Third Place: The Tail of the Swalampary
Part I, Sarah’s Story:
“Have you seen those weird signs in the hallway? The ones that talk about the unfortunate events of February 29th and how toothpaste, playing cards and swalampary are no longer allowed in the building? What is that about? What could anyone possibly have against sweet, little swalampary with their long, cute tails? Who’s even seen a swalampary around here anyway?” “Oh man, I forgot you were out of town last weekend! Boy, do I have a story for you!” I replied.
It all went down last Saturday, February 29th! After last weekend, I’m actually glad Leap Day only comes around every 4 years! It was a chilly night. Everyone was excited for Violet’s big Leap Day Party! Jose, George and I were the only ones here at the animal clinic. It was pretty quiet and the animals were already fed and walked so the guys and I were playing Go Fish up at the front desk. Then there was some excitement. A little boy and his Mom came in with a large cat with the longest tail I have ever seen. George knew immediately that it was a swalampary. I have read about the rare breed with their long and dexterous tails but never actually saw one in person. The family was going away for the weekend at the last minute and needed to board it for a few days. While the mother filled out the paperwork and the little boy sucked on a lollipop Jose gave him from our jar, the swalampary let out a loud meow and knocked my water bottle across the desk with his enormous tail. Water splashed everywhere and our cards were soaked. The lady apologized and I wished her a happy Leap Day, took the swalampary from her arms, and got it into a cage. George picked up all of the wet playing cards and spread them out on the big table in the back to dry. Once we’d dried off the desk, we realized that it was almost 8:00.
“Want to sneak out a few minutes early to get to Violet’s party?” asked George. “Sure, just let me brush my teeth first,” I replied. “I still think it is super weird that you keep toothpaste at work,” said Jose, as I grabbed my tube of Crest Bubble Mint from a drawer next to a stack of cages. “It’s even weirder that you use kids flavored toothpaste,” teased George. “Laugh all you want but at least my breath will be minty fresh tonight.” As I put the toothpaste back in the drawer, I swear I felt the swalampary’s eyes watching me.
We said goodnight to all of the animals, turned out the lights, and never could have imagined what we would find when we came in the next day. “If it wasn’t for the security camera video, I still wouldn’t believe what happened! You’ve got to see this,” I exclaimed as I pressed play on the video.
Part II, Mr. Fluffypants’s Story:
The cameras can only tell you so much of the story so allow me to take it from here. I’m Mr. Fluffypants, the cat who has been here longer than any of the rest. Let me pick up where Sarah left off. Don’t worry. The humans can’t hear me.
No sooner had our caretakers headed out for their party than our newest guest and the first swalampary I had ever met, meowed and asked, “So what do you guys do for fun around here?” “I like to take long naps,” Gladys, an elderly cocker spaniel, replied. “Ooh, ooh, sometimes, I like to walk back and forth really fast in my cage like this,” said Paco, a hyper, little chihuahua, frantically pacing around in his small cage. “Oh brother. Come on, guys. We can do way better than this. It’s Leap Day! The humans shouldn’t be the only ones to have fun tonight.” “What do you mean?” asked Gladys gloomily. “Do you guys know what comes before Part B?” The animals all stared back silently at the swalampary. “Part-A. Let’s party!” And with that, he whipped his long, dexterous tail out of his cage, grabbed one of the playing cards that had already dried out from the earlier spill and expertly used it to open the lock of his cage. The other animals watched in awe as his cage door swung open! “Let me out. Let me out. Lemme out!!!” cried Paco. “Your wish is my command,” said the swalampary as he slid the card through his lock and freed the small chihuahua. The swalampary continued through the whole animal clinic releasing all of the animals. Once the last little kitten leapt from her cage, I asked, “So what do we do at a Leap Year Party anyway?” “My humans just had a fun New Year’s Eve party,” offered Teddy, a chocolate lab. “All of the sudden they started counting backwards from 10 and then they threw confetti and Silly String in the air. It was awesome!” “I like it,” said the Swalampary, “But where are we going to get confetti and Silly String?” “We can shred those papers on the desk with our claws to make confetti,” suggested two Siamese cats. “We looove to shred things,” they purred. Before anyone could even reply, they got straight to work and bits of paper flew through the air. “What’s Silly String?” asked Paco. “It’s this weird, colored string that shoots out of a can,” I replied. “Where will we find anything like . . . wait a second, I got it! Sarah keeps a tube of toothpaste in that draw over there. We could shoot that in the air!” said Teddy. “I like the way you think,” said the swalampary, “Let’s party!” And then we did! I have spent a lot of nights in boarding over the years but I will never forget that Leap Day night nor the first and only swalampary I’ve ever met!
