Archive for Student work

Homeschool triumph — poem and booksigning

My parents’ name is Titchenell. They called me F.J.R.,
A hint about my future and a lucky guess by far,
For J.R.R’s enduring world of evil versus good,
For Robins both of Locksley and the Hundred Acre Wood,
For Jane whose razor wit put all three Bronte girls to shame.
Fiona was my own before the ogre princess came.

They schooled me in my craft, but on my own I heard its call.
Whatever it gives back to me, I give this task my all.
I’ll trade my days to feed myself and keep my happy home,
My heart can spend them safely locked in some remembered tome.
I’ll even do them well, my every bread-acquiring sham,
But don’t confuse the things I have to do with what I am.

I’m through and through a storyteller. That’s all I can be,
No matter if by day or night, for crowds or only me.
The use of words on paper to encourage and explore
The beauty of the human heart and mind is what I’m for.
I do this not because it’s easy nor for profit’s sake.
This life’s the one that chose me and the only one I’d take.
She’s still working at her day job but her second book has just come out and she has a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Glendale this Friday:
October 17th at 7:30pm:
Signing in Glendale
Barnes & Noble Americana at Brand
210 Americana Way, Glendale, California 91210

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Fall 2010 EIE Advanced Writing Class Literary Journal

Welcome to the  Fall 2010 EIE Advanced Writing Class Literary Journal. The theme of this issue is historical fiction. There follow a number of works on a multitude of different subject set in a myriad of different times. That which binds them together is their authorship and origin–they were all written by members of the Advanced Writing Class at Excellence In Education Academy in Monrovia California.

Historical fiction is anything that is made up but which takes place in a real time. This definition can, of course, be stretched as you will soon see, but I will not get into that. Our hope is that you enjoy our works at much as we have.


Editor in Chief: Eutropia
Contributing editor: AR
Graphic design: DH
Contributors: Wapitzer, Beth Leehem, C.C. Panda, ThePieMaker, SF, JG
Publisher: Excellence In Education
Faculty Advisor: K. Titchenell

Fall 2010 Writing Class Ballad
And invitation to poetry

Our homeschooled writers give us works both varied and profuse
Great things come of a free approach that simply turns them loose

As Micah’s new submersible adventures far away
Dorothy takes us through the wondrous world of the ballet

Breana writes of blue and gray in colors rarely seen
And Angela’s our editor and Justin works the screen

We listen for the next excerpt from Josh’s Aztec tale
We’ve seen  Sam’s canine thoughts unfold and battlebots prevail

While Winston touts the Cunard line — ships of another age
And Derek’s butt’ry verse spreads great acrostics down the page

Amanda tells how Constable and Renoir their art refine
While Colin, LaRa, Avery do all their work online.

This week we’re doing poetry and trying hard to choose
A form that will appeal to the Calliopean muse.

These metric feet in ballad form (first four and then three more)
Make seven, thus heptameter — so much for scansion lore.

Should they be grouped in couplets or in tercets, or quatrains?
Or should we just abandon that which artistry constrains?

Are the poet’s thoughts inhibited by daft archaic rules
Or is free expression lacking an essential set of tools?

With total lack of structure, would this verse unfettered soar
And convey a poignant insight never possible before?

With feet and meter cast away, and lame or absent rhyme
Is a free-form work more likely to endure the test of time?

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The day started just like every other day. Tepoztecal got up just as he always had. As he walked to the edge of the great city of Tenochtitlan a beam of sunlight caught his eye from the great Aztec temple. That is when he saw it. A massive army of Spaniards were coming over the mountains. They brought things he had never seen before. They rode beasts that looked like deer and they carried sticks with metal on them.

Leading the army of strange colored soldiers was a being riding a white animal. His clothes gleamed in the sunshine, and Tepoztecal had to shield his eyes. “Could this be the day that the prophecy was to be fulfilled?” Tepoztecal wondered. He remembered that it had been foretold that a god, Quetzalcoatl, would return in human form from the east to take back the land that belonged to him. Tepoztecal’s mind raced. “Yes, this was the day, the very day that he should return!”

Tepoztecal ran faster and faster toward the heart of the city. He could feel the excitement pulsing in the air. As he slowed to take a breath, he passed by a little group of people gossiping.

“They didn’t turn back!” an old woman said.

“Who didn’t?” questioned a fellow townsman.

“The white man named Cortez. The Mighty Montezuma gave him gifts of gold, robes of parrot feathers, embroidered cotton cloth and even food. They still didn’t turn back!”

Tepoztecal continued running to his father’s shop which sat upon a hill near Montezuma’s palace. He found his father closing the door tightly to his goldsmith store. He saw his father’s reaction to the scene of the approaching horde of men. As Tepoztecal took a closer look, he realized that dispersed between the white men were members of their rival tribes. In previous times he had only seen outside villagers brought to Tenochtitlan to become sacrifices for the gods.

Tepoztecal was surprised to see men with the audacity to try to enter Tenochtitlan without the approval of the Great Montezuma. He could hear the murmurs of fellow merchants saying, “Could this be the Great Quetzalcoatl?” He could only wonder what fate awaited the visitors. But in his deepest heart, he worried what his own fate would be.

Part 2

Tepoztecal was suddenly awoken by the city bell …one….two… three… four….five. “Phew,” he sighed in relief, “Our soldiers are going to attack a local village.” As his head was just about to touch his sleeping mat again, he surprisingly heard the bell continue to ring…six…seven…eight…nine… NINE tolls! That could only mean one thing…WAR!

With his head throbbing and his body shaking with chills from his fever, Tepoztecal slowly mustered the strength to get up. As his mind raced, he thought back. He remembered how hastily Cortez had taken over Tenochtitlan and imprisoned Montezuma and his court. Montezuma had graciously given him gifts of gold and food but still Cortez asked for more. Then, mysteriously, the Spanish leader had disappeared and now had been gone for 20 days. The Aztecs had been excited that the appointed leader, Alvarado, had allowed them to hold their ceremony even though the Spanish were in control of their city. Tepoztecal had been so disappointed that he could not go to the festival at the Great Temple. The Aztec warriors were going to dance in their festive regalia to worship the god of war, Huizilopochtli. Tepoztecal knew all his friends would be attending the festival, but when his father had seen that Tepoztecal was covered from head to toe with red bumps, he had strictly confined him to his home.

As he hobbled outside to try to understand what was going on, he caught a glimpse of a dazed, confused warrior running through the city screaming,

“The Spanish have attacked our warriors at the festival!”

Tepoztecal struggled back into the house and ran to his father. He looked into his father’s distraught eyes and asked, “What is going on?!”

“Mighty Montezuma has turned against us. Many of our warriors have been slaughtered in the Great Temple. I knew this would happen when he befriended the Spanish. All of our lives are at stake because of his careless actions! We will revolt against him and we will gain back the city that was once ours!”

part 3

“Ready the army!” ordered an Aztec general. “We need every man armed and ready to fight!” Tepoztecal could already see the 300,000 Aztec warriors preparing to fight. They had mustered up every single weapon they could locate.

“Father must you leave?”

“I have no choice, these are hard times and our great city needs me. I must fight to take back what is rightfully ours from Cortez and his men.”

“I will miss you dearly.”

“As will I my son.”

As tears streamed down Tepoztecal’s face he hugged his father one last time before he went to war. He wondered if he would ever see him again.

The battle was long and hard. For three days the Aztecs fought with strength and courage. Their inferior weapons of knives, spears and bows and arrows were no match for the Spaniards heavy duty weapons. They had managed to bring horses, rifles, cannons and steel armor all the way from Spain. Another thing they brought was smallpox,which killed many Aztecs. Those who survived were very weak but still fought valiantly.

After the epic battle was over, Tepoztecal emerged to search for survivors. Everywhere he looked he saw death and destruction. Bodies were strewn all over the temple. Women and children looked for their fathers, sons and brothers. That is when his world collapsed on top of him. There, in a pile of corpses, he found his father’s body beaten and torn up from the battle.

“This can’t be happening, not to me, not now,” he thought to himself.

Sobbing, he closed his Father’s eyes. The world that he knew had been eradicated. As the enemy plundered their precious gold and silver, Tepoztecal could only imagine a bleak future for himself and his fellow Aztecs. Hobbling back through the city, he wept despondently.

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In the Eye of a Mushroom Cloud


It was an abnormally peaceful day in our harbor town of Hiroshima. No one anticipated, apprehended, or imagined that the summer of 1945 would unfold as it did. I am a Japanese school boy. I can remember the day before summer break was supposed to begin.

I was out playing ball with some friends when my mom told me I had school tomorrow. “What,” I thought, “she must be joking. Even though we were in the middle of World War II school children still needed a summer break. She just couldn’t be right.” School was often interrupted in our crowded city due to the incessant bombings which had caused 380000 people to scamper for cover. Our city drew attention from the Americans due to our hub of communications, ammunition supplies, and numbers of assembled troops. I often would see a myriad of troops in uniforms and hear the cries of “banzai” drifting up from the harbor. From my eyes, I saw the effects of the military’s presence everywhere.

During school I underwent instruction in military tactics. Store front windows were barricaded with paper to prevent exploding glass from maiming citizens. Sadly, our stomachs would growl for more food: our diet reduced to a handful of rice and tasteless bean soup. Eventually my mother even turned in her sacred kimono so that the material could be used for basic cloths. Given all the effects of war it shouldn’t have surprised me that we possibly could have school all the way through summer. She then asked if I had any homework left which I did because I never do it all in the same day. Despairingly, I said “yes” and had to go in and do my homework.

“Man I hated math and science, how do they applied to my life as a teen. I think they are so stupid.” The next day was the same as all school days except for one part. I would endure first through fourth periods and then a lunch break. Afterwards I would suffer through fifth, sixth, and seventh period and then tramp home to do homework. Although, today was June 18 the day we were supposed to get out for summer unless they postpone it for another couple of days because of an air raid. In the end, school did let out for summer but Mrs. Akemi gave us a summer math packet. Immediately upon being given the math packet, excuses fired in my head like my dog tore it up, I lost my backpack and it was in there, and I left it in my locker at the end of school. However the math packet turned out to be the least of the surprises of the summer of 1945: this summer had a very packed, explosive, and devastating surprise for everyone in Hiroshima which changed all of us forever.

The summer unfolded like every other summer during the war: I played ball with friends, swam in the ocean, and played army. Of course bombings, gunfire, and screeching air raid sirens continued to be a part of our daily life. It was normality, until today, August 6 1945. There was an unusual cluster of bombers and fighters fling over head this morning. The airplanes were dropping bombs and swooping down, with guns ablaze constantly. All of a sudden, we caught the terrible sound of the screeching of a huge bomb dropping. It is deafening like someone scraping their nails on a chalk board times a hundred. The bomb was huge, like an 18-wheeler plummeting out of the clouds. We all ran for cover, thinking it was just a regular bomb. Then it hit. I flew all the way down a 2mile alleyway before landing on my back. The cloud it emitted from the bomb was coming toward me fast. It looked like a jellyfish rising up from the ground with rings of color: black, white, red, and yellow to make a color I cannot describe. In three seconds it reached thousands of meters into the sky. After thirty seconds it stopped rising and started across the city. The city became dark as the cloud settled over the sun. As I sat up I was horrified. Everything was plastered to the ground: trees, buildings, bushes, flowers, and people lying motionless like cased away dolls. Resisting the urge to close my eyes I took in the horrible scene before me. The devastation was so great that after a few seconds I could not bear to look any more. I have been sitting here recounting this event and now I most muster up enough strength to walk to the next town. My strength is not returning, my eyelids are feeling ever so heavy. I think I will close my eyelids and rest here a little longer and then write more later.

Then after awhile a girl walked by and picked up his journal. She wrote this. I have been walking around trying to find survivors but instead I have found this boy and his journal. I want to finish his story because his eyes will never open again. He is just one of so many victims to this unusual bomb that was dropped on our city. There is still a dark cloud encamped our over us. It has a diameter of 12 miles and the radiation from it is reaching over hundreds of miles. We realize that it is the radiation that is killing us day by day. Thousands upon thousands have already died. More are dying every day. I don’t know if I will die today, tomorrow, or in the next month. I wonder at night when I close my eyes, “will I open them again or will I end up like this boy: eyes closed forever.” This young boy was right about this summer: it has altered all of our lives forever. I know that Japan will never forget this day.

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The Conflict on Hai Shi Dao

By ThePieMaker

Chapter One

Do you remember the Conflict on the island of Hai Shi Dao? No? Well then, it is one you must simply hear about; let me attempt refresh to your memory about the struggle. It was the year 2082, and mankind was once again at war with itself. The battlefield was dominated by huge robotic war machines known as Vertical Tanks. The island of Hai Shi Dao was a manmade island in the Philippine Archipelago, developed halfway through the 21st century as a center oftrade throughout the world.

The cause of the whole incident is one you might find interesting. On August 2nd of 2082, the congress of HSD, Hai Shi Dao, demanded the withdrawal of the Pacific Rim Forces, a multi-nation cooperative organization. The first elected president of HSD, Gormit Sin, was appointed the head of the new Hai Shi Dao administration, and requisitioned overseas assets and ordered the relocation of all foreign-affiliated forces on the island .With this declaration, HSD forces invaded the surrounding waters and neighboring islands. Taken by surprise by this attack, the Pacific Rim Forces were obliterated one after another. On August 12th of that same year in an effort to seize Hai Shi Dao, the Pacific Rim Forces organized an expeditionary force led by the 7th Special Panzer Division. The 90th Transportation Unit equipped with an assault landing craft and the 8th Joint Mobile Unit consisting of the 8th Mechanized troop were deployed to carry out the amphibious operation on Hai Shi Dao.

