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Rotary Club announces winners of annual short story and poetry contests

The Rotary Club of Summit County has announced the winners of its annual high school short story and poetry contests, which are designed to encourage creative literacy among students. The prizes for first, second and third places were $250, $150 and $100, respectively.

Short story contest

  1. Ashley Leidal, Summit High School, “Licensed for Murder”
  2. Maggie Butler, home-school student, “The Thought of Plummeting from an Impossible Height”

Poetry contest



  1. Ambur Vincze, The Peak School, “Climate Crises”
  2. Sam Burke, Snowy Peaks, “Mascne” and Maleena Mero, Summit High School, “Waves” (tie)
  3. Maggie Butler, home-school student, “Sisyphus”

A special poetry award also was given to students in Karin Mitchell’s ninth grade class — including Logan Charles, TJ Clawson, Sammy Crawford, Grace Gibson, Tarn Ihnken, Scarlet Neustaedter, Jacob Singleton and Sienna Sussman — for “So much depends upon … ,” which was inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

The stories and poems are republished below:



‘The thought of plummeting from an impossible height’

The thought of plummeting from an impossible height had always held a morbid fascination for Taliesin Myer. After all, he had been a gear crawler as a child, risking his life to scale the clockwork walls of the Zahnradturm, the giant system of cogs and gears that kept the city of Uhrstadt running. He had seen other children lose their nimble grips and plummet down into the maw of the great clock, and was equal parts horrified and fascinated by what it would feel like to be so close and yet so desperately far from flying. To stare death in the face with the knowledge that there would be no way to escape.

“Not today, Taliesin,” he told himself firmly.

He adjusted his grip on his cane and forced himself to think of mechanics as he watched the small girl scale the side of the Zahnrad Turn Clock like a spider up a drainpipe. The massive wall of gears glinted brass and silver in the faint lights from the sconces on the nearby walls, making her dingy blue dress stand out even more against the background of shining motion.

“A little to the left, Elise,” Taliesin called, hoping his voice had carried enough that she could clearly understand him. A gradual shift to the right confirmed that she had, at least, heard him. Taliesin sighed. This is what came with working with eight year olds.

“Left is the other way.”

Elise paused, either in mild confusion or irritation, before adjusting her position to the correct side, keeping her eyes out for the gear numbered 3892.

“It should be the one moving slightly slower than the others around it,” Taliesin yelled up again. This time he was sure Elise’s short pause was one of annoyance. It usually took the gear crawlers a few years to understand the rhythm of the cogs, the patterns of the many toothed circles and how they fit together. But once you understood it you couldn’t divorce yourself of it. It felt like a symphony that ached through his bones, the understanding of the clockwork around him. It was the reason why Taliesin had been made the youngest Clockmaster in Uhrstadt, one of forty who supervised the repairs of the city’s clockwork systems. Everything about it made sense to him in a way nothing else could.

“Taliesin.”

The boy glanced over his shoulder only to be greeted with the pungent breath of Artin Snyder. The oily man frowned at him. “Young man, come with me. We need to have a discussion.”

Taliesin stared at the man, who as quickly as he arrived was trotting back down the stairs, glancing back with what looked like disdain. He grimaced. A summoning from Snyder was rarely a positive thing. Although Snyder was the Clockmaster intended to be Taliesin’s partner in maintaining the Zahnradturm Clock, they made no pretenses about their power dynamic. Snyder treated Taliesin as an assistant at best and a secretary at worst. Aside from that, a trip to Snyder’s office from this level of the clock meant a long and treacherous journey down four flights of stairs. Taliesin set off at a slow gait after Snyder, hoping his bad leg would show him some kindness.

After a few minutes of agonizing travel (the recent chill in the weather had made the ache grow worse than usual), Taliesin stepped down to find Snyder waiting for him, tapping his foot dramatically as he stared at his pocket watch. Upon seeing the young man, Snyder snapped the watch shut with a sharp click intentionally.

“In.” He pointed sharply at the door of his office. Taliesin resisted the urge to give a sarcastic bow (or at the very least an eye roll) but the pain in his leg was too distracting for any snarky response. He simply made his way in.

