Method to Madness

He bursts through the door with such force the whole apartment building shakes. How could she? How could his wife of ten years just go, with nothing said but a meager note on the table? In the months past, some awful things had happened, but this stings deep. He reads the note. It is all meaningless to him. He rips down all her pictures, tosses her clothes to the ground, and breaks the mirror that hangs in their room. It shatters on the ground, and a box of her things scatters on the ratty carpet. Makeup, nail polish, trinkets like cards and jewelry spill among the glass. He looks at his reflection in the shards. His suit, long blond hair, then the makeup. He grabs it and starts yelling to himself, rubbing creams and lipstick on his wrinkled face. 

She said you were crazy! She said you were slipping into madness! Your jokes would be the end of you. He mumbles to himself, grabbing green polish. Well, well, well, how’s this for crazy? 

He stands, then studies his reflection. A smiling clown stares back at him. This sends him into hysteria. A pale white face, darkened eyes, green hair, and a bright red smile make him laugh at the top of his lungs. He looks crazy, and he loves it.

Your boss, your family, and your wife were all right! You’re insane! But, maybe all of Gotham should know! His voice echoes back to him. Perhaps start with the casino! 

He grabs a few items, but the deck of cards from the box of her possessions catches his eye. The joker card sits on top. He giggles at the irony. As he selects a few “tools” for the casino, he picks up the deck and looks at the bizarrely dressed man on top. After a few seconds, he slips the card into his coat pocket.

“Well,” the crazy man says out loud. “They always said you were a joker.”

–By Calli Carr, Class of 2024

The Great Chicken Catastrophe

Back in April 2019, my birthday fell on a Thursday. I was a counselor at Majoda Stables spring break horse camp, and at lunch a group of us chatted about how cute baby chickens are and maybe getting some.

“We should get some,” I suggested nonchalantly.

“Are you serious?” My friend Anna raised an eyebrow.

I shrugged. “Yea, why not? It’ll be fun to raise some.”

My co-worker Vera, otherwise known as the barn manager, supported the idea. Moments later, I found myself calling my boss, Diane, asking  if I could go buy some baby chickens for my eighteenth birthday. All the kids went silent so they could try to hear her answer through the phone. When I ended the call, every person was nearly about to fall off the edge of their seats. I kept them in suspense for a good while until a smile spread across my cheeks.

“It’s a go,” I said, and the crowd went crazy. Without a moment to spare, my friends Anna, Paige, Claire, and I climbed into my car and we headed to the local Agway which had week- old baby chicks. 

We picked out six adorable babies and brought them to their new home in  no time. Majoda Stables’ chicken population more than doubled from four to ten in one hour. I named our new six chicken babies Nugget, Postey, Frankie, Snow White, Mobamba, and Little Peep. 

Today, four of my beloved babies live on only in my heart and memories. 

Just as fast as the chicken population grew, it fell. It all started when we gained three more chickens in June. Diane’s  daughter Beth had a flock of a dozen chickens herself, but when a fox broke into their coop she was left with three. 

“The foxes are really all over the place this year.” Beth sighed as she released her chickens into their temporary home among ours.

Diane shook her head. “We’ve never really had any problems with foxes around here.”

After hearing that, a feeling of doom fell over me. Diane had jinxed us, and there wasn’t enough wood in the world to knock on to undo the bad luck.

When night came, Beth’s chickens didn’t know where to sleep or hide from any passing predators of the dark, unlike our ten chickens. At Majoda Stables, our chickens were 100% free range. We had never had a fox problem because our chickens learned early on where to stay safe at night, even though we never had a coop for them. But with a fox around, safe places for chickens became scarce.  

Unfortunately, two of Beth’s chickens fell victim to a fox almost immediately, but then a few more nights passed and there were no missing chickens come morning. We thought the chickens were safe. We even decided to name Beth’s last remaining chicken Gissmo, and Gissmo started to fit in very nicely with the group.

The murders continued with Frankie and Snow White. They were identical white chickens, so we never knew which one was which. One morning soon after, only one of the white chickens remained. We debated which chicken it was, but couldn’t decide and eventually we agreed to just call her Frank Snow. 

After that, the murderous fox seemed to have moved on, until one morning I couldn’t find Mobamba. Then we lost my favorite little rooster, Nugget, followed by Cinderella’s vanishing.

“Has anyone seen Cinderella,” Vera asked.

I thought for a second. “No, she’s probably on some adventure up the hill. She does that sometimes.” I tried to sound as reassuring as possible. 

We were all in denial.

