When Does School Start Again?
by Anya, age 16
“Mom! Milo won’t quit bugging me!”
“Zoe took Brown! Make her give him back!”
“I didn’t take your stupid teddy bear! And what kind of name is ‘Brown’ anyway? That’s like naming a kid ‘small human’!”
“But he is brown! Ow! Zoe kicked me!”
“Enough!” Mom shouted and both children immediately froze. “This is the third time I’ve had to stop you fighting this morning! I have a deadline to meet tomorrow, and there will be consequences if I have to break you up again. Understand?”
For a moment, there was silence. Mom breathed a sigh of relief, turned back to her computer, and—
Zoe swished her broom from side to side, and huge clouds of dust filled the air. She coughed and glared at Milo. He didn’t notice. He was too busy rummaging through boxes on the other side of the room.
Little brothers are the worst, Zoe thought. It was all his fault Mom had sentenced them to cleaning the attic for ten minutes. They’d never gotten along well, but being stuck together for over two weeks was miserable. She couldn’t wait for spring break to be over. He’d go back to kindergarten and she to fifth grade. How long till school started again?
“Hey, Zoe, come look at this!” Milo suddenly said, pointing at the boxes. Curiously, Zoe walked over and peered inside the nearest container. It was filled to the brim with fabrics of all different sizes, colors, and textures.
“They must be leftover from Mom’s sewing projects,” Zoe explained, but Milo wasn’t listening.
He dug out a blue quilt covered with ducks and threw it over his head. Through the fabric, a muffled voice said, “Look! It’s a cape!”
“You won’t be able to see anything wearing it that way,” Zoe said. “Here, let me help.” She took the corners of the blanket and tied them in a loose knot around his neck. “There you go. Just like a prince.”
“A prince?” Milo’s face screwed up in disgust.
“Oh, um…how about a superhero?”
“Yeah!” Milo beamed as he spun in a circle, watching his cape trail behind him. Then, he fished a shimmery purple blanket out the box and handed it to Zoe.
“Do you want to be a superhero too?” he asked hopefully.
“Ok, but I’m a superhero princess,” Zoe said, taking the blanket. “This could even be my scepter.” She hefted the broom and gestured around the attic. “Welcome to the kingdom of Attica!” she declared. “A land full of quests and monsters for superheroes and royalty alike.”
“Monsters?” Milo’s eyes widened. “Like what?”
“Umm…” Zoe glanced around the room for ideas, then spotted her dirt pile. “The dreaded dust bunny-dragons! They’ll snuggle you to death if they catch you!
“Oh no!” Milo giggled. “But I know their weakness!”
“It’s the light!”
Zoe gasped. “Of course! Quick, turn on the light switch!”
“There’s a lamp over there we could plug in!”
“And some Christmas lights! I could wrap those around my scepter!”
“Quick! The dust bunny-dragons are surrounding the palace!”
Mom glanced down at her watch. The ten minutes were up. She started to trudge up the stairs when she heard a loud thud. Were the kids fighting again? She raced up the remaining steps and flung open the door.
The room was filled with light from lamps, Christmas decorations, flashlights, and more. In the middle of the room, boxes were piled into something like a fort, or perhaps a castle. Zoe and Milo stood atop the pile, wearing blankets around their shoulders. Zoe also held a broom wrapped in more lights.
“The fairies from the rafter kingdom need our help!” Zoe cried.
Milo picked up a flashlight and waved it at the ceiling. “Go away, dust bunny-dragons!”
“They’re fleeing! We won!”
The two of them cheered, then suddenly caught sight of Mom standing in the doorway. There was silence as they watched her take in the big mess they’d created. Then, Mom smiled.
“Just clean it all up when you’re done,” she said and closed the door.
Perhaps little brothers aren’t always so bad, Zoe thought as she and Milo raced around the room. He’s actually kind of fun. Maybe, just maybe, school didn’t have to start up so soon after all.
About the Illustrator: Leah Evans-Janke is a full-time Collections Manager at an archaeological repository. Her creative works and storytelling grew from the desire to make content that was more engaging than the traditional technical illustrations used in her day job. She primarily writes and illustrates for YA and picture book readers. Evans-Janke prefers to create with watercolor, ink, graphite, or color pencil. A lifelong stipple doodler, she will always make technical illustrations for archaeological materials. She is proud member of the SCWBI-INW writers group and firmly believes it is among the best and brightest in the country.