I really want to take a break from all the negative news out of Washington these days. So, this month, it is my distinct pleasure to showcase a few descriptive pieces written by my English III students at Hillsboro High School.
These pieces are the result of an assignment that asked them to describe a scene or event in as close to 300 words as possible. Three of the best follow. They are reprinted with the permission of the students. Enjoy.
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by Sonja Jost
There is tranquility in a church. A peaceful symmetry in the altar and the high, vaulted ceiling. Faith or no, there is majesty in the ornate drippings of candles.
Many have found solace here. Here they come to pray. This is the place where they drop their secrets on the cold, stone floor.
Long after light has left the stained-glass windows, long after the faithful have departed, and the priest has said his final words of thanks, this place takes on a deeper magic.
The candlelight plays on the walls and upon golden etched figures. The hope which set those candles is held within the flame. Shadow and light dance seductively on images of the saints.
Those that do confess have done so in these walls. They mourn their lies. They swear to man and God that they are sorry but there is more sinister sin here. The lies they tell themselves are held in the very air that embraces their voices of praise. The kneeling benches mark the measure of devotion with the shine of their leather. Here God gathers his beloved. Here they bring their sins.
There is spirit in this space but not a holy ghost. This place is composed of the sorcery of hidden truths and the power in them. The power of a faith. It is need that brings them to the door. It is salvation that puts their fear to rest. The lure of redemption fuels their joyful hymns. They swarm here to receive a one-size-fits-all faith. Then they leave. They leave and live their lives as they always have. They are freed by their indulgence.
Only in the dark is felt the breath of what stayed behind. For here is sold forgiveness. They leave with lightened hearts for here they left their shame.
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“A Motherly Struggle”
by Breanna Dittert
Janice pulls her red SUV into the paved driveway of her suburban home. Little Sammy sleeps soundly in his car seat in the back. His mother sighs and gets out, going to open his door and carry the child in to bed.
Once the little one is tucked in, Janice returns to the car. There are still groceries to bring in. She loads the reusable tote bags onto her arms and carries them inside. With her matronly strength, it only takes a few trips.
Soon the trunk is shut and the groceries are in the kitchen, neatly placed in the wooden cabinets.
Now that her duties are done, Janice walks purposefully into the living room, snatching a bottle of wine on the way. She slumps into the old La-Z-Boy chair and downs a swig of the red liquid.
At work, they demand she do everything, from stacks of paperwork to the daily coffee run.
At the daycare, they talk at her instead of to her. She is seen as broken—a failure.
At home, she is expected to raise a child she only agreed to having to please her husband, who took one look and changed his mind.
The days only seem to get harder. The bills keep coming while the paychecks sometimes don’t show up for weeks. The debt to keep up the façade of normalcy grows and grows until Janice gives up all hope of ever escaping it.
But there she is, every day, working hard to earn that meager paycheck. Ignoring the whispers and side glances of the other mothers at the daycare. Wiping the nose and changing the Pullups and cleaning up the spilled Cheerios in every spare moment.
Janice curls into the big chair and falls asleep, the bottle still in her hand.
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“A Morning on the Rails”
by Trace Jost
A light fog surrounds the town as the sun breaks from behind snowcapped mountains.
A light cloud of steam rolls from the vents atop the roundhouse. The station sits cold and empty. Old wooden cars creak as they warm and expand. Polished windows look out on the new day.
Soon, people arrive to start their morning on the rails, people who work and people who ride. People here for the chance to live as those who came before them did.
Some who know. Others who think they know. Still others who want to know.
The doors to the roundhouse open, and a hundred-year-old monster awakens to start work again. A scene repeated for years still holds its charm, even now in this modern world.
Rods creak as cold grease warms with motion. The gentle breathing of the siblings and cousins is heard as they, too, begin to wake.
People rush outside, armed with cameras as the beast of black, white, and gray pulls up with a train of gold and black.
Metal clanks against metal as the cars bump one another.
Then they hear the call. Loud. Authoritative. “All aboard for Silverton.” The beast gives two shouts and begins to move slowly forward. A warning is called wherever the cars dare cross over the beast’s path.
Soon those on the left notice the cliff face. On the right, a 400-foot drop to the river below.
Scenes of forests, mountains, and early America pass by. The ride back provides different views for those who choose to return to Durango with the beast.
The cars are empty. The beasts are all back in their stalls. The guard is on watch, keeping the beasts’ hearts warm and glowing for their next morning on the rails.