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Flatbush Spirit Dance

October 1, 2009

By Daniel José Older

Sierra Santiago got off the Q train at the dimly lit Church Avenue station in the heart of Brooklyn. The platform was deserted and a gentle rain drifted onto the tracks. She tried to shake the nervousness off, but the idea of spending alone time with Robbie had given her a permanent case of the heebie-jeebies. It had all started three weeks back, when this shy looking boy showed up in school – a transfer from Stuyvesant. When Sierra got a look over his shoulder at one of the tangled, incredible murals that he was constantly doodling on every available surface, fascination turned to serious crush.

She had tried to stop herself from becoming suddenly awkward but could never figure out how to stand or what to say when he was around. They barely spoke. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Robbie simply looked her dead in the face and asked if she wanted to hang out over the weekend. Sierra had been so startled she barely managed to say yes. That ridiculous floating feeling in her gut had stayed with her like an annoying sibling through the rest of the week. Now here she was, alone on this wet platform in an uncomfortable skirt that her best friend Bennie had insisted she wear.

Robbie came down the stairs at a sprint, skipping every other step. He was panting slightly when he landed on the platform and he paused to catch his breath. His long locks were tightened and wrapped carefully into a bun behind his head. He had on a dignified looking blazer and some slick jeans, creased and boot cut. He was also wearing old sneakers, but Sierra decided to let that one go.

“Not bad,” she said casually.

He looked relieved. “Not bad yourself.” He stopped just in front of her, a little too close to her face, and then leaned in and kissed her cheek.

“When did you get so slick?” she said, pulling away. “You’re supposed to be the quiet dorky type.”

Robbie laughed shyly. “I am the quiet dorky type,” he said. “I’m really, really nervous.”

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Lights Out

July 1, 2009

By Erin Fanning

“Listen to this,” Maddie said, tapping the worn paperback she held in her hands.

Her voice mingled with the shouts of children running up and down the beach. They whooped and screamed as Maddie read aloud from Twilight. She used honeyed tones for Bella’s dialogue and deepened with Edward’s, growing almost harsh then sometimes silky, but always dead-on.

Maddie paused and sighed. “Why can’t I meet someone like Edward?”

She jumped back into the book as I closed my eyes and watched the romance unfold in my imagination. The sun bore into me, drilling away all memory of the cold spring. The children’s calls drifted farther away until all that remained was my best friend’s voice and Edward murmuring his love for Bella.

In my mind, though, I heard Antonio repeating my name, Crystal, over and over.

Suddenly, Maddie smacked me in the stomach.

“Ouch!” My eyes popped open. “Why’d you do that?” I struggled to a sitting position, still groggy from too much sun and the Edward-Antonio combination.

“Because the biggest mosquito in the world was getting ready to devour you,” she said, pointing at my stomach.

Smashed mosquito guts and blood decorated my midriff like a scene straight from a Chain Saw Massacre marathon.

“Pests love me.” I shrugged. “I must smell good to bugs or something. If there’s a tick, deer fly, or mosquito within a mile, they seek me out. That goes for guys too. I mean, look at the losers I’ve dated.”

“Until now.” Maddie wagged a finger at me. “Come on, you know that Antonio is as hot as Edward. Maybe even hotter.”

“What can I say?” I said, gesturing to the mess on my stomach. “When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”
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Cora

July 1, 2009

By Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

Perfect hair the color of liquid dish soap, yellow with white highlights in the long tresses, curled around her dangling crystal earrings.  The other holes accentuating her ears were filled in with rhinestone studs.  Her head tipped to one side, plumped glossy lips parting to reveal straight pearly whites as a bubble of laughter erupted from within.

“Oh my God!  I can’t believe Corny Coral is following us again.”

I dropped my gaze to the cracked, gum-spewed sidewalk. Where did the airhead think I was going to walk from high school when I lived next door to her?

“Corny Coral is such a freak,” her friend squealed in that kind of shrill voice that grates on your nerves.  Couldn’t she come up with something new, something Nicole hadn’t already conjured up in the ten years since we’d been neighbors?  Freak was the first thing Nicole had ever called me.  It was the day she’d moved in.  I’d been jumping on my trampoline, flying through the air.

“You’re a freak!” Nicole had said through the hedge that separates our yards.  “Hey, what’s your name?”

For future reference, you call someone a freak and then ask their name.  Be certain to do it in your most obnoxious, make-sure-to-loathe-me-forevermore voice.

“Cora.”

“Corny?”

Cora.”

“Oh, Coral!”  Hence the nickname of Corny Coral, something she’s never forgotten.

“Nicky, can’t you make her go away?” another of those idiotic friends of hers asked.  In one hand she held up a little mirror.  The other hand was applying black eyeliner…as she walked.  No, those kinds of girls don’t walk.  They glide.

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Wisdom At Any Age

July 1, 2009

By Iris Whyte

“It’s not enough to hate it. Ya gotta do something about it!” I spit a mouthful of sunflower seed husks onto the grass and get to my feet. “C’mon. Let’s go find him.”

“Not me. Not a chance.”

“You don’t do it now, you never will.” I give Michael my best big-brother look of encouragement but he stays sprawled on the lawn under the public library’s only tree. I stuff the package of seeds inside my backpack. “Look, this is your problem, not mine, but I thought you wanted my help.”

