Third Place: The Leaper
My insides were jumping up and down with anticipation. I felt like a balloon about to pop because my family was going to an amusement park for winter break. My mom told me that if you wanted to be the first person to ride the park’s new ride, The Leaper, you had to be in a contest tomorrow, February 29th. I didn’t sleep that night.
The next day, I ran over to the car, and man was it full. I felt as if the bags were the walls of the Grand Canyon, and I was the Colorado River. When we finally pulled into the town, I saw cute little buildings everywhere, and most of them were painted bright colors. A large group of people stood on the big grass square in the middle of the shops, and I guessed they were there for the contest. My dad pulled into a parking spot in front of a blue building that said, “dentist” on it in thick, green letters. I started walking towards the crowd. Everyone quieted down when a man in a black suit got our attention by clearing his throat through the microphone. I got butterflies in my stomach as he explained the rules. “You will go to three different stops, and the first two will give you clues. The last stop will give you the winning ticket for the ride.’’ He passed around a little slip of paper that had the first clue written on it. When he finished talking, groups scattered everywhere.
Instead of running off, I gathered my parents around me and read the clue aloud. “Thopasetot,” I read. It was silent as my parents and I thought. After scrambling the letters around, I came up with “toothpaste.” I shared my answer with my parents, and they agreed with me. “Where would you find toothpaste?’’ I questioned my parents. “The dentist,’’ my dad exclaimed! We were off to the dentist faster than Santa would travel if he forgot a child on Christmas morning. When we reached the dentist, I saw a few people from the contest inside. I walked up to the main desk and told the lady working that I was there for the contest. She handed me a bottle of toothpaste, and I examined it very carefully. There was a sticker on it that said, ”yalipny radcs.’’ It didn’t take me long to figure out that it said, “playing cards.”
“Either the magic store or the toy store,” my dad said. “Probably the magic store,’’ I said. We were off to the magic store, and I was starting to feel the fun in the contest.
When we reached the door, I saw the coolest tricks ever; but, I knew I didn’t have time so I walked up to the register and told the man working that I was there for the contest. He handed me a deck of cards. On the plastic wrapping there was another jumbled up word. “Masperywal,’’ I read. As I followed my parents out to the field, I noticed that I was not the only one who was stumped. As I thought with my parents, something in my head kept saying swalampary, over and over. “What about swalampary?’’ my dad said. “Yes,’’ I quickly said! Then, out of nowhere, a little kid shouted out, “swalampary,’’ before his parents could cover his mouth. Everyone stared at the parents, and a couple of people laughed. The parents looked embarrassed, and flashed some people a smile. That was all the contestants needed to verify their answer before they took off. I tried to think of where everyone was going, but all I could think of was a board game at my house called Swalampery. That’s when it came to me. The toy store probably had that game. After telling my parents my thoughts, we ran to the toy store; but, when we reached the door, we found a big problem. There was a sign that said: “NOTICE, due to the unfortunate kerfluffle on February 29th, toothpaste, playing cards, and swalampary are no longer allowed in this building. Thank you for your cooperation.” I looked into the store window and saw all of the people from the competition helping the store workers clean the floor. The floor was covered in wrappings and pieces from the game. I also saw toothpaste and playing cards the contestants had dropped in the rush to find the ticket. I quickly found the store owner who was staring at the mess on the floor, and he was steaming with anger.
I concluded that the people in charge of the contest would never make the contestants make such a mess to find the ticket. Maybe everyone unscrambled it wrong, and the contest is still going on, I thought. Then I realized the Swalampery board game is spelled with an “e’’ not an “a.’’ As I sat with my parents on the bench outside of the toy store, I thought about what other words were in the clue, “masperywal.” I found paws, swap, Mary, and Al. As I told my parents what I had found, they listened, until my mom exclaimed, “I saw a pet shop called Paws when we were entering the town.’’ We were off to the pet shop faster than I could blink. As soon as I walked in, I saw two of the cutest hamsters. Before my parents could stop me, I was peering into the cage. On the side of it were their names, Al and Mary. I suddenly got the sensation that I had heard those names before. “The competition,’’ I quickly blurted out! PAWS-AL-MARY. As I called over to my mom and dad, I was smiling so hard that it hurt. Then I saw a piece of paper in Al and Mary’s cage, and I picked it up. I noticed that it was some sort of ticket. It was THE winning ticket to be the first to ride The Leaper!
Erin Reilly is eleven years old and lives in Brookhaven, Georgia, with her parents and three younger siblings. Always smiling and full of positivity, Erin loves spending time with friends and family. She is an avid reader who also enjoys math, writing stories, cooking, acting, and competitive swimming.
