On the Fence – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers. Many thanks to wonderful Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for leading the Friday Fictioneers. The challenge is to write a 100-word story based on a photo prompt. This week’s photo was contributed by David Stewart. Be sure to stop by and read his tear-jerker. 🙂

The school-to-prison pipeline was coined to describe how America’s public schools fail kids. During the 2011-2012 school year, the US Department of Education estimated that there were 130,000 expulsions and 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students – that’s one for every seven kids.

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

(100 words)

On the Fence*

The other kids played and kicked soccer balls around him. Again, Sam must complete math during recess.

No matter what he did, he was on the fence at recess. He sat.

“Uh-uh. No, up. On your feet.”

Sam sat. He stabbed the piece of paper with his pencil, crumbling it in a ball. Recess was over. He could sit at his desk, eyes on the clock.

Around the fence,

shiny with double-strand, barbed wire.

Life sentence.

You never leave.

“Honey,” said Sam’s mom. “I only ask you questions because you’re smarter than me and someday you’ll know all the answers.”



For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Down the Rabbit Hole – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, where writers from all over the globe face a challenge to write a 100-word story based on a photo prompt.

Sorry, so late again this week. I was having a hard time pinning down a story and finally decided on something close to home. I had been working at a job related to writing and reading. I can’t say I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I can’t say anything else, but this is fiction.

Thanks to our lovely hostess Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and to Stephen Baum for this week’s delightful photo.

If you’d like to play along and write your own story, visit this link for instructions. All are welcome!

PHOTO PROMPT © Stephen Baum

Down the Rabbit Hole

Genre: Too Realistic Fiction (100 words)

“We’re here at Meadowlark Elementary to reintroduce the ‘book.’ I’m holding in my hands Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a story about a girl who falls the down the rabbit hole.”

“That sounds boring,” Chad said. “Who wants to read that?”

Kids did just that for the following two weeks. They devoted extra time to practice reading still words on a white page. Initially, the lack of moving images disturbed them and the suggestion that they could imagine the story all of their own was downright troubling.

Chad looks into the camera. “I’m feeling hope and it’s spelled H-O-P.”

Close enough.



Click here for more stories from the Fictioneers.

School Days, Sharp and Ready

My newly appointed middle-schooler asked me if he could have $50 as a going-to-school present. Excuse me? Is this the latest?

I’ve heard of gifts and wads of money being thrown into the air to celebrate the end of school, for good grades and graduation. I usually celebrate with smiles, hugs, and pats on the back. For what could be more memorable than that?

Besides, getting the kids ready for school these days will set parents back a few bills. It’s important to keep this in mind throughout your preparations:

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Let’s just start with the basics: The Backpack

My kids tell me that last year’s backpack is worthless; those zippers don’t work, it’s yucky, and that they need a sparkling new one. If I don’t buy my kids this, evidently they will be screwed for the entire year. Best to not mess with this scenario. You don’t want this on your head all year. Of course, darlings, whatever backpack you need.

My younger son wanted this one:

This backpack reportedly goes for $1 million dollars.
This backpack reportedly goes for $1 million dollars.

A backpack must accommodate a whole locker’s worth of material. It’s helpful if you are the Incredible Hulk.

But suppose you’re not. Enter the rolling backpack:

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Bonus, it doubles as a stylish piece of luggage, suitable for overnight trips.

I realize I’m happier knowing my kids will not have lockers, considering all the things that can go in them. The rolling backpack it is. It’s sensible and multi-purpose. Any future disappointments cannot be traced to this backpack. A good choice, and it better be, because he’s stuck with it.

Now on to something of which we have absolutely no choice: The Supplies List

If you have a child with multiple teachers, expect multiple lists. There is no gentle beginning. Kindergarteners and pre-schoolers are not off the hook. They, too, will have supplies to gather. While each year the supply list will closely resemble the previous year’s requests…oh, did I say requests, hmm…responsibilities….you will be faced with this same challenge each year:

Do I search throughout the house for supplies in cabinets and miscellaneous piles and bags, scattered here there and everywhere? 

It’s this:

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What are the chances of finding a complete set of anything?

I rationalize: Glue sticks and markers will be dried up, not all the colors will be represented, and the pencils won’t be sharp. We had a sharpener, but that broke, and who has time for the manual sharpening, because you know they will need a full pack of colored pencils on the first day, as well as that protractor I can’t seem to find. We had a ruler once, but I think it’s under the refrigerator. Speaking of, we’ll need new lunchboxes so lunch can be fun and fresh. Folders are cracked and unusable. The highlighters most certainly will be dull….

Should I…should I…just go for brand new supplies?

They’ll look like this:

Yes, that does say presharpened. They know what's up.
Yes, that does say presharpened. They know what’s up.

