Archive | December 2012

Black Christmas

Madonna Badger could look around her dinner table in Christmas Eve of 2011 and feel the freshly baked apple pie her mother had just baked elude to the sense of warmth she felt. The people she most cared about surrounded her – retired parents, including a father whose latest past time was to be an in-store Santa Clause, and her boyfriend. But above all, the most important pieces to any one of her holidays could be found in those skipping around and decorating the table – her daughters. Lily, ten, and her seven-year-old twins, Sarah and Grace were thrilled of the prospect of presents in their small town of Stamford, Connecticut. Michael Borcina, Badger’s boyfriend, went to clean out the Victorian home’s fireplace, while everyone else was tucked into bed. When the lights were turned out and the wood burning ashes tossed out the door, everyone fell asleep. What Badger awoke to was a far cry from the typical rising to dawn and an exchange of gifts. Instead fire blazed through her bedroom and the smoke chocked her.                                                                      

Badger escaped through her bedroom’s front window and climbed towards her daughters’ room. When she was in front of the blazing door, the smoke tinting her teeth and mouth black, she stepped forward. Fire shot back and no matter how much she willed herself through the scorching heat, she could not save her children. By the time the firefighters pulled Badger and Borcina out, the building’s frame was a hollow replication of a doll’s house. That Christmas morning Badger’s parents and three daughters died in the fire. 24 hours later the house was demolished. With her primary family members and home gone, Badger would stumble in the following year from one mental institution to another.        

Weeks before this year’s Christmas, Badger is starting to shed away the days of crying. Throughout this year’s hop scotching from one state to another her band of friends have expanded. From a roof over her head to mere affection, this bond of humanity has established a profound foundation in her life. Not only has it expanded forever expanded what ‘family’ means for Badger, but also to me. It shows that support and unconditional love go beyond blood. It shows that even those who attempt suicide and explore the facilities of three mental institutions can be loved by those not traditionally deemed to be her family. Keeping in mind the recent occurrences across the world, it is reassuring to know that acceptance and affection can still coexist in this world.

This Christmas, Badger is heading over to Thailand where Santa Clause does not exist. She will be packing the toys that were salvaged and give them to an orphanage. In that orphanage that Badger will be visiting, the children are all girls who have also lost their families. Among the tragedy and sorrow, Badger has managed to plan one personal gift to herself – riding elephants. This not only will bring her happiness, but within that moment of scarce joy she hopes to feel closer to her daughters.

 Prompt: In a monologue from a deceased family member, describe the message in no more than 500 words what they would share with you.

* In memory of his daughters, Madonna Badger’s ex-husband, Matthew Badger, has set up a foundation to commemorate his daughters. In this foundation, all money donated goes towards celebrating and helping teachers who use creativity in their methods of teaching. If you wish to donate, please visit the main website for the Lily Sarah Grace Fund.


Slicing the Middle Man’s Price

For high school students that have a set mapped course for college, they face several churning seas before they even can click ‘Submit’ on their application. Before they worry about any price tag and the special exclusive discount they may receive, they must worry about the multiple costs that stream from applying just to one school. Although several companies and institutions try to focus on helping students, all they seem to want is a check.

           The first financial mouse trap is set in a student’s sophomore and junior year. With the two years filled with standardized tests, the cost of taking the SAT Reasoning with writing, SAT Subjects Tests, and ACT can lead to a bill of $135. Never mind the fact that teachers recommend that a student takes the SAT Reasoning with writing and ACT at least three times, which would thus increase the price. Before taking the tests, the smart snack that students vouch for, the preparation whether by tutoring or the traditional method of studying from a book can lead to something so simple yet necessary casting the minimum of $20. With all universities, except those with the exemptions to all standardized tests, requiring these tests there exists no choice by to take them. What these companies, like College board who cling to the image of being supportive of anything educational, should make these tests more affordable by reducing the prices and, when it comes to sending off the scores, either cutting or putting a transaction that occurs through the computer at a zero cost. With these head owners of multi-million dollar testing industries sucking every penny away before the voyage of college expenses have even begun, they ignore the bare bones of the economy by not lowering their prices.

            The irony in the next set up is unmistakable. On every application it is an option for students to get considered for financial aid. Those that do choose to fill out the tedious forms and go through the hassle of collecting the information, usually go through this one journey to save money not expecting to have to pay for the application itself. Another catch that the College board does is pry the money to send the application of the CSS Profile to the majority of schools that require it in addition to the FAFSA form for financial consideration.

            Schools themselves can ease the pain. Rather than worrying about finding the money for the application itself, which may range from a minimum of $30 to $100, they can either cut it to a minimum or allow certain students who may send in the application through early action or early decision to not pay it. This advantage offers students motivation to finish their application sooner.

            By cutting these small costs it allows for a student to once again dream big. It allows families to be able to cross one small financial bridge which can have significant effects. At the end of the senior year, a student can feel content that they tried their hardest and applied to all the schools on their wish list. By these institutions and companies cutting back a few costs, they will have achieved at least one accomplishment – they would have cut that question of “what if…”

 Prompt: In a poem no more than twenty lines long, describe a situation in which the narrator wonders what seems to be impossible.

Beyond the Collar, Beyond the Cell

In Liz Goodwin’s article, “Prison Pups: Dog training program changed his life, says inmate,” a revelation occurred to me. In Goodwin’s coverage, she interviews Eddie Hill. He is a man with a resemblance to Robin Williams, but with a gaze that triggers sorrow rather than humor. After being convicted of double murder, Hill was sentenced to two lifetimes in jail in 1993. When he arrived to the Warren Correctional Institution he recalls himself being an unrecognizable person compared to who his is today. Once he joined 4Paws a transformation began. The program allows inmates to train dogs for three months before the pets are sent to professionals who place them with disabled children.

While Hill’s transformation started in 2002 when he joined the program, mine started when I read his story. My set beliefs, that were set as strong as a small town’s century’s old traditions, melted. With every passing sentence, the truth reverberated with a context of unfamiliarity on a personal level. While my love for news articles has bridged into my daily life since eighth grade, only one story before this one has revolutionized me as a person. The lesson I thought I knew – the cliché, “Never judge a book by it’s cover” might have transpired into my life in literal terms, in all my visits to local libraries, but it was the day that I read the article that it then crossed into my life beyond fairytales. Hill’s story reawakened the idea that people can truly change. That change in a person is not limited to plot lines and chapter books. He also showed me that not every butterfly shares the same patterns. With him, while he may be the only exception, he taught me that some inmates who shed their past, while remembering the lessons, do deserve a second chance.

Prompt: In a short fiction story of no more than 500 words, describe a famous villain who deserves a chance at getting a happily ever after.