Multiverse Dragon Masters Evaluation of the Pilot Course

Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy:

Evaluation of the Pilot Course

Salie Davis

Designing Online Learning Environments

(2017SP1-EDU-681103-01)

Professor Mark Lewis

Empire State College

April 28, 2017

Multiverse Dragon Masters, Evaluation:

Multiverse Dragon Masters is a 3d simulation and game based curriculum based in a virtually immersive learning environment. The pilot was designed for age groups with flexibility based on student level and ability, between 6-11 years olds (primary grades) for goal based learning. In addition the primary evaluation form was goal based evaluation (McNamara, 2008). This could be expanded to 12-15 (secondary grades) with evolving curriculum and for advance application with design tools for in world storybook and literary project creation. The pilot was tested by my two daughters, one age 9, and the other an adult home educator of preschool children, as well as two college associates.

My educational goals were to design projects and experiences that are personal and relevant to the learner. My 9 year old daughter whom is home instructed, is below her reading level for her age. The design of this pilot was with her special needs in mind, as well as to produce quality presentations through the use of technology that can be shared with the online community.

On both the website and in the virtual world graphics and text combine to increase the impact on learning. Using this principle the fact that the animation in virtual worlds is more engaging to children in an e-learning environment that a static text based or even interactive chat based website is supported(Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 71) This is also based on the arousal that emotional attachment promotes learning. The virtual world environment allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning, where the student can interact with the lesson plan independently or with the instructor, parent and/or other participants. One college associate commented that the title of “Multiverse Dragon Masters” created psychological engagement even before beginning the pilot project.

The supporting website also give additional asynchronous learning opportunities and lesson plan preparation. It allows for the application of the embodiment principle because the avatar programming mimics human gestures in line with live voice interactions, increasing stimulation contributing to learning (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 192). Virtual worlds can be individually designed to better adhere to the concurrency principle by avoiding streaming audio, music and ambient noises and using sounds only when beneficial for motivational engagement with the learning content. The individual avatar controls also allow for the content user to adjust sounds, movements and other features to align with personal preferences. In this the user can choose to eliminate ambient noise, sound effects, streaming music, etc. In a virtual world the importance of immersion is highlighted. It is a very specific platform with many possibilities but may not be appropriate for all learners. Deciding on an appropriate audience and content rating will also be essential in its development.

The redundancy principle is supported with this reduction in unnecessary audio when using visual text as the audio may reduce the knowledge absorbed from the lesson (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 139). Choosing only beneficial graphics and limiting the over use of graphic, as well as keeping word choice simple and concise are all conducive to learning according to the coherence principle (Clark & Mayer, 2016, p. 165) I can apply the contiguity principle in the virtual world environment by creating corresponding printed words with graphics or slide show with images and words, similar to an online storyboard. Points, tokes, prizes and awards through exploration, games and quizzes will instructors and parent gauge the success of the leaning platform.

Through my research one concern was that the personalizeation features in virtual worlds my become more of a distraction to learners and ultimately outweigh the educational benefits. (p.12, Dickey 2010) Allowing the 9 year old participant to make choices based upon limited selection, rather than teaching the technology tools of actual avatar design, I found that the pilot student was not distracted in the same way described by teachers in prior studies. In addition Personalization Principle, points out the benefits of these features in motivating students (Clark and Mayer, 2016). My adult daughter did report spending time working on her avatar and struggling with the technology aspect, in other words, she wanted to completely personalize her avatar but did not have the time to learn the technology. I ended up spending a few hours with her just to help her get her avatars appearance “just right”. With the two other college associates, I provided a ready made avatar and offered the options to adjust. I found with an avatar that was not “their own” they did not use the personalization features and simply continues with the lesson plan as laid out in the virtual world.

In this lesson plan the goal was to create a virtual world that encouraged reading in a game based environment. While working one on one with the 9 year old student she was motivated to read the story boards and read the quizzes for the opportunity to earn items she could then create her own story book scenes with. She enjoyed the idea of taking pictures of her creations with her own avatar as the main character. The one on one interaction in an online virtual world enhanced her motivation and interests in participating in reading chat and other required readings within the virtual platform in order to participate as she explored different areas and progressed through the game, learning to correctly identify words, and read simple to more advanced sentences throughout the virtual experience. The student was very interested in earning her own space to design in the virtual world, and kept asking me when I would be putting in more rewards, challenges and traps.

For this pilot program I planned a 30 minute walk through with 30 minutes of individual exploration. I had intended this to simulate the one on one goal of instruction. The college associate participants and myself were unable to coordinate schedules to meet online for this walk through. This impacted and lessened the affect of the pilot. Though I offered resources to aid in understanding the technology platform, time was a barrier and these resources were not utilized due to the learners time constraints. Instead I relied on the website resource and written support as an overall presentation of the game features and curriculum.

My adult daughter was able to meet with me one on one and this made her transition to a new technology format easier, thus enabling individual exploration. I will be creating an individualized pdf with visual screen shots as an improvement to the course as well as more training resources for new avatars within the virtual world. This will include a virtual orientation center that will teach movement controls and other aspects of the technology needed for success.

A parent teacher guide is also useful and I was able to implement many of these concepts into the starting point in the virtual world. Having these resources in world is essential and I will be developing PDFs of the same resources when applicable that specifically address subject matter concerning virtual worlds and the educational use of them for children on the companion website. Other parent guides resources include the user agreement both in world and on the website explaining the open access of virtual worlds and the responsibility of the parent and educator to supervise the sue of the virtual world. Help documentation such as how to create a child avatar and other useful tips and directions will also be available.

The subject content used in this virtual pilot began with reading and comprehension. In addition to reading literacy, digital literacy is also expanded though not a direct part of the lesson plan. Through observation I have seen improvement in the 9 year old student with technology use and in vocabulary recognition. The lack of technology skills with this new platform did surface as a barrier more so with the adult learners that the child learner in this pilot course. This supports the research that compared to the often problematic adaptation to new technologies experience by adults, children “…easily adapt to graphic and conceptual abstraction…often have extensive experience in navigating 3D spaces and discovering and exercising interface affordances” (p. 1 Roussou).

I was able to design the world then export it to a private server which is ideal for individual families who need added security and have privacy and safety concerns with online access. I then started from scratch, rebuilding the aspects I found most useful and continue with my experimentation in the online version. I have been exploring Sim on a Stick or “Simonastic” and other ready made servers such as Dreamworld and virtual world venues that do not require internet connections. Eventually I may want to move to a stand-alone platform such as can be found at www.Simonastick.com . In the future I can design and distribute an Oar file for download as an open source educational resource.

As an educator, creating a help sheet to assist learners in finding and setting controls for security and privacy would also be appropriate. This can be done real-time through virtual sessions using video, audio, or text. It can be done through the creation of PDFs that also have accessibility features built in, or it can be done by instructional video. Though the videos I have on my companion website were not specific to the pilot in terms of orientation, the college associate participants commented that the found the videos which addressed the ethics of using online virtual worlds with youth, aided them in their comfort level in taking the pilot course.

Through the first phase of this lesson plan students were able to explore the island, collect items for points, and take quizzes that rewarded for correct answers. The collection of “butterflies” awarded tokens and were accompanied by a notecard that provided instructions. The college associate participants expressed confusion at how to collect these tokens even with the written instructions. My adult daughter and 9 year old daughter benefited from a one on one demonstration. This reinforces the benefit of video tutorials in future designs. Story boards introduced the students to an underlying story plot. Students were also be able to create their own story line using screen shots, adding text and future participants could creating their own story boards that could be placed in world. Though these instructions were in world the college associate participants responded better to the pdf outline on the accompanying website than the in world resources. This identified that though students may find the virtual world a sufficient platform for information, the website and more traditional forms of content delivery may be essential for parent and teacher support. Students and parents can access the lesson plan online, again with parent supervision, will find resources and information will be presented on my current website Wopoli.com and eventually the option of my Facebook page. Future exploration of programs will also allow for quizzes to be saved or even emailed to the instructor. According to quality standards creating additional resources such as a netiquette guide (Quality Matters, 2014).

Resources

Briggs, D. C., Diaz-Bilello, E., Peck, F., Alzen, J., Chattergoon, R., Johnson, R., & …

University of Colorado at Boulder, C. (. (2015). Using a Learning Progression Framework to Assess and Evaluate Student Growth. National Center For The Improvement Of Educational Assessment

Carver, L. B. (2016). Teacher Perception of Barriers and Benefits in K-12 Technology Usage. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational Technology – TOJET, 15(1), 110-116. Retrieved on April 15, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1086185

Clark, R., and Mayer, R. (2016) e-Learning and the Science of Instruction. John Wiley, and Sons Inc., Hoboken, N.J.

Davis, S. (2017). Multiverse dragon masters. Retrieved on April 16, 2017, from https://OSgrid/region/Multiverse%20Dragon%20Masters/164/137/23

Definitions in lesson plan (2015) Retrieved from https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

ESRB, Entertainment Software Rating Board, retrieved from, https://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.aspx

Dickey, M. (2011). The pragmatics of virtual worlds for K-12 educators: investigating the affordances and constraints of Active Worlds and Second Life with K-12 in-service teachers. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(1), 1-20. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9163-4. Retrieved on April 5, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=36&sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&hid=108

Hickey, D. d., Ingram-Goble, A. A., & Jameson, E. M. (2009). Designing Assessments and Assessing Designs in Virtual Educational Environments. Journal Of Science Education & Technology, 18(2), 187-208. doi:10.1007/s10956-008-9143-1

Kitely.com. (2013, August 27). Privacy policy. Retrieved on April 7, 2017, at

https://www.kitely.com/privacy (secure server).

Kitely.com. (2015, June 1). Terms of service. Retrieved on April 7, 2017, at https://www.kitely.com/terms (secure server)

McNamara, C. (n.d.) Basic Guide to Program Evaluation (Including Outcomes Evaluation). Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Retrieved from: http://managementhelp.org/evaluation/program-evaluation-guide.htm

O’Connor, Eileen. (2012). Next Generation Online: Advancing Learning Through Dynamic Design, Virtual and Web 2.0 Technologies, and Instructor Attitude. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems Vol. 41(1) 3-24, 2012-2013 Retreived on 11/24/2016 from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8d09219c-4a71-44ac-87cb-072527f5880b%40sessionmgr102&vid=1&hid=104

Poskurich, George M. (2015). Rapid Intructional Design. Wiley publications

Quality Matters (2014) Non-annotated Standards from the QM Higher Education Rubric, Fifth

Edition. Retrieved from: https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheQMHigherEducationRubric.pdf

Roussou, M. (2002). Immersive interactive virtual reality and informal education. Foundation of the Hellenic World. Retrieved on April 3, 2017, from http://ui4all.ics.forth.gr/i3SD2000/Roussou.PDF

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded ). Alexandria, US: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.library.esc.edu

Advertisements

Multiverse Dragon Masters Analysis and Design Document

Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy

Salie Davis

Designing Online Learning Environments

(2017SP1-EDU-681103-01)

Professor Mark Lewis

Empire State College

April 28, 2017

Multiverse Dragon Masters for Elementary Reading Literacy

Introduction:

Multiverse Dragon Masters is based on backward design, simulation and game based curriculum with the goal of a virtually immersive learning environment. The target age groups with flexibility based on student level and ability, is 6-11 years olds (primary grades) for goal based learning. This can be expanded to 12-15 (secondary grades) with evolving curriculum and for advance application with design tools for in world storybook and literary project creation. My educational goals are to design projects and experiences that are personal and relevant to the learner (specifically my daughter whom is home instructed as well as my grandchildren when they reach the age where this content will be beneficial,) Another goal will be to produce quality presentations through the use of technology that can be shared with the online community.

