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By Wilson Portorreal, New York, New York
So I finally got a dog. He was half shih tzu, half Maltese, and he had chocolate-caramel fur with this white whipped cream color, and we named him Hershey. I trained him how to fetch, I trained him how to stay, and one day, I took him outside to teach him how to follow me without a leash—but he ran off. I chased him for about a block or so, and as I caught up to him on the sidewalk, he cut onto the Grand Concourse. So I was dripping in sweat, my heart was pounding, and everything just got hectic when he froze in the middle of the street with all these cars, trucks, and buses coming toward him. And as they got closer, they were honking, and right there I thought, “This dog is family. He’s my responsibility. I need to save him.” But it was too late … for death, because I grabbed my dog, and I lifted him up into the sky as if he were Simba. Death was not going to take my dog today.
Then They Came
By Matthew Dicks, Newington, Connecticut
It’s snowing as my car slides across the road and collides with the Mercedes head-on, sending me through the windshield. When I open my eyes, I’m on the side of the road, and there’s a teenage boy, no older than I, leaning over my broken body. I close my eyes, and my heart stops beating. When I open my eyes, I’m in the back of an ambulance, and there’s a woman pounding on my chest, shouting, “He’s back! He’s back!”
Then I’m in an emergency room, and there are doctors working on my legs and my chest, as I tell a nurse through broken teeth that she needs to call McDonald’s because I won’t be making it to my shift. She looks at me as if I’m crazy.
We’re waiting for an operating room, and while we wait, I wait for parents who won’t come, who have decided to go check the car first instead of me. But it turns out that nurse called McDonald’s, and my friends are filling the emergency room, teenagers in McDonald’s uniforms and concert T-shirts and ripped jeans. And they’re making a racket, peeking between the double doors and waving at me. This is the day that my friends become my family, filling a gap that’s been empty far too long and one they’ve been filling every day since.
By Micaela Blei, New York, New York
The third‑grade boys I teach have a war game, and it’s not like your regular little-boy war game. There’s always a bloody nose happening every day. During free time, they tie one another to chairs with construction paper and practice interrogation techniques. And I’m lost. I am a teacher who loves teddy bears, but when I tell them, “Please stop,” they look at me like, Why would we do third grade when there’s a war on?
One day I hear one of the younger kids, Oliver,* ask a general, Greg,* if he can be in the army at recess, and Greg says, “Sure. You can be a suicide bomber.” Oliver asks, “Why?” And Greg says, “Because everyone wants you to die.” I go over to Greg, shocked, and say, “We do not talk like that.” He listens politely and just walks away.
Finally, it’s recess. I’m on patrol, and I see Oliver kneeling in the sandpit with his face in the sand, and three lieutenants are starting to bury him headfirst. When I see this, I am done being a teddy bear teacher. I finally snap.
*Names changed to protect privacy.