Sunday, October 13, 2019

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Franz Rev 1

Name: Jason Franz
Genre: Middle Grade Sci-Fi
Title: Attention Authors of Earth
Word Count: 58,000

The frightened surface-dwellers of the ruined planet watched helplessly as the Deathlorian’s Dreadnought climbed higher into the atmosphere. Light glistened off the commander’s metallic skin as he laughed. They had only three rotations to consider his offer before he returned, either to rule their world, or--

I draw a dark line up the middle of my page as the tires of the writers’ conference bus dip into, like, the nintey-thousandth pothole since leaving California. It’s hard enough writing over the roar of conversation engine noise bouncing off the curved walls but if this keeps up, this story will end up like all the others—unfinished. Mom, her stupid boyfriend, my teachers, and, worst of all, Kristy Kruz, will be right about me. 

I tap the clicky top of my pen against my chin. Now, what does the dreadnought look like? I close my eyes like I’m in history class and deconstruct a bunch of different ships from my favorite movies in my head, and put them back together as something new. When I open my eyes, a ship with long tentacles, glowing with orange energy, follows outside the bus. The whips are attached to a metal disc that looks like an upside-down plate. Round, red windows wrap around it like glaring eyes. On top of that disc is a light-green dome I can’t see into. It looks like a flying jellyfish…and nothing like the ship I’d actually imagined. It won’t go away until it’s written down. I lean up against my porthole-style window, smoosh my brown, curly pigtails against the cold glass, put pen to paper, and...

Another pothole sends my notebook tumbling from my knees. It ricochets off my black boots, and slides behind me. Crap! This is the longest I’ve stuck with a story. I’ve gotta find it. The polished floor shakes beneath me as I crawl under my seat. I reach past other passengers' shoes, (and one pair of slippers). I avoid the tissue smeared with what I tell myself is a half-eaten Baby Ruth bar. I’m centimeters from my notebook’s brown hardcover when it’s plucked from the floor. 

My heart beats faster than the U.S.S. Enterprise’s warp drive. What if whoever picked it up reads it and hates it? What’ll they think when they see all the stories I've started but failed to finish? What if they don’t return it? The worst keeps flying through my head until a sheepish, stuttering voice cuts through my fear. “D-did a Paige Turner l-lose a uh…” there’s a quick clearing of the throat before the sentence concludes, “n-notebook?” 

I wrote my name on the inside of the cover. They’re gonna read it, they’re gonna hate it. I gotta get it. I hit my head on the underside of my seat as I back out and pop up. The boy holding my notebook wears a blue plaid shirt that I’m kinda jealous of. He might be my age, but I can’t tell because he’s trying to shrink himself as much as he can, keeping his arms pinned to his side and his head down.   

“That’s me,” I say softly like I’m trying to get a baby deer or squirrel to eat from my hand.  

The boy scoots out of his seat, keeping his head tilted toward the floor like he’s afraid it’ll split and swallow him if he’s looking. His dirty-blonde hair stays draped in front of his eyes as he drums his fingers against the notebook cover without a word. Kinda creepy. “Thanks?” I say, when I can’t take the awkwardness anymore.

The boy chuckles, clears his throat, and chuckles again. “Ok, well, i-it was n-nice talking t-to you. Y-you’re off to a g-good start. Bye.” He places my notebook on my backpack even though I’m reaching for it, then scuttles back to his seat. 

I’m ‘off to a good start’? He did read! I should feel violated. I should also get back to work. But no one’s ever told me that. Who is this guy? He moves the hair away from right eye so he can monitor the other passengers and meets my gaze. The green eye gets real big then he sinks out of view.

Awwww! He’s not creepy, he’s shy! I rise, tie my black and grey plaid top around my waist so as to display my Tribbles Ate My Homework T-shirt, and head for his seat. He’s hunkered down in it like a WWII fox hole. “Hi, can I sit next to you?” He freezes with this Jurassic Park, don’t move, she can’t see me if I don’t move, expression. I don’t wait for him to say yes before helping myself to the empty space. “I guess you already know my name, what’s yours?”

His lips are tight as he chews nervously on the inside of his cheek. FINALLY he clears his throat, and all the words come out in one nervous, garbled mess, “Iumthoughtyouwere…umwriting.”

“Wow, long name. Is it Klingon?”

A hint of a smile slowly spreads across his face, followed by a string of words that resemble an intelligible sentence. “I th-thought y-you were, wr-writing.”