Several hours before the beginning of the operation, all of the soldiers participating gathered in the briefing room. “Alright gentlemen”, declared the commanding officer, “our battalion will now begin our amphibious operation on the coast of Hai Shi Dao. The operation will commence early today at 0400. At 0530, after the preliminary bombardment by the 8th Joint Mobile Unit, Vt’s will be sent out from the assault landing craft to strike at enemy garrison troops. Recon reports that there will be three enemy platoons near the landing point equipped with Vt’s and mobile cannons. In addition, reports state that the garrison troops that occupy the coastal arena consist of a tank troop and two coastal gun batteries equipped with forty-eight centimeter guns. Although there seems to have been no increase in enemy strength, there may be some potential resistance from the coastal guns and field batteries units occupying the northern area. Best of luck gentlemen!”

Chapter Two

Several minutes before landing on the beach at 0530, our hero, codename Oscar 3, was anxious for the fight! During his previous training exercise, the guards protecting the training field had been surprised and taken down by enemy Vertical Tanks. Fortunately, due to our hero’s quick thinking, and perhaps some beginners luck, he was able to use his training VT to repel both of the attacking enemies. By doing so, interest sparked in the minds of the leaders of the 7th Special Panzer Division in addition to his superior officer whom he saved during the attack, who recommended him highly to the generals, who in turn granted our hero the honor of First Contact.

When the landing bridge splashed into the thick, murky water off the coast of the island, Oscar 3 gulped and restated to himself, “Just like training, just like training.” On the long range sensors he saw several enemies who were fielding inferior VT’s, which could easily enough be destroyed by his assault class VT. Unfortunately, all four of these foes were protected by the Forty-eight Centimeter coastal gun batteries. Moving closer to attempt an attack would result in total defeat. Suddenly, a transmission came in from command. Broadcasting to the entire platoon, it noted, “We have multiple reports of mines scattered throughout the plains. Be extra careful!”

Just seconds after the communication ended, BOOM! His friend next to him hit a mine. The leg of the vehicle was torn in two, decimating the walking components, while making the Tank fall to the ground, unusable. The gun appendages flew in-between our hero’s arm and middle body section, jamming his ability to switch weapons successfully, which limited our hero to only one of the three weapons on his platform. Unknown to the mechanized troop in the field, the preliminary bombardment earlier that morning had done more damage than anticipated. Five of the six coastal batteries had been destroyed. Due to this fact, both our hero Oscar 3 and his superior Oscar 1 engaged the enemies and were narrowly able to destroy the several VT’s piloted by the faction of Hai Shi Dao. After the skirmish, our hero’s onboard computer told him that vehicle integrity was nearing ten percent and it recommended withdrawal from combat.

At the hanger, our hero was told that the forces of HSD retreated within a mere hour of resistance. Never before in the history of VT combat had a battle been over so quickly. That day there were many happy soldiers in the 7th Special Panzer Division. Sadly, this joy did not last for very long. About three hours after the battle finished, the emergency callout rang throughout the base signaling that there was a dire danger upon them!

Chapter Three

It was nearly time for bed and after a day like that, our hero was indeed tired. Suddenly, an alarm rang throughout the base. Yelling, shouting, people dashed every which way. Sprinting out into the hallway, our champion was jarred around by the hustle of other pilots scrambling to get to the hangar. Keeping his cool, Oscar 3 managed to get to the hangar before the passageway was destroyed by fire. Several other pilots were already booting up the power systems on the assault Vertical Tanks.

Hopping into his custom variant of the M-7 Decider medium class VT, built by Komatsu Land Systems, our hero’s onboard computer told him that seventy seconds was required to make his VT fully operational. Worried that seventy seconds would result in the destruction of his VT by the enemy artillery, he started the warm-up sequence. About twenty seconds into the start-up process the computer told him that the platform was sustaining damage. “Estimated hull integrity at eighty percent,” the computer told him. A VT across the shelter exploded in a fury of Howitzer shells shot by the enemy. Fifty seconds into the start-up process the computer again said, “Hull integrity below Sixty percent.” Another VT reached critical damage and exploded. Unfortunately for our hero, this one exploded much closer to him that the previous one.

The explosion caused a fire to erupt in the hull of our hero’s M-7 Decider. Main power was required to bring online the internal extinguishers. The fire was rapidly eating away at the cockpit and its protective armor. The end of seventy seconds could not come soon enough he thought. Eventually the fire was extinguished, but still Oscar 3 could not breathe a sigh relief because Vehicle damage resistance was nearing forty percent. Darting out of the hangar, our hero was just in time. Thirty seconds after he exited the hangar, it collapsed in a thundering crash of flames and twisted metal. Only he and one other pilot from a rival platoon survived along with Oscar 3. A radio transmission came in from the nearest intact command establishment, “Forget about saving the base Oscar 3. Right now there are four support class VT’s armed with 370 millimeter Howitzers approximately 1800 meters east of your location firing on our VT transports and supply lines. We need you to climb the hill where they are entrenched and take them out. We are all counting on you!”

1600 meters from the hill, the officer on the radio said “The best way to destroy a support class VT is to close the distance because the Howitzers have a minimum range of 800 meters. Typically support VT’s have little defense against opponents inside of the range of their artillery cannon. When attacking the VT, you should aim for the base of the Howitzer piece, where all the ammo is stored, with luck; a direct hit should cause the ammo to explode, rendering the Howitzer useless for future engagements.”

The pilot from a rival platoon agreed to help attack the enemy support VT’s. Soaring along at 140 kilometers per hour toward the enemy-occupied hill, our hero and his fellow pilot split up. Driving on opposite sides of a hill, the other pilot encountered what he thought was a VT belonging to the Hai Shi Dao faction. The enemy locked on to the other pilot’s VT, shot a flash of blue light, and drove on.

“That was odd,” noted the other pilot, “That thing seemed too short to be a VT.” Several seconds later, the pilot got a warning of artillery being fired at him. “Impossible, they aren’t even locked on; how could they know where I am without locking on!?” “Hull integrity below eight percent,” voiced the onboard computer. Maybe there was hope for him if…..BOOM! The VT exploded in an instant due to a direct hit near the cockpit. “Ha ha,” cackled the pilot of the enemy support VT. Fortunately for our hero, the death of his companion brought about the sense that all of the Pacific Rim Forces VT’s had been destroyed, which made it relatively easy for Oscar 3 to sneak up the hill that the enemies were. “There they are,” our hero pointed out, “Time for some vengeance.”

Chapter Four

At first, our hero thought about the different ways to approach his enemies. Should he charge with guns blazing, or should he quietly pick them off one by one? He wisely chose the latter.

300 meters and closing, Oscar 3 substituted his eighty millimeter chain gun for his ALC 205 Accelerator Plasma Torch, which was a melee weapon. Use of the Plasma Torch must be carefully planned and timed to ensure that the opposing VT does not move out of the way. A mistimed Plasma strike will leave the attacking VT open for a nasty close range counter attack by the target VT. However, a direct hit with a PT, Plasma Torch, will usually result in total vehicle destruction. When activated, the Plasma Torch sends the attacking VT shooting forwards for 200 meters. Once the target is on the ground, the attacker usually is able to dispatch the opposing VT before recovery is possible. Still, concentrating fire on the base of the PRF, the pilots of the support VT’s were unaware to our hero’s presence due to the loud Howitzers that were fired. When the first enemy Vertical Tank was downed, his communication was disrupted by the electrical charge that surged through the cockpit. Before the enemies realized what happened, our hero was able to down another enemy VT through two successive shots. “Two down, one to go” our champion thought to himself. The last Artillery VT fired a volley of Mark 34 Land Area Rockets. Sidestepping, our hero was able to avoid three of the four rockets. The last one struck him in the body of his vehicle, “Hull integrity critical” remarked the computer. Sidestepping again, Oscar 3 put one shot of his Twin Rifle into the base of the artillery gun belonging to enemy. The gun exploded resulting in the VT falling over and toppling off the nearby hill. “Revenge is sweet” muttered our hero in confident way as he looked upon the charred remains of his late adversary. A transmission came in over the radio, “We have just received an order from the hierarchy of our platoon. We need you to report to the briefing room and prepare for an immediate assault of the Nan Jiang weapons testing facility.”

After shutting down and petting one of the base’s stray cats, our victor made his way to the briefing room. The instructor had just started the briefing. “Our reconnaissance activity revealed that the facility in the Nan Jiang valley is an important enemy weapons factory. Tomorrow at 2200 hours our battalion will penetrate the weapons factory with all of our VTs in an effort to gain military control over the facility. Reconnaissance has also confirmed that there is a mercenary group called Jaralaccs who are working with the normal VT guards. In some ways this mercenary group could prove to be more troublesome than our normal enemies. Be very cautions. Also, this will be your first fight at night. All of you should read the “Night Scope” section of your manual carefully. Because the facility is underground, once inside, you will be unable to receive surface scans, and supplies. You may expect to find several layers throughout the fort each one with increased security and VT presences. We move out in six hours. Try to get some shut-eye if you can, you are going to need it!”

Chapter Five

Several hours before operation began, our hero was discussing equipment with the requisitions officer. “How are we supposed to invade the weapons facility with only First Generation VT’s? How does our battalion expect to be victorious with the limited types of VT’s that we have?”

Roy, the officer replied, “Hey man, listen. I’m not allowed to tell anyone yet, but I’ve been informed by Colonel Mustang that our battalion will receive the new Prominence M-1. It is rumored to have thirty percent more battery than the ones we pilot now, as well as an Override function and Forecast Shooting Systems.”

Our hero responded, “Could you remind me what Override and Forecast Shooting System are?”

Roy answered, “Of course. Override was developed after several skilled pilots requested it. It disables the speed limiter that protects various joints from wear and tear, resulting in an increase in speed. The limiter lock is turned off when you activate the function. Reactivate it to reengage the lock and turn Override off. Battery regeneration is five time its normal rate when Override is engaged. Unfortunately, fuel consumption is also increased by ten times because of the increase of speed and battery regeneration. The Forecast Shooting System is a firing system, obviously, designed to analyze combat data and movement patterns of enemy VT’s. When F.S.S. is activated, it switches the firing mode to advanced, allowing you to automatically shoot at the location where the enemy will most likely be next. The estimation data on the enemy’s next movement is not perfect, and if the opponent is well trained then he can perform moves that the F.S.S. is incapable of estimating, so there are some opponents that the F.S.S. will not be effective on.”

“Roy, all I asked for is a brief reminder and you are ready to give me a whole run-down on the thing,” exclaimed our hero.

“Sorry about that, I got a little carried away,” grumbled Roy.

Finally 2200 hours arrived. Our hero found himself at the outskirts of the valley containing the facility. Powering up his new type VT, the Prominence M-1, and Oscar 3 wondered how sound the information about the facility actually was. Sneaking toward the alleged position of the facility, our hero was discussing how the other pilots felt about driving the new type VT. “Well,” said one of the pilots, “it looks like it came right out of a garbage compactor.” Another pilot remarked, “That’s nothing, I once piloted a VT that…….”

“Cold Start 150 Meters! We have contact with the enemy!” advised Oscar 3. “You guys take him out, I’ll go on ahead!” “We will catch you up sooner than you think!” foretold Oscar 1.

Further down the valley, our hero spotted the door to the facility. Radio transmissions were being blocked by an unknown source emanating from under the ground. “It must be buried deeper than we originally thought,” supposed our hero. Brave, but perhaps a bit foolish, he decided to enter alone, because if he waited there would be less of a chance to capture prototypes of VT’s or other equipment.

“The facility would most likely sabotage their work rather than let us get it.” assumed Oscar 3. Right after entering the passage way, our hero turned a sharp right turn leading into a large hallway. There was a door about 100 meters in front of him. Opening it, our hero relaxed for a bit because it took about thirty seconds to fully open. He started forward once again when one of the mercenary VT’s sidestepped in front of him! Expertly sidestepping again, forward this time, the mercenary shot out anti VT mines at our hero’s VT. Two of the three missed their mark. Only one of the mines hit, but our hero still fell to the ground. Knowing he couldn’t get back up lest the Jaralaccs variant C use his devastating mining drill, our hero shot three rounds of his 315 Millimeter rapid-fire rifle into the space between the leg and body, severing the leg from the rest of the VT. Once the mercenary had fallen, our hero was able to stand up and continue. “I must be much more careful if I’m to continue and win this fight.” With that, our hero descended into the unknown depths of the facility.

Chapter Six

Going down the nearest elevator, our hero wondered what waited for him throughout the seemingly bottomless facility. On the lower level, he was in long hallway leading to the other side of the facility. Walking down the corridor, Oscar 3 looked to his right and noticed a large gorge inside the facility with another passageway on the far side. Walking down the corridor, our hero was attacked by eight cannons stationed on the other side of the valley. Fortunately, the cannons were not equipped with F.S.S. he was able to avoid them by moving sideways repeatedly. Because the cannons were only moving minimally, he took little damage and dispatched five of the eight cannons before reaching the end of the hallway.

