Short Story Contest Winners
The results are in for The Hill's very first short story contest.
“Unexpected Encounters,” by Libby Wallace Gorman ’04 of Durham, N.C., placed first. A French major with a minor in elementary education, Gorman earned a master’s in library science at UNC Chapel Hill. She dabbles in fiction writing while raising her three young children with husband Mark ’04.
“The pacing of the story is incredibly well done, which is a difficult task to pull off, especially given the short word limit, and I really appreciated the friendship that develops so organically between Anna and Emily,” says author Lisa Graff, who served on a panel of judges from McDaniel’s graduate certificate programs in Romance Writing and Writing for Children and Young Adults. One suggestion: “I’d love to see a little more tension with the procuring of the mascot costume — a bit more of a hurdle for the girls to overcome before they reach their end goal.”
“Leopold’s Big Day,” by Mariann Draskovics ’01, placed second. “The Sun, The Moon & The Sidearm Shot,” by Bob Borden ’60, placed third.
By Libby Wallace Gorman ’04
“Maybe we’ll see the Green Terror, right?”
Anna rolled her eyes. This was at least the twelfth time in the last ten minutes that her brother had asked some version of that question. She didn’t mind Ben’s obsession with mascots—as her mother frequently reminded her, she had memorized every species of late Cretaceous dinosaur when she was Ben’s age—but she was a little frustrated by his unflagging optimism about the day ahead.
Anna was not looking forward to the day. Now that she was in fourth grade, she had begun to realize how precious Saturdays were. Spending an entire Saturday driving to and traipsing around her parents’ college campus was not her idea of a fun day. She would much rather have stayed in her room reading or gone over to her friend Kaitlyn’s house. Instead, she would have to leave her book in the car and talk politely to a bunch of strangers or near-strangers. Most of all, she’d have to help keep Ben happy, which would get harder the longer they spent without catching sight of a friendly green monster.
Their parents had tried to explain to Ben that the Green Terror wasn’t quite like other mascots. While there may have been a Green Terror costume in the past, they didn’t think he was still around, and they had never seen him even when they were going to college.
None of that had mattered to Ben. Once he got an idea in his head, he stuck to it. He was sure he’d be able to meet the Green Terror today, and nobody would be able to persuade him otherwise. Anna sighed as her father parked the car. Ben was probably going to be disappointed.
They walked to the student center to register, and Anna’s parents examined the events schedule.
“We’re going to join one of the campus tours before lunch,” announced their dad. “Your mother and I would like to see what’s new, and that will also give us a chance to show you some of our favorite places.”
Anna sighed, but followed her parents out to the red brick square where the campus tour groups were meeting. What was it with adults and walking around to look at buildings? At least it sounded like lunch wasn’t too far off.
There was a small group already gathered next to a student tour guide. Anna’s parents introduced their family, and Anna was surprised when another mother stepped forward, nudging a girl who looked like she was about Anna’s age in front of her. The girl rolled her eyes, but then she smiled a real smile at Anna.
“Hi…Anna, is that right?” she asked. “My name is Emily. I’m in fourth grade, what about you?”
“Hi,” Anna replied quietly. She didn’t want to appear too eager, even though she was happy to meet someone her own age. Enthusiasm was Ben’s department, after all. “I’m in fourth grade, too.”
Emily’s smile broadened, and she said, “Well, maybe this day won’t be a complete waste after all.”
Anna giggled. She had been thinking exactly the same thing, but she was surprised by Emily’s outspokenness. Emily grinned again and added, “My mom says that she never has any trouble figuring out what I’m thinking.”
The tour started and Anna and Emily moved toward the back of the group. They paid enough attention to answer the inevitable questions their parents would ask later, but they also kept up their own whispered conversation. Ben tagged along with the girls, but Anna didn’t even mind his presence. She held her breath when he told Emily about meeting the Green Terror, but was relieved when Emily didn’t laugh. Instead, she gave Ben a warm smile and said, “You never know!” Emily had a lot of funny stories about camping and hiking to share. She was also genuinely interested in Anna’s tap classes and science project, and they spent a lot of time comparing books.
Soon the group was arriving at the cafeteria for lunch. Anna’s parents and Emily’s mother easily agreed to eat together, and they found a table together after everyone had gotten their food. The adults spent their lunch discussing professors and courses they had enjoyed and what they missed and didn’t miss about college while Anna and Emily continued their own conversation. As lunch drew to a close, Emily asked Anna, “What are you up to this afternoon?”
“I don’t know,” Anna sighed. “I think Mom and Dad will want to go to some of the activity group reunions, and we’ll probably have to stop by the football game.” Anna’s parents had explained that the game was a large part of the weekend’s events. Anna didn’t see why that meant they needed to go—football was so boring!
