Excerpts & Short Stories

The Ocean Sides

Happy Sunday! Here’s a somewhat long short story this week.

2010, 8th Grade, this one is particularly embarrassing. Though if you were to speak with the 8th grade version of me, she would be very proud in sharing this. But present me is cringing. I wrote this for an assignment in English class. We were supposed to write a short story using random picture we picked out and mine ended up being the second longest I believe and I had to cut out several pages because it got too long. But enjoy my poor 8th grade writing! (Also, I went through and fixed all the grammatical mistakes – you’re welcome)


“Ms. Hill! Ms. Hill! Over here!” yelled one of the ten reporters in the crowd. Ever since I started this reptile zoo it’s been nothing but interviews one day and reporters the next. It was fun at first, but now it’s getting really annoying!

“Yes,” I hollered back.

“Umm… Yes. Well, have you ever been scared of reptiles when you were young?”

At that question, my mind went back 13 years to when I was in 7th grade. It was the last day of school and the day before we had to read our reports about our fears in front of the whole class. Our classroom was very big, over 34 students. I sat in the middle and Janet Douglas, the class’s biggest bully in our school sat right behind me. Janet was in 8th grade and throughout the year she’s been nothing but trouble to me. Janet tripped me in the lunchroom, and then took my lunch away. She bugged me in the classroom and I always got into trouble. But since we got in trouble the day before and when she heard my report about my fear of the dark and of reptiles, Janet would likely be planning something to get me back for getting her into trouble.

When I opened the front door of our school, Pioneer Middle School, and went in, there was Janet. “Hey Vanessa,” said Janet in her cheesy voice that meant trouble, “About your report yesterday, well I thought it was, um, pretty good.”

“You did?” I asked knowing she was up to something.

“Yeah, I, um, really like the part when you said, I’m afraid of the dark!” Janet yelled as if trying to get everyone’s attention.

“Um, so,” I said.

“I said, I mean, you said I’m afraid of the dark!” This time she said it even louder, and then the most terrifying thing in my life happened. The lights turned off.

“Aaah!” someone screamed. And that someone was me. As I screamed the lights came back on and everyone in the hall was laughing their heads off. Janet looked like a volcano exploding lava laughter. I tried to stand my ground like my parents taught me, but it was too much and I ran into the girl’s bathroom and into one of the stalls and cried. I could still hear the kids laughing outside until the bell rang, but I stayed put.

I didn’t move for 3 periods until our principal, Mrs. Wilson, came in and asked, “Vanessa?”

“Yeah?” I replied.

“It’s class time, dear. Is everything alright?”

“No,” I cried. “The kids laughed at me.”

“Why?” she asked.

“’Cause I’m afraid of the dark,” I replied crying.

“Come out of there and forget about what the kids did to you. They don’t know how you feel,” she said.

“Alright.” I went out of the stall, and Mrs. Wilson was standing in front of the mirror fixing her hair. I went to the sink and washed my face until the redness went away.

I came out of the girl’s bathroom and went into Mr. Stewart’s classroom. When I opened the door everyone stared at me. I could see Janet and her “so called” friends giggling in the back of the room. “Glad you could join us, Ms. Hill. Now please sit in your desk and get a piece of paper and a pencil out,” commanded Mr. Stewart our English teacher. I went to my desk and opened it.

“Aaah!” I screamed (again). This time there was a real snake in my desk. I saw Janet explode with laughter again.

“Now, now everyone back in your seat. Harry take that garter snake and put it outside,” ordered Mr. Stewart. Harry took the snake out of my desk and took it outside. After that, I sat in my desk and didn’t do anything till the bell rang at 12:00.

“Now before everyone leaves for their summer vacation I just want to say one thing. I hope you all have a great summer!” Everyone left the room in a flash, but I was the last one to leave.

When I got on the bus everyone was quiet. Oh no, not another trick, I thought. “Um, I think I’ll walk home today,” I told the bus driver.

“Alright Vanessa, hope you have a nice relaxing summer. Bye,” said the bus driver.

I got off the bus and walked home. When I got home my mom was waiting for me with my dad, and she was holding something. “Hi, Mom, Dad what’s that?”