Arriving at the end of the corridor, our hero opened the door leading into the next room. This was a hallway turning right to another sharp right. There were two doors on opposite sides of the room. A radio message came in through communicator, “Oscar 3 you are in a dangerous situation, you must pull your unit out now!” ordered the voice.

“With all due respect Argus, if I leave now the enemy could very well destroy what we came here for today. I must continue to prevent them from destroyed everything important!” “Well, if you feel that way, check everywhere! They could very well hide the supposed prototype of the new class third generation VT anywhere,” complied the voice. With that, our hero ventured into the nearest room to his left. Opening it, he noticed a door on the far side of the room and walking up to it the lock on it letting it fall open. Unfortunately, the sought VT was not behind the wall.

Moving out across the gloomy hall to the other door, Oscar 3 thought to himself, “Maybe I should not have gone on alone. If I need to eject, there will be no one to save me. I could die.” He did not have much time to think because the door in front of him started to open when he was still 100 meters away from it. A Jaralaccs variant C came walking through the door.

Lurching forward with his Plasma Torch armed, our hero struck the opposing VT and it fell to the ground. Breathing a sigh a relief, our hero prepared to finish the enemy. All at once, flames engulfed Oscar 3. Dodging backwards, which let the Jaralaccs C get back to his feet, our hero rapidly worked to put out the fire. Lurching forward the enemy attempted to use his devastating melee weapon on our hero. Expertly evading the Cutter Boom, our hero put three rounds into the back of his enemy with his 315 millimeter rapid-fire rifle. Sidestepping right behind a wall, the enemy recovered himself and turned around. Once again engaging, our hero was able to avoid several shots fired by the foe but took multiple proximity grenades. Fortunately for our hero, because of the Plasma Torch strike and the three rounds to the back, the enemy was gravely weakened and was eventually dispatched.

Moving into the room, our hero thought to himself, “There was a mercenary guarding this room, so there must be something of importance here.” Moving to the far wall, our hero opened the door and held his breath. Inside there was only space. Moving out once again, our hero knew he would encounter the cannons once again, but this time he would have cover behind a wall. Using said wall, he effortlessly slaughtered the remaining three cannons.

Moving to the third and final level, Oscar 3 journeyed down the corridor. After destroying two missile turrets that attempted to ambush him, he chose right when he came to a fork in his path. Moving into another room, he noticed a door on the far side. Once he opened it, it proved worth searching for. There it was, the fabled third generation VT which boasted triple the battery power of any VT known to man. It had half again as much top speed, unique weapons, and stood tall above everything else by at least seven meters! Taking pictures of it with his onboard surveillance camera, he hacked into the fort’s databases using his capture Intel now sneaker. Backtracking, he took the left at the fork. Opening another door, and was told by the onboard computer that by the current scans, the next room was the last room in the facility and he was nearing the end!

Chapter Seven

Nearing the door, our hero checked his radar to see how far away the rest of his team was. Once the report had been given by the team leader, which was that they just entered the facility, Oscar 3 was forced to enter the final room alone. After he opened the door, he was surprised to see another reinforced door shielding the final room. Unfortunately due to the structure of the door and electronic security locks, conventional weaponry would take about two hours to breach its thick armor. Perhaps by using his plasma torch he would be able to accelerate the process by 3000 percent, which, if it worked, would open the door in minutes because the weapon would overload the electronics, weakening the door greatly. Holding his breath, he zoomed forward and struck the door. Nothing happened. Again he tried, luckily this time the door creaked and groaned. The electrical charge seemed to be working. With another blow, one of the door hinges started to break. With the third blow, the door ripped in half and slammed to the ground with a crash.

There it was.

The entire third generation VT prototype that the whole mission was about, was on the far side of the room. At the moment Oscar 3 stepped into the room, another Jaralaccs VT entered the area. This one was vastly different from the others, boasting impressive armament, and mobility. It was also very intimating. He had only heard extremely deadly rumors at that. Fighting him would not be easy, especially if the pilot was experienced. Luckily our ace had both sides of the door he had just blown open to take cover behind, while the enemy had nothing. Boom! Boom! Boom! Three successive shots were fired from the pilot from Oscar 3’s main cannon. To our ace’s great surprise, the mercenary had no trouble dodging all three shots. “This is going to be a hard fight,” remarked Oscar 3. Returning fire with his short range High Velocity Missile launcher, our hero was struck soundly in the side because he didn’t sidestep fast enough. “Hull integrity nearing sixty percent,” vocalized the computer. Sidestepping once again, our hero shot once again at his enemy, scoring several hits. Retreating back to cover, Oscar 3 switched to his Aslam Self-guided missile. Shooting a missile around the corner, the enemy did not have sufficient time to release chaff, and promptly was stuck by it. Dodging a volley of rockets, our ace found himself once again behind cover. He noticed that the foe was slowly creeping closer to Oscar3’s proximity. Scoring another hit with his guided missiles, Oscar 3 observed that the adversary’s VT was smoking slightly. Hopes rising, our daredevil sidestepped out into the open once again and fired with all his weapons! Expertly avoiding all of our protagonist’s volleys, the villain struck our hero cruelly in the side with two of his shots from his Mk Land area rockets dealing severe damage to Oscar 3. “Hull integrity at eighteen percent, caution is advised” warned the A.I. knowing now that he could not win in a fair fight, frantically, our desperado rushed forward armed with his Plasma Torch. Striking the foe with a direct hit, our hero’s joy was short lived. Not even flinching, the enemy returned the favor with a savage blow to the main body of Oscar 3’s VT. The piloted VT was ripped in half by the titanic force of the enemy’s cannon. “Hull resistance critical! Eject! Eject! Eject!” Blared the computer. Shooting out the back of the VT, Oscar 3 was scarcely able to avoid death. Reeling backwards, the VT creaked, whimpered, and toppled on its back. Flung across the room, our hero was deposited safe from the blast. The enemy however, was not safe.

Because the VT had erupted in such a fashion, the foe, who’s VT was still partly intact, burst into flames, forcing the opponent to eject. Once on foot, a brutal fight was sure to ensue. Both men, being honorable, decided to forgo the use of guns in their fight and see who was stronger! Walking towards his foe hero avoided the first blow swung by his foe and punched him firmly in the stomach. Throwing several punches, our hero was sprawled out on the floor by a rigid kick to the head. Quickly regaining his feet, Oscar 3 prepared for another go. Cart wheeling gracefully, the enemy evaded and caught the head of our overwhelmed individual in between his feet and flung him, once again, to the ground. “I’m losing, I’m going to die! This is not happening!” thought our hero. Trying to recover himself, our hero was jumped upon by his challenger. Throttling him, the enemy was nearing victory. Reaching down, our opportunist got hold of his knife hidden in his boot. Plunging it into the torso of his enemy, Oscar 3 regained his feet and the upper hand! Stumbling back, the opponent roared, pulled the knife out of himself and rushed at our hero. Slashing our hero through his arm, the opponent almost thrust the knife into Oscar 3 but stopped, lurched forward, went cross-eyed and fell back, dead.

Bandaging himself up with the first aid kit inside the smoldering remains of his once amazing VT, our champion waited for the rest of his team. Once his team arrived, he and others set off to the prototype VT on the other side of the room. Not knowing that it was booby trapped to explode if anyone was within 100 meters, the team was dismayed when the prize was on the floor, burning up. Fortunately, a tape was recovered showing a training exercise and exactly what the VT was capable of. Exiting the facility, our victor was rushed to the nearest medical base to be treated while his team went on other missions.

Several weeks later, the Oscar platoon was called into the briefing room. The briefing officer began, “Welcome gentlemen, tomorrow at 0700, our forces will begin our operation on the Xin Feng Tian plains. Our division’s mission is to destroy the VT troops that are concentrated at the center of their defensive line. Information tells us that the enemy VT troops mainly consist of the Capital Security Division with new type VTs, codenamed Regal Dress. This will not be an easy battle, but we are confident that with your elite band of men, our chances of winning this fight will be greatly increased. Good luck Gentlemen!

Chapter Eight

A day before the largest battle in VT history began, Oscar 3 was preparing himself for the biggest engagement of the war he would yet face. The battlefield would be ridden with traps, adversaries, and perils. Many of the VT pilots would not live to fight again. They were prepared for that though, because otherwise they would not have trained for years to be where they were now. Provided with the newest equipment, which had been tested and released just for this engagement, our hero was deciding how best to arrange his weaponry so that his VT would not be too heavily laden. He decided to have one larger weapon that would enable him to fight the new type VT called Regal Dress. He asked his friend Roy about the new Rail gun GA 11.

Roy replied, “Well, the Rail gun is a tricky weapon. ( It fires high velocity, electromagnetically accelerated, non-explosive rounds. Tremendous damage is achieved without the need for explosives due to the extremely high kinetic energy of the projectile at the time of impact with the target. The energy expenditure required to discharge a rail gun slug is immense, so much so that only VTs with properly configured power transfer systems are capable of mounting the weapon. During the firing cycle a distinct blue glow can be seen around the weapon from the charging propulsion coils. Experienced pilots will be able to see the charge and avoid the shot, but this weapon is relatively new so most will not know how it works.” Once he was done with that, Oscar 3 also took several smaller weapons that he would used to fight the older less agile types such as the Vitzh type and the Vortex type. He determined he was satisfied with his armaments so he went to bed. Tomorrow would be a long day.

He dreamed of conquest and victory.

Early in the morning, all personnel were ordered to attend a meeting of great importance. This meeting could be the ending to this war. The officer in charge started to speak, “Last night, terms of surrender were given to the capital city of Hai Shi Dao. This was sent in an effort to avoid unnecessary destruction of their “beautiful” city and the plains we were just about to assault. We are merely waiting for them to sign the script, and then we can all be done with this war and leave this island. That is all, dismissed!” The rest of the day was filled with volleyball on the sand and weightlifting.

In the afternoon of the next morning everyone was called once again to a meeting. The officer started to speak again, “Men this war is not over. Several hours ago, Hai Shi Dao announced that they are refusing to sign the script. Hence a full scale invasion of the city and surrounding plains is now unavoidable. Our main goal is to breach their defenses and destroy the presidential palace where their leader, Gormit Sin, resides. The only order concerning this mission is to bring an end to this war. Ready your VT’s men, we are expected to be on the outskirts of the city within two hours.”

After they were out of the hangar, the VTs were airlifted by VT transports to the outskirts of the Xin Feng Tian city. One and a half hours later, all VT’s and their pilots were ready for what would be the largest, most important battle of their lives. The VTs’ were split up throughout the plains into eighteen groups; each group contained three VT’s. The enemy was rumored to have much more. Fortunately they were older types which were much slower, had inferior weapons, and were much more fragile. Destroying them would most likely be easy, but being surprised by the newer types would be the most dangerous. But that’s why the VTs were in groups of three. Sneaking up on someone is much harder when they have two others are watching. After dispatching the advance guard that patrolled the outskirts of the city, our hero and his company moved into the plains surrounding the city. Only one of their VTs took minor damage. “We are moving into the plains to try find a way past into the capital.” informed Oscar 3. “Roger that Oscar 3, the other teams are just a few minutes behind you.” replied Argus, the officer commanding the current mission. Suddenly, two of the new type VTs came walking out of the nearby trees. “Two enemies ten o’clock!” exclaimed our hero. Immediately sidestepping to the right to avoid incoming attacks, the three VTs returned fire. The Regal Dress’s easily dodged all attacks thrown at them and moving closer, fired rounds from their 135 Millimeter Machine guns. Unable to evade most of the rounds, Oscar 2 took severe damage. Several seconds later, the VT which Oscar 2 was piloting went up in flames. He unable to put out the inferno and was forced to eject. Switching to his new Electromagnetic Launcher GA 11 in order to down these impressive VTs, Oscar 3 wondered if he would be able to defeat these powerful enemies. Firing it at the nearest enemy, Oscar 3 noticed his battery power level completely drain to empty rendering him unable to sidestep. Although he took several hits, the results were well worth it! The particle shot at the unparalleled speed of any weapon ever. Ripping entirely through the enemy, our hero could tell that terrible damage was dealt. Several seconds later, the top half of the body fell to the ground, instantly signaling that the VT was destroyed. The legs stood still for a few seconds then exploded blaze of blue heat. The other foe was still alive though. Dodging a Plasma Torch strike from Oscar 1, the opponent had nearly destroyed him. The last Regal Dress was unable to elude the Plasma Torch attack from Oscar 3 though, toppling to the ground. He was quickly exterminated. “Sir, My hull integrity is at twenty-four percent, may I withdraw?” asked Oscar 1. “I love that show!” responded our hero. “I knew I should not have said that.” gulped Oscar 1. “Let us continue a bit more before we withdraw and get repairs,” ordered Oscar 3.

Annihilating several older VTs, Oscar 1 as well as Oscar 3 were ready to depart. Lagging behind due to leg problems, Oscar 1 was pursued by anti VT helicopters. Shooting guided missiles, most of the helicopters were smashed by the eighty millimeter chain guns belonging to the Oscar team. Unfortunately there were too many. Sustaining critical damage, Oscar 1 was forced to eject from his VT. Finishing off the rest of the helicopters, our hero was surprised when his VT short circuited. He had walked right into a trap! Because his VT had no power available he would be unable to eject until he started back up. Unfortunately, a Regal Dress VT stepped out of the nearby swamps, intent on killing the poor fool who walked into the trap. Our hero knew now that nothing could save him. He would not make it back from this war alive. Unable to move, fight, or run, Oscar 3 had no choice but to try to regain power before his VT exploded. This power up sequence took too long however. As the finishing bullets hurtled toward our hero’s VT, Oscar 3 picked up a picture of his family and held it close.

