~ Shelby Dodd
All the art & lit that's fit to print from Colonial Forge High School
New Orleans denouement of summer,
a baby girl and her babysitter
were shot—one bullet
hit both, clean cut and quick
from behind, no time to be afraid.
in the contrast of the night
their blood was ink
on the sun-warmed pavement
writing out a single word
as the artificial glow, yellow and impersonal
pooled a yard away.
And the baby girl shuddered
her body pulsing with that last
effort of life, quietly giving in to stillness.
She lay in the sitter’s arms,
tired from a day of play,
and from the second hand shot,
from the dark, warm night
and those who belonged to it.
~ Shelby Dodd
My mom worked long hours when I was a kid, especially over the summer. My siblings and I were young and couldn’t be left to our own devices for twelve hours — we could barely spend two hours alone without one of us getting on the phone and crying while Mom probably held the phone about three feet away from her ear, shaking her head.
Due to this little snag, my siblings and I spent our summer at the Methodist pre-school down the road, Tiny Tots, which had a school-aged kid’s program. My sister went to school there year-round and absolutely despised it.
Although there were many unenviable things about the Tiny Tots program, such as the mandated Jesus t-shirts, the lunches and field trips were the worst. Our field trips were to such glamorous locations as Rady Park, frequented by drug dealers even at 2:00 in the afternoon, where we played risk-free, fun-free capture-the-flag followed by lunch at the esoteric Frost Diner, where we could only get about four things on the menu and had to pay for it ourselves anyway. Then the councilors — a 21-year-old who went to Tech during the shooting and a 25-year-old extremely pregnant woman who didn’t like chocolate — piled us all onto the public transportation buses that always, somehow, reeked of urine.
The lunches were the stuff of legend along the same lines as the Minotaur. It’s probably cool when you hear other people talking about it, but to be involved with it yourself kind of sucks.
Along with what we termed the Imagination Sandwich — two slices of Wonder Bread and nothing else on top of a styrofoam tray — the most infamous lunch was undoubtedly the fish patty, using the term “fish” loosely.
It was an unfortunate surprise on the first day of summer camp. My brother, Josh, and I knew better than to protest; we’d seen our sister Grace come home crying, bemoaning the ridiculous experiences the teachers put her through.
Say thank you, even when you don’t mean it. Eat everything they give you — everything. Or else they’ll make you sit there until you do, even after everyone else has moved on to do whatever else is next. Yes, you have to drink all of the milk. No, they don’t care that you don’t like it. Are you lactose intolerant? That’s the only way to get just plain water.
Grace, three years old, had drilled us on the expectations of the Tiny Tots world. Josh and I were impenetrable fortresses.
Despite the fact that we knew what to expect, there was no way to be prepared for the food they attempted to serve us. It sat, almost glowing, under the eerily dim fluorescent lights. Our seats were assigned and alphabetical, so Josh and I were in the very back, far away from all of our friends blessed with “A” or “B” last names.
I picked up the fish patty and tentatively took a bite, the smallest possible fleck of fish parted from its can-mates and sitting on my tongue. I figured it couldn’t be that bad, and took a real bite.
I almost gagged. Whatever it was, it wasn’t fish. Fish brain, maybe, or fish eyes, but certainly not anything that the FDA would approve. I’m 90% sure there was some essence of bone with every bite I took.
Somehow, I kept it down, aided by the verging-on-spoiled milk they gave us. I got yelled at for picking up my tray and trying to throw it out before they told me to, and about 10 minutes later I found out why — they actually inspected each of our trays to make sure we weren’t throwing out any of their food.
I quickly learned that there were three options to survive lunchtime. Option number one: Just eat it. It’s probably the easiest, but definitely most dangerous option. May cause indigestion and, in extreme cases, death. It was the one I ventured almost every day.
Option number two: The Human Garbage Disposal. He was a fourth grader who was about 5’7” and 180 pounds. He’d eat anything they served up, but you’d have to be willing to pay the price.
Option number three: Hide it. You run a pretty high risk of getting caught and having to explain all of that to the councilors that seem to cling to the idea that starving children in Africa would be glad to have this.
The Human Garbage Disposal, whose name must have been somewhere in the vicinity of the end because he sat in front of me, was the only person who was able to stomach the ungodly meal.
“Oh sweet Lord,” I moaned one day, sitting down in front of another fish patty. I poked it. I swear it moved.
“Oh good, lunchtime,” he smiled, promptly inhaling the sandwich.
I, along with everyone else, looked at him with a mixture of disgust and awe.
“I don’t mind it. Better than my mom’s cooking,” he grinned. Gulped. The whole sandwich was gone and he wasn’t even on the floor, racked with stomach cramps.
“Will you take mine?” I asked desperately, almost flinging the patty at his rotund face.
“Yeah, sure,” he said, and I anxiously shoved the tray over, “But wait.”
And I waited.
“You have to give me your cookies. All next week,” he said. I thought it over. Fish today, cookies next week? As much as I hated this fish, I really did love chocolate. It was a small light in an otherwise irredeemably dark 8 or 9 hours. Yet, another light was the feeling of my stomach not ripping itself apart.
A few moments later, I caved.
“Take it,” I said, shoving the sandwich over to him. He eagerly devoured the sandwich as well as my cookies for the next week.
“Thank you,” he said, plucking the Chips Ahoy out of my eager hands. Every day that week they were chocolate chip.
So the next time I was faced with the unthinkable, I decided that I wasn’t going to rely on anyone else. No. I was a smart, strong, independent young nine-year-old, I didn’t need to rely on anyone else.
So I stuffed the sandwich under my leg. I could almost feel it trying to climb up my thigh, but no one saw it. When it came time for me to throw out my tray, I stuffed the sandwich in my pocket. The councilors never suspected me, and when we went outside for recess I stood in the back of the line and tossed the fish pulp into the grass.