Don’t worry, they have thought of everything for you:

I made sure my kids didn't see pencils in the jumbo, swirl variety. That would set a precedent for future supply list wishes.
I made sure my kids didn’t see pencils in the jumbo, swirl variety. That would set a precedent for future supply list wishes.

Look at the little pretties:

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Primped and ready for school. So sharp.

If you think I’m over-excited and lazy, I’m not going to argue. And, kid, this cost more than fifty bucks. You’re welcome.

Write Like No One Is Reading

My seven-year-old son, Skyler, has a behavioral chart at school. The main obstacle to achieving four stickers, the highest level of success, has been narrowed down to mostly one thing, completing his journal. He either doesn’t write in the journal or doesn’t read the journal out loud to the class when requested. I’ve felt bewildered by this. I had always kept a journal as a child because I wanted to. My thoughts were written for my eyes only and I wrote what I felt I needed to write.

I haven’t kept a journal for a long time, and thought about doing so once again for my son, but also for myself. It’s been a while since I’ve written just for me; thoughts that were not going to be published, myself the only audience, no edits, no proofing, and usually no re-reading. I simply wrote to write them, to get them out of my head. I kept journal after journal and later they ended up in a box or a drawer. Unfortunately, most of the journals from my adolescent years have vanished. Looking through some journals, I realized I haven’t written one since 2006, a journal I kept during the first years of my son’s life in which every entry began with, “Dearest Holden.” Someday he may want to read it. I’m sure it’s gushing with sentiment that would probably make him squirm today. But maybe someday.

A journal for my firstborn. I thought he might like the colored paper.
A journal for my firstborn. I thought he might like the colored paper.

Generally speaking, journals are private. Where would crime drama be without the mysterious diary? It’s all in the diary. There you’ll find the clues. And hands off, NSA. They can’t touch this one. In this age of spontaneous, digitized reactions, private thoughts maybe are not recorded as they once were. Flipping through a few of my journals, I encountered pictures and receipts, like spontaneous, magical gifts of my past.

My son’s in-class, daily journal is seemingly more of an assignment, usually with questions about his weekend, maybe a field trip. Usually, he doesn’t share the topics or what he’s written, except in the case of this one:

Homework is…

His response:

 Homework is frustrating and tiring, but helps me learn.

Pretty good! I would give that sentence a 4 on their 4-point scale. I’m not sharing to boast like a proud mommy, but merely to express that, perhaps, it’s not writing that is the issue. He’s anxious, he’s maybe even fearful about being incorrect. I’m not sure, really. What I don’t want to see happen is for fear to get in way of him being able to enjoy writing, and to write as a means to express himself. Because he can and because he wants to.

A few journals from the past. The pink one on top from 1991, detailing a cross-country trip before I was married. I looked through that one for the first time today.
A few journals from the past. The pink one on top from 1991, detailing a cross-country trip before I was married. I looked through that one for the first time today.

I’ve always have the most fun dancing when no one is watching. As a trained dancer, I could be consumed with the technique of a step. But as a child, I spent a lot of time dancing alone, with joyous abandon, and then my mother would put me on the spot in front of tens of people. I would freeze, sometimes cry. I don’t know why I froze, I knew I could dance. I had tons of lessons; I loved to do it, yet I couldn’t when asked. I stumbled. I couldn’t deliver what she wanted.

Writing can be much like that with the pressure to perform on cue. As I ponder my son’s anxiety, I’m reminded of my own. So now I’m giving myself permission. I’m going to write in my journal like no one is reading. Because I can and because I need to.

My new journal. It's blank and waiting for words.
My new journal. It’s blank and waiting for words.

Do you have a journal? What do you like to write about? Or, hey, you don’t have to tell me. You can keep it all to yourself.

A Foggy, Uncomfortable Place

It could be the upcoming change in seasons, but lately I’ve experienced a series of disturbing events that make easing into a purposeful post difficult. Instead you get to feel uncomfortable with me. Obviously, what I need is a sanctuary. I’d even settle for a tree house.

Dear reader, I’ll just get to the point. The other day, I woke up to maggots on my kitchen floor. Not what you were expecting? Me, either. Imagine my shock when I saw these mealy, wormy maggots, curling and unfurling, and standing up on their own. These creatures from the nether world had invaded my kitchen. I felt disgusted and dirty, and wanted to bleach and scrub everything out of existence. Maggots are unsettling to me and unwelcome in my house. This is no way to start the day either. Are you feeling grossed out? I hope you weren’t eating anything.

How could this happen? I recalled that a few days before I had a tossed a bag of rancid potatoes into my garbage. Big mistake, as I should have thrown them outside. I cringe at the thought that I almost used these potatoes in my beef stew. Luckily, I had my senses about me, took one whiff of their foulness and tossed them outright, even though I just bought them the previous day at the discount grocery superstore, the same store where I sighted moldy cheese on the shelves. I’m not shopping there anymore.

