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(Story written for grade 9/10 students learning English as a secondary language, published by Bonnier-Clio Education Department©)

 

*A peak experience is a moment accompanied by a very happy mental state. The concept was originally developed by Abraham Maslow in 1964, who describes peak experiences as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.”*

 

17: 3O, right on schedule! Daniel sighed, throwing a scarf over his shoulders and slipping into his walking boots. His parents, as ever, were far too busy squabbling to hear the front door close behind him.

It had become standard, clockwork almost. Each day Daniel would come home from school and try to make a start on his homework, and each day his concentration would be broken by petty arguments filling the house like a bad smell. Usually it was just little things: who was cooking, what to cook or even what to watch on television; but sometimes it was more serious things. Neither parent liked their job anymore, the stress following them home and spreading like a stomach bug. Daniel would sneak away and twenty minutes later (thirty if the quarrel was bad) his phone would ring to tell him that dinner was ready.

Today though, Daniel decided to leave his phone on loud in the hallway.

His parents had been married for almost thirty years, which was twice as long as Daniel had been alive. Had they always been like this? He wondered, walking down a street lightly glazed with frost. Surely being married meant that you were in love and wanted to be together forever, right? Kind of like best friends. But why be together, if all you ever seem to do is argue?

Crossing the main road at the bottom of the street, Daniel made his way across the field towards the abandoned tennis courts on the outskirts of a small forest. There, an overgrown path snaked through the trees, eventually leading to a secluded meadow where evening mist would usually settle. It was here that Daniel would come on an evening, his escape from everything. His parents. School work. News on the television. Voices in general.

It had become Daniel’s safe space, a secret retreat.

Well, kind of his anyway. Dog-walkers would come by every once in a while, plastic bags and leash in hand, but they would just smile and walk on by. They too knew the secret, the calmness found amidst the trees and mist of the meadow. It was as though time stopped. The world outside the meadow silenced by a protective bubble.

Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, Daniel felt a familiar dampness.

Finding a bench, he sat down to listen to the silence.

His thoughts raced like he had just drunk four cups of coffee, but soon slowed down to the rhythm of nature.

Fifteen minutes passed. By now his parents would have discovered his phone abandoned in the hallway, left to cry to itself as they tried to call him. Hearing the light breaking of twigs in the undergrowth, Daniel gazed around to see who was there.

He couldn’t see anyone.

Not at first.

Slowly, from beneath a low bush, two pointy ears emerged. Then a nose. Followed by another pair of ears, and another nose. Daniel froze. From the long grass, two small deer crept out into the open, jaws grinding on grass they had picked. Eyes bulging, the deer stared at Daniel. Daniel knew that a single movement would make them bolt, such was nature’s way.

After a while, the deer padded away, disappearing into the mist of the meadow.

Daniel knew it was time to return home.

To the television.

The voices.

Back to his bedroom and his homework.

Back to life outside the protective bubble of the forest.

 

 

 

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(Story written for grade 10/11 students learning English as a secondary language, published by Bonnier-Clio Education Department©)

 

Since around the age of six, Sabina had always felt – different. Of course, most people felt a little different in some way, as no two people are exactly the same. But Sabina knew that she was destined to be different. An outsider.

She had been chosen.

By who, or by what, she didn’t know.

It all sounded a little bit bonkers, but that was okay. What mattered most, was that she knew that she was telling the truth.

The truth as far as she understood it anyway.

It was her gift; Sabina’s grandfather had told her when she was still a little girl. A gift that they shared, one that he too had shared secretly with his grandmother. Sabina remembered how on Sundays they would walk for hours, feeding sugar lumps to horses and learning how to tell the difference between the types of trees.

“They all have their own voice,” her grandfather had explained, “the oaks, the elms, the birch. If you close your eyes, you can sometimes hear them!”

After the death of her grandfather, Sabina had started to see things. Patterns. Meanings. Messages that she couldn’t quite understand – but somehow, she felt them. By the time she was a teenager, the secret codes and languages of symbols had started to make more sense. It was like learning a new language, one that only she could speak. Or learning to decipher the mystery of a magic eye picture, one that only she could see.

Sabina’s parents called it ‘grieving’.

“Perhaps it’s time that you spoke to somebody about this,” her mother had said, unable to believe that Sabina had received another message from her grandfather, “Sometimes people struggle to deal with losing a loved one, so instead, our mind makes up ways to sooth painful situations!”

Sabina knew that her mother cared, but also that she would never understand. Again, it did all sound a bit bonkers: talking trees, words in the wind and messages from the afterlife.

“I’ll be fine mum, maybe you’re right!” Sabina had replied, watching the lines of worry fade slightly on her mother’s face.”

