Part Two by Hadas Marcus

Image result for empty book

“Oh. Oh, well then.”
            Jane did not yet know the old man’s name, and in fact she would never learn his name. When he had first appeared to her those many seconds ago, her hyperactive mind had instantly begun to refer to him as ‘Robert’. In the precisely two minutes of silence that followed, Jane and Robert seemed to be thinking the exact same thing. Their sight flitted on every person in the room, realizing that hundreds of stories existed in this small space, and that there was not one which Jane was qualified to write. The woman in the corner had two symmetrical scars on the back of her neck. The man sitting along the counter was lost deep in thought, his pock-marked cheeks shuddering silently. The barista steaming milk whistled a tune that nobody else recognized. In the room was a killer, a parent, a saint, a bastard, a druggie, a thief, a lover, and an insurance salesman. Jane slowly understood the gravity of her situation. She felt her fingers fall flat away from her keyboard.
            “What makes you different?” Robert pressed. “You have a past as well.”
            “Yes,” Jane began deliberately, “but that’s not my story. It can’t be.” As she waited for that statement to land, she wondered just how much this stranger understood. How wrong it would be for her to write somebody else’s story. She wondered if he could see behind her eyelashes the childhood she never used, everything that had ever been stolen from her, every time she had ever tried and failed to hate or to love. She was willing to believe he saw it all. How writing that down would put an ending to her story. She was not yet a character fit for a page. By the way his yellow fingernails had begun tapping on the cover of his paperback, Robert seemed to understand.
            “W-what’s your story?” Jane proffered.
            “That’s not your business to write,” Robert responded, gently, sorrowfully. Jane nodded. They sat another half-second until the younger noticed her unwitting companion’s latte cup was empty. He noticed as well. Slowly, thoughtfully, for what seemed longer than their entire minute but meaningful interaction, he began to get ready to depart. He shifted in his chair, and pulled out a long, narrow piece of paper to tuck between the pages of his novel. Suspense, then movement, suspense, then movement, this was Robert’s pattern, as if he thought through every action, but never more than one step ahead. Suddenly there was a burst of movement – he placed his book on Jane’s table.
Text Box: GREYHOUND LINES, INC FROM: BUFFALO NY      DEPART: Wed19Feb02  TO:      DENVER CO      ONEWAY/ADULT              “I sincerely believe this will help you.” Before Jane could look from his face to this unexpected gift, the door to the coffee shop had rung open and shut. The man was gone. Jane ran her hands over a hundred thin pages before reaching the bookmark. As the crinkled spine of the book fell open, the words of the slip became clear. It read:
            As she slowly understood, a smile came across Jane’s face, faded, and returned. One way or another, she would have her story.
            It was three in the morning and the wind was rushing through narrow alleyways, tearing leaves from their rest and creating a soundtrack for sleeping people’s dreams. Somewhere in a small suburb of Buffalo, the twin bed of a studio apartment was empty. The sheets were left bundled, the only disorder within the four white walls. Dishes were stacked in cabinets, windows were locked, and the closet was full save for a grey sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. The apartment offered an eerie feeling similar to a museum after hours. It would remain this way for another two weeks, when the landlord entered in an attempt to find an evasive tenant.
            Jane stood outside a slatestone building. The ragged cotton of her similarly-colored sweatshirt was all weighing her down to the earth. Beneath her feet, the sidewalk splintered backwards and upwards like jagged teeth. They did not smile. Neither did Jane – rather, an energy seemed to emanate from her pores. Her breath bounced. As her ticket to a future drove up, she could hear the blood pulsing through her heart and to her brain. She stepped daintily onto the open step, and handed the driver her ticket. A feeling of discovery and adventure finally hit her, the same way a glass of cold water punches an empty stomach. Jane took her seat among a dozen other people, each of whom was making a personal journey, presumably. As she sat down, she felt a presence over her assigned seat, like the first time the tooth fairy left her a dollar coin, and she’d known that some being had been standing over her, their hand under her sleeping head, the night before. She had quickly spent the gold on a bag of sour candy, which she did not finish. These were the childhood memories, the specific senses, the elaborate metaphors, that seemed to roll away as the landscape passed quietly by. She clutched an old man’s book tightly to her chest, but did not read it.
            At 7:14 am, Wednesday, February 19, a Greyhound bus experienced a fault in its brake lines. Deep in the heart of Pennsylvania, the driver lost control. Sparks flew up as metal skidded along the highway bridge. Three passing cars called 911. Ambulances arrived on the scene three minutes later. Two passengers and the driver perished. Others were in a range of critical and non-critical conditions.
            Jane died in pursuit of a story that would never be. Years gathering details, inconsequential. A mind full of ideas, vanished. Her name and face appeared in news stories, and it was not next to any active verbs. In a way, she will always be on her way to Denver. The only story she had become a part of was an anecdote deep in the mind of one of the accident analysts – a young EMT, who will always remember the bloodied girl clutching a yellow paperback book of entirely blank pages.
            I have tried to create a story for this young woman, this Jane Doe. On a Greyhound full of survivors and identifiable bodies, she was alone, dark red flowing from her forehead almost tranquilly, staining an empty, untitled novel. Without a pulse, her body was ignored for hours in favor of bracing and transporting potential survivors. Finally, a final ambulance came. We drove her to the mortuary with no sirens on. Her body remained there for weeks. No parents ever came and saw their child’s body. No friends filed a missing persons’ report that matched her description. Our station got one tip, after weeks of news broadcasting a digital recreation of her face. Fifty-year-old William Robertson. He came to us, claiming to recognize our mystery crash victim. He said he’d met her, just the day before, in downtown Buffalo. He did not pass our psychological capability exam, and was quickly disregarded.                     

