicopter.  I remember looking up at the ceiling of the helicopter and thinking to myself I can't stand heights and I really don't like planes or anything hat flies.  Before I knew it I was being lifted out of the helicopter and transported into the hospital via the rooftop.
    I was brought into a cold and white surgery room.  An I.V.  was administered into my arm and I was told to count back from 100.  So I counted 99, 98, 97 and the lights went out and darkness filled the room and forever more my life has been changed.
    I woke up in a daze to realize I broke my femur in half, a skull fracture, and a broken hand. 
I was told that I would endure a year of physical therapy and lifetime of uncertainty.  My life is now forever changed.  I kept thinking of my kids and how they will never have the same father they had when I woke up this morning.  I now have to face challenges and obstacles from one unexperienced driver's bad mistake.   His bad mistake turned into my daily struggle to recover and reform my life.
 
 
    The sun beat down on the back of Joel’s neck as he pulled the handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe his forehead. It’d been sixteen years since Texas had a heat wave this intense in April; that was the year his father pulled him and his brother Manny out of second grade to work in the fields. His favorite months to work were February, March, and April because that was the time to harvest strawberries. They were Joel’s favorite of life’s simple pleasures. His
  favorite color, a beautiful woman in a red dress, a perfect rose, the hot rod his uncle Ruben used to own, in a sweet mouthwatering heart shaped product of the earth. 
    “And nothing to get hung about. Strawberry fields forever,” in his John Lennon voice as he picked a strawberry and ate it. His brother Manny making his way toward him looked like an Olympic hurdler over the rows of strawberry bushes. It was hard to believe he was Joel’s younger twin. Manny stood taller than Joel and was much more handsome in a James Dean sort of way. His strong jaw and bright brown eyes made him look older and more sophisticated. He was also built a little more lean but not as strong or fast as Joel. Together though they made the best duo in soccer, baseball, or bar fights. 
    “How are you doing?” asked Manny.
    “Is it possible to get stuck from bending over too much? I wish they’d give us garden tools we could be efficient with. I’m doing well though. How are you? Here, have some water,” He grabbed his canteen off the dirt and tossed it to Manny.
    “Thank you. I think I’m almost done so I can come help you.” He took a swig of water from the canteen. “I keep thinking of Apa at home, I hope he’s doing okay. It’s so damn hot today. Those storm clouds need to move this way a bit quicker. A nice cool rain would be perfect.”     
     Their father was one of the many people who’d been sprayed in the fields with pesticides by airplanes not only here, but many farms all over Texas and even Arizona and California. He has good days and bad days and seemed like he was going to pull through, but they couldn’t be certain because many of the people they knew who’d either been really sick or known someone else really sick... well, pesticides kill more than bugs let’s just say.
    “I’ve been hearing talk of a rebellion today, when the clouds get overhead,” Manny murmured in Spanish.
    “Oh perfect! While they’re off doing that creating a distraction we can go snatch up the farm owner’s daughters and take them dancing.”
    “I was thinking we could join in. You know you’d like to set some shit on fire and make a stand for everything we deal with. For Apa, you know?” 
    Simultaneously Joel’s eyes grew wide and so did the space between him and his brother as he took a step back and continued his work on the strawberry bushes.
    “You can’t be serious,” he laughed hoping it was a joke. “That’d be muy dangerous.”
    “I am serious. All of them, plus you and I, we could really get what’s owed. The owners have it coming to them, man. Don’t you want to get back at them for what they’re doing to our people, what they did to Apa?”
    “Well yeah, but Manuel, violence isn’t the answer. We’re not just a fight at the bar here. We could get in a lot of trouble afterwards. Somebody could get really hurt. They’re doing non-violent protests and boycotts in California. There’s a guy leading a nonviolent movement out there, Cesar Chavez, he’s getting justice and fair working conditions for workers. Besides we
want to have a job still to bring home payment, not bite the hand that feeds us.” He picked another strawberry to eat.
    “That’s bullshit, Joel. You know we’ll always be able to find work no matter where we are. It’s not like we don’t move several times a year to find a new farm to work on. And why isn’t Cesar Chavez here then? Why are we still being treated like we have no rights? Why are we still being pushed around? Why are we being sprayed with pesticides by airplanes? A lot of good he’s doing with that approach. That’s bullshit, Joel. It’s time to take action.” 
