Category: Grades 6-8

First place -- "The House Was Home" by Olivia Wood

I still remember the evening they finished building me. The final rays of sun dancing off my new shingles. The delicate tendrils of breeze drifting through my open windows, investigating every corner in their reach. The men stood back and surveyed me, pride in their eyes that evening. They revisited often, each time bringing a plethora of items with them. But suddenly, one day, only one man returned. He brought another human, similar to him, and yet...different. I learned this one was called a 'woman.' I could feel their presence that night. And the next. Though the man left every morning, I was soon to learn to expect both humans back by the evening for something called 'dinner.' Life became familiar, like a pattern to me.

And then came the child. After a long and confusing day I soon found myself the home of three humans. But this one was smaller than the rest, with rudier cheeks and grubbier fingers. Many a day went by, and this creature became taller and lithe, the spitting image of his father.

And then they left. As for what happened outside of my street I know not. The neighborhood became a pitiful sight, and I did too. Humans would wander by every once and a while, bodies wrapped in shabby shawls or feet covered with rags. My rooms were only entered by these humans to be searched and salvaged. Soon I had nothing left to give but shelter. A mournful cry seemed to hang in the air during this time.

Then something changed again. The humans got busier, better dressed, and happier again. My neighbors regained occupants, one by one, until it could only be my turn next. Then one day, with a loud sputter a large box rolled into my driveway, and out came the man. Except....it wasn't the man. It was the boy from so many years before. He had gained a learned look in his bright eyes, and a jacket and tie not unlike the man before him. He smiled faintly at me as he came in to explore my corridors, chuckling and frowning as he went. Soon afterwards I was cleaned, scrubbed from door to chimney, with two people living in me once again. However, the man-who-was-the-boy would leave again soon, to go to something called a 'war.' It was a day of great emotion. She looked proud, and yet cried. He looked regretful, and yet determined. We would not see his return for many moons. The woman had what my neighbor called a 'daughter' shortly after the man left, and by his return her golden curls were long and full, like the rays of sunlight that shone through me each day.

After the man's arrival back home life became normal again. Cars rolled past my yard, children played around it and the man and woman sat on my porch often to watch them both. I couldn't imagine anything better. Years passed, humans moved, people coming and going from my rooms. Some left to never return, some entered to stay for many moons. I didn't care who it was. As long as laughter still echoed through my rooms and the streets still bustled with activity I was happy.

A house cannot feel love like human creatures, but we can yearn and thrive. And thrive I did. Saplings grew into great oaks. My paint colors freshened periodically. Baby birds learned to spread their wings and fly every spring.

But little did I notice that once again the humans were leaving my neighborhood. Suddenly I found myself empty and alone. Ivy crept up my yellowing sides. Materials crumbled. Glass panels became discolored and grimy. No breezes drifted through my rooms and I became quite musty.

After a long time, I suddenly heard a roar again, like the box from long ago. A larger, shinier box pulled up in front of me, and a group of men not unlike the group from so many years before climbed out. The first thing I noticed was their choice of garment. Where were the ties? The jacket sleeves? How much had changed since I was last visited? The men began working on me, rebuilding me from the inside out. My yellowed paint became fresh and white again, my appliances replaced. I received newer 'electricity' that made me glow inside and out.

But most importantly, I was ready for new owners. More humans arrived, and these brought a girl with them. The first day she met me, she immediately strode to my porch and stared breathlessly at my new door. She blinked and then, placing her hand on one of my porch columns, looked up. "Hello...home." She said, big eyes alight. That's when I knew -- I was home.

Second place -- "The Statue" by Daria Lesmerises

A few years ago, when I was 9, my family moved into this big old house. It looked really outdated, and it had some weird statue-type things in the yard. It was exactly what you would picture if someone told you about a haunted mansion. Besides the awkward exterior, the house actually looked kind of cool; the dark shades of purple and gray made it look almost royal.

While my parents unloaded the car, I was far too intrigued by the house to help. Instead, I ran up the front stairs and into the house to explore. I ran to my new room to have a look at my new hideout until college. I ran to the window and tried to wave at my parents to see if they would possibly look up from their grueling task of moving heavy boxes in the freezing cold of winter and wave back. When they didn't, I pressed my face up against the cool glass and my eyes searched the rest of the yard. That's when I noticed it.

Among the other weird statues, there was a beautiful deer statue. I shouldn't have been so entranced by a deer statue, but I was. I don't know how long I had been staring at it, but after what must have only been five minutes, my parents knocked on my door to tell me they needed to go out for groceries. I was a responsible kid so my parents trusted me to be alone, but they were still wary of me exploring on my own, especially in an unusual place, so they ordered me to stay in the house. They went through the standard safety briefing they always give, hugged me, and left.

