“The Problem Child”

Alexandrea Bouchard

Once upon a time, I lived in a closet.

I wasn’t new to the job. I had been assigned to Rory when he was five years old. I was three months away from retirement before a file was slapped on my desk with four words scrawled across the front: “RORY WINTERS: PROBLEM CHILD.”

I had heard rumors of Rory. My coworkers whispering about a child showing no fear. Undaunted by anyone management sent his way. I had heard that the last guy assigned to Rory had quit two days later. But I had been in the business for almost forty years. There was nothing I hadn’t seen. That’s why management came to me: I was their last hope.

I had read Rory’s file over carefully, making sure to consider the things my coworkers had tried – and failed – in Rory’s case. As I continued to read, I had thought I was being put up to an early retirement joke. But when my coworkers began to whisper as I passed by, I realized I had been assigned the worst child the Company had ever seen.

The more whispers I heard, the more determined I became. I was going to break the chain and handle this child. I mean, he was five years old, how hard could he be to handle? Once I finished reviewing the folder, I came up with a solid plan: one of the best plans I had ever devised in forty years.

The first day I met Rory, it was a dark and stormy night. Cliché, right? But that was the point. Rain pattering against the ground covered any noises I couldn’t avoid. Wind blowing tree branches against Rory’s bedroom window helped spark his imagination of terrors in the night. The darkness created a blanket of blind fear.

I had slunk into Rory’s room through an open window. Rory’s routine had been in his file: dinner at 6:30 pm followed by a shower and bedtime, so I knew precisely when his room would be vacant. My plan called for me to stay under Rory’s bed until he fell asleep, but once I saw his closet, positioned directly across from his bed, I knew I had to adjust my plan. The closet was too perfect of a placement to pass up. So, as I heard the running of bathwater, I slithered into Rory’s closet and settled amongst the dirty clothes and mothballs.

In the closet I stayed for almost six hours. Rory had come into his room and the squeaking bed springs told me he had immediately gone to bed. I could only see a sliver of

Rory’s room out of the crack of the closet door, but I didn’t need to see much to know what to do.

A few minutes past midnight, I initiated my plan. Using my shoulder, I pushed against the closet door, purposely allowing it to squeal open. I heard shuffling, and, in the darkness, I saw a small figure prop up in Rory’s bed. I knew he couldn’t see me, but it wouldn’t take long until I could smell his fear. I opened my mouth and let out a gargling, “Rory,” drawing his name out across my tongue.

“H-hello?” A quiet voice whispered in the dark.

Before I rose out from the laundry, a loud crash and hard footsteps came from outside Rory’s room. Rory’s figure froze and then did the unthinkable: he pounced out of bed and ran straight for the closet, where he had heard my unknown voice not moments before.

The closet door flung open, and I met Rory for the first time. Against my nine-foot stature, Rory stood at three feet, with unkempt hair and mismatching pajamas. Upon seeing me, Rory had to crane his neck to see my face. He looked me up and down quickly – ignoring my long row of jagged shark teeth, deep red glowing eyes, and four slithering tentacles – and did something even more unthinkable.

“Move over,” he whispered, pushing past me, and settling in the corner of the closet, shutting the door tightly behind him.

I let out a surprised noise as Rory put a finger over his mouth, shushing me. Me! “You must be new,” he whispered. Through my astonishment, I smelled something on Rory I had not before – fear. But not from me. Not from the monster in his closet. But from whatever laid outside his room.

As the footsteps grew louder, the stench of Rory’s fear filtered through my slitted nostrils. Then, a loud bang vibrated through the room as Rory’s bedroom door flung open.

“Rory?” A slurred voice uttered from the bedroom. After no response, the voice came back, harsher, and deeper than any of my coworkers’ voices. “RORY?!”

I looked down at the little boy, who now sat trembling next to me, and it all made sense. Why Rory had been assigned as a problem child. Why none of my coworkers had ever successfully scared him: nothing we could do could scare him more than what was already in his house.

A wave of rage passed over me, and I burst through the closet door, extending my tentacles, and rising to my full height. I towered over the voice in the bedroom – a man with a startling resemblance to Rory and a beer bottle in his hand – and smiled, exposing every single one of my 252 teeth to the stranger.

“Get. Out.” I snarled, basking in the new scent of fear emitting from the man in front of me. With a terrified whimper, he collapsed, and Rory peered out from the closet to see his biggest fear crumpled to the ground.