Michael picks at the edge of his t-shirt and sighs. “I did at first. But I don’t really want to get my head bashed in. If A.J.’s friends are around, that’s most likely what’ll happen — maybe not today but some other day when you’re not there. On top of that, I’ll get razzed for letting my big brother fight my battles. Either way I’m doomed.”

“I’m not planning to fight anyone, kiddo. I’m going to show you how to outsmart him.”

“Yeah, and make him mad in the process. It’s not worth it, Gerry. Let him keep my bike. I’ll tell Mom it was stolen and then buy a new one. I’ve been wanting a mountain bike anyway.”

“And what’ll you do if A.J. decides he wants that one, too?”

“I wouldn’t take it to school.”

“You see! He’d still be controlling you. I’m telling you, Mike, nothing will change until you deal with him.” I swing my backpack onto a shoulder and get ready to leave. “So, you coming, or not?”

“Uh-uh. I’m going home. I’ve got soccer practice tonight so I have to get my homework done before supper.” He stands and brushes grass clippings off his jeans. “Oh, and what I told you… don’t say anything to Mom about it, okay?”

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The Heart of the Matter

March 31, 2009

By Melissa A. Lee

He’s gotta pass it to me this time. I’m wide open. I crane my head as I look over the mob of players. Nick’s holding the basketball. He seems to look in my general direction, but then looks away. I know he’s cornered. I’m his only option. Funny—I used to be his first option all the time. That was before Amber. Now my so called “best friend” acts like I’m invisible.

The referee holds up two fingers, announcing we’re in the last two minutes of the game. Nick’s eyes dart briefly to mine. The sounds of squeaking sneakers and the cheering crowd become muffled, like I’m under water. “Come on, Nick!” I try to tell him with my stare, rapidly nodding my head. “This is it! Let’s show them who’s boss. It’s our trait, man.” With a sigh I can see all the way across the court, Nick throws me the ball.

I catch it easily. The opposing team starts running toward me. The crowd chants my nickname, “Swoosh! Swoosh!” I quickly glance up to the top corner of the gym’s bleachers and spot Amber in her usual place, clapping and smiling her adorable smile. I wink at her. Here goes the three-pointer for the Hawks’ definite win. I place my hands in their familiar places on the ball and throw it with a jump and flick of my wrists. The cheering on the Hawks side grows deafening. I watch the ball whiz through the air…and hit the hoop’s rim, bouncing off.

I swear time stands still. As the crowd begins booing, I feel like I’m two inches tall. This can’t be real. I had missed! I never miss! I’m Swoosh! Vaguely I see Nick dodging through the other players, rescuing the bouncing ball—my big orange failure. The crowd once again roars, jumping to their feet as Nick makes the winning basket.

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The Time Possibility

March 31, 2009

By Jenny Moore

“Why do you want to work with me on the science project, Galvin?” Skein asked suspiciously.

“I’ll get kicked off the basketball team if my grades don’t improve,” I answered honestly.  Not to mention Mom flipping out when she learned that I was failing classes.

Skein smirked.  “And you thought I could get you an A?”

“Obviously.”  I remembered all the reasons I disliked Skein, starting with his arrogance and going on from there, but I was desperate.  I had enough catching up to do in other classes.  I needed an easy A in science.

“He already has a partner,” Sammy said.  She looks like a supermodel and everyone knew that Skein had a major crush on her, just like everyone knew that Sammy couldn’t get an A to save her life.  The girl was dumb.

We exchanged evil eyes.  She was a spoiled rich kid.  I didn’t have any use for her.

“We are allowed to work in groups of three.”  Skein sounded thoughtful.  “Okay, Galvin.  You’re in.”

I gave Sammy my best cocky grin and she looked like she’d found a slug in her salad.

“My project takes a look at the future,” Skein said.

That afternoon, I stood in Skein’s room and said, “I didn’t think you meant it literally.  This is, like, sci-fi!”

Sammy and I both held small devices in our hands.  They looked like electrical switches connected to batteries. “What’s with the duct tape?” I asked.

Skein flushed.  “I have to make do with what I can get.”

A mad scientist on a budget.  Great.

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Ezekiel

March 31, 2009

By Edward Rodosek
Translated from Slovenian.

Simon switched off the circular saw and took an armful of firewood to carry it into the hut. When he stepped out from the under the jutting roof, he noticed a well-dressed man nearing the farm, carefully stepping around the mud puddles. Seeing the stranger on his property, Simon stopped and stared at him.

“Is this the home of the Milners?” The stranger’s accent was so distant Simon barely recognized his own family name.

“Maybe – but maybe not,” he said cautiously. “Who wants to know?”

“My name is Albert Vaskas. I’m a reporter with the holovision station KWYS.” The stranger took a black box from his pocket, fumbled around in it and then held something up to Simon’s face. “I’d like to ask someone in your family whether they’ve recently seen anything unusual in the area.”

Simon shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno ‘nothing about that sort of stuff.”

“What gives, Simon?” His mother, a slender woman with a gentle, wrinkled face, emerged from the door of the hut.

Simon dropped the firewood onto the dusty ground. “Mum, this fellow says he’s some sort of news hound, from the radio or somethin’. He wants to know if we’ve seen anything funny ‘round here.”

“Anything funny?” Her face betrayed her amazement. “Why would we have cause to see somethin’ funny? Ain’t nothing strange happens ‘round here.”

“Well, mum,” Simon added, “the only thing could be that big storm at the waxing moon. But didn’t do no damage or nothing, mercy be and thank the Lord.”

“Oh, right. That was just about the time Ezekiel….”

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