Cinderella never did return from her adventure and little Peep was next in line. We knew right away since we didn’t hear his obnoxious crowing anymore. About a week later, we lost Amy, Raven, and Gissmo, leaving us with only Penny, Frank Snow, and Postey. 

At the beginning of August, Diane approached me. “You like to build stuff, right?”

“Yea, I enjoy it.”

“ How would you like to build a chicken coop?” She pursed her lips.

I nodded my head enthusiastically, accepting her task. I started my construction right away. There were no blueprints or plans drawn up. I just had a vision of the coop in my head and made it a reality. In order to save as much money as possible, I used reclaimed wood for more than half of the project: Wood from pallets left for the trash, wood lying around the barn with no purpose, pieces from an old nesting shed that wasn’t in use, and wood that the local tractor supply let me take from the trashed wood pile behind the store. All this was used to put this little chicken house together. I did have to purchase a few pieces of plywood for the roof, along with simple objects like screws and metal brackets from Lowes. My friend’s dad had some leftover shingles that I gladly took to use for the roof. 

I designed the coop with two front windows with chicken wire small enough keep out any and all snakes. I cut the front wall of the coop in half horizontally so the top half opens up, allowing me to climb in to clean and collect any eggs. To finish, I painted it a traditional barn red and white.  

October 18, 2019, the coop was declared officially complete and ready for chickens. That same night, we brought two Houdan chickens, one Ohiki hen and her two babies, and ten unhatched eggs to their new home. This was my first time ever building something of that scale, but with the help of my friends Luna and Claire, no chicken at Majoda Stables will ever have to worry about the predators of the night.

The lives of our previous chickens will forever be remembered and will keep pushing me further to keep my dear chickens safe so no catastrophe like the one in the summer of 2019 will ever occur again. 

— By Jason Young, Class of 2020

JUSTICE

They renounce her name,

As though they ever owned it,

calling her emotional, liar, attention-seeker,

Asking for it.

As though they would know how to listen

if she spoke.

As though she is not just a woman

weeping for the innocent.

Prejudice turns his back,

teeth filled to the brim with excuses

and laughter. His grin calls her 

    punchline.

She calls home

But the line is no longer in service.

By Marlena Clement, Class of 2019

The Work Thief

All hail the work thief:

The one first in the gym and last to leave.

The one whose thirst for knowledge is forever unquenched

and whose hunger for self-improvement is insatiable.

The boy who loathes laziness.

The girl whose paradise is found in the sweat of track practice.

So all hail the work thieves in the world, endlessly crunching extra hours.

For these are the people who will ask for no credit.

By Bishop Coleman, Class of 2021

Me, Myself, and I

My real name is Alexis Briana Ware.

Yesterday my name was little girl, wasted potential, disrespectful child, not good enough friend, and insecure oddball.

Today my name is alpha female, unstoppable cannon, thick queen, the best friend you could have, and God’s beloved daughter.

Tomorrow my name will be Mrs. My Husband’s Last Name, most influential public figure, Mama, lovely wife, and Legend. 

Secretly I know my name is rejection, insecure, fear, and empty-hearted.

My name once was Dora.

By Alexis B. Ware, Class of 2020

Plight of the Student

Under the covers–

        warm, unbothered, relaxed,

        no stress,

        no assignments–

        no worries in sight. 

My alarm clock–

        cold, soulless, ear-splitting,

        bringer of stress,

        herald of due assignments–

        tranquility replaced by chaos.

By Vinnie Pallotto, Class of 2019

Across the River

Going through life knowing what you are meant to do, but feeling like there is a wall stopping you from achieving it, is something that most people can likely relate to.  For Scott Williams, however, it was less of a wall and more of a river, the Hudson River to be exact. A river can rush you away from the location you were trying to reach, setting you miles away from where you wanted to go.  Another thing about rivers, is you can drown without ever reaching the other side. And some rivers have alligators whose main goal is stopping you from reaching the other side.  That alligator was Scott’s wife.

Scott spent his entire high school career pining after the prettiest girl in school and finally got the girl. However, after high school Rebecca began to change into a stoic machine who became so focused on her future she lost the present. However, Scott stayed with her.

He went through his day-to-day life in a trance.  He hadn’t much to complain about it, and had the successful life everyone thought he would. However, something was still missing. Something he’d given up for Rebecca, his passion for theater, because it didn’t fit the image she wanted them to portray.

Secretly, Scott never gave up on the theater, frequently traveling to NYC to see Broadway shows when his wife was away on a business trip.  He even had friends who were in the show business. His close friend, Francis, was a talent manager for amateur actors looking to break into the business, and one day when they met for lunch, Francis suggested that he should go to an open call for the reboot of a show scheduled to open next year.  

