This November, 826DC is thrilled to publish our very first compendium: a collection of the best of the best from our first five years. To celebrate the release here on the blog we will be posting a weekly podcast consisting of selections from the book, read aloud by students, volunteers, staff, and other friends of 826DC. So find a comfy spot and get ready to listen, savor, and share the words of our most inspiring young authors. This project is made possible in part by support from AT&T Aspire.
You Will Be Able to Say a Thousand Words collects the best writing from 826DC’s first five years of running fun and unique writing-based programs. Spanning genres and styles, students ages 6-18 imagine dangers on the high seas, struggles with bullying, and mourn loved ones. From advice to their former selves to advice for the reader, students begin a journey that starts on the page and ends in the boundlessness of the imagination.
This week’s featured piece from the collection is “Pregnancy Test” by Olatunji Coleman, first published in Long Lost. Reading it for us is all-star 826DC volunteer Tara Campbell. She is the grateful recipient of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ (DCCAH) 2016 Larry Neal Writers’ Award in Adult Fiction, and the DCCAH 31st Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding New Artist.
Staring at the calendar hadn’t made the days change. My stomach felt like a sponge, wrung constantly to get rid of excess water. In my case, the excess water made its way out of my mouth and into the toilet bowl. My knees felt cold against the white porcelain floors of the apartment building. I flushed the toilet and walked out of the bathroom, dragging my feet.
I was walking past a snoozing man who slept so peacefully, his hair falling over his face, his lips puckered, and his cheek smashed against the pillow. It almost looked like he was kissing the air. When he was awake, he was an explorer. His eyes were big and brown, and always filled with a childlike wonder that kept him moving. He had curly black hair that was dyed blond at the tips. He had been experimenting more with his look this summer, and that is what he came up with. He was a good man to me, but I knew that he couldn’t be tied down to someone as basic as me. On the inside, I expected he was watching my every move to find a fault that he could use as an escape plan.
I snuck out of the bedroom tiptoeing, even though I knew the man sleeping in the next room was a heavy sleeper. I couldn’t take any chances, I knew his curiosity of my being up at this hour would get the better of him; I knew that I couldn’t lie to him.
Once I walked into the kitchen, I had one objective. Under the sink was a plastic bag with two little boxes in it. The boxes were pink, and there was a beautiful blonde lady who was pregnant on the front. She looked happy. Why was she happy?
The boxes were crinkled on the edges from being smashed into the dark crevices of the kitchen sink.
The distance from the kitchen to the bathroom had never been so long. When I arrived, the lights blinded me, causing me to squint my eyes. Everything was pure white, too white. The walls weren’t always this white; they used to be a hideous yellow. It was a gross yellow that was dandelion-colored in its prime, but then the paint chipped and the color grew dark with age. So I covered it up. I hid the ugly. I wouldn’t be able to hide this.
I opened the first box and emptied its contents. Out fell two white sticks. They were both about the length of a pen, but they were fat, the width of my thumb. On the ends of the sticks were transparent pink tops. It looked like a stick of white gum stuck out on the ends. They reminded me of those trick gum toys that would shock you if you pulled.
I set one of them on the bathroom sink as if it was poison. I even went as far as to wipe my thumb and index finger on my shirt.
But I held the first one in my hand. It didn’t feel poisonous to me; it felt like it was essential.
I took the transparent top off of the stick and relieved myself, but I kept some of my pee in just in case. I put the stick on the counter and washed my hands.