“Well honey,” my mom said, “guess what?”

“What?”

“We got the Sweet Breeze on Pawley’s Island!” they said excitedly.

“What! We did? Yes!” I was so happy that I hugged my parents really tight. The Sweet Breeze was a big beach house in South Carolina, and it was the only house on the beach. It had 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and there are 3 balconies. It was the most perfect place for my mom, my dad, my baby brother Jack, and for me. I couldn’t wait to go.

“When are we leaving?” I asked.

“Tomorrow afternoon. Your mom packed Jacks suitcase and ours, so go pack Tinkerbelle,” my dad teased.

I dashed up the stairs to my room and started to pack for our 3 weeks in South Carolina. I packed my flashlight, swimming suit, 3 weeks worth of clothes, backpack, and a few books for the flight. That night I switched on my nightlight and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a great day.

   *                  *                  *

When I woke up I could smell scrambled eggs, fruit salad, coffee cake, and orange juice. I got up quickly, got dressed and bounded down the stairs. “Good morning, Mom,” I said with a smile.

“Good morning, sweetie. How did you sleep?” she asked pouring my orange juice.

“Great. Um, where’s dad?”

“Your father went to load up the car. It seems we’ll be leaving after breakfast instead of lunch,” she said smiling.

“Oh that’s great,” I said. “Oh good morning Jack.”

“Bloobloblooblee.” That was baby talk for good morning.

I finished my breakfast and headed outside to help dad. When we loaded up the car, which took 30 minutes, we all piled into our van and headed out to the airport.

After about an hour, we got there. We were just in time to get onto the plane. My dad gave the stewardess our tickets and we all got on the plane. When I stepped on I was surprised to see so many people, but I was glad that there were 6 seats in the back of the plane not taken yet. I sat down by the window and looked out. We were moving down the runway then took off. Two hours later, I asked my mom how many more hours it would take and she answered, “4 more.”

Of course, I was reading one of my books and I was half way through it. Four hours later the plane FINALLY landed. We all got off and got our bags. My dad found a taxi to Pawley’s Island.

After the long drive, we finally got there. I jumped out of the taxi to the front door but it was locked, so I had to wait for my dad to open it. He came over and opened it with an armload of suitcases, and I went upstairs and into the bedroom of my choice.  It had a big bed, a fireplace, a balcony outside and a bathroom. I unpacked my things then went downstairs. “Mom, I’m going down to the beach! Bye” I hollered.

“Alright dear,” she hollered back.

I left the kitchen in a flash and out the door. The sand on my bare feet felt cool, especially with a nice sweet calm breeze. I went down to the water and started to wade in the water. When I walked about 4 feet away from the shore my big toe bumped into something. I looked down (thinking it was a rock) and saw a bottle cork. I pulled the cork and the whole bottle came out of the wet and soggy sand. The bottle had something in it. I didn’t have one of those cork openers with me so I went back to the kitchen and found one in one of the drawers. I bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time, to my room and out on the balcony to open the bottle. It took me a while but I successfully opened it. I took a piece of paper out of the bottle and opened it. It was half of a map of Pawley’s Island, there was a rocky mountain on it and an X. At the bottom it said, it is only to be understood.  ~Marie Curie. Huh? I went back to the map. The rocky mountain was about a mile south.

It was 3:27 P.M. I grabbed my backpack and put my flashlight, the half of the map into it, and went softly down the stairs because Jack was taking his nap. I went into the kitchen and packed a lunch. Of course, I first asked my mom if I could go hiking and she said yes.

So I headed off, from the place I found the bottle. About an hour later, I was standing in front of the mountain. I started to climb it. The mountain wasn’t that steep, but it sure looked like it was to me. It was really hot during the afternoon and my hands, arm, legs, feet, and back were all sore and hot from climbing. But a few more feet and I would be at the top.

Finally I was there and to my surprise, I saw a cave. “What? A cave. I came all the way up here to find a cave. I’m afraid of the dark! Oh yeah, I have my flashlight.” I started walking toward it when I spotted something on the side of the cave wall. Leave everything behind. Use only your eyes. “What? But I need this flashlight. What the-?” Something came out of the rock and took my flashlight. I think it was a big magnet. (And your probably thinking how it got out of my grip, well it’s simple, that climb made my hands sweaty and my fingers were sore so I wasn’t really gripping it that hard) The thing closed and I never saw my flashlight again.

