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Canalmen's Corner

Posted in: Bourne News
Nov 20, 2008 - 11:45:15 AM

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Bourne High School's Creative Showcase

Untitled Essay
By Olivia Roux

The dirt on the road crumbles underneath us as we move over it, leaving imprints of our tires as we drive through Brownfield. When we turn right into the driveway, the dirt immediately changes into gravel, and I hear it crunch underneath us now. Then the cabin, which was built from trees that used to grow where it now stands, appears looking warm and inviting.
I push the door open slowly and delicately. In an instant, the natural aroma of freshly cut wood smells so amazing that it makes my nostrils tingle. The skis and snowshoes mounted high on the wall are inviting. The old metal fireplace is slightly rusted, but it gives the place a touch of home. My cousin tosses old circulars and newspapers into it, and the colored ink on the pages causes the flames to glow green and purple toward the back of the oven. He then carefully places a couple of logs, cut from the nearby woods, in the fireplace, and they crackle and sizzle as they burn. The cabin is now at a comfortable, warm temperature.
Outside, the enormously tall, skinny trees silently loom over the lot. My cousin and uncle marked a path, long ago, in the woods by putting blue tape on certain trees to lead the way so that my cousin, his shih tzu dog, Oliver, and I can take this path. The first time I traveled onto it, I was amazed. After venturing through the endless foliage and running through the trail on the leaf-covered ground, we finally reach the end. There, stands a calming marsh with tall, yellow grass. Bordering the outside edges of the marsh is a variety of trees with yellow, red, and orange leaves. Poking out of the tops of the trees, I see the bluish-grayish silhouettes of mountains. Even though the sky is hazy, the bright yellow tint of the grass lights up the world and paints an illuminating scene.
When we return from the path, it is our job to gather fraying and fallen parts of trees and logs to be used as firewood. We have an organized, pyramid-shaped pile right outside the woods. I crave the plush feel of the moss that spreads across the bark of dead trees. Even if the logs are too heavy for me, I push myself because I want to feel accomplished.
Stripes of light from the sunset glimmer through the trees and tint the gray sky with shades of pink and orange. I watch them as I slowly sway back and forth in one of the dark wood rocking chairs on the deck. I tilt my head back slightly to see the wooden door with the oval-shaped glass inlay, which reflects glittery rainbow shapes in the bright light. I push open the door, and suddenly a bittersweet feeling arises in my heart. I gaze out the kitchen window at the pile of logs, and then at the sparkling sun, which is slowly dimming.
Later, I pack my things and place them outside of the car, along with everybody else’s belongings. Once all of the bags are jammed into the back, we hop into the car. A light chatter develops among my family, except for me. I am just slouched over in the back seat, peering out at the house as it disappears. As I hear the familiar transition of the gravel driveway to the dirt road, I gaze off into the dark, lush abundance of trees, and the roads, which will lead us home over the next three and a half hours. The orange sunset gives way to a dark blue, star-splattered sky as my eyes shut, beginning a deep sleep.