Avery Anderson is a spirited nine-year-old from Alpharetta, Georgia. She enjoys creative writing and particularly loves writing from the perspective of animals. She would love to publish a children’s book one day. Avery loves gymnastics, Hamilton, milkshakes, and the color purple. Her favorite author is Beverly Cleary. She lives with her mother, father, and little brother, Jackson, and makes them laugh every day.
Second Place: The Swalampary Incident
Okay, here’s the deal. My teacher hates me. Her name is Mrs. Hedren. Even though I’m sure I get all of my answers correct on tests, she marks them wrong. She says to my parents, “Fid is a terrible student. He fidgets, and doesn’t listen during class.” (By the way, my full name is Jacob Fiddle, but everyone calls me Fid.) Okay, maybe she hates me because of this one incident….
It was show and tell where you were allowed to bring in your pet and you got to show the class what your pet can do. As you can expect, the room was filled with barking dogs, mewing cats, sniffing bunnies, squawking parrots, the usual. But I had a different pet than all the others. I brought in flying squirrels. My pet flying squirrel, Hydie, had insisted the night before that she bring all her family members to show and tell today. I was reluctant, but she threatened to eat my socks, so I cooperated. I had let her fly out the window to collect her family and friends, even though Mom and Dad said, “Don’t let Hydie out the window.” Anyways, in the middle of the night, I had seventy-five flying squirrels nipping my hair, eating my toenails, and using my G.I Joe limited editions as slow-dancing partners.
“We’re hungry!” They moaned.
“There’s nothing to do here!”
Finally, I’d had enough. I ripped off the sheets and turned on my lamp. “Cut it out you guys! I’m trying to sleep!” They studied their toenails, and said, “Sorry…” They turned and found their corners in the room and nestled together. After a while, I had seventy-five snoring flying squirrels around my room. “I can live with this,” I sighed, and decided to get some shut-eye.
That morning, I stuffed all the flying squirrels in my shirt when I went downstairs for breakfast. When I walked downstairs, my shirt was flapping and wiggling all over the place. “Good morning, Mom!”
I said cheerfully, pulling a stool up to the island. When she saw my shirt, she just shook her head, turned away, and continued washing dishes. “Good morning, hon.”
She placed a plate of waffles in front of me, and I began wolfing them down. “We’re hungry too!” The squirrels whispered enviously. I rolled my eyes, but when Mom wasn’t looking, I dropped a waffle down my shirt.
When I was packing up for school, I dropped another waffle into my backpack and let the squirrels make themselves at home. I stuffed my school items into the bag, and jammed in the playing cards. “Bye Mom!” I waved, and ran out to catch the bus.
Once at school, I dropped my bag onto my chair, and eased the playing cards out from my backpack into the desk. My friends and I were having our annual Poker tournament today. Little did I know, things would be going south. Soon.
“Good morning class!” Mrs. Hedren announced as if it was the best news of the century. “Time for attendance!” After checking everyone’s name off, she announced, “Miss Josie, would you like to go first?” Josie blushed and headed to the front of the room.
“Hi Josie!” The class blankly said.
