Read the winning short stories and poetry from Rotary Club of Summit County’s high school writing contest |

Read the winning short stories and poetry from Rotary Club of Summit County’s high school writing contest

The Rotary Club of Summit County has announced the winners of its annual short story and poetry contests.

Short story contest winners

  1. Scout Murphy, a student at The Peak School, was awarded $250 in the short story contest for her story “That House on that Street.”
  2. Lily Tyson, also a student at The Peak School, was awarded $150 for her story “Who are You?”
  3. Jacob Rowe, a student at Summit High School, received $100 for his story “Down Behind Enemy Lines.”
  4. Kaitlynn Shelton, a student at The Peak School, won $75 for her story “September.”

Poetry contest winners

  1. Sam Burke, a student at Summit High School, won $250 for his poem “Bones.”
  2. Lily Windsor, a home-schooled student, won $150 for her poem, “The Barren Moor.”
  3. Bella Butler, a student at Summit High School, was awarded $100 for her poem, “If I were your canvas.”
  4. Keira Thorsteinson, a student at The Peak School, won $75 for her poem, “As I grab the bag out from the medicine cabinet.”

Several of their submissions can be read below.

Short story

First place: “That House on that Street” by Scout Murphy, The Peak School

The Barn in the back was my favorite hiding place. We would go up into the top of the barn and play in the years and years of old hay. I could never imagine selling that house, not because of the pool or the fact that it was always warm, but because of the memories in the house and the people inside. My small feet running through the fancy room where the children were not allowed. The splash of our bodies hitting the pool. The sound of silence when we were all in a deep sleep. And the barn. The sound of birds chirping and the sound of children running through the grass. The unbearable sound of those old trampoline springs before they broke. I love those sounds. I love the sound of laughter in that house. I love the sound of cheering coming from the fancy room where the children were not allowed. The sound of the barn doors opening where there once was the sounds of horses hooves on the concrete floor. I could never imagine not having this house or the people inside. The sound of my grandmother baking in the kitchen. The sound of my crazy aunt yelling at my cousin because he did something wrong. The sound of our family card tournament at 4 am, in the fancy room, where the children were not allowed. But I’m getting older now and the sounds are changing. No more running to the guest room to wake them up because it’s Christmas morning. No more sounds of children in the barn. No more hiding while the adults played their games. Because now we are close to adults and some of us are having children. So now we are allowed in the fancy room. No more of the sound of laughter coming from the giant tub in the bathroom that we called our hot tub. Silence. That is the new sound. They are getting old now. Soon they will go. One day this house won’t be our own. That day will come, and all will be gone. No more playing in the old hay. No more splashes in the pool. No more bike riding at 3 am while the adults don’t know you’re gone. No more sprinkler running. There will be silence like when the children were not allowed in the fancy room.

Second place: “Who are you?” by Lily Tyson, The Peak School

About this piece: I was adopted from Nanning, China, when I was 11 months old. For all 15 years that I have been in the United States of America, I have wondered about who my birth mother is. I have wondered why I am here and what my life would have been if I stayed. I have struggled with self discovery for a long time, wondering who I am supposed to be. I lay awake at nights wondering who my birth mom is, and I am sure that I am not the only adopted child that feels this way. This writing is a description of someone that I do not know, and a story that I don’t quite know how to tell. This is the story from adopted children to their unknown mothers. This is a story of the person I love, but I do not know.

Do you sip Oolong tea, or drink warm water? Do you work every day in the scorching hot sun? Does each bead of sweat trickle down your warm, welcoming face? A smile that tells the world you are okay, but are you hurting inside? Do you think about who I became, do you think about the family you left behind? I don’t know you. I most likely never will. I am up at night thinking about what my life would have been. I can imagine your long silky hair and your kind, loving eyes. Why am I here? Was I not enough? In a city of 7.254 million people, why was I not worth the stay? Sometimes I ask myself, why. Why wasn’t I good enough for you, why couldn’t I have known you? Why did you leave me there? Just why? Was it not your choice, or did you just not want to know me? Did you hold me or did they tell you I was stillborn to take away from the hurt? I hope that it was hard for you, and I hope that you miss me. I hope that you think about me because I think about you. Your personality, your smile, your compassion. Who are you? I never understood you but I’ll look for you, I never touched you but I felt you, I never knew you but I love you. Well imagine I would. You are the poem that I never knew how to write, yet this is the story I will wait to tell you. My life, my home. Your eyes will see me and you won’t know me, I won’t know you. Have we crossed paths before? You moved on and maybe I should too, but something still ties me to you. Is it the hope of knowing you that I don’t even know if I want? Is it the idea that you love me when maybe you don’t? Why do I find myself drawn to someone I don’t know? I don’t know what you look like, I don’t know who you are so everything I see is just a facade of my imagination. Are your eyes a dark brown, similar to mine? Is your hair a silky black, just like mine? Are you short like me? For the longest time, I thought that this was a battle that wasn’t worth fighting, a dream that wasn’t worth dreaming. But when I think to myself, maybe there is a possibility. Do you look like me? Would you sound like me, connect with me? I hope you remember me, even though I don’t remember you. I only know what happened after. I only know who I was after. A family, do you have one too? Are you happy? I want the best for you. I hope your eyes sparkle against the water, I hope your hair shimmers in the sun, and I hope on everything, that someday, you will know who I am.

