Friday, October 31, 2014

"A Counselor's Worst Ghost Story" by Hunter Vega

        "Do you know how many times I've covered for you? Would it kill you to return the favor even once?"
       "You covered for me once! And my sister was sick! You just want to leave!"
       "I told you this morning, Meg. It's important that I see him. It's just one extra hour of work." There’s a warning in his tone, but I ignore it.
       "But I don't even know any scary stories! And-" I lower my voice, "I can't take care of the kids on my own."
       "Well, you're in the wrong line of work, then," he snaps. "Listen, if you're not up to it, quit. But all you have to do is recycle the plot from a horror movie and get the kids to bed. I'm guessing I'll hear you whine about it in the morning."
        He turns and storms off, and I know I've screwed up. I don't know why every conversation with Michael has to end in a fight. I can't pretend it's not my fault, though. I’ll make it up to him. I won’t even say anything tomorrow. I’m already feeling guilty about it. He’s got other people to deal with, and I’m just adding to his problems. I always do this, and he’s right to be annoyed. I’ll apologize when he gets back. Still, I should hold him accountable for the things he’s said. I would confront him if I didn’t agree with him.
       I walk back to the campfire like my shoes are lead. He was right, of course, about me being in the wrong line of work. But it was camp counseling. Anybody who cleared a background check could do it. Obviously, it didn’t require a very solid work ethic.
       The kids are looking kind of antsy. Some are bored, the sweeter ones are edging on concerned. I guess it’s not an enriching environment that has its employees bickering in earshot of children. Thank god the kids aren’t here to learn. I take my place on the log bench behind the fire that had been, until now, unsupervised. Shift into further discomfort and let an awkward silence settle. After a few seconds, I clear my throat.
       “So. I’m going to take over tonight, so-”
       “Why was Michael mad at you?” It’s one of the more obnoxious kids, cutting in as soon as he can. I employ one of my favorite child-care techniques and ignore him.
       “I’m telling the story tonight. Um, Once upon a time,” I hear groans. “Once upon a time, there was a man who was conflicted. Tormented. This was because… he had a really pleasing attitude, but only to some people.”
       “So he kissed people’s butts!” It was the seven year old heckler again, making the other kids giggle. I go with it, because it’s accurate.
       “Yeah, he… kissed people’s butts. All the time. But only to get their respect and validation, and he wasn’t going to get that from those people.” This story really wasn’t for kids. I jump, then sigh at the sudden sound of Michael’s car door slamming.
       “This man... he was generally pretty great, but when he worked too hard to please certain people, and they ignored him, he took it out on his friends, who just wanted to help.”
       I realize it’s getting way too real when I check the kids’ faces. Even the upstart who had been interrupting me looked worried. Well, I am scaring them. I decide to go for something spooky, rather than terrifying them with real life.
       “Well, the man went on making bad decisions until one night, when he was driving too fast.” I can see Michael’s headlights jumping as he swerves around a turn on the mountain road. Please be careful, I think. Don’t do anything stupid. “And that night, on the road, he died! His car crashed!” Even as I say the words, I’m praying that Michael is safe. It registers I’m not scaring only myself as I notice the kids turning to watch the beams coming from Michael’s car, the only sign of him now. “He… he came back to haunt the people he wanted to impress in life.” My voice is shaking now, as Michael approaches the last switchback turn of the mountain. “This… is the story of-”

       A screaming, moaning crash shatters the quiet, and I can’t even call his name as he dies. 

