2016 Fall Creative Writing Winners
Read the winning creative writing submissions. The winning art submission are below.
1st place: Undocumented/Baylie Lawson/CMC Student, Breckenridge
I shifted in the hard plastic seat. I coughed, more nervous than when I had asked Anna Middleton to Prom a few months ago. Anna Middleton had said no, and I was feeling the same rejection from the lady sitting across from me; this interview was nothing more than a news article for her, my hardships didn’t matter.
“Shall we begin?” She asked, straightening her navy blazer.
“Si.” I replied. Most people smiled, or at least faked one, when I said something in my native tongue. But not the interviewer, it was as if I wasn’t even there.
“Where are you from?” Ah, a tricky question. The polite question would have been to ask, “Where are your parents from?” And I could reply, “Coahuila, Mexico.” And the smart people, or the nice people, would leave it at that. My interviewer was smart, but she wasn’t nice.
“Where in Mexico?” I gave her a look, silently begging that she’d leave the question alone. “Where?”
“Ojinaga.” Even the name was a bad taste in my mouth, a remnant of the terrible times. My father’s farm had failed during the droughts. My mother was pregnant with my eldest sister at the time, and my eldest brother was four. With no way to care for his family, my father had left and gone to Ojinaga for a job. He wrote to my mother frequently, telling her how hard it was for anyone to get a job and then suddenly, he started sending money. My mother moved to Ojinaga to be with him and left my siblings with her parents in Chihuahua.
“When did you come to the United States?”
“I was six.” After moving to be with my father, she discovered that he had become a Coyotaje. Coyotajes transfer people from Mexico to the U.S., illegally. My mother was furious, but the need to care for her children was stronger than her anger. During this time of living on the border, my mother had two more daughters. Then, she had me, a blessing for my father who wanted sons. Things were going well for my parents, my father was making a lot of money and was almost always successful in his trips, and my mother began working in a bakery. She was up with the sun to make bread and pastries, and my father was gone more and more. But then my mother fell incredibly ill. She couldn’t work, and she couldn’t care for the four of us (I’d gained a new brother by this time). My father took her to the hospital in Ojinaga, and was told that she had stage four breast cancer. Then, the doctor looked my father straight in the eyes and said, “Get her to Houston, Texas if you want her to live.” My father started some excuse about how he didn’t have a passport or a visa but everyone in town knew my father was a Coyotaje.
“Did you come to Colorado right away?”
“No.” With my mother being on death’s door there wasn’t a chance to go get my two oldest siblings living with my grandparents, nor was there time for us kids to be taken to my grandparents.
We went with my father and mother across the border. I don’t remember much, just a semi truck trailer filled with people crammed into boxes and a Mexican-American driver with papers saying we were high-end furniture on the way to Houston. We made it, without any trouble, to Houston in time for my mother to die.
“Why come to Colorado then?
“My father had a distant cousin here, they worked as ranch hands together. My father still works in Durango.”
“So you moved here when you were six–”
“I moved to America when I was six, to Texas. I moved to Colorado when I was 13.”
“Why did you move from Texas?”
“Better schooling, I suppose.” I lied
I was unwilling to respond with the truth. When my mother died, so did the father I had known. He drank a lot, and was riskier in his coyotaje dealings. He would be gone for weeks, during this my sisters got jobs as maids by lying about their ages. They worked in a fancy resort, and eventually managed to convince their boss to higher my brother and me as lawn tenders. With the money we made and what our father left for us, we managed to pay rent in an outbuilding on the resort and eat the leftovers from the kitchen. Then came the day, on my 13th birthday, that the owners of the resort, a very nice older couple with no kids of their own, told us that they wanted to adopt all of us. They said they needed to talk to my father about it, but they were excited about adopting us. We were excited too, having a family would mean not sleeping in the outbuilding, and then maybe we could go to a school. Later that night, my father broke into the shed and told us that we were leaving. My sisters cried, claiming that they wanted to stay with the owners and have a new life. So, my father left them and took my brother and me to Colorado. He cleaned up his act, got sober, got a real job, and put my brother and me in school. My sisters in Texas were finally adopted by the owners, and while we never saw them, we did get to call each other every so often.
“Now you want to go to college.” She said it as more of a question.
“Yes I would like that.”
“But you’re undocumented.”
That word. Undocumented. The bitter taste of the truth. While it isn’t impossible to go to college as an undocumented person, it is extremely hard.
“I know, Señorita.”
“How will you pay for it?”
“I can’t get a FAFSA, or any financial aid. Thankfully, Colorado colleges mostly count me as an in-state student. And I don’t really know how I’ll pay for it, but I will do it. I want education and I want to work on my citizenship.”