My parents had been gone for 10 minutes when I looked out the window again. The deer statue was gone. I skimmed the yard with my eyes, but this was to no avail. I sighed and made the executive decision to go outside. I wasn't thinking about my parents' rules as I bundled up in my polka-dot coat and hat.

When I stepped out onto the crunchy snow I immediately noticed the heavy prints in the snow. The prints were deep and an unusual shape. I followed them, slowly sinking into the snow with each step. I was focusing on my steps and looking at the ground as I approached a large object. I looked up and saw the deer statue, my eyes widening at the majestic sight. As I stared at the deer in confusion, wondering how it got here, it blinked. It was sudden -- the only things that moved were the eyes. I rubbed my eyes. There was a beat of silence and nothingness, and then it blinked again. I closed my eyes for awhile. When I opened them, the deer statue was so close to my face our noses almost touched. This time I was sure the deer had moved because it definitely wasn't that close before. Instead of being freaked out and running away like a normal kid, I actually moved closer.

I looked the statue straight in the eyes and stared. I couldn't keep my gaze off the deer, and I knew I couldn't run. I was too entranced by the majestic beast standing before me. Then I felt a cloud of air on my face. The cloud had come from the statue's mouth. It was breathing! At this point, I actually did get scared. I tried to back up, but I tripped in the snow and fell backwards. I was too cold and too scared to move, so I just held still. As I sat in the snow, I started to see changes in the deer. Its originally smooth, bronze coat had become furry and brown. Its normally bronze tongue turned pink. The deer was coming alive.

I sat in the snow for 15 minutes at most. By then the deer was completely alive. This wasn't just my mind playing tricks. I knew this was real. The deer backed up and pranced away. The sound of its hooves crunching in the snow slowly faded away as it ran to the woods. After a couple of seconds, the only sound left was my heavy breathing and my heart pounding.

I sat in the snow until my parents pulled into the driveway. They immediately spotted my small figure in the snow and ran to me. They pulled me out of the snow and rushed me inside. They reprimanded me for going outside, but I didn't have the energy to start arguing back or to tell the story. Instead I just asked, "Did you guys see that deer statue?" My parents looked quizzically at me before asking, "What deer statue?"

Third place -- "FIRE FIRE!!!" by Aziz Bah

It was like any other cloudy morning of going to school. My younger sister, Salma, and I were quietly talking in the car and my older brother, Muctar, was on his phone, as usual. On the way there, I fell fast asleep, until suddenly I woke up to a strange sound, POP!! "What was that?" asked Salma.

"It is probably nothing," said my mom. I thought it was just the sound from a different car and tried to go back to sleep. We ignored the sound and kept driving to school normally. As we continued our drive to school, a strange smell filled the car.

"It smells like gas," I said.

"The gas might be leaking, I will check it out," said my mom. In my mind I was thinking everything was fine and that it was probably nothing. I felt fine because I felt like my mom had everything under control. Boy was I wrong, because what happened next really scared me.

"YOUR CAR IS ON FIRE!!!" a man yelled as he drove by. At this moment, all of us were in shock. Hearing this crazy news, we immediately pulled over and got out the car. After getting out the car, we rushed away from the car to a safe place. When we were away from the fire, we quickly realized that our belongings were still in the car.

Soon after, police cars and fire trucks came to the scene. The firefighters were able to get some of our belongings, but some stuff burned, like my brother's lunchbox and my mom's laptop. We stood by, shocked, as the firefighters put out the fire. Thankfully, the police officers were there to help us stay calm. Eventually, the firefighters finished putting out the fire and we called our aunt to take us to school. During that school day, I was still surprised and confused how the car caught on fire.

Looking back, I am so grateful that God allowed us to get out the car alive. We could've burned down with the car. The engine could've also exploded with us in it. He really protected my family and me that day. It shows that God has a plan for everything. It was probably the craziest thing that ever happened to me. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. This was a day I'll never forget, but also a day I'll be grateful for because of God protecting us.

Honorable mention -- "My Hair" by Claire Kester

Sleek and shiny,

Long and straight,

Thick and heavy.

Wash, brush,

Snip.

Eighteen inches

Gone.

Sleek and shiny,

Short and fluffy,

Thick and light.

Wash, brush,

Grow.

Four years

Spent.

Sleek and shiny,

Long and straight,

Thick and heavy.

Wash, brush,

Snip.

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