James Lick 2013 Winners

THANK YOU to all the students from James Lick Middle School who entered the Friends of Noe Valley WORD WEEK writing contest. And CONGRATULATIONS to the selected prize winners!

Come celebrate with us and hear these student authors read their stories and accept their prizes on Sunday, March 17th from 3-5pm at the Noe Valley Library.

How to Build a Poem
Sebastiaan Leddy

Secrete the energy from a super nova.
Enrage the magic fairy.
Burst clouds while you hop from planet to planet.
Eat the food that the Greek gods make.
Sling the trident of Poseidon into the stars.
Touch the most center of our galaxy.
Engrave the meaning of life on the shell of a purple turtle.
Aim for the center of a black hole.
Ask the wisdom of a wiseman in the forest of horrors.
Name the billions of water droplets in the sky.

Parker Greenwald

Cold, hard, fast. Those thoughts were the only ones running through my mind as we sprinted down the dark hallway. Behind us, we could hear the heavy footsteps of overweight policemen echoing through the building. Little did they know, the slight jangling of their keys right below their fat stomachs gave us enough notice on which direction they were coming.
“Do you think we’ll get caught?”, whispered Nick.
“No, and even if they did we could still call mom”.
We both laughed because we knew she would be furious to find out we… Well, here’s the thing… Mom died a month ago, and left nothing for Nick and I. You would think someone might be worried about us after our mother died from a crack overdose, but I guess not. Nick is more sensitive about mom’s death than me. But I don’t understand, I mean, she was rarely home anyways. I’m pretty sure she was a prostitute, but you could never tell.
The jangles and heavy footsteps got closer.
“We should make a run for it”, Nick breathed quietly
We both moved swiftly and quietly from corner to corner. We ran out of the abandoned building, jogging every block until we got to Times Square.
“Finally”, I said ,”their fat asses will never catch up to us now”.
I backed up feeling free, planning to sit on the curb. But instead of pole I slammed into a sweaty, squishy object.
“Tyler…”, Nick said worriedly.
“Run!”, I yelled, but it was too late, we were surrounded. There must have been 10 policemen standing around us.
“You’re busted kids”, said the fat one.
I looked at his name tag and laughed, “Haha, look Mr… Leslie HA! Isn’t that a girls name!?”.
Nick looked at me with a scowl on his face. A big man with a black beard came and grabbed Nick and the fat man cuffed my hands. The rest of them piled up into their squad cars which were covered in snow and piss.
“And that’s how I got here”, I said, after just giving a brief explanation about how my life, and being homeless sucked. I was sitting in a cold metal chair, surrounded by dingy grey walls and a mirror. I felt like I was about the get the death sentence or something. The door opened again, but instead of the sexy blue eyed babe who had interrogated me before, it was a big man, wearing a suit and tie, he looked like a jerk.
“Hi”, I whispered.
The guy looked at me and my nasty clothes with a bit of suspicion and satisfaction, and with that, he pulled up a chair.

Hannah Herschend 

A low mist hung over the family estate, located in Skanderborg, Denmark. It blanketed the vast plantation like a thick down comforter carelessly thrown over a bed. Nineteen-year-old Hugo, my great-grandfather, gazed out of his window, absorbing the beautiful sunrise. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon, changing the mist to a soft gold. Long, fingerlike clouds were tinted with a soft pink as if they had skimmed over a bucket of fluorescent paint. The sun bleached walls of his bedroom absorbed the golden light, whispering their goodbyes in faint, yet oddly angelic voices. The air was cold, and each breath seemed to freeze before him. Finally he turned from the window, and started towards the stairwell, the old oak floorboards creaking— begging him to stay. Hugo wanted to stay in the beautiful old house, but he had to move out. It did not belong to him anymore as it had been left to his older brother. As he ran his free hand down the time-worn railing, he started smiling despite himself. He was going to live in America. Suddenly he was not cold anymore, he was filled with excitement. He hurried down the rest of the stairs, his bags in his hands, and opened the front door.