Tenderly, he grabbed my nearest tentacle, ignoring the sliminess, and held it. “Thank you,” he sighed, a new scent of relief on him.

Once upon a time, I lived in a closet. No longer to scare Rory, as I had been assigned, but to protect him from the monster that already lived in his house. 


Tom’s Story

Noah Haslett

Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved to play in his tree house. Actually, he called it his tree fort, but for him it was anything he wanted it to be. Sometimes it was a wagon jolting over rough terrain while he kept an eye out for Indians and buffalo. Sometimes it was a Viking ship slicing through the waves as he searched for cities to raid. Sometimes it was a spaceship speeding through the heavens as he looked for planets to land on and explore. The boy’s name was Tom.

The tree fort was built in a giant oak tree in the woods behind Tom’s house. The oak tree must have been hundreds of years old. Its branches spread out and covered a large area of the forest floor. Its crown towered over the top of the other trees, and its trunk was massive, dwarfing all of the other tree trunks.

Tom built the tree house himself. In fact, Tom built most of the things he played with, using the tools and materials in his father’s shop. Tom loved to build things; he had built swords, bows, ray guns, and whatever else he needed for the adventure he was going on next in his tree fort. You see, Tom’s parents did not have much money, but that was fine with Tom.


One day, Tom was playing in his tree fort. He was riding a dinosaur through the jungle when he noticed thunderheads piling up in the sky. They were moving his way and already flashing lightning. Tom ran quickly inside. His parents had often told him to never play in his tree house when there was a thunderstorm. That evening he watched the storm shoot lightning bolts out of the sky and produce

deafening thunder. Suddenly, an extra bright lightning bolt and an extra loud thunderclap rent the sky at almost the same exact time. Tom saw the bolt strike the tallest, most massive tree in the whole woods. His Tree.

The next morning, Tom ran outside first thing. He sped to his tree to survey the damage. The Giant tree had been split in two, right down the trunk. The two halves of the trunk had fallen over and crushed several smaller trees. The trunk was burnt and had been splintered into many large fragments that had been thrown violently in all directions. Tom’s tree fort was completely destroyed.

Tom was distraught over the loss of his tree fort. He could rebuild it, and he could even make it better. But he had played in that tree fort for years, and he had grown to love each board and plank. Tom began to search through the wreckage for anything he could salvage. As he was digging through some of the wreckage near the tree trunk, he came upon a wooden box held shut by a rusty padlock. It looked very old and was very heavy. The only mark on the outside of the box, beside several scratches, was the word Townsend carved very faintly into the bottom of the box.

When he was finished sorting through the remains of his tree fort, he took the box to his father’s shop. After working on the box for several hours, he finally opened it. What he saw amazed him. The box was full of gold coins of all shapes and sizes. The only piece of paper was a small note on top of the coins. It was a poem. It read:

Consider well
On what this you spend For who can tell How things may end

- Earl Townsend ==========================================================

Tom did consider well what he was going to use his fortune to buy. He could buy enough wood for a dozen tree forts. He could buy all the toys he wanted. He could save it for later, and buy a car or a house. Finally, Tom made his decision.

The next day, Tom walked into town so he could use his fortune. Instead of going to the toy store or the bank, he walked up to a homeless man sitting on the curb.

“Excuse me sir,” Tom said, “I want to give this to you”
The man looked into the box and exclaimed “I can’t take that from you.”

“You won’t be taking it from me,” replied Tom, “I am giving it to you.”

“I’m awfully sorry son,” responded the man, “But my family lost a fortune before, and I don’t want to lose another one.”

“I insist,” said Tom, “I have plenty. I have a house, food and nice clothes. I want you to have this money so you can have those things too.”

After a long pause, the man finally said “Okay, I accept,” and, with tears welling up in his eyes, accepted the gift from Tom.


Two weeks later, Tom received a package from the man. He thanked Tom again for the money and told him that he was living in a nice house and had nice clothes. He had also been given a job. He also included several of the gold coins, saying that he wanted Tom to have some nice things too.

The letter was signed Greg Townsend. Greg Townsend was the great-great-grandson of Earl Townsend who had hidden the box in the giant oak tree and was blamed by the family for losing their fortune. 