“Uh, this is my parrot, Swashbuckler…” She gestured to a round bird cage sat on her lap. Inside was a green macaw. “Swashbuckler!” Swashbuckler echoed, tilting his head. For a second, I swear I saw a smile flash across Josie’s face, as if she was laughing at her parrot. She introduced how her “amazing” parrot could do a flip and stuff. After Josie went, I sort-of spaced out until Mrs. Hedren called, “Fid, would you like to share next?” “You bet I would!” I exclaimed, jumping up from my seat. The class giggled.
I lugged my backpack up to the front of the room. “Hi, I brought in flying squirrels!” A dreadful look washed over Mrs. Hedren’s face. “How many?” She shrieked.
“Seventy-five,” I announced proudly.
Mrs. Hedren winced, but said, “Continue…”
“Yes, my whole family, which I call a Swalampary,”
Mrs. Hedren looked up. “A collective noun?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
I unzipped my backpack and the whole swalampary of flying squirrels exploded out.
“It’s a swarm!” One of my classmates yelled.
“A flock!” Another screamed.
“IT’S AN EMERGENCY!” Mrs. Hedren shrieked, as a squirrel nipped at her perm.
Some of the squirrels swooped down, snatching toothpaste tubes from the students with braces. The squirrels used their teeth to squirt the toothpaste everywhere, how, I may never know. Soon, the room was covered in Aquafresh. “At least it smells clean,” I offered. I seemed to be the only one in the room that wasn’t freaking out. Some of the squirrels grabbed my cards and built a card tower. Other more destructive squirrels were firing toothpaste cannonballs at the tower, trying to knock it down. The black cloud of squirrels finally receded back into my backpack. People clung to their desks as if they’d just ran two marathons in a row. All of the girls’ nice hairstyles were frizzled, and the boys’ hair was roused. Even Mrs. Hedren leaned on her desk and was panting. “Fid,” She gasped. “You may be eligible to be expelled.” I shrugged. “I could live without school.”
The rest of the day went by fine, I snuck the squirrels a little snack at lunch, and they survived. When I got home, Dad greeted me, and I made the lame excuse that I had to do homework. I took my backpack into my room, opened the window, and let the squirrels free. Hydie hugged them as they left, and when they were all gone, I said to Hydie, “That was awesome, but we are NEVER doing it again.”
From then on, the school issued a new policy. It reads:
Notice! 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.
Natalie Kirshner is a fourth-grade student who attends King Springs Elementary in Smyrna, Georgia. She enjoys playing video games with her friends, playing football, participating in her bell choir, eating, sleeping in, and, of course, writing. She really wants to be a writer when she grows up.
First Place: The Cajun Kerfuffle
‘Twas the night before Mardi Gras, and all through Swalampville, Louisiana, not even the mice were quiet! The town hall was abuzz with people bringing their ingredients for the town’s annual Swalampary Fest. When the town was founded, the mayor made a gumbo to celebrate. Each person who lived in the town brought a home-grown ingredient to add to the gumbo, and the swalampary tradition was started.
Sally Guidry and her son Philip were at their house preparing for the big event.
“Do you think I could play some card tricks while we’re there?” asked Philip.
“You can bring your cards, but everyone will be very busy,” Sally said.
“Okay,” Philip said with a long face.
He ran to his room to grab his cards. He looked out his window and saw the Breaux twins on their way to the festival. Bill and Bob Breaux brought the hot peppers every year.
“Hey, mom! Let’s go now!” Philip pleaded.
“All right, all right, but not too quickly. This meat is heavy,” Sally said.
Passing their driveway, Betty Thibodeaux was hauling her big sack of rice. As Philip’s mom went to help her, Philip scampered off to see the Breaux twins.
“What peppers did you make this year?” Philip asked.
“Sorry, son,” said Bill.
“We can’t reveal the peppers until we get to the festival,” said Bob.
The Breaux family had always brought bell peppers to the swalampary until the twins decided to heat things up. Literally. For the past six years, they had been attempting to out hot each other by growing the hottest of all peppers. Last year’s Devil and Pompeii Peppers had sent Philip to the dentist every day for two weeks to try and cool off his mouth.