The cold December air hit him like a force field, draining out any drowsiness still left in him in a split-second. The cab was outside on the dirt road, waiting. Hugo hurried up, and in a cheery voice said “Godmorgen” Good morning. The cab driver nodded and replied “Odder togstation?” Odder train station? Hugo nodded and climbed into the cab. The driver flicked the reins, and the cab jerked into motion. When it emerged from the shadows of the trees, everything seemed to come to life. The morning light made the pair of dun horses appear to be made of pure gold.

The Odder train station was a large grey building covered almost entirely in snow and crystal-like icicles. There was a lot going on—the sharp click of wooden shoes on pavement, the everlasting murmur of voices, and once and awhile the heavy groans and creaks of the huge steam engine on another important round. There was a lot to see, too. Everyone was dressed warmly in many different coats, almost all of a uniform grey. Once and awhile a scarf or a bright hat peeked out from the crowd, like splashes of bright paint on a pencil sketch. As Hugo waited in line for his ticket, he tried to talk to a few people, but they ignored him. Finally, he got to the front of the line, and bought his ticket. “En billet til skibsværftet behage” One ticket to the shipyard, please. Then Hugo proceeded to the crowd of people waiting for the train. It was still cold, but his heavy wool coat kept him very warm. He was still smiling, and for some reason was not at all homesick. His train soon pulled into the station, and everyone scrambled to get aboard.

Hugo found a window seat, but was more interested in talking to the person next to him. They chatted for a long while, about many different things. Presently they became awkwardly silent, for all the interesting subjects had been discussed in great detail. There simply was nothing left to say.

Hugo considered practicing his English, but he knew that would make him appear to be a little crazy. He did not want to look like a person so bored he would make conversation with himself. . . in another language. Then it hit him—the whole reality of leaving Denmark. He had grown up here, living 19 years in the flat island that was so familiar to him. He would never in his life see this place again. He was leaving his home forever. The sun was still low on the horizon, but the clouds were not tinted with pink anymore. The flat endless sea of green stretched out before him, and the train’s rhythmic motion soon put Hugo to sleep.

The dock was cold, and everything coated with a thin layer of ice, like an unofficial ice skating rink. The last boat had just left, and there was only a small huddle of people left behind. His excitement had rekindled and had shot up as quickly as a fire drenched in gasoline. There was definitely no fire outside of his thick coat though—the air was bitter cold. Hugo approached the group, standing a few feet away, trying to fit in. Would they notice if he joined them? He didn’t risk it and kept his position ten or so feet away, drawing his coat closer around him. He looked out at the misty ocean, straining his eyes, trying to spot a light, or the metallic sheen of the boat. After a little while, he saw his boat, a huge monster of a boat, slowly advancing into the icy shipyard. As it approached, he could make out the huge golden letters on the side, but only for an instant.

The gangway was narrow and slippery, and the stainless steel railing seemed colder than the icy snow at his feet. He held onto it though, because it was the only way to keep from falling. Besides, everybody else in front of him and behind him was holding onto the railing.

Once he got onto the boat, he took his leather suitcase and made his way through the sea of people to his room. His room was small—the size of a closet—but cozy. He would have to live in it for many weeks, and he did not want to start his voyage to the Americas with bad feelings about his room. With that decided, he lay down in his bed and fell fast asleep, despite his rising excitement.

The huge boat docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia a few weeks later. It was a sunny, yet cool afternoon. Hugo already had his bags packed, naturally he did not want to waste any time packing that could be spent exploring the city of Halifax.  He had been right to pack his bags beforehand; the city was huge and would need a lot of exploring. It looked like a beehive to him—everybody buzzing around and walking with determination to someplace urgent, as it seemed. Hugo had never witnessed such a thing. It was huge, vast, and busy. What impressed him most was the amount of people—all different colors of clothing like a picture a small child would draw if he could get ahold of a pack of colorful crayons. It added a majestic touch…almost another dimension to the big grey background of buildings and sidewalks. Halifax was the exact opposite of his home in Skanderborg, it was like a stronghold of grey stone as oppose to the rolling green sea of hills of the estate.