            She haunts me. The idea of a person with a body but no story. No ties. I know nothing of her life and it would not be fair to push my own experiences and realities upon her. I’m so sorry. I have imagined so vividly, so deeply, that you longed to have your story recognized, and I could not craft one for you. Perhaps the two days we can piece together from public surveillance, and pure imagination, will suffice. I’m sorry, Jane.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Chagrin Falls Writing Center Field Trip

Monday…I could’ve slept in, I could’ve but….I came in at 9:00 to go on field trip. Our awesome bus driver making us feel welcome and driving us around downtown Chagrin Falls. We got there at around 10:00 because that’s when we were told to get there, and whaddya know…no kids and we’re told they didn’t get there for another 30 minutes. This gave us time to explore their space; we realized that our room is a little more welcoming. Even though they might have a larger area to work the walls were a barren tan color and there were 3 couch-like chairs, 2 large, circular tables, and a couple rectangular tables put together. Where in the world do they conference? I mean, seriously I feel like I would get claustrophobic sitting right next to someone conferencing with me.
Then the interns came in and they presented their OWL (Online Writing Lab) program to us, which is something we have been thinking about since the beginning of the year. But when we heard what their numbers were in terms of OWL t submissions vs. walk in conferences we were a little taken aback. They said in the 2015-2016 school year they had 1,100+ OWL submissions and way under 1,000 face-to-face conferences. This was concerning to us because in our model, in terms of peer tutoring, helps create a greater sense of community in the school and build personal relationships with peers. Then we got to present (to a new group of 6 students).
These 6 students were a little on the fence of what we were showing. But they helped us in the fact that they told us how they train the incoming new interns. We mentioned how Shaker is so economically and racially diverse and they gave us looks like I have never seen before. We ran out of time in our presentation so it was a little rushed but all in all our presentation went well.
So, we then got back on the bus to have a nice lunch together as “family.” We planned on going to Yours Truly and get a 15% (thanks for working there Hadas), but when we got in at 12:30, they told us it would be a 45minute wait and we had to be back on the bus by 1:40. So there went that plan. Next door was a little take-out diner that was very reasonably priced and we all ate outside at a table, together. We then went over to Jenni’s to get ice cream and head down to the Falls viewing area. I have learned that Jenni’s ice cream is overpriced and isn’t as much of a big deal as everyone makes it out to be.

The falls were beautiful and had shades of both blue and green. We took a picture and everyone thinks they look horrible in the picture but I used it for the blog because I like the falls in the background. Anyways, the field trip was a success and we learned a lot about what we can work on for next year and what they have that doesn’t model our structure. It was a learning experience

