Building Bridges / 6
Local students show off their literary stuff in the 2016 McEntyre Writing Competition
Introduction by Wayne Larsen
In what has become an annual tradition in Westmount schools, the McEntyre Writing Competition always attracts a wide variety of thoughtful and creative entries, and the 2016 edition was no exception.
Endowed by the late Peter McEntyre, mayor of Westmount from 1969 to 1971, the competition encourages young writers to express themselves on a designated topic, each designed to get the creative juices flowing. It is coordinated each year by the Westmount Public Library.
In 2016, “Building Bridges” was the topic assigned to students in grades 1 through 11.
Westmount Magazine presents the full texts of the first-place entries in each grade category, as supplied by the Westmount Public Library.
Here we present Grade 9.
NINTH GRADE | FIRST PRIZE | WESTMOUNT HIGH SCHOOL
The Bridge to our Freedom
The ropes are tight, I can’t move my hands let alone my fingers. The revolting smell of rotten flesh and urine burn my nose. The man jerking me forward was screaming, screaming at me and other slaves, yet I couldn’t understand the words he was saying. I looked at my surroundings, at the dark and gloomy hail and shivered. The other slaves were my age or younger, they all looked terrified, the fear in their eyes showed their whole life story, burned villages, lost family, disloyalty. As we walked further, the sickening smell got even stronger and the guard was pushing us harder until finally we reached our destination. An animal cage. It looked like it could only fit half of us and there were already people inside. Nevertheless we were pushed harshly into the cage, left to rot.
Squirming and nudging my way to the bars at the back, the adults looked at me weirdly. Their weak bodies were decaying away yet they still had the energy to regard me with such distaste. Since avoiding trouble is my main priority right now, I sat down quietly.
Because of my skin, I was shunned and disowned by my family and my village. It’s what possibly got me into this situation. Although it was common knowledge that children between the ages 7 and 15 were disappearing in nearby villages, I was not concerned because the children were taken out of weak villages. Our village was strong therefore my worries were diminished. But I soon found out that my village was stronger than I thought, strong enough to condemn a person in a matter of minutes.
I was cleaning our home like usual, when I heard the gunshots and screams. Startled by the entry of our chief, he immediately recognized my pigmented body that people talk about and grabbed me. It was later on, when I realized that he was sacrificing me on behalf of my village. Of course, since I was ‘garbage’, nobody looked at me with a sense of pity or sympathy while I was boarding the ship, not even my family. The sad truth damaged my soul a little more than it was already. Determined and ready for the days to come, I awaited my fate.
It’s truly a mournful day, sat down in my corner looking at the children and adults laying motionless on the ground waiting to be picked up. My only solace in this dark prison is the little boy who always smiles at me. He sits crouched in a corner similar to me, constantly building something out of dirt and the little water we get. The knowledge that I have someone with me, that I’m not alone in this hell I’ve walked into, is reassuring. Every day he looks up at me, smiles, walks over to sit down and, rests his head on my shoulder for a few minutes, only to get up and return to his place. Some days I wonder if he had parents to begin with, or was he a lone wolf roaming the earth?
A few days after his pattern I went and made a new spot next to his so he wouldn’t have to get up on his weak legs. Yet again he looked up at me and smiled. Just then I realized the boy was blind. His dirtied, bruised skin and empty eyes said it all, the way he didn’t look directly into my eyes saddened me. My tears brought forth the reminder of where we are and what we are going to be subjected to. The boys chubby hand touched my face and I felt his sorrow, suffering and pain, it was clear as day that this boy, not even ten years old, did not have friends neither family. As I stared into his eyes, I truly realized the value of this child’s life, he’s somebody that needs to be cherished and cared for. I swear on my life that I will be that person for him and I’ll show him in the few days we have left that he is loved.
The days that pass were the same suffering each day, I was dehydrated, my body was weak and I was running out of time with my boy. The guard at the gate came each day to collect one prisoner and I feared our days were running short. I used the food and water we had to feed my boy but it was slowly killing me, so he decided to share everything equally. At first I was startled at his compassionate actions and wanted to thank him but he would never respond, just stare right back at me. I wonder if he was mute.
The squeaky opening of the cage door alerted us of the guards presence, the foreboding feeling in my gut warned me of his I’ll intentions. His dark and calculating eyes were roaming over the few of us left, searching for something. When his eyes landed on my little boy, my heart fell into my stomach, they can’t do this to me, my hope will not be taken away from me. “Stay back!” The guard kept staring at the child in my arms and advanced quicker, ignoring my pleas and shouts he tried to rip my boy out of my hands but I wasn’t allowing him.
My shaky legs barely allowed me to stand but I am not retreating from this battle, I promised I would keep him safe and I will stay true to my word. While I was clawing at the man’s skin, his shouts were overpowering mine and the stampede of footsteps came to the cell. A foot connected with my face and I tumbled down, exhaustion and malnutrition making me weak and powerless.
They grabbed my arms and dragged me, I’m glad, my baby boy was going to be safe for a little while longer. They then placed me on the circular platform where I had the view of the thousands of cages they had. The man that I had clawed, glared at me with hateful eyes and punched me multiple times until I was laying on my side, too weak to move. That’s when I saw him, my boy was frying to say something, his first words to me and I wasn’t going to hear them.
Looking up in time to see the man I saw at the very beginning of my venture into hell, walking slowly and with purpose towards me while all the men stepped back to allow him space. With his hands behind his back and a tall stance, every living soul heard his voice “Let this be an example of what is to come, to a maggot who dare show defiance towards us!” This I understood.
The men who were surrounding the platform tied my legs and hands together, and lifted me to a kneeling position facing the cage I was once in. I felt a pulling sensation on my scalp, the leader had a handful of my hair in his hands. He stared at me for a while and looked back at the cage, where my boy was still trying to tell me something. The expression on his face broke my heart to pieces, even though he couldn’t see he knew what was going to happen. I didn’t want him to worry about me so I hummed a lullaby I heard my mom sing to my sister. “You truly do have the face of a mother, child” Startled I couldn’t stop the hope from rising, pleadingly looking into his deep green eyes to see any sign of understanding, but all I got was cold aging eyes. “You disrespected my men and I cannot allow that, I’m sorry my dear, but punishment must be done.” I couldn’t suppress the tears and cried for my life to be spared.
Hearing the leader say something else to the men they then began moving around, one of them, the man I had clawed at, came up to me, smiled sinfully and presented me the sword that will be stained with my blood. Looking at my boy for the last time I finally could make out the words escaping from his mouth “Mommy!”
McEntyre Writing Competition 2017
The 2017 edition of the McEntyre Writing Competition is currently underway and the theme is “Secret Places, Hidden Treasures”.
You may compete if you go to school in Westmount (elementary or secondary, grades 1–11), live in Westmount, or are a member of a library in Westmount.
Submit your entry to the Children’s Desk, Westmount Public Library, no later than 9 pm on Friday, April 7, 2017.
To find out how to participate, please visit the Library’s website.
Concours littéraire McEntyre 2017
L’édition 2017 du Concours littéraire McEntyre est en cours et le thème est « Des endroits secrets et des trésors cachés ».
Tous les élèves du primaire (1–6) et du secondaire (1–5) qui fréquentent une école de Westmount, qui sont domiciliés à Westmount ou qui sont abonnés à une bibliothèque de Westmount peuvent participer au concours.
Tous les textes doivent parvenir à la Bibliothèque publique de Westmount avant 21h le vendredi 7 avril 2017.
Pour savoir comment participer, veuillez visiter le site web de la Bibliothèque.