Definitions and Mode of Delivery:

The definition of an online virtual world in its application for use with youth is a 3D multi-user environment with user-generated content. It is defined as an online, computer based and browser based virtual reality platform hosted on a “grid” or “hypergrid” which is a grid on a company owned or private server. I have chosen to use kitely.com as the development grid for this pilot project. Kitely.com requires anyone under the age of 13 to be supervised by a legal guardian while using their site and limited to areas rated “general”. Avatars who are 13 years of age to 18 years of age are limited to “moderate” rated worlds. These guides are based on self regulation and communal governance and peer reporting to enforce. (Kitely.com, 2017) The positive aspects are that educational exploration is part of the public platform and Kitely.com is open and accessible to family and youth participation.

Cost and Time Analysis:

A cost analysis was necessary when deciding upon the mode of curriculum delivery. Time considerations, were also part of this. Building environments, creating lessons, and implementation of lessons are a small part of the time investment concern. Getting absorbed into the entertainment aspect and the non-educational applications are cause for greater concern among educators. Education vs entertainment was identified in studies as one of these concerns in time application. Teachers commented that they themselves were distracted by the immersive environment and individualization options within the virtual world environment. The example given, spending hours adjusting their personal avatars appearance after school hours. The personalizeation features in virtual worlds my become more of a distraction to learners and ultimately outweigh the educational benefits. (p.12, Dickey 2010) In addition many educators feel the cost is insurmountable. “The cost of both procurement and maintenance of various sophisticated devices to create an immersive environment made mass use of this technology prohibitive.” (p. 30 , Merchant et al) With current access to the internet widespread and hyper-grids becoming greater in numbers this cost has been reduced. Both Merchant and Dickey cited cost and accessibility as major factors that limited access yet with the increase in widespread internet connectivity acknowledged that online virtual worlds are realistic options for educators. Though there is no financial outlay in the actual designing of the virtual world, the value of time equivalent is still beneficial in determining the feasibility of the project. Through readings concerning experts who have studied learning theories and practice in emerging technologies, I have explored situated cognition, simply stated that knowing is not able to be separated from doing. One theory I connected with is the concept and application of backwards design in education. In this lesson plan the goal will be to create a virtual world that will encourage reading in a game based environment. The result will be interpreted according to the interests of the student as they explore different areas and progress through the game, learn to correctly identify words, and read simple to more advanced sentences throughout the virtual experience.

Because this is an independent learning module, it is without the support and sometimes hindrances found in educational institutions. The online platform costs twenty dollars per month to host on the Kitely servers. Programming tools such as the game kit was an additional one time outlay of ten dollars. Other costs associated with the game is mesh designs that are not open source or cannot be found easily to cover all possibilities I budget in five dollars a month for these expenditures. With careful game design one can be sure to purchase exportable options or use only open source and plan to export the world onto their own private server, eliminating additional monthly costs. Non-monetary cost such as time investment I have determined to be Ten dollars and hour, the equivalent of my hourly wage when employed. The initial phase of development requires an average of two hours a day for one month to design the actual virtual world, learn and implement the technologies needed and create the curriculum with rewards, challenges and traps to encourage learning. The benefits of being able to design a personalized virtual world is well worth the initial and ongoing investment. I have begun this by purchasing this virtual real-estate on February 14, 2017. I initially purchased fifty dollars’ worth of KC credits to take advantage of a 33 percent savings. One dollar is equivalent to 300 KC. I have included as an attachment, screen captures of the design in progress and current account statements.

Overview of Pilot Preparation and Delivery:

For this pilot program the content will be delivered in a 30 minute walk through with 30 minutes of individual exploration. The walk through will consist of a presentation of the game features and curriculum and guidance through live in-world chat and voice. I have realized that some pre-course preparation is needed. An online resource to get started is, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/getting-started-in-virtual-worlds/ and once set up, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/ . It is a course designed by another virtual world group, however using the resources already available saves time and resources I can then apply to actual leaning content. This pilot project assumes the student already have access to and knowledge of virtual worlds, so anyone that participates will need to be coordinated with prior to help them quickly set this up. This preparation shouldn’t take more than 30 to 60 min depending upon the individual. An additional support platform will be in blogposts and videos on WoPoLi.com. An in-world link to this site will also be located in the Multiverse Dragon Masters great hall, the entry point to the virtual world. This will include video and pdf versions of some of the educational content that is found in the virtual world.

A parent teacher guide is also useful that will specifically address subject matter concerning virtual worlds and the educational use of them for children This includes rating guidelines for entertainment gaming. “EVERYONE 10+ Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes” Other parent guides resources will include the user agreement both in world and on the website explaining the open access of virtual worlds and the responsibility of the parent and educator to supervise the sue of the virtual world. Help documentation such as how to create a child avatar and other useful tips and directions will also be available.

Supporting Research for Mode of Delivery:

As different learners operate at different levels sometimes outside of traditional guidelines, I have found benefits of designing flexible lesson plans that can be adjusted based on an understanding of the individual students’ needs rather than purely relying on age or grade based standards. The content of this learning module can be the instructors’ choice as singular or multiple lesson plans focused on any literacy and the appropriate creative based learning activities. “The assumption underlying the rapid rise in the use of desktop-based virtual reality technology in instruction is the unique affordances that it offers in enhancing learners’ cognitive skills” (Merchant et al (2014). With online virtual worlds customization the benefit exists to tailor the world for specific student needs. Research has shown that “…games sh0w higher learning gains than simulations…” (Merchant et al (2014).

In the paper, Purposes for literacy in children’s use of online virtual world Club Penguin, by Jackie Marsh, the author studied 26 children aged between 5 and 11 to determine the affects of online virtual worlds on literacy. The virtual world chosen was found to have a motivational and fun factor that encouraged reading and writing. Through this study the author was able to conclude that the use of virtual worlds is part of the digital generation. In spite of risks that may be involved it is likely that these platforms will continue to grow in popularity. Virtual worlds when guided by responsible adults can offer the opportunity for children to improve upon literacies. The author also concluded that interactions within virtual worlds were as beneficial as offline activities.

Subject content that can be used in this virtual platform will begin with reading and comprehension, but can expand to art, history, mathematics, music, science and technology, can be added to or subtracted from based upon the interests and level of the student. In addition to reading literacy, digital literacy is explored in technology concepts of game design as well as learning and using online tools to access the material. The whole concept of exploring digital media is intertwined in the overall teaching platform I will be creating. The digital content itself is available as open source and a primary resource can be found here, http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2017/03/virtual-world-educational-content-shop-launches-at-osgrid/ .

As my daughter gets older, an online journal through Google Docs will be incorporated to record learning and personal reflection. This will also promote the next phase of literacy; writing. For younger students parent participation is essential in the virtual world environment to introduce them to the technology they will be using and supervise them in a public forum environment.

Overcoming Challenges in Content Delivery:

Privacy and security controls, avatar ratings and restrictions, virtual world ratings, controls, and restrictions and private spaces are all options currently offered in the virtual environment. You can restrict your communications from being seen or heard outside your world or limit it to a certain distance inside your world. With so many intricacies in privacy settings and allowances it is very easy for new participants in the technology to be caught off guard and not realize the lack of privacy in this public space. Even when you are on an island alone or with a friend, if you do not own the island or if you are not aware of all the ways to limit and block who sees your information, it is always best to assume you are always being watched either by the island owner or grid administrators. It is essential for educators to learn the technology associated with any platform they use and read the privacy policies. Using Kitely.com as an example, one sentence alone describes the largest security threat to privacy without clearing explaining options you could or should use to protect yourself “Some of your personal identification information may be shared with other users when you interact with them or their proxies using our service.” (Kitely Privacy, 2013, par. 6)

The terms of service gives a little more information concerning how the world manager can control privacy in the world they manage.

“Representations and Warranties of World Managers

A World Manager is a User who has created a Virtual World.

Each World Manager is responsible for managing his or her Virtual Worlds, and will be put in charge of controlling the activity of the Users who visit her or his Virtual Worlds (“Your Visitors“).

A World Manager may designate access restrictions, in order to prevent certain Users from entering or being a part of his or her Virtual Worlds in any way (“Access Restrictions“). You hereby undertake that you shall proactively institute such Access Restrictions to comply with all applicable laws and prevent violations of these Terms by Your Visitors.” (Kitely terms of service, 2015, para 5).

According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), educators, “will have to take some steps to safeguard the identities of any students they bring into a virtual world. Also, while there are likely to be more than one way to be FERPA-compliant, the easiest way is to host your own private grid (or rent private grid space from a hosting service provider) and further, set-up the permissions on the grid to only allow faculty-level avatars to hypergrid jump in or out of the grid (and to prohibit non student avatars from hypergrid jumping into the grid).” (Educator Commons, 2017)

In addition the lack of technology skills has been identified as a primary barrier. The research has shown “… a significant gap between teachers’ perceptions of the importance of integrating technology and their classroom use of these skills.” (p. 111, Carver, 2016) Though teachers feel technology is important they do not teach or use technology in the classroom. Compared to the often problematic adaptation to new technologies experience by adults, children “…easily adapt to graphic and conceptual abstraction…often have extensive experience in navigating 3D spaces and discovering and exercising interface affordances” (p. 1 Rousou). Pre-lesson preparation and one on one instruction will overcome most of these challenges.

Once the world is designed it is possible to export it to a private server which is ideal for individual families who need added security and have privacy and safety concerns with online access. In addition, when encouraging the access on an open platform, accessibility may be an issue for some. Accessibility options for disabilities are not built into the virtual world platform that I will be using, so in this regards there may be barriers to accessibility. This curriculum will only be used by parents who are acquainted with and comfortable in the virtual world platform when using it in conjunction with their own children. Because of this accessibility is not a concern though still worth exploring. Though accessibility tools are not built into this technology platform, a number of tools that can be used for accessibility are.

Addressing Accessibility Concerns:

Virtual worlds require a level of technological comfort and ability. Although I hope to design a general curriculum that others can use, the technology is restricted by what it is designed to do. The format I have chosen uses chat pods for social interaction and the programs use “notecards” and other text based communications. However it also has voice enabled functions for real time communications. “Communication in virtual world can take both verbal and nonverbal forms.” (p. 36, Hew and Cheung, 2010) Voice, avatar animations and chat are the primary forms of communication live in world, while signs, note cards, video, music, websites and links, animations and visual display of objects are communications used on an individual basis not related to live communication. In this example accessibility for the visually impaired will be in screen enlargers and in the pre-designed sizing options within the virtual world environment. Hearing impaired, again would be technological tools to increase volume and turn off back ground noises such as ambient sound effects within the tools developed on the platform. As an educator, creating a help sheet to assist learners in finding and setting these controls would be appropriate. This can be done real-time through virtual sessions using video, audio, or text. It can be done through the creation of PDFs that also have accessibility features built in, or it can be done by instructional video, again sites like YouTube had accessibility built in with captioning and other options available. Eventually I may want to move to a stand-alone platform such as can be found at www.Simonastick.com.

