strangels: jermaine

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Against the back drop of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion an eighth grader at a Catholic school deals with demanding nuns, his first crush and the assignment of an abused fifth grader for a "little brother".


  • David Thomas Jarecki

  • Jermaine

  • This essay will be part of a national contest! First we will choose the best from every class. Then we will select the best essay to represent St. Agathas. The chosen essay will be sent to compete against the winners from other schools within the archdiocese. Sister Mary Rose walked down the center of the sea of desks. It must be written in black ink and printed clearly. The essay should be at least 3000 words but can be no longer than 5000 words. The title, which is the theme that you need to write to is; What the World Needs Now is Love, Jesus Love! This assignment is due one week from tomorrow. You can spend the remainder of the day working on your first draft. Steven Wojelek, after writing the heading, froze as he stared at the blank bottom of the page. At first he wanted to write a story about Jesus saving people with his powers. Steven smiled as he pictured Jesus swooping down from the top of a building to stop a burglar from robbing a store. Jesus would pull loaves of bread from his toga and hurl them at the armed man before making the gun gravitate from the robbers hand into His. Steven got excited by the idea but each time he started to write it he thought about how Sister Mary Rose would blast him if he wrote something that likened Jesus to a real live comic book superhero. He tried to think of another idea, but kept letting himself get distracted. Every few minutes Steven would look up at Catherine Wilson. Her seat was moved yesterday to the right and a row ahead of him. She was left handed so he was able to intently watch her skinny fingers scribble out her essay. He wondered what she was writing. Maybe shes writing about Jesus as a superhero! Ormaybe shes writing about the cute boy sitting in the row to her left and one row behind her! Crunch. Stevens thoughts were interrupted by Catherines crumpling of the page she was working on. She softly balled it up with her long fingers and put it at the front edge of her desk. He abandoned his writing and stared at that crumpled piece of paper until the bell rang. Steven sat still at his desk as he watched Catherine gather her stuff and leave the classroom. She dropped the crumpled ball into the garbage can near the light switch by the door. Once everyone but Sister Mary Rose had left, Steven went to the trash can and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. He slowly peeled it back to see that it was Danny Davis essay. After dropping it back into the basket he pulled out another ball. It was Catherines. He discreetly put it in his pants pocket before leaving the classroom.

    ***** Steven sat on his bed and opened his notebook. He started writing his essay about poor people. He wrote about how some of them live in alleys and how others lived in normal places but wore torn, dirty clothes anyway. After two short paragraphs he paused trying to think about how to tie it back to Jesusthe image

  • of Jesus swooping down from a rooftop to help a homeless man in an alley came through his head. Jesus would take all the dumpsters and other discarded materials in the alley and make them all fly up in the air. He would make them all dismantle in mid-air and reassemble into small houses before letting them slowly descend from the sky and land along the alley for all the homeless people to live in.

    Steven quickly brushed off the idea and shook his head as reality hit. 3000 words!he thought to himself as he crumpled up the first page. The act reminded him that he had Catherines crumpled essay. He got up from the bed and retrieved it from his pants pocket. He carefully un-balled the paper and flattened it out the best that he could across the dresser top. She had written three paragraphs before she tossed the essay away. It was about her aunt that had died three weeks ago. Steven became sad after reading her thoughts about her aunt. But then he got a warm feeling in his stomachhe had an aunt that passed away about a year ago. There was a connection between them! He grabbed the paper from his dresser and lay on his bed. He read it again, the large odd loops of her Palmer Method cursive l, the way she scratched out the word the and changed it to an before pausing her last sentence and crumbling up the paper. Steven read the essay eight times before his mother called him to dinner.

