Words by Carla Jean Jr.
Illustration by Erin Baird

She didn’t win the contest.

Her father asks, What did she write about?

She had written about a jellyfish that was on a quest to meet the king of the ocean, a giant jellyfish that ruled over everything with its many long tentacles. Along the way the jellyfish had to use its own, much shorter tentacles to fight off all of the hungry sea creatures that shared the murky water.

Her story hadn’t been very good. She’d had a hard time focusing on what to write about, because it was timed, and because she’d had a memory stuck in her head from the week before. She had been thinking about how she had come home from school and discovered a grackle’s head in the front yard, its body nowhere nearby, for the third time in a week. Her mother had gotten a scared look on her face when she told her, and had said that perhaps there was someone new in the neighborhood who worshipped the Devil, and that maybe they were trying to use evil to punish their good Catholic family, and that she should pray to Jesus and the Virgin Mary at church on Sunday for protection.

Anyway, she had known already that she wouldn’t win. There was a little boy in her class who had also been selected to compete, and every day he told the best stories anybody had ever heard, except that they were true. He would talk about how a ghost once trapped him in his bedroom using an invisible wall of plasma, or about how he witnessed an alien abduction the year before on a camping trip with his parents. When he told her these things she would never believe him at first, but he would supply so many details and answer all of her questions with such honest fervor, trembling and with eyes wide saying yes, yes I promise you this happened to me, that she always knew that he must have been telling the truth.

The little boy had indeed won the contest, and at the moment she is not thinking of jellyfish or grackles or ghosts but rather her affinity for this boy, which is a secret that she has been harboring for some time. At the same moment, though, her father still wants to know what she wrote her story about. She tells him about the trials of her jellyfish.

I didn’t know what to put down for some of it, she says. I only knew what to write for the middle of the story.

Her father asks, what did she do about the beginning and end, then?

Nothing, she replies. There wasn’t any. ◥