“Now what, I can’t go in that cave? It’s too dark.” But something inside me told me to go. So I did. My first step into the darkness without a light was torture. That last day of school, when the lights went out, made me scream, but this time I didn’t scream. I continued walking and the darkness didn’t seem to bug me anymore. “Why was I so afraid of the dark? It’s nothing. It’s just black. Hey, what’s that?” I saw a little light up ahead. I started to run toward it. Soon the light got brighter and brighter then all of the sudden. “Ah, light!” I ran out and soaked in the sunlight. But I just remembered the map. I got it out and looked to see where I was. “Let me see. Oh! I’m on the other side of the cave. And there’s an X about 3 yards away.” I walked 3 yards and there was a big red X on a rock. I picked up the rock and under it was another bottle. I picked up the bottle and there was something inside it too, like the other bottle I found, I put it in my backpack, and then set off back through the cave and down the mountain.

I got back to the house and my mom inquired, “How was the hike, dear?”

“Fine,” I responded heading upstairs.

“Where are you going? It’s almost supper time.”

“Um, up to my room to drop off my, um… backpack!” I said trying not to sound like I was up to something.

“Well alright and when you come down can you bring Jack?” my mom asked.

“Sure,” I answered.

I went upstairs to my bedroom and opened my backpack and got the bottle out. It was a good thing I still had the bottle cork opener in my room. I jumped on my bed and began to open the bottle, but my mom called me, “Vanessa! Supper’s ready and remember to bring Jack!” I got off my bed feeling disappointed and went into Jack’s room.

“Jack, wake up,” I whispered softly. I wiggled him a little and he slowing began to wake up. I picked him up and carried him gently downstairs.

“Oh, Jack. Did you just wake up?” My mom said in her babyish talk. “Vanessa, sit down.”

“Well hello, everyone,” my dad happily said.

“Hi Dad,” I said with a carrot in my mouth.

“Vanessa, don’t talk with your mouth full of food,” my mom scolded.

“Oh, sorry, Mom.” I ate my supper before everyone, and my mom doesn’t like it when I eat fast, and then I had to wait for dessert which was lemon pie, yum! After that delicious sweet lemon pie, I had to do the dishes. That took me hours but my parents said it only took me 20 minutes to do.

Ding dong ding dong, it was the clock chiming 9:00.

“Mom, dad, I’m going upstairs to bed. Good night,” I yawned

“Good night, dear,” said my mom.

“See you tomorrow, Tinkerbelle,” teased my dad.

I dragged myself upstairs to my bedroom, got my pajamas on and crawled into bed. In about 10 minutes my mom would come up and say good night again. So I waited for her to come. The door opened softly, Eeerrr, “Goodnight sweetie,” my mom whispered softly as she walked to the outlet in the wall to turn on my nightlight.

“Mom, wait!” I yelled softly.

“What is it, sweetie?”

“Um…can…you give my…um…nightlight to Jack?” I whispered.

“Are you sure?” mom asked.

“Yes…I am,” I replied.

“Well, alright.” She took the nightlight out of the outlet and went out the door. I was happy, but, oh no. My flashlight! Now how am I going get the thing in the bottle tonight? I pulled the covers close to my face, and slowly dosed off to sleep.

*                    *                   *

I yawned as I stretched myself to wake up. I looked at the clock in my room and it was 6:02 a.m. My parents weren’t up yet so I went to the dresser and got dressed for the day. I went to my backpack and got the bottle out and opened it. When I got the piece of paper out it was the other half of the map and at the bottom it said, Nothing in life is to be feared. I put the two half’s together and the sentence at the bottom said all together, Nothing in life is to be feared, It is only to be understood ~ Marie Curie. I thought about what it meant that if you’re afraid of something you should understand what it is. I examined the new half I had. The map showed a group of pine trees together, a road, and an X in the middle of them. I knew that the group of trees represented a wood. The wood was about a mile and a half from the place I found the first bottle.