Lesson Content Delivery:

Through the first phase of this lesson plan students will be able to explore the island, collect items for points, and take quizzes that will be rewarded for correct answers. Points will be subtracted to discourage guessing. Though guessing is an appropriate learning technique for children, I have identified my student as relying on it too often when using educationally designed games that reward for the correct answers but have no negative impact when wrong answers are chosen, This makes it very easy to randomly click through answers until the right ones are arrived at by chance in order to progress through the game. By allowing for smaller penalties in points and a larger reward, the student can still progress by guessing, however the progression will be much slower if doing so without completing the required reading. Story boards will allow the student to be introduced to an underlying story plot. Students will also be able to create their own story line using screen shots, adding text and creating their own story boards that can be placed in world.

If a student is progressing too slowly due to the level or vocabulary it can be easily adjusted and new quiz boards and story boards put in place. This is important as my daughter struggles in reading below her grade level. This will allow for curriculum and word choice designed at a lower comprehension level with age appropriate content instead of relying on curriculum and story books designed with younger children in mind. I can design engaging content with beginner words. This can also be used to put in signboards that will allow for scavenger hunts to find and collect items that the student can later use in the game.

As students advance another phase can be developed to engage them in the actual designing of their own virtual space. This will be a long range personal goal for the student that is easily achievable at any level and incorporated into an additional motivational reward. Saving game images that they can be published in a PDF format is also a great way to record progress and build their own story line as they advance through the virtual world. Especially since the world is always evolving, this additional project will encourage both creativity and literacy. Depending on the student’s level and time, they can work with digital tools and digital art to edit and add text, truly creating a “personalized story” based upon their virtual world experience. Students and parents accessing the lesson plan online, again with parent supervision, will find resources and information will be presented on my current website Wopoli.com or Facebook page.

Student Motivation:

Backwards planning is goal driven learning essentially project based learning where you have a final goal in mind. In backwards planning you start with the end result, the goal, and then explain to the student the steps they need to take to achieve this goal. This is beneficial because it is not a monotonous timeline of spelling words, vocabulary, or random writing prompts, presented in a disconnected format which can seem overwhelming and irrelevant to some students. Instead it can be used as a motivational tool that will bring them a personal sense of achievement and deeper understanding of the value of knowledge in accomplishing a goal. In the virtual world environment small goals and prompts can lead to achieving the larger goals in a step by step progression through the virtual world. Knowing they will be able to create their own story, students will be excited to explore and find images in world that inspire their own story line to create. With so many potential angles in a 3D environment with multiple and ever evolving themes, no two stories will ever be the same.

Cognitive learning that is interdisciplinary and project based can also enhance the engagement of students. In addition in teaching specific concepts I am able to specifically reinforce the cultural, social, and spiritual goals I have for my student. Beyond simply teaching a subject, through immersion experiences applicable concepts are learned that deepen understanding. In the platform I have chosen I can use multiple subjects in an interdisciplinary approach so that the student is immersed in a specific concepts and goals within the lesson plan. Students experience situated learning when they learn through actual application of skills to achieve the set goals. Game design requires pre-planning. It is more than just word recognition; it also requires knowing the techniques needed to navigate inside the world. research overwhelmingly supports the benefits of learning in immersive virtual worlds for students of all ages. “The contemporary notion of learning environments recognizes that meaningful, active learning takes place in complex, multi-model environments in which the learner plays an active role in constructing knowledge” (p. 2, Dickey, 2010). Research shows that 3d virtual worlds “…supported children’s exploration of identity, community and personal representation.” (p. 3 Dickey, 2010) In addition, though not fully imersive compared to virtual reality rooms and glasses, “… desktop-based 3D virtual environments … (are) shown to enhance learners’ engagement” (Merchant 2014). “Research has indicated that technology can increase student motivation, attitude, engagement and self-confidence, while improving organization and study skills.” (p. 110, Carver, 2016)

Evaluating learning outcomes:

The writing of the story line incorporates English skills, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Again this can be a participatory event with open ended prompts and through offline activities, such as adding text and narrating screen shots of the virtual world, and incorporates the child’s own imagination. As the story progresses, through student teacher interaction, the student can help create the resulting story boards that continue the game. The completion of this goal measures the success of the pilot for more advanced students. The end result can be shared either in print or electronic means. The reason project based learning is effective in the cognitive modeling process is that the learner is able to see the end goal and then through the process of and steps presented in order to create the project, the student comes to a cognitive understanding of how the knowledge learned is applied in a real world scenario. The reason this works is because each project can be tailored to the learning level of the audience in order to teach the learning standards required for their level. For example in the state of Maine no specific standards exist except that subjects must include English, language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, Maine studies (for one year between 6th and 12th grade) and computer proficiency (for one year between 7th and 12th grade). With no standards of achievement the homeschooling parent must ensure that the goals they have for their child are met through the homeschooling program. Interdisciplinary and project based learning is a proficient way to teach multiple disciplines at once and build a portfolio to assess progression over time.

Other means of evaluation will be in the collection of points, earned for correct quiz answers, prizes and progression through different levels of the game once designed. Future exploration of programs will allow for quizzes to be saved or even emailed to the instructor.

Technology and tools used:

  1. Virtual World platform
  2. PDF Slideshow in-world presenter boards
  3. Story boards in-world
  4. Quiz boards in-world
  5. Sign posts in-world
  6. Interactive objects that will display written text required to be read for game progression

Established Goals:

  1. Students will learn about word recognition.
  1. Number recognition in word form
  2. Color recognition in word form
  3. Shape recognition in word form
  1. Students will learn technology tools to interact in the virtual world environment.
  1. Avatar controls
  2. Screen capture controls for story board projects
  1. Students will learn to recognize sentence structure.
  1. Read simple sentences for quiz completion
  2. Write simple sentences for story book creation
  1. Students will learn to use these in their own writing activities.
  2. Students will learn to document their progress through storybook creation or written journals.

Proven understanding for assessment: (Knowledge Level and Application Level)

  1. Students will read online prompts, learning vocabulary and sentence structure.
  2. Students will write vocabulary, correctly spelled, and match them to their meanings.
  3. Students will practice story creation through screen shots in world and the opportunity to use the vocabulary learned to narrate their own story.
  4. Students will document their learning experience in a journal.
  5. Students will be able to discuss content ideas and design their own virtual space in world.
  6. Students will create a picture book about their virtual adventure.

Methods of evaluation:

  1. Self-evaluation: Ask the student to self-evaluate: Was the project to big, to hard? Was it to small, to easy? What did you enjoy? What steps were you challenged by? What would you do again? What would you do differently?
  2. Observational evaluation: Mentor, parent or teacher led observation based on the outcome criteria such as progressing through the game with higher points and access to levels of the virtual world.
  3. Badging could be awarded by the instructor for project completion to be displayed in-world or printed in PDF form. Highest scores could also be displayed in-world.
  4. Graded evaluation: spelling and vocabulary tests, journal participation, and participation in discussions. Final project evaluations of story book creation or virtual space designs
  5. Peer Evaluation: Based on the goals outcome and/or set feedback guidelines. Peer badges can be awarded for specific goals if done with a larger group of peers through the voting process, an example of this in the best final project.

Resources

Beckhusen, F. (2017). Dreamworld. Outworldz. Retrieved on April 3, 2017, from http://www.outworldz.com/outworldz_installer/

Briggs, D. C., Diaz-Bilello, E., Peck, F., Alzen, J., Chattergoon, R., Johnson, R., & …

University of Colorado at Boulder, C. (. (2015). Using a Learning Progression Framework to Assess and Evaluate Student Growth. National Center For The Improvement Of Educational Assessment

Carver, L. B. (2016). Teacher Perception of Barriers and Benefits in K-12 Technology Usage. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational Technology – TOJET, 15(1), 110-116. Retrieved on April 15, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1086185

Davis, S. (2017). Multiverse dragon masters. Retrieved on April 16, 2017, from https://OSgrid/region/Multiverse%20Dragon%20Masters/164/137/23

Definitions in lesson plan (2015) Retrieved from https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

ESRB, Entertainment Software Rating Board, retrieved from, https://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.aspx

Dickey, M. (2011). The pragmatics of virtual worlds for K-12 educators: investigating the affordances and constraints of Active Worlds and Second Life with K-12 in-service teachers. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(1), 1-20. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9163-4. Retrieved on April 5, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=36&sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&hid=108

Educators Commons. (2017). Help guide for educational virtual open source. OSgrid Wright Plaza. Retrieved on April 10, 2017 from and accessible through Virtual World Viewer at https://OSgrid/region/Wright%20Plaza/207/30/21

Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010). Use of three-dimensional (3-D) immersive virtual worlds in K-12 and higher education settings: A review of the research. British Journal Of Educational Technology, (1), 33. Retrieved on April 2, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=32&sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&hid=108

Hickey, D. d., Ingram-Goble, A. A., & Jameson, E. M. (2009). Designing Assessments and Assessing Designs in Virtual Educational Environments. Journal Of Science Education & Technology, 18(2), 187-208. doi:10.1007/s10956-008-9143-1

Kariuki, David, Educators open free resource shop on open grid, (2017) HypergridBusiness.com, retrieved from.

http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2017/03/virtual-world-educational-content-shop-launches-at-osgrid/

Kitely.com. (2013, August 27). Privacy policy. Retrieved on April 7, 2017, at

https://www.kitely.com/privacy (secure server).

 

Kitely.com. (2015, June 1). Terms of service. Retrieved on April 7, 2017, at https://www.kitely.com/terms (secure server).

Linden Research, Inc. (2017). Terms of service. Retrieved April 4, 2017, from https://www.lindenlab.com/tos

Marie, Evie, Virtual World Survival Guide, (2016) retrieved from, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/

Marsh, J. (2014). Purposes for literacy in children’s use of the online virtual world Club Penguin. Journal Of Research In Reading, (2), 179. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9817.2012.01530.x. Retrieved on April 8, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&vid=30&hid=108

Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 7029-40. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.033. Retrieved on April 8, 2017, from http://resolver.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/openurl?sid=EBSCO%3aedselp&genre=article&issn=03601315&ISBN=&volume=70&issue=&date=20140101&spage=29&pages=29-40&title=Computers+&atitle=Effectiveness+of+virtual+reality-based+instruction+on+students%27+learning+outcomes+in+K-12+and+higher+education%3a+A+meta-analysis&aulast=Merchant%2c+Zahira&id=DOI%3a10.1016%2fj.compedu.2013.07.033&site=ftf-live

O’Connor, Eileen. (2012). Next Generation Online: Advancing Learning Through Dynamic Design, Virtual and Web 2.0 Technologies, and Instructor Attitude. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems Vol. 41(1) 3-24, 2012-2013 Retreived on 11/24/2016 from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8d09219c-4a71-44ac-87cb-072527f5880b%40sessionmgr102&vid=1&hid=104

O’Connor, E. (2011). Migrating Towards K12 in Virtual Spaces: Second Life Lessons Learned as Higher Education Meets Middle School Students. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2011 (pp. 2192-2198). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved March 21, 2017 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/36630.