     Manny’s voice was raised, but he was still speaking Spanish to prevent any unwanted listeners.“Isn’t the whole reason we left school in second grade to help support the family? That’s why we’re here right? Because family is everything. What are we doing if we’re not standing up for ourselves, our people, and our sick father at home?” Joel was again giving his full attention to his brother.
    “Lower your voice idiot! You don’t want to attract attention,” he said. He raised his had to his forehead and shook his head. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into things when I’m obviously the one making better decisions.” 
     A drop from the sky landed on Joel’s forehead. He pulled out his handkerchief to wipe his brow from the sweat. “The clouds are getting close.”
    When it began raining a group of workers went to the farm owner to collect their pay and create a diversion. The rest gathered farm tools to use as weapons and set fire to his truck and farmhouse.  
    As most set out to destroy the property, some attacked the owner and his colleagues, Joel and Manny were of that small group. No one had expected the owner and his men to be carrying guns. Shots were fired and a man was beaten to a pulp with a garden hoe and a spade shovel and fists and boots of rage. The rebellion didn’t last long as policemen showed up quickly and also drew their weapons. Manny held the owner by his shirt collar and was continually striking him with his fist.
    “Stop what you’re doing and put him down!” shouted an English speaking voice simultaneously with Joel’s inner thought of the exact same request. Another shot was fired, startling Joel to the point his heart dropped. 
     Manny stopped punching the farm owner and let him fall to the ground. Joel rushed over to him only to have his brother fall to the ground before he was even close enough to catch him. Joel dropped to his knees next to his brother Manny while the rain fell on both of them.         
     Now was not the time to say, “I told you so.” But when Joel looked into Manny’s  eyes he seemed to understand that’s exactly what was on the back of Joel’s mind and gave a little smile and laugh that seemed to say, “You were right.”
    “We avenged Apa, brother,” Manny managed to say with his last breath.
    One week later Joel and his father buried Manny. That same day they left for California to join the UFW of United Farm Workers and involved themselves in the nonviolent protests for La Causa.  
 
 
    It is a sweltering day in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, and the only thing on Mr. White’s mind was getting home to take a nice cold shower and get out of his suit and tie.  After battling heavy traffic for a good part of an hour, Mr. White finally arrives at his apartment building, but only to find that the inside of the building was hotter and thicker than the air outside.  The
air conditioning unit was out.  All ready in a half sweat, Mr. White enters the elevator to make the ascent to his top floor penthouse.  
    He’s alone as he enters, and this makes him happy.  He wants no interaction with any other human being in these kind of conditions.  Just as the elevator door is about to come to a close, a hand catches it.  A dirty hand, covered with grease and sweat and dirt.  The elevator door opens back up, and a younger man, about half the age of Mr. White, enters into the elevator. 
He’s wearing a dirty plain white t-shirt with jean shorts.  The red cap on his head has some logo on it, but so faded out that Mr. White can’t make out what it says, nor does he really care. 
He also has a backpack that is clearly packed to the brim with some sort of supplies.  Mr. White is appalled by the unbearable stench of body odor that this young kid has brought
onto the elevator.  His face cringes, and he steps as far up against the back corner as he can, but it is no help.  The young man looks at Mr. White and nods.
    “What’s up, man?” says the young guy.
    “Mmm.” Mr. White says.
    “Hot as shit out there, huh?”  
     “Mmm.” replies Mr. White again, as he pulls out his phone and pretends to be engaged in something else. 
     The young man can see he’s not getting anywhere and shakes his head as he turns, facing forward again. The elevator finally starts going up, and by the 4th floor Mr. White is starting to come to terms with the reek of the young guy standing right next to him, which smells like the inside of a men’s locker room.  On the 6th floor the elevator stops and picks up a woman. 
She has a really big nose and her head is balding severely.  She’s also holding two babies in her arms, and what appeared to be another one on the way. The young man smiles at her and strikes up some small talk.  Mr. White just rolls his eyes and checks his watch for the time.  When the elevator starts going up, it surprises the woman.
    “Oh no, I thought this elevator was going down, I need to go down.”  she says, and turns to Mr. White and asks if he’ll hold one of the babies for her so she can stop the elevator and
get off.
