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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: The Year of the Hoods
By Dee Yoder


Just the light from the bus driver’s radio lit the front door area as I climbed the steps of the school bus. Jerry kept CKLW cranked up loud as long the kids maintained a semblance of control. Jefferson Airplane wailed out the questions, “Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody to love…”

The only seat on the bus that was EVER available by the time it got to me was at the back. The good kids, the ace students, and the jocks never dared sit there. The back was Hood area. My face blushed crimson when the hooting and teasing started as I approached.

“C’mon and take your seat, Little Girl.”

I pulled my coat close and sat down next to Vincent. He grinned and proceeded to pass a joint to his friend in the seat ahead. I tried not to look, but Vincent saw my eyes widen and he chuckled.

“Little Miss, they’re gonna think you’re just like me if you keep on sittin’ here.” His smile was genuine and a little flirty, but I kept my head down and shrugged.

“Vince, throw me that straw on the floor there.” yelled Mike. Vincent threw it to him and watched as Mike pulled a pack of needles from his jacket pocket. He made spit wads and poked each one with a needle before placing it in the straw. Then the torment began. He hit a jock first, right in the back of his head.

“Ouch! Who did that?” The jock’s face grew red with anger, but he turned back around when he heard the jeers from the Hoods.

One after another, Mike picked out his targets and inflicted his own little sting of humility. I felt the sorriest for the computer geek who sat just a couple of seats in front of the Hoods. His ears burned bright red as he pulled his jacket over his neck to protect himself. The taunting increased and was aimed singularly at him.

I felt anger rise in me and I dared to flash a look of disgust at Vincent. He stared back calmly, but with a hint of surprise at my attitude. He leaned close and when he whispered, his breath blew a warm puff on my cheek.

“He’s a nerd. Nerds have to learn to take it, Girlie.”

“I don’t care. It’s mean.” I whispered back. “Why can’t you make Mike leave him alone?” It was the first and only real conversation I ever had with Vincent, and I could see he was shocked. I thought he might soften. I saw a little hesitation as he glanced at the poor kid being tortured by his buddies, but then he laughed.

“Hey, Nerdie! Little Girlie’s feelin’ sorry for ya!” he yelled. The Hoods increased their sarcasm and teasing until the noise level crowded out the music. Jerry immediately turned the radio down and met the eyes of the Hoods in his rearview mirror.

“Cut it out, Dudes, or the radio stays off! If I see anything else going on back there, I’m taking names. You got that, Vincent? Keep that pack of yours under control!”

“Yessir, Mr. Bus-Driver-Man,” Vincent stood up and saluted. The Hoods laughed, but the torture ceased, at least for that morning.

I rode the bus with the Hoods that school year. Vincent never tried talking to me again, but sometimes, he’d catch my eye, shake his head and give a little smile. I put Vincent down on my prayer list, his name written neatly on the front flap of my “The Way” Bible.

Summer came and I often saw Vincent walking the streets near my house. If he spied me, he’d call out with a huge wave of his arm, “How ya doin’, Girlie?” I heard rumors that he’d joined a gang. My prayers for Vincent increased.

One day, just before school started again, the newspaper told a horrible story. Vincent was gunned down as he walked the streets; a tragic case of mistaken identity. I felt sick. In my head was the image of Vincent, with his wide grin and exuberant wave.

The first day of school, I got on the bus and everything was the same, only it wasn’t. I made my way to the back and took my seat alone. The Hoods were gone. Only one remained, and he wasn’t inclined to torture. The computer geek, Roger, turned around and gave me a smile, and I felt incredibly sad.

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This article has been read 951 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 02/08/08
Excellent job with the dialog and description especially. This is a wonderful slice-of-life piece.
Ann Renae Hair02/10/08
What a sad reality for many. I'm so glad that she treated Vincent without contempt and shined Christ's love, the one thing that could make a difference. Great writing.
william price02/10/08
Great reader interest. Kept me interested all the way through. Good job. God bless.
Jan Ackerson 02/10/08
Oh great, now I've got that song in my mind...a blast from the past...

You know what, this would make a great chapter of a novel with this name...that would cover your protagonist for all of that year...she's worth getting to know better.

Another great piece, Dee.
Shelley Ledfors 02/10/08
I agree with Jan on the novel. You did a great job with this within the word count constraints but I would love to read more!
Betty Castleberry02/10/08
Ah, you made me feel sad. I'm convinced there's a good kid in each and every gang member. Your writing was convincing. Very well done.
Karen Wilber02/10/08
This one does beg for more than 750 words. I wanted to know more about what actually happened to Vincent. You really created some interesting characters.

Showing my age here -- did they have "computer geeks" and "dudes" when Jefferson Airplane released that song or were they listening to the oldies station? ;-) I think I've ridden this bus.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/10/08
Excellent charater development and attention to detail. Your writing shines!
Patty Wysong02/10/08
Wow--what a story! I loved the voice and the feelings that came through so clearly. Excellent job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/10/08
This sad story is told with excellence, as are all you stories. I love everything you write.
LaNaye Perkins02/10/08
I love how you pull the reader in and make them feel as though they are part of this story. This was so sad, and so well done.
Beth LaBuff 02/10/08
You've done a great job of writing this sad-ending story. I feared for and cheered for your MC. This is very good!
Loren T. Lowery02/11/08
Isn't it strange how God places us in situations over which we seem to have no control. Her feeling sad at the end left me to wonder about so many things left unsaid that could have made a difference.
Debbie Wistrom02/11/08
This was very impressive. Keep up the good words.
Sheri Gordon02/11/08
Excellent writing Dee. Your descriptions are perfect, and the dialogue is right on. Great job with the topic.
Lynda Schultz 02/11/08
Like chocolate cake, I WANT ANOTHER SLICE! Well done.
Joy Faire Stewart02/13/08
The descriptions are so vivid, I would see the scenes. Excellent message of compassion by the MC. And the last sentence was perfect.
Sara Harricharan 02/13/08
You make this so real, I really feel sad for her. After everything that happens, the one moment where she dares to stick up for someone and the nickname of "Girlie" you made it seem real and something that we can all relate to. Nice job, Dee! ^_^
Kristen Hester02/13/08
Your writing in this story is top,top, top, TOP notch!
Rita Garcia02/13/08
Fantastic! Master writing! Love the realistic dialog!
Lyn Churchyard02/13/08
Lynda is so right! More cake please Dee. This was a great story. I actually felt sorry for Vince, even before he was killed. Your MC has depth of character. Encore! Encore!
Laury Hubrich 02/14/08
Great writing, Dee! This would make all the home school moms cringe and be glad they are doing what they are! Keep up the great work, girlie!:)