He soon got over his amazement and booked a seven day stay in a cheap hotel. He went out for dinner at a bar, though they were nothing like the bars in Skanderborg. It had good food, and he was very grateful and fortunate to meet a few new friends. He had practiced his English with them, and was very glad that they didn’t mention his accent. His English did need work . . . it tasted bland, as it was supposed to, though it was lightly peppered with his Danish accent. Hugo, though, did not want the language spiced with his accent, and he carefully and slowly began to sweeten it.  Then he began whittling away at each word he spoke until they were smooth, sanding them over with time and experience. He was left with bland words, like everyone else’s, just because he wanted to fit in a little better.

As Hugo went on to explore the city a little more, he decided he loved bars. Every night he tried to go to one. There were a lot of people at every one he visited, many people to talk to, and many hours of valuable English practice. The night before the departure, Hugo unknowingly made a very important decision. He decided to go to a bar. . .again. This time, though, was different. He stayed up until nearly two in the morning, carelessly having the time of his life.

The next morning Hugo woke up early…but not early enough. Sun streamed through his window, bathing his room in a golden haze, reminding him to wake up. But the sun too, had been late in it’s warning. He had woken up a half hour late, and had missed his boat.

There was nothing he could to, except decide he did not like bars so much anymore. He grabbed his coat and hat and left the hotel, and started down to the shipyard. On other circumstances, he would have considered it a beautiful morning. The sun was causing the snow to sparkle and dance around before his eyes. The sky was a most beautiful shade of blue, gently cradling a few puffy wisps of cloud.

At the boathouse, Hugo’s spirits lifted several hundred feet when the man told him that the missed boat’s sister ship, the S.S. Carmania was leaving for New York in three days. In an almost American accent, he purchased a ticket. “One ticket for the boat please.” He had practiced the phrase many times, and was delighted when the man did not question his ethnicity. The man then handed him his ticket (or rather parcel of papers) and Hugo gratefully took them in exchange for some money. The day was suddenly a lot brighter, warmer, and merrier.

Three days later, Hugo left his hotel room, glancing around to make sure that he had not left anything behind. Then, with his leather suitcase in hand, he walked down the dimly lit, carpeted hallway. The walk to the shipyard was short, and he made the most of it, enjoying his last day in Halifax. As he walked, the sun was beginning to rise over the distant mountains; her red, pink, gold, and yellow dress swirling around her as she made her magnificent entry. He was headed to a new life in America.


A few weeks later, Hugo was sitting in a restaurant in New York City reading the newspaper. When he turned the page, the heading he saw froze every cell in his body, chilling him to the bone. “Nova Scotian ship headed to New York sinks without a trace.” He could not help feeling relieved though. His forgetfulness in Nova Scotia had saved his life from a watery ending.

Breathing Ashes
Antonio Berrios 

Imagine that you have been given a KAR98, which is a bolt action rifle with a wooden stock (it is a very powerful weapon but it has a slow fire rate), a swastika stitched into your uniform, and a helmet that reeks of iron. You are only fourteen years old, not even able to get your driving permit, yet you have the right to kill people. This the story of my great grand uncle Anton Adler (whose last name means Eagle) who served under the axis in World War II (Yes, he was in the Hitler youth, but by force. He never asked for any of it). Germany was at the brink of losing the war so they were all sent to Berlin to protect the Riechstag. That is where Anton was being sent too. He took a quick glimpse of his mother sobbing against the window, not knowing that he wasn’t going to see her again for a long time. Everyone had silent faces like panthers stalking the night. Anton read his little book that he held with pride — it had a little red cover with a broken spine, and on the back he had handwritten a quotation, “When the rich rage war it’s the poor who die”. He had also written Psalm 144, a popular war Psalm.