“Do you think your parents would let us go off on our own? I think my mom would let us go exploring if we promise not to go to far or break anything—I’d much rather do that than meet more boring adults!”
Anna wasn’t sure her parents would agree. To her surprise, they said it was ok. The girls ran off, laughing at their good luck, although Anna did stop and wave when she heard her mom call, “Remember—no crossing roads, and be back by 3:30 sharp!”
Once outside the dining hall, they looked over the campus map. “Nothing seems that exciting after all!” sighed Emily. “At least, not with a promise to stay out of trouble. I bet the theater has all sorts of cool things in it, but they’re probably locked up.”
Anna didn’t have any great ideas, either. “Too bad we can’t find the Green Terror for Ben.”
Emily’s eyes got an excited gleam in them. “Maybe we can! Where do you think the costume would be if it was still around?”
“Probably in the gym,” answered Anna. “But there’s no way we’d be able to find it! I’m sure it’s locked up, too, and the gym building is huge.”
Emily was not discouraged. “I don’t have any better ideas. Wouldn’t it be fun to at least try?”
Anna smiled, shrugged, and followed Emily. When they arrived at the gym, a college student at the front desk looked up from his computer.
“Hi, can I help you?” he greeted them in a bored voice. Then his eyes widened slightly and he added, almost hopefully, “You’re not lost, are you?”
“No, no, we’re not lost,” Emily responded. Anna was very glad to have her as a co-conspirator at this point—if she’d been on her own, she would have lost her nerve.
“Actually, we were trying to learn a little about the college’s history. We’ve seen a few pictures of the Green Terror in our parents’ college magazines, but haven’t heard whether the costume is still around. Could you help us?”
The student smiled condescendingly and started to say something about children and their cute imagination when another voice cut in, “I think I can help you two. But why are you so interested?”
The girls spun around to see an older man in a custodian’s outfit coming up to them. From behind them, the student greeted the man, “Hey, Mr. Joe! Girls, this is Mr. Joe Harris. He knows all the ins and outs of this building.”
Anna slowly stepped forward and shook Mr. Joe’s hand. She and Emily started to explain their plan. Mr. Joe chuckled and said, “Well, what’s left of the costume isn’t in great shape. But we could probably get the mask on and make a convincing enough performance—and I can’t think of any better use for it at this point!”
Twenty minutes later, Mr. Joe was guiding Anna by the hand out of the gym door and toward the football field. She had on the musty Green Terror mask, a McDaniel jersey, some huge shin guards, and an old pair of green gloves Mr. Joe had found in the supply closet. Emily had run ahead to find their families. “Easy does it now,” said Mr. Joe as they stepped outside. I see a lot of little kids around here who are already making a beeline for us. We’ll just set up shop here on the quad and let them come to us. Start waving now!”
Anna waved and gave hugs and high fives to little kids she could barely see through the mask’s mouth. She grinned to herself as she thought back on the day. Emily was right. It hadn’t been a complete waste. Then she heard what she’d been waiting for.
“Look, Mom! I knew it! He’s here, the Green Terror is here. C’mon, hurry up!”
Leopold’s Big Day
By Mariann Draskovics ’01
Leopold knew very well that the Annual All-State Special Squirrel Symposium was an event of utmost importance, yet here they were, sitting on the Big Tree, trying to avoid disaster.
Old Rufus, Chief Special Squirrel of the Hill, was swooshing around with his bushy tail. “I hope you understand the gravity of the situation. A human party has been scheduled unexpectedly for the time of the Symposium. Although Special Squirrels are ambassadors of squirrelhood, and we work hard at maintaining a good relationship with humans, the Symposium must be held in secret. A great gathering of squirrels would surely be seen as a threat. It’s too late to cancel, but any other solution would be appreciated.”
“We could move the Symposium to a nearby location…” started an elderly squirrel.
“No. The best trees are on campus.”
“How about holding the meeting at night?” Leopold’s mother asked.
“Oh, the owls would love that,” Old Rufus said.
Leopold, as a Special Squirrel Inductee, was not allowed to speak at the meeting, but he wouldn’t have dared anyway. The Chief was tapping his paw on the thick branch. “Well, maybe the human ceremony will be short and they won’t notice the huge squirrel crowd overhead. Who’s this human anyway? Comes here in the middle of the summer, with no advance notice, to donate a huge sum to the College?”
The young Special responsible for gathering news from the College’s offices took out her notepad. “He is the owner of some wildly successful business called Emergency X-It… his name is Charles Something… I wrote it down somewhere… got it: Charles Mudini.”