OSgrid. (2017). Policy: Two ways to help in OSgrid. LBSA Plaza. Retrieved on April 10, 2017 from and accessible through Virtual World Viewer at https://OSgrid/region/Lbsa%20Plaza/137/135/39

PBS.org, Parents Guide to Game Ratings, Retrieved from, http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/esrb.html

Poskurich, George M. (2015). Rapid Intructional Design. Wiley publications

Reeves, J. (2012). OpenSim Worlds: Undersea observatory. Insights into Educational Technology. Retrieved on March 23, 2017, from http://blog.wsd.net/jreeve/opensim-worlds/

Reeves, J. (2012). OpenSim Worlds: Thoughts on Student Safety and Using OpenSim for Education, Insights into Educational Technology. Retrieved on March 23, 2017, from

http://blog.wsd.net/jreeve/thoughts-on-using-opensim-for-education/

Richardson, J. W., Bathon, J., Flora, K. L., & Lewis, W. D. (2012). NETS*A Scholarship: A Review of Published Literature. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 45(2), 131-151. Retrieved on April 10, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=1f6e4537-e941-4d81-9248-6f9947378036%40sessionmgr103&vid=1&hid=108

Roberts, C. (2012). Identifying and defining values in media codes of ethics. Journal Of Mass Media Ethics, (2), 115 Retrieved on April 7, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&vid=13&hid=108

Roussou, M. (2002). Immersive interactive virtual reality and informal education. Foundation of the Hellenic World. Retrieved on April 3, 2017, from http://ui4all.ics.forth.gr/i3SD2000/Roussou.PDF

Veletsianos, G. Emerging technologies in distance education, 2010, AU Press. Retrieved on April 18, 2017, from http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177

Wagner J. A. (2007, February 1). The school of second life: Education online creating new avenues of pedagogy in a virtual world. Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved on April 10, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/school-second-life

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded ). Alexandria, US: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.library.esc.edu

Zikas, P., Bachlitzanakis, V., Papaefthymiou, M., Kateros, S., Georgiou, S., Lydatakis, N., & Papagiannakis, G. (2016). Mixed Reality Serious Games and Gamification for smart education. Proceedings Of The European Conference On Games Based Learning, 1805-812. Retrieved on April 12, 2017, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=817138c4-5817-4070-bc0c-c98ffbb32835%40sessionmgr104&vid=47&hid=108

Introducing Multiverse Dragon Masters

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

grid.kitely.com:8002:Multiverse Dragon Masters

An evolving adventure based world to for elementary education. This world is under construction but please feel free to visit to see its progress and offer any friendly advice to a noobee. I am currently in a masters program for learning and teaching in emerging technologies. Creating worlds appropriate and beneficial for younger audiences in the virtual environment will be the eventual outcome and expansion into other subject areas. Currently the focus will be on teaching reading and writing skills and engaging the imagination to encourage the love of storytelling in a game based adventure setting.

How do you get a Donkey to go?

Hello, I am Salie. I do not drive a car, I ride a donkey. I need not go far. His name is Don. How do I get him to go? Well, I turn him on. How you ask? You really do not know? Duh, on key!

…. My daughter says this poem is a little cheesy but you try to write a constraint around the pronunciation of a word….

Let us try another.

Why are people from Arkansas more fierce sea farriers than people from Kansas? One is a pirate who can saw and the other can only sass…. Arrr can saw and can sass…..

 

Instructions for the performance play- A STORY OF IDOL WORSHIP AND MURDER

Instructions for the performance play-

A STORY OF IDOL WORSHIP AND MURDER

A PERFORMANCE PALINDROME

BY Salie Davis

Bold face typecharacters, underlined words are part of the Palindrome, *and are the only words that are heard onstage.*

The names of the characters are spoken by the narrator (the character of Jesus Christ) to draw attention to the actions of the characters or before the specific character speaks. Words sometimes represent actions that are part of the palindrome and are also spoken by the narrator. The only words heard on stage are those that are specific to the palindrome. The story is given detail in actions, in select props, in symbolic wardrobe and in lighting that are all dramatized for effect. The only props needed are pews, pedestals, a cross, a bottle of rum and lager, a small cave and a single chair along with different colored robes, different colored body suits, different colored scarves, which represent various sins (the giving out of such can be simplified according to artistic interpretation), a spotted scarf or one with Velcro attached spots, an identifier for Time, such as a clock or staff and a really big fancy woman’s hat. This play would benefit from music. A musical palindrome would enrich it even more so.

Suggested set up for a one act play-

Initially the stage is dark. (Right and left references are facing the stage.) Pews are at the left of the stage in the mid area of the left side. These hold the Dias family and other church members. These people wear grey robes. Under their grey robes are white body suits or robes. God, dressed in a white robe, is positioned at the left of the stage in the rear area of the left side, on the highest pedestal. God is always represented with a capital “G” just as other characters who try to be idol gods are represented with a lower case “g”.

The Narrator (Jesus Christ) is at the left front, off stage at a podium or on the stage at the left front on a pedestal equal to God. Jesus is also referred to in the play as the Red Rose of Sharon. A cross is set behind him. Jesus is dressed in a white robe. His robe may be trimmed in red at the base and sleeves. A crown of thorns may also be used at this same point in the play in which the crucifixion is represented.

At the center rear of the stage is a set of three low pedestals. The center pedestal of these three is slightly elevated from the ones on either side. This center pedestal is where Star stands. She wears a gold robe.

At the right rear of the stage is another high pedestal, lower than that of God, in which Satan stands. He wears a black robe. The Rats and various Demons are gathered in front of Satan.

The Rats all wear black robes and carry black scarves. The Rats represent the occult members. The Demons all wear body suits. One Dragon wears a red suit with green scarves and represents unrighteous anger and ill temper. Devil wears a green suit with orange scarves and represents confusion and madness. Emos wears a purple suit and blue scarves and represents depression, sadness and being alone. Royal wears a gold suit and purple scarves, representing false rulers, and self appointed power. Eros wears a pink suit with red scarves representing physical desire or empty longing for passion such as the love for drink or other addictions. Tenet wears an orange body suit and silver scarves representing beliefs in a religion that believes in the organization rather than the truth. Dogma wears a silver suit and gold scarves representing authoritative and judgmental doctrine. Id wears a blue suit with pink scarves to represent the instinctual and unconscious nature of sin.

In this same area, out of sight or off to the side, is a chair holding Asa. He wears a nude colored body suit and a big fancy ladies hat. The small cave, big enough to fit one crouched person is also somewhere on stage out of sight with the spotted scarf inside or Velcro spots on a scarf.

The character of “Times Eye” represents time. The character should signify Father Time in appearance, with a white robe or, Time, in a white robe wearing or carrying a clock. A spotlight appears to the right of the stage to draw attention Times Eye as the character walks slowly from the right side of the stage to exit the left side of the stage as the character speaks. At the same time a spot lights appear on Jesus and God. From this point the spot lights are ever present on God and Jesus except for one important moment during the play. A red light may illuminate Satan in the same way. This is an artistic representation of their constant and unwavering presence.

Times Eye“Revoke, ‘tis I, time’s eye.  Finish sin if eyes emit… six a.m.  … Max is noon… 01, 02, 2010… 12, 02, 2021?”

This statement represents an expression concerning the end of time and the end of sin. Note that the dates can be changed to reflect current times, 11, 02, 2011, … 02, 02, 2020 etc., while maintaining the palindrome, as time progresses beyond these dates. This action keeps with the artistic intent that no one knows when time will end while highlighting the possibility it could be soon.

The Demons and Rats begin moving from the right of the stage to the left of the stage, towards the pews following Time. The Rats slink. The Demons walk, skip, jump and dance. A spotlight falls upon Star as Tenet places a silver scarf on Star. The artistic intent is to symbolize false worship. Tenet pulls Eva from the pews.  Id places a pink scarf on her. Royal gives Star a purple scarf. This signifies the idolization of royalty. When scarves are given they are initially seen as beautiful but as they mount in numbers they become a burden to the wearer. Tenet puts Eva on a pedestal next to Star. Tenet places a silver scarf on Eva. The Rats worship Eva and Star. Royal places a purple scarf on Eva. The Rats give Eva and Star black Scarves. The black scarves symbolize the occult.

Jesus ChristReviled, Eva’s dog swept pews!”

Eva, Rats, Star and Demons react at this statement and a spot lights sweeps through the pews. The Rats and Demons whisper to those in the pews. The artistic intent is that this statement and actions symbolize temptation. Id gives all the Rats a pink scarf.

Jesus ChristGod!”

Jesus makes a hand gesture towards God as if announcing God’s presence. God continues to be ever observant. Every one in pews, Rats, Demons, Star and Eva react.

Jesus ChristDias”

Jesus makes a hand gesture towards the pews. Lighting increases so that the left side of the stage is fully viewable.

Dias family- “Ah!!”

All characters that are members of the Dias Family speak this in awe and fear.

Jesus Christ– “Satan said”

A spotlight shows Satan at the right of the stage. Ideally a light might illuminate each person as their name is spoken or/and as they speak as characters.

Satan- “Star-Di, Asa, Dennis, Natasha, Ron, Maori, Ida, Ed, Hannah,

One Dragon, Eva, Sharon, Naomi, Isa, Emos, Deborah, Royal, Rats, Eros,

Tenet, Dogma, Id, Nacina, Paris, Devil …Sinned.”

As Satan speaks lighting increases to show the full stage, he points to all the characters, accusingly. Each character reacts to its name as they might in the time of judgment.

Jesus ChristTenet”

Tenet gives all the Rats silver scarves then is walking around the pews whispering in the ears of the people. The artistic intent is the temptation to sin under religious doctrine.

Tenet“God…Too far away…Murmur, murmur…”

Tenet draws attention to the center stage with Star on a pedestal as he whispers. Tenet is tempting people with religious doctrine that is not based on truth.

Jesus Christ“Rats”

The Rats (five in total) are walking around the pews whispering in the ears of the people, tempting them with false rewards for joining the occult.

Rat One“‘Y no mere clay or wonder… Murmur murmur…”

The artistic intent of this statement is the idolization of the self. Royal gives Rat One a purple scarf.  Rat One pulls Ron, Eva’s boyfriend, from the pews. Id puts a pink scarf on him. Rat One places a black scarf on Ron to symbolize his acceptance of the occult and puts him on the other pedestal next to Star. Tenet places a silver scarf on Ron. All the Rats worship Ron, Eva and Star. Royal places a purple scarf on Ron. Eros gives Rat Two a bottle of Rum, and places a red scarf on Rat Two. This symbolizes the empty longing for passion and temptation to fill this with drink. Since Rats are also people, they can receive scarves as well. Eros is whispering to Rat One. Rat Two pulls Dennis Dias from the pews and gives him the bottle of rum and a black scarf. Id places a pink scarf on him. Dennis proceeds to drink. Eros drapes a red scarf on Dennis.

Rat Two-“Yes! Orders red rum, redder Eh?”