Snyder gestured violently to the only chair in the office in a way that suggested a deep frustration with either the chair or Taliesin. Taliesin glanced from Snyder to the chair, then settled himself in it with slight unease, leaning his cane against his leg.. The elderly gentleman settled himself behind the desk across from taliesin, casting a great shadow over the table as he blocked the golden light from the window. He cleared his throat, an action which quickly devolved into a hacking fit. Taliesin sat patiently as the man fumbled about for his handkerchief, fighting the urge to cover his mouth and beg an exit. When the fit finally stopped, the man coughed something wet-sounding into his handkerchief. He glared at Taliesin as he put the handkerchief away before grabbing an envelope off the desk and tossing it into the boy’s lap.

“What is the meaning of this?” he hacked, his voice still rough from the fit he had earlier.

“I have no idea,” Taliesin replied as honestly as he could. He stared at the letter, trying to make sense of whatever Snyder wanted him to explain. It was certainly one of the most elaborate envelopes he had ever seen, covered in gold embossment detailed in vines and cogs so delicate he felt they might lift right off the paper if they got too close to a gust of wind. And there, in gold lettering, among the delicate art across it his name was written: Taliesin Myer. He flipped it over. The back was just as lovely, except for the savage tear that had decimated the back portion, including a wax seal that still clung determined to the paper. It was the kind of letter he assumed the very wealthy would send to someone, and he could not for the life of him explain why it was addressed to him.

Snyder gave an irritated grunt. “I meant the meaning of the letter, not the envelope, you daft boy.”

Taliesin ignored him and pulled the letter out, glancing down at the content.

Taliesin Myer,

You have been summoned at the request of the Uhrmacher of the city of Uhrstadt, on the 15 day of Dezember, to his Private Residence at 35 Emendruid Street.

“Seems unbelievable, doesn’t it.”

Taliesin stared at the oily man, his eyebrows furrowed with the effort of trying to process what he had just read. “I beg your pardon?”

Snyder gave a chuckle that seemed reluctant to leave him. “Believe me, boy, when I say I didn’t believe it either. I’m still not entirely sure if it’s some sort of joke on me or not. What on earth would the Uhrmacher want from someone like…” his eyes looked Taliesin up and down, lingering on his bad leg.

Any doubt Taliesin had about the validity of the letter dissipated like soft snow under the scrutiny of the bright sun. I need to get out of here, he thought, before I leap over the desk and throttle him.

“I’m sure that’s for me to find out.” He filled his voice with icy assurance before he heaved himself up from the chair with a sharp breath. “I suppose I have the afternoon off, then?”

They stared at each other then, man and boy, each set of eyes filled with a different sort of cold disdain, before Snyder relented.

“I suppose you do.” He gave Taliesin a slick smile. “But mark my words, this’ll come out of your wages.”

After a long walk through the city, Taliesin was in dire need of a chair by the time he reached the towering mansion at 35 Emendruid Street.

“Either a chair,” he muttered to himself as he tried to massage his leg a bit where he stood, “or a good long nap.”

Curious passersby, wealthy folk strolling down the cobbled streets to enjoy the fresh snow in the city glanced at the strange sight of the young man in his tattered suit (all his clothes had taken on a certain degree of wear and tear, even his best suit which he had chosen for today) and cane, staring at a house as if his life depended on it. He certainly did not belong here, and that sensation of foreignness followed him, as he tentatively made his way to the door and took hold of the large knocker.

The door swung open before he’d even had a chance to tap it once, revealing a tall, spindly man with dark skin and a large expanse of fine white hair, whose dark eyes seemed weary and sunken but brightened at the sight of Taliesin. Taliesin noted the man’s black coat with fine golden embroidery rather like the embossment on the envelope he had received.

“Ah! So you are the young man I’ve heard such great things about.” The man interjected Taliesin’s thoughts and waggled his eyebrows in a familiar way. Taliesin smiled awkwardly in the face of such a personality. “I don’t know about that?” he cleared his throat, aware that it was veering into a higher octave. “But if this is the residence of the Uhrmacher, I am Taliesin My-”

The man waved absently. “Yes, yes, I know who you are. Come in! Come in.” He glanced up and out at the sky. “Best not to tarry in this weather. Shall my manservant take your coat and walking stick?”

Taliesin watched as a rather portly gentleman stepped forward, hands extended. Despite his slight shock, Taliesin noticed gears showing faintly through the man’s skin.

“Oh, just my coat?” he said, feeling rather stupid as he clung to his cane.

The spindly man clapped his hands. “Ah, so that is necessary for you! My apologies for any offense.”

