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  • My NPR contest idea

  • HappiWriter

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 3:04 am

    <p>Call me crazy. I wrote a story for the NPR contest!! Fat chance I’m gonna win…</p><p>I spent very little time planning or doing research – didn’t think it’s worth that investment. Please critique… Does the story make sense? How about Grammar…? </p><p>I’m not fully happy with the beginning… Any ideas?</p><p><br></p><p>A MIGHTY MACCABEE</p><p><br></p><p>Dude. That’s what they call me. </p><p>Jason came up with the nickname. The others followed — they always do. </p><p>He’s only fifteen, but Jason is the smartest — and strongest guy I know. The fifteen bottles of beer scattered on the concrete are proof. Also, he’s the first to notice the man across the street.</p><p>As we pound at the drinks, Jason whistles. “That old grandpa’s got something in his pocket.”</p><p>He’s right. A middle aged gentleman walks down the street. Every moment or so, he stops, pats his pocket and moves on.</p><p>Phil snorts. “His reading glasses — keeping ‘em safe.”</p><p>“It’s cash.” Jason swipes a blond hair off his forehead. “Or diamonds.”</p><p>I squint across the darkening street. “How do you know?”</p><p>“I know.” Jason downs half a bottle in one gulp. “This calls for action, boys. Any volunteers?”</p><p>I swagger to my feet before he finishes his sentence. Yesterday, Phil dared called me a weakling. Today, I’ll show them.</p><p>“Dude’s the man.” Jason kicks my heel. “Who’ll help?”</p><p>Phil and Alex stir.</p><p>“No,” I say. “I’ll handle this myself.”</p><p>“Yourself? Brave dude.” Jason flicks a bottle cap toward the playground. “Anyone else?”</p><p>My jaw tightens. </p><p>Jason’s lips twist into a crooked smirk. “They say the cops are tough in this neighborhood.”</p><p>“Ho.” I flex my muscles, showing the guys how tough I really am. “Cops are stupid. Nothing to be afraid of.”</p><p>Jason nods in the doomed man’s direction. I take it as a sign of consent.</p><p>Up close, the man seems younger — a balding head, not fully gray. His gait is measured but purposeful.</p><p>“Excuse me,” I call from behind.</p><p>The man turns.</p><p>Before he realizes what’s going on, he’s on the ground. I dig into his pocket, grab the wallet. Run, run… across the street, into the park, past the playground, to the benches.</p><p>The guys are still drinking. Jason smokes, enveloping the benches in puffs of black air. </p><p>Breathless, I lift my arms in triumph, waving the wallet above my head. There’s a whole lot of cash in there — a whole lot. The boys’ eyes glint, thinking of the stuff a full wallet can buy.</p><p>Jason crashes his bottle against the concrete, punches my arm. “Not bad, Dude. Not bad at all.” He uncaps another bottle. “A toast?”</p><p>I accept, but before I take a sip, someone groans. The gang members scramble to their feet, scattering in every direction.</p><p>“What’s going on?” I ask.</p><p>“Cops,” someone mutters before sprinting away.</p><p>The sirens echo in the night — red and blue lights flashing against the metal fences. A cold touch grips my chest.</p><p>Run, Dude… Run!</p><p>I race out of the park. Sirens turn louder, my back is warmed by the spinning lights.</p><p>Where to?</p><p>A trash can.</p><p>I jump in, pulling the lid over my head. My breath pulses against the plastic walls. Never before had I huddled in a trash can. It stinks. </p><p>My sneakers squish against something crunchy, oily — rotting fish and spoiled milk. What an odor. My stomach churns. </p><p>I’m a loser. Cowering… like a girl.</p><p>After the longest minutes in my life, the sirens fade. I don’t move. Is it safe to leave? </p><p>What a coward I am.</p><p>There’s little time to think. The can’s lid opens, bringing a gust of fresh air — and a girl poised to throw a bag of trash inside.</p><p>“Boo!” I say. Can’t think of something better.</p><p>She gapes. Her mouth open wide.</p><p>“Boo,” I say again.</p><p>A shrill shriek and she sprints into the house.</p><p>Now’s my chance.</p><p>Without much thought, I jump out of the can. It’s not a graceful jump. Along with me, topples my new trashy friends, sticking to my hoody and pants.</p><p>“A brave young man, eh?” A hand reaches for mine. It’s the old grandpa I mugged before. He helps me up, standing by as I slap my jeans, trying to force the trash off.