The Five Sides of a Student

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The Overachiever

Study, study, read.

Eyes become sandpaper orbs.

Only A’s will do.  

The Underachiever

I’ll try if I must,

But I will sleep if I can.

As long as I pass.

The Lonely One

Sitting alone now,

and every day. Perhaps a

friendship in college?  

The Bullied One

Crying in the stall.

They laugh and tease and gouge small

holes in my armor.

The Bully

Mean jokes and small barbs

make my own pain disappear.

I’m sorry…I’m scarred.

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge–5 Haikus

Swords and Flames

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Rusty chains

encircled the dilapidated gate.

He could see the slow

rise just beyond

the worn wooden fence.

Thick air

sat, heavy, on the dead grass.

His eyes met

the tree line,

standing tall,

soldiers at attention,

marching into foggy battle.

Over the hill,

fires burned to the sky,

tendrils of smoke

twisting through the trees,

suffocating life

in its fiery fist.

A runner arrived,

clothes tattered from

the journey,

bearing a message

from the high command.

All was not yet lost.

With downcast eyes,

he read–

the six nations were headed

up from the south.

The soldier looked

towards the horizon,


anticipating the imminent destruction

of his loyal brothers,

those men he had battled with,

who he sought to aid

in his quest for glory.

If they could hold out

for one more night,

their cargo would

be safe.

But the dawn

was a millennia away,

and he could see them

cresting the final hill,

only a few short miles

from the gate,

the rusty chain,

the dead and burning grass.

He could see the

firelight glinting off

their steely swords.

Snow clouds

banked the top of the ridge,

a backdrop for devastation.

The frigid air mixed

with the heat from

the flames that crept

closer and closer

to the battlefield.

The sky poured

a mix of icy mud

down the hill,

instantly freezing

to the horses’ feet,

the soldiers’ boots.

The battle was upon him.

He swung his sword,

slicing through

bone and flesh,

and he prayed to

survive the night.


Written in tandem with TheClocktowerSunset.

Rain at Sunset

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My favorite part of the day

is when the sun

dips behind the mountains.

As the golden turns

to purple,

that is my favorite


The deep lavender

sets over the horizon

and paints pink

splashes in the sky.

The five minutes

after the sun sets–

that is the best time.


Rain splatters

the rooftops,

the pavement,

the trees–

this drenched,


sky reminds me of


Of the bright green


and the scent of pine

drifting between the



The sunset

and the rain–

if only we could

mingle their

beauties together,

perhaps we

could create the

perfect day.

Can’t Give Up

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We can’t help them all,

but why shouldn’t we try?

I watch their faces

fill with joy

from a kind word said

or a line of


Hidden behind

masks of dirt,

of poverty,

of pain,

of neglect,

their lights shine

stronger than

a thousand candles

meant to bless them.


adult words,

harsh criticisms,

disbelief in themselves,

lies a force

more powerful than

the  sadness surrounding


What we say matters

more than we realize.

We are their guides

and we can’t stop

believing in their

amazing ability

to go on,

to adapt,

to grow.

What we say matters.

They need to know how

amazing they are,

how they have the

ability to change

the universe,

to be what no one

thought they could be.

If we give up,

so will they.


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I am waiting for the

sky to open,

for the cold to

erupt from the

unsuspecting earth.

It hovers in the


like a child eavsdropping

on a dark night.

It tiptoes out of

the high recesses

of the above

and settles quiet

on the world.

White blankets

of ice

wrap the earth

in frigid arms

and freeze the tears

that fall from

the dying all around.

It is beauty.

It is death.

The silence beckons

sounds that

won’t arrive until


Lavender and Rain

Photo Credit: Erica, Daily Prompt

Photo Credit: Erica, Daily Prompt

The smell of lavender permeated the air, its swirling spicy scents mixing with the warm sensation of spring.  Mary closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the calming aroma envelope her in memory.

It had been years since she had really thought about him although he had been on her mind, in some way or another, every moment since they had parted.  It was only now, with the scent of lavender settling on her skin, that she could remember his voice, the wrinkles around his smile, the smell of his hair.  How long had it been?

She opened her eyes and felt the stinging threat of tears stab at the corners.  Mary blinked a few times and continued to walk, her feet sending up tiny droplets of rain in splatters around her.

Mary tried to push the lavender, and the curiosity of where it had come from, out of her mind.  She had walked to work this same way every day for at least two years, and never before had she smelled lavender.  What she did know was this–she had to get past him or she might not survive.