“I was, but I’m not used to people being supportive of my writing, and it was nice to hear something nice. I figured more of that might help.”

The boy’s shoulders relax and his breaths become longer and slower, as opposed to the quick, bunny-like puffs from before. “I’m Wilbur,” he says. “Wells. But, s-since my, d-dad owning a uh—a junk y-yard, most p-people c-call me Scrap.”

“Most people? You mean your friends?”

“Ha! N-no—definitely n-not friends.”

I give Scrap a sympathetic frown. I know what it’s like to be an outsider. When I first started writing about galaxies far, far away, I’d act out my stories. Mom didn’t know what to do with me so she took me to a psychologist. When Kristy Kruz found out, she spread a rumor that I was seeing a “crazy doctor” because I’d been abducted by aliens, or delivered to Earth by aliens (depending on the version you heard). “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t b-be,” Scrap says. “I build st-stuff outta scrap p-parts too, s-so I k-kinda l-like it.” 

“What kinds of things do you build?” 

He moves the hair away from his eyes completely. “All kinds of the things.”  

“If you want, I’ll be the first friend to call ya Scrap.”

He’s smiling so big it makes me smile. “A-alright. B-by th-the way, n-nice glasses. The g-green l-looks n-nice on y-you.” He turns completely away from me, looking out his window. “Oh wow! I think we’re close.”

I cock my head in confusion as the bus starts going down a hill. “That can’t be right. We only left California an hour ago—how can we be in Michigan already?” 

“We are g-going to a sci-fi wr-writer’s conference, m-maybe we t-traveled at l-light speed.” He says with a grin. “E-either way, there it, um…is.” 

Beyond Scrap, through the bare trees, and snow sits Lake Superior. It’s this big, cold-blue thing that stretches to the horizon and beyond. Being from California I should be used to a body of water that big, but there’s something different about the look of the water here. It’s darker, more menacing, with patches of brownish red near the shore, either clay deposits, or sandbars, or both. 

I slip around in my seat as the bus evens out, swings around another corner, and the lake disappears behind the trees, hills, and run-down, cottages. 

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Helt Rev 1

 Name: Julianna Helt
Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Slime Wars

I waved my sign at a passing car. “Get your slime,” I shouted. My BFFs Shelby and Lexi and I all stood in Shelby’s yard, behind an old fold-out table we lugged from her garage with plastic containers lined up on top, each filled with a different color of our awesome homemade goo.

We spent all summer making slime and it was taking over all our houses. Lexi’s mom threatened to throw it all away if something wasn’t done. Lexi decided a good old-fashioned stand like a lemonade stand was the way to go. But instead of lemonade, we would sell all the slime we made throughout the summer. I had my eyes on some new lacrosse gear that my parents said they wouldn’t buy me because my old stick was “just fine for now” even though all the girls on the elite team I made in the spring have brand new equipment. Mine is second hand and the strings always come undone. Anyway, I did the math and if we each made six dollars every day for the next ten days I would have enough to buy the gear myself.

That means, since we decided to split our profits three ways, we need to sell nine containers of slime every day!

My sweaty hands slipped on the poster board with, “SLIME FOR SALE,” emblazoned in large red letters. Old Mrs. Mabel passed by walking Charlie, her equally old dog. She peered at our signs and containers, shaking her head muttering, “slime?”

Lexi held up her poster board with “SLIME $2” written on it. She messed up the dollar sign and scratched it out with a black marker. 

Shelby laid down on her sign, “It’s so hot,” she whined, “Can we go inside?” She decorated her poster board with hearts and stars instead of anything to do with selling slime.      

“We might as well! No one is going to want our slime!” I laid down next to Shelby, closing my eyes against the blaring sun. This was a bad plan!  

No one had stopped at our table all afternoon except for Mrs. Mabel who definitely didn’t look interested. Some cars slowed down but when they realized we weren’t selling lemonade on this hot day, they sped up and drove away.

Then a car door slammed.

“Hi,” Lexi said. I squinted my eyes at a boy standing on the sidewalk with a crisp five-dollar bill. His mom waited with the window down in a gray minivan.

“Maycie,” she whispered, kicking me. “Get up!”

I stood up off the grass. I guess we had our first customer.

“Hey, you made all this?” he asked waving at the containers on the table.  
          
“Um, yeah. did you want some?” I mumbled pulling the end of my ponytail into my mouth. This seemed like a good idea until someone actually wanted to buy slime. Talking to customers made my already hot body become drenched in sweat.