That night it rained. It rained like the world was crying. From the warmth of her bed, Sabina listened to its rhythm as it tapped on the windowpane. Unable to sleep, she walked over to the window and opened her curtains, revealing the face of a full moon. Her grandfather had told her that full moons were special, that many people couldn’t sleep properly, became more emotional or even energetic during that time of the month.

Smiling to herself, Sabina unlatched the window and opened it ever so slightly before climbing back into bed. Outside, the wind danced with the trees that lined the sidewalk, the apple tree in the centre of their front garden. Closing her eyes, Sabina laid back and listened. Even with her eyes closed, she could still feel the light of the moon pouring through the window.

Suddenly, unsure whether it was the wind, the rain or the rustling of trees, Sabina knew that her grandfather was there again. She knew it sounded bonkers, but this was her gift – and she alone knew that the voice was telling her not to worry.

 

A BOY AND HIS DOG

(Story is written for grade 5-6 children learning English as a secondary language, published by Bonnier-Clio Education Department©)

 

Dylan could talk to cats, and dogs, so people said.

Well, anybody could do that – but not like Dylan could. The difference with Dylan, was that the animals could talk back.

Stories had been buzzing between desks following a strange afternoon last week at school. The children had been playing in the yard after lunch, when a stray black dog had stopped and started to howl and growl outside the fence. At first, nobody had thought this was strange. Eight minutes passed, but after a while people started to look over at the fence, wondering what was wrong. Where was its owner? Eventually, one of the teachers had rounded up a semi-circle of onlookers and guided them back inside the building.

Once back inside class, students had squished their faces against the windows to watch where Dylan had snuck back outside. When the teacher had gone outside to call him back, Dylan had been sat face-to-face whispering to the dog. The dog had stopped howling and growling, and instead had placed its paw in a high-five with Dylan.

“Dylan, come inside this instant,” the teacher had said, hands on her hips, “You shouldn’t be out here all by yourself once class starts!”

“The dog is sad, and scared.” Dylan had replied.

“Stop being silly please, now do as you’re told!”

Dylan followed the teacher back indoors, hearing the dog start to howl again.

“Its owner is injured somewhere down the street, they’re hurt real bad!” Dylan had said, not making eye contact as he took off his coat outside the classroom. The teacher asked how he knew about the owner, but Dylan just shrugged his shoulders and walked to his desk.

The next day in school, stories of an old woman being knocked over by a car down the street spread like paper on fire. She’d had a dog, the dog which had been barking like crazy outside the fence.

Dylan had not come to school for the rest of the week, and nobody knew why.

He could talk to cats, and dogs, so people were saying.

 

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(Story is written for students learning English as a second language, published by Bonnier-Clio Education Department©)

 

“Robin, I’ve asked you twice already!” the boy’s mother bellowed from downstairs, her hands sunset pink from peeling beetroot, “Will you please come down and eat your dinner before it goes cold?”

“You know where he’ll be hiding!” Robin’s stepfather muttered, flipping over a page in the newspaper, “He’s already taken longer than yesterday, and that took forever!”

She didn’t want to admit it, but Robin’s mother knew he was right.

“I know” she sighed, plodding upstairs like she’d just climbed a mountain.

Things had been getting worse, week by week the waiting getting longer. It was as though her son had fallen completely deaf all together, and it wasn’t just at dinner time. Robin was barely sleeping, staying awake all night and then sleeping during the day. He hardly went out to meet friends. Even trying to make him reply verbally was like asking a statue its name.

In the past month, Robin had been late for school almost every day. Even on those days that Robin’s stepfather drove him there in the car personally, just to be certain he was on time – teachers had expressed grave concerns regarding Robin’s total disregard for attention.

“Robin?” his mother knocked on the bedroom door.

Still, there was no answer.

Opening the door just enough to peek through, Robin’s mother was met by a void of almost complete darkness. If it were not for a dim glow in the corner where her son’s bed was, she might almost have believed that he wasn’t home.

But what was that dreadful smell? She recoiled, pulling the collar of her sweater up over mouth and nose.

“Robin, come down and get your dinner – I don’t make it just for fun you know!”

Nothing, only the familiar tap – tap – swipe – tap of fingertips on a touchscreen.

Enough was enough.

Flicking on the light switch, the bedroom filled with light. The place was a dump. Plates of half-eaten meals balanced precariously on the bedside table next to glasses of old milk. Yesterday’s spaghetti Bolognese sat in last Wednesday’s lasagna. Neither had barely been touched.

“OMG WTH?” Robin flinched, shielding his eyes as though he was staring directly into the sun.

“Robin, I can’t take this anymore. This is not okay!”

“Facepalm, trolling!” Robin replied, rolling his eyes. “Hashtag E.L.I.5” his voice a flavourless monotone.

“What does that even mean?” his mother stood akimbo.

“Explain – like – I’m – five!” Robin answered, continuing to tap away at his phone, “LOL”

“If you don’t come and get your dinner, I’m confiscating that phone – and bring some of those dishes downstairs with you.”