"We Many. I Many. (Part 1)" by Unfinished Sentence

My grandpa is a relatively reserved man. He’s typically emotionally stoic and doesn’t regale the escapades of his past years too often. But once in a blue moon, you can get him to tell you one of his killer stories. I’ve heard plenty of stories from my grandpa before, all of them have been either exceptionally amazing or just completely bewildering. My mom always says that the best stories my grandpa has are from his war days and when he was a police officer. Last night it was just me and my grandpa home together, and we got into a pretty deep conversation while sitting in the living room. We somehow ended up on the topic of his law enforcement years. I knew my grandpa wasn’t fond of dwelling on this particular topic, but my nagging curiosity got the better of me.
“Hey gramps, what do you think was the worst thing you saw as a cop? Aside from like murders and stuff I mean.”
His answer was blunt and detached. I knew he was trying to steer clear of the topic entirely, but the irksome nosiness in me still sought after the details.
“How many cases did you see?”
“Just one.”
This time I could see a pronounced twinge of sadness creeping up into his eyes. Whatever memory he was summoning was clearly something he wanted to forget. As much as it pained me to see my grandpa like this, I had to hear this story. I asked as delicately as I could.
“What happened?”
He gazed at the wall for a second before sighing and turning leisurely to face me.
“Trick (my grandpa’s nickname for me), promise me you won’t repeat this to anyone, and I mean anyone. Not your mother, not your friends, not Lennon, not even your grandma. No one.”
I was taken aback by that last part. From what I’ve heard from my mom, my grandma knew absolutely everything that happened to my grandpa while he was in both the service and the police force. There wasn’t anything he told my family that she hadn’t heard already. But it appeared that she didn’t know about this. I agreed to keep his vow of silence (which I’m breaking right now, with genuine remorse I swear to you all), and bent forward to hear my grandpa’s previously unspoken account. This is what he told me …
My grandpa was working late when a message came in through his radio about assistance required for a home investigation on the opposite side of town. A call had come into the station from a concerned woman, saying that she hadn’t heard from her neighbor in over a fortnight and that she began to think something dreadful had happened. My grandpa, as well as two other cruisers, was dispatched out to the house of the man in question. The house was situated in a very wealthy area known hold many exceptionally wealthy doctors and the like. When my grandpa arrived, the other two officers were already there. There was no response when they knocked on the door, so they had to forcibly enter the guy’s home.
My grandpa said that this place was one of the most massive houses he’d ever seen. By the looks of everything, this guy probably used $20 bills as toilet paper. The walls seemed to go on for miles in just about every room, and precious antiques and luxurious looking furnishings littered the place. As nice as the house was, my grandpa said something about it wasn't right. All the furniture (couches, chairs, tables, etc.) had been turned upside-down, or was clustered in front of the all the closet doors. Something even more disconcerting my grandpa had noticed was that whoever had been in the house had taken all the mirrors off the walls, which were now resting on the floor, and covered them completely in black electrical tape, or broke them. Aside from the peculiar placement of the furniture and the mirrors, the house looked ordinary. There was no indication of a struggle or forced entry, the placed seemed untouched by any kind of unlawful activity. The house was enormous, and had dozens of different rooms that needed to be investigated. Since there were only three men on site, taking the time to look in every room was a pretty time-consuming task. The longer my grandpa looked, the more he began to feel perturbed. The house looked occupied, but there was no one to be found.
About 10 minutes into the investigation, my grandpa took the liberty of heading upstairs unaided (he was armed so he didn’t require full assistance) while the two other officers were still spread out across the colossal lower floor. It only took my grandpa a few minutes to grasp that something upstairs was very wrong. There was shattered glass everywhere, and all the furniture was destroyed. Upon further examination, all the glass scattered around appeared to be mirror shards. Every single one of the rooms were trashed, and nothing was in one piece. My grandpa called for the guys downstairs to come up to the second floor and look through all the mess he was standing in. The three of them began to peer in to the various rooms in hope that the owner of the home was somewhere upstairs. That’s when things became disturbing.
As my grandpa investigated the upper level, he and the other officers saw something unusual. In almost every single one of the rooms, there was a recurring phrase scratched into the walls;

‘We many. I many’

Haikus, Part 2

Fall means a new day
Brown, orange leaves falling down
Cake is a beauty

Flowers bloom brightly
Roses, tulips, violets too
I love to eat food
  • Nishay

I hate you forget
You are a banana yes
I like cake all right
  • Douglas

Food is really good
I like pizza and ice cream
I also like cake
  • Seanna

I dive into water
The water is smooth on my skin
Swimming is so fun
  • Melissa

I sleep in the kitchen,
when i’m hungry I eat food when i’m tired,
I wake up when i’m full

I am in lunch now
I am writing a haiku
Because I want cake

Sara Khan is me
I am a female person
Life is the struggle

Nature is pretty
it has lots of colors
it makes me happy

I did this for cake
I do not like poetry
But I like cake

I wake, reluctant
Too cold to get out of bed
But I need to pee

I want some good cake
I heard it is from costco
may I have some cake

Snapchats from da bae
I bet you think I like him
Nah, I’m just playin.