</p><p>“That’s how you kids are.” The man seems more amused than angry. “Always think you’re stronger, braver until the cops come along and, boom, you gotta start thinking…”</p><p>Two kids stand at the gate. Another on the front steps. Behind is a wall. Ahead is Old Grandpa, a twinkle in his eye. </p><p>How will I escape?</p><p>I clench my fingers behind my back. I won’t stay still — like a captured prisoner. I’m stronger. </p><p>Dad, when he was still around, called me his little warrior. I could do this. I could… push the man aside and… go. I could, but…</p><p>But the windowsill… Candles flickering… </p><p>A menorah…?</p><p>I blink. Once. Twice. </p><p>Old Grandpa watches. “You Jewish?”</p><p>My tongue freezes. I’m paralyzed, staring at the candles as they light the shadows. I’m floating back in time — home. Dad is still well. Mom still smiles. Cheeks alive, I face my little tin menorah, letting the wicks catch flame. As they burn, we sing, the candles’ golden aura reflecting in our eyes.</p><p>I cough. A gentle arm wraps around my shoulders. “Come kid.” Old Grandpa leads me up the stairs, into the house. My feet obey. Why? I don’t know.</p><p>Inside, Old Grandpa asks. “Did you ever light Hanukkah candles?”</p><p>My chest pinches. I nod. “A long time ago.”</p><p>“Do you want to light now?”</p><p>I want to light. I really do. </p><p>“No.” I shake my head. “I’m fine.”</p><p>Silly memories can be thought of later. Now, I gotta get out of here — before the cops arrive.</p><p>Old Grandpa settles in an armchair, the gentlest smile on his face. “Did you hear of the Maccabees?”</p><p>A strange question. “Yeah,” I say, then realize he’s focusing on his grandkids, not me.</p><p>The kids settle around as Old Grandpa begins his tale. It’s yearly tradition, it seems — Grandpa telling the tale of the Maccabees.</p><p>I should leave. I should slip out. They’re enraptured in the story. They won’t notice.</p><p>But I stay. Old Grandpa tells marvelous tales. He speaks of the Maccabees, like my dad used to. </p><p>Dad told stories of the Maccabee’s bravery, their strength — thirteen Jews against thousands of Greek soldiers, but Old Grandpa is different. </p><p>“The Maccabees,” he says. “Fought not because they were born warriors, not because they had steel muscles or tough whits. They fought for their beliefs — for truth.”</p><p>I think of Dad. He called me his Little Maccabee. </p><p>Wrestling matches, street fights, burglary, drinking without limits… Did he mean that, or…</p><p>“To take a stand.” Old Grandpa strokes his little beard. “To fight for the honest and the truth. To fight when they call you a coward, when they call you weak. Weak?” He raises his voice. “This kind of weakness makes you stronger than they’ll ever be.” </p><p>The speech is too sophisticated for Old Grandpa’s young grandkids. His gaze rests on me. I look away.</p><p>On the windowsill, the candles burn tall, unyielding, though the darkness outside is complete. Like the Maccabees, I think.</p><p>It’s getting late. “I’m going,” I say.</p><p>Old Grandpa rises. “You didn’t light the menorah.”</p><p>“I have to go. My friends are waiting.”</p><p>His eyes dim. “I won’t keep you, then.” He takes my hand. Shakes it. “Be careful, kid. Don’t get in trouble. It’s no fun. Believe me.” He looks into my eyes. “If you do get stuck in a mess, come by. I’ll try to help.” He pumps my arm again. “Matt Greenberg’s the name.”</p><p>Matt Greenberg? The hotshot lawyer? I pull my hand away. It drifts to my pocket, to the stolen wallet.</p><p>Matt grins. “Fighting for truth. That’s me.” </p><p>I bite my lip until it hurts. “Matt Greenberg…. Matt…”</p><p>“Matt — like Matthias, father of the Maccabees.” The lawyer chuckles. “I’m emulating him in my own way.”</p><p>My fingers turn icy. I stare at my nails, then at my dirty shoes. “My name…” I speak in a whisper. “Is Judah.”</p><p>Matt opens his mouth, closes it.</p><p>“Judah.” I say, louder.</p><p>Matt’s wrinkles deepen, highlighting the shimmer in his eyes. “Judah? Like Judah the Maccabee?”</p><p>Inside, something stirs. My pocket is hot, burning. The wallet — Matt’s wallet — my prize, proof of my might — Judah, the warrior.</p><p>I finger the leather, swallow hard, then fling it onto the table.</p><p>“Yeah.” My voice quivers. “Like Judah the Maccabee.”</p>