Old Rufus’s whiskers started shaking, and a moment later the Chief fell from the Big Tree. Luckily, he landed on a heap of freshly mowed grass, so a cup of strong nut juice quickly revived him.
“Mom, what’s happening?” Leopold asked. “Who’s Charles Whatshisname? And what happened to Old Rufus?” He was running up and down a tree trunk.
His mother looked concerned. “Let’s go home. Only the Elders are supposed to stay.”
Leopold didn’t want to go home, but his mom was wearing her strict face used only on special occasions.
“What’s an Emergency X-It? What’s going on?”
His mom sighed. “Leopold, please. Go, gather some mushrooms. Grandpa will appreciate the treat when he comes home.”
Leopold was happy he could roam around campus, but he couldn’t keep his mind from wandering. Would the Symposium and the induction be cancelled? Would he be the first in his family not to make Special Squirrel?
By the time he got home, Grandpa was already sitting is his rocking chair.
“Grandpa, what’s going on?”
Grandpa sniffed the air. “Ah, I see you brought mushrooms. Very good. Come, sit by me, my child.”
He started munching on the fresh mushrooms, and it seemed he forgot about Leopold.
“What do you know about extermination, my child?” Grandpa finally asked.
“Only what I learned in Special training. That it’s used by humans against pests.”
“Yes, very good. But you know, some humans think of us squirrels as pests.”
“I’m afraid they do. Some humans think we spread diseases. Some are simply scared of us.”
“But I thought humans think we’re cute! Don’t they have that cartoon, with the chipmunks…” Leopold was trying to remember the title from Special training.
“Ah, you mean Chip and Dale? Yes, that was a big breakthrough. But things have changed. There are humans who detest us, and among them the most notorious is Charles Mudini.”
“Wait a minute,” said Leopold. “That’s Charles Whatshisname they talked about this morning?”
“Yes. Charles Mudini is an alumnus of the College. I heard his story from my great-grandfather: Charles was walking home from class one day when a rogue squirrel named Pitbull Jack jumped on his shoulder and bit him.”
“Eww!” Leopold couldn’t imagine biting anything as dirty as a human.
“And Charles never forgot this,” Grandpa continued. “He became a most vicious exterminator. We are safe on the Hill, but animals around the country fear his name. He is the inventor of the Smitten Squirrel Supertrap among other weapons and chemicals.”
Leopold was trying to understand. “He’s coming here today?”
“To donate money to the College?”
“And all Special Squirrels from the state will be on campus?”
“Yes” Grandpa said gravely.
Leopold was sitting at his favorite place, in the empty Gazebo. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t see the ponytailed girl coming.
“Hey, little squirrel,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” the girl continued, “I won’t hurt you. Here, you want some of my PBJ sandwich? Just don’t let my dad see it.”
Leopold was trying to recall something, anything from his Special training. Be friendly with humans. Talking is forbidden. Never accept food from unknown sources.
“You’re alone, too? I’m so bored, there are no other kids here. Want to be friends? I’m Carla.”
Leopold looked around. Maybe they could be friends. After all, he was a Special Squirrel Inductee. Plus, he loved peanut butter. He sniffed the sandwich.
“Carla!” came a man’s voice.
“Oh, no!” Carla ducked under the bench, shoving the sandwich in Leopold’s hands. “I’m not supposed to be near wild animals,” she whispered.
“Carla!” the man called again. “Come, meet the President.”
He came closer and looked at Leopold with a disgust on his face. “Where is this girl?” he muttered, walking away.
A moment later Old Rufus jumped into the Gazebo. “Code Red! All Special Squirrels and Inductees to the Big Tree! Emergency meeting!”
He’d already hopped on when he saw the sandwich in Leopold’s hands. “What’s that?”
“I was just sniffing.” Leopold dropped the sandwich.
Carla climbed out from under the bench. “You can talk?”
Now it was the Chief’s turn to freeze, but he quickly recovered. He grabbed Leopold and they ran to the Big Tree. The Chief was beside himself. “Have you learned nothing? Accepting food from a stranger? From the daughter of a Known Squirrel Hater! In a state of emergency!”
Leopold looked down at his paws. “I was just sniffing.”
Old Rufus already turned to the big crowd of gathering squirrels. “We have a major emergency. Pitbull Jack is on campus.”
Several squirrels gasped, others looked as confused as Leopold felt.
“This is Pitbull Jack the 11th, great-great-great-and-so-on grandson of the old rogue squirrel that bit Charles Mudini. We have to cancel the Symposium and hide. Or move away!” Old Rufus’s eyes were darting around and he was wringing his paws. Leopold had never seen him this nervous. “If Pitbull attacks anyone, the President will promptly order Mudini’s extermination services, and we’ll all be eradicated.” The Chief broke off crying, then turned around and ran.