In the chest they hide
Under the bed secrets lie
She hopes they will die

I’m just here for cake
not for the writing center
please sire me my cake

I really like cake
Can you give me some cake please?

Everything I touch
With tenderness, alas
Pricks like a bramble

Danny is so Cool
or so he thought to himself
he’s not what he thinks


Friday, October 24, 2014

"On Cake and Haikus: A Re-Cap of our National Day on Writing Celebration" by Jaiden C.

After attending the CAPTA Tutor Leader Summit in September, Junior tutor Jaiden C. proposed that the HWC celebrate the National Day on Writing with a cake and haiku party. Jaiden planned and publicized this event with the support of her fellow tutors, and she is a HUGE part of why this day was such a success. Below are Jaiden's thoughts on the day.

Can I have three cheers for the Herndon Writing Center? HIP, HIP HOORAY! Yesterday, the Herndon Writing Center successfully concluded their first ever party! Why the celebration? The National Day on Writing, of course! It was the Writing Center’s obligation to celebrate this wonderful holiday, and we celebrated in style. We had students write a haiku, turn it in, and then they got a piece of cake. Simple enough, I know.  Before I keep rambling about how awesome the Herndon Writing Center is, let me give you a quick summary on how it all went down. 

The cake, moments before it was devoured by 97 hungry poets.

First, all of the tutors showed up to the writing center to pass out cake and collect haikus. The beginning of it all was a little rough because we were totally mobbed, but we persevered through teamwork. I guess bringing cake table-to-table became a little too tedious for the tutors, so they just started an assembly line. It’s amazing to see what people can do when they work together. As students filed in through the small door, Lennon, our “bouncer,” collected their haikus. We even got a haiku on a banana! Crazy, right?

A haiku that's good for you heart

As the cake left, more haikus came in! By the end of just 13 short minutes, we had a whopping 107 haikus from 97 students and teachers! That’s so cool!
The mob of hungry poets
Look at all of them! 

A very big thank you to everyone that showed up and submitted a haiku! The HWC looks forward to making this an annual thing! Look out for any other parties we have and sign up for a tutoring session with one of our SUPER cool tutors!


Haikus and Cake: Part 1

On Thursday, 10/23, the HWC celebrated the National Day on Writing. This year, anyone who wrote an original haiku and brought it to the HWC got a piece of cake! We received 107 haikus and served an entire sheet cake in exactly 13 minutes. It was thrilling.

Thanks to tutor Jaiden C. for planning this day!

We'll be publishing the haikus we received over the next few weeks.

 Herndon Powderpuff
Class of 15 won both years
Hashtag legacy
-Mr.  Kim

I have better things to do
than to do this po.....
-Sahj S.

Striker straight ahead
goes for a shot, goal denied.
Great save, goalkeeper.
-Luis A

Said, « Let them eat cake ! »
No PRIDE card for empathy
Marie Antoinette
-Mme. Rosenthal

Turtles are so cute
I would want them as a pet
Now I want some cake

I love crunchy fries
It reminds me of candy
They both taste like life

The rain is falling
There is not anyone near
The silence is bliss

My bed is so warm
My clock is so very cold
I think I’ll sleep in

Cake is really good
I am writing this for cake
Cake is so yummy

There you are, with me
You are the reason I wake
Poptarts for breakfast!