“Yes, I want dual citizenship, Mexico and America.”
“But you aren’t an American.”
I didn’t say anything. It was an accusing rhetorical question, but a rhetorical question all the same. She wrote some more notes in her notebook then stood up.
“Why didn’t you ever go back?”
“America is more of a home than Mexico ever will be.”
Again, the truth was not something I’d like to share. I was the spitting image of my father, and he was now well known by the border patrol as a Coyotaje. He could not return to Mexico either.
“Thank you for your time–”
“Yes, thank you Manuel.”
“No, thank you. For listening.” She looked more uncomfortable than I felt.
“Your article should be published by Friday.” I sat in the hard chair a little while longer, then went to work on the same ranch that my father works on. Ranches make it easy for undocumented people to work because nobody else will do the jobs of mucking out stalls and rounding up chickens.
On Friday I went to the newspaper stand and picked up the Durango Herald. The cover story was “Undocumented Student: ‘I Don’t Know How I’ll Pay for College’”. I sighed and put the paper back. It doesn’t matter that I was brought here basically against my will, it doesn’t matter that I don’t remember Ojinaga, it doesn’t matter that I want to become an American citizen, it doesn’t matter that I’ve gone through terrible hardships, it doesn’t matter that I speak wonderful English. All that matters to the American people is that I’m Undocumented.
2nd place: The Place Where Money Grows on Trees/Bianca Gonzales/CMC Student, Leadville
The Place Where Money Grows on Trees
My name is Guadalupe Aurora Diaz Hernandez. My first name is Guadalupe because my mother wanted to name me after the Virgen de Guadalupe, and my middle name is Aurora because it was my paternal grandmother’s name. She passed away when my father was five years old and I was named in her honor. Everyone called me Aurora except for my parents. They were the only ones that called me Guadalupe and only if I was in trouble. I also have both of my parents’ last names. Hernandez is my mother’s last name and Diaz is my father’s last name. Both being called by my middle name and having two last names were normal in Mexico. Having a large name is something to be proud of because different last names show the binding of all the families that make a person. I was proud to be Guadalupe Aurora Diaz Hernandez until I moved to the United States and began questioning this custom. It seemed everyone in the United States had full names of only two or three names. For me, the United States changed my life in more ways than I thought it would.
It all began when I was three years old. In my hometown of Jimenez, Chihuahua, Mexico, word of El Otro Lado began to spread. Apparently, many people moved there to try their luck and were successful. In the mind of a three-year-old, El Otro Lado seemed like a confusing place. I heard my parents say that money grew on trees in El Otro Lado, and I imagined trees with leaves of money and couldn’t help being shocked. How could a tree with money be prettier than a tree with actual leaves? At the age of three, I didn’t think El Otro Lado was better than Mexico and would rather stay in Mexico where the scented green leaves grew on trees instead of money.
El Otro Lado was a constant topic of conversation in my family. I was an only child which meant I got all the attention from my parents. They wanted me to do better than they did in life and they thought El Otro Lado was my opportunity of achieving this. I never thought that they were serious about moving there and brushed off their planning. Even when the planning of my parents began including specific details, I continued to ignore them. The thought never crossed my mind that they were serious.
When I was ten years old, my life changed with six words.
“We’re going to El Otro Lado,” my mother casually told me as I arrived home from school. My parents explained to me how I would use the papers of my mom’s sister’s daughter to sneak into El Otro Lado. My Tia Claudia lived in El Otro Lado with her American husband who had helped her get papers. Her daughter, Jade, was born there which meant she automatically had papers.
Even though I didn’t agree with moving, I kept my thoughts to myself and followed all the instructions my parents gave me. I knew moving to El Otro Lado was a dream for them and I didn’t want to ruin it.
“We’ll be leaving in a week. You can’t tell anyone. Do you understand, Aurora? None of your friends can know that we will move. People are desperate to go to El Otro Lado and any word that we’re leaving could ruin our chances of leaving. Do not tell anyone but be ready to leave early in the morning next Wednesday. Only pack what is necessary. You can’t take too much because then you will look suspicious,” my father explained to me. I soaked it all in and quietly went to my room to pack.
The following week went by faster than the blink of an eye. Before I knew it, my mother woke me up at five in the morning to leave. I was leaving with my Tia Claudia and her husband while my parents took a more difficult route to El Otro Lado. We would meet up in a town called Las Lunas, New Mexico. The trip required crossing the border and my aunt and uncle instructed me on what to say if we were questioned at the border.