Abolishing The Death Penalty
By Deena Mallard

“Why kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong?” That is a controversial question in the world today; should the death penalty be banned as a form of punishment? The death penalty should not be a form of punishment as it violates the “cruel and unusual” statement in the Bill of Rights. Since 1976 to today, there have been 1,123 executions in the world. The cost of using the death penalty as punishment, the concern of racism, the message of cruel and unusual punishment, and the innocent people who are on death row have become a huge discussion about why the death penalty should be banned.
Prison for the rest of his life is much more expensive. Going forth with the death penalty rather than having the criminal sentenced to life in prison can cost two to five times more. In the USA since 1982 to 1997 the extra cost for taxpayers to carry out capital punishment was above 1.6 million dollars. However people, who are on the other side of the fence, may argue that it’s only less than a dollar per taxpayer, and that means keeping a criminal from committing any more crimes. A study in Washington has shown that death penalty cases cost roughly $470,000, rather then life in prison or another type of punishment, which only costs between $47,000 to $70,000. We should not be using tax money to put these perpetrators to death; that’s taking the easy way out for them. In California, the death penalty costs the tax payers $114 million per year rather than locking the criminal up for life. In 2005 alone taxpayers paid $250 million for each of their states executions.
Executing the criminal doesn’t let them create any guilt or sympathy for the crime they have committed. Sentencing people to life in prison would be a worse punishment because they would have to live with what they did for the rest of their life. Killing them would not only be a very costly punishment, but it would be hypocritical, killing someone for what they committed, murder. On the other hand just knowing that perpetrator is still around may haunt the victim. After many years the victim may still feel afraid that their criminal will come after them again. Also if he has committed a brutal crime such as a horrendous murder they may still feel the urge to kill and will do so while in prison. Executing him will finally give closure to the victim and finally end that horrible part in their life.    
Many of the criminals sentenced to death row are disproportionately African-Americans. A black criminal who has killed a white person is three times more likely to receive a death punishment as shown in one study done in California in 2005. The races of the district attorneys in the death penalty states also have a higher number of white attorneys, being 98 percent to only one percent  of black attorneys. In approximately 80 percent of cases that resulted in the death penalty the victim was white. Of the states that do have the death penalty, of the interracial murders that occurred in 1998, only 15 white criminals were executed for killing a black victim to 228 black victims executed for killing a white victim.
To many people, the death penalty displays the message of cruel and unusual punishment. Why kill a criminal who has done wrong? It doesn’t bring the victim back to life. The criminal’s family would suffer just as much grief as the victim’s family. Why should two families have to deal with the emotional drainage of losing a loved one?
The controversial issue always arouses many strong opinions. Two wrongs do not make a right. The death penalty should not be the way to punish a person. The cost, incidence of racism, and the 8th Amendment “cruel and unusual punishment” are all factors on why the death penalty should be abolished.

Friday Nights Belong To Us
By Jesse Burgess

Tonight is the night,
It belongs to us,
We will put up our best fight,
Once we step off that bus,

We lace up our shoes,
We put on our caps,
We line up in twos,
We buckle our straps,

Our legs are shaking,
Our blood finally feels like it begins to flow,
Our minds are quaking,
Your body just can’t wait to go,

You begin to anticipate that first whistle,
Can’t wait to get off that front line,
It is your key to dismissal,
I am going to make this night mine.

In Between Dreams  
By Michelle Gilbert

They say the sky is the limit, but every time I look too high
 the sun illuminates my eyes and I lose my way again.  
The sun, my sworn enemy, clings to me like a never-ending affliction, keeping me in between dreams.
The future, the future seems so far out of reach.
Still I’m dreaming for the long-run, and they are dreaming for me.  
They tell me I can be anything I want to be; oh, the phrase just seems so simple.
But my dreams come by the millions this and that, be this, not that.
Oh, the phrase just seems so simple.  
And every time I catch a glimpse of the life I have ahead, all of my dreams are a kaleidoscope;
Gravity pulls me back down again.
Am I caught in expectation, am I tangled up in my imagination?
Gravity, my biggest restraint, keeps me in between dreams.

