Joshua Hershey, First Place Winner

Joshua Hershey in Mrs. K Smith English class was awarded First place for his short story Hylla the Great in a Grammar Punk short story contest. The First place prize $30.00. He also received a “Certificate of Admiration and Warmth.”

“The elves (folks) at Grammar Punk™ would like to express our (heartfelt, cheery, warm) enthusiastic (goosebumped) appreciation, adoration and amazement at the truly excellent stories we received at this, the 1st Annual GP Holiday Short Story Contest. We (enjoyed) read every (touching) delightful word with (joy) glee. We can hardly wait to see what (bright and shiny) lovely little tales you’ll send in next year! The Happiest of Holidays!

      Hylla the Great

      It was nice to see Hylla excited for once. My sister has been incessantly gloomy ever since our mother passed away last year. But; I remember the light that used to shine in her eyes, and to be completely honest, I was glad to see hints of that same old sparkle return only for the holiday season.

      I was sure mom would be glad to know we were all still taking our annual ski trip to Colorado. All four of us used to drive twenty-two hours in a row all the way up the snow-capped mountain in our minivan. The trip was always an adventure, especially considering the front wheel drive usually had us stuck at least once along the way.

      No matter what happened, mom and Hylla were the life of the drive, constantly joking and reminiscing about past trips. This year, however; the three of us would be flying out west instead of driving. After mom died, Hylla refused to ride in any car. She’d even walk to school with her friends.

      You see, mom was killed in a car crash. She was coming home with more Christmas decorations for the house right around this time last year.  Mom collided with some drunk who was coming around the corner too fast. The driver of the other car survived. I believe that’s what Hylla resented the most.

      We arrived at the airport at about ten thirty in the morning on December eighteenth, which was more or less an hour and a half before our flight began boarding.

      Our father made us a large breakfast of eggs and bacon, our favorite pancakes with fruit crème, everything just the way we liked them. Because we had such a large breakfast we wouldn’t be hungry before the flight. Our dad, being…dad, he offered to buy us something from McDonald’s in the airport terminal.

     I was fine, but Hylla requested a few hash browns. When she was finished, she joined us at flight check-in and baggage counter.  It was easy to see that Hylla was exhausted. I imagined an immense river of thick sludge, just overflowed and was after us. The sludge river was never quite fast enough to catch me and my father, but my sister was knee deep in the gelatinous mire. From experience I knew this could mean only one thing, Hylla was up late again last night.

      I had fallen asleep listening to Hylla’s quiet gasping sobs through our thin walls. I could understand; mom’s death was hard on us all, but it seemed especially difficult fro Hylla. It was better, I thought, for my sister to get it all out of the way the night before the big day.

      We were swiftly herded on to our plane, swept right along with the other passengers. The three of us found our seats rather quickly.  As we sat and waited for everyone to board the aircraft, a far too peppy voice sounded over the speaker, giving the general instructions and wishing us a happy flight.

      As we expected, Hylla slept the whole way there. However; I hadn’t thought dad would sleep as well. I guess he must  have spent the majority of the night packing for the trip. A smooth flight, landing and baggage claim did nothing to dispel the tension or the dread Hylla tried to smooth away from her features as we stowed our belongings in the rental car.

      I don’t suppose it helped that there was no luggage rack. We had to squeeze our skis in the rental through the hatch and down the center beside my legs in the front passenger seat. Hylla sat in the back the with her face down and didn’t look up until we reached the lodge.

      Our grand plans of getting back to our normal routine were immediately thwarted at check-in. Roebuck-party of three (that’s us) was summarily informed that there had been an electrical fire that affected various lifts at the lodge. The only lifts operational were those taking people to the slopes for far more experienced skiers than we were. In the background we could hear a woman calling guests with reservations. The present call was the Banning family, so I assumed alphabetically, the woman hadn’t yet made it far enough down the list to call our father.

      With the prospect of actually skiing out, our father turned to us and asked if we still wanted to stay. He suggested that we could find something else to do for a few days before returning to Christmas dinner with our grandparents. The discouraging news crushed Hylla’s will to stay and she wanted to go home.

      Dad pulled us out of line at the check in desk and called the airport. While dad made his call, I walked over to a large arching window, staring out the window at the whiteout beyond the glass, a grin on my face. Flying out of Colorado in this storm? Dream on; we’d barely made it to Denver in the first place. The roads to our lodge were already solid sheets of ice under all that snow.

      After forty minutes of making calls, our father returned to us with good news, or bad news, depending on the perspective. All flights had been canceled at the airport for twenty-four hours, as a blizzard moved into the area. To add to the situation, according to a gentleman dad spoke to a second ago, the only road up or down the mountain had just been closed. We were stranded.