  • Writer123

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 3:53 am

    WOW!!!!! HappiWriter, this is amazing! I had tears in my eyes at the end! So uplifting and I love how you portrayed the message of truth and strength! And you connected it to Chanukah in such a fascinating way! You better send this in! It is so good!!!

  • MH

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 4:10 am

    Oh. My. Gosh. HappiWriter I have tears in my eyes! That is so amazing how you portrayed that, and whoa, the feeling at the end, and the flashbacks, so moving. I really like the ending!

    • MH

      Member
      October 15, 2020 at 4:11 am

      I’m honestly echoing Writer123:)))

  • Brocha

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 4:42 am

    <p>My friend, you can seriously write!</p><p>I love your style</p>

  • Anagrammer

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    <p>HappiWriter, you nailed it! This is insanely good! The ending sent shivers up my spine. The only thing I would suggest is to take out the ‘cowering like a girl’ part. Might be offensive to feminist listeners…</p>

    • Sherry

      Member
      October 15, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      <p>Excellence.</p>

  • Fayge Y.

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    <p>I didn’t read the NPR requirements. I assume fiction’s ok too, not just personal narratives?<br><br>I’m almost thinking you could submit this to AIM.<br></p>

    • Anagrammer

      Member
      October 15, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      <p>My impression was that fiction is required.</p>

    • Fayge Y.

      Member
      October 16, 2020 at 7:49 pm

      <p>Oops. I didn’t read the requirements. I just assumed heartwarming personal stories. Guess not.<br></p>

    • Fiction Fangirl

      Member
      October 18, 2020 at 2:08 am

      <p>Fayge I agree: I think it would be perfect for the AIM.</p>

  • Fiction Fangirl

    Member
    October 15, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    <p>HappiWriter: A 5-star read. Thank you for sharing high-quality fiction with us.</p>

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 17, 2020 at 11:49 pm

    This story is so touching on so many levels. Firstly, it is BEAUTIFULLY written. I had tears in my eyes. Secondly, I enjoyed the pace of the story, it’s direction and it’s themes. The ending twist, the exchanging of the names, brilliant! Also I was born Erev Chanukah so this story has a soft place in my heart. Job well done. I hope you win, if not please submit it somewhere else, maybe it would be good for a Chanukah issue. It has all the style, flair, and light of a published piece.

  • arty10k

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Really beautiful story! I hope it gets published-maybe slightly edited for the frum kid?

  • HappiWriter

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    <p>Thanks everyone for your encouragement!!</p><p>I always wondered how writers get readers to have tears in their eyes at the end of stories.</p><p>I guess, it’s about writing from your heart and… siyata d’shmaya.</p>

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