 “I don’t know.” The kid studied the merchandise. “Do you have blue?” He peered at the containers of slime on our table.

“Of course.” Lexi picked up a container opening the lid.

“Ew.” She dropped the container, squishing her face up in disgust.
          
“Um, never mind.” The kid backed away his eyes wide.
          
“Wait!” Desperate to make our first sale, I called out to the kid, but he was already back in the car.

The car sped away as I looked in the container in Lexi’s hand.

“Gross.” What was once a blue masterpiece was now a pool of glue and laundry detergent. It didn’t look anything like slime.
       
“They’re not all like that are they?” Shelby asked opening the other containers. They were. All the slime had melted in the sun.
    
Lexi let out a deep breath and threw herself down in the grass.

“This is terrible!” She buried her face in her hands in a dramatic pose of defeat. But I had an idea! We needed something to thicken the slime in this heat. Maybe flour?

“I’ll be right back!” I ran across the street to my house.

“Mom!” I screamed as the front door banged open. A blast of cold air hit my face, but I didn’t pause to enjoy it. Mom wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. She must be in the backyard with the twins. Since she’s usually ok with me borrowing stuff and I was in a hurry, I grabbed the bag of flour without asking from the kitchen and carried it back to slime headquarters.

“What are you doing?” Lexi asked as I sprinkled some flour into the first container of blue slime stirring it with a plastic spoon. More and more flour went into the mixture, but the goo didn’t thicken like I thought it would. Flour covered the front of my #laxgirl shirt.

“Borax!” I yelled to no one in particular, picking up the bag of flour to run back home with it. As I made my way across the front yard, my sweaty hands lost their grip on the bag of flour. It slipped through my fingers exploding on to my front yard like a flour atomic bomb.

“Oh no!” I yelled. Lexi and Shelby came running.

“Look at you,” Lexi tried to brush the flour out of my hair and clothes. It only smeared it in more. Her sweaty hands now white with flour. She wiped them off on my shirt instead of her own.   

Shelby smiled. I knew she was trying not to laugh. She sniffed. Any second she was going to explode in fits of giggles.

“Don’t do it,” I warned her, putting my hand up to stop her. That just sent a whiff of flour dust in the air. I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Shelby covered her mouth with both hands, but the sound burst from her lips under her fingers. Peels of laughter exploded across the lawn. I grabbed a handful from the bag and threw it in the air. It rained down on the three of us.

“No, don’t!” Lexi cried in horror while Shelby spun around in the flour rain

I threw another handful of flour in the air and danced in it with Shelby. Lexi laughed, streaking through the yard to escape the mess.  She’d be in so much trouble if she got flour all over her clothes. I knew this but I chased her anyway.            

She stopped running, out of breath, facing me, “Please stop, Maycie!” She put her hands out in front of her.

A fistful of flour in my hand, I held it up threatening to throw it. She cowered.

“Don’t, Maycie,” I heard a stern voice behind me. Lexi relaxed, triumphant, looking passed me to the owner of the voice.

“Hi, Dad,” I turned, smiling my sweetest smile. 

“What in the world are you doing?” he demanded. My sweetness having no effect on him whatsoever.

“I could ask you the same thing, you know? Did you skip out of work early?” I gave him a playful but stern look, shaking my finger at him. 

I expected him to have some witty comeback and we would exchange banter like we usually do. Instead, his face darkened, a cloud passing over his eyes. 

“Just put the flour away, Maycie, and clean up. You’re a mess!” He opened up the backseat door, lifting out a box. “Can you close that door for me?” he said as he walked past.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Loftis Rev 1

Name: Taelor Loftis
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Veil of Sparks