Rat Two rejoices at the drunkenness of Dennis Dias. Dennis Dias pulls Natasha Dias (his daughter) from the pews and gives her the rum. Id places a pink scarf on her. A Rat gives Natasha a black scarf. She drinks and also becomes drunk. She gives the rum back to Dennis. Eros drapes a red scarf on Natasha. They both begin worshipping Star (AKA  Dog Star, Di, Star-Di, Dog, and Doggie), The various names of Star symbolizes the many possibilities for people to find idols, in great objects in the sky, royalty, or leaders, famous people, animals, or trendy concepts and ideas etc. Ron and Eva are also being worshiped. Ron and Eva participate in the drink and are given red scarves from Eros.

Rat Two“ ‘Twas I!”

Rat Two rejoices in the accomplishments.

Rat Three“ Dog!…”

Rat Three points at and accuses Star. Dogma gives Rat Three a Gold scarf symbolizing false judgment and blame.

Rat Four“Tonsured rum pots!”

Rat Four accuses Dennis, Natasha, Ron and Eva. Dogma gives Rat Four a Gold scarf.

Jesus ChristSaid”

Rat Five addresses every one including the audience pointing as Dogma places a Gold scarf on him.

Rat Five- “Murder… Red Rose of Sharon!”….

At this statement the cross behind Jesus lights up. Jesus puts his arms out as if hanging on the cross and bows his head. All lights go out so that the stage and audience is in complete darkness for three seconds. The artistic intent is the three days Jesus spent in Darkness. If this is not desirable by the production then the red light on Satan may remain as Satan rejoices in victory. After three seconds the lights resume as before. The Rats point at God, questioning his allowance of the crucifixion of Jesus. Devil places orange scarves on them.

Rats- “He murders red rose… Y?”

Jesus ChristDennis said”

As Dennis is speaking Natasha gets on her knees in front of Star. Dennis points out her guilt in worshipping Star.

Dennis“sinned?  Did I? Now I won top spot.  Ah… Natasha Dias sees dog star…put it up…”

Dogma places a gold scarf on Dennis symbolizing unrighteous judgment.

Jesus ChristSinned”

Dennis“…as a god. Fool… A! Wow…, ‘Ave, ‘Ave some red rum too.

Fall apart, Natasha.”

Dennis gives Natasha the bottle of rum again. Tenet speaks and all the Rats and Demons jump and dance.

Jesus Christ“Tenet”

Tenet- “Lives evil!”…

A Rat gives Dennis a bottle of lager. He drinks it then gives the lager to Natasha with his next line.

Jesus Christ“Dennis”

Dennis- “‘Ave some lager?”

Natasha, suddenly feels repulsed at being drunk, throws the drinks down and turns to Star offering to bring her sister Hannah into the occult in exchange for forgiveness. Tenet gives Natasha a silver scarf.

Jesus Christ“Natasha Dias”

Natasha Dias“Doggy! Dash sin if I deliver Hannah?”

Natasha pulls Hannah from the pews and brings her to Star, AKA  Star-Di, Dog, Doggy, Di, Dog Star, who is too self absorbed to notice. Id places a pink scarf on her. Hannah is given a black scarf by a Rat and begins worshipping Star. Tenet places a silver scarf on her.

Jesus Christ“Star-Di”

Star-Di- “Did I as I? Was I? I was raw Dog, as a devil, I am god deified.”

As Star is speaking Devil puts an orange scarf on her symbolizing confusion and madness.

Jesus Christ“Dennis said”

As Dennis is speaking the Rats are pointing at Ron and Eva and whispering in both his and Natasha’s ears.

Dennis- “Ha! Ron? He lived as a rat’s god.

Wow, I Liven a mood. I roamed under it…

Revolt, AHA, Live!”

While this is being said Tenet is whispering to Dennis who then struggles with Ron and throws Ron off his pedestal. Tenet helps Dennis unto the pedestal and gives him a silver scarf. At the word “revolt” Natasha throws Eva off her pedestal, and takes her place. Royal gives Dennis and Natasha a purple scarf.

Jesus ChristHe said”

Dennis- “as a “foeman” as I live.”

Naomi and Ed, Ron’s parents, leave the pews to comfort Ron and Eva. Id places pink scarves on Naomi and Ed. A Rat leads Hannah to a stand next to her sister, Natasha’s pedestal. Royal places a purple scarf on her. Both revel in being worshipped by the Rats. As Natasha speaks to Dennis in the next line, Nacina and Ida, friends of Natasha, leave the pews and are given pink scarves by Id.

Jesus ChristNatasha said”

Natasha- “Did Nacina play or did moody Ida? So… Ida? Adios!

Hey Dad, are we not drawn onward? ”

As Natasha speaks, The Rats give Nacina and Ida black scarves and they join in the occult of worshipping those on the pedestals. Emos gives Ida a blue scarf symbolizing depression. At the word, “Adios” Ida walks away crying. Tenet gives Nacina a silver scarf. Nacina is whispering to Sharon, who is in the pews and she leaves the pews as well and is given a black scarf by a Rat and a pink scarf by Id. She stands next to her father, Dennis’s pedestal, and is given a purple scarf by Royal.

Jesus Christ“Dias said”

Dennis is talking to Satan in the following line. He is offering his three daughters to Satan, expecting something in return. He then accuses Hannah just as he had Natasha before.

Dennis–  Ah! Satan. Rats deliver goddesses, so pay. Flesh saw a sin, mad, dastard, Hannah, raw as a widened dam.”

Devil places an orange scarf on Hannah, symbolizing confusion and madness.

Jesus ChristHannah”

Hannah- “I madam, I made fool a poor Dog.”

Hannah points to herself at the word “fool” and to Star at the word “Dog”. At these statements, Hannah stops worshipping Star and walks away, weeping and distraught. Deborah, Hannah’s mother, leaves the pews to comfort her. Id places a pink scarf on Deborah. Natasha is observing her mother and sister, feeling remorse. Star has also stopped her self absorption to take notice of the events.

Jesus Christ Natasha Dias”

Natasha“I”

Natasha moans as the narrator, Jesus says the word “moan” and points at Hannah.

Jesus Christ“moan”

Natasha“ go deliver Eh? I saw thee mad!”

Natasha is mournful; crying as Emos puts a blue scarf on her. Star has become visibly upset by this point.

Jesus Christ“Dennis Dias”

Dennis is speaking to Satan about his daughters.

Dennis-Sir, appalls Dog…”

Jesus Christ-“Stops”

Dennis “stops” for a moment then, upset by Star’s upset, he again curses Hannah. One Dragon places a green scarf on Dennis.

Dennis“…sleep repel, Eros eye saw Hannah.”

Eros puts a red scarf on Hannah and she is given drink. She becomes drunk and falls at Eva’s feet.

Jesus Christ“Said Hannah”

Hannah-Eva! Can I live on?”

Eva ignores her. Paris, Hannah’s boyfriend, leaves the pews to comfort her. Id places a pink scarf on him.

Satan speaks although not announced expressing pleasure at the situation.

Satan“Hannah, O’ No…  Ah…”

Jesus Christ-“Satan”

Satan continues, encouraging evil and sin.

Satan“Live dirt up!”

Jesus Christ-“Mom said”

Deborah confronts her husband, Dennis, blaming him for their daughter’s predicaments. Dogma places a gold scarf on her.

Deborah-Ha, Robed!”

Deborah begins to cry. Emos places a blue scarf on her. Norah, Deborah’s mother, leaves the pews to comfort her. Id places a pink scarf on elderly Norah.

Jesus Christ“God”

God speaks, to Natasha and Hannah, warning them that these things are not from him. Each reacts in fear and weeping. Everyone reacts by cringing. God points to Jesus, Reminding everyone that their sins are what Jesus died for. God warns that the Demons, such as Devil and One Dragon, and those things they worship, such as the Dog Star (AKA, of many names), do not have their interests in mind. The Demons cower at his words, as does Star. God asks the people to repent and warns them of the dangers of losing eternity spent close to God (the Garden). God speaks to the elders of the church, Norah, also known as “Red Rose” symbolic of her pious and close relationship to Jesus as the “Red Rose of Sharon”, and Naomi who consider themselves pillars of the church, warning them of the danger they are also in.

God- “Live not on evil, Madam Natasha, Madam Hannah Dias!

Murder Regal Red Rose of Sharon? I name no Devil-Dog as selfless.

A Devil! One Dragon! Pupils pull up! No Garden, O!

Norah, regal red rose… Y? Naomi…?”

Jesus Christ Moan…”

God moans as Jesus states the word “Moan”, both showing great distress.

God- “ ‘Y doom?”

The Rats are whispering in the ear of Ron while pointing at DennisRon moves towards Dennis but Sharon notices him. Rats also whisper in the ear of Eva, pointing at Natasha.

Jesus Christ-“Sharon Dias”

Sharon calls to her mother, Deborah, as Ron struggles to throw Dennis off the pedestal. She pleads with the demon Devil to help her father; no one is interested in helping. Sharon becomes confused in her excitement. Devil places an orange scarf on her.

Sharon“Mom, Ei! Reverie! Live O’ Devil, never odd or even.

No, it is opposition. ‘Y a period won? Oh!

Who was it I saw, Oh Who? Ha!”

Jesus Christ-“Ron”

Dennis is thrown to the ground and Ron takes his place on the pedestal, hollering triumphantly as he replies to Sharon. Despite this, Sharon remains near the pedestal, being worshipped.

Ron“I”

During this same time Eva struggles with Natasha but does not succeed.

Jesus Christ“Eva”

Eva cries out in triumph for Ron’s success and continues to struggle with Natasha.

Eva-Revolt lover!”

Jesus Christ“Id”

The Rats are in fervor.

Id-Rats gnash teeth!”

Natasha throws Eva to the ground and the struggle stops. Natasha remains on her pedestal.

Jesus Christ-“Sang Star-Di”

Star is still in madness, upset by all the commotion, and sings her words.

Star“Do… Do Good’s deeds. Live on? Reviled did I live! God saw!

 I, deified, I was Dog. Evil I did deliver. No! Evil’s deeds do, O God! O! Did Rats gnash teeth?”

Star is visibly depressed; Emos places a blue scarf on her. She continues dramatically, after a pause…

Jesus Christ“Sang Star-Di”

Star-Revolt! Love! Rave I?”

Dennis is attempting to reclaim his position but is continually repelled by Ron. Norah, Dennis’s mother, becomes distraught and confused about what she should do as Ron is the son of her best friend Naomi. Devil places an orange scarf on her.

Jesus Christ-“Norah”

Norah“Oh who was it I saw, Oh who? Now do I repay?

No, it is opposition. Never odd or even…Live? Do evil? Ei!!, reverie!”

Deborah speaks to Norah but she is inconsolable. Emos places a blue scarf on Norah.

Jesus Christ-“Mom said”

Deborah-Norah’s moody.”

Jesus Christ-“Naomi. (moan)”

Naomi moans when the word is spoken. She asks for and is given lager as Eros places a red scarf on her. She then rejoices, lifting the lager, for her son, Ron. Dennis ends his struggle with Ron.

Naomi- Yes, order lager… Ha! Ron.”

Jesus Christ-“One Dragon”

One Dragon speaks to everyone, mocking what God has said and declaring Ron as a god, and as himself as he places a green scarf on Ron.