Taliesin did not answer, just let his coat and hat be whisked away so quickly he thought it may have been by magic.

“Clockwork servants are the best, aren’t they?” The man grinned even wider. “Ah yes. Where are my manners? You are Taliesin Myer. A pleasure. I,” and here the spindly man spread his arms, revealing that the fine coat was more like a cape that gave the man the appearance of wings, “I am Drosselmyer, the Uhrmacher of Uhrstadt.”

Taliesin, unsure of what to do, clapped his free hand awkwardly on his arm. Drosselmyer gave a bow at this.

“It is a pleasure.” Taliesin smiled back. “I don’t mean to be rude, but why have you called me here?”

Drosselmyer gave a slight sigh, the meriiment going out of his eyes. “Why don’t you sit down?” He gestured to a settee in his great hall, an Taliesin politely sat.

“So,” Drosselmyer began. “You do know that you are quite a good Clockmaster.”

Taliesin nodded without even thinking about it.

“Excellent,” the man said. “No false modesty here. Well, as it happens, I’m assembling a team for a… task I need completed. And this team requires someone with a great knowledge of complex clockwork.” He glanced Taliesin up and down. “Do you feel wasted where you are, Mr. Myer?”

Taliesin frowned. He felt discontented, this was true. He cleared his throat a bit. “A task? What sort of task?”

The spindly man smiled. “Someone has taken something from me. A very valuable something. A nutcracker, in fact.” He smiled and shrugged a bit. “And I need it back.”

Taliesin stared at him. “A nutcracker? Why do you need this nutcracker so badly?”

The Uhrmacher smiled wider, a twinkle coming into his eyes that almost overwhelmed the clear fatigue. “Why don’t you take a cup of tea, and I shall tell you.”

Against his better judgement, Taliesin accepted a cup of tea into his hands.

Oh dear, he thought. What on earth have you gotten yourself into?

— Maggie Butler

‘The Climate Crises’

You walk outside, it’s always hot or the complete opposite

The climate is spun in chaos

few species still exist

Some people tried their hardest but we’ve lost the oasis

the metal straws we strived to use sit in piles

rusted on the edge of a salty shore

The sky hasn’t been that true blue in miles

Sun, flamed red with the smoke that you just can’t bear

The coasts have been demolished by the hurricanes that rush through faster than an airplane

Our attempts were never strong enough

The waste of plastic surrounds us because it all went down the drain…

We try to make it better but people give up

the tax on plastic rose to 10 cents for every dollar

but people just continue to buy their way through

The world is held back on a chain collar

still waiting for a breakthrough

Tornados, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and a combination of them all put to test our limits

There are still people trying to help but I fear it is too late

The arctic is closer to extinction minute by minute

species all over the world have vanished, and the few that still remain are stuck behind a gate

the museum of Extinct Animals and the ten thousand stuffed species

A sight you didn’t think you’d behold?

But at least we’re still breathing…

the generations failed

Welcome to the climate crises

— Ambur Vincze

‘Mascne’

No senior homecoming, prom, or graduation

No initiation into the real world

Virtual classes, teachers, and friends

Back to back zoom meetings to no end

Can someone please lend me an ear

Make all of this disappear

Back to normal, back to reality

The only thing behind this mask is a fake smile and some acne

It’s scary

But hey, that’s the way this world works now

We’ve got to stay safe, stop the spread

But that doesn’t keep things from getting into my head

Sometimes, I want to spend the entire day in bed

Sitting, waiting in dread

Of the next assignment due at 11:59

In a time when the only way to connect is to get on screen

Unmute, turn on your camera, and dream

Of a day when we can go back and scream

For your home team

Pursue your dreams

See our friends, family, and idols outside of a live stream

Maybe we will, if we can just get the vaccine

Or so it would seem

These are supposed to be some of the best times of our lives

But no guaranteeing

Worried about our grades, but not our wellbeing

Because while my time here in high school, it’s rapidly-fleeing

Hit the red button

Bottom corner

End meeting

Thank you

— Sam Burke

‘Waves’

Waves:

Waves are controlled by the storm.

They’re controlled by the moon.

They’re controlled by the night.

They wash over the beaches

Over the lost boats

And the fallen tree branches.

Waves are the heartbeat of the earth,

Rising and falling

Pushing and pulling.

It’s like waves contain secrets.