I am Cailan Murray and weak has never been my name—the affirmation rings through Cailan’s bones as her eyes scan the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristos in a last ditch effort to hold herself together. The chaos of students and parents scurrying around amidst a maze of boxes, furniture, and other various belongings becomes a distant reality as her eyes search the horizon for anything to focus on to settle her mixed emotions. This shouldn’t be hard to find, considering she’s often seen an enigmatic glimmer between the airy aspens and stately piƱons of this northern New Mexico village.
Aspen Springs, with its beautiful and haunting surroundings, has always been the kind of place that makes her peer a little more closely at things, convincing her that she’s glimpsed the unfamiliar sky of some other world beyond her own or noticed a phantom sparkle swimming in the depths of a passerby’s eyes. Across the parking lot, someone’s possessions tear through the bottom of cardboard box and scatter across Aspen Springs University’s cobblestone pavers, echoing off the granite, moss-covered buildings, tethering her back to reality. College move-in day is in full force, but for Cailan it’s come to an end—her few belongings tucked away safely in her new dorm room, and her uncle readying himself to leave. Despite the anxious excitement buzzing through the atmosphere, today serves as a gentle reminder of times spent with her mother hiking these very mountains, and as a whispered promise to believe that she is not sorrow, that she is not pain, and that her past is what has happened to her, not who she is, and not who she will become.  
“Are you all right?” her Uncle Oliver asks, searching her stormy eyes for the truth they both know her words won’t say. “You look just like Fiona when you get lost in your thoughts like that.” His voice is calm and smooth against the chatter and commotion around them as he speaks of his older sister.
“I’m…good,” Cailan murmurs half-heartedly while flashing an even less stellar smile. She supposes another half-truth tagged on to the endless stream of them she’s told throughout the years won’t really matter. Indeed, she’s not even sure she has the ability to express how she really feels anymore.
And while Ollie’s crystal blue eyes seemingly search the pages of her frayed and tattered soul, a sharp talon of a memory claws its way up from the dregs of her mind like a nightmare sprung to life—her mother’s funeral on an unseasonably cold spring day. She pushes back against that memory, willing it to fade into the darkness where it resides. But her relief is short-lived. Another memory replaces the first—this one a still-life image of Ollie’s two-bedroom house in Williams, the home they’d shared for the last eight years.
Cailan swallows hard against a sob rising in her throat, fixing her stormy eyes on the ground and absentmindedly toeing at some loose gravel. Ollie starts to speak but she waves him off and cuts in. “You’re the only family I have left.” She wipes at a single tear that breaks free. “Mom was the last person I ever said goodbye to.” Her voice cracks on the last few words and she feels the endless well of emotions, emotions she’s meticulously caged inside of her for so many years, working their way up from the depths of their vault, threatening to consume her. “I’ve been saying goodbye to people and places my entire life. I don’t want to ever say goodbye again.”
Furious at herself for allowing tears to form, Cailan kicks the pile of loose gravel towards Ollie’s truck. He peels himself from his resting spot against the old, blue Ford, nervously adjusting and readjusting his worn and faded ASU cap atop his sandy curls, before embracing her in a giant bear hug. His arms tighten around her to the point where she finds it difficult to breathe, and as her tears betray her, spilling over the seams of her eyes and slipping down her face in a silent flood, the soft knit fabric of his t-shirt collects them.
Cailan feels Ollie’s words resonate through his chest. “Cai, I think you’re worrying about too many things you shouldn’t be worrying about today. You’ve got this.”
When Cailan’s trembling slows and the nightmarish memories grow dim, she releases Ollie and dares to meet his eyes. His lopsided grin stretches across his face, a trait he shares with his sister. For a moment, the bitter taste of jealousy coats her mouth as she thinks about how much he resembles her mom and how little she does.
Ollie’s gentle voice pulls her from her envy. “Don’t be afraid to have fun, Cai. You have your whole life to be adulty and serious. Enjoy your time here. You only get to do college for the first time, once.”
“I promise I’ll try—will—I promise I will have fun.” The sound of these words tumbling from her mouth are strange and foreign to Cailan. She’s always been more of a work first and play never type of girl, though she supposes Ollie is right. After all, her mother’s memory lives here, nestled amongst the grotesque gargoyles with their ever-watching eyes and whispering through the pale, silvery leaves of the towering aspens.
As Ollie makes his way around his truck, Cailan takes a wishful glance at the Sangre de Cristos surrounding the sprawling, gothic campus, her eyes climbing higher and higher until nearing the top of the tallest peak. It’s there, in the midst of the dense pines, that she spots a flicker of light—a vibrant indigo spark against an evergreen canvas, vanishing before fully forming. Her blue-grey eyes linger on that spot, anticipating something more—an answer, perhaps, that there’s more to life than what’s perceived.
Cailan’s mind wanders to glimmering memories of moments like these throughout the years—moments where she feels more than sees veils of worlds beyond her own. She wonders if her mother saw them, too, as she always had a fondness for these mysterious mountains.
The sound of Ollie’s rusted truck door slamming shut pulls Cailan from her reverie.
He leans across the tattered bench seat speaking to Cailan through the parted passenger window. “Cai,” he begins, “I won’t say goodbye. Goodbye is permanent.” Again, his lopsided grin spreads across his friendly face. “So instead, I’m saying later.”
And in the words between his words Cailan finds grace against her fears. “Later,” she says, daring to let a smile slip across her lips.
As she listens to the old Ford’s engine echoing off the granite buildings as it winds its way down the street and out the main entrance of the university, Cailan vows to herself that she will carry on in her mother’s memory and chase the secrets of these mountains.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Barrios Rev 1