One Dragon“Pull up? Slip up! No Garden? O’, lived as selfless?

A god lived one man! I.”

The Rats all dance with lager and rum around Norah, tormenting her and offering her drink which she keeps refusing.

Jesus ChristNorah’s foes order lager, red rum…

Said Hannah”

Hannah makes an appeal to Norah, her grandmother, warning her, then points to and denounces Satan and Star.

Hannah- Madam, Ah!!! Satan! Madam, live not on evil. Dog!”

Jesus Christ“Deborah Dias (mom)”

Deborah points at Natasha, blaming her. Dogma places a gold scarf on Deborah. Deborah encourages Hannah to go away to a cave that is far back on the stage.

Deborah“Putrid evil, Natasha!  O’ No! Hannah, No evil in a cave…”

In the cave is “spots”, like a cloth with Velcro spots to symbolize leprosy. Hannah goes into the cave and puts on this cloth. As Jesus speaks the next lines Hannah sits at the mouth of the cave “peeling spots” Paris, Hannah’s boyfriend, leaves the pews. When Jesus states “Sllap” God makes a motion towards Hannah. Hannah is healed and drops the spotted scarf.

Jesus Christ Hannah Dias? Hannah was eye sore leper, (peels spots)

God, “SLLap!”… Paris said”

Paris points to Hannah, accusing her of sinning, deserving of leprosy. One Dragon places a green scarf on Paris. Paris denies his own responsibility or sin. Id places a pink scarf on him. Paris points to Star in blame. Dogma places a gold scarf on him.

Paris-Sinned dame… Eh? ‘Twas I? Here, vile Dog!”

Hannah rejoins the group, near Naomi and Ed. The Rats continue dancing around Norah who can not get away from them.

Jesus Christ-Naomi said”

Naomi looks at her friend, Norah, and is sad. Emos places a blue scarf on her. As she speaks, she notices Satan and is afraid. Naomi turns to her husband Ed and then to Hannah, asking if she is mad.

Naomi“Ah!!! Satan! Go droop aloof. Ed, am I mad?

Am I, Hannah? Madden…”

Jesus Christ“Ed”

Ed replies as Devil places an orange scarf on him. Ed exclaims war, symbolizing the war between good and evil.

Ed“I was… A war!”

Jesus Christ“Hannah”

Hannah also replies, still confused. Looking at Norah and Naomi.

Hannah“Drat, sad… Damn!”

Jesus Christ“Isa”

Isa, wife of Asa, leaves the pews; Id places a pink scarf on her. She accuses Star and receives a gold scarf from Dogma.

Isa“Wash self, Ya, possessed Dog, reviled Star!”

Jesus Christ“Natasha Dias said”

Natasha remains enamored with Star, speaking to and idolizing her father, Dennis, encouraging him to regain his position of power.

Natasha“…Drawn onward, to new era…Dad yeh… So…”

Jesus Christ-Ida”

Natasha’s friend Ida, echoes the same sentiments speaking to Star.

Ida- “Adios A! Di, ‘Y doom, Did Royal panic and Id?”

Jesus Christ-Dias”

Dennis, Sharon and Natasha all speak in agreement in the next line and continue in unison after Satan speaks.

Dennis, Sharon and Natasha- “Ah,”

Jesus Christ-Satan”

Satan points to Asa asleep in a chair off to the side of the stage, stating he is evil. Eros places a red scarf on Asa and Id places a pink scarf on him.

Satan-Evil is a name of Asa”

As Satan speaks, all the Rats except for one leave Norah. One Dragon places a green scarf on Norah. As the Rat One whispers in her ear, she also takes notice of Asa.

Jesus Christ-Dias”

Dennis, Sharon and Natasha-Eh?, Evil!, a hat lover, tired nude.”

Maori, a friend of Isa, is drawn from the pews by Isa, receiving a pink scarf from Id.

Jesus Christ-Maori”

Maori points to Asa while she speaks, and receives a gold scarf from Dogma. She denies her own responsibility and is wowed by the idol worship of Star. She receives a black scarf from a Rat, and a silver scarf form Tenet.

Maori-Doom an evil! I? wow, Dog Star as a Devil, eh?”

A Rat also begins whispering in the ear of Dennis, pointing to Eva who is worshipping the Star. Dogma places a gold scarf on Norah. Norah “murders” Asa by throwing a black cloth over him.

Jesus Christ- Norah Dias Sinned.  Deified Dogma”

Dogma is overjoyed and declares war between God and evil (all the Rats and Demons.)

Dogma“I lived as a god. War saw I. I saw! I said I did… Rats!”

Jesus Christ-Hannah”

Hannah continues speaking in remorse; she calls out to God, with a capital G, asking “Why”.

Hannah-Reviled, I finish sad. ‘Y “G” God?”

Jesus Christ-said”

She again denounces Satan with sarcasm.

Hannah- Ah!! Satan regal?!”

Jesus Christ-Emos”

Emos points to Eva, accusing her.

Emos-Eva… Sinned… lives Evil!”

Jesus Christ-Tenet”

Tenet is reacting to Dennis approaching Eva from behind.

Tenet-Ah…”

Devil places an orange scarf on Dennis, symbolizing madness.

Jesus Christ-Satan”

Satan is speaking to all the Demons and Rats, who react with fervor.

Satan-Trap all afoot, murder!”

Jesus Christ-Emos”

As Emos says Eva’s name, Dennis approaches Eva.

Emos-Eva!”

Jesus Christ-Eva”

Dennis “Murders” her, by throwing a black cloth over her as she is speaking and worshipping Star, in mid sentence.

Eva-Wow, Aloof Dog as a…!”

Jesus Christ-Dennis”

Dennis takes notice of God and in a revelation, feeling remorse at what he has done, declares to the Rats that God sees.

Dennis-Put it up! Rats! God sees.”

Jesus Christ-said”

Dennis cries out in fear and repentance.

Dennis-Ah!!!”

Jesus Christ-Satan”

Satan rejoices over the events.

Satan- “Ha, top spot. Now I won, I did!  Dennis Dias sinned. Yes! Orders red rum, eh!”

Jesus Christ- Norah’s foes order red rum… Dias”

All the Rats except for one begin dancing around Norah again, tormenting her with rum. Rat One is whispering in the ear of Dennis and pointing to Natasha and Sharon. Sharon and Natasha have remained in power while Dennis has not. They show fear of their father.

Jesus Christ-Dias”

Sharon and Natasha appeal to their father as he approaches them.

Sharon and Natasha-Stop, Murder us not!”

Dennis “Murders” Sharon, tossing a black cloth over her but stops short of murdering Natasha when he hears God speak.

Jesus Christ-God”

God-I saw the redder murders.”

Jesus Christ-Red Rose”

Norah cries out to God, asking why? Norah takes the rum and becomes drunk. Eros places a red scarf on her as she sings.

Norah-Y? Rum, rum, rum, rum red now.”

Jesus Christ-Royal”

Royal dances around Star then Norah, back to Star and then dances with Tenet singing.

Royal“ceremony Star! Rum, rum, rum, rum, Ya! War a foot. Dog! Tenet!”

Jesus Christ-Dennis”

Dennis falls to his knees in confusion and remorse. He denounces his attempts at being worshipped as a god. He realizes that Star is pitiful. He points to others, that they have been robbed of their happiness by him and he himself is in misery.

Dennis“Lived Sir? A panic… and I am god, tenet? Sore Star lay or…

Ha! robed some, as I… I moan.”

Jesus Christ-Norah”

Norah calls out to God to save, realizing the consequences and the Rats scatter.

Norah-Save! No Garden, O!”

Jesus Christ-Hannah”

Hannah is mournful.

Hannah-Dead, I… I roam.”

Jesus Christ-Norah”

Norah points at Satan and at herself acknowledging evil and sin, and then to the Rats and everyone else, stating “Dias” as if inviting every one to acknowledge their own sin.

Norah-Satan!…Sinned, A!”

Jesus Christ-said”

Norah- “Rats, Dias…?”

At this point some return to the pews, I.E. those that expressed repentance by words or by actions such as Dennis, Hannah, Norah, Naomi…(artistic interpretation can decide who and how many.)

Jesus Christ-Natasha said”

Natasha, still on her pedestal cries out to the Star to save her.

Natasha-Dog!”

As Jesus speaks Natasha, Star, Ron and everyone else not in the pews crumple to the ground and scurry/crawl into the darkness towards Satan. This includes the Rats, Demons and all those that have been murdered without repenting, Eva, Sharon, Asa, also move towards Satan with all their burdens in tow. The lights go out except for lights sweeping the pews as the characters sitting there throw off all of their scarves and the grey robes revealing white robes, or body suits at their words “God Save, Deliver!” hands up rejoicing.

Jesus Christ-SWEPT PEWS…”

Everyone in pews-  “GOD SAVE! DELIVER!”

As Time speaks the light shines only on one side of the stage, joyful, while the other is in darkness and misery.

Time’s eye- 12, 02, 2021… 01, 02, 2010?  Noon… six a.m. max. Is time’s eye finish’ sin? If eyes emit is it, ek… over?”

This statement again represents an expression concerning the end of time and the end of sin. Note once again that the dates can be changed to reflect current times, 11, 02, 2011, … 02, 02, 2020 etc., while maintaining the palindrome, as time progresses beyond these dates. This action keeps with the artistic intent that no one knows when time will end while highlighting the possibility it could be soon.

End of play.

Brandy (part of the series “InTo SIN, The Story Is Not Over”)

 

“So what, you think you’re better than the rest of us? Don’t want to break those designer nails of yours.” The big girl sneers.  She wasn’t just big, she was big and square.  Her body was built like a soggy card board box.  I am so glad she’s not talking to me. The pretty girl looks scared.

“No, I just don’t like sports,” She stammers. “My brother was killed playing football. He took a hit so hard that his rib went through his lung. He screamed in pain until he drowned in his own blood.” The big girls face goes blank. She walks away.

Ms. Sweetsir, looks at the new girl for a minute-long-second then says, “You don’t have a brother.” The girl shrugs and looks the other way… I wonder if she’s crazy.

My knee brace gives me a good excuse not to do this stupid morning exercise group. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much. A little pain is good. It makes me stronger, like cutting. The pain makes me feel alive.  I like seeing the blood. My pain, the stuff I can’t see, it makes it go away. I can control the pain. I glance at my arms and wrists. There are only faint lines left from the last time I cut but I can concentrate on the pain of my leg. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

When I first got here from the hospital, a guy offered me pain meds but I refused. He is such a jerk, Mr. Drumard… what a stupid name. Mr. Dumb, that’s better. Last night was really bad though and I asked for my meds and he wouldn’t give them to me. He said I refused three times so I couldn’t have them anymore. My leg is pounding so hard I have to keep holding my breath so I don’t cry.

“It’s time to go, Miss Summers, Miss Bates.” Ms. Sweetsir says to the new girl and me. “Miss Summers, you will be joining us in group therapy.”

As we walk the pretty girl looks at me. “What happened to your leg?” She asks.  Ms. Sweetsir is far enough ahead of us so I can talk freely without that stupid, “War stories” rule where we can’t talk about all the cool stuff we’ve done.

“I broke it jumping from my boyfriend’s car in a police chase.” I say, watching to see her reaction.