Finally the time had come and he was in Berlin, which was already in ruins by the third shock, red army. He and his squad raced out of the military truck and ran into a nearby shop. It was littered with sharp edgy glass that reflected the horror back into that filthy world called home. They checked the building carefully — every room, every step, and every inch. The sergeant yelled “Sniper!” and they all hit the floor under a wooden cabinet that had fallen. They watched as one soldier had fallen gracefully backwards. It all happened in slow motion and later Anton swore that he saw the German’s head transform into a jigsaw puzzle and scatter as the red-wine stain sprayed them and the dark fleshy color tainted the shards of broken glass on the floor. Anton saw his first casualty. Now it was time for his first kill. He grabbed his rifle, held it steady while looking through the iron sight and yelled, “Bastard!” as he pulled the trigger and the bullet swirled into the Russian’s neck. The sergeant said, “Nice shot kid,” and they checked the streets and went to the building across the shop to confirm the kill. The Russian was still choking because one piece of the bullet was stuck in his Adam’s apple. Then, one of the Germans tortured him by blowing off his fingers one-by-one with his Walther pistol. Anton was vomiting and couldn’t believe how much blood there was in a person. When they were about to shoot the Russian’s ring finger off, they receieved a radio call for support at a nearby subway station.

It was a scene of carnage for Anton to see childhood friends die next to him. He weeped as he killed Russian soldiers. He suddenly felt strange because Assef, his brother who was in this same squad, was missing. He wondered where he was. He couldn’t leave to find his brother. If he did, he’d probably get shot. The Germans were holding the Russians back, but his sergeant and the radio man were already dead.

After the bloodbath was over, they heard a radio call from the radio speaker still strapped onto the late radio man. “All surviving soldiers regroup to the north side of Berlin to defend one last stand for Germany. It has been a great honor to fight with you brave combatants, and to serve with you.” Anton left the subway with only two other young soldiers that had survived the subway fight. They were searching for ammunition, and they could see grey up ahead and a light in the distance. It was ashes falling like snowflakes gently on their face because the building had collapsed. Suddenly, Anton remembered that his brother was still missing, so he cried out, “Assef, where are you?”

As they came closer, Anton and the remaining soldiers in his squad could see civilians piled up on each other like sandbags. Then they saw an outline of about fifteen armed men ahead, and they yelled at the shadows in German. The shadows responded back…in Russian. Anton did what anyone would do if faced with imminent death. He slid the gun towards them and surrendered.

Then he saw light being thrown at him followed by a loud bang. He felt something go in and out of his body. They dragged him to where the bodies were — they weren’t civilians, they were soldiers, and among the dead was Assef. But wait — as he was being dragged, Anton noticed Assef had blinked while lying in the pile. Now Anton was on his knees only 10 feet away, dying from his wounds. The gaping hole allowed Assef to see straight through his chest, and he heard his brother’s final words as Anton chuckled Psalm 144 one last time. “Praise be the Lord, my rock who trains my fingers for batt…”

Assef didn’t even flinch as he watched a Russian soldier shoot Anton on the shoulder and saw the blood spraying onto the Russian’s boots. The angry soldier spit on Anton’s dead body as he grabbed his sub-machine gun and held Anton’s other shoulder with one hand and let bullets fire into his chest and puncture his heart, causing blood to explode onto every inch of the Russian’s own body. The Russian paused for a moment, slung Anton down and then bashed his head into the ground. Assef yelled, “He’s already dead. Let him rest!” Another Russian pulled Assef out of the pile and stuck a pistol into his mouth. The radio went off and Assef was nervous because he couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then the Russians started chanting, and the one soldier removed his pistol and began shooting in the air along with “Mr. Overkill” and they were all yelling excitedly “URAAA”. Assef ran towards dead Anton and wept as he held his older brother, not even recognizable, just looking like ground beef. Assef was sent to a Soviet prison for eight days until all of Germany surrendered.

Assef was only 13, my age.

Read the 2012 winning stories!

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