Sometimes they want to show you their deepest treasures,

Reaching out to you.

But other days, they pull away, scared to reveal something that they can never take back.

We have waves deep inside us.

Sometimes I forget about the waves,

Until they surprise me, almost drown me.

My waves come at night

During the storms of my own life.

When the moon shines so bright

That the waves decide to show my

Secrets,

I’m never ready.

I want to hide them forever.

Once I’m underwater, I have to come

To terms with the life I’ve been

Living.

Although it may be painful,

I have to remember my memories…

Funny how that works.

Sitting there, letting the sea salt run

Along my curls until my hair is so

Soaked that it turns black and straight.

The wave makes me vulnerable.

It tears me apart piece by piece.

Showing me my past, year by year,

Moment by moment.

Making me remember everything

That has ever shattered my heart.

Rising and falling

too fast.

Pushing and pulling

too hard.

It hurts. Instead of floating,

My body sinks.

Letting the waves of the past

Absorb into me, as if I have no protection

Against my own self.

I can’t cry because no one will hear.

The waves aren’t even choppy.

They’re smooth and relaxing.

Those are the most dangerous

Kinds of waves.

Relaxing waves lure you in,

Bring your guard down.

And then you disappear into the sandy waters, never knowing if you will return

Back to land.

Never knowing if you can break free from the swaying ocean.

Never knowing if you will be able to shake the water off.

What’s the point of living a life

That always has waves?

Other people are out there

And they have sunshine.

They have miracles and inspiration.

And all you have is the fear of

Drowning in your own thoughts?

The fear that you can’t come back from the pressure of your memories,

And the unknown of your future.

The fear of the swirling water that tries to break you down

Even though you’ve already been

Broken

For so long.

You’d think that no wave could defeat

Someone who has suffered their whole life.

You’d think that they could push through.

That they could take everything they’ve

Ever learned.

And use that knowledge to help themselves.

But eventually,

You forget to care about

Yourself.

Often times the wave is so strong.

That even the fish in the sea

Decide to stop swimming.

Because the waves just

Rise and fall,

Push and pull you.

And you let them.

— Marleena Mero

‘Sisyphus’

The greatest weight, they said, would be the rock.

At least a ton of smooth, rounded stone.

“Your burden is this,” they told him.

“Push it or you will be damned.”

And so he took up the boulder before him.

And strained against the mass of it.

Only reaching the top

To find himself at the bottom of the hill once more.

After time passed, though

The day’s journey grew easier on his weary bones

His skin tanned and hardened, growing stronger in the heat of the sun.

His muscles shifted and flexed, accommodating the weight of the rock.

His hands grew rough and calloused, prepared for the surface of the stone.

But when the burden of the rock lessened.

Another came to ride upon his straining shoulders.

“Shall I live every day like this?” he asked himself.

“Shall I carry on this fruitless mission?”

“But you know not,” a voice came within himself.

“You know not what happens if you do not continue.”

He imagined the massive stone crashing down.

Turning his mortal limbs to dust.

“It is better this way,” he whispered.

And so he carries on, stronger and so much weaker

Protecting his life, his burden.

He pushes the boulder fruitlessly up the hill.

Too afraid to just let the rock roll.

— Maggie Butler

“So much depends upon …”

So much depends upon

The water that flows

Gushing through the faucet

Providing life

So much depends upon

The size 9 gray shoes

That cover my toes

Cradle my feet

Protect them from snow

The size 9 gray shoes

Sitting in a puddle

By the back door

So much Depends upon

on time,

Time and space with the act of all moving things.

So much depends upon

the strength that helps you persevere.

like a rock that holds you down and makes us push through all the frowns

So much depends upon

a family

who is there whenever you need them

a family does not need to be love but blood.

So much depends upon

optimism, moving through the days.

so much depends upon

optimism

So much depends upon

the light of day.

Glistening from the sun.

Our savior from the dreaded night.

So much depends upon

A thought in the wind

A push down stream

through the flood

so much depends upon,

the words that you speak.

they could either be kind or they could either be mean.

whichever way, no matter what you say,

each word has their own way to lay.

— Logan Charles, TJ Clawson, Sammy Crawford, Grace Gibson, Tarn Ihnken, Scarlet Neustaedter, Jacob Singleton and Sienna Sussman

Editor’s note: Ashley Leidal declined to provide for publication her winning short story “Licensed for Murder.”


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