Third place: “Down Behind Enemy Lines” by Jacob Rowe, Summit High School

Another frosted autumn morning began in the vast countryside, leaves of lettuce heads crunched under my feet. I think hell has frozen over. I can feel my sore lungs exhaling the cold air, which worried me, Germany was getting more frigid each day. My metal lockett grazed my chest like an ice cube. I was not at all prepared for a winter trek when I was sent here. I pull out an icy cigarette to counter the freezing weather. Lighting the hot ember against the blank background of snow was a risk to say the least but I would rather die with a warmth in my lungs than drown in the arctic weather. I walk with a smoking cigarette hanging from my lips, letting all the worries of the winter dissolve into the gray mist it leaves behind. I hear a “whoosh” by my right ear. My irresponsible smoke falls from my frail hand landing on the cold floor of the farm going out as soon as it hits the ground.

Life was simple once, I went through the motions not taking the time to enjoy the uncomplicated routine of my day. I was an accountant before this madness, a goddamn accountant. The simplicity of my life ended as soon as I got that vexing letter in the mail. They worded it like you had won an award “registration certificate” when in reality the only award they had given you was extinction. My father was petrified, all he could hope was that I would come back. I don’t think the man he told that to is still alive. Before I left for London my dad told me “life complicates itself, true people adapt and keep integrity ” I don’t believe either of those things have happened.

I look around in terror for the man who has fired a round at my skull. My brain has instinctively turned off due to shock leaving adrenaline and fear to drive me to this sniper. I then spotted him out of the corner of my eye. Fully camouflaged aside from a black cap that he wore proudly, not realizing it was his downfall. There was no cover in this frostbitten country leaving me no choice, I needed to charge him. As I begin to sprint another bullet flashes by my side tearing my shirt. The torn fabric brushes my cold skin. Me and the man were a mere 40 feet apart now. My 22 sits at my belt, loaded. His rifle was out of ammo and loading another mag would have taken too long. The snow cracks under my feet as I approach him with my pistol drawn. He stands from his kneeled position making me face him eye to eye. This was the end, either my life of my morality. I look him deep in his Japanese eyes waiting for him to speak. His words are nonexistent. The world stands still around the two opaque figures in this vacant white land.

“あなたは私の兄弟を殺し、死ぬ準備をしました” he said with vengeance in his voice

I look at the Japanese man with disorientation. I can tell that his words mean a great deal to him but to me they are gibberish. I see his hand reaching for his Nambu pistol.


The man wraps his hand around the grip of his gun on his belt.

We were flying in heaven. Above the clouds in 1942. None of us were worried about the fight. The Japanese had the perfect opportunity to attack our small fleet of 5. Three squadrons of metal demons crept up from below us. We took down the ones we could but they tripled our numbers. I saw an opening, one single round hit their captains engine, plunging from the sky. In my success, I missed one fatal flaw, the beast in front of me. My right-wing was severely mangled. My arrogance was the reason for my endless cycle of dread, the reason that I fell to earth.

I inhale a deep breath of raw frozen air. This was my end, he was my grim reaper. At times like these, I wonder if my father is still alive, if he made it this far. I question if I still have a home to go back to. If it’s worth it to contest a man that I have taken so much from, if all I have Is honor to lose. I have nothing, my father is dead, everybody thinks I’m dead. Would the world change if I was? The man grins at me, he knows he has already won in mind. I focus on the man’s arrogant smirk. I will see my father again in heaven or in flesh. This bastard will not take that from me.