As everyone arrived at Town Hall, Mayor Melancon was waiting to greet them at the big wooden doors.
“Greetings and thank you for coming to the seventy-fifth annual Swalampary Festival!” he said with pride.
“Would you like to see one of my mystifying card tricks?” Philip asked.
“Maybe later, Philip, after I judge the gumbo,” Mayor Melancon said.
Philip sighed and went inside. His mom was too busy cooking the meat to watch his bottom palm trick. Betty Thibodeaux was racing against time to boil her rice instead of watching his two card monte. The Breaux twins were paying too much attention to their peppers to notice his jumping Gemini trick.
Just when Philip thought he would never get to show anyone his tricks, his science teacher Mr. Landry showed up.
“Hey, Mr. Landry! You’re just in time to see one of my sleight of hand tricks,” Philip said.
“If you want to do something with your hands, you could help me slice and dice these onions,” Mr. Landry said.
Philip spotted Dr. Core, the local dentist, walking around to hand out toothpaste samples and Dr. Core’s Dentistry Spit CupsTM.
“Hey, Dr. Core, what’s up?” Philip asked.
“I’m handing these out to try and keep from working triple shifts like I did last year. I hear the Breaux twins have something hot up their sleeves.”
“I have some tricks up my sleeves. Wanna see them?” Philip asked.
“Maybe later,” Dr. Core said.
Mayor Melancon made an announcement over the loud speaker. It was time for Bill and Bob to unveil their peppers, and then everyone could bring their ingredients to the Swalamp Pot.
Bill Breaux lifted up a small box revealing a tiny orange pepper.
“I give you the Spice Times Infinity Pepper!” Bill exclaimed.
Bob picked up his box and his pepper looks exactly the same as his brother’s.
“I give you the Lava Pepper!” Bob shouted.
Now, it was time to start the swalampary. First, they poured in the roux. Next, Betty Thibodeaux added the rice. Everyone who had brought a vegetable from their garden waited to add it after that. Finally, Sally dumped the sackload of meat into it, and Mayor Melancon stirred with the ceremonial golden swalampary spoon.
“Hey, Mr. Landry, do you want to see that card trick now?” Philip asked.
“After supper,” Mr. Landry said.
Philip couldn’t understand how a pot of soup and some peppers could be more mystifying to the people of Swalampville than the card tricks he’d been practicing. He’d had enough.
“And I give you the FIVE HUNDRED CARD PICKUP!!” Philip yelled as he threw every deck of cards he owned into the air.
One of them landed by Mayor Melancon, making him slide across the floor while holding onto the pot of swalampary gumbo, which spilled out the sides and caused more people to stumble. At the same time, the Breaux twins slid toward the pot and dropped their peppers into the mix. Dr. Core ran to help Mayor Melancon and slipped on a card, dropping his extra-minty mint toothpaste into the pot. The pot started to bubble then spew.
Mr. Landry shouted something super scientific, which no one understood.
“What does that mean?” Mayor Melancon shouted.
“It means gumbo go BOOM!” Mr. Landry yelled.
Everyone flipped the long tables over and hid behind them, but it was no use. The gumbo popped and exploded all over the room. The hot gumbo got into everyone’s eyes, which were now spicy times infinity. It went into their mouths, and their lips burned like lava. Mr. Landry was also head of the volunteer fire department, so he slid across the floor to the fire hoses and started rinsing everything and everyone off.
The townspeople of Swalampville skidded and skated across the mixture of gumbo, toothpaste, and cards that covered the floor then landed outside on the street.
The next morning, Philip woke up and headed to pick up his cards. There was already a line at Dr. Core’s office. At Town Hall, instead of finding his cards, he found a sign tacked to the front door that read: Notice! 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.
Finnegan Collins is a fourth grader at South Highlands Elementary Magnet in Shreveport, Louisiana. His hobbies include acting, singing, and creating stop-motion animation films. When he grows up, Finnegan wants to write and illustrate his own series of books and hopefully direct the film adaptations.