Leopold didn’t know what eradicated meant, but it couldn’t be anything good. All the Special Squirrels started yelling for their relatives, talking about suitcases and packing.
A moment later, his mom was next to him. “You heard the Chief. Let’s get going.”
“When will the Symposium be held?” asked Leopold. “I have to get ready for the induction.”
“I’m afraid there won’t be a Symposium, dear. And your induction will have to wait.”
“What? No!” cried Leopold.
Then he saw the tip of a ponytail behind a nearby branch. “Go ahead, mom, I’ll be home in a minute.”
“I’ll start packing. Be careful.”
After his mom had left, Leopold climbed over to Carla. “Well, you heard everything, so I might as well talk.”
“I can help you,” Carla whispered. “Come with me.”
“My dad always takes a Smitten Squirrel Supertrap with him. Everywhere. We can use that to catch this Pitbull Jack,” Carla said at their car.
“Why are you helping me?” Leopold asked.
“Because we’re friends, remember? And Dad is obsessed with catching the squirrel that bit him.”
“He’s not the same squirrel…” Leopold started.
“Dad doesn’t need to know that.”
Five minutes later, Leopold and Carla were wondering where they should set up the supertrap when a shadow crept upon them. Leopold looked up to face the biggest squirrel he’d ever seen. His fur was mangy, and he had a black, skull-shaped spot on his left shoulder blade. A chain dangled from his right earlobe. His smirk revealed yellow teeth.
“Well, well. Squirrel-human friendship. The nightmare of the greatest squirrel of all times, my ancestor and namesake, Pitbull Jack! Good thing I’m here to nip it in the bud.”
Pitbull Jack the 11th bared his teeth and raised his clawed hands, ready to strike Carla. But Leopold was faster. He grabbed Pitbull’s chain, yanked him to the ground, while Carla opened the cage’s door, and together they shoved the rogue squirrel in.
Later that afternoon, when Leopold walked to the podium to receive his Special Squirrel badge, he got a standing ovation from the Symposium attendees. Even Carla had sneaked out from her dad’s reception to cheer for him. She winked. “I’ll meet you later in the Gazebo for PBJ sandwiches,” she mouthed, and Leopold winked back.
The Sun, The Moon and The Sidearm Shot
By Bob Borden ’60
The coaches running the clinic wanted him to shoot with a straight overhand delivery but this time he just felt like ripping it with a sidearm motion, and rip it he did, nowhere near the net and up the hill and into a grove of trees.
“You shoot it, you miss it, you chase it,” the coach yelled.
With a sheepish grin, Ian Rutherford shouldered his lacrosse stick and jogged up the hill toward a grove of trees. The grove surrounded a picnic area and a circular low wall formed a place where picnickers could sit or a teacher could lecture to a group of students. Ian looked among the pine needles that formed the base of the trees. No ball. He walked along the wall and saw that the ball had wedged itself in a crevice formed by a loose stone. He pulled out the ball and the stone fell out. In the area that had previously been occupied by the stone, he saw a piece of paper. He was a little puzzled by finding a paper there. He unfolded it and read:
There is upon the night sky
A silver moon pasted high
And stars like gems gently sway
To guide the lovers on their way
And on the earth their trampled path
Leads from a darkened sky’s wraith
Oh, moon. Oh, stars. Oh, light above
We beseech thee now shine on our love
“Wow, that is too cool,” thought Ian. “Should I put it back or keep it?” Somebody must have put it there for a reason. Could it have been a girl? Or maybe a boy? Well, I better put it back in case someone is going to look for it.”
He hurried back down the hill and joined the rest of the players. The coach threw him a gold pinnie and told him to take the first face-off.
The clinic was a weekly event where members of the McDaniel lacrosse team coached boys from the St. Wilford’s Home for Boys. St. Wilford’s provided a safe haven for boys from the ages of five to sixteen. Ian had about one more year until he would leave St. Wilford’s to go to Angelus Technical School. The week passed too slowly for Ian. He wondered the whole time if the paper would still be there or if someone had picked it up.
When he got to the field, he rushed through the drills hoping that the first water break would come fast. When the coaches gave them that break, he ran across the field and up the hill to the grove. The stone wall was loose and he quickly pulled it out. There was a folded paper lying there. Opening it, he read:
You are my sun, I am your moon
Although I am invisible at noon
I wait upon you, lord and king
Although gifts for you I do not bring
Unless you count these lowly phrases
Which now I use to sing your praises
Knowing full well you may not hear
Since my cherished orbit is not near
Ian stood there in amazement. Another paper. Another poem. Why? And who was the sun? And who was the moon? The writer of this poem must be a girl, right, since she, if it was a she, said she was the moon? He hustled back down the hill as the players were dividing up into groups.