Name: Anita McDivitt Barrios
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Dragon's Leap

Chapter 1 - The Call

Iric MacDraegan resisted the urge to jam his thumbs into his ears as the heavy drone of
two clashing, dissonant notes followed him into the farmhouse. The dragon lung pipes
spewed their strange tones, ebbing and flowing, drowning out all other sounds with each
heave of the bellows. He slammed the door against them.

They're calling another Leap, he thought, and balled his fists as if he could pummel the
sounds into an in-tune pleasant harmony. He knew from experience the noise -- it couldn't
be called music -- started out aggravating, but over a fortnight burrowed into his ears,
scratching and scraping, crescendoing in sleepless nights and frayed nerves. He ground
his teeth against it, fighting the reminder that, once again, he was losing out on his
chance to Leap.

Everyone else in earshot was already responding to the almost painful noise, packing a
sack and getting ready to fling themselves over the Leaping Cliff, hoping and praying
they'd be dragon-chosen. But not him. He was trapped on the farm with stalls to muck, a
cow to milk, chickens to feed and fences to mend. Other parents couldn't wait for their
sons to Leap, but his mother only harped on how "you're going to bust your head open
on the Beach of Sorrows if the River Maw is running low." She'd never let him get
near the Cliff. The Glacier Maw could melt and flood the valley and she still wouldn't
let him go.

The lung pipes droned.

The fire crackled and a three-footed black pot, full to the brim with porridge, simmered
in the flames. He placed the egg basket and milk pail on the table and served himself a
bowl.

His mother appeared, sweaty from stoking the fire, skirts gathered in one hand. She wiped
her brow on a rolled-up sleeve and served him a ladle of last night's mutton and gravy
from a smaller pot. Her red hair, a glorious crown of curls pulled off her neck and piled
on her head, was greying around the edges. Her hands, rough and cracked from washing and
weaving and tending fires, were strong and steady.

The droning penetrated the room, swirling like wood smoke. Heavy. Stifling. Suffocating.
He couldn't stand it. He had to say something.

"When are you going to let me Leap?" He didn't look up from his bowl. "I'm
14."

"You're all I have. I can't lose you." Her eyes locked on his. She didn't even
pause before answering.   

"That's not fair. You don't know you'll lose me. I could be dragon-chosen. Dad
was." He met her gaze.

"You're not your Dad. Why can't you be more like your Uncle?" She flicked an
imaginary crumb off the embroidered tablecloth. "He and I were talking the other
day. He thinks you could lead the next drive to the shearing house. Take the horse and
drive our quota in. He could use the help."

He flinched like she had slapped him. She may as well have. "Why're you always
trying to get me to care about sheep? I hate sheep. I hate living here. I want to fly.
When do I get to do what I want?"

"It's too dangerous." She bunched her rough wool shawl higher around her neck
and smoothed her hands on her skirts. "You don't understand. If the River Maw is
running low, you could bust your head open on the Beach of Sorrows. Break your legs. One
of those beasts could rip off your arm. Then what would I do?"

"I'm not a kid anymore, Mom. I've outgrown Dad's boots and I'm taller than he was,
too. Uncle Luak says so. You're always on me to do more around here. If you let me Leap,
I could be dragon-chosen and get you all the stuff you have to barter for now -- dragon
mutes and dragon-casted wool. I could really help you then." He stabbed a piece of
mutton with a knife. It screeched and pushed a glob of gravy over the edge.

The sound of the pipes ricocheted off the walls, louder and shriller.

"How can you know you'll be dragon-chosen?" Her voice sliced through the
droning, clear and hard. "You can't. No one knows what the dragons want in a
rider." She sniffed. "What if you're not chosen? You want to spend the rest of
your life with a mangled leg? How about losing an eye? I can't let that happen to
you."

"It won't." They were talking in circles at each other. "I could be like
Dad."

"Dragons killed your father and nearly broke me. Don't you ever forget it!" She
hit the table with a fist and half rose off the bench. "That's why I raised you
here. Away from dragons, for good. I didn't want you growing up at the Mews admiring and
worshipping those beasts."