Several seconds later, he was no more.

This is not the end of my story though. The rest of the VTs were able to penetrate the capital city of Xin Feng Tian and destroy the presidential palace. Gormit Sin’s personal jet attempted to take off and fly away but was quickly shot down by the pursuing VTs. On December twenty fifth, the Pacific Rim Forces identified the body of the former president, Gormit Sin. With a second intervention from the European Union, a cease-fire agreement was made between Hai Shi Dao and the Pacific Rim Forces. The new administration of Hai Shi Dao officially expressed their participation in the Pacific Rim Forces. Accepting their proposal, the PRF organization promised their cooperation in the postwar reconstruction efforts. The HSD conflict that spanned over a two-year period had finally come to an end. Even though our hero had fallen, his legacy would be remembered throughout the war that would be come to known as, The Line of Contact.

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Sneaking a Peek

By C.C. Panda

CLONK! The sound of the heavy metal bucket hitting the floor resonated throughout the entire chapel. Uh-oh, I am sure to be caught now. I ducked quickly into a corner in the entry way. From above, a voice snapped out, “I thought I told you not to come back! I don’t need you lazy rascals to help me!” I was frozen against the wall, holding my breath. Nearly everyone in Rome knew that the famed artist, Buonarroti, was choleric and hard to work with. He preferred working by himself.

Sweat began to cover my dust coated face. What if he came down to check to see if anyone was there? What would he do to a little apprentice boy like me? Nervously, I remained a statue until I heard no sounds of approaching trouble. Crouching low, I slowly crawled around the corner into the open sanctuary and as I looked up my mouth dropped.

Before me were piles of planks, buckets, brushes and heavy tapestries. Taking up the entire room, complex scaffolding extended all the way up to the domed ceiling. Parts of it were painted with vivid yet half finished pictures. The contrast between the light and dark colors gave the pictures the illusion that they were popping out of the wall. In the dim light, I saw a fully painted Moses, dressed in a beautiful purple robe. I continued to stare at the wonders of the ceiling before I noticed a man lying on his back. With care, he was dexterously painting the ceiling while lying down. That must be he! That must be Michelangelo Buonarroti! I wanted to tell him that it was grand and beautiful. But instead I quietly sneaked out of the Sistine Chapel and ran home, leaving him in peace.

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Chaos of the Mountain

By Wapitzer

The sky went black. People rushed about, trying to fathom the sorrow that was soon about to befall them. The ground began to shake, slowly at first, but then faster. People began to run, creating a chaotic mass that only had one motive: escape. The white, smooth, perfect marble edifices that surrounded the people started to blacken, slowly loosing their grandeur.

I stared, looking at the horror. Falling ash, buildings crumbling, small innocent children being trampled, forgotten, and rushed away by their parents, leaving all that they loved behind. It was 79 AD, and I had just been married some months ago. I was a fairly successful merchant on the streets of Pompeii. Thalia and I were planning to move to a small residence near the southern border. None of that mattered now. The dwelling had collapsed, and Thalia had died not five minutes ago from stress and suffocation.

Running with grief and pain, I threw myself through the chaos. The heat was unbearable. As I ran, I saw the faces of the sick, the injured, and the elderly. Some were shrieking with fear, others were praying, some crying, and some were sitting calmly, accepting their fate. I tore my eyes away from them. There was only one thing that was on my mind, and that was survival.

There was not one man that was indolent! All were striving for the common goal of safety. I took a shortcut through a now abandoned villa. As I ran, the building was caving in behind me. Wiping the ashes and tears from my eyes, I took the final turn.

The ceiling was almost upon me. With the exit only fifty feet away, I ran faster that I had ever done before. 40 feet. 30 feet. 25 feet. I was at the final stretch; everything depended on this final leap. I jumped toward the exit.

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Emily’s Civil War

Fall 2010 Advanced Writing Class Journal

Historical Fiction From the EIE Advanced Writing Class

by Beth Leehem.

The Civil War

1864 – I was helping little Sara get the remaining knots out of her hair from last night’s fitful sleep when my world came crashing down.  When I heard the knock on our front door I told Sara to stay in our bedroom and walked out into the hallway just as Mother was opening the door.  In front of her stood a man I did not recognize.  He was tall with a shaggy beard and dressed in a blue uniform.  My heart sunk just about the same time I saw Mother turn pale white.  They exchanged greetings and Sara, ignoring my instructions, scurried out of our bedroom, hid behind me and hugged my leg.

The man introduced himself as Private Donahue and asked to speak to Father.  When Mother told Private Donahue that Father was out of town, he said he had a telegram for Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.  As he handed her an envelope he said, “I regret, Ma’am, to have to be the bearer of this news – my deepest condolences.”  And with that, he turned and left.

Mother closed the door and I saw that tears were already rolling down her cheek even though she had yet to open the letter.  She took the sheet of paper out of the envelope and unfolded it as if it would explode if she handled it the wrong way.  As her eyes scanned the paper, a strange gasping noise came out of her and she shook her head while she brought her hand up to cover her mouth.

Everything that happened after that was a big blur.  But this I knew for sure: my life would never be the same again.  Adam – my brother, my best friend, the substance that held our family together – was dead.  I understand now that Adam’s death, along with many, many others, helped shape the future for our country, but at age fourteen the only thing that mattered to me was that Adam was gone forever.

A little part of us all died that day along with Adam.

Poor Mother tried to be strong for the sake of Sara and me, but I could still hear her muffled sobs at night when she thought we were asleep.  She would tell me again and again, “Everything is going to be alright, Emily.”  Though, I think she was trying to convince herself more than me.  We tried explaining to Sara that Adam was not coming back, but, at age four, that was a hard thing to comprehend, so she continued to ask us where he was, when he was coming back and why he wasn’t there to tuck her in at night.  We tried to get word to Father, but we were in the middle of winter, and harsh weather conditions prevented us from doing so.

I knew I still had Father, Mother and Sara, but I had never felt more alone in my entire life.  Until one day, we got a letter…a letter from Adam.  It was dated November 16, 1864.  He had died on December 2, 1864.  The letter had taken exactly forty-four days to reach us.

The letter said:

My dearest family,







And so began my journey to find the woman who made my brother fall in love with her.

*   *   *

I knew Mother would disapprove and Sara would cry, begging me to stay, frightened of losing yet another sibling. The only one that would at least begin to understand the feelings and thoughts that were plunging into my body and head would be Father.

Even though Mother always meant well and was one of the sweetest ladies I had ever known, she had never fully understood me and I had never fully understood her. She was beautiful with long golden blonde hair, blue eyes and full red lips. She was always very proper and all the girls my age looked up to her. I was the exception.

I tried, though. I tried my hardest to look and act like her. I remember days when all I would do was sit in a chair and study her movements as she walked around the house doing daily chores. I would make mental notes on how her lips always looked somewhat puckered, how she never slouched, how she always took quiet and rather small steps for my taste and the way she would raise her head, her chin always being slightly pointed up toward the ceiling.

I would sit in my room, in front of my mirror and pucker my lips, throw my shoulders back and tilt my head backward, but I never looked beautiful or graceful the way Mother always did. It made me look self-centered, conceited and also a bit deformed! Then again, I didn’t have naturally flowing blonde hair, blue eyes or red lips.

I had brunette hair, but not the kind with shining curls; I had the kind with straight, lifeless strands of hair poking out in various directions. I had brown eyes and pale, thin lips. I had even overheard Mother and her friend Susan talking one time after Sunday morning church. “Such a shame poor little Emily didn’t inherit your looks,” Susan had said. “With that lively personality of hers, she could have been such a beauty. Sara, on the other hand, is as pretty as they come.”

From that day on, I gave up trying to act like Mother. I knew it was getting me absolutely nowhere. Well, at least I had a “lively personality.” Though, unfortunately, Mother often disapproved of it. For instance, when it would start to rain, Mother would seek shelter, while I, on the other hand, would run outside to play in the mud. The other girls in town would look at me with disgust written plainly across their faces, while the boys in town would come out to join me.

My sister Sara, on the other hand, was, just as Susan had said, as pretty as they come. She had gotten Mother’s thick golden hair, her eyes were the color of honey and her lips were like pink roses on a warm spring day. Because she was only four years old, she delighted in playing silly little games, but for the most part, she was growing up to be as proper as Mother. Not that it was a bad thing, it was just that I found myself constantly annoyed by her manner for the simple reason that she was able to please Mother without even trying, while I was never able to even when I was trying my hardest.

Both Mother and Sara were fragile when it came to their feelings, which is why I decided not to tell them what I was planning to do. I knew they cared for me and didn’t want to see me get hurt and the last thing I wanted to do was give them something more to worry about, but I had made up my mind. I had a mission to complete and I was determined to get it done. Elizabeth McClellan was my destination. But in order to find her, I would be needing help and I knew I could find assistance in Father. Thus, the first stop on the road to Elizabeth McClellan was Father.

*   *   *

I had beaten the sun by getting up early in the morning while fog lay settled on the ground and the moon was still out. Without making it look obvious that several things were missing, I had packed everything I could muster the previous day. I knew getting a good night’s sleep would be vital, but I hadn’t gotten any sleep at all that night thinking about what was to come the following day and also for fear of oversleeping. I thought I would have been immensely tired from lack of sleep, but I was wide awake – though I knew the consequences of sleep deprivation would hit me full force sooner or later!

As I was stuffing my quilt in the bag that held everything else I had packed, I heard Sara start to stir in bed. I froze and hoped with everything I had that she wouldn’t wake up. My hoping didn’t work.

Sara sat up in bed, balled up her hands and rubbed her tired, pretty eyes. She squinted at me with confusion on her face.”Emily?What’s wrong, Emily?”

I didn’t want her to worry.”Nothing’s wrong, Sara. Everything is going to be fine.”

“What are you doing?Are we going somewhere?”Sara asked.

Her use of the word “we” just about killed me. I took a deep breath, crossed the room and sat on the edge of her bed.”No, chickadee, your place is here with Mother.”The chickadee was Sara’s favorite bird and therefore my nickname for her.”I’m going to be gone for a little while, but I’ll be back soon.”

Shock crossed her face for a moment, and then a look of pleading appeared in her eyes.”Where are you going, Emily?Oh, please let me come with you!”

“Oh, Sara. I’m afraid I have to make this trip on my own. But don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.”By the look on her face I knew that despite what I had said, she was still worried and I didn’t want to leave her like that, so what I said next was not a lie – I just made it sound more like a fairy tale for Sara’s sake.”I’m going on an adventure, chickadee. I’m going to go find a princess…a princess that just might be able to help us all.”

My words had just the effect I had hoped for.

“A princess!Is she in trouble? Are you going to go rescue her, Emily?”

I thought about that for a moment. I’m hoping she’ll be able to rescue us…I thought.”Well, I hope she’s not in trouble, but she just lost her prince.”I paused to choke back my tears.”I’m going to go find her so that maybe we’ll all be able to help each other.”

“Oh my goodness. Poor princess. You have to go help her, Emily. And bring her back home to us.”Sara took my hand in both of hers.”But be careful, Emily.”

I nodded and hugged her as tight as I could. A tear fell down my cheek, but I wiped it away before Sara could see.”I love you so much, chickadee.”

“I love you, too, Emily.”

“Go back to sleep now, sleepyhead.”

As she lay back down and I tucked her in, she asked, “Promise you’ll be back soon?”

“I promise, I promise, I promise,” I said and I kissed her forehead before grabbing my bag and heading out our bedroom door.

Before I closed the door completely, I looked back once more to find that Sara had resumed her peaceful sleep. Oh, if only we could all live in the carefree world where children reside. What a world that would be.

I walked down the stairs to the kitchen, grabbed some food and stuck it in my bag. As I walked into the living room, I approached a little round table that I had been avoiding since that blasted soldier had appeared at our door. There was a small lamp on it, but the significance of this little table in this little corner of the room, was the small photograph in the silver photo frame. It was a picture of all of us: Father, Mother, Sara, Adam and me – and we were happy. The photo had been taken by a professional photographer at a park and had cost Father a large amount of money. He had always said it was worth the money, but I had never agreed. We all loved each other, and seeing somebody happy was better in person than seeing it in a photo, I had always thought. And when Adam had passed away, the photo had just seemed like a horrible reminder. But looking at it on that first morning of my “adventure,” it gave me a warm feeling inside. It gave me a feeling of joy, but even more importantly, it gave me motivation. I really needed a push of motivation.

So with my new found confidence, I pushed open the front door and stepped out into the unknown.

*   *   *

First thing I had to do: go talk to Father. It had been four months since we received the terrible news of our beloved Adam, so we had managed to get word to Father. The dreadful winter was over and all the snow had melted away, but only to be replaced by spring showers.

As I walked down the street and said farewell to our small, quaint house, I noticed the fog on the ground begin to recede and a streak or two of light in the sky. I guessed it was about six o’clock as I saw that a few households were bidding the morning hello.