“Huh,” she replies, “and I thought I was good with the stories.”

“It’s not “A Story” “I snap back. “Me and my boyfriend got drunk. He’s on probation, couldn’t get caught by the cops so he sped off when the lights came on. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t. He almost lost control of the car and spun out.  Before he got going too fast again I jumped out. I wrenched my leg really bad when I landed. I heard he took out someone’s garage. I haven’t heard anything about him since.”

“Oh. Sorry.”  The girl says. She picks up her pace until she’s walking next to Ms. Sweetsir. It figures, another but kisser.

“Nice wiggle,” Rocky says from behind.

“What do you want?” I growl at him, as I try to cover up my smile by wrinkling my face. Rocky is hot. His muscles are all ripply under his faded Tee shirt, not just blocky like my boyfriend.

“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost on the way to group.” He says. “You know, I’m a pro at this place. I can show you around, this being your first week and all.”

“Yeah,” I snap back at him. “I heard your making this place your life long goal of habitation.”

“I just thought you might want to benefit from my experience, not to mention, if you’re not nice to me you might end up with a nick name liiike,… Pumpkin Butt. Of course I’d just call you Pum so the staff wouldn’t qualm about it.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” I say, my face turning red.

“Well, “He beams. “Since I have seniority, I get to pick the names of new kids. I call dibs on you.”

I play along with the game, wondering where he’s heading with it. “So what do I have to do to get a good name around here?” I ask.

“Just stick with me.” Rocky says, “and be real nice.”

Rocky, the new girl; what was her name again? Oh yeah, Miss Summers, a spindly kid named Little Dickey; A name Rocky said came from the boys shower room and Peach; a short little girl with orange-red hair, all gather in room 213. I’ve seen this same crew, except for the new girl, for the past three days. It will be nice not to be the new kid any more. I wonder if I looked that scared on my first day. Her eyes look like big blue saucers. They do go nice with her blond hair though.

“We have a new person in group. I want everyone to introduce themselves and state the goal we’re working on this month.  Mr. Dunn, since you have seniority, why don’t you start.

“Hi, my name is Mr. Dunn, I’m working on getting a date with Ms .Sweetsir.” Rocky says. Everyone chuckles.

“Let’s keep it serious Mr. Dunn.” Ms. Sweetsir warns. “Keep going around the circle” She says.

“Um, my name is Mr. Nielson” Little Dickey stammers.  He adjusts his glasses before he continues. “I am, Uh, working on not lying about stuff.”

“That is very good Mr. Nielson.”  Ms. Sweetsir says warmly. “Next.”

“My name is Miss Bligh and I’m working on not fibbing too.” Says Peach in almost a whisper.

Now it’s my turn. “My name is Miss Bates. People say I don’t tell the truth but that’s only when I’m drunk or I’m trying to get drunk.”  I say.

“That’s a little better Miss Bates but you need to let go of the excuse part.” Ms. Sweetsir says.

Finally all eyes are on the new girl. She looks like she’s going to barf. “I don’t lie!” She blurts out.

Ms. Sweetsir raises her eyebrows and tips her head. She always does that before she nails someone. “What about your brother?” She asks.

“Hey that was just creative damage control.” The new girl replies. “That mountain was going to flatten me.”

“Actually we call her Wally.” Rocky interrupts.

“Let’s stay focused.” Ms. Sweetsir warns. “Just introduce yourself, last name only.” She says.

“Miss Summers.” The girl says flatly.

“Thank you.” Ms. Sweetsir says. “Today we are going to work on communication and social skills. I would like each of you to share a story about something you brought from home and have here at the facility. Who wants to go first? Miss Summers, how about you.”

“If everyone here is a liar then how are we supposed to believe what we’re told by anyone?” Miss Summers asks.

“Good point, “Ms. Sweetsir says. “Miss Bates, how would you respond to that?”… I hate when she does that!

“We only lie when we have to.” I say. Boy what a stupid thing to say. I hate being put on the spot.

“Like your police chase?” the new girl says. “I knew you were lying.”

“I was not!” I yell.

“Now let’s stay calm.” Ms. Sweetsir interrupts. “Miss Bates, How does it feel to tell the truth and not be believed?”

“It sucks, how do you think it feels? This group is so lame! My Dad wouldn’t believe me if I said the house was on fire and it was burning down around him!” I continue to yell. “What do I care if you believe me?” I glare at the new girl. “For all I know my boyfriend could be dead and my Dad won’t even call to let me know.”

“Do you think your Dad not believing you might have to do with the lies you’ve told him in the past?” Ms. Sweetsir asks.

“Maybe” I say, slouching in my seat with my arms crossed. If I just say what she wants to hear then she’ll leave me alone. Why do I always fall for her stupid questions?

“That’s a start” Ms. Sweetsir smiles. “Miss Summers, tell us about something you brought from home.”

“I don’t have anything from home, my mom drove me here straight from school.” The girl says as she squirms in her seat. It is so good to see someone else being asked the questions.

“Well how about something you brought from school then, I noticed an embroidered 4-H zipper tag on your back pack.” Ms. Sweetsir prompts.

“Yeah, I used to be in 4-H. A friend of mine made it for me.” She replied.

“Miss Bligh, how about you?” Ms. Sweetsir continued.

“I have a nice blue sweater. It’s my favorite sweater. It keeps me warm.” She says.

“A sweater;” Rocky laughs. “The best thing you got is a sweater?”

“That’s enough Mr. Dunn. Let’s hear what you have to share.” Ms Sweetsir says.

Rocky takes center stage like the star of the show responding to an encore.  “I brought Mr. Stewards car but they wouldn’t let me drive it down the hall way.” He says. Everyone laughs-Everyone except Ms. Sweetsir. “Well ,it is the truth.” Rocky responds to her stern glare. Rocky is so cool. One of the other kids told me he stole Mr. Steward’s car after sneaking away from exercise group. Which is kind of a bummer ‘cause Mr. Steward is really nice. Rocky drove it right through the front gate but he damaged it too much to make a clean get away. Now they have to park outside the gate, the new gate that is.

“Mr. Neilson.” Ms. Sweetsir continues.

“Um, I have a retainer I wear at night time to help my teeth.” He says.

“Lame.” Rocky says.

“One more rude interruption Rocky and I will be forced to take disciplinary action.” Ms. Sweetsir warns… Now it’s my turn again. With that warning maybe Rocky won’t have a come back to what I say but I don’t have anything. Just cloths, which is just like Peaches’ sweater, my knee brace, no different than Little Dickey’s retainer… I have my prayer bear…

“Miss Bates.” Ms Sweetsir says.

“I have a bear. It’s made out of real Alpaca skin. I’ve had it since I was born.” I say, and hold my breath.

“Cool a dead animal,” Rocky says. He looks at Ms. Sweetsir, “What?” He asks in response to her pursed lip. “ It was a supportive comment.” He defends.  She just sighs.

After group we have a break before lunch. My leg is still pounding and my head hurts really bad now. I know Mr. Dumb won’t give me any pain meds but I need something. I walk up to the med counter. Instead I see Mr. Steward there.

“Hi Miss Bates, How can I help you?” He asks with a smile.

“I know I wouldn’t take my meds before but my leg really hurts and I have a headache.” I say. “Can I please have something for pain.”

“Well, let me look in the chart.” He says. After about a minute he gets out a bottle of pills. “You have a prescription here for pain. It’s a PRN so you can take it or refuse it whenever you want.” He says.

“But I was told ‘cause I refused it I couldn’t have it any more.” I questioned.

“That rule only applies to certain medications, not PRNs.” He explains. He gives me two tablets. “Those should help you feel better.”

“Thanks” I say.

“So you brought a teddy bear.” Rocky whispers in my ear. “How cute.”

“Not just any bear.” I defend. Then I lower my voice to a whisper as well. “It happens to have a flask of brandy inside it.”

“You’re kidding me?” He says, his eyes twinkling. “Why haven’t you had any then?”

“Because I sewed it back up real fine so my Dad wouldn’t find it. There’s nothing around here to cut the stitching with.” I explain.

“I have something.” He smiles.

“What?” I ask. He gets really close so his arm is resting against my breast.  I can feel his heart beating. He shows me a piece of metal .

“I stole this from one of the staff and I’ve been sharpening it.  It cuts really well. When you free up the flask we’ll have to get together and have a party.” He says. His face is just inches from mine as he places the piece of metal in my hand. “Don’t let the staff see it, Brandy” He winks. “It’s considered a weapon.” I put the piece into my pocket as he walks away.

“Miss Bates,” Ms. Sweetsir says as she walks up to me with the new girl tagging behind like a dog, “Miss Summers is being assigned to your room. Will you please show her where it is?” Oh great, a roommate. I knew my luck couldn’t last.

“Sure” I say “this way.” As we enter the room. I point to the plastic bed and wall desk directly opposite my plastic bed and wall desk.  “That’s yours. We share a bathroom with the room adjacent to ours so never open the door without knocking first.” I warn her. “The sheets are in the draws under the desk.”

“I’m sorry about what I said in group.” The girl says “I know I haven’t made a very good first impression. My Mom always says the first impression is the most important.”

“Don’t sweat it.” I say “It’s not like we’re building a lifelong friendship here. Here today gone tomorrow.”

“So how long does someone usually stay here?” She asks.

“The minimum stay is six months.” I say.

“Six months??” Her eyes get wide and fill with tears. “I was told I would only be here a week!”

“Don’t freak about it, they tell a lot of first timers that, then wonder why us kids lie so much, we’ve got great role models. ”

It’s time for lunch and we all get in line, like cattle lining up at the feeding trough.  I feel great to have a sharp object in my possession again. Now that the pain meds are working I wonder if I’ll be able to feel the blade across my arm and of course the brandy. I haven’t had anything to drink in three days. I feel high just thinking about it.

“Hey,” says a soft voice from behind me in line. “Can I sit with you today?” It’s Peach.

“Sure why not.” I say. Lunch blows by, I am too excited about the brandy to eat. Peach talks the whole time. I ignore her.

“So can I hang out with you during break after we have individual sessions?” Peach asks.

“No I’m busy.” I say.

“Well I’ll stop by any way in case you change your mind.” She persists.

“Don’t bother.” I say.  I didn’t realize she could be so annoying.

“Can I see your teddy bear?” Peach asks.

“No.”I say.

“You can wear my sweater.” She says.

“You’re half my size, it wouldn’t fit.” I scowl at her.

“But you can wear it any way that’s what friends do, share stuff. You’re my friend right.” She looks up at me, kind of stupid like.

“No.” I say.  “I’m not your friend.”

“Oh you don’t mean that. I’ll see you later, after session. Bye.” She says as she gets up to leave. Man she is annoying like a little rat chewing on your head board at night.

My therapist is a push over. All she does is sit there behind her desk watching me till I say something but today I am going to play her like these people always play me.

“So how are you doing today?” She asks. I don’t give her the usual silent treatment.

“Horrible” I say. “I am in a lot of pain. My leg really hurts and my head is pounding. I just want to go back to my room. It really hurts.” Tears swell in my eyes and my voice cracks. I am such a good actor, especially since those pills before lunch worked great. They were those fancy pills only the hospital can give you. I was hoping to get more.