"I get it. You hate the Mews." He tried again. "But it can't be as bad as
you say, or no one would ever Leap. I think it'd be amazing."

Her arm flashed across the table. She grabbed his wrist, pinning it between her thumb and
fingers. He dropped the knife and pulled back. She held him fast.  "You think being
dragon-chosen'll make you different? Special, somehow?" She sneered the word,
special. "That a dragonling'll care about you? Make no mistake. They're beasts,
Iric, not pets. They don't think like us. They don't love. They don't have friends.
They're not nice. Ever. They're selfish to a scale. All they care about is getting what
they want. What they need. Not what anyone else wants or needs. Not about you or anyone
you love. They're the true Lords of the Mews, not the Council or the Masters or the Wing
Leaders. Everyone serves them. It's twisted."

"Are you any different?" He yanked out of her grip and stood up. "Isn't
that all you care about? Making me stay here so I can chop wood and round up the sheep
and do chores for you? So you don't have to?"

Droning filled the silence.

"I only want what's best for you." Her shoulders slumped and she curled her
empty hand into a fist. "I thought I knew what that was. I want to keep you safe. I
want you to have a long life surrounded by people who love you. I want you to have what I
never could."

"What if I don't want that?" He took a deep breath. He couldn't stop now.
"What if I want to take a chance? What if I want to get out of here and fly?"

"You don't understand what you're saying." Her hands shook. She covered her
face. "You can't possibly understand."

"What did Dad want me to do?" he shouted.

Her head shot up, face stony white and lips set in a grim line. "No," she
whispered.

"See? It doesn't matter what I say. You'll never listen to me and you'll never let
me go!" He stomped out the front door, slamming it shut. He ran to the barn, then
out to the empty corral, sucking in the cold air, holding back tears. She'd never
understand him, never know how he felt stuck on the ground when he could be touching the
sky.

The empty pasture mocked him in the dawning sun.

He had to round up the damn sheep.

The dragon lung pipes bellowed across the fields, calling.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Simon Rev 1

Name: Kelsey Simon
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Title: The Guilt of Healing

1

Nicco leans out over the second-story balcony as far as he can. The gray of late evening spans out before us, only the faint light from neighboring houses glowing in the distance. The bay sits to the right, with an expensive speedboat rocking next to a small dock. The waves are inaudible, even as I spot them rolling into the reedy shore. The boom of the music and the chatter of the kids as they shuffle around the pool in the yard below us are far louder.


When Nicco slammed my locker shut and told me we had plans tonight, I said what I always say―I’m in―because the best way to make sure Nicco doesn’t do something too crazy is to be with him. It’s a good thing I’m here, because this evening’s party is starting to look like one of those times.


“I could make it into the water,” Nicco says, eyeing the drop from the balcony to the pool. “It’s not a big jump.”


The kids below us have started turning to stare, to watch, and each set of eyes on Nicco is one more reason he won’t back down. But I’ll still try.


“Come on,” I say, a few feet behind him. “It won’t be fun.” The two girls he’d been flirting with earlier stand beside me. They whisper to each other before one lifts her phone high, making sure Nicco is framed perfectly by her camera. He gives her a casual thumbs up, his grin wide.


I refrain from rolling my eyes.


“Why don’t you get down and have another drink,” I say, bargaining. That’s always the first step when Nicco gets a hunger like this one. Bargain first, argue second, get physical third, if the situation is desperate enough to warrant it.


“It’ll be easy.” His eyes widen as he turns to stare down at the pool and the challenge I know he’s contemplating. He’s probably imagining it―the drop down and all the eyes that would be on him as he fell.


“And if you get hurt?” I say. That’s what I’m really worried about anyway. Nicco can drag me to a party two hours from home. He can leave me feeling awkward as I stumble through a conversation with a pretty girl I’ve never met before. He can even drink himself into a buzz while I stand sober, the designated driver. But him jumping from a second-story balcony for a few seconds of adrenaline and fame? That’s likely to leave him with a broken bone or worse? I won’t stand idly by.


“Well, at least there’s a healer here,” Nicco answers, pointing.


“What?” I step forward, joining him at the railing, following his finger to a girl standing at the front of the pool, waiting in line to get herself a drink. “Is that Lacey Stephens?”


She’s tall, her hair the same rich brown, just a few shades lighter than her skin. She looks the same as I remember when she still went to our school at the beginning of the year. We even used to have algebra together before she discovered she had the rare ability to heal and left to attend Kisper High, a school just for healers.