“FYI, I.C.Y.M.I – I bought phone. Not fairs”

“What are you talking about?”

Suddenly, the iPad she had bought Robin last Christmas illuminated next to his leg, a series of loud beeps following for almost twenty seconds.

“Nvm – that means ‘never-mind FYI!”

Lost for words, Robin’s mother turned around to leave – but not before unplugging her son’s phone charger from the wall. Mouth open in shock, Robin looked up from the screen of his phone and iPad.

“YOLO!” his mother said, leaving the door ajar as she left, “Dinners ready!”

 

Glossary of text speak

ELI5 – Explain like i’m five

FYI – For you information

ICYMI – In case you missed it

LOL – Laugh out loud

NVM – Never-mind

OMG – Oh my God

WTH – What the hell?

YOLO – You only live once

 

 

 

 

Stick Together

Posted: November 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

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(Story is written for students learning English as a second language, published by Bonnier-Clio Education department)

 

        “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it,                                            does it make a sound?”

The old saying went.

And surely the same could be said about anything, right? Pernilla had always thought. Like if you sneeze in outer space or hummed as you swam by a coral reef – somewhere, on some level, there must still be a sound.

But what about… socks? One falling on the kitchen floor, for example? Like, directly from a washing basket into the unescapable hands of gravity. Nothing, literally not a sound. Zilch. Not even Melville, the family’s Labradoodle, raised an eyebrow from where he lay dozing beneath the dinner table.

But still, Pernilla’s mother knew.

Her eyes bulging behind her glasses like a startled rabbit.

It was as though she felt it.

A disturbance in energy or something.

“Oh Pernilla, we’ll have to throw it away now!” Her mother said, nibbling her lip as she always did when something like this happened.

“But we could just wash…” Pernilla began to reply, reaching down to retrieve the sock from a floor that still sparkled with fresh polish.

“No! Don’t pick it up. Ask your dad to bring his gloves and a plastic bag.”

Pernilla knew that discussing this was not an option.

The sock had to go.

 

Sensing stress levels rising, Melville crawled out from beneath the table and tip-toed to the backdoor, tail wagging to be let out. The only reason Pernilla’s mother had finally agreed to owning a dog was because Labradoodles didn’t lose their fur. “Look, it’s not that they’re not cute, but their dirty! They eat anything. Drool. Can’t use a toilet, and heaven only knows what lives in their fur!” she had said.

“Do go get your father, quickly!” Pernilla’s mother repeated, staring at the sock as though it had just sprouted legs and was creeping towards her.

Things had always been this way, for as long as Pernilla could remember. The only difference now, as a teenager, was that she was starting to understand that her mother’s anxieties were not entirely normal. Whatever normal meant anyway. But surely, if something happened every day, it was kind of normal, right?

Coming through into the kitchen, Pernilla’s father didn’t say a word as he stretched plastic gloves over his fingers and hands. Rather, he just grabbed the fallen sock with a giant chopstick looking contraption and calmly placed it inside a plastic bag before leaving.

After dinner, Pernilla and her father took Melville out for a walk to the nearby park. They would do this most evenings, leaving Pernilla’s mother to wash the dishes and kitchen in peace. Nobody else was allowed to clean the kitchen, just in case they didn’t do it thoroughly.

“Dad, how do you stay so calm when mum gets…you know…stressed?” Pernilla asked, watching ahead as Melville sniffed at the ground.

“I didn’t always,” her father chuckled, “it used to drive me crazy.”

“So what changed?” Pernilla asked.

“I did!” he answered, “I remembered why I love her in the first place. Nobody’s perfect! She has a heart of gold, she’s funny and can’t help worrying.”

“I worry about her!” Pernilla answered.

“As do I darling, and she about us. So, we’re all equal”

Bouncing up at her father’s side, Melville came back with a stick in his mouth. Excitement exploding in his eyes.

“Just don’t ever tell her about this!” her father smiled awkwardly, taking the stick from Melville and throwing it ahead to chase.

 

 

 

 

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(Story written for 10th grade students learning English as a second language. Published by Bonnier-Clio Education©)

January 1st, 2019 – 08:17

It was all going so well, but things were about to change.

Francesca sat at the table eating a bowl of granola and dried apricot, watching as the first day of the new-year woke up outside the kitchen window. There was always something strange about new-years, like the disorientating feeling of turning the clocks backwards-or-forwards an hour, or realizing that you have written last year’s date instead of the new one.   But it wasn’t just time, or the calendar starting all over again – it was the realization of bad habits and need for change. “Why do people need to wait until new years to make resolutions?” Francesca’s teacher had quizzed their class, “Surely anything worth changing, is worth changing as soon as the person realizes, right?”