At the time, Father was in City Point, Virginia. He was doctor and when he found out that Depot Field Hospital was being built for Union soldiers in City Point, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

When he found out what had happened to Adam, he was allowed to come home. When he came home, he stayed only for a short while. He had said the only way to keep his mind occupied was to work. He said that he had to go back to save wounded soldiers’ lives so that their families would not have to bear the same heartache our family had been burdened with. And so he did.

City Point was not far from our home by carriage or train, but on foot, I knew it going to be quite a trek.

*   *   *

I walked for what seemed a lifetime, constantly asking for directions. The clouds in the sky looked just about ready to burst and let out bucketfuls of water on top of me, but I made a deal with the clouds. As I started on my journey and noticed the very gray sky, I had pleaded with them, “Oh, please don’t start to rain now, dear clouds,” I had shouted to the sky (I must say any passerby that heard me must have thought I belonged in a mental facility). “You just can’t start raining now.” As if in response, thunder sounded in the distance. I sighed then said, “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you: just let me get to Father and then you can rain as long and as hard as you want. I just need to get to Father.” And to my great surprise, no rain came down. I was eternally grateful.

I managed not to dig into the little food I had, but around noon I couldn’t resist. I had been walking for about six hours already, and by the time I sat down to eat, it felt as though my stomach was eating itself up. I ate half a loaf of bread and a bit of cheese. My stomach still longed for more, but I knew this was enough to keep me going and that I had to ration it. So I stood up and started a search to quench my thirst.

I had fortunately packed a canteen, though at the moment it was empty. I walked into a store and asked the man behind the counter where I might find water to fill it. Pointing out the window, he said, “There’s a water pump just down this here street, young lady.” I thanked the man and walked down the road. Just as the man had said, there was a water pump at the end. I pumped the handle a few times before the water started to flow. When the water came out I filled my canteen and gulped down the refreshing water, letting it soothe the back of my throat and feeling the coolness of it run all the way down to my stomach. When my thirst was satisfied, I refilled my canteen and resumed my long quest.

*   *   *

By seven o’clock the light was failing and by eight o’clock the moon was high in the sky. After asking a local woman how far City Point was, I found out it was only about three and a half miles away. Though I wanted desperately to run the rest of the way just to be in Father’s arms, I knew I couldn’t continue walking around in the dark by myself. I had to find a place to spend the night…but where? I had very little money – definitely not enough to rent a room for the night.

Thankfully, after getting turned down by four others, a store owner was kind enough to let me spend the night in her gardening store. Whether the nice lady let me spend the night only because she felt pity for me, I didn’t know, but at that moment I didn’t really care. I had found a place to sleep for the night and, to me, that was all that mattered.

I took out my quilt, lay down and used my pack as a pillow. The lady, whose name I found out was Mary Weed (I loved the fact that she owned a gardening store and her last name was Weed – I found it a bit humorous), lived above the store on the second story of that small building. When she saw me lay down on the hard floor, she said, “Oh! No, no, no dear. That just won’t do. Come upstairs with me and you can spend the night on the couch.” When she saw me hesitate, she added, “I won’t bite,” and smiled.

When we got upstairs, Mrs. Weed asked me my name. I told her my name and she gave me a glass of milk – which tasted just like a piece of heaven – bid me goodnight and went off to her bedroom to go to sleep. The couch in her very small living room was a hundred times more comfortable than the floor downstairs and I knew my back would be very grateful tomorrow.

Snuggling up with my quilt and a real pillow from Mrs. Weed’s couch, I fell asleep within seconds from an exhausting day.

When I awoke the next morning, there were beams of light shining through the single window in the living room. Tiny dust particles entered a beam of light and danced all around. I could practically see the smiles on their faces. They took their turn in the spotlight and then slowly drifted and disappeared from the light and from my sight. I felt very alone. It was time to go find Father.

I walked downstairs and found Mrs. Weed reorganizing some tiny packets of flower seeds. When she saw me she said, “Oh, you’ve woken up. It’s about half past eight o’clock, but you looked very, very tired last night so I thought I should let you sleep. Would you like some breakfast, dear?”

Mrs. Weed didn’t have much food, but she spared what she could. She gave me some more milk, and a little bit of bread, cheese and turkey. I savored every bite.

I asked her if she knew which way City Point was and to my great surprise, she said she was headed there to make a delivery that day. “I ordered a carriage to take me there today! Someone ordered fifty pounds of soil to be delivered to City Point and I can’t walk there dragging fifty pounds of soil at this age. I’ll break my back! You’re completely welcome to come along; I’m sure there’s room for one more,” she said with a smile.

The carriage arrived about an hour later. The driver loaded the soil into the carriage for Mrs. Weed; we got in and started toward City Point.

After a few minutes of silently watching the scenery go by, Mrs. Weed asked me why City Point was my destination. I intended only on saying Father was there, but I found myself pouring out my whole story to her. I told her about Adam. I told her about the letter we had received from him after his death. I told her about how Sara broke my heart the day I left. I told her how I never even gave Mother a proper goodbye. I told her how Father became absorbed with his work when he found out the news. And I told her how desperately I was longing for Adam’s arms to wrap around me once more.

When I finished my story, Mrs. Weed had a very sympathetic look on her face. She was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Oh, dear, I’m terribly sorry. I know that nothing I say can make things any better, but when my husband passed away, my dearest Walter, I was certain that I would not be able to go on. I felt as though I had lost my motivation to live. Then, one night I had a dream and Walter talked to me. He told me he didn’t want me to be sad. He said he wanted me to find joy in life again. And he said he would always love me. It was hard not to be sad the following days, but I tried as hard as I could. Eventually, I found gardening. Gardening was my salvation.

“I’m sure Adam doesn’t want to see you sad, dear Emily. He will always love you and your family. And your family will always love you.”

Her words brought me to tears, and she put her arms around me. We rode the rest of the way in peaceful silence.

When we arrived at City Point, Mrs. Weed told the driver to go to Depot Field Hospital. When I started to object to say that wasn’t necessary, she said, “Nonsense, it’s perfectly fine, dear Emily.” I didn’t know what I had done to deserve to meet a woman as wonderful as Mary Weed.

We arrived at Depot Field Hospital and just knowing that Father was so close made my knees go weak. I thanked Mrs. Weed dearly for everything she had done for me. She made me promise to come and visit her sometime. I gathered up my belongings, gave Mrs. Weed a tight hug, thanked her once more and walked up to the hospital grounds.

I knew Depot Field Hospital was big, but I never imagined its enormity. There were dozens of different buildings and a vast amount of tents. I walked into the one of the larger buildings hoping someone would be able to help me. There was a lady behind a desk and as I approached, she asked, “May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for Doctor Leander Johnson. Might you know where he is?” I asked the lady.

She pulled out a sheet of paper and looked it over. “Yes, Doctor Johnson has the day off today. Most doctors stay in their rooms on their days off in case of emergency situations. Doctor Johnson’s room is number 246. If you turn to the left outside of this building and walk for about half a mile, you should come to the doctor’s quarters.”

I thanked the woman and did as she said. That was the longest half a mile of my life. I finally reached the doctor’s quarters and looked for room 246. As I came to room 230, I picked up my pace. By room 240, I was running. Room 244, room 245…and then there was room 246. I paused just outside the door to catch my breath, walked up the two steps and knocked on the door. I heard someone shuffling inside, the door swung open and suddenly there he was right in front of me. Different emotions passed across his face in a very short amount of time. He had a blank expression at first, and then I saw confusion flicker across, then shock, then something that might have been sorrow, then happiness. “Emily? Emily!”

“Hello Father,” I said breathlessly and with a smile.

He just about tackled me and gave me a gigantic hug while saying, “Oh, my dear, sweet Emily!”

And for the first time since Adam’s death, I felt whole again.

*   *   *

“Emily, what on earth are you doing here?”  Father still had me in a tight embrace.  It seemed very unlikely to me that he ever intended on letting go.

“I came to see you, Father,” I responded.

“Well, I believe I could have figured that much out on my own,” and at last he seemed to realize that we were still standing in his doorway.  He let go, but kept his hands on my shoulders and took a good look at me.  “My, you’ve done some growing up.  Come in, come in,” and he led me inside.

As I looked around, I noticed how small his room was.  There was a bed tucked into a corner, and in another corner, underneath piles and piles of paperwork, was a small round wooden table in another corner.  The kitchen was in the same room; the stove, oven and sink made up one of the four walls.  At first glance, what I thought was a closet door turned out to be the restroom.

“Sorry it’s such a mess,” Father said as he tried to tidy up a bit.  “I was assured this is one of the better rooms.  This room has a kitchen!” He said proudly.  “Most of the other rooms don’t have a kitchen and those without them have to go to the public hospital kitchen or the dining hall to eat.”

“It’s very nice, Father.”  In reality, I wasn’t concerned about the room.  I was just glad to finally be with Father again.

“Sit down, sit down,” Father said motioning to the wooden chair next to the table.  I sat down in the chair and Father sat on the edge of the bed.  We remained silent for a moment, neither of us knowing what to say when Father finally spoke up.  “I’m so sorry, Emily.”

His words confused me.  “Sorry about what, Father?  You have nothing to be sorry about.”

“I haven’t been there for you and Sara and Mother when you’ve needed me most.  I kept telling myself that I’d go back home to you, but some emergency here at the hospital would come up.  And then, when I’d be free to leave, I’d find that I’d make excuses for myself.  I just couldn’t handle going back – at least, not so soon.  I’ve been a horrible husband and father.”  He rested his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands.

I agreed with some of his words.  We had needed Father and he hadn’t been there for us.  He was the solid rock in our family, and he had left us sinking in an ocean of despair.  But I also knew what he meant when he said he couldn’t get himself to come back.  There were days when I wanted to run away with no specific destination in mind, just to get away and never look back.  I had wondered if that might be a solution, but I soon realized that I’d be running away from my family and my house, not the memories and heartache.  The memories and heartache would haunt me wherever I went, and that’s what I really wanted to get away from.  So I settled on the conclusion that I could not run away.  I would endure it all and I would not be alone.  I had Sara and Mother – but not Father.

I had thought I’d never be able to forgive him for leaving us in our time of need, but I found myself feeling sorry for him.  I understood everything he said and I realized that he had wanted to come back – he really had – and he hated that he wasn’t emotionally strong enough to do so.  So I found myself forgiving him.  “Oh, Father, you haven’t been a horrible husband and father.  You’ve been here at the hospital saving lives.”  He still kept his head in his hands.  I got up, sat next to him and put my arm around him.  “I understand, Father.  We all feel the exact same way.”

“Which is precisely why I should have been there for you,” he said.  His hands muffled his words.

I sighed.  I knew he was hurting and I hated seeing him like that.  I wanted to say something to make him feel better, but I was afraid of saying something and making him feel worse.  I chose my words carefully.  “Father, everyone handles…” I didn’t want to say loss or death, “everyone handles hard situations differently.  Your way of dealing with it is devoting yourself to your work, and Sara, Mother and I don’t blame you for it.”  I paused to see if he had anything to say, but he remained silent.  “A friend told me that she didn’t think Adam would want to see us sad.  He will always, always love us.”

Father started to cry.  His body jerked with each of the oncoming sobs and his hands muted the noise a little.

He had been bottling up his feelings and he needed to let them out, so I let him cry while I kept my arm around him.  It was not a happy time, but I had never felt closer to Father in my entire life.  I selfishly savored the moment.

*   *   *

The clouds did not go back on their end of our deal.  Minutes after Father and I had gone inside, the sky started pouring and we were forced to spend the day indoors.

As we ate lunch, Father wrote a letter to Mother to let her know that I was safe.  Afterward, I told Father about my journey to find him.  He soaked up every word.  When I finished, he grinned and shook his head in disbelief.  Then it looked like he was thinking about something.  “I still don’t understand something,” he said, obviously still trying to figure out whatever it was he didn’t understand.

“What don’t you understand?”  I asked even though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.  I had yet to tell him why I had sought him out in the first place: for help to find Elizabeth McClellan.

He gave up trying to figure out the answer and asked, “What motivated you to come find me in the first place?”

I knew the time had come to let him know my plans.  “Father, do you remember the letter we showed you when you came back home for a few days?  The one that Adam sent before…”  I didn’t finish my sentence, but Father nodded anyway.

“Yes, I remember.”

“I’m going to find her.  The woman that Adam married.  Elizabeth McClellan.  I have to find
her, Father.”

He kept silent for several moments while he was deep in thought.  “And what do you expect to find?  What is it that you think she can do for us?”

“I’m not sure,” and it was the truth.  I didn’t know what I expected to gain from Elizabeth McClellan, but I knew if I had made it as far as I had, there had to be a reason for finding her.

Father nodded and seemed to understand.

“I came here because I thought you might be able to help me.  I don’t expect you to join me, but perhaps you can give me some advice.  How do I find her, Father?”

He thought then asked, “The letter said she was a nurse, did it not?”
I nodded.

“Perhaps Depot Field Hospital has a record on her.  Tomorrow I will go to the office and find out what I can.  As for now, we will simply enjoy each other’s company, because of this blasted weather.”

I smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I think the weather might be my fault.”

“Oh, really?  And why is that?”

So I told him my story.  We laughed and talked some more about anything and everything for the rest of the day and I felt happy, safe and at peace without a worry on my mind.

