by jane hodges
First Place – Level B (5th – 6th grade)
Carla Jones sped down the snowy hill, the just-bought sled skidding to a stop at the bottom.
“Come on, guys!” she called and scrambled off.
Her friends, Mary and Caroline, were standing cautiously at the top of the hill and looking down with petrified stares. They slowly climbed onto their sleds and pushed themselves barely a millimeter.
Carla sighed. She trudged up the hill and gave them a hard shove. They screamed, terrified, as they shot across the snow. They hit a rock and spun into the air, landing backward with a thump. Carla cheered and ran to meet them.
Caroline had lost her hat and Mary had flown a few feet in the air before landing. They both stood up, staggered a little, and smiled.
“That. Was. Awesome!” they cried. “We need to do that again!”
“Defini-” Carla stopped. She stared solemnly at the wreck of plastic that had been their sleds.
Mary followed her gaze and her shoulders slumped. “Those were new! What will our dads say?”
Caroline looked around. “We could use those sleds over there,” she said, pointing to two sleds propped up against a tree. “No one seems to be using them.”
“Good idea. We’ll return them when we’re done,” Mary said.
She started walking to the tree.
“Wait!” Carla said. “Those aren’t ours. We shouldn’t use them.”
Mary turned to stare at Carla with a look that burned a hole in her jacket.
“And why should we listen to you?” She shook her head and continued to walk toward the sleds.
Carla bit her lip. She knew it would be wrong. Caroline and Mary picked up the sleds anyway.
“There are only two,” Caroline said. “You’ll have to wait.”
“That’s fine,” Carla said. She walked away and trudged through the deep snow to her house. She could hear shrieks of laughter and a thump of them hitting the ground. She broke into a run and reached the porch in a few seconds. Bursting through the door, she rushed to the stairs and hung her jacket on a peg. Her mom looked over at her with a smile.
“You’re back so early. Where are Mary and Caroline?”
“They’re still outside,” Carla called out as she ran up the stairs.
She sat on her bed and breathed heavily. After she caught her breath, she walked over to the window. She didn’t know whether what she did was right or if she had just been silly. She did wish she could go sledding, but those sleds weren’t theirs to use. Suddenly, she stood up and ran downstairs, her cozy socked feet making a muffled stampede. She was going to stop them, and she didn’t care how many insults they’d throw at her.
She took off across the snow to the hill where Mary and Caroline were rocketing into the air. Carla met them at the bottom, and they got off.
“Where were you?” Mary asked.
“You missed your turn,” Caroline said, curiously. “You could have played with us.”
“Those sleds aren’t ours!” Carla said, desperately. “It would be stealing from whoever owns them. They could call the police.”
Mary and Caroline stopped.
“Are you sure?” Mary was nervous now. “But if we return them, they wouldn’t call the police.”
They followed Carla over to their sleds. They had been thrown to the side after being wrecked. The string was shredded in half, and there were cracks running down the middle.
“How are we ever going to make that look like a sled?” Caroline kicked it.
“We need duct tape and new rope,” Carla said.
“My dad has some.” Mary ran off and Caroline knelt beside Carla to help her tear away the broken string. They made a pile of detached parts. Mary came back with a roll of duct tape and a few yards of thick string.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “He didn’t have a rope.”
“That’ll work,” Carla said.
She and Mary worked to tie the string in a knot at the end and threaded it through the hole. They did the same with the other side, and Caroline wrapped duct tape around and around the sled, piecing it together. They did the same to the other. Finally, they stepped back to admire their work. The sleds looked almost new, except for the fact they were now grey.
“You know, those will look good if we spray painted them.”
Mary looked at the sleds that weren’t theirs and she sighed.
“We shouldn’t have used those.”
“We should tell whoever these belong to that we’re sorry,” Carla said.
“We could leave a note,” Caroline said. “But we don’t have any paper.”
“I could get some.” Carla ran off and returned to where Mary and Caroline were waiting.
“What should we write?” Caroline asked.
“How about, ‘Dear Owner, we’re sorry, but we used your sleds,” Mary suggested. Caroline began to write. “Please forgive us. Sincerely, Mary Kurtis and Caroline Cross’”
“Perfect,” Caroline said. “But I’ll sign it M.K & C.C.”
She used the last sliver of duct tape to pin the note to one of the sleds. Deciding that was good enough, they picked up their mended sleds and headed back up the hill.
Jane likes to write, draw, and read. She’s the second oldest in her family and lives in the woods where they make paths and play in the creek.