“I’m sure if I get too hurt, she’ll heal me,” Nicco says, shrugging.


She pushes past a dancing couple, and just when she’s about to disappear beneath the balcony where we won’t be able to see her, her eyes flash up and lock onto us.


I jerk back. “That’s a stupid assumption,” I hiss. We didn’t know Lacey, and she didn’t know us. Besides, who knew what she could heal, or how much or how fast. There were rules about those sorts of things, rules neither Nicco or I knew.


“I’m doing it,” Nicco whispers under his breath before he leans forward and shouts, “Do you dare me to jump?!”


“Nicco, Don’t,” I say again with more emphasis, but Nicco is already climbing the railing. He throws one of his legs over and then the other. He’s probably reading Lacey being here as a sign. “She’s not going to heal you if you get hurt. They’ll just call an ambulance.”


“It’ll be fine.” He glances at me over his shoulder, the muscle in his left cheek twitching and his eyes shifting side to side. He’s already feeling the adrenaline pump through his veins. He won’t back down. Not now.


Any whisper of the ocean in the distance is completely drowned out in the chant of everyone below. Their words soar around us. “Do it! Do it!” It grows louder and louder as more and more kids pick up the words. Everyone’s watching Nicco now, some even raising their drinks to the sky, cheering him on.


This is what he lives for. The attention, the rush. It’s probably not even worth me trying to stop him, but I’ll give it one more try. It’s my job, after all.


“That’s the shallow end,” I say, pointing over the railing to the pool just below us, centered in the yard. The deep end is the one farthest from us. He’s got three feet of water to stop his fall. “You’ll break your leg. Nicco, seriously, this is a bad idea.”


I’m judging the distance between us now, judging how hard it would be to grab his arm and yank him back. He’ll be mad. He’ll be roaring with the loss of the rush he didn’t get. He might even shove me down and do it anyway, his determination so solid not even I can break through it.


Let him jump and be there to pick him up and take him to the hospital? Or fight him only to get hurt myself and still see him jump?


He’s done worse than this and survived it.


I hesitate. Just a moment, a stretch, where I can’t decide what would be better.


Nicco jumps.


The crowd inhales like a single giant beast.


“Shit,” I hiss, scrambling to the spot he just vacated, leaning over to see. He pulls up his legs, cannon-balling down, plummeting toward the water. He smashes into it, spraying everyone brave enough not to back away. I release the breath I’d been holding. He made it. Time to get down there and make sure he made it in one piece. I shove past the two girls and back into the house. I take the stairs down two at a time, pushing anyone in my way out of my path. I need to get to Nicco as fast as possible. I need to make sure he’s okay, and if he’s not, I need to get him help.


It’s hard not to see him in my mind, on the ground of his brothers room, a pool of blood seeping from under his chest. I grit my teeth and wipe the memory away. That was three years ago. That was my fault. This isn’t the same. People shout and laugh as I squeeze past them―a good sign. Surely they’d be screaming if Nicco was injured. I jog down the stone path that winds around the house to the back yard, the salty, musty scent of the bay barely distinguishable over the smell of spilled beer, making my knotted stomach flip and bile rise up my throat.


Finally, through the crowd, I catch sight of him.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Helt

Name: Julianna Helt
Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Slime Wars 

Lexi waved her sign at a passing car, “Get your slime,” she shouted. We stood in Shelby’s yard, behind an old fold-out table we lugged from her garage. Ten plastic containers lined up on the top each filled with a different color of homemade slime.

My sweaty hands slipped on the poster board with, “SLIME FOR SALE,” emblazoned in large red letters. Old Mrs. Mabel passerby by walking Charlie, her equally old dog. She peered at our signs and containers, shaking her head as she walked by muttering, “slime?” 

Lexi wrote “SLIME $1” on her poster board. She messed up the dollar sign and scratched it out with black marker.  

Shelby laid down on her sign, “It’s so hot,” she whined. She decorated her poster board with hearts and stars. I couldn’t even read what it said especially since she now sprawled across it.     

“No one is going to want our slime!” I collapsed into the grass next to Shelby, throwing my arm over my closed eyes. No one had driven or walked past our table except for Mrs. Mabel who definitely didn’t look interested. But then a car door slammed. 

“Hi,” Lexi said. I peered out from under my arm to see who she was talking to.  A boy stood on the sidewalk with a crisp five-dollar bill.

“Maycie,” she whispered, kicking me, “get up!”