We run everywhere
We brave all the elements
This is cross country

Is this a haiku?
I’m bad with syllables
and I give up

I will try again
This is not working at all
this haiku is dead

"Smelly Days" by William Shakespeare

Walking down the street, minding my own business, and suddenly, something overtakes my senses.  I smell something so horrid that it overwhelms my body and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It smells like wet dog, a fish market, and vomit all wrapped into one.  Just getting one whiff of it could be deadly and leave you paralyzed for all eternity.  I try to cover it up by putting my shirt over my nose, but it still seeps through my clothes and I can still smell it.  Holding my breath only works for a limited amount of time before I need to breathe again.  I try to walk quickly, but that smell just follows me wherever I go.  My one question is, where is this smell coming from?  Looking up and down the street, I see nothing out of the ordinary except for this big fence I’m walking next to.  What sort of place or thing could be so vile that it actually smelled like this?  The scent of spoiled food and bad body odor fill up my nostrils as I keep walking.  I smell myself to make sure it’s not me.  And, silently thanking the Heavens, it isn't.  Wouldn't that be embarrassing?  My only mission right now is to locate where this smell is coming from so I can get as far away from it as possible.  I take one quicker look around before I realize something.  Behind the huge fence I have been walking next to is a huge dumpster site where all the neighbors throw away their trash.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Save the Crazy Dreams" by Cadence Sinclair

Why do people write? What exactly compels us to pick up pens and write mythical tales, or current event papers, or little scraps of poetry? I wanted to dive as deeply as possible into this often overlooked premise, so I deferred to one of my favorite books. Quoting John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, “There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught.” Essentially, despite the inevitable fate of all beings, the world powers on, and writing carries out the role of consoling the busy humans within it.

In the long run, humans have the choice as to how they will spend their lives. People write to fill up the space between now and the end. We write to save the crazy dreams inside our heads, maybe preserve them for future centuries. But the best writing happens in the moment, not necessarily with the intention of sharing it with the world. It is the rawness of humanity that exists in those “madman” writing moments, where we pour out endless, wild thoughts onto paper, without regret. We finally catch a glimpse of our inner voices, and that is maybe why writing matters.

But also, in my personal life, writing acts as a means of thoughtful contemplation of the world around me. I discovered that analytical literary essays were a strongpoint for me. Thus, I write for fun about books. I extract thoughts and ideas from them and elaborate with my own insight. I am a reader, so I love dissecting books. Essentially, I write about what other people write. Writing is like a telescope, shifting my perspective to whole other worlds.

Ultimately, writing matters in my little bubble of existence for countless reasons. Without it, life would be devoid of meaning. I would have no way to scribble down the overflowing well of ideas within me. Restlessness would settle in. Insomnia would occur nightly. I am not just speaking for myself when I say that the world would go crazy.

In terms of academics, I love when my teachers incorporate writing into a more unlikely subject, such as chemistry. I can reveal the more subdued layer of meaning. The underlying purpose emerges when I sit down and write what happened, what I think, etc. If writing were not a part of my academic life, I wonder if I would even be a successful student. I certainly would not be a reflective learner. More precisely, the process of learning would lack inventiveness and a deeper sense of purpose.

You can gain such greater perspective with writing. No matter the class, writing digs deep into the virtue of “Why?”, and acts as a brain-stimulator. Writing challenges students to a higher level of thinking that is not always achieved through mindless math exercises. Additionally, it serves as the bridge between the untamed thoughts within our heads, to a cohesive insightfulness ready to catch fire to the world.

On a global scale, writing promotes interconnectedness among societies. Whether it is utilized as a form of communication, pastime, entertainment, archive, or knowledge, writing reaches vast expanses of the human population. For instance, as a culture, we read our children bedtime stories that were written to soothe restless, juvenile minds. Therefore, writing fulfills the dimension of man that seeks to help. Broadly speaking, anything, from novels to newspapers, contains small, but meaningful universal truths. Across the ages, writing has represented, and continues to represent, the wisdom of mankind as a whole. It reveals the depth of our worldly insight. In essence, do we have the ability to view the universe through a camera lens that is not always so flattering to the subject? Writing plays the purpose, internationally, of exposing the rawness of man.