My pale hands grip my gun as I await a move from the Japanese man. He pulls his gun from his belt and begins to aim. I bolt sprinting to his right. All I hear are deafening roars moving past my shifting body. Wind rushed onto my face as I dash for my life. His eighth round passes by my arm tearing the skin. I dive through the air hoping to land a shot on the vengeful man. My sickly body hits the cold floor. Snow leaks into my open shirt chilling my skin. I opened my eyes to see a damaged man laying on the frost-covered floor. A bullet through his heart. I kneel next to the dying man holding my injured arm. Once again two opaque figures in the bleak white of the world sit in a pool of crimson fluid.


First place: “Bones” by Sam Burke, Summit High School

As a young child, my mother called me bones
She said “bones do this”, “Bones do that”
And I did
I never once asked why I had this nickname
Years later however, I began to wonder
Could it be that my skeleton shot through my skin like a spotlight
That my bones shone so much they began to define me?

10 years later, not much has changed
My bones still poke through my skin
Shine through my insecurities
My muscles don’t bulge out of my body
Because unfortunately, I cannot pump iron more than my heart pumps blood
What good do all the pull ups and chin ups do if I cannot place myself high above the bar
All the wasted leg lifts I have used to try and lift my spirit
Countless hours of weighted wall sits when the real pressure wasn’t the weights on my thighs
But the weight on my chest
Put there by society
Claiming that the only way to be a man is to have a ripped body
Claiming that women are the only ones with body standards
When we define a real man by the biceps on their shoulders
Because we are too shallow to look within
Shallower than a kiddie pool
I’m sorry that my gene pool didn’t reveal Hercules
So I ask you, do my bones make me a real man?

Second place: “The Barren Moor” by Lily Windsor, homeschool

The wind blew hard across the land,
Gusting from the sky’s right hand.
Onto the rolling moors below,
Whispering promises of winter snow.

Whisking through the emerald grasses,
Chilling the bell-heather as it passes.
Murmurs among the lonely moor,
A sea of grass with an unseen shore.

The cold invades the old stone walls,
And whispers through the empty halls.
Echoing with a lonesome moan,
Into a room with a crownless throne.

Lost and abandoned for countless years,
Yet one can still hear music and fading cheers.
Perhaps a freezing wind such as this claimed it,
So wild and free that no man could ever tame it.

For the hardest battles may not be with men,
Maybe life was just where it shouldn’t have been.
Such a fate could’ve befallen any ill-fated man,
Though some may tell you the moor itself played a hand.

Perhaps the magic of this untouched place,
Could never truly be defaced.
The chilling wind with its icy claw,
Devoured the life in its bitter maw.

For no cloak, fire, or wall could keep the wild at bay,
Yet no cold, deadly plight kept man from seeking a way.
Listen close, for their last songs still moan along the moor,
Lost in a sea of grass with an unseen shore.

Third place: “If I were your canvas” by Bella Butler, Summit High School

Paint my lips a shimmering gold
or perhaps my miniature ears bright.
I trust you with my love to hold,
so paint my heart deep blue this night.

An artist is fine with strokes of color
upon a canvas so delicate as such,
be free with desire, impose upon the duller
a mere possession, could I ask this much?

I want to feel your diverse expression;
mix your colors on the back of my hand!
So with patterns wild and no suggestion,
paint me as you see me, I yearn to understand.

When you are finished, dry me dimly lit.
My reflection, hidden, for that is the point of it.

Fourth place: “As I grab the bag out from the medicine cabinet” by Keira Thorsteinson, The Peak School

As I grab the bag out from the medicine cabinet
it makes me feel bad about who I am
it makes me want to die;
it makes me want to cut;
it is thin and square-shaped
it makes me not like who I am
it is destroying me from the inside out
I cry and cry for hours upon end
it has a gold zipper lining the top
I misinterpret messages from friends
and take them the wrong way
inside, it has all sort of things like
over exaggerating
longing for people’s acceptance
but instead, I just get thrown around
Like mascara and lip gloss,
like a toy that was never wanted
when I express this feeling to people
all they do is say “sorry” and move on like
the powders and brushes
were just a ghost they were imagining
and there is nothing I can do about it
no medicine or pain killers or anything
it even hides away the feeling of wanting to be me
as I slowly put it back in the medicine cabinet
I lie to the world about who I really am
nothing could ever change how I am feeling, my brain is lying to me
just like the people are
if people were nicer and if people didn’t judge
then maybe, just maybe this feeling of DEPRESSION would go away

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