“It would be great.  It wouldn’t even matter if you got the role, it would just be fun to go and experience it,” said Francis.  “Theater used to be your dream. You were amazing on the stage, and I’m not just saying that because I’m your friend.  I know talent when I see it. It’s like a gut feeling, and I get it everytime you sing.”

“Eh, I don’t know, you know how Rebecca is about me and theater,” Scott replied.

“Of course I do. She won’t even let you listen to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack at home!  Who doesn’t love Andrew Lloyd Webber?”  Francis sounded like she was holding herself back from saying other things she disliked about Rebecca.  She had gone to high school with Rebecca and Scott, so she had plenty of years to rack up a list of them.  “You have to go to it.”  

“Fine, fine, fine, I’ll go!”

“Good, I’m happy now.”

As Scott opened the door to the audition center, nervousness overwhelmed his body.  He didn’t know how he was going to do this. While he barely had time to prepare his audition, everyone else had been working for months for this one moment.  He ran over his audition song in his head thinking about how to sing it perfectly.

“Scott Williams? It’s time for your audition,” said the audition manager. 

Scott stood up and shakily walked the through the door. This was his childhood dream.  This is what his life could’ve been if he didn’t lose himself to pursue Rebecca.     

“Whenever you’re ready, Scott,” said one of the casting agents. 

As Scott began sinbging, he began to see what was on the other side of his river and knew that he wanted to make it across.  He could picture himself center stage, a spotlight trained on his face, bellowing out a song in front of a crowd who all had bought tickets to see him perform. This was what he was meant to do.  

After the last note was finished in the song, the directors had Scott read through lines from the show.  He made it through the first few words, but stumbled over the next one and it was like a chain reaction that he couldn’t stop.  He began to butcher every word that tried to escape his mouth until the casting agent stopped him.

“Thank you that is enough,” he said.  “Was this your first professional audition?”

“Yes sir,” replied Scott.  

“Well, your singing was phenomenal, but you just desperately need to work on your delivery of lines.”

“Okay, thank you I will.  Thank you for your time.” Scott nodded his head to say goodbye and walked out of the room.

After he left the building Scott called Francis to tell her about the open call.

“I just finished the audition and it was terrible.  I stumbled over every line. However, I need to thank you.  I’ve missed the theater and I’ve decided I need to pursue this.” 

“I knew that you would love it.  And don’t worry about messing up, it’s your first time.  You’ll do better at the next one and I’ll set you up with good acting coach.”

“Thank you, Francis.” 

When he arrived home late that night,a single lamp burned in his living room.  Rebecca. Scott walked into the house and took a deep breath.

“Where have you been?  And don’t tell me, ‘at the firm,’ because that’s where I was,” said Rebecca.  She sat reading a book.

“I was in New York, at an open call for a show.” 

Rebecca snapped her head up, angry and disappointed.

“It was amazing. You know how it was my dream to perform on Broadway.”

“Yeah, maybe when you were fourteen, but now you’re thirty-seven and have an actual job.  Not one that involves being on a stage in a silly costume making a fool of yourself. And not just yourself, me!”

By this point Rebecca was fuming.  When they had become engaged, she said his pursuing theater was a deal-breaker.  Now, Scott realized that Rebecca not allowing him to pursue his dreams should’ve been the deal-breaker long ago.  Now, he was ready to to start swimming across the river, towards the side he so desperately wanted to be on, so he held his breath and jumped.

“Rebecca, you are my wife who I love and chose to marry, because I believed you would support me and my aspirations, as much as I support yours.  But, now I realize, you only supported the goals you made me have, and that’s not something I can live with anymore. There’s a whole other life I want to live, and I’ll never have it if I keep pretending to be happy in this routine I am stuck in.  I’m sorry if you don’t chose to support me, but if you do, I would be very happy.”

“I’m sorry, Scott, but I just can’t condone this horrible decision,” said Rebecca.  She sounded like a mother talking to a foolish child. “I’ll give you a week to realize the mistake you’re making, but after that, I’m calling a divorce attorney.”

After a week of crashing on a friend’s sofa and attending acting classes surrounded by people much less talented than him, Scott still didn’t regret his decision. If Rebecca wouldn’t stay married to him because he wanted to pursue his dream of being on Broadway, then why was she married to him in the first place?  This is who he was.

*****

Now seven months after the divorce, Scott still didn’t regret his decision.  He hadn’t been cast in any shows, but he knew that there were thousands of people trying to get into this business and it takes time.  He took acting classes at night and went to auditions on the weekends. Occasionally, he would land a small role in an off-Broadway show.  