The head coach asked, “Where the heck were you going?”
Ian quickly replied, “I just had to take a quick pee.”
During the rest of practice, Ian kept looking around the perimeter of the field especially up by the grove, but except for some cross country runners, no one seemed to go to the grove. The coach called them into the middle of the field as practice was over.
“Boys,” he said. “You’ve made real progress. Next week we are going to have a scrimmage with the Westminster High School freshman team. I really think you will do well against them. O.K. Sticks up. See you next week.”
Ian walked over to the bus with the rest of the boys. He took a window seat and as the bus pulled out, he took one last look at the trees. As the bus turned onto the highway, he thought he saw a person walk toward the grove. It was rather far away, but he thought it was a girl.
In English class that week, Mrs. Haver told the assembled class that they would be starting a unit on poetry. Some groans were heard in various parts of the room and normally Ian would have been groaning along with the rest of them, but in the last two weeks he had developed a real interest in rhymes. Maybe he could add a poem to the ones that he found in the rock. Mrs. Haver talked about the fact that poetry did not necessarily have to rhyme. Statements that had a rhythm and a beat could meet the criteria of what makes a poem.
Later that night when he had made the rounds and made sure that the younger boys in his section were all in bed, he went to the common room and with pencil and paper began to write some thoughts in poetic form. Mrs. Haver had said that alliteration, the similar sound of words, was one device that poets use. He began to write:
Meeting the marvelous moon is something that makes me muse.
The moon comes unknown to all but a few.
Will I meet the moon?
Will I be found pure enough for the magic of the moon?
The ending line he dredged up from the last unit of Mrs. Haver on the Idylls of the King. He folded up the paper and went to bed.
When they arrived at the field the following week, he almost forgot about the poems in the wall, for there lined up on the home team benches were Green and Gold helmets and pads. They were the old used equipment from the team, but to the boys of St. Wilford’s they looked just fine. They had to run first clinic without equipment, only gloves and sticks. Today would be different. They each had a team member to get them into gear, making sure that the helmets fit as best they could.
By the time everyone was suited up, the team from the high school was climbing out of their bus. As Ian ran through the warm-up drills, he noticed that the Westminster freshmen were kind of big and there were a lot of them. This was his second year of going to the clinic, and he’d thrown the ball around back at the school with some of the other guys, but this would be the first chance to play a game.
“Ian, you take face-off and play midfield,” the coach said as he ran down the positions for the team. One of the Green Terror players was the ref and he lined up Ian and the opposing player. He blew the whistle and the next thing Ian knew he was on his backside and the other player was running down the field. A quick shot and the score was High School: 1, St. Wilford’s: 0.
The next face-off went a bit better. He didn’t win it, but he didn’t end up on his rump. The defense managed to stop the other player and threw the ball back up the field where Ian was able to get it. He dodged around two players, saw a teammate on the wing, passed it to him and cut for the goal. The ball was returned to him. Using a straight overhand shot, he bounced it right between the goalie’s legs. Tie score. Play continued apace with few bright spots for the St. Wilford’s group. At halftime, the score was 10-2.
After the game, which Westminster High School won by a score of 20-3, the Green Terror team hosted a picnic up in the grove. Ian, with a hotdog in one hand and a Coke in the other, went and sat down on that portion of the wall where the poems were hidden. When he was pretty sure no one was looking, he carefully moved the stone and saw that there was no paper there. What to do? He quickly took out his poem from his shorts and put it in the opening. As he put the stone back in place, he glanced across the clearing and looked into the eyes of an extremely pretty girl. She came across the clearing and stopped in front of him.
She smiled and said, “I see you have found my mailbox.”
Ian, who felt like he had just ripped two shots by the best goalie in all of Maryland, stammered, “Are you the moon?”
“Yes, I guess I am.”
“O.K.,” said Ian. “Then who the heck is the Sun?”
“To tell the truth, I don’t think he’s risen yet!”
“Well, then, why the poems and why did you put them here?”
“Since you found me out, I guess you deserve an explanation,” she said. “My dad’s the lacrosse coach and sometimes I have to come to practice to get a ride home. So, just for fun, I write poems and hide them in lots of different places.”
Ian said slowly, “I come here to play lacrosse. Next week, maybe you could show me where your other poems are placed. You know what? I’d like to audition for Sun.”