By Chelsea Maibaum

The moral righteousness of euthanasia has been debated since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Some argue the right to die, while others believe that an anesthetically induced, untimely death is considered murder or suicide. Those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from an arduous, painful, and long death should have a right to summarily ease their passing in the form of a “peaceful death.” This is euthanasia.
Terminal illnesses and diseases such as cancer, neurological disease, and AIDS painstakingly deteriorate the once completely functional organs and neurological systems in the body, causing patients to exist on a cruel thread of life. A natural death can take months, or even years of pain, sometimes via life support machines, as the individual’s independence crumbles, along with their body. Euthanasia seems to be the only medical solution that can allow patients who request treatment to soundly “pass” while respectfully facing the inevitable. With the support of medical professionals, the love of family and friends of the patient, and overall generosity, the patient should have euthanasia as an option, as long as it’s requested repeatedly. Taking someone’s life should not be taken lightly by any means, but the well-being and requests of a long-tortured individual should immediately be considered.
Euthanasia seems as if it’s a quicker and easier way to ease an ill patient; yet there could be other reasons for a patient’s morbid request. Some studies have shown that patients who request euthanasia not only have suffered physical damage, but are emotionally damaged as well. They feel depressed about their current state of being, as well as experience grief regarding the heartbreak shown amongst their family members as the person slowly strays from the person they used to be. An individual’s loss of dignity and independence may also make them consider taking a less painful approach to death, but for severely strained and emotionally hurt people, euthanasia is not an answer. Many people argue that all terminally ill people feel depression about their condition, and those who suggest euthanasia will not go peacefully, but subconsciously against their own will. Euthanasia can either be considered a peaceful passing, or a last hope impulse, and the emotional wellness of the patient is the only determination for their own right to die.
The United States has clearly banned the option of euthanasia to be used by doctors and physicians, but many other countries in the world have taken the process of euthanasia into careful consideration. Countries such as Australia, Sweden, and even Wales have already legalized the use of euthanasia, as long as it is requested multiple times, the illness is positively incurable, and the situation is researched and comprehended by a panel of specifically chosen counsel members, such as doctors and psychiatrists. This safe course of action makes sure that the patient has sincerely thought about the decision, and is unconditionally prepared to predetermine their fate. The artificial life support used to keep the terminally ill barely alive consists of a very long-lasting and humiliating process every day, including full dependency on nurses, assistants, doctors, and possibly some family member. The life support patients can no longer eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or move by themselves, an imaginably degrading lifestyle full of despair. Along with losing all your natural born rights to survive as an individual human being, dying naturally can take a long time of pain and humiliation for the patient and their loved ones. A consistent fight to live every single day can cause a tremendous amount of strain on the slowly defeated patient and family members. The enormous cost of life support can also damage a family’s financial well-being for years afterward. Continuous hardships throughout the life of a terminally ill person cause much more pain and suffering than any other death. Giving one the choice to an instant death by euthanasia is a gracious solution to an exhausted and tormented soul.
So many factors need to be considered for euthanasia to be legalized in the United States, but it’s a process fully worthy of consideration by government officials and medical experts. The debate still rages on, yet an individual’s right to die should be a strong basis for any argument. There is no way to describe the numerous emotional thoughts of a terminally ill person, yet we all can strongly assume that their last breaths should be calm, collected, and full of peace.

By Terry Buck

As I am writing this metacognition after writing my short story, I think it is better that it is read after reading the story. Much of the plot develops gradually throughout the story and I would not want to give it away beforehand.
Though not written solely as a protest of the war in Iraq, certainly the theme of the story is the destruction of youth that is so prevalent in warfare. I set the scene by imitating the style of Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s “The Portable Phonograph” and continued the story in the vein of Tim O’Brien’s “The Man I Killed.” There are several occasions where a line that seems insignificant at first relates to a later line and those connections are not always obvious, so I think it is worth just going over them. First, the line “combat had stolen his youth” suggests that Jonathan Ashley had lost his innocence through battle, but in the repetition of the line later on, it refers to the loss of the rest of his life. Second, the groundskeeper says “We…” on several occasions, and the immediate impression is that this refers to friends outside the graveyard, but this is later alluded to in the line, “…the grey stones, usually his only companions,” where it becomes apparent that he personifies the dead that he cares for. When describing Jonathan Ashley’s college love, it is mentioned in passing that she “hated staying in one place,” but later on it is brought up again with the line “She still lived there now…” Finally, the final paragraph begins by saying that Jonathan Ashley’s son was 21, and later on it is said that his father died before reaching 21. The important allusion here is the pain of outliving one’s father, a concept I borrowed from Albert Camus’ “The First Man.” I hope it was an effective short story and not too depressing.