*   *   *

I awoke to find that Father was not in the room.  As I looked out the window, I noticed the sun was high in the sky and assumed it must be nearly noon.  How could it be noon already?  I wondered.  I guess I must not have realized how tired I was!  I stretched and become conscious how rested I felt.

Assuming it was almost twelve ‘o clock, I figured Father must be at work.  I dug through the small bag that accompanied me on my journey and pulled out a change of clothes.  I got dressed and looked through the cabinets in the kitchen to see what food there was to eat.  I was sure Father wouldn’t mind if I ate some of his food.  I took an orange, bread and jam.  I turned on the stove and set the bread on top to make toast and squeezed myself some orange juice thanks to the orange.  When the bread was brown and crispy, I spread some jam on it.  It was a sufficient enough breakfast, if you ask me – or rather, considering it was nearly noon, a sufficient enough lunch.

I cleared off the little table, neatly piling the paperwork on the floor near its leg, sat down and ate my food.  Though most people I knew hated silence, I was quite content in it.  It gave me time to think.  So I ate my food quietly and peacefully, absorbing and reliving the events of the last few days.

Just as I was cleaning up, someone knocked on the front door and came in without waiting for an answer.  Of course, it was Father.  “Hello Father.”

“Emily!  You’ll never believe the news I have discovered!”  He exclaimed as he hung up his raincoat.  He was not wet so I knew it had stopped raining.

“What is it?”

“It’s about Elizabeth McClellan.  I found out that she’s a nurse at a hospital in Port Royal.  The USMRR railroad runs straight there.”

“That’s perfect!”  Then I realized something, “But isn’t the railroad only for military use?”

“Doctors and nurses may use it for transportation.  The count of soldiers being received here at Depot Field Hospital has never been higher – mostly coming from battles taking place at Petersburg – so I mustn’t leave now, but I have arranged for a friend of mine to accompany you.  His name is William Anderson and he is a nurse here.  His mother is a nurse in the same hospital Elizabeth is working in, so he has been planning to go to Port Royal for some time now.  When I asked him if he would be so kind as to accompany you, he was delighted.  I’m willing to bet he would have been jumping up and down if he could!”  Father said chuckling.

“If he could?  What do you mean?”

Father took a deep breath and said, “William has served his time in the war.  He was a wounded soldier when he arrived here.  I was the doctor who worked on him and I did everything I could to save his leg.  Unbelievably, the wound was not infected yet and he was able to keep his leg, but he has a limp and it still sometimes pains him to this day.”

“Oh.”  I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Yes.”  After a short pause, the smile returned to Father’s face and he said, “But that doesn’t stop him from getting around or doing what he wants.  He’s a tough lad.  He gets things done.  When he was well again, he came to me and asked if there was any way he could help.  Because his mother is a nurse, he was familiar with some procedures already.  Mostly he comforts the patients and changes the linens and pillows, but he never complains.”  Father was silent for a few moments then staring off into the distance said, barely audible, “He reminds me so much of Adam.”  Coming out of his daze, looking at me again, Father asked, “Would you like to meet William?”

*   *   *

The first thing I thought about William was simply that he looked so young.  He couldn’t have been over twenty years old.  Father introduced us and I saw that William was very polite and had a very pleasant personality.  Father gave me some money and sent us on our way that very day.  Parting with Father was difficult for me, but I knew we’d be seeing each other again soon.

Sitting in that little boxcar, making simple conversation, I found out some facts about William: he was nineteen years old.  He had a sister only two years older than me who wanted desperately to become a nurse just like her mother and was in training to do so.  He had lost his father to a fever when William was only eight.  His mother had wanted to be a nurse since she was a young girl and was now fulfilling her dream.  He missed his dog that he had had as a boy.  He had been working at Depot Field Hospital for almost four months now.

“How long were you in the Union?”  I asked him.

“No more than a year.  Though, it felt much longer.”

I nodded.  “I can only imagine…” I replied.  But I really couldn’t imagine.  I thought about what it must have been like for Adam.  “My brother served in the Union.”

“Yes, your father told me.”  He stopped talking and thought about what to say next.  “I’m so sorry.”

So he knew.  I nodded, looked down and played with a loose string on the end of my shirt sleeve.  Genuinely curious, I asked, “What else did Father tell you?”

“I don’t know anymore than that.  Your father never talked of it much.  Whenever the subject would come up it seemed as if he would concentrate even harder on whatever task he was doing.  He never even told me his name.”

“Adam.  His name was Adam.”

He leaned in closer as if he had heard wrong.  “Adam?  Adam…Johnson?”  He asked, putting the pieces together in his head.

I nodded slowly, not knowing what to think of his strange reaction.

He released a quick breath of air as if he were holding it in, then asked, “Was your brother twenty three years old?  He had brown hair, golden eyes, was slim and had a good sense of humor?”  William was staring at me intently.

I nodded again, completely speechless.

William shook his head as if he couldn’t believe it.  “Your brother and I were in the same regiment.”

It felt as though the floor had been swept out from under me.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t breathe.  If the world started to cave in at that moment, I wouldn’t have noticed.  “What?  You knew my brother?”

He didn’t answer right away.  He looked around as if recalling a memory and finally took a deep breath and said, “Adam Johnson saved my life.”

I felt dizzy.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “He saved your life?”  I asked slowly and so softly that I was surprised he even heard me.

He nodded slowly, looking me straight in the eye.  Then he looked away and was taking deep breaths.  “During battle, I was wounded in my left leg and I couldn’t walk – much less run.  I tried dragging myself but couldn’t get far and the pain was just too unbearable.  I was lying there on the floor – helpless, with war going on all around me.  The Union started to retreat and I thought I was done for.  And then Adam was there.  He grabbed me and dragged me nearly the whole way to safety, but my weight slowed him down.  We were lagging behind and then two rebels appeared out of nowhere, shooting anyone they could.  The rebels were shot down by our men, but not before they could shoot Adam.  I saw him go down and prayed that he’d get back up…but he didn’t.  That’s when I blacked out.  Next thing I knew, I was being treated by your father at Depot Field Hospital.”

By the time he was finished talking, tears were streaming uncontrollably down my face.

William looked at me and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I probably shouldn’t have -”

I interrupted him, saying, “No.  No, it’s fine.”

He nodded and said, “Adam Johnson was the best friend I had and the greatest man I have ever known.  He truly was a hero.”

William was right.  I closed my eyes and remembered when Sara found a cat stuck in a tree and Adam got him down for her.  When Mother, Sara and I all got the flu, Father was out of town, so Adam tended to our every need.  When, after being warned not to, I still climbed up that tall tree, lost my footing, slipped and Adam caught me when I fell.  Adam was a hero in so many ways.

I opened my eyes and looked at William again.  “Yes.  He was.”  I gave him a half-hearted smile and he smiled back.  The rest of the train ride was spent in a peaceful silence.

*   *   *

We arrived at Port Royal and William and I were both so eager to get to the hospital.  Port Royal was a very small town, so it was not that far of a walk to the hospital.  William and his leg were grateful for that.

The hospital was nothing compared to Depot Field Hospital.  While Depot Field Hospital was laid out on 200 acres of land and could hold up to ten thousand patients, Port Royal’s hospital was laid out on only a few miles of land and could hold somewhere around one hundred patients.  But I liked it.  It felt very cozy; comfortable; homey.

Because it was rather small, William didn’t have a hard time finding his mother.  It was a very happy reunion with laughter and tears of joy.  William introduced me to his mother and told her why I had come.  His mother was slightly heavy, but had a very jolly face with red cheeks and small, happy eyes.  I asked Mrs. Anderson, William’s mother, if she knew Elizabeth McClellan.  She said yes and that Elizabeth McClellan was now Elizabeth Johnson.  I took a deep breath and grabbed hold of William’s arm to steady myself.  Mrs. Anderson said she’d go get Elizabeth.  My heart started to race, blood pounded in my ears and all of a sudden I couldn’t stand still.  It felt like a lifetime, waiting for Mrs. Anderson.  William noticed my anxiety, smiled and said, “It’s almost time, Emily.”

I smiled, laughed at myself and nodded.  Then Mrs. Anderson returned with a woman at her side.  The woman looked to be about twenty years old with a very pretty face.  She had a few freckles and auburn hair.

Mrs. Anderson said, “Elizabeth, this is Emily.  She’s a very sweet girl and she’s been looking for you.”

Elizabeth looked surprised.  “Looking for me?”

Mrs. Anderson nodded and, addressing William, said, “Come.  Let’s let them have their privacy.  Elizabeth, I’ll let the head nurse know that you’re taking your break now.”  William looked at me, gave me a smile and an encouraging nod and walked away with his mother.

Elizabeth stood in front of me, still looking surprised.  “You’ve been looking for me?”  She asked once more, to make sure she had heard correctly the first time.

“Yes, I have.  Let’s sit.”  And we sat underneath the shade of an oak tree.  Once we were seated, I waited a few moments wondering how to phrase what I had to say.  I figured I’d just say it.  “My name is Emily Johnson.”

She took a deep slow breath and asked to clarify, “Johnson?”

I nodded my head and said, “Adam Johnson was my brother.”

She took another breath and shook her head unbelievingly.  “But, how…”

When she didn’t finish her sentence, I said, “About four months ago, my family and I received a letter from Adam letting us know that he had gotten married.  He talked about you saying you were the most wonderful person he’d ever met.”

She closed her eyes and gave a very small, sad smile while tears rolled down her face.

“A few days before we got the letter we were informed of Adam’s passing.  The moment I read your name in the letter I knew I had to find you.  I didn’t know why…and I still don’t know why.  But I’m so glad I did.”  By this time, I was choking on my own words, trying to hold back tears.

Elizabeth stared at the ground for a few moments before looking up at me and asking, “Your name is Emily?”

I nodded.

“I’m very glad you found me, too, Emily,” she said with the same sad smile.

We hugged and cried and laughed and talked.  She invited me back to her small house which was less than a mile away from the hospital.  I sat in her living room and she offered me some tea.  As we sipped our tea, we talked some more – mostly about Adam, but when the mood became to unbearably sad, we changed the subject.  For the most part, though, the conversation remained surprisingly pleasant.  Elizabeth told me about when they had first met while Adam’s friend Buck was injured and Adam would continuously visit Buck, but later she would learn it was mostly to see her.  She told me about his unbelievable attempts to win her over.  And she told me about their unusual wedding with only soldiers and nurses attending, though she didn’t care – she was side by side with Adam and, to her that was all that mattered.

“I loved your brother so much, Emily.  I can’t even describe it in words.  I still love him.”

“I know.  He loved you, too.”

“He told me about you, you know.  He told me about you, your little sister Sara, your mother and father.  He loved you all very, very much.”

“And we loved him, too.  We still do.”

“Well then, now that we have each other, we shall love him together.”

I nodded and smiled.  I took a sip of my tea and as I was putting my cup back down, I heard an unmistakable noise coming from a room down the hallway.  I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly.  “Is that…?”

Elizabeth nodded and asked, “Emily, would you like to meet your nephew?”

*   *   *

He was perfect – so, so perfect.  Elizabeth and I had reached the room and he was still crying.  Elizabeth picked him up and rocked him back a forth while humming, and the crying ceased.  “Would you like to hold him?”

Completely mesmerized, I nodded.  She put him in my arms and he looked up at me with little curious eyes.  “He’s so beautiful.  What’s his name?”

Elizabeth closed her eyes and smiled before answering.  “His name is Adam.”

“Adam.”  He looked like his dad so much.  It was perfect.

When I started my journey, I had lost one of the most important people in my life.  At the end of my journey, I learned that a piece of him still lived on.  Nothing and nobody will ever be able to make up for the loss of my brother, but finding Elizabeth and baby Adam had gotten me a step closer to filling up the empty hole in my heart.


“Emily!  I’m so glad to see your sweet face and so relieved to see that you’re safe!  I knew you’d come visit me when you had the chance!”  I was surprised to find that Mrs. Weed remembered me without a moment’s hesitation.  She outstretched her arms and wrapped me in a warm embrace.

“It’s so great to see you again, too!”  I said while she was squeezing me so tight that I thought my spine might snap.  “Mrs. Weed, I’d like you to meet my family,” I said when she had finally let go.  Gesturing to each person as I said their name, I said, “This is my sister Sara, my mother Clara, my father Leander, my nephew Adam and the reason for my journey: my new sister Elizabeth.”

I told my family how much help and how sweet Mrs. Weed was to me when I was trying to get to Father.  They thanked her tremendously and started up in conversation.  I listened to them talk, happy to be with the ones I love.

I watched Mother as she complemented Mrs. Weed on her gardening store and remembered how when I first saw Mother again, after finding Elizabeth and little Adam, she scolded me and told me never to do anything of the sort ever again.  She then let out a breath of air and hugged me tightly telling me how worried I had made her.  I told her I’d never leave again without talking to her first.

While the adults were all talking, my focus shifted to Sara and little Adam.  I remembered how, when I arrived home, Sara had refused to let go of my hand for one hour straight.  When she finally let go and was introduced to little Adam, she was stuck to his side.  She loved that baby so much.  I think she also loved the fact that she was now considered a big girl and wasn’t the baby of the family anymore.

Little Adam was growing so fast.  Brown, curly locks of hair were sprouting on his head and his eyes were the same golden shade as my brother, Adam’s.  He looked so much like his dad that it made me sad sometimes, but mostly it made me happy.