Sipping her apple and ginger smoothie, Francesca recalled how the class had agreed, but soon found themselves making new year resolutions anyway. Martin Johnson had decided that it was time to switch from three sugars to two in his tea. Sarah Flower said that she was probably using too much makeup, so would try and stick to a little bit of ‘lippy’ here-and-there and sometimes only mascara.

“What about you Francesca?” Lauren Pollard had asked Francesca as they had filed out of class on the last day of school, “What will you change?”

Francesca, wrapping her scarf around her neck, seemed not to have heard.

“To stop complaining!” Francesca had replied eventually, more to herself than anybody else.

Stealing her attention away from memory, the family’s cat, Leonard, purred and circled around Francesca’s ankles.

“Go awa….” Francesca began, stopping herself mid-sentence. After all, she sighed, a cat will cat.

 

January 1st, 2019 – 11:45

Not complaining was proving much harder than Francesca had thought, she pondered from where she laid on the sofa watching television. But wait, surely that in itself was complaining, right? Or was it different if she only said it in her head?

And there had to be some examples when it was okay to complain. Like when her mother kept on asking whether or not Francesca had any homework, even though she had explained a thousand times that she didn’t. Or when her dad made a bad stink like it was no big deal. MMMmmmmmm but at least her mother cared, Francesca told herself. And it wasn’t as though her dad could help it.

Suddenly, the telephone next to the sofa started to ring. Francesca knew the call wasn’t for her, that’s why people had Messenger and Whatsapp. Running through to answer, her mother spoke down the phone as though the person on the end of the line was half-deaf.

“Yeah, same to you!” she chirped, “No, no, I’m staying home. Yeah they’re alright…” on-and-on she went. Finger hovering over the volume + button, Francesca’s head spun dizzy as words threatened to fire from her mouth like a lit canon.

Maybe walking 10,000 steps a day would be easier, she thought, heading to the hallway to grab her shoes. Opening the door, Francesca stumbled over Leonard who was circling at her feet.

“Leonard, go away!” she yelled, feeling like a shaken soda bottle that had just been unscrewed.

 

 

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(Story written for grade 10 students learning English as a second language – Published by Bonnier-Clio Education Department©)

Making his way home after football practice, Ivan limped like a wounded soldier – victorious from battle. The training session had been intense! With winter on its way, a cold relentless rain had battered down on the team during the last half-hour. The wind had made a formidable opponent, often stealing the ball which appeared possessed.

Despite gruelling conditions, Ivan had felt like a god when he scored a glorious winning goal. It may have only been a practice game, but what a goal it had been. The mud-caked ball had left a humongous splatter on Ivan’s face where he had headed the ball passed the goalkeeper – and Jessica had seen the whole thing from the sideline.

Ivan and Jessica had been going steady for a couple of months now, and it was going great. Jessica always came to Wednesday practices, whatever the weather. Afterwards, Ivan would walk her home and the two would share a hot-chocolate with marshmallows to-go from a nearby café. Tonight, it had taster better than ever.

Turning past the small park and retirement home at the end of his street, Ivan lowered his face against the cold and pulled his hood up over his wind-nibbled ears. He couldn’t get home soon enough; the smell of warm dinners coming from neighbouring houses was making his stomach rumble. Reaching the door to his apartment block, Ivan made it just in time as the main door was closing. Jamming his foot in the gap, a lady stood down the hallway outside the elevator gasped and clutched her heart in shock. Ivan didn’t recognise her but apologised for scaring her anyway. She didn’t reply.

As Ivan stomped away the worst of the damp from his boots, he heard the elevator door open and the quick scurrying of footsteps – the bleeping of buttons.

“Wait!” Ivan cried out, his legs aching and aching more at the idea of a spiral staircase to the sixth floor. Again, the door was just about closed by the time Ivan managed to pull its doors back open, “long day!” he panted, taking down his hood. Without a word, the lady huffed and clutched her bag close to her chest, shouldering her way back out into the corridor. Confused, Ivan watched as the doors closed and a strange feeling sank into his stomach. What was all that about? He wondered.

Sat waiting for dinner to be served, Ivan explained the incident at the elevator to his older sister, Carolina.

“I don’t understand, what was she so scared of?” Ivan quizzed, buttering a slice of bread, “I obviously live here!”

“Well, you know that!” Carolina replied, “But maybe she didn’t!”

“I said sorry for scaring her, how is that threatening?”

“Listen, ‘we’ know you’re a big softy! What you forget though, is that ‘she’ doesn’t. Take it from me, biologically speaking, guys are usually capable of overpowering a girl – and we as women don’t forget that, ever! Especially in confined spaces like elevators.”

“Well, I guess so!”

“You guess so?”

Ivan knew his sister had a point. Suddenly, his mobile phone vibrated with an incoming message. It was Jessica. The strange feeling returned in the pit of Ivan’s stomach as he read the text.

Thanks for walking me home x x