    “For what? You’re just going to have to wait until we get to my floor, then you can go down,” he says. 
    Her eyes widen in surprise and her eyebrows lower in anger.
    “You know, there’s a nicer way to talk to a lady” she says.
    With the kind of day that Mr. White has had, he is in no mood for any of this. 
    “I don’t care, shut up! Everyone shut up!  Not another word until we’re off of this elevator,” he screams.  
     His loud, deep voice startles the babies that the mother was holding, and they both start to cry.
    “Oh my god, are you serious! Shut those babies up!” says Mr. White.
    The young man steps in and shoves Mr. White, just enough to catch him off kilter.
    “Will you settle down, they are babies for christ sake,” he says
    In all of the commotion, the elevator shakes really hard and starts to slow down.  It gets really quiet, and the elevator comes to a halt, and the lights inside slowly dim until it is complete darkness.  They are stuck, and they stand there in silence, the babies both stop crying in sync.  The air is getting thicker by the minute, the heat inside the elevator dampens everyone’s clothes with sweat, and the smell becomes even worse than before.  
     Mr. White pushes the emergency button, and they wait.  
     Five minutes later and no one has said a word to each other.  Another ten minutes go by, and the three adults stand there, still in silence.  The babies have fallen asleep on their  mother’s shoulders.  Mr. White is trying to get some sort of signal to his cell phone, but there is nothing.  Every couple of minutes he cusses out loud so everyone knows he’s still pissed off.  He curses the elevator and the people who work in his building, as if it is going to fix the elevator.  
     After a half hour of standing in the dark, hot, sticky elevator the lights finally go back on, and the elevator starts moving again.  They all look at each other, smiling.  Even Mr. White is smiling.  The relief of not being stuck anymore was enough to brighten everyone’s day.  The elevator reaches Mr. White’s twenty-fourth floor penthouse, and he steps out of the elevator.  He’s surprised to see the young man stepping out of the elevator on the same floor.
    “You live on this floor?” Mr. White asks snidely.
    “No, I don’t.  I’m the mechanic on site,” the young man replies.
    Mr. White looks puzzled: “Okay? So why didn’t--” 
    The young man keeps walking down the hall towards the roof access.  “Have a good one, man.”
 
 
    We packed the last of our luggage into the back of the forest green Suburban. Before I closed the hatch I counted to make sure we had everything. Food, books, guitar, and towels. That last one was especially important. Don’t forget to bring a towel, you never know when you might need one. Whenever I go anywhere I forget a towel, but not this time I thought to myself. I closed the cargo door and hopped in the back seat next to my girlfriend. She had just finished her finals and we were off to celebrate with a weekend at her families cabin. Even though I had school for another month I couldn’t pass up a trip to my favorite place in the world. 
    The beast of a truck roared as Dick turned the key. He pulled away and we were off. Thoughts of fishing washed over me. Maybe Dick will teach me how to gut a fish this weekend I thought. My mouth started to water at the thought of fresh caught fried Northerns. 
    We were on 35N, and already making good time. I put my headphones on and blasted my current favorite band Woe, is Me while watching the trees pass by. I tapped my fingers lightly on my knee imagining each instrument coming to life. The world I once knew started to fade away and was replaced with relief and excitement. I was finally away from the thought of school, work and people. Being around people all the time gets to be obnoxious, and the cabin is the best solution to that problem. I watched as the trees grew thicker and the forest became more dense. 
    I stopped paying attention to what roads we were on. Every thought seemed to disappear except for the thought of trees. How long have they been here? I tried to imagine the forests surrounding us on both sides as infants. I smiled at the window breaking my deep concentration, picturing baby trees sucking on pacifiers. I looked over at Melissa who was passed out on her seat. She used a towel from the back as a pillow. I knew those towels would come in handy. I rumbled around in my back pack looking for something else to keep me busy for an hour. Underneath my own towel I found some snack crackers with peanut butter and
my eyes lit up. I slipped off my shoes and crossed my legs and used my towel as a soft table to make my peanut butter cracker sandwiches. I didn’t have a knife so I used my fingers.