Second Place: The Swalampary Night
It was February 29th and in the deepening dusk, Monsieur Barnaboffle was walking down the steps of his home, number 27 Duck Street. He was on his way to the “Cercle d’Artistes,” a club where seven artists met and discussed the latest topics each month. One artist, Bernard Joriffe, owned a coffee shop, so he hosted the meetings. Monsieur Barnaboffle hastened the rest of the way to the coffee shop, entered it, and sat down. Inside the shop there were two tables. The artists were sitting at one; three men were playing a game at the other.
Suddenly the door opened, and an artist who was wearing a satchel and carrying a thermos stepped in, tripped on the doormat, stood back up and said,” I’m waful rosy. I mean, I’m awful sorry!” It was Efful, who had a bad habit of mixing up words. He was often laughed at because of this, and this time was no exception. Everyone in the shop chuckled, and when the laughter had subsided, Barnaboffle said, “Here, Efful, let me help you. If I take the thermos, you’ll be able to carry that satchel more easily.” He took the thermos from Efful and set it on a table. Efful hung his satchel on the back of his seat and asked for a glass. When he had gotten it, he proceeded to open the thermos and pour its contents into the glass. All the artists stared. The liquid was bright purple. Finally Barnaboffle spoke. “ Efful, what is this stuff! Is it one of your drink experiments? It’s bright purple, smells like coffee…what does it taste like?” And then he muttered, “I only hope it tastes better than last month’s flavor.”
Efful had started bringing drinks to the club and this was the third month he had done so. He made the drinks himself, and sometimes they didn’t taste quite right…take for example last month’s carrot flavor. It had tasted more of broccoli than carrot and no one had liked it.
Efful started to explain. “It’s called swalampary, and it’s made of coffee, purple food coloring, and a secret ingredient—my edible toothpaste. Here, I’ve got some to show you!” He distributed thirty tubes of toothpaste he had pulled out of his satchel. All were labeled in messy writing, “Edible Toothpaste.” He puffed out his chest. “Keep it, and use it instead of toothpaste! You can even use it in sandwiches! Someday you’ll be proud to say, ‘I was friends with Efful Herbosky.’ This is the stuff that’ll make me famous!”
“All right, Efful,” said Barnaboffle wearily. “Can we get to talking about art right now?”
“Yes, did you see that new painting in the sixth gallery? Marvelous piece!” said Herr Mijtsud.
They discussed and debated for an hour, and then talk began to die away. It was then that Efful noticed the customers at the next table were playing a game. He leaned forward, fascinated. Suddenly the man closest to him shouted, “ Will you look at what I got on this card! It says ‘Crazy!’ That suits the description of that man perfectly!”
“Yes, off his rocker, that one,” agreed another of them. “ Efful, his name was, wasn’t it? What a crazy guy!”
Efful jumped to his feet, picked up his glass and yelled, “ One more word and I’ll throw all of this swalampary on you!”
The man continued insulting Efful as if nothing had happened. At this, Efful picked up his mug, walked over, threw its contents on the man’s head, and walked back to his seat. The three men jumped to their feet and started throwing their coffee at Efful. “Mind my table!” shouted Joriffe.
Efful unscrewed a toothpaste lid. “Here goes,” he said grimly. He applied as much pressure as he could on the tube, aimed it at the man, and toothpaste splattered all over.
The men ducked behind a table and one cried, “QUICK! Make a barrier!” They started piling chairs in front of them. Efful threw some more swalampary at them, and it landed on the game the men had been playing, splashing their fortress of chairs. A bright purple puddle was on the floor, and toothpaste was all over the table.
Everyone was shouting, and the noise was tremendous. In addition to this, Barnaboffle and Mijtsud were frantically shooting streams of toothpaste everywhere. Joriffe and Efful were throwing swalampary on everyone—and everything—that came in their way. The whole place was a mess. The opposing party had somehow managed to find brooms, and they were using them as swords. They had already smashed a mug. Now they hit the chandelier. It swayed, groaned, and dropped to the floor, shattering.
“What will be next?” groaned Joriffe. Mijtsud had cut his foot; Barnaboffle’s suit was ruined; and Efful was mercilessly hitting a man’s head with a broom. He paused for a moment and said, “ Are you sorry for saying I was crazy?”
“Yes,” the man gasped, and then added, “But I still think so.” Luckily Efful did not hear him. They all went home—all, that is, except Joriffe. He stayed there all night cleaning. The next morning a sign was on the door, saying:
Due to the unfortunate kerfuffle on February 29th, toothpaste, playing cards, and swalampary are no longer allowed in this building. Thank you for your cooperation.
Nadia Cerdas has always been a reader and writer. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found playing with her younger sister and brothers. She also enjoys ballet, playing the piano, spending time with friends, and being outside.
First Place: The Regrets Of Mira Shards
“Ms. Shards, you let the most wanted criminal get away! Do you really think I would let you interrogate another one?”