William had accompanied us on our trip back home to make sure we got there safely.  Afterwards, he went back to stay with his mother at Port Royal and helped out at the hospital.  We got to know each other better by keeping up a steady stream of letters and I came to realize he was a great friend that I could relate to and trust.

Father had faced his emotions and came back home to us not that long after I returned home.  Things were so much better with Father around the house.  Mother and Sara were immensely glad to have him back, too.

Elizabeth and I became as close as real sisters.  She was such an amazing woman and I looked up to her greatly.

On April 9, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered.  It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  We were victorious.  Adam had not fought and died for nothing.  It was a brand new start for us all – for my family and for America.

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PCC Class Astronomy12 Study Guide and notes

Notes on the study guide for Mr. Sepikas’ PCC Astronomy class.  Notes are taken from or wikipedia unless otherwise noted.

1. degrees, minutes, seconds

2. the astronomical unit

3. diurnal motion

4. the north celestial pole

5. zenith, celestial equator, ecliptic, meridian

6. cause of the seasons

7. the equinox and the solstice

8. precession

9. leap year

10. tropical and sidereal year

11. phases of the moon

12. solar and lunar eclipses

13. Eratosthenes and the size of the Earth

Eratosthenes knew that on the summer solstice at local noon in the Ancient Egyptian city of Swenet (known in Greek as Syene) on the Tropic of Cancer, the sun would appear at the zenith, directly overhead. He also knew, from measurement, that in his hometown of Alexandria, the angle of elevation of the Sun would be 1/50 of a full circle (7°12′) south of the zenith at the same time. Assuming that Alexandria was due north of Syene he concluded that the distance from Alexandria to Syene must be 1/50 of the total circumference of the Earth. His estimated distance between the cities was 5000 stadia (about 500 geographical or nautical miles). He rounded the result to a final value of 700 stadia per degree, which implies a circumference of 252,000 stadia. The exact size of the stadion he used is frequently argued. The common Attic stadion was about 185 m, which would imply a circumference of 46,620 km, i.e. 16.3% too large. However, if we assume that Eratosthenes used the “Egyptian stadion”[1] of about 157.5 m, his measurement turns out to be 39,690 km, an error of less than 1%.[2]

Although Eratosthenes’ method was well founded, the accuracy of his calculation was inherently limited. The accuracy of Eratosthenes’ measurement would have been reduced by the fact that Syene is not precisely on the Tropic of Cancer, is not directly south of Alexandria, and the Sun appears as a disk located at a finite distance from the Earth instead of as a point source of light at an infinite distance. There are other sources of experimental error: the greatest limitation to Eratosthenes’ method was that, in antiquity, overland distance measurements were not reliable, especially for travel along the non-linear Nile which was traveled primarily by boat. So the accuracy of Eratosthenes’ size of the earth is surprising.

Eratosthenes’ experiment was highly regarded at the time, and his estimate of the Earth’s size was accepted for hundreds of years afterwards. His method was used by Posidonius about 150 years later.

14. the difference between planets and stars

15. Newton’s Laws

16. Kepler’s Laws

17. The electromagnetic spectrum and the optical window

18. the speed of light

19. the meaning of temperature

20. the Kelvin scale

21. atomic spectra

22. emission, absorption, and continuous spectra

23. The Rutherford experiment and the discovery of the nucleus

24. refraction, reflection and dispersion

25. refracting telescopes and reflecting telescopes

26. Nicholas Copernicus

27. CCD’s

28. telescopes in space

29. Newton’s law of gravity

30. the difference between mass and weight

31. the atomic hypothesis

Astronomy Test 2 Study Guide

The following study guide is intended to provide a focus fro your reading and study. It is not intended to be

comprehensive. There may be questions on the test that are not covered by this guide and topics in the guide

that do not appear on the test. Some of the topics may require you to look them up in another book or an

encyclopedia in the school library.

1. size of the photosphere

2. solar granules

3. determination of the chemical composition of the sun

4. appearance of the solar spectrum

5. temperatures inside and on the Sun

6. know what the words photosphere, chromosphere, and core mean

7. why are sunspots dark

8. how do we know that the Sun rotates

9. what is stellar parallax

10. what is proper motion

11. what is the difference between absolute and apparent magnitude

12. what is meant by luminosity

13. what are spectral classes

14. know and understand the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram

15. what are binary stars and what do they tell us

16. what is the material between the stars

17. what is nuclear fusion

18. read the section on the Orion nebula

19. understand the formula E=mc2

20. what is the Pauli exclusion principle

21. what is electron degeneracy

22. what is a pulsar

23. what is a black hole

Astronomy Test 3 Study Guide

The following study guide is intended to provide a focus fro your reading and study. It is not intended to be comprehensive. There may be questions on the test that are not covered by this guide and topics in the guide that do not appear on the test. Some of the topics may require you to look them up in another book or an encyclopedia in the school library.

1. Know the names of the planets and their correct sequence from the Sun.

2. Know the difference between the term terrestrial and Jovian planets.

3. Know how the masses of planets are determined.

4. Know what substances make up what are called in space sciences “ices”.

5. Know what fraction of the universe is made up of hydrogen and helium.

6. Understand the formation process of the solar system.

7. Know the age of the Earth.

8. Understand the process of chemical differentiation on the Earth.

9. Understand how earthquake waves give us information about the interior of the Earth.

10. What is plate tectonics and how does it explain the mid-Atlantic ridge

11. How did oxygen come to be in the atmosphere of the Earth.

12. How is the magnetic field of the Earth created.

13. Know the relationship between the rotational period of the moon and its orbital period.

14. What are the lunar Maria and what caused them.

15. What caused the craters on the Moon.

16. Understand the theory that best explains the origin of the Moon.

17. Understand what is a scarp on Mercury and what caused them.

18. Know the surface temperature on Venus in Fahrenheit and Kelvin temperature scales.

19. Understand the greenhouse effect and what chemical causes it.

20.What is the optical illusion that caused the apparent “canals on Mars”.

21.What is Olympus Mons.

22. What is the evidence for the existence of flowing water on Mars

23. Understand how Jupiter can emit more heat than it receives from the Sun.

24. What material is thought to be responsible for the large magnetic fields on Jupiter and


25. What are the names of the moon of Jupiter.

26. Understand the mechanism that causes the heating of Io.

27. What is the composition of Saturn’s rings.

28. Understand the Roche limit.

29. Understand the angle relationship between the spin axis of Uranus and the orbital

plane of Uranus.

31. Know the story of how the plane Neptune was discovered.

32. Know what Bode’s law is.

33. Know the location of the asteroid belt in the solar system.

34. Understand the experimental technique for finding the shapes of asteroids.

35. Know what comet nuclei are.

36. What governs the direction of a comet’s ion tail.

37. Understand how comets orbit the Sun. Are the orbit random or is there a pattern.

38. What is a “meteor shower” and why are they seen at predictable times of the year.

39. Understand the current thinking on the cause of the deaths of the dinosaurs.

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EIE Homeschooling

The McDonalds had a farm and children had they three.
They taught them as they had been taught — from bell and classroom free.
They did not send them off to school, but taught them ‘neath a tree.

With a moo moo here, and an oink oink there, the knowledge seeds they sow.
From book and brook and fruit and flute they learn all one need know.
Their school is not called E – I – E, but E – I – E – I – O


*   Excellence In Education Homeschooling Resource Center

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The Magic Spindle

By Fiona

[This clever work demonstrates nicely the use of iambic pentameter. It was written in response to an assignment to write a transformation tale along the lines of those by Ovid but using an American animal. The meter was just an extra twist she threw in.]

I do hereby invoke the muses nine,
That I may have the power to recount
The way one thief incurred Athena’s wrath,
And into what thereafter was transformed.
Fair ladies, lend thy voices to my work.
Now I’ll relate just how it all transpired.
It pleased Athena, long ago, to grace
A certain earthly glade, and in it sit,
Her hands about a spindle she had blessed
To have the most astounding properties.
She could but touch it and it twirled and spun
A thread as pure as gold and strong as steel,
Which then would weave and sew itself to form
Whatever she who spun it might intend.
And so she would beguile a happy hour,
A thousand wonders streaming from her hands,
The likes of which no mortal had yet seen.
But that could not remain. On one such day,
Therefore, it came to pass that one young man,
Returning from a solitary hunt
Bare-handed and ashamed to face his wife,
Came stumbling on Athena’s workshop glade.
Absorbed so in her spinning, she looked not,
But left the youth to gaze on her in awe,
And watch the magic spindle to its work.
Observing how the garments would emerge,
He happened on the ill-fated idea,
That spindle, with its properties divine,
Would serve his wife far better as a gift
Than all the deer and rabbits in the wood.
Consumed by images in his mind’s eye
Of carrying the wondrous spindle home,
His wife’s delight at months of work complete
Within so few and effortless short hours,
The envy that their wardrobe would inspire,
The youth remained ‘til dusk was all but done,
And soon as it appeared he took his chance.
The sycamore Athena lent against
Caught suddenly an arrow in its bark,
On which a duck was skewered, caught mid-flight,
Propelled forth by the bowstring of a maid
Of Artemis’s hunting band, who then
Appeared before the clearing, bow in hand.
Annoyed, but nodding back, Athena plucked
The bolt and catch that hung above her head,
Set down her work, and brought them to the maid.
Accepting her small thanks, Athena turned
And went back to the sycamore to find
The spindle gone, though all its works remained.
Enraged, Athena followed where she heard
Or thought she heard the tread of mortal feet.
The youth was fast, but not divinely so,
And soon his shoulder felt Athena’s hand.
A new idea occurred, and he invoked
The power of the spindle, and it spun.
From in his mortal hands, the thread was coarse
And dark but still it spun and grew and wove
And twisted to a mask, the which he donned.
He turned to face Athena and declared,
“Though he’s before you, you will never know
Who robbed you. You will never know his features,
Never know the name you would disgrace.”
Athena grabbed the mask, but as it was
Bewitched with her own magic, she could not
Remove or tear it to reveal his face.
His mortal hands, however, could not quite
Restrain the spindle, which still whirled and spun,
And when he tried to run, he tripped and fell
On yards of coarse, black thread, which wound about
His body as he rolled, and there it stuck.
Athena took her spindle from the mess.
She dealt the youth one blow with it, and said,
“Though not a soul will see your face again,
Still all mankind will know you as a thief.
Those threads will pinch and cling forevermore,
So all your heart will loath the light of day
And oceans will not purge your marks of guilt.”
The while she spoke, the trapped youth writhed, and shrank,
And keeled, producing hair where none was meant to be.
He slinked and scampered from Athena’s sight,
And came upon a still, dark, looking-pool.
When met with his reflection he began
To scrub compulsively at what remained
There, where his hands had been, to no avail.
No shadow of their former shape returned.
No name would then for years his eardrums sting,
No more light meet his eyes but from the moon,
‘til humans, wanting names for everything,
Took pity and bestowed the name raccoon.

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The History of The Lord of the Rings, book report


Excellent writing. Very good turns of phrase and expressive devices. Let’s do some Tolkien Wednesday, perhaps some excerpts from the original and alternative versions or a bit of the epilogue.]

The History of The Lord of the Rings is a four-volume series that was compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien. It contains a great variety of unpublished material by his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, who is best known as the author of The Lord of the Rings: [comma or semicolon here would be more appropriate than a colon] the abandoned drafts of which comprise the bulk of the series [good subordinate clause structure]. The four books also constitute volumes six through nine of a larger collection, The History of Middle-earth. Their independent titles are The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring, and Sauron Defeated, respectively.

The History of The Lord of the Rings

The History of The Middle Earth

Christopher Tolkien begins The Return of the Shadow by showing a number of different versions of A Long Expected Party, which is the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings. The original drafts of this chapter alone make up almost one third of the book. He then moves on to give drafts of later parts of the book, while providing extensive notes and observations throughout. It is very interesting to examine the enormous changes it [the precise antecedent to this anaphoric reference is not as clear as it could be] underwent in its structure. Many of the characters had very different personas and functions, or didn’t even exist. Almost every character underwent a tremendous sequence of changes in name, as well. This first volume ends with only about one sixth of the plot examination completed.

The Treason of Isengard continues in the same fashion as its prequel, though it advances the story a bit more quickly. It also contains an examination of the first map of Middle-earth, drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, and the evolution of the Cirth, a runic alphabet. What I consider to be the highlight of this volume is the presence of the final version of the Eärendillinwë, or Lay of Eärendil. This is a poem that was present in the published version of The Lord of the Rings, but not in its ultimate form. The final version was accidentally left unpublished, but can now be found in The Treason of Isengard. [Very interesting!]

The War of the Ring, focusing almost wholly on completion of the examination of The Lord of the Rings drafts, advances the story to its climax. In Sauron Defeated, the conclusion is finally reached. This volume also includes the unseen Epilogue: a delightful piece that takes place a number of years after the conclusion, in which one of the main protagonists answers questions about his adventure that are put to him by his children. [Samwise? Meriadoc?] Unfortunately, it was not published with The Lord of the Rings due to a number of criticisms, though Tolkien greatly desired its inclusion. It is nonetheless a very enjoyable piece and includes perhaps my favorite excerpt from The History of The Lord of the Rings: “‘What happened to Gimli?’ said Frodo-lad. ‘I liked him. Please can I have an axe soon dad? Are there any orcs left?’” This final volume also contains an abandoned work known as The Notion Club Papers, which features the minutes of a group of fictional authors who are based on the members of Tolkien’s own club, “The Inklings”. The book concludes with The Drowning of Anadûnê, which is the original draft of Akallabêth: a story found in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, and [together with] an explanation of the Adûnaic language and its structure.