    “20 minutes,” said Dick. That was the first time he said anything the entire trip I realized. Usually you couldn’t get him to shut up. I put my snack back in my bag and wiped my face of left over crumbs. I gave Melissa a shove and she growled and continued sleeping. I couldn’t get my legs to sit still. The first thing I am going to do after helping unload is put together my fishing pole and go straight down to the dock I thought. We took a left onto a dirt path and continued onward. The Road curved and we made another left. After five minutes we finally pulled into the driveway of the cabin. It was just like I remembered from the previous summer. The cabin itself was longer than it was wide and raised off the ground. It was a light tan color. There was a stained wooden deck and a cobble path leading down to the lake. To the left of the driveway was a garage for the boat and a shed for the fishing and swimming gear.
I gave Melissa another shove.
    “We’re here!” I said to her in excitement. She stretched and nodded with an audible yawn. I smiled at her and she smiled back. We opened the doors and stepped into the afternoon sun.
 
 
    So let me give you some background on where I am. It was the summer before senior year of highschool and I have been going to camp since I was in 8th grade. This was my last week I
could go there as a camper. I have had my ups and downs at camp and I knew that I wanted to make this week the most memorable week of the summer. I went up with a group of friends every year, and this time we would all be in the same cabin.     
     Two of the things that we do at camp are cabin time, and free time. For cabin time your cabin and another cabin would go to a part of camp and do an activity together, and for free time you could do just about whatever you wanted to do. I loved this part of camp. I could go to the rope swing, I could go to the beach, I could rock climb and much more. 
    It was the first day of the camp and we were paired up with a girls cabin to go to the rope swing. The swing was one of the most fun things to go on. It never really gets old, and you can
always try new things when swinging off. I had only been on it a couple of times, but this would be the first with a cabin. 
     So there I was, sitting on the edge of the dock. Feet in the water looking out onto the lake. That was the first time that I saw her. I could only see her head bobbing up and down in the
water as she swam back to shore, but believe me, that was enough. I had seen enough and I knew that she looked stunning but, being the shy guy, I didn’t say anything and just smiled at her. 
    Finally the end of cabin time came. I was happy and sad that it was over. I loved the rope swing, but I think I had just met the most amazing girl I have ever laid eyes on. I wondered if I
would ever see her again. Ya ya, I know that it is a small camp, and the chances are good that I would see her again, but this wasn’t enough. Somehow she imprinted herself in my mind, and I was going crazy trying to find a way to see her. 
     Dinner finally came and the whole camp congregated at the dining hall. Just like any other meal, I went in with my friends, stood in line, and started to talk to to them. I would briefly
detach myself from the conversation to scan the room full of people hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Just when I was walking away from getting my food trying to find a table I saw her. She was standing at the end of the line with about 5 of her friends. I am not one to go out when I first meet someone and ask if they want to hang out, but this was different. Both of us had a connection at the rope swing. 
    I found a table and sat my tray down and started to look around the room again signaling my friends that I had found a table. When a few more of my friends arrived, I sat down and took one final look around the packed lunch room. There she was, talking to her friends, laughing and then the occasional glance to me. I smiled and waved at her, and she proceeded to gesture me to come over there and talk to her. So I grabbed a roll off my plate and headed over to talk to her.     
     I approached her with a smile and she returned the favor. I met the few friends that were with her in line. I stayed with them getting to know them until they got their food, then I went
back to my table. I couldn’t get her off my mind now. She had implanted herself in my head and was there to stay. Before I left the dining hall, I asked if she wanted to hang out next free time and she said yes. 
    That next day we met up at the entrance of the camp to start free time. We went walking around camp just to get to know each other first. I saw some of my friends on the zip line and climbing wall and she saw some of hers at the beach getting a tan. Being the nice person that I was quick to figure out she decided to meet my friends. I asked her if she had done any rock climbing or gone on the zip line here and to my surprise she said that she hadn’t. So for the next few hours we did some rock climbing and zip lining. 
    From playing frisbee to sitting on the beach talking. She told me that this has been one of the best weeks of her life. Neither of us really expected to hang out this mush, but neither of us were complaining. It was relaxing to the both of us. It just felt right to be with her. When we weren’t hanging out, my mind was on her. 