The Green Field
By Terry Buck

The autumn wind blew gray clouds into the path of the sun, darkening the earth. In the intoxicating haze of a world enclosed by clouds, a green field faded to blue, and gray stones stood like soldiers in defiance of the wind. The sky descended and the smell of ozone pervaded the air, cut with the scents of grass and freshly unearthed dirt. White fences, peeling from neglect, guarded the cemetery. The only substantial structure within the bone-like perimeter was a weeping willow, providing perch for haggard crows who sat in silence and took flight at the sight of movement.
Two figures had entered the cemetery. One, an aging man with eyes turning gray and eyebrows hanging dolefully under an unseen weight. His hands shook as he walked even as he clasped them together for warmth. His age was in sharp contrast to his companion, a man in his early 20s. This second man had a gaunt face, but there was a strength behind it that gave him authority. He had dark hair and dark eyes. He was cleanly shaven but his sallow cheeks cast shadows that could easily be mistaken for stubble. He walked with purpose where the older man walked with routine, but neither was rushing to reach their destination.
The last of the retreating crows perched hesitantly on a gravestone broken half-way to the base. This lone soldier at last took flight as the two men arrived.
“This should be ‘im,” said the older man. “Name’s no more but the flag’s still there.”
The younger man nodded. He knelt down and dug his fingers into the dirt to overturn the top half of the gravestone. It leapt from the ground, escaping an air vacuum and fell on its other side exposing the name and lifespan of its owner.
“You’re ’is son?” asked the older man.
The younger man nodded. Moss had grown over most of the stone, but it still read “Jonathan Ashley 1983-2003” in carefully etched lettering. Clumps of wet dirt clung to the stone.
“You must ’a been born the day ’e died,” said the old man.
“After,” said the younger man. His mother had left her apartment in Pennsylvania and traveled to Michigan with her 6-month-old son when she could no longer afford to live alone. Jonathan Ashley had never returned from the war and she did not receive a military pension because they had never been married.
“We ’member seein’ ’is pi’ture in all the papers back then,” said the old man.
Jonathan Ashley sat solemnly in the picture frame, in his uniform, unsmiling. His face was gaunt, but there was a strength behind it that gave him authority. His eyes were dark, as was his hair, and stubble covered his sallow cheeks. He stared at the camera that would write the only memoir of his that his son would ever read. He wasn’t old enough to drink, but combat had stolen his youth and made him a soldier.
“We told a lotta stories ’ere ’bout that soldier, but the newspapers told ’em best,” said the old groundskeeper.
Cadet Ashley had excelled in basic training and was chosen as major of his peers. First Lieutenant Ashley led a small group of ground troops into a barracks of sleeping combatants, capturing 15. Captain Ashley was shot in the stomach and fought on, killing half a dozen. Jonathan Ashley died of a stomach wound infection after three months of excruciating pain. Where he lay, moss had grown over most of the stone, obscuring its imperfections.
“Well, best get goin’. There’s rain a’ comin’, ” said the old man.
Jonathan Ashley had joined the army to afford college. With limited resources, the scholarship money was enticing. After a year, he dropped out to pursue love but was quickly out of money. He had done his basic training and found a recruiter who worked out a deal where he would take the four-week officer training course and officially enlist as a second lieutenant. Then, the war broke out and he was shipped overseas with only days’ notice. He would not learn until after he had left that his love was pregnant with a child he would never see.
“Son, are you alright?” said the groundskeeper, placing his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. He retracted it quickly when the stiffness and the coldness of the shoulder reached his fingers. “I know it’s not…I mean it couldn’t…but—” stuttered the old man, trailing off unsurely.
Jonathan Ashley fell madly in love with a girl who hated staying in one place, and by the end of the first semester, she was pleading to move somewhere else. They agreed to transfer to a college in Pennsylvania. She got in, but he didn’t. At the end of the year, he went to Pennsylvania anyway and lived with her in an apartment. He took the four-week officer training course and the two spent their last day together in each other’s arms. He wrote often, but his letters were little help, only showing her how depressed and terrified he was by war. When his heroics gained national attention, he wrote saying that every move he made was luck and every honor he was given was exaggerated tenfold. When he died, no letter was sent, no black-suited man showed up at her door. She was told of her love’s death by the headlines, like 300 million other Americans.
“Are you alright? Come on, say something!” urged the older man. He looked pleadingly at the gray stones, usually his only companions, asking what to do. As always, they did not answer.
The younger man thought of the articles he had never wanted to read, stored in a box in the attic of his grandparents’ home. His mother had dropped out of college and moved in with her parents in Michigan after giving birth to him. The house was cold, the state was cold, the grandparents were cold. She still lived there now, sometimes working, sometimes not.
Miles away, the first drops of rain splashed on the hard ground. The young man dug his fingernails into the dampening moss and peeled it back, exposing more writing. There, the epitaph, written by Jonathan Ashley in his final hours read, “There is far too much left to see.”
The young man had traveled to his father’s grave in Pennsylvania after his 21st birthday. Jonathan Ashley 1983-2003. He joined the army to afford college. He dropped out to pursue his love. He wasn’t old enough to drink. Combat had stolen his youth.
“Are you alright?” asked the old man as the rain began to fall upon the two statuesque figures poised in the center of the green field.