When Steve had left, she thought her world had ended.  Everything seemed dull, bland, inhuman, without his smile, his passion.  Her body felt broken, not just her heart.  They both had wanted different things although she couldn’t quite remember the differences now.  She hadn’t wanted to let go, but Steve had given her little choice.  He stepped onto that bus and left her behind.

As she splish-splashed through the rainy morning, Mary decided to bypass work and take a walk.  She needed to clear her head even if she had forgotten an umbrella.  But, things only became more confusing and aggravating as the morning wore on.

The receptionist at her office barely replied when Mary called in to let them know she wouldn’t be arriving until later that afternoon.  It was as if the woman hadn’t been listening.  At the coffee shop where Mary always bought her morning brew, the barista skipped her in line and Mary almost didn’t get served.

Aside from the obvious lack of customer service, Mary was enjoying the wet day.  The rain glinted off the sharp edges of the city, refracting light in marvelous rainbows painted on the pavement.  Mary put on her sunglasses and veered off the sidewalk and into the park.

She remembered strolling here right after she and Steve had begun dating. He used to twine his fingers with hers and gently pull her along the tree-lined paths and so they could sit near one of the bubbling streams that dotted the park.  He had always been a romantic.  That was one of the things she loved about him.  Mary had always thought romance was silly until she met Steve.  He had brought out her romantic side, and she longed for the days they spent together.

Mary picked up her pace thinking speed might stop the ache that had begun to wiggle into her chest.  All the could think of was his hands on her cheeks, his lips kissing hers, the constellations of freckles on his chest.  She missed him with all of her being, and she wondered why it had taken her so long to realize how much she needed him.

Mary could feel her feet pounding the earth, the rain soaking her ankles, but she couldn’t stop running.  She wanted to put the past two years behind her and run straight to Steve’s arms, but when she looked up, she was standing in the middle of Hilltop Cemetery.

Her stomach dropped as if she almost remembered why he had left her.

The rows of gravestones stood like skeleton’s teeth gnawing at the gray sky.  Mary walked between the crumbling stones attempting clarity of why this place seemed so familiar.  Before today, she never remembered setting foot inside the fences of this old cemetery, but it also seemed to pull at her, to urge her onward.

And, then the lavender came once more.  Mary’s nostrils filled with that spicy yet muted, warm yet cool scent and it drove her to her knees.  Hot tears sprung from her eyes and mingled with the cold raindrops splattering her cheeks.  In front of her sat a tombstone, one with a bunch of lavender obscuring the name.  A spider’s web wound its way through the buds, and the tiny silk threads caught the falling drops, sending sparkles over the purple flowers.

Mary gently pushed the flowers aside and read the name on the grave–Mary Elizabeth Downing: loving wife and best friend.  The memories flooded back to her, sending her sprawling onto the muddy ground.  Steve hadn’t left her after all; it had been she who had broken him.

Mary starred up into the dark sky and watched the raindrops fall.

This was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge–Traces.  The picture was included with the prompt.

Night Sailing

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The sleek schooner sliced through water so black it could have been an oil slick.  Bright specks of starlight hung in the interminably dark sky, and silence filled up Frank’s ears making him feel as if he were listening to the world through a pile of cotton.  He looked around, hoping that he had been as invisible as he had felt when he left the dock only an hour ago.  Nerves could get the best of a person who wasn’t as strong as Frank, and he was lucky that he had been raised by nomadic biker parents who had brought him up to be fearless in the face of danger.  And, tonight Frank found himself in the middle of one huge shit storm.

Frank had bought the sailboat a little over a month ago, and he’d been taking lessons ever since.  He imagined what his rough and worn parents might say about his purchase, how they’d laugh at his large, meaty hands pulling on the ropes and ducking away from the boom, and how pissed they would be if they knew he had spent their money on a boat.  Frank had grown up on the road, on the back of a Harley.  He had lived his childhood through the lens of a helmet and his friends wore leathers and carried “old ladies” on their backs.  It wasn’t a surprise that Frank learned how to slug, steal, and swig with the best of them.  In fact, his biker past is what had brought him here tonight, sailing well beyond midnight to a marked place in the middle of the bay.

He tugged on the downhaul attempting to fix the problem that had suddenly developed in the sails.  Frank was new to sailing, and he swore at himself for choosing the middle of the night to learn.  However, tonight was a necessity, and Frank knew that if he didn’t reach his destination, it wouldn’t matter if he returned because Cain would catch him and deal him a worse fate than succumbing to the wanton waters of the deep blue sea.  He tried to trim the sails and right his course, but the wind was working against him.