     The next few days were spent getting to know each other. Talking to each other’s friends and just hanging out. I think even some of my friends made friends with her friends. By the end of the week we were so close, we spent every time that we didn’t have to be with our cabins together. We had made a big group of people to hang out with.     
     On the last night there is always a bonfire and time for the camp to reflect on the week and have an intimate moment. We were on the far side about 3 rows up from the all camp bonfire. The night went on singing songs and sharing stories that had happened during the week. I told the camp about this person that I had met and how I had spent the entire time with them and grown to like them a lot, and with that my night ended in a kiss from her. It was the one thing that I wasn’t expecting. 
     On the way back from camp we all sat together on the bus. We spent the last remaining hours of camp together on that crowded bus still talking and joking around. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend that time. 
    Well the time came and we had arrived back home. With that the week was over. One of the most memorable weeks so far. I sat on the curb in the parking lot with her waiting for her parents to come and pick her up. When they finally came, we kissed and said our goodbyes. I
knew this was just a temporary goodbye because we already had a date a couple days later. 
    Thinking back on it, if I hadn’t have gone to the rope swing that first day, none of this would have happened. The last meal that we had up at camp was a meal just for planning. Trying to see what all of our schedules were so that we could hang out. Not only had her and I connected, but each of the groups that we were in connected. We were now one big group that got along with each other really well.
 
 
    He was  supposed to be her first, but at same time, he became her last. Exhausted from  the lies and apologies, this time saying I love you was like hearing a bad joke.  It not important, nor is it funny, at all. But what did they truly know about  love, her mother exclaimed every time they're in her presence. They had only  been together upon entering the 10th grade and have been in high school for a  year and a half. Every day after class, they'd find themselves sitting on large  rock in the yard of the school. It was a peacefully place aligned with roses and  daisies. The rock was painted by the previous students of the past showering  their Jackson High pride. Sasha turns to Thomas and asked "why do you love me",  as he sits with a guilt look in his eyes and lost for words. Thomas was a tall  athletic build pretty boy type of guy who felt he can have any woman he wants.  Sasha, at times, didn't feel that she was pretty nor could she amount to the  other females in her community. Again she looked at Thomas waiting on a reply.  By instinct, Thomas came up with cleverly put together words as if they
were  rehearsed for a movie roll. But before he can finish, Sasha cuts him off saying  "You are such an actor Thomas, and this time I'm not buying it". She got up and  walks away to shield her frustration and pain. For every foot step she takes,  another tear falls as Thomas does nothing to stop her.
    What's  wrong, Sasha hears coming from the long wooden hallway. She recognizes her  mother voice but storms the other way. Heading to her small room in the back of  the house, all she can think about is how Thomas hurt her, and she never want to  see him again. It was only Tuesday, and they shared 3 classes together so that  was nearly impossible. When she gets to her room, her heart began to race. She  opens the door slowly as if there were monsters hiding in her bedroom. She  stands in the door way and just looks around, scared to enter
as if it wasn't  her place of rest. Sasha just realized how photogentic she was.  Always taking  pictures of her and Thomas. Pictures where placed everywhere; on the dresser,  the walls, in the crack of the mirrors, she even had a life size picture on the  back of the door to put her to sleep at night.Then, instantly, Sasha snapped.  Yelling out every negative word she can think of to disrespect a man, she starts  spinning like wild twister through a city of dreams causing
objects to go flying  and glass shattering, leaving her room in a horrific mess. Out of breath, she  throws her self on the floor and all she she can do now cry. 
     "Can i come in" her  mother says. but without an answer she enters with caution. She walks over to  where Sasha is laying and sits down beside her. Holding her daughter as close as  possible, she whispers to her repetitively, it's gonna be okay.

    The  school year was finally over. Summer time was here and that meant Sasha can  sleep in all day and do nothing. Mom was an independent business owner who ran a  small printing and embroidery shop. Business was picking up and was starting to  be large for her small building. After months of searching, she stumbles across  a vacant location west of the river that was twice as big as her previous shop  and the price was still affordable. "Perfect" mom says while setting up her  appointment online. Two weeks later, she breaks the good news to
Sasha. "Guess  what, we're moving to Minneapolis". Sasha's face instantly drops. Her body goes  limp, as if she lost all control of her muscles. "Why Minneapolis" she replied.  He mother goes on to explain to her that it's for the better of them and the  company. But Sasha zones out. She was in love with their small pink home shoved  far back from the street. The yard was over powered by 2 large Weeping Willow  trees casting a dark scary shadow, but it was still home. 