I got my backpack from the floor and put the two half’s into it. I quietly went downstairs and wrote a note for my parents saying Good morning Mom and Dad. I had a good night sleep. I’m going for a walk northward. Don’t know when I’ll be back See you soon, Love Van. I put the note in my mom’s favorite coffee cup and then darted out the door. But then I remembered breakfast. I ran back and grabbed an apple and had a glass of water. After that, I ran down to the beach found the place where the first bottle was and headed north for an adventure.

As I trudged on, the sun was burning me up. Sweat came down my forehead. My feet were sore from walking than running in the sand for hours. The sun was up high in the sky. It had to be lunch time by now.

About a mile later I saw trees, no a wood, no a forest! I started to run to it, even though my feet were sore. I got to the forest and it was not that dark. I slumped down against a tree and took a break before going in. To pass the time I took out one-half of the map. I saw the road through the forest and then the X. I put the map back into my backpack, got up, and went through the forest. Fifteen minutes later I found the road. It was a dirt road and it looked as if cars ran down it years ago. On the map, the road went east so I started off down it. Forty-five minutes later I saw a staircase going straight up. Vines crowded the sides of the stairs. It looked old and ruined. I took the stairs two at a time and I saw at the top a huge mansion! The whole mansion was covered in vines so you couldn’t see what color it was painted. Drapes covered every window so you couldn’t see if something or someone was watching you.

I felt a little bit scared but my curiosity was growing. I ran around the house to find a door, but nothing was there because the vines covered the walls. I found a long stick on the ground and poked the sides of the vine walls till I heard the sound of a door. I pushed away the vines with all my strength, opened the door, and went in. You could hear a pin drop when I walked in. The mansion inside was worse than the outside. The wallpaper was stripped, there was no carpet on the floor and there were spider webs in every corner. My heart pounded like a drum, fearing that someone was watching me. As I walked through the main hall I passed several doors with a letter on them like T, or Y, or S.

“Oh, how strange,” I wondered. “They’re not in alphabetical order.” Further down the letters were now in pairs, like SP, or AD, or XE. I found a door that read in silver letters RE, so I decided to go in. When I opened the door the room was completely dark. I felt the wall for a light switch but didn’t find one. I did feel a shelf with a pack of matches, and a candle. “Well, how else am I going to get light?” I lit the candle and in the room, there was a bed, a nightstand, and a book on the nightstand. There was nothing else.

I went to the bed and tested it to make sure it wouldn’t break.  Then I took the book from the nightstand and read the title, YOU. “You? What is that supposed to mean?” I opened the book and began to read…

“My report is called My Fears. What I’m afraid of is… um…well…” the girl paused. She saw her friends staring at her with open eyes. In the back of the class, the schools bully was about to laugh……….

As I read, the story kept getting familiar, familiar, and more familiar. Till at one point I read…

The girl went softly down the stairs and wrote a note for her mother and put it in her mother’s most favorite cup……..

“It’s me!”  I yelled. I shut the book as hard as I could. I didn’t want to read about my past and what’s going to happen in the future. But something was different when I shut the book the title changed, it now read, Reptiles. I opened the book again and read it. It told that snakes weren’t the only reptiles, lizards, turtles, tortoises, and crocodiles are too. It also told how they breathed, what they eat, and what kind of habitat they live in. It was so cool reading about that some are harmless, like garter snakes. I kept reading and reading and reading till I was done with the book. “Oh, I just don’t believe it. I had no idea that snakes weren’t the only reptiles, I mean I don’t mind lizards, but, oh wow. I just can’t wait to tell my mom and dad. Oh no! Mom and Dad! They don’t know where I am!”

I got off the bed, ran out of the room and down the hall toward the door. I opened the door and ran out but the vines were in my way and I got stuck. I yelled as loud as I could for help, but no one could hear me. After a while, I gave up. The sun had gone down, I felt hopeless and lost as if no one in the world could help me. Then I heard the sound of a car horn. I began yelling again, “Help! Someone help me, please! I’m stuck!”

“Van, is that you?” I knew that voice.

“Dad, help I’m stuck!” I yelled back at my dad.

