Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

It was cool and quiet under the waves.

For a few endless moments, Tally felt only relief to have escaped the searing wind, the thundering machine, the blistering heat of the firestorm. 1 But 2 the weight of the crash bracelets and knapsack pulled her down fast, and panic welled up in her pounding chest.

She thrashed in the water, climbing up toward the flickering lights of the surface. Her wet clothes and gear dragged at her, but 3 just as her lungs were about to burst, she broke the surface into the maelstrom. Tally gulped a few breaths of smoky air, then was slapped in the face by a wave. She coughed and sputtered, struggling to stay afloat.

A shadow passed over her, blacking 4 out the sky. Then her hand struck something—a familiar grippy surface… 5

Her hoverboard had come back to her! Just the way it always did when she spilled. The crash bracelets lifted her up until she could grab onto it, her fingers clinging to its knobbly surface as she gasped for air.

A high-pitched whine came from the nearby shore. Tally blinked away water from her eyes and she saw that the Rusty machine had landed. Figures were jumping from the machine, spraying white foam at the ground as they crashed through the burning flowers and into the river. They were headed for her. 6

She struggled to climb onto the board.

“Wait!” the nearest figure called. 7

Tally rose shakily to her feet, trying to keep steady on the wet surface of the board. Her hard-baked shoes were slippery, and 8 her sodden knapsack seemed to weigh a ton. As 9 she leaned forward, a gloved hand reached up to gab the front of the board. A face came up from the water, wearing some sort of mask. Huge eyes stared up at her.

She stomped at the hand, crunching the fingers. They slipped off, but her weight was thrown too far forward, and the board tipped its nose into the water. 10

Tally tumbled into the river again. 11

Hands grabbed at her, pulling her away from the hoverboard. She was hoisted out of the water and onto a broad shoulder. She caught glimpses of masked faces: huge, inhuman eyes staring at her unblinkingly. 12

Bug eyes. 13

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Harry Gold was right: 14 This is a big story.  It’s the story of the creation—and theft—of the deadliest weapon ever invented.2  The scenes speed around the world, from secret labs to commando raids to street-corner spy meetings.3 But like most big stories, this one starts small.4  Let’s pick up the action sixteen years before FBI agents cornered Harry Gold in Philadelphia.  Let’s start 3,000 miles to the west, in Berkeley, California, on a chilly night in February 1934-

On a hill high above town, a man and woman sat in a parked car.  In the driver’s seat was a very thin young physics professor named Robert Oppenheimer.  Beside him sat his date, a graduate student named Melba Phillips.5   The two looked out at the view of San Francisco Bay.

It was a fine view, but Oppenheimer couldn’t seem to stay focused on the date.  He turned to Phillips and asked, “Are you comfortable?”

She said she was.

“Mind if I get out and walk for a few minutes?”

She didn’t mind.6

Oppenheimer got out and strolled into the darkness.  Phillips wrapped a coat around her legs and waited.  She waited a long time.  At some point, she fell asleep.

She woke up in the middle of the night—the seat beside her was still empty. Worried,7 she stepped onto the road and waved down a passing police car.

“My escort went for a walk hours ago and he hasn’t returned,” she told the cop.

The police searched the park, but found nothing.  They notified headquarters, and a wider search was begun.  An officer drove to Oppenheimer’s apartment to look for useful clues.

He found the professor in bed, sound asleep.

The cop shook Oppenheimer awake and demanded an explanation.  Oppenheimer said he’d gotten out of the car to think about physics.  “I just walked and walked,” he said, “and I was home and I went to bed. I’m so sorry.”8

A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle got hold of the story and wrote an article with the headline: “Forgetful Prof Parks Girl, Takes Self Home.”

No one who knew Robert Oppenheimer was the least bit surprised.9

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Our hallway was empty. 10 I followed it to the spiral staircase and walked down, remembering the times Mother and I had slid down the banister.

We didn’t do it when people were around. “We have to be dignified,” she would whisper then, stepping down the stairs in an especially stately way.And I would follow, mimicking her and fighting my natural clumsiness, pleased to be part of her game. 2

But when we were alone, we preferred to slide and yell all the way down. 3And run back up for another ride, and a third, and a fourth.4

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I pulled our heavy front door open and slipped out into bright sunshine.5

It was a long walk to the old castle, but I wanted to make a wish, and I wanted to make it in the place where it would have the best chance of being granted.6

The castle had been abandoned when King Jerrold was a boy, although it was reopened on special occasions, for private balls, weddings, and the like.  Even so, Bertha said it was haunted, and Nathan said it was infested with mice. 7 Its gardens were overgrown, but Bertha swore the candle trees had power.

I went straight to the candle grove. The candles were small trees that had been pruned and tied to wires to make them grow in the shape of candelabra.

For wishes you need trading material. I closed my eyes and thought.8

“If Mother gets well quick, I’ll be good, not just obedient. I’ll try harder not to be clumsy and I won’t tease Mandy so much.”

I didn’t bargain for Mother’s life, because I didn’t believe she was in danger of dying. 910

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With heavy hearts… by Teri Orr

First, we grieve. 11

Two young boys, friends just 13, died here this week, days apart. They enjoyed their skateboards and dirt bikes and stuff newly teenage boys enjoy. They did not die from a car crash or a fire or a terminal illness. They died from bad judgement. From making a bad decision they thought they could outlive. There is no indication they meant to die from experimenting with a dangerous substance that they did not know was highly lethal.

There will be time enough for the conversations about drugs in our schools/our community/the times we live. Brutal, tough conversations, perhaps finally now, about the number of deaths in the past two years in our town, of young people under the age of 30, that were all opiate related. Deaths whose cause have been whispered about but not discussed. Because make no mistake — 2 these two boys were part of an epidemic here of massive drug abuse in our town among young people.