Fist-pump of success — mission accomplished.
That happened to be the same day that my best friend of the summer, Maddie, a girl with four gold teeth and undying belief in the Loch Ness Monster, was forced to stay behind in the cafeteria to finish her lunch. This was a fairly regular occurrence.
All the kids complained about the lunches in our inner sanctum, commonly known as the monkey bars. We planned out rebellions of the Les Mis caliber, up-heaving the tyranny of our councilors, but of course our disgruntled plans were never carried out.
Eventually, the summer came to a close. I said goodbye to Maddie and my other friend who got really offended when people asked about her middle name as well as the Human Garbage Disposal and the two twin girls who talked only to each other and dressed the same, a lá The Shining. They signed the back of my “J. C. Rules” t-shirt.
We also said goodbye to the cafeteria. I’m pretty sure 45 out of the 50 kids cheered as we left it, and its infamous lunches, behind us.
I like to think in my last life I was a tree
the forlorn home of an abandoned tree house
the guardian of children and their aloft secrets
I like to think I was the raging ocean current
deciding the fates of swimmers and
refusing to cease kissing the shore
I think maybe I was a star
the first one seen at night
the conduit of wishes
people and their god.
Who has never once
Caressed a woman’s mane
Or woke up from a
Never felt more than a
In which both candidates would
Remain trembling for hours;
Never has been offered the chance
To become a woman’s Romeo,
Even though all this time he has
Coexisted as a wallflower;
To all others, gleams with purity
And an immeasurable amount of charm;
I am a calamity,
Compared to this innocent boy.
By Shelby Dodd
The lamp behind the reading chair had seven heads, like a primary colored sea-serpent. My dad would quietly arrive in the chair, rising into the halo of the low lighting. The harsh blue lights of phones and games reflecting our squinting faces would shut off.
I’d prop my head up enough to see the book and my father gazing at it over his glasses like he was admiring a drawing we’d made him or the thousandth coupon booklet for a free sleep-in-late card we’d bestowed upon him—our Crayola musings and Twain’s tales were equally crucial, equally joyful to him.
I’d curl up on my side and let my eyes blur into a haze of the red chair and peach skin and glowing lamp as he read to my brother and I.
The words would proceed to fill and stuff our room, decisive and present, in a dozen accents and dialects. He’d replicate Scots in Kidnapped, the wolf howls in The Call of the Wild. When he’d howl, I’d see the icy forest and the fur, and I’d hear the water hitting the cliff-edges of the island. The faces of men I’d never met were huddled around fires I’d never seen. The cave of Tom Sawyer was deep within my own mind, a place I knew with absolute certainty.
Slowly, too slowly to notice, the words would melt into a slow-flowing creek, trickling into my ears bit by bit, warm and soft as rain, their faint tapping at the window the final barrier between my will to stay awake and my heavy eyelids.
I’d always wake up just as he finished the chapter and marked our place with a simple dog-eared spot, saying quietly and slowly the last words of the chapter, hanging his voice deliberately over the syllables like our winter coats in the closet.
I’d always wake up, sad that I hadn’t caught more of those precious words. But when sleep finally caught up with me after the lights were turned off and the good-nights said, it was not the blue light of a screen or the rising sun that my eyes first remembered the next day.
It was the faint outline of a dogsled resting against a tent. A raft, floating imperceptibly downstream. A hundred eyes with hate or love or tears pulling at their corners.
My dad gave me the gift not of hearing the classics, but of dreaming them.
By Sarah Genovese
I sat, staring at the forks and spoons and knives. I sat, waiting for her. This was the problem with getting your license. Sometimes, you ended up at the restaurant all alone, waiting, the jacket you had draped over the back of your chair serving as your only company. Waiting and watching—the nibbles, the chews, the open-mouthed chomping of everyone with someone across from them.
I ran slender fingers through thin hair, pulling the ends straight. They lay fringed and uneven between the finger I used to point and the one I used to curse the world. The other hand came to pick the split-ends, and my dizzy mind breathed a collective sigh of relief. Anxiety attack adverted. With each strand of spilt hair fixed, I was making myself as perfect as I could be. I was trying. I really was.
Once upon a time, I thought chocolate milk was responsible for making me brown;
I began to drink strawberry milk and check the mirrors every day.
I thought everyone moved all the time;
I didn’t understand why my friends cried
when I told them I was leaving.
I was told I could be whatever I wanted to be,
so I decided I would be a surgeon
when I found coral that looked like a brain on the beach.
I believed them all when when they said
we would be best friends forever.
I thought my dad was going to Afghanistan
to play in the sand
and airports felt like home.
~ Neuveaux Williams
I learned your secret:
it’s that you never leave
but simply retire
to the dust under my dresser
or the plush fabric nothingness
at the back of my closet
softening with use
then stiffening with age.
Dear Cracked Glass Screen,
Your 16 gigabytes contain at least 40% of my soul;
your 19 playlists are how I define a given day;
your 532 songs each hold a memory or three,
so please, please
don’t stop clicking to life each day
or I, too, may fail to fill with technicolor light.
Dear Gray/Blue/White Comforter,
Thank you for holding so many B- math tests
clothes I’ll never wear
satchels I used three months ago
a withered prom corsage
and on the darker nights
a crying, shivering, sighing
Dear Bulletin Board,
Like me, you keep needing more space to grow,
unlike me, you only consist of the past
leaving little space for the future.
what could be better
than photobooth strips
and handwritten notes?
Your expanse is too full
for say, acceptance letters
or pictures of new friends.
At the end of the day,
I’ll always prefer to be surrounded by
the cheerfully cluttered
than anything else.
~ Abby Erdelatz