“Where are you? Oh, I see you. Don’t worry, honey I’m coming.” It was like magic hearing my dad’s voice again as he got me unstuck. “There you are. A few scratches but you’ll do fine.”

“Oh, thanks, Dad,” I panted. I started walking towards the car but my dad got a hold of my shoulder first.

“Hold on there, young lady. And may I just ask what you’re doing out here. And did you know that’s it’s 8:30 in the evening. Your mother and I have been calling you and going in the direction you wrote, northward, and kept yelling for you. We were so worried that your mom went back to the house and called 911 reporting a missing girl and I drove all around looking for you when I heard a yell for help down that road.” He pointed down the steps toward where the dirt road.

“I’m sorry, Dad, but can I tell you the whole story when we get back to the house. Because I don’t want to tell this story twice,”

“Ok, but you’re grounded when we get back home,” he scolded.

“Yes, sir,” I answered.

As we drove, I thought about the quote from Marie Curie, Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. I knew that I had understood reptiles and that I didn’t have to fear the dark. As the car pulled in the driveway to the house three police cars were in the yard, I felt guilty. My mom came out crying when she saw me. After the policemen left me, my mom and dad sat at the kitchen table and I told them everything, about the kids laughing at me, finding the bottles, overcoming my fear of the dark, reading that weird book and overcoming my fear of reptiles. They didn’t say anything but just stared at me with almost opened mouths. After a little while, they told me to go to bed. I slowly walked up the stairs to my room. I didn’t get dressed for bed; I just plumped down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. 10 minutes went by and my mom didn’t come up.

An hour passed and I was still awake. My eyes weren’t heavy and I didn’t feel sleepy. The only thing I felt was guilt. Another hour passed and I was fast asleep.

*                *                 *

The next morning my parents talked to me telling me I had to do extra chores and I couldn’t leave the house, even to go swimming, you know all those punishments parents give you.

Well after three boring weeks we went back home and I was grounded. But there was one thing I was glad about that trip; it got rid of my fears.

Well, summer vacation went by slowly until I wasn’t grounded anymore, then it went by really fast. School started and Janet tried to trick me again by turning off the light but I didn’t scream and Janet put a garter snake in my lunch but I just took it outside. Janet soon got bored of bullying me and she moved on to bullying others. Well after middle school I went to High school and took science, chemistry, and other classes that had to do with reptiles.

After College, I got a degree in Biology, Zoology, and Herpetology. When I was old enough I started my own Reptile Zoo. I went all around the country finding snakes, lizard, and turtles of all kinds. Once the zoo was built I moved the reptiles in and opened it. So that’s where I am now answering this question this reporter asked.

“Ms. Hill?” asked the reporter.

“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry. What was the question again?”

“Well, have you ever been scared of reptiles when you were young?” asked the reporter.

“Well, Yes. Actually, I used to be terrified of them since 1st grade to 7th grade. But during the summer I got over it because I read this amazing book about them. But when I was little, I wasn’t afraid of just reptiles I was also afraid of the dark.”

“Hahaha,” the reporter laughed. “Oh Vanessa, I’m glad I found you. It’s me, Janet Douglas!”

“Janet! Wha…what are you doing here?” I asked with a surprised look on my face.

“I’m a reporter for the newspaper. Oh, Vanessa, I’ve been looking for you. I have something to say,” Janet cleared her throat, “I’m sorry Vanessa. I’m sorry for tripping you in the lunch room and stealing your lunch. I’m even sorrier I teased you about being afraid of the dark and of reptiles. Will you please forgive me?”

There was a long pause as all the reporters in the crowd turned toward me. “Oh Janet,” I pushed my way through the crowd to where Janet was, “I will forgive you.” Janet hugged me really tight after I said that. I think we’ll be good friends from now on to the end.


*Cringes* If you made it to the end, I applaud you. I’m sooooo tempted to rewrite this whole thing and make it better! I mean, my MC breaks the fourth wall at one point! Maybe one day, but not at the present. Anyway, I finished King’s Cage this morning so I’ll be starting Six of Crows, and I’m thinking of posting another character poll this Thursday. Have a great week, everyone!

©2017 Hope McPherson All Rights Reserved

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