“Chief, I know I can and I will……. if you give me a chance.”
“No. And that is FINAL ! You will not so much as even take a step into Chanton Prison again!”
The Chief slammed the phone down and we were done. I groaned. Why was everything so frustrating? I bit the inside of my cheek and then detected the taste of blood. Must be from doing it so many times.
I sighed slowly and looked up and a sign caught my eye.
Due to the unfortunate kerfuffle on February 29th, toothpaste, playing cards, and Swalampary are no longer allowed in this building. Thank you for your cooperation.
I should probably get back to work, I thought but my eyes were glued to the sign as a memory slowly began to surface……..
I walked confidently into the room and sat down heavily in the metal chair. I was here to interrogate the psychotic bomber of Gerrashi train station, nicknamed “Vex.” I knew it was going to be hard but I knew I could milk the information out of him.
I looked around the plain white room with two chairs and a table. And I knew that behind the two way mirror was the Chief of Police, silently observing our every move.
After a few minutes, two security guards arrived with Vex. The tall, stone-faced guard forced him roughly down on the seat. Thick handcuffs with long chains were clasped on Vex’s wrists.
“Now I better not hear negative feedback from Ms. Shards or you’ll regret it,” The guard said, firmly.
Vex gasped, his hand flew up his chest in a defensive gesture, feigning shock. “Tommy, you know I’m a good boy!”
The guard rolled his eyes and the two security guards exited the room. Vex turned his attention to me and smirked.
“I was wondering when I was going to meet the famous ‘Mira Shards.’ Can I get your autograph?”
I crossed my arms and looked at him sternly. “Who’s your supplier?”
Vex’s smile grew wider, spreading to the far corners of his face. “Oh, boy do I like you! No-nonsense detective! Right to the point. So pretty too,” He said, winking at me, “Definitely need more people like you around.”
“Cut. It. Out.” I said, highly annoyed. I groaned, imagining how bad this looked in front of the Chief of Police.
“Anything for you!” He said, with a dreamy smile on his face.
I grinded my teeth together and suddenly a brilliant thought came to mind. I fished out a deck of playing cards from my back pocket.
“Want to play?”
Vex beamed. “Awww. Playing cards! My favorite game! How’d you know?”
“A little birdie told me,” I said.
I handed him the cards and he started shuffling them while I kept a forced smile on my face.
Vex started dealing them out and we played for a bit. Then he started picking out bits of food from between his teeth.
“Hey, do you think I could get some toothpaste and some of that fancy freshening gum…Swalapary? Oh and maybe some water too. I didn’t brush my teeth this morning. And I would give you some information in exchange,” He said, sighing.
I was sold on the idea as soon as he said ‘give you some information.’ I called for the guards and told them what I needed. As soon as they left, he grinned at me.
“Great to know I have a friend to count on.”
I smiled reassuringly in return.
The guards arrived with the items, and Vex reached for them but I slapped his hand. He recoiled and rubbed his sore hand. I motioned for the guards to take a step back.
“Tell me the information first. Then you’ll get it.”
“Her name is Ashley Thompson.”
I nodded at the guards and they set the stuff down and left the room. I was just about to ask my next question when he looked at me sadly and sighed.
“ I really liked you.”
I frowned. “What are you talking about-”
Vex lunged at me, knocking me off my chair and started to choke me with the long chain. My vision started fading as I struggled to breathe. He reached into my pocket and fished out a key and within seconds he was free and I was handcuffed to the table. Vex then jammed a chair under the handle of the door locking it from inside.
Then he was suddenly at the table, squeezing the toothpaste into the cup full of water. He also unwrapped a few Swalampary gums and dropped it into the concoction. The mixture turned bright, vibrant orange. I then heard the shuffling of footsteps and people yelling outside the door. I glanced at the handle which was turning rapidly. Hurry up.
Vex threw some of the mixture at the glass wall and it burned through it, leaving a big hole. He turned back to me.
“See you later,” Vex said, smirking. My mind stormed with rage and hurt pride. I was Mira Shards! He couldn’t do this to me!
He jumped through it and bolted out of the next room’s door.
I heard a loud crash as a bunch of officers heaved the door open. They flooded the room, wielding guns and other gadgets. “Tommy” unclasped my handcuffs.
I dreaded making eye contact with the Chief of Police.
“I am so sorry!” I apologized, my voice swelling up in emotion. He glanced in my direction, his face red from frustration and anger .
What had I done?
I ran my hand through my short, blond hair and sucked in a deep breath. I made a decision as I walked back toward the parking lot .
I would hunt him down .And I would not stop until I found him.
“Vex,” I muttered, “I’m coming for you.”
Zoha Bajwa lives in Leesburg, Florida, with her parents and two little brothers. And when she’s not writing her latest stories, you will find her buried in a book or rewatching the Harry Potter movies.