    It  was time to pack and mom was helping Sasha clean her room. She noticed a small  booklet filled with writing. She picks it up and reads  …but men only  want one thing, SEX, and thats not what I want. I love that she smiles whenever I come around. When Tonya hugs me, it feels so magical but I dont know why
     Instantly  Sasha walks in snatches the book from her mom. “That’s personal” she says. 
    Mom’s face was filled with questions and concerns but she holds back. They continue packing and  putting everything in the truck. 
    A  month goes by and Sasha feels like she’s in a foreign land. Looking out the window, she sees kids playing. Every day around 5pm, her neighbor pulls up and waves whenever she sees her. She must have notice  Sasha looking because she wave up to to the second floor window. The house next  door was filled with girls ranging from ages 18 to about 20. 
     Theyre different  over there, Sasha  thinks to herself. Her neighbor kept her hair in a ponytail, with baggy clothes  and had a style unlike any other woman. “I’m going  outside mom” she yells as  she steps into the fresh air. 
    “Hi my name is  Tracy but everybody calls me Tee”, she hears coming for across the yard. It was the next door neighbor again. She was outside  sitting on the steps enjoying the nice summer day. They exchange much conversation about each other and realize they are not much different. Times flies and to their surprise, the sun was setting and neither has eaten so they head back inside their homes. Sasha yells out bye and slowly closes the front door. 
    The  next morning, Sasha wakes up anxious. Before even brushing her teeth, she looks  out the window to see if she see Tee’s car outside. It’s still there. She can smell the aroma of bacon coming from the kitchen then heads  downstairs. “Good morning” her mom says. “Everything
smells good” Sasha  replies. 
    As soon as she makes her plate, she goes to work. She scarf’s down her food as if she was running late for a meeting then bolts back upstairs to get ready for her day. Getting dress, she can hear people laughing and talking outside. It was Tee and her friends. There were three girls that dressed like Tee did and one guy. “Tee, what’s up Tee” Sasha yells out the window. “I’m coming  out”. 
    Standing  outside, Sasha notice everyone had went inside. She walks over to  Tee’s house and is starting to get nervous. She holds her breath and knocks twice. Loud music feels the air. The windows of the house are open but she didn’t hear any  talking. She knocks harder, and then the music comes to an abrupt halt. She  hears a deep mail voice yell “one second, I  got to get the door”. 
     “Who is”. 
     No reply,  Sasha stands froze in shock. Then the door opens. 
    “Is Tee here?” Sasha says. 
    The man just makes a gesture as if he wasn’t Sasha to follow him. He sits down at a computer and she can see Sasha behind a glass standing at a microphone with headphones on. From the speakers, she can hear Tee  talking. 
    It  was time for a break. After recording, Tee sits down with Tasha. 
     “I didn’t know you rap” Sasha says. 
    Then Tee says “That’s all we do.  It’s a way for  us to relieve ourselves without being judged by the world. You can rap with us  if you want”. 
     Sasha just  holds her head down like a shy kitten. Sasha has always written poems and short  stories but never placed her words to a rhythm but she felt she had the ability  deep inside. They go back upstairs to have lunch. Tee introduces everyone to  Sasha and they make her feel welcomed. 
    “So are  y’all gay”? Sasha says. 
    “No, people consider us dikes or butches; I just say we’re just people. But don’t worry, we  won’t hit on  you”. Tee says.  
    Sasha never had friends before. She goes on to explain to them her story  including about Thomas. To her surprise, they can relate. 
    The  clock strikes 12 and before they knew it, hours turned into a day. Sasha had  never had that much fun in her life. Instantly her mom comes to mind. 
     “I got to  go”. Sasha runs jumps up and heads out the door as fast as she could. She goes into the house to  yells mom. Her mom was sitting in the living room. She starts to get up
because  her movie just went off. 
    “I knew you were next door so you’re ok”. Mom says.  
    Then Sasha gives her mom a bear hug and says “I love our new home”.