Visit Biltmore! by Kathleen White

Nestled among the Blue Ridge mountains lies a gem, or rather a castle. As the largest private residence in the United States, Biltmore Estate spans over ten miles and is home to 250 rooms. Constructed from 1889-1895 for George Vanderbilt, the house and grounds look like pure fairy tale fiction. Although used as a private home, it was opened to the public in 1930 with the hope of increasing tourism amidst the Great Depression. Since then Biltmore has been a treasured destination, made even more magical by its different exhibits. Currently the exhibit Designed for Drama lives within the home. Costumes from award winning movies and mini series ranging from Pride and Prejudice to Sherlock Holmes create charming tableaus in the various rooms. Each period piece fits with the decor of the estate, but the connection is more than just aesthetic. All of the movies are based on the books that George Vanderbilt read. In addition to enjoying the exhibit, guests at Biltmore are encouraged to traipse from room to room listening to an audio tour. The audio tour not only details the history of the estate, but also doles out tidbits like the secret hallway that connects to the library that allowed guests to grab a book and sneak back to their rooms without being seen. From there I would recommend grabbing a refreshing ice cream cone in the courtyard before moving to walk on the grounds and enjoy the serenity of the gardens. One could spend an entire day in Biltmore and it still wouldn’t be enough time to fully explore and enjoy the estate. The sheer beauty of Biltmore is too elusive for words, so do yourself a favor and plan your trip now!

Stop Asking Where I’m Going to College by Anabel McGuan

We have 5 days left of high school. Of course, now, more than ever, college is on everyone’s mind. Most people have made their decisions, while a few are still wrapping up loose ends. Regardless of how it manifests, college is guaranteed to be a hot topic of conversation.

My least favorite form of college small talk comes in the endless barrage of questions — Where are you going to college? What’s your major? Have you found a roommate?

Is that really all there is to me, or any senior, for that matter? Have we really been reduced to our plans for next year? What difference in your life does it make, knowing what and where I’ll be studying?

What about the uncomfortable position these questions force those who will not be attending college into?

“Where are you going to college? . . . Oh . . . You’re not? Seriously? What will you do?!”

Is it really anyone else’s business but your own, and maybe your family’s? If you’re truly that desperate to know where your peers, or your children’s friends, or your students, will be going next year — and they haven’t willingly offered the information to you, unprovoked — it may be time to evaluate some aspects of your thinking.

Why does it matter to you? What do you gain from knowing? Could this nosiness stem from a place of deep insecurity within you? Is your self-worth built entirely upon the prestige of the college you attended/will attend?

It’s time to butt out of everyone else’s business and ditch the college interrogations. Be present — focus on the now — and enjoy these last 5 days of high school.

How I Got Accepted – By Charlie Espy

My desk is old and worn. Scratches and holes from accidentally writing off of a piece of paper, or poking at it in my boredom cover the top. I got my desk for Christmas when I was seven or eight; I needed more room to do my steadily increasing homework load. The kitchen table just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I came down in the morning and saw an enormous present with my name on it. I’ve only recently thought about how long my parents must have spent assembling it the night before. I am horrible at talking about myself, but when I take a look at my desk, I see a reflection of all of the things that are me.
There are three drawers on the right side of my desk which store all of the nonessential things that I like to keep close by when I work. In my bottom drawer I keep loose-leaf paper, in case I run out, topped with my spare calculator and various extra cords. ‘the model drawer is more eclectic, holding spare headphones, flashlights from my days in Boy Scouts, a small collection of rocks collected on my favorite family vacations. A small back bag that once held the ashes of a beloved family dog sits on top of the rocks, the ashes now residing under the dogwood tree in the back yard. My top drawer is crisply organized; holding spare charging cords, flash drives, and pencils.
I arranged the top of my desk to maximize its surface area, and therefore my efficiency while I work. My primary headphones sit coiled in the corner for when I have time to relax and turn on some Beatles, Scottish bagpipes, or anything in-between. In the opposite corner, my Vaseline and hand lotion sit ready for my wintry-dry hands and cracked lips. A 7/16 wrench sits next to the Vaseline, waiting for regatta season when I hastily carry it to and from boats while cracking jokes with my teammates.
Behind my headphones sit all of my favorite pens and pencils in a maze cube that once held $20 as a birthday present from my god parents. A stack of blank flashcards sits waiting with a small mastiff figurine perched on top, surveying my desk.
On the wall next to my desk, a puppy-themed 2016 calendar hangs next to two pictures of my team at the end of last year’s spring season. The bottom picture depicts me and my teammates at a casual get-together at the end of the season as a sending of for our beloved seniors with whom we had been competing all year long. The top picture shows the whole team at the end of the Midwest Scholastic Regatta, standing on the muddy hillside of Dillon Lake, smiling like fools in the chilly wind.
Of all of the things on my desk, two stand out as my favorites. My plastic mastiff exemplifies the type of dog I love: massive, gorgeous, and well-trained. When I volunteer at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter, I immediately gravitate towards the dogs that I would love to adopt. I’ve played with adorable pit bulls, a stately cane corso, silent huskies, and obedient shepherds.
The pictures of the Shaker Heights High School crew remind me of how much I have grown physically and mentally of the past four years. The people depicted in those two pictures are the best friends I have ever had. In the middle of the bottom picture stand my two greatest role models. Xavier Aniton taught me to work harder than I thought possible, pushing myself at practice to be the best I could possibly be. Ian Morrison inspired me to learn every ounce of information I could get my hands on. I think of them as I look at my desk and see my personality reflected back at me. 