“Te llamas Jade Espinoza. Your birthday is el 26 de Agosto. You are eight years old. We were visiting your grandparents in Mexico but are returning back to Las Lunas, New Mexico. Remember all the basic information about your prima. Until we are safely at Las Lunas, you are Jade Espinoza and were born in the United States. Understand?” my uncle quizzed me.
“Yes. I understand,” I quietly replied. My aunt and uncle continued explaining everything while I fought the urge to cry. I felt my throat closing up and my eyes watering. I fought the overwhelming feeling of grief and instead focused on something my uncle said that caught my attention.
“What’s the United States?” I asked my uncle.
“You don’t know what the United States is?” my uncle asked. “It’s a good thing we’re going over this right now. The United States is the official name of El Otro Lado. New Mexico is a state in the United States and Las Lunas is the town in New Mexico where you will live.”
I could tell that my aunt and uncle were very nervous about crossing the border with me. I decided I should be quiet until we made it past the border. I closed my eyes and within seconds, I was asleep.
After what seemed a few minutes at most, I woke up. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I asked my aunt where we were.
“Donde estamos?” I asked.
“Right now, we are in a state called Texas,” Tia Claudia replied. The name didn’t ring a bell in my mind.
“Texas? Are we still in Mexico?” I questioned her.
“No. We are in the United States,” she replied. I was in my full senses in a second. I was finally in El Otro Lado! I looked out my window and wanted to take in everything. At that moment, I saw a tree that looked just like the ones in Jimenez.
“Why do the trees look like that?” I asked.
“What do you mean? They look just like trees,” my uncle questionably replied.
“But where are the trees that have leaves made of money?” Just as the words had left my mouth, my aunt and uncle burst out laughing. I didn’t understand what the joke was until my aunt found the ability to talk between laughing.
“It is just a saying that money grows on trees. The money here doesn’t literally grow on the trees,” Tia Claudia explained. I still didn’t know what was funny since I had been lied to my whole life but I shrugged it off. I didn’t want my new beginning to begin with a bad start.
After ten and-a-half hours of being in the car, we finally arrived at Las Lunas, New Mexico. My parents arrived a few hours later. I recounted my trip to them and explained how I had been asleep when I passed the border. After that, I made it my mission to not miss any more important events of my new life.
At first, everything proved to be a struggle from a simple visit to the store to my first day in school. We arrived in early August and I would enter fourth grade in two weeks. Jade helped me find my classes the first day but after that, she didn’t talk to me at all. My family lived with my Tia Claudia’s family until my parents saved enough money to afford a small apartment. After that, we were on our own.
In school, I was placed into ESL which was necessary before being in a normal language arts class. For math, I was placed into an advanced class because of my talent in math. All my other classes took place in one classroom where everything was in English. Other students had to translate for me but I grew tired of it within a week. I made it my goal fluently speak and understand English as soon as possible. By the end of my fourth grade year, I was in all advanced classes.
The next few days turned into months which turned into years. By the time I was fifteen, I had adapted to life in the United States. Sometimes I would still stutter when saying my name because I had to remember that I was only Aurora Diaz and not Guadalupe Aurora Diaz Hernandez. My voice still had an accent but I was proud to have something that distinguished me from all the other students. I wanted to keep a part of Mexico with me in any way I could. My accent was my way of reminding everyone else and myself that I came from Mexico.
3rd place: Darling/Marika Feduschak/CMC Student, Edwards
all the world could not
hold you and your dreams
so I tried,
hands cupped full of water,
floating in your sea,
riding each wave
oblivion in your wake
lonely seagulls overhead
for all of time.
I saw everything as I held you
called out for you to look up
but I guess the wind was too loud.
Each tear that fell from my face
landed, became a rainstorm over you
so I tried not to cry,
gasped at the pain but choked it back and smiled,
let rays of light beam onto you
I held my breath
waiting for you to come back
then I realized I was draining the life out of you
sucking the air from your lungs
so I let go and breathed
but not too hard
I didn’t want to blow you over.
All I wanted
was for the winds to sail you back to me.
Time grew me weak
in half- defeat
my hands loosened
water seeping through the finger-cracks
until it was almost gone
you almost gone with it.
But still you floated around in your puddle,
riding each wave
oblivion in your wake
now the tears fell and I let them,
to give you more water
While you were dreaming of blue nights
I was dreaming of the day you would wash up on my shore
battered, maybe broken
and ready to come home.
I clung to my hope as you clung to your raft
and maybe they were really just the same thing
and maybe the best thing to do
release the dam of my tears,
overflow my hands and spill you out to me
It’s you and me, darling,
riding each wave
oblivion in our wake
a lifeboat under the stars.