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Chaffin Student Wins 1st Place in High School Writing Competition

Gabby Sullivan writing


Every fall, the Applause Literary Journal at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith holds a high school writing competition where any student in the area in grades 9-12 are able to submit their writing in various categories that will get published in the journal the staff releases in the spring. Several of our students from around the district placed, including Gabby Sullivan, whose short story received first place in fiction. Below is her story. Congratulations Gabby!


With the Exception of a Chainsaw

Every day was always the same for Kobe and I. After the heavenly school bells finally released us from our guarded prison, we reunited under the wooden gazebo outside of school. The boiling Arkansas heat always seemed to melt my skin, as I would race out of the wooden school doors and scurry to the secure, cool shade of the forgotten structure. The gazebo was often filled with pain threatening wasps that had no hesitation in harming you if you disturbed them. So, most of the frightened children my age stayed away, which allowed the wooden palace all to ourselves.

As we sat in the shade waiting for my mother to take us away from the scorching heat, information about our days filled the empty space of conversation. Daily drama and rumors lingered in the air as we would sit under the wasp infested beams of the rustic, yet elegant, gazebo. The sun would quietly peak in through the mouse sized holes in the ceiling, and would heavily beam on us like a spotlight. As we would try to block the beams with our ageing lunchboxes, the already full space of conversation would continue to expand with details about our day.

When the cloudy white car would finally drive up and take us away from the deserted school ground, we would count the never ending minutes until our restless feet could touch the soft, long grass of my backyard. As the car ride took place the air filled with daily drama disappeared, and words about the mood of our day and the activities that took its place. Whenever we reached our destination we would always carry on the tradition of zooming out of the vehicle, and putting our speed to the test as we would race down the rocky driveway, past the wooden gate, and right to the exact spot where we met each day. Our tree.

While other children our age watched television, or played video games, we would always spend the long summer days sitting on the sturdy, dusty limbs of our tree. As we would lay back on its wooden arms and gaze into the robin blue sky, its low branches and soft wavy leaves danced in the wind to a summer tune. Some days we would only lie in its shade, and gaze dreamfully at the cotton clouds that lied above, and would imagine what heaven would be like. Other days, we would see who could climb the highest, and would imagine that we were spys on a life threatening mission, and our assignment was to watch our enemies next move.

However, most days when we climbed a few feet off the ground and had become comfortable in our home away from home, I would take out a book and read. I would read aloud to Kobe, as his long legs dangled from the limbs, and his brown hair blowed with the leaves. Each day our imaginations would fill up with daring tales of heroic adventures, and life threatening acts of bravery. Some days, stories of humorous tales, and forbidden love lingered in the air for all the world to hear. Smiles as large as the universe would walk upon our faces as we would sit there and read our books. My voice, reading the stories aloud, would carry through the air, past every lime green leaf, and into the air above.

Each day, the tree would be there to hold and comfort our worn out bodies. Each day the tree served as our house of refuge from the stinging world around us. Our wondrous tree was the magical cage, that held all of our hopes, dreams, imaginations, and secrets, and kept out all of the painful and damaging traits of the scaring world below. We cherished and loved that tree, and Kobe and I came to believe that it also loved us. That was, until the day it all changed.

As usual, Kobe and I were buzzing with eagerness to return to my evergreen backyard, and jump into a day filled with marvelous tales and tree top climbing. Then as our white form of transportation pushed its heavy black tires onto the rocky driveway of my home, we noticed a accessory at our home that was not part of our normal day. On our jagged entrance into my two story house, sat a unknown, medium sized white truck. It was detailed with orange neon strips on each side, with a rather large ladder hanging above the white intruder on a jet black rack. In the cloudy white tailgate of the truck lied tools of all sorts of shapes and sizes. The sharp edges and powerful engines on some of the tools seemed frightening enough to make a small child cry.

“Mom,” I asked with a shaky element in my voice, “what is that truck doing in our driveway? Did you know it was coming?”

“Oh ya, I forgot to tell you,” she hastily replied, “the city is putting some new plumbing in around our neighborhood. One of the locations that they need to work happens to travel right through our backyard, so they are doing a little digging to get what they need done. They should be finished in about an hour.”

A look of relieve covered my face as I released my tensed shoulders from their threatened position. I looked over to see that Kobe also had a look of relief on his face as we gave each other the signal to race to the sacred tree. As our bodies turned to fact the direction where our destination lies, a movement in that direction sent shock waves through my entire body. We watched as a chainsaw was fired up, in the exact spot where our tree rested.

As my jaw was about to lift and release a cry of fear, I watched as the sharp, jagged edges of the chainsaw take a huge chunk out of my tree. My legs wanted to give into gravity and plummet to the dusty ground below, but my mom was holding me so tight that I was unable to give in. My eyes became damp as a quiver was released on my lip. My once sunny day seemed to become morbid and gloomy with the striking sounds of the chainsaw acting as thunder. I glanced over at Kobe to see a shocked look on his face, and his once ready to run legs were now in a locked position. I looked over to my mom for a explanation, but saw the same surprised expression running across her face that was on mine.

An hour later our beloved tree had been taken from its rooted home. It’s comforting limbs and soft lime leaves, had become broken pieces of timber and crisp, brown wafers. It’s motionless carcass laid into the hot Arkansas dirt and was a constant reminder how Kobe and I would never be the same. We searched my backyard for days, searching for a tree that could fill the empty void in our hearts, but none existed.

However, life had to go on, and so did our days. We never found a tree that could hold us like our old one could. Never found one that had the same lime green leaves, or the same soft bark that covered its long wooden arms. There wasn’t one tree that we could sit in, and that could light up our imaginations like that tree could.

Years later, Kobe and I parted ways. There was no longer anyone for me to share the daily drama from school with. No one that would continue the search with me to find that perfect tree. No one to sit with me under the wooden gazebo in the scolding Arkansas heat. No one to listen to me read adventurous tales aloud and be my best friend.

It was painful at first, and my heart longed for me to hold to the things that I had lost. To cry one last time for my tree. To go to the wooden gazebo one last time, to hope that Kobe would be there, but I told my heart no. I moved on from the pain of the past and was never looking back. So, even though all those things are gone, I still have the memory of Kobe and I reading our adventurous tales in our comforting tree... with the exception of a chainsaw.

Gabby Sullivan Ninth Grade Chaffin Jr High