the boy with AXE hair (one image, five sentences, many stories)

Friday, March 9, 2018

My husband's illustration inspired us at Penn again. My husband, whose illustrations will also appear in Wild Blues, due out in June. (This man is good. Check this out, below, and then imagine that fox in color.)

This time I also share with you some of the work of my glorious honors/independent studies students.

I'm so lucky, right?

Daddy kept the AXE hair gel on the top shelf, said it was his, but Ryan wasn’t so sure. A second grader only has so many tricks to pull—new t-shirt, new kicks—before his style gets old. Even Fanny Wiggins walked past him on the playground to go run through the old pothole. But one else in the class used hair gel yet. He’d be the coolest thing since dino nuggets.


He strides to the plate, smirking at the rest of his team with a knowing look. He is the kickball king of Linden Elementary School, and he knows it. The girls in his fourth grade class swoon as he walks the baseline, bending his right knee to prepare for the pitch. With a resounding smack, the toe of his Converse collides with the red rubber and sends the ball into orbit, soaring high above the heads of the pinnie-team like a meteorite thrust into some new gravitational pull. He struts around the bases, unconcerned, smugly jogging back to home base where he scores yet another grand slam. 

Erin F.

“Welp, I’m getting out of here,” Darren says to his classmates as the bell rings at 3:15pm. Finally, it was time to relax, Friday was done and that meant the weekend was here. Darren’s mind filled with thoughts of the amusement park he and his friends were headed to on Saturday. Darren heads down the hallway, walking towards his locker contently. The sleep-deprivation from the long week had gotten to him, now it was time for an escape.


His friends were playing on the playground behind him, without him. He walked away. He heard Billy call out to him, and then a thud. He turned around to find Billy had fallen off the swing set. He was surprised to find he wasn’t that sad.


John was the cool kid I wish I could be. He hung his wallet on a chain and could tie up his yoyo string in the shape of the eiffle tower and still have it bounce back. If I were John, I’d walk around with my nose in the air too, knowing whatever trouble came my way was just passing turbulence. I’m not john though. I’m John’s best friend, which makes me even lukier than the cool kid I wish I could be.


Brows raised, head cocked, just like his father taught him.
“Never look ‘em in the eye, son,” he’d say. “Side eye says it all.”
His mess of stiff black hair pulls him towards an alternate expression, but his hunched, thin body remains still. Except for his left hand, pale twitching, uncomfortable by his side.


He smirked that infuriating smirk, raising his eyebrows impossibly high and drooping his eyelids in a way that said “I couldn’t care less” like only Frank could do.  Maybe he slouched his shoulders and hadn’t touched a hairbrush in weeks.  But Frank did care, his mother knew. Under that stupid grin he always wore, she knew he didn’t like failing school.  She had caught him studying when he thought she was asleep.  Why he wanted to prove to the world that nothing mattered to him, she would never understand. 

The boy didn’t mind the outdoors.  He knew his sister didn’t like it – too many bugs, she’d say, and the sweltering sun would cause beads of sweat to appear on her face, smudging her painstakingly drawn-on eyeliner.  Unlike his sister, the boy longed for the warmth of the sun’s rays on his face, the force of the untamed wind pushing its way through his thick hair.  The back of his shirt broke free from his skin, seeming to ripple in the wind, while the front became plastered to his chest.



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