Since Rebecca’s life was their law firm, Scott left it and found a job at another one.  It was much smaller than his old firm, but it was less busy and allowed Scott to have more free time.  

Earlier, he’d received a callback for a new show soon to debut soon on Broadway.  He’d been a nervous wreck the whole week, thinking about it.  

At the audition, he went through the normal routine: signing in, sitting, waiting, and then auditioning; it was almost routine.  After Scott finished singing, the room was completely silent.  

The director smiled at him and turned to the rest of the people at the table. “I think we’ve found our lead.”  He walked towards Scott. “Congratulations, welcome to Broadway!”

It was that moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fell together and Scott knew that this is the life he was destined to live.  After swimming as hard as he could, he had finally made it across the river and was ready for everything this side had to offer.

By Morgan Murnane, Class of 2020

Glitter Glue Explosion

Let me take you back in time to fifth grade on a beautiful summer day. It rained the previous day, so seeing the sun shine in the cleaned out classroom made our hearts sing for joy. We were making cards for our future teachers, expressing how excited we were to advance to middle school in the fall.

Laughter and conversations filled the classroom. I was quiet, occasionally smiling at some of my classmates. I finished writing my card and moved to the back table where everyone added details to their cards. Glitter covered the table, and smiling stickers stared back at everyone. There was only one glitter pen left, so I grabbed it, unaware of how it would change my school year forever.  

I slowly turned the nozzle of the glitter glue to face the paper. One minute I’m about to put glitter glue on my paper, the next it exploded all over me. Shocked, the classroom fell silent. Until laughter erupted. 

“Jaliesa, what happened?” My friends Molly laughed.

“I really don’t know,” I said loudly as my teachers checked over me and tried not to laugh. The glue began to harden, and Mrs. S helped me get up from my chair so I wouldn’t get glue all over. We carefully made our way to the door and the nurse’s office, the laughter of everyone following closely behind.

“How exactly did this happen, Jaliesa? Was the nozzle broken or anything?” Mrs. S’s bright blue eyes looked at me with slight amusement but mostly concern. If I were her, I would have burst out laughing dropped to the floor.

“I…I really don’t know what happened. It just happened. ” Imagine seeing a ten-year-old girl wearing a shirt with weird characters, dark blue jeans, black shoes, and covered in almost a whole bottle of glitter glue. You get the picture? 

And then we ran into the principal. “Jaliesa,” he asked. “What happened to you? Are you bleeding?” Apparently, red glitter looks like blood.

I shook my head and Mrs. S chuckled.

“She just had a little incident with glitter glue. She’s fine.”

Thank gooodness I was covered with red glitter glue because my face could not have turned any redder.

At the nurse’s office, we were unsure whether to wait for her to finish with another student or head to where she stored the extra clothes.Surprise then amusement filled their eyes.  

“Oh god, Jaliesa! You look like someone turned you into a Christmas tree,” said Kylie, a friend from Unity Club.

I thought, At least this moment can’t get any worse. The nurse directed me to the extra clothes, and I grabbed whatever I could find, hurrying to the bathroom to change. I look at myself in the mirror and realize I look like a monster from Monsters Inc. There’s no denying it.  Except I wasn’t the monster to scare people, like what the monsters did in the beginning of the film. Oh no, I was there to make people laugh. 

I changed into a shirt two sizes too big and jeans that seem made adults, not fifth grade girls. I wet several paper towels and try to get most of the glue off my face. Even after many tries, you could still see glitter sparkling on my cheeks. I then tried getting it out of my hair, but glitter glue and hair is not good pairing. I decided to just deal with the glitter glue until my mom picked me up later. And so, the rest of my day went like that. Me looking like a mini disco ball at first and then like I just sprinkled glitter all over myself.  

At the after school program, I felt like I was waited forever for my mom to pick me up. I tried to act like everything was normal, but on the inside I was so annoyed by wearing  jeans that were too big on me that I decided to wear the glitter covered jeans instead. After almost four hours, my mom picked me up and I have never seen her look so confused in my whole life. After getting home and immediately taking a shower, I called a family friend to see if she could advise me on removing glitter glue from my hair. Is there even a good way to get glitter glue out of your hair?

“Just keep washing it,” Helen said, laughing. “And if that doesn’t work, just call yourself glitter head.” She sure did know how to make me feel better. Can you see the eye roll?

Regardless, I learned a lot that day. Like be more careful when handling anything with glitter. Also, embarrassing things happen to all of us, but it’s good to laugh them off. Not everything will be serious forever, and you’ll have a good story to tell when it’s over.

By Jaliesa Quinones, Class of 2020