After a few more attempts, swear words, and drops of sweat, Frank had corrected the sails and his direction just in time to see the buoy balanced at the edge of the harbor.  The marker bobbed up and down on the ever-ebbing waves, and Frank wondered if this was really a safe place to do what he had to do.  He imagined the Coast Guard boats patrolling the dark waters, and he stifled a chill that started to climb up his spine.  He could do this. He had to do this.  It was the girl or him.  He had no choice.

Frank turned to the hatch where she waited, tied like a dog to the railing below deck.  He hesitated, not wanting to fall this deep, to hit the final nail in the coffin of his outlaw future, but he didn’t want to die which meant she had to.  Frank didn’t even know her name.  He opened the hatch and slowly made his way down the steep stairs and over to the woman sprawled on the floor.  Her hands were cinched tightly above her head and her blonde hair fell in messy waves over her face.

When Cain called, he had said that the job was already on the boat and that Frank just had to finish the deed.  He had said a silent thank you that he hadn’t been the one to capture his soon to be victim.  Now, facing her, he wasn’t sure he could follow through with the sinister plot.  He was supposed to be tough, strong; he was a biker for God’s sake.  He was Cain’s second. He was the VP, the boss when the boss was gone.  Frank took a deep breath and fought off the insecurities and fears that tried to get the better of him.  He was a bad ass, a killer, and that’s what he was here to do.

He reached out and brushed the hair from the woman’s face.  As Frank’s eyes met the woman’s visage, a sharp scream attempted to loose from his throat.  In his mind, he saw her blue eyes looking back at him, her bright mouth curling up at the corners, her sultry voice dipping into his ear.  Frank scrambled backwards just as her lids fluttered open revealing the vision from his memory, only now a dark purple ring edged her left eye and blood crusted on the sides of her once happy smile.  She stared up at him, pleading for his mercy.

Frank didn’t know what to do.  He closed his eyes and pictured what Cain would do if he came back as a failure.  He imagined his brothers beating him to a raw mess of meat, blood, and bone.  He could feel the dust in his mouth and lungs as his family showered dirt down upon his open grave.  He could picture the weight of the decision, the soil, the failure pressing on him, forcing him to make a choice.  Should he save his wife or should he save himself?

Imaginary Stars



A tiny excerpt from a novel I’m writing.

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      His wet hair hung in his face, and he shook his head sending tiny droplets of water flying through the dark air.  His t-shirt clung to the muscular frame that she had only just noticed, and her breath caught in her throat when he reached to pull the sopping cloth from his body.  She shuddered as heat flooded her veins and rushed to her cheeks.  He stood in front of her, naked from the waist up, his chest heaving from his swim through the creek.  She noticed a dark tattoo high on his arm, a pyramid surrounded by palm trees.  It was dangerous for her to be alone with him, but she couldn’t help the thoughts racing through her mind, the thoughts of touching his skin, the idea of his fingers running along her body.  She stared at his face, his dark eyes that silently roamed her features.  Before she knew what was happening, her feet brought her to him, her hands gliding over his damp skin until her fingers stopped on the tiny constellation of freckles in the middle of his chest.   She looked into the depths of his eyes and brushed her lips gently over the dark pattern dotting his perfect brown skin.  In that moment, nothing mattered, not the danger or the fear, but only the inescapable constellation of him.

The night surrounded them in a cool blanket.  Leah curled into him, his arm around her shoulder and her head on his chest.  She had kissed him until her lips were sore and her lungs burned for their own air.  Now, inside the bubble that formed between his arm and torso, she felt safe and sated with the warmth of his touch.  “It feels like we’re outside,” she said, gazing up at the bright glow-in-the dark stars plastered to this strange ceiling.  “It’s like this is our own private sky on our own secret planet,” she whispered, her breath hot on his skin.

            “That’s what it is,” he said, a smile in his words.  “We are the only inhabitants and one day we will teach this world to love.”  His fingers brushed the hair from her face and his mahogany eyes bore into hers.  His lips grazed her cheek and moved to her neck, her chin, her nose, and finally stopped at her mouth where he kissed her greedily and without hesitation.  Their arms and legs tangled, and tiny droplets of sweat sprung from her fiery skin as his mouth moved with hers and their hearts beat together. 

            Her mouth moved to his neck and she could feel his pulse hammering against her lips as if his blood yearned to be as close to her as his skin was.  In the darkness, she could see only the rough planes of his face, his muscles as they tensed beneath her.  Her fingers roamed his body and caressed his arms, but came to a stop on the pyramid tattooed to his arm.  The gray night made it difficult to see the shape, but she could see the top of the pyramid floating above the rest, a glowing eye staring out at her.  Leah looked into his eyes and a small smirk formed on his mouth.