Now I must purchase a new trash can, as the other one cannot be recovered, and avoid the outside trashcan at all costs until trash day on Thursday, which couldn’t be here fast enough.

Later that day, I talked to my mother who had just undergone a surgical procedure in which she shared an upsetting story about the medical care she received. She told the hospital staff that the anesthetic they wanted to give her had not worked in the past. Instead of listening to her, they gave it to her anyway. So, she spent of the remainder of the procedure feeling a lot pain she shouldn’t have experienced, among other things that went wrong. In this case, the healthcare system failed her by simply not listening, casting her off as elderly woman who doesn’t know better. My mother had been a practicing nurse for over forty years. Do you think they could have at least had the decency to listen?

On another note, increasingly my seven-year-old son dreads going to school, hates it, in fact. I didn’t feel this way about school until at least high school. Why is this happening so early? What action do I need to take to keep him on track? I have this feeling I must turn it all around now, today.

At the end of my evening, I turned on my kitchen light to see our pet hamster, Little Claws, being chased by two of our cats. Why wasn’t he in his cage? Who left him out? And, here I thought they were all friends. Now, I will never trust the cats alone with the hamster again. I nearly had a dead pet on my hands, mauled to pieces. No, thankfully, this didn’t happen.

It’s both heavy and light, but everything unsettling. I’m writing a creepy story and maybe I can tap into this. I’m waking up at 5:00 am to write in the quiet of the morning when I am alone with my thoughts and have not yet spoken to anyone. It’s a treasured time, although a little foggy, but I think the closest I have to a sanctuary.

Maybe what I need at a time like this is a nice bouquet of flowers. Here’s a pleasant thought. I don’t even care that the cut flowers are slowly dying, slowing dying in a vase, and if neglected, may result in a lot of muck and bugs. On second thought, I’ll pass. I think I prefer the smell of bleach.

They Can’t Take My Kiss Away

Last week at my sons’ elementary school, a teacher informed me I could not stand in front of my child’s classroom before school during the drop off. “No parents in the corridor,” exclaimed the teacher in my general direction. Really? Am I the enemy now?

Throughout the year, I have let of number of things roll off me. I’ve seen freshly painted lines and arrows in the parking lot, newly installed signs, fences and video cameras, and memos to read and surveys to complete in my kids’ folders. Volunteer parents dictate the rules of the parking lot, and parking spaces now carry time limits. So many rules and regulations, all in the name of heightened security and safety. I’ve shrugged off the thought that our tax dollars could perhaps be better spent on, oh I don’t know, books. These days, how can we argue with safety?

Never mind the real elephant in the parking lot, the official drop off/pick up site. This is just an accident waiting to happen. The cross walk is situated where kids most likely could be hit. The other day, I almost lost it, yelling at a parent, “I am so soooorrrry.” I very nearly came this close, this close, readers, to honking my horn at her, a Desperate Housewives moment.

Directly before pick up, parents and guardians have been trained to stay away from the classroom. We now have a designated waiting area. The reason being is that it will cut back on unnecessary noise and conversational chatter affecting the students’ learning. So with this, in the name of learning and education, I am on board. This is a logical and a reasonable request.

But to not give my child a kiss before class, this is the last straw. I mean don’t they know my days are numbered? When I step on campus with my fourth grader, I suddenly turn into invisible mom. Who knew I had such superpowers? But my seven-year-old, he stills needs me…

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of this post, as this blogger’s thought process has wildly thrown off course…

Dear readers, on Mother’s Day, of all days, I read an email about a missing teen, a high school student, who happens to belong to the same water polo club as my son. They don’t know each other, as she is quite a bit older. She’s a high school student, who went missing during school hours.

This announcement stopped me in my tracks for a number of reasons. First, I thought about this mother not knowing the whereabouts of her daughter. There are no words for the despair these parents must feel. I’m not even going to try to put words around this, but know it must be a living hell, a parent’s worst nightmare. I understand this teen is considered at risk and requires medication. I don’t know the circumstances around her disappearance, but that she went missing during school hours, a time in which we expect our kids are supervised, their whereabouts accounted for.

This high school is also where my son practices water polo twice a week. It has occurred to me on a number of occasions that it hasn’t felt safe. The restrooms are located in a dark hallway, accessible to anyone. Now I will forever be watchful, guarded, suspicious, as maybe I should have always been. I have never met this missing teenager, but have shed tears for her, hoping for her safe return.

In the meantime, I can’t help but feel all these enhancements of new signs and fences are superficial band-aides. They may enforce a rule that no parents are allowed in the corridor without a badge. I’m sure it’s coming, and I will abide as a good parent will.

But they can’t take my kiss away. If my kid needs a kiss, he will get one, even if it’s in the parking lot.

photo credit: miuenski via photopin cc