And there might even be blame to be dealt to who supplied the drugs to those children. We all carry a piece of the burden for not paying closer attention to the neighbor’s kid. Not asking questions when we understood there to be changes in their friends and lifestyle choices. There will be time for all those questions to be asked.

But for now, just for this week, we grieve. With one heart we mourn the dead child that could have been ours, because they all make questionable choices — even bad choices — and by some measure of grace most survive. We open our hearts to those moms and dads who will spend the rest of their lives grieving their sons, their boys who will not grow into men.

We need to stop talking about what makes a community and be a community. Nobody needs another casserole — they need compassion. A handwritten note. A single flower, hand delivered. A full-bodied hug. And what each of the families needs is that you not forget them — three weeks from now, three months, three years — after all the attention and stories have faded from the news cycle. 3

Every day the school is trying to educate students in the basic subjects and in basic living skills to keep them safe. The teachers work impossibly hard — Bob and Julie and Nancy — to provide them with educational tools and basic living tools, even, often, personal hygiene products. The superintendent, Ember, takes her tender heart to work each day and tries to find where fair intersects with fear. And how to help the students and teachers and parents navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. Our police chief, Wade, and fire chief, Paul, and our sheriff, Justin — and their staff — try to holster emotions and wrangle the real bad guys and redirect the real dumb guys. The delicate balance in a resort community is a complicated dance between law and leisure.

Mistakes kill us. And dumb decisions kill us. And ill winds kill us. And fate kills us. And old age. And disease. Adolescence wasn’t meant to kill us. Maim us a little, yes. Toughen us. Define us. Bruise us. Inform us. But never actually kill us. 4

And the platitudes….” You’ll feel better in time.” “God’s will.” “ Better place.” 5 Stop! 6 Just be sad with these families. Cry with each other. Acknowledge this is rare and abnormal and out of the order of the universe. Hold each other. Touch is good. Let your children see you sad. Let them see how it would break you to have them gone. Let them know they can talk to you about the messy stuff. Or they can talk to another adult. There are bunches in town — at school, at various organizations and churches and charities and the neighborhood — who are ready with a hug and a beverage and a conversation. Everything is fixable if you share the problem. It is the bottled up stuff that creates the pressure that seeks release.

We can’t heal if we can’t grieve. Hearts filled with heavy sorrow are painful but not empty. Young boys who lived among us just days ago are forever gone now and we need to grieve them — and grieve with — each other.

The boys were friends. Grant and Ryan. They belonged to us here in Park City. They grew up here. Played on our streets, rode bikes on the jumps, skateboarded uptown. They were floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts that last week looked like all the other floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts.

And now they are dead. 7

To everything there is a season, the Bible tells us. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn …” This week we should allow sadness to cloud our conversations. We should acknowledge there are apparent mysteries that cannot be understood by a forensics report. Layers of mystery and decisions and judgements and perhaps eventually somewhere, grace. The grace that will lead us home. Together. Not yet, not today, but somewhere down a mountain road….some Sunday in our Park… 8

 

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“Disarray (collection of drabbles) – Al: The One with the Crooked Jaw” By: 7Storm and Split Evan

The wind blew gently through the sparse trees, rustling the dry air and dusty landscape. 9

It carried stale scents of the watering hole, a desolate desert oasis, 2 with only a few skinny dry trees. The earth here was rock and arid.

Al opened one eye, glancing around the dusty land below, the empty watering hole. 3 He grumbled, raising his head to sniff. 4

He was a loner. Abandoned, 5 he would never reach adult size, but for now he was surviving well, however empty his stomach was, and with every day the ache in his shrunken belly hurt less.

The male stood letting out a gurgling grumble, stretching his legs, The watering hole was a lonely empty place, but he had gotten used to that feeling by now. 6

He lifted his beautifully teardrop-marked face to gaze around the land. His land. 7 His single shade tree up on the hill, the one under which he had spent his first night on his own when he was just a few weeks old. The day that changed – or more so ruined – his entire life. 8 A chill ran down his spine and his skin shivered, Al shook his head and rearranged his jaw. Horribly deformed, it had set him apart. The jaw was the one reminder he had, a promise for vengeance in the Tail-whip creature that had torn his life apart. 9 He ran a tongue across the scar tissue and malformed bones, narrowing his small eyes. But for now, vengeance could wait.

He trotted back along the lonely hot shore under the blistering sun, plopping down under the sheltering shade of his precious tree with a grunt, the coolness instantly making him close his eyes. His hungry gut quieted, and his mind slipped into the cool dark sea of dreams, away from the blistering lonely watering hole.

——–

He was a young hatchling again. 10 But not a comfortable child-hood memory of playing or snuggling with his fellow siblings like it should have been. 11 No, Al’s opportunity to that had been ripped away. Instead he lay there on the hard hot earth, pain making his vision blinding white. And the stench of fresh iron-smelling blood filled his nose, mouth, and pooled around his head in a dizzying amount. 12 Searing pain left his pupils just constricted dots. But soon his vision began to clear, the white light of pain faded only slightly. And who should be standing there but the towering shadow of his mother! His eyes brightened and for a second he forgot his pain, and cried out for her. The large female Allosaur looked down at her offspring, at how crooked and loose his bottom jaw, almost severed, hung. 13 She stood still, staring at what had become of her hatchling, the bloodied half dead mess he was. Her small eyes met his wide agony-filled ones that stared at her in anticipation of the comfort of her presence.

She turned away.

And left. 14

Maternal instinct only goes so far. 15

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