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society by Maria White

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society is by far one of my favorite books.  Apart from the lovely name there are several reasons why I am constantly rereading this literary masterpiece.  Written by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, the format of Guernsey makes the pages fly through my hands. Similarly to Dear Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, the story  is told as a series of letters between different characters. Written in such a format makes the book a more personal account and it gives more voice to the characters, especially the main character, Juliet Ashton. The book takes place after World War 2 and it’s about the correspondence between a young author, Juliet Ashton, and the Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. What makes the book so wonderful are the characters. As the main character receives letters about the different members of the book club, we fall in love with the characters as she does. As Juliet reads about the crazy antics and solemn trials of the characters, the characters evolve into lovable human beings to both Juliet and the readers. Dawsey, Sidney, Isola, and Eben are the story. They are the reason that Juliet eventually travels to Guernsey herself, and they are the reason that I keep returning to the book.  Returning to the book feels like returning to old friends.

As the main character Juliet is going on a journey, thanks to the format of the book, we’re going on that journey with her. Guernsey is being turned into a movie and I’m both scared and excited. I’m nervous to see how the great characters are going to be changed. Yet, I’m excited. I’m excited to see my literary friends come to life on the big screen. While I can envision the smiles and laughs of the characters myself, I’m excited to actually see it because it extends the story from the page. It gives more life than just the set number of pages in it. A character in Guernsey says that “If I could have anything I wanted, I would choose story without end, and it seems I have lots of company in that,” and I completely agree.

Regardless, Irregardless Is Not a Word by Anabel McGuan

English is a language of stolen words. Our words stem 29% from Latin, 29% from French, 26% from German, and 6% from Greek (5 Minute English). Our dictionaries are galleries of stolen artifacts, proudly displaying their embezzled treasures’ origins. English is a mutt, a conglomeration of languages pieced together. Since English lacks originality, it’s not strange to stumble upon an abundance of compound words, and most make sense — raspberry, ladybug, turtleneck, sunflower. Some words, however, are seemingly dumped into the blender, tossed around for a minute, and poured back out into a tall glass of nonsense. These nonsensical words clutter and soil the language, and they often make people sound illiterate. One such word has enjoyed a recent popularity surge: irregardless.
Let’s talk about ‘irregardless.’ According to the Oxford English Dictionary, etymologists speculate that it’s a hybrid of two words, irrespective and regardless. Independently, those words have definitions and meanings:
  1. without regard to something else, especially something
    specified; ignoring or discounting     
  1. having or showing no regard; heedless; unmindful
  1. without concern as to advice, warning, hardship, etc.;
  1. regardless of, in spite of; without regard for (
Squished together to form one word, however, they lose all meaning. The suffix -less in regardless means without, and the prefix ir- in irrespective is also negative. Irregardless is “an erroneous word that, etymologically, means the opposite of what it is used to express”
(Online Etymology). Grammar Girl refers to it as “a double-negative word that literally means ‘without without regard.’”
English is not a Choose Your Own Adventure book; you can’t go around whimsically cutting and pasting words. Dictionaries exist for a reason. There are innumerable online resources, not to mention thousands of paper versions, that provide pronunciation, history, and everything in between. If you have even the slightest doubt about a word’s usage or meaning, look it up! With the popularization of smartphones and the Internet, language should be used more correctly due to the simplicity of finding reference material. The Google graph below shows that the opposite holds true, as the usage of ‘irregardless’ has become increasingly popular in the past 20 years, with 2004 as one of the highest peaks –coinciding with the Blackberry Pearl’s release, one of the first internet phones (T-Mobile).

Today’s technological age has made us all lazy. Because looking up words and other information is so easy now, nobody has to stop and think about it. It used to be that if you wanted information on a subject or a word you would trek down to the library, scour the reference section, and — gasp — read a book! Nowadays, everyone constantly carries endless information in their pocket. How ironic that in an age where fact-checking yourself has never been easier, people have never cared less about their correctness. On the contrary, maybe we fear incorrectness to such an extreme that we refuse to check ourselves — what we don’t know can’t hurt us. Regardless of the reason, irregardless is not a word.