I stood up off the grass. I guess we had our first customer.

“Um, did you want slime?” I mumbled pulling the end of my ponytail into my mouth. This seemed like a good idea until someone actually wanted to buy slime. Talking to customers made my already hot body become drenched in sweat.  

 “I don’t know,” the kid studied the merchandise, “Do you have blue?” He peered at the containers of slime on our table. 

“Of course,” Lexi picked up a container of slime and opened the lid.

 “Ew,” she dropped the container, squishing her face up in disgust.      
   
“Um, never mind,” the kid backed away. 

“Wait!” Desperate to make our first sale, I called out to the kid, but he was already in the car. 

I looked in the container in Lexi’s hand. 

“Gross,” What was once blue slime was now a pool of glue and laundry detergent. It didn’t look anything like slime. 

“They’re not all like that are they?” Shelby opened the other containers. They were. All the slime melted in the sun. 

Lexi let out a deep breath and threw herself down in the grass. 

“This is terrible!” She buried her face in her hands in a dramatic pose of defeat. But I had an idea! We needed something to thicken the slime in this heat. Maybe flour?

“I’ll be right back!” I ran across the street to my house. 

“Mom!” I screamed as the front door banged open.

 A blast of cold air hit my face but I didn’t pause to enjoy it. Mom wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. She must be in the backyard with the twins. Since she’s usually ok with me borrowing stuff and I was in a hurry, I grabbed the bag of flour without asking from the kitchen and carried it back to slime headquarters. 

“What are you doing?” Lexi asked as I sprinkled some flour into the first container of blue slime stirring it with a plastic spoon. More and more flour went into the mixture, but the goo didn’t thicken like I thought it would. Flour covered the front of my #laxgirl shirt. 

“Borax!” I yelled to no one in particular, picking up the bag of flour to run back home with it. 

As I made my way across the front yard, my sweaty hands lost their grip on the bag of flour. It slipped through my fingers exploding on to my front yard like a flour atomic bomb. 

“Oh no!” I yelled. Lexi and Shelby came running. 

“Look at you,” Lexi tried to brush the flour out of my hair and clothes. It only smeared it in more. Her sweaty hands now white with flour. She looked at them in disgust.   

Shelby only smiled. I knew she was trying not to laugh. She sniffed. Any second she was going to explode in fits of giggles. 

“Don’t do it,” I warned her putting my hand up to stop her. That just sent a whiff of flour dust in the air. I couldn’t help but crack a smile. 

Shelby covered her mouth with both hands, but the sound burst from her lips under her fingers. Peels of laughter exploded across the lawn. I grabbed a handful from the bag and threw it in the air. It rained down on the three of us. 

“No, don’t!” Lexi cried in horror while Shelby spun around in the flour rain.

I threw another handful of flour in the air and danced in it with Shelby. Lexi laughed, streaking through the yard to escape the mess.  She’d be in so much trouble if she got flour all over her clothes. I knew this but I continued chasing her anyway.

She stopped running, out of breath, facing me, “Please stop, Maycie!” She put her hands out in front of her. 

A fistful of flour in my hand, I held it up threatening to throw it. She cowered.

“Don’t, Maycie,” I heard a stern voice behind me. Lexi relaxed, triumphant, looking passed me to the owner of the voice.

“Hi, Dad,” I turned, smiling my sweetest smile. 

“What in the world are you doing?” he demanded. My sweetness having no effect on him whatsoever. 

“I could ask you the same thing, you know? Did you skip out of work early?” I gave him a playful but stern look, shaking my finger at him. 

I expected him to have some witty comeback and we would exchange banter like we usually do. Instead his face darkened, a cloud passing over his eyes.   
      
“Just put the flour away, Maycie, and clean up. You’re a mess!” He opened up the backseat door, lifting out a box. “Can you close that door for me?” he said as he walked past.

I nodded, watching him walk toward the house, balancing the box on his hip as he opened the front door. I let go of the clump of flour in my hand, letting it fall to the ground, painting the grass with white specks. Using my hip to avoid touching Dad’s car and getting flour on it, I slammed it shut.             
“I have to go guys,” I said to my still laughing friends. 

Shelby’s face fell as I picked up the bag of flour. “Why?” she asked. 

“My dad,” I waved my hand at the car, “I just have to go.” Dad’s tension snaked its way into my laughter, twisting it. I could always make my dad laugh or at least crack a smile. 

“Bye, Maycie,” Lexi said to my back as I left my friends standing in the mess of flour.