            “Did you not expect me to have a tattoo?” he asked her, his hand once again tangled in her hair.

            “What does it mean? The eye?” She was curious not only about the ink but what about the image would mean so much as to permanently mark it to his beautiful bronze skin.

            “It’s the All Seeing Eye,” he whispered, his hot breath sending an inferno into her ear canal.  “The Eye of Providence has many meanings.  In Hinduism, it represents the god Shiva who is said to have a third eye that sees all.  He has a say in all life, death, and immortality.”  Leah found the parallel between Tyler’s powers to know all of what they thought and his tattoo and wondered if that was his reason for marking his body with such a symbolic design.  Tyler laughed and said, “That is precisely why I got the tattoo, Leah.”

            She glared at him, hating the way he knew what she was thinking, knew exactly how she felt about him.  “I thought you were practicing not reading my mind,” she said annoyance hanging over her words.

            “I’m sorry, but sometimes your thoughts are so vivid, so powerful, that it is impossible to ignore them.  I will try harder, I promise.” He smiled and Leah melted.  She almost hated herself for having become so susceptible to Tyler’s charms, and she hoped that she knew all she needed to know of him, that he still held nothing back.  Her heart was fragile and she felt like giving it all to him.

The Streetlight


The following story was written in 2007 during a class I took on teaching writing.  My professor used the class and her teaching to model the methods to create a writing workshop for students.  As such, we were required to write in the various modes: expository, persuasive, and narrative.  The first two modes were easy since I’d been writing essays since high school, but we were supposed to write a creative narrative.  I hadn’t written a narrative since high school (1998), and I hadn’t written imaginatively since…well, I couldn’t remember the last time I had written a story. What follows is a very embellished version of a night I spent with some awesome people.


“We have to get rid of that light!” Jess yelled, her eyes blazing.

“I know, I know. But first we need a plan.  I mean…it’s not gonna be easy.  It’s so high,” I said.  Four hours ago, Jess and I had been driving around trying to figure out what to do, and now we were the ringleaders of a crazy plot to shoot out a street light in the middle of the night.

“I think Ian’s got a sling shot,” Tyler beamed at Jess, through the chunky strands of hair hanging in his hopeful eyes.  All the boys wanted her.  Her model-length legs alone could make men weak, but add in her blonde hair, trim body, and blue eyes, and she became every guy’s dream.  Tyler loved her more than the rest (potentially even more than I did), so he had made it his mission to solve our street light issue.

“Well, go get it!” I roared, rolling my eyes.  Most of the time, I had little patience for Jess’s suitors.  I guess I should have gone easier on Tyler.  He couldn’t help his admiration.  No one could.  Scowling, Tyler turned and headed for the house, his enormous shoulders hunched in defeat.

Ian was the only one of us who lived free from parental control, so spending time at his house always made us feel older.  We thought of it as a real test for adulthood without actually committing.  His house wasn’t a house but a trailer, with light brown metal siding and dark brown metal trim.  The door was a sliding version that barely slid.  But, the front porch was awesome.  Benches encompassed the walled-in wooden deck that opened to the surrounding wilderness.  A slightly peaked roof covered the entire structure that Ian had furnished like a living room with a worn out green and orange couch that looked like it belonged in the 1970’s.

Jess and I watched as Tyler lumbered up the steps to find Ian in the tiny trailer that was filled to capacity with about twenty of our closest friends.  Ian’s parties were epic because, without parents, the possibilities were vast and thrilling and always unpredictable.

“What now?” Jess asked as she stared up at the silver street light.

“We wait for Tyler.  If he can’t find the sling shot, we’ll come up with plan B,” I said.

“What’s plan B?” she asked.  Sometimes Jess was too full of ridiculous questions despite our best-friend status.

“I don’t know. I can’t really think straight.  Why are we doing this anyway?”  Now it was my turn for questions.  We had been drinking since we had arrived, and I suddenly couldn’t remember the why of our plan.

“Ugh, it was your idea,” Jess grumbled.  “It was too bright on the porch, and we decided to get rid of that light!” she said pointing up at the glowing bulb.

“Oh, yeah,” I exclaimed, a grin spreading across my lips.  We all wanted to sleep on the porch, so Ian had pulled a mattress out on the deck.  It was the middle of summer and the setting of the sun did little to cool the air.  Plus, Ian’s trailer was a metal box void of air conditioning, so it sucked to spend more than five minutes inside.