    ***** Sister Mary Rose wheeled the TV Stand to the front of the classroom. After a few minutes of messing with the antenna, she got the picture to come in with the least fuzzy image possible. Okay, children. In a few minutes we are about to witness history! The first teacher in space! I wish we could shoot Sister Mary Rose into space. Freddy Dvorcelk leaned over and whispered to Steven. Stop it. Steven replied before chuckling. A little background before we watch the launch. Christa McAuliffe comes from Concord, New Hampshire. She was selected from over 11,000 applicants to participate on this mission. Sister Mary Rose excitedly read from a stack of papers. Mrs. McAuliffe is a teacher of history and civics. See!! See!! She looked up from the paper and waved her pointer finger across the room. See, I told you that history is important! You dont listen to me though, do you? You need to learn and master history if you want to build the future! Sister Mary Rose lifted the press release in the air as she poked her bony finger into the pages. Some of the class laughed at her. Steven rolled his eyes as he waited for the big moment. Sister! Theyre about to launch! Mikey Buvella pointed at the television screen where the live news feed displayed the space shuttle sitting idle on the launch pad.

  • Sister Mary Roses black veil flapped behind her as she scurried over to the wall to flip the light switch off. You wouldve thought she was the one about to coordinate the launch. The class sat forward and stared at the image on the screen. The announcer stated that the Shuttle Challenger launch was originally scheduled for January 22nd and was delayed several times before todays launch attempt. Behind the announcer you could hear the static-filled transmission of the NASA official counting down T-minus 21 seconds and counting. A dead silence came across the room

    7, 6, we have main engine start, 4, 3, 2, 1 and lift off! Lift off of the 25th Space Shuttle Missionand it has cleared the tower! The children began clapping and cheering. Steven pounded his desk. Everyone gazed in amazement at the shuttle slowly turning as it shot up into the atmosphere. The large red booster and two white rockets that the shuttle was attached to left behind a large streaming line of red flames while continuing up into the blue sky. Freddy leaned over and gave Steven a high five as the rest of the class looked around and celebrated with each other. Sister Mary Rose beamed with pride, standing next to the TV stand clapping. She lifted the gold cross hanging at the top of her chest and put it up to her lips. She closed her eyes and kissed it while the class went wild. The shuttle tilted more and more to the right across the TV screen before the camera shot cut to a side view. The announcer began talking about how many delays there were the past few days. Just as he segued to the possibility of todays launch being postponed, the shuttle was suddenly covered by a large puff of white smoke. Red pockets of flames emerged within large puff before two large streams of white smoke snaked off in opposite directions above the main white cloud. Several smaller lines of white smoke shot down from the bottom before sprinkles of debris rained down and a lone red ball of fire made a u-turnshooting downward in a corkscrew pattern. The children gasped as they looked around and started chattering amongst themselves. Sister Mary Roses jaw dropped as she stared at the television.

    It looks like a couple of the solid rocket boosters blew away from the shuttlein an explosion. The broadcast announcer flatly stated. Sister Mary Rose turned off the television and darted out of the classroom. The class began clamoring speculation (Commies, Aliens, Gremlins, etc.) about what they had just witnessed and who was behind it. Steven sat back numb in his chair. He looked over at Catherine. She was in the same stateavoiding any of the gossip or speculation by crossing her arms and looking up at the blank dark television screen. Sister Mary Rose, visibly shaken, returned to the front of the class. Okay, calm down students. Weve gotten word that there was indeed a major

  • malfunction with the shuttle launch. Rescue procedures are in effect and recovery forces have been sent out. Lets all fold our hands and say a prayer for the astronauts and their families as we wait for more information toto come in. The class quieted and sat up before folding their hands in unison. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

    **** The next day the class was lined up in the hall decked out in their school-issued uniforms. The boys in their light blue polo shirts and dark navy blue pants and girls in their blue plaid skirts, white button down tops coved by matching blue vests. Heydid you hear that they found the luggage of the astronauts washed up on a Florida beach? Danny Davis asked Steven. Really? Yeah, they found their shampoo. They used Head and Shoulders shampoo. Oh. Its a joke! Get it, their heads and shoulders washed up on the beach. It was a lot funnier the way my dad told it last night. He heard it at work. Man, thats not cool! Those people died! Its just a joke dude, relax. Sister Mary Rose led the eighth graders into the classroom before having them line up before the fifth grade class. Okay everybody, listen up. Miss Jacqueline commanded the class once everyone


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