I found The History of The Lord of the Rings to be a very interesting and enjoyable work. It offered much insight into how Tolkien wrote his masterpiece, with supplements from previously unseen works. However, I expect that very few people would share my enthusiasm for it. Most would in fact consider it to be a thing of utmost boredom. Only those who have delight in the most obscure bits of information on Tolkien’s legendarium could enjoy a collection of this sort. If you do not study Adûnaic genealogies, Elvish languages, or annals of Arda, you most probably will not be capable of savoring these books. I would only recommend them to inordinate Tolkien enthusiasts.

[It actually sounds utterly fascinating. Could you present some excerpts Wednesday, perhaps from the epilogue? ]



I seem to remember learning somewhere that it is appropriate to italicize words of a foreign language. Is that correct?

[Yes, exactly. Foreign words or phrases that have not become standard English usage.]

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On Standard Accent By Marc Yu


You bring up some very cogent points here, well worthy of discussion. Of course you are very right about the tendency the human has toward exclusion and hatred of others who deviate from some arbitrary norm – and you provide an excellent example list of the “objectionable” attributes which engender that sort of response.

It is indeed strange that accents as such should be the cause of such rancor. On the one hand, one is criticized for not adopting a standard accent, and on the other one may be accused of “affectation” and subjected to criticism for learning an accent, even one of the standard ones. The ignominy that accompanies deviant modes of speech is extremely unfair but, unfortunately, ubiquitous.

Marc, your spoken English is certainly above the norm when compared with that of most adult speakers of American English. This achievement in one your age (and particularly in one who is trilingual) is something to be very proud of. Unfortunately, people have trouble seeing past the accent, but, as you say, this is their problem, not yours.]

On Standard Accent

Should student be expected to speak with a standard accent? My reply is based on my personal experience. People often criticize me on the internet [“Internet” is normally capitalized.] because I give speeches at my concert. People don’t criticize my music but instead will criticize my accent. [The “will” is unnecessary, but can be used in this context to imply “insist upon” or “unrelentingly” It works well here.]

First, I am going to talk about what I feel when I hear this, then I am going to talk about the people who give me the criticisms [try: disparage, decry, belittle, derogate] and the people who read the malicious criticism but say nothing, and, [A new sentence here would be best.] finally, I am going to look at the criticism itself.

At first, I was not upset because I thought I did well playing the music and my accent was trivial[!]. After a while, my mother got upset and that got me upset. And now, I have had so much criticism, I am back to my first position – I don’t care.

People have many things they need, such as water to drink, food to eat, air to breathe, periods of sleep and someone to HATE. People who criticize are purposely trying to make you feel bad. They will attack someone for being fat, foreign, disabled, unattractive, odd, homeless, mentally slow, or poor [a superb list. This is a very useful device used well]. All of these are jeers, not suggestions meant to help you.

Besides people who criticize, there are people who stand by and listen. Some of these people are sadistic, some of them don’t care, but a lot of them know what’s right and don’t say anything.

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for the good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke. [Point well taken.]

We have been looking at the people who criticize my accent and to use that as an example of the kind of person who takes delight in tormenting others. Now let’s examine whether the commotion over my accent was all nonsense.

The question is should one speak with a standard accent? So….what is a standard accent? Boston English? Southern English? British English? BBC Engish [English]?

[Marc, you have brought up some very important points here. Good work.

Your question about spoken English standards has no definitive answer. One can as easily be shunned and rejected for using a standard accent as a non-standard one, depending on where one is. It is a highly relative thing. An ability to adapt can be very useful.]

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Everyday Tom Sawyers

Super work! See below.]

Everyday Tom Sawyers

The ground rattled and shook beneath my bike as I careened down the dirt path[,]. I [gripping] gripped the handlebars and gently pumped the brake in a attempt to keep control of the contraption. It was my first time mountain biking and so far it was quite fun [“fun” should be used as a noun. We’ll discuss that]. I looked ahead of me at Seth who seemed to have no fear as he darted down side trails and took  the bumpiest way for his path. Even though this looked fun, I fallowed Andrew who searched for the smoother and the strait [straight] forward path. As we sped along, Seth yelled over his shoulder “Hey! Lets stop up ahead!” And here is where aourreal [our real] adventure begins.

The three of us skidded to a stop and dismounted our bicycles. Andrew pulled out his rusty kickstand, I propped my bike against a wooden bench, and Seth flung his bike to the ground. We surveyed the sight in front of us. The shallow stream that had been stumbling along beside our path slowed and glided peacefully over a sandy bottom. The sun filtered through the fluttering trees, creating a golden glow on the waters’ surface and the moist earth let off a lush scent of outdoors [very nice description].  It looked like a place you could only find in storybooks. It made one expect to see some mystical creature come gallivanting out of the vegetation or fairies to be peeking out from behind flower petals. Seth threw me a wicked grin, and in tandem we plopped down on a rock and began to unlace our shoes.

The leave-strewn soil was cool on our bare feet as we ran tender-footed toward the bank of the creek , trying to dodge the twigs that the trees had discarded[!]. Andrew just watched as Seth and I took the plunge into the crisp water and laughed when we shrieked with shock. The cold draft numbed our toes and goose-bumped our legs.  Indeed, the seemingly magical water was quite icy to the touch and the sand beneath us enjoyed sinking a little bit with ever step that we took. [Very good!]

After strolling around a bit, I waded back to the bank and sat next to Andrew on a rock that protruded out into the water. I gave him a look that said, “Excuse me? Why are your shoes still on your feet?” Andrew, being a person of few words, got the message and began the process of untying. We both turned as Seth called out “ Hey guys! Check this out!” He stood looking triumphant on the other side of the bank, pointing at something tied to a branch that grew out over the creek. Seth moved in closer and upon further investigation discovered a wire cable hanging from the tree limb. It was complete with a canvas loop and a sturdy knot securing it to its perch.  The one problem was that the depth of the water below it was too deep for us to go out and grab hold of it, so the search commenced for a grappler. I scrambled over some stones and plodded over some large  roots, Andrew close at my heels. I spied a thick stick sitting among some foliage not too far ahead.  Excited I pounced down on it and waved it above my head shouting back “I found a perfect grabber!”  As I turned to look at them they just stared at me with a mixture of bemusement and horror.

“Ayla” Andrew said, “ you’re standing in Poison Ivy”. I looked down at the wreath of leaves of three surrounding my naked feet and gave a smile.

“ You guys…” I paused for effect “I’m not allergic to poison Ivy”[] .  They did a double take and then gave a sigh of relief. I just laughed. We ventured back to our origin and carefully reached out over the pool and guided the rope towards us. It took us two tries, but our patience prevailed and with triumph we let Seth have the first go (him [he] being its discoverer and the classic guinea pig). He gripped the handle tightly and pushed himself off the bank. He swung out over the calm water and silently returned back.

“That was awesome!” he pronounced and he passed the rope to Andrew. Andrew though pulled farther back from the rim of the creek and up and up on to a root. Seth and I watched with excitement as Andrew took the dive. He hollered and kicked his legs as he careened though the air, his adrenaline rushing. He came to a stop and simply said “wow!”.

Andrew handed me the rope and I paused for a moment. I looked around me and saw what I was looking for: a huge boulder protruding from the side of the bank. I tuned and looked at the two boys.

“Oh no, you don’t.” Said Andrew. I shifted to Seth.

“Do it!” He said, the devil in his eye.  I gave final impish smirk and climbed the boulder using the cracks and crannies as my ladder. Feeling the butterflies in my stomach, I observed the decision I had made. The distance below pulled at me as I peered over the edge. I gulped.

“Well, get on with it!” Seth goaded. I stood teetering on the edge for a moment, then I launched myself from the [pedestal?] pedicel [a pedicel is a tiny stalk-like structure of a plant. Perhaps this would work if you are being a metaphorical fairy.], giving a Tarzan-like whoop.   The ground dropped out from under me and the air whooshed passed my face. The momentum did not stop as it turned me from leaping girl into human pendulum; it became clear that I would require brakes. [excellent!]

I dropped my feet and plunged them into the creek water below me creating a water wall that trailed behind my feet as I careened toward the bank. Andrew and Seth shielded themselves as the mini tidal wave hit shore. Drenched, they reached out and grabbed my feet giving an ending to my sky diving experience. We all just stood frozen for a second, me dangling from the rope, my right foot in Seth’s hand, my left in Andrew’s, and we all exchanged boggle eyed glances. We then resumed our favorite pastime of laughing.

We sat on the bench and pulled our shoes back on to our feet. The water dripped from our sopped clothing and our hair was pushed permanently back in wind tunnel position. The sock felt restrictive and the weight of shoe[,] irksome as we mounted the bikes again. The three of us gave the water hole one last look before we started peddling. We rode in silence for a brief moment the n Andrew said “ Man, we would have made Tom Sawyer proud!” [(And your parents would cringe)

Very nicely written Ayla!! Excellent use of descriptive language, parallel constructs and sophisticated expression. Would you be willing to read this to the class? Very nice work indeed. ]

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Swine Flu: bacon has its revenge


Very nicely written. The level of this paper compares well with most professional journalism. Excellent work!]

Swine Flu: bacon has its revenge

Last month two strange flu cases were picked up in San Diego County, California.  After some study of the virus, it was recognized as being similar to the swine flu common in pigs.  The Mexican government took notice of this, since some residents of Mexico City had been reporting what they believed to be “late-season flu.”  The Mexican cases were confirmed by the CDC [expand first use of an acronym] and the World Health Organization [WHO] to be a new strain of H1N1.  The Mexican government distributed face masks to help prevent its spread; though whether or not they have helped has been a subject of dispute.  The media quickly picked up on this “swine flu” and began to spread the word on it.  But is it as big a deal as they say? [Nice introductory paragraph with a clever hook at the end.]

Many countries have closed their doors to the pork trade to try [in an effort] to prevent the spread of the flu.  One thing that makes the swine flu so different is the age of those who develop [contract the disease].  Most swine flu cases in the United States have occurred in people younger than 20 years old. The median age of those diagnosed with it is 17.  With the common flu, normally only the elderly will die, but the swine flu has killed several people of younger generations.

Since the outbreak of the flu, the pork industry has taken a substantial hit.  C. Larry Pope, the chief executive of Smithfield Foods, says “Swine flu is a misnomer; they need to be concerned about influenza, but not eating pork.”  Egypt slaughtered thousands of pigs in an effort to suppress the epidemic, but medical authorities have said that people cannot contract the swine flu from eating properly cooked pork.  Some think Egypt used this as an excuse to target its Christian minority.  (Its Muslim majority does not eat pork.)  In an attempt to eradicate this idea, many are suggesting it be called by its scientific name, H1N1.  Pork sales are seeing a steep decline around the country, so let’s hope the government does not feel obligated to pass a pork bailout bill.[;-)]

Surprisingly, many genetic components of this current flu can be traced not to Mexico, but to a swine flu virus that first emerged in North Carolina a decade ago.  An article in The Huffington Post explains: “The 1998 outbreak, though confined to pigs, spread with ferocious virulence. Soon after the North Carolina sows got sick, outbreaks were reported in Texas, Minnesota, and Iowa herds. Within months, pigs were getting sick nationwide. More than 4,300 samples were taken from swine in 23 states, and on average, 20.5% of them had the new triple-assortment virus. In Illinois and Iowa, 100% of the animals were infected, while Kansas and Oklahoma each reported rates of 90%.”

[With a long quote like this one, it would be best to italicize and to indent the whole block.]Scientists of the time warned that if not addressed, the problem could eventually develop into something greater.  Believe it or not, the current swine flu has been attributed not only to the pig flu, but also the bird flu we were so concerned with a few years ago, as well as the common flu, which helped make it possible for this influenza strain to jump to humans.

Experts disagree upon exactly how dangerous the flu is, or how far and wide this pandemic will reach.  It’s important to understand that a pandemic does not necessarily equal an apocalypse. A pandemic occurs when a new flu virus emerges and starts spreading easily from person to person, and then from country to country.  The swine flu also lacks certain mutations prevalent in the dangerous influenza viruses of the past, such as the catastrophic flu of 1918.  Still, one may want to be careful; even if it’s being blown out of proportion, that doesn’t mean it can’t become dangerous very quickly.  All it needs is a few mutations in its genetic structure, and it can become just as deadly as some make it out to already be[why is this awkward?]. Some authorities think the strain in Mexico City was just that, and that most of what is spreading elsewhere is a less formidable variety [or “strain”].  Many think it would have spread more rapidly had it been as dangerous as first expected.  Only a confirmed 26 have died of the flu out of the nearly 1000 cases reported (though the real number may be larger.)  On average, 36,000 people die from seasonal flu every year.

Influenza rarely survives through the summer because of the increased radiation from the sun, so we should be hopeful, whether or not the flu is as serious a problem as some purport it to be.  Still, we should take steps to prevent it; and the best advice I can give you is to wash your hands and cook your bacon. [Nice ending. Good arc and premise. ]

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