      We checked into our room and Hylla and I couldn’t do much but drop our bags to match our hanging jaws in awe of our lodging arrangements. Dad really had gone all out this year. Hot tub? Giant flat screen complete with a stockpile of DVD’s and a game console? Our own rooms and two baths? Massive fire place with cushy leather sofas, the kind you melted into? The light threatened to spark in Hylla’s eyes as the corners of her mouth tugged upward ever so slightly.

      Once we were all settled in it was right around dinner time and our father took us down to get something to eat. The lodge had two restaurants, the burger and ribs kind of restaurant, and the kind of place where I couldn’t pronounce the entrees. Did I mention dad was going all out? Fancy restaurant it was.

      Dinner was almost entirely uneventful. We did manage a laugh out of Hylla after the appetizer had been served and I chowed that sucker down like a starving dog. Hylla who took French had decided to pass and dad could barely get a spoonful of…whatever it was. Since I didn’t know I asked the waiter who, without missing a beat, smiled and said I just wolfed down a whole load of snails sautéed in some kind of wine butter cheese sauce. The look on my face must have been priceless because Hylla’s Shirley Temple spewed out of her nose.

      We didn’t do much for the first few days but hang in the ski lounge or up in our suite. I still had a hard time getting over the whole “suite” thing. The bath was sunk in and more like a pool only with massaging jets and just about every possible smelly, oily substance a self respecting girly girl would need or want.

      Nearing the end of our stay I finally managed to drag Hylla out into the snow. Bundled up, Hylla and I trudged through the snow just looking around. Hylla had her snowboard under her arm. Maybe there was a decent snow drift hanging about she could manage to exploit. Just as I pointed out what might look like a good prospect, Hylla nodding, someone nailed her in the back of the head with a snowball.

      Uh oh…one did not pick up a snowball fight with Hylla Roebuck. I still remembered our first snowball battle several years ago. It was dad and I versus Hylla and our mother. Mom wasn’t much for snowball battles so she mostly hid behind their respective fort. It looked like a giant chair.

      Once the chair was molded, Hylla ran inside for a cup of water and came back out pouring some of the water over other items she’d made of the hard packing snow. Me, I was still busying trying to land my first snowball in futility. Hylla climbed up on her chair with her icicle crown and iced snow scepter, declaring herself Hylla the Great. Yeah…pelting my sister in the back of the head with a snowball was not the best of all ideas.

      Hylla whipped around on her heel and bam! Another snowball hit her right in the face. We’d seen these kids before in the lounge. I was pretty sure their actual names were Casey and Kelsey, a boy and a girl around Hylla’s age. We just called them the “double mint twins” because they reminded us of the people on the commercials on mom and dad’s old VCR tapes.

      Casey was the offending party while his twin sister giggled. The boy smirked and Hylla’s eyes narrowed. My sister muttered something reminiscent of “Oh, it’s on now, Custer,” and the the battle ensued. I heaved mounds of snow at Hylla’s direction into a giant semi circle as Hylla worked on our ammunition in an effort to race the double mint twins to finish.

      As expected Hylla was as good as ever and me, I was pretty much useless in the battle except to keep Hylla’s waiting hand in constant supply of round smooth aerodynamic snowy payback. At first, that’s precisely what this was, payback. I could see it in Hylla’s eyes. She poured all the pain and hurt she was feeling in those sniper-like throws. For a while I started to feel bad for “Double mint boy.”

        Although Hylla was clearly winning, Casey proved he could dish it out just as well as he could take my sister’s never ceasing onslaught. Slowly Hylla’s expression began to change. The anger and pain was replaced by excitement and sentiment. I knew she was thinking about that first snowball fight. I knew it because though she didn’t realize, Hylla had called me mom. “Did you see that one mom?” She had asked in between throws.

       This was important for Hylla in those secret places deep down that nobody else could touch. As the late afternoon rolled around, the first pastel hues of dusk painting the sky, Hylla the Great had returned, snow throne and all. We celebrated our victory right alongside Casey and Kelsey in the ski lodge, Hylla and Casey regaling one another; ” You were like this and I ducked and then you did that and I dove this way…”

      I hadn’t managed to muster up the same kind of report with Kelsey who was pretty much like me, the quiet sort. It was enough for me to see that sparkling light in Hylla’s eyes, which seemed to dance when she laughed. The smile I had become so used, the one that could light up a room purely on its brilliance alone, was back.

      Having touched down in Boston Logan Airport, we picked up our car in long-term parking and to the surprise of me and our dad, Hylla not only called “Shot gun,” but slept the entire way home, perfectly at ease. This holiday season might not be destined to be “The best ever,” but it promised one of the great ones, which is exactly how our mom would have wanted it.

 

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