“Where the hell is Tyler?” I said, my eyes surveying the trailer.  We had been standing there for at least five minutes in the middle of the road that ran alongside the house.  I could hear the music pulsating from Ian’s speakers and the voices of jubilant partygoers, but I couldn’t see Tyler.  “Let’s go inside, Jess.”

“Alright.” She turned, and we linked arms, ready to stagger up the inclined drive toward the gathering.  Despite the haze of alcohol, or maybe because of it, I felt safe and happy standing there in the night air with Jess.  I was proud that she was my friend, (even with all the annoyance of her admirers, her way-too-obvious questions, her aggravatingly super-star beauty), because she was simply great to be around.  I guess I was an admirer too.

“There’s Tyler!” Jess’s voice jolted me from my thoughts. She had stopped walking and was now pointing at the front door donning her flawless smile.  Tyler ran out the door, sling shot in hand, and he wasn’t alone.  I could see my oldest friend Noah’s lanky silhouette in the doorway behind Tyler.  But my mouth dropped a little when I saw Ian’s tan face completing the trio.  I understood Noah’s interest because, despite his quiet, unsuspecting appearance, his schemes were unforgettable.  But, I couldn’t believe Ian was in on it.  I had only known him for a year, and I was new to his reactions.  I thought he would have objected to our decision to break the light so near his house because he would probably be the one to face any repercussions that resulted from our little plan.

“Ian, are you coming? Did Tyler…um…tell you what we’re doing?” I stammered, afraid he would blow the plan.

“Hell yeah! Let’s do it!” He bounded down the stairs two at a time.  Noah and Tyler followed, and we all walked down to the road.  I smiled, excited to know that Ian could be as joyously reckless as the rest of us.  Half stumbling towards our luminous enemy, I had never felt more like myself.  I felt close to these people who I had chosen, who mattered for my reasons alone.  I was finally a part of something beyond a conspiracy to destroy public property.  Maybe we were all a little crazy–just look at our plan–but I guess that’s what brought us together.

“Ok, what’s our ammo?” Noah asked Tyler.  They both turned to me for the answer.  After all, it was my plan.  I looked around and bent down to pick up a sizable hunk of rock from the gravel driveway.  I examined my find and handed it to Ian.

“Your shot,” I said as he took the rock from my hand, accepting the challenge.  Ian rolled the “bullet” around in his palm, and its tiny mineral specks glimmered in the street light’s glow.  Tyler handed him the sling shot, and Ian loaded the shiny black metal weapon.  It fit over his wrist in order to stabilize the shot, and the band was thick, yellow, and ultra-stretchy.  Ian fit the rock securely in the center of the band and raised his arm toward the light.  He closed one eye and stuck his tongue out the corner of his tightened lips.  A lock of his black hair fell to his forehead as Ian tilted his head, pulled back on the band, and took aim.

Time slowed as we watched in silence.  The rock floated through the air in a perfect arc, and smashed the center of the bulb.  It was the perfect shot.  The lamp flickered a few times and sparked a few more, but the light slowly faded, plunging the five of us into the full meaning of night.

“That was awesome,” Jess whispered through the darkness.

“Wow! That was crazy,” came another voice, but I had ceased listening.  The world had suddenly stopped, and the moment became a memory.  Standing in the road, together with my best friends, under a sky overflowing with faraway stars, I burned their faces into my mind.  I couldn’t actually see them through the moonless night, but I didn’t really need to.

I imagined Jess’s eyes flashing with delight, and her golden hair dancing in the slight breeze, forcing goose flesh to break out over her exposed shoulders.  I saw Tyler’s wide body standing too close to her.  Maybe she was starting to give in.  His thick arms hung at his sides almost touching Jess’s bare skin, and he watched her instead of the street light, his gray eyes locked on her fuzzy outline, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

And Ian, finally a full member of our odd little group, triumphantly held his arms above his head like a winning prize fighter, his perfect smile and sea blue eyes begging for reward.  Noah stood stoic, silent, relishing the destruction.  I can picture him with his arms crossed, staring at the shattered light with a sly smile, wishing it had been his idea.

We slowly walked back toward the house together, up the steep grave drive and the steps of the perfect porch.  Jess and I collapsed onto the mattress, exhausted in our accomplishment.  The party had died down, and soft music filtered out through the open windows.  The boys crumpled somewhere nearby–Tyler was never far from Jess–and I curled up under Ian’s white down comforter.  I sank into the serene darkness of the evening as sleep washed over me.  That night, I slept soundly dreaming of the distant stars and the closeness of my friends.


I have changed nothing except adding a few commas.  The English teacher in me can’t let that slide.