The Boy and the Wishing Well

Stephanie Echem

Once upon a time at the edge of an old town was a groundwater well; now, this was no ordinary well; legend had long been told that it had possessed a certain magic—that it was, in fact, a wishing well. For a long time, the townsfolk would wish for just about anything: pleas like, “I wish I had a million dollars!” or, “I want to have all the food in the world!” or, “I want my leg back!”—this one, of course, belonging to an elderly fellow named One-Legged Larry, a moniker eventually used by the entire town; others, however, would ask with more serious requests—requests like, “I wish I could have a child,” or, “I wish I were out of debt,” or more recently, “I just want to find my boy,” but after a little while, with no millionaire or even a Two-Legged Larry in sight, the people grew to doubt the magic of the well and would later seem to forget all about it.

Now, run dry and in disuse, the well was covered in an overgrowth of both moss and shame; no one in the town cared to consider that old, forgotten thing; instead, they were all preoccupied with going about their day: the men working in their offices; the women tidying their houses; the children playing in their fields; everyone was too busy without too much of a longing wish to think of telling it to a silly, old well—that is, until one boy did.

For a youth of no more than eight years, the boy was not very popular; in fact, he’d swear that he had no friends at all and that all the other children in the town didn’t like him; “Buttheydon’t likeme!”heinsistedathismother’sdenial;“Idon’tknowaboutthat,”she replied; “Have you even tried?” but suddenly off with a groan and tearful eyes, he marched up to his room and onto his bed, infuriated by his mother’s curt response; “Have you even tried?” he mimicked; didn’t she remember all the times of when he had gone out and tried to make the children to invite him into their games? What was the use of trying again? “They don’t like me!” he cried; then, after a short time, gently behind him, “Sweetheart, did I ever tell you the story of the wishing well?” asked his mother.

“The wishing well?” sniffed the boy.
“You know, that old well that sits at the edge of town? It’s got lots of moss all over it?” “Oh, that old thing? A wishing well?”

“Yes, but it wasn’t always like that; you see, not too long ago, people from all over this town would go there to see if their wishes would come true; you know, wishes like, ‘I want to be rich,’ or, ‘I want a puppy for Christmas.’”

“And did they?”
“Well, legend has it they did.”
“How come I don’t hear about it?”
“Well, ever since it ran dry, people stopped using it, and they eventually forgot about

“Then why are you telling me about it?”
“Honey, I want you to know that if you ever need something, like a friend or somebody

to play with, you could always try making a wish for it; just say your wish to the well, and see if it comes true.”

Suddenly, “Mama, that’s the silliest thing I ever heard!” giggled the boy; did his mother really believe in that concoction of a story, or was she just trying to lift his spirits?

“Well, at least I got you to smile,” confessed his mother; “Now, come on. Dinner’s ready,” and off they went; however, ever since his mother had told that story, the boy couldn’t stop thinking about the well and its supposed magic, and because the days weren’t seeming to get any more interesting, he finally decided to try his luck.

“Going out?” asked his mother on one afternoon; the boy, catching a gleam of hope in her eyes but not wanting to reveal his true intentions, yelled, “Yeah! I’ll be back for dinner!” as he sped past his mother and straight through the front door; running eagerly across town now, he could make out through wisps of wind the exuberant laughter of the children who were playing all about him; this only made him to want his wish even more.

Finally reaching the far end of town, the boy stopped and quickly caught sight of the well; panting and stepping cautiously to its moss-grown wall, “This better work,” he murmured, and unveiling a coin in his palm, he said, “Mama never mentioned anything about a coin, but just in case—” and tossed it into the well; after finally hearing the end of the coin’s fall, “Wow!” he hollered, for it was a deep well; “‘Ow!” seemed to echo back his voice; then, “Is anybody there?” he jokingly inquired.

“Is anybody there?”
“I’m here!” boasted the boy, enjoying the strange sound of the echo. “I’m here!”
“What are you doing there?”
“What are you doing there?”
“Making a wish!”

“Making a wish?” the echo seemed to question. Now seriously remembering the reason for which he came there in the first place, the boy gravely admitted, “I just wish I had a friend to play with.”

“I just wish I had a friend to play with,” sympathized the echo. “Do you want to be my friend?” continued the boy.
“Do you want to be my friend?”

“Sure!” the echo agreed, but suddenly tired of his little game, the boy backed away and grunted, “Oh, what’s the use; it’s just a silly, old well anyway,” so he turned around, went on his way home, and that was that; to him, it was just a moment that he would probably soon forget, but it was unforgettable to the boy whose strange voice would later echo again out of that old, forgotten well, asking, “Where did you go?” 

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