The tears were really coming now. “I’m sorry I refused the meds earlier, I was just mad but it’s been hurting so bad and I just can’t stand it anymore, Can I please have something for the Pain? Mr. Drumard wouldn’t give me any ‘cause he said I refused but Mr. Steward said I could have them whenever I needed them and I really hurt.” I sob. She really looks concerned.

“Of course you can. We can cut session short and after you take your medication you can go rest in your room for awhile.” She helps me get up and I limp to the door and down the hall. She helps support me the whole way.

Mr. Drumard is at the med counter again. “Miss Bates needs her prescription.” She says forcefully.

Mr. Drumard takes note of her tone and the tears streaming down my face. He gets the med book out.  “She’s already had some meds before lunch.” He says. I let out a stifled whimper.

“Isn’t her prescription PRN?” my therapist asks.

“Well yeah but these are pretty powerful meds, she can wait awhile.” He tries to say but his voice trails off as her back stiffens.

“Mr. Drumard. You may be certified to hand out the meds but you’re not a Doctor. I already know that you’ve refused this girl her medication in the past and unless you want me to fill out a written complaint, I suggest you follow the PRN prescription.” With that I got my extra meds and time alone in my room while all the other kids were still in session. The new girl would probably be late getting back as well since she had to go through care planning. This was perfect.

I lay on my bed for a few minutes to avoid suspicion. The second batch of meds is working and I’m starting to feel like I’m floating. I pull the sharpened piece of metal out of my pocket. It has writing on it. Some Bible verses. I know who he stole this from; It used to be Mr. Stewards Bracelet.  The verse is John 3:16. Yeah, Mr. Steward is a great guy. It’s a shame about his bracelet but hey it does make a handy knife. I slice open the back of my bear, stitch by stitch. My Mom gave me this bear. She called it my prayer bear. She said that all her hopes and dreams for me were inside of it. Some dream she turned out to be. I barely remember her anymore. Dad didn’t believe me when I said she went to sleep in the pool with her clothes on. I was too young to know to get help when she tripped and fell in. I didn’t know she hit her head. I thought she went for a swim and feel a sleep. I was only five. It wasn’t my fault.

I feel for the flask and pull it out. An envelope falls out with it. I use the bracelet to open it.

My baby,

An angel sent from heaven.  Today is your birth day, your first day in the sunshine but God knew you and loved you before you were conceived and I have loved you from the moment of your conception. You have been a part of me, growing, breathing, our hearts, beating as one. I thank God for your miracle. I pray he keeps you safe in all your days and that you come to know his love just as I have come to know him. His love is even greater than mine is for I am only here for a moment. God is here always.

If I were to die tomorrow I would still be the happiest woman in the entire world for being blessed with you. I pray you will be patient with your father and I as we grow together. We will do our best but we all make mistakes along the way. I pray you find in your heart the unconditional love and forgiveness that only God can give. I pray he keep you and guides you all your days.

Love,

Your Mother.

I crumple the letter up and throw it against the wall. I’m not waiting for Rocky, this is my Brandy. Yeah, that’s what they can call me, Brandy! I drink it down all at once. The burning feels good but it’s not enough. I look at the faded scars on my wrists. I need pain.

“Whatcha doin?…” that annoying voice. Peaches!

“Nothing, get out of here!” I snarl at her.

“But session is over; I want to see your bear… Is that alcohol?” She asks stepping closer.

“No, it’s empty!” I say. The brandy is really hitting me now, not like it ever has done before. It must be the pills and I am getting really angry at this annoying little brat.

“You know that’s not allowed.” She continues. “I’m telling.” She says and turns to leave.

What do I care, it’s empty so what can they do anyway. The knife however is a different story. I quickly stash it in the other girls back pack then I lunge at Peaches. I can’t help but laugh, creamed peaches. She is so small I pick her up without a problem. I feel great, my blood is racing and this little rat deserves it. I throw her into the bathroom and she hits her head hard on the toilet as she goes down. She screams like a rat too but she stops screaming before she hits the floor…

They take her out in a stretcher, that’s all I know.

They take me out in cuffs.

The lights on the police car look like a color war between hell and heaven, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue.

My mind goes black then white, I’m at the hospital and a light is in my eye.

Black then white like red-blue, everything goes black. It’s white again; I’m in a padded cell, Detox? It is black, night, it is white, day.  Breakfast? No way. I’m being read my rights.  I think about mom’s letter. Does God really forgive? Does he really love me?… The door closes behind me.

The Newbie (part of the series “InTo SIN, The Story Is Not Over”)

I stare at the note on the refrigerator door. The penmanship is so curly cute on pink floral paper, it makes me want to puke; even worse, it smells of “Red”. When Dee Dee puts her “signature scent” to her little notes, I always know she’s feeling guilty about something.

“Hey girl!” it says with artificial hearts replacing all the dots and extra swirls on all the lines. “The lasagna is defrosting in the fridge. I am off to my photo shoot! John and I will be home late, connections, connections!” (Smiley face) “Kiss, Kiss” signed “Dee Dee”

This makes the third day this week, not bad really except that it’s only Tuesday. Not that I care, so they come home late and tipsy. It just means no nagging questions over dinner, then they sleep-in… less hassle around the breakfast table. I have enough worries with a new school anyway. I don’t need their song and dance of parenthood.

The lasagna weighs heavy in my hands. I put it down and pick up the empty box. I scan it for cooking directions. Instead I find the ingredients list. It takes up half the box and sounds more like my science book than food.

“Ingredients: Lasagna with Meat Sauce variety: Cooled mini lasagna noodles (water, semolina flour (enriched flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)), water, tomato paste, Hala beef, mozzarella cheese (part skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), onions, cottage cheese, (milk ingredients, bacterial culture, microbial enzyme), beef base (hydrolyzed corn protein, monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate), sugar, granulated garlic, salt, basil, fennel, oregano, onion powder, pepper”…

Like I’m going to put all that in my body!

I find the directions and pop it into the oven anyway. I carefully place the box on the counter for later, “Let the ritual begin.”  I laugh to myself, just as the phone rings.

“Hi yah, Pip” the voice on the other end of the line chirps.

“Hi.” I reply flatly.

“I’ve been waiting to hear what it’s like at Kennedy High but you haven’t called.” Bunny continues. My mouth begins to go dry. It’s not that I don’t like Bunny, but she’s bad for my image.

Dee Dee always says, “You can’t make connections with the disconnected.” I can’t be seen with an eighth grader, especially one that calls me “Pip”.

“Pip” is my Grammies nickname, just as “Bunny” is the name of her Grandma, along with “Cubby”, my other ex-friend, given the same fate by her Granny. We were the hope for the next generation of “The sewing circle”. Even Cubby, as a seventh grader, has enough sense to know that Fresh man year is a one shot deal. She stopped calling after I snubbed her by quitting 4-H. It was Dee Dee’s idea. “Popular kids don’t do 4-H.” Even though John was a 4-Her when he was a kid, he didn’t protest when Dee Dee said it was time for me to move on. He didn’t protest even when I said I didn’t want to “Move on”.

Bunny persisted in her enthusiastic tone as if the lengthy silence, a sign of my reluctance to talk to her, didn’t exist, “Sooo, what’s it like being the newbie?”

I caved. “It’s O.K.” I said. A part of me wanted to return to my preteen days and break out in exited chatter to say… “It’s great! There’s this cute guy in my science class. His name is Chris. He plays football and his sister, Cassandra, is captain of the cheer leading squad! He hooked me up and I got accepted to try outs tomorrow!” Instead I bit my lip.

“Look,” I said, “I’d love to talk but my Mom went to the spa this morning to have a fish pedicure where Gara rufa, which are carp fish, eat your dead skin, but the spa’s delivery got mixed up with the exotic fish store’s order of Paranha, and the new attendant didn’t know the difference, so she put the Paranha in the foot bath and they bit Dee Dee’s little toe off.  Don’t worry though; they cut the fish open before it digested it. The Doctors say they can sew it back on. I have to go to the hospital to visit her so I’ll have to talk to you later. Bye.”

“Oh, O.K.” came the short reply. I am relieved at the sound of “click” and silence.

As I sit at the table, the smell of lasagna fills the room. My stomach makes a rumbling sound. I look over at the empty box on the counter and return to my task. The trash can is half full. Luckily Dee Dee is a perfectionist when it comes to notes. Several pink floral sheets of paper lie crumpled up on top of John’s morning news. I carefully remove these items, brushing off the scrambled eggs and coffee grounds from breakfast. Luckily Dee Dee and John have stopped inviting me to breakfast after my numerous complaints about the fat in egg yolks, cruelty to chickens, preservatives and colorants, grease, oil and sugar. Now however, she cooks too much and I am left scraping them off the much needed resources for my supper exploits. I place these co-conspirators on top of the box for later.

Thirty more minutes tick by. I pull the lasagna out of the oven and my mouth waters. I cut an extra large piece and put it on a plate. I sit down at the table with fork and knife in hand, staring at the huge heap of pasta, oozing with red meat sauce and dripping with layers of cheese. I put the knife and fork down, turn the plate a quarter ways around, and then proceed to cut the entrée into smaller than bite size pieces. The procedure takes another fifteen minutes. It now looks like a pile of regurgitated road kill. I get up and scrape the whole nasty mess into the bottom of the trash can. Success! I didn’t take a bite. On top of this I toss the newspaper and pink floral notes. With a great sense of accomplishment, I perch the empty lasagna box on top like a trophy. I put the left over’s in the fridge for John and Dee Dee’s late night nibbling.

Free from these dinner time hassles, I whip through my home work. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough. I head downstairs to Dee Dee’s exorcise room. She always has the latest equipment and fad accessories.  It’s the one benefit of having a model for a mom. 700 calories on the cross trainer, then weights, the exercise bike for my whale thighs… I don’t even remember going upstairs to bed.

I get up extra early. This is the big day, my one chance to make a good impression. The squad only has one space open for a fresh man this year. I have to be the best and the lightest. I take the midriff flex, form-fit uniform with matching skirt out of my closet. It is made of red and black glimmer fabric with “wildcats” displayed across the breast, size 4. Dee Dee had bought it two sizes too small last spring, saying if I really wanted to make the team it would fit me by try outs. They must have made a mistake in sizing because it seemed to big now… I might have small hips but my belly bulges out like a cancerous tumor. My fat arms don’t help either. I take it off and pack it in my bag.

I am surprised when I go down stairs and Dee Dee is sitting at the breakfast table.

“Hey sugar!” She says with a beaming smile followed by a stifled yawn. “My shooting star! Going far! Today is the big day huh? Oh, you look great. I am so glad you took my advice and cut down on all that junk food. Chocolate just ruins your complexion you know.”

I don’t bother to tell her that they rebutted that myth years ago.

“How about some breakfast? We have all natural low fat goat cheese on Melba toast, 100% juice, fresh from the press with no added sugar, and a free range hard-boiled egg, minus the yolk.”

“No thanks.” I say. “I promised Cassandra I would have breakfast at school with her to go over the routine.”

“Go over the routine!” Dee Dee shrieks.

She is so temperamental when she’s tired.

“Haven’t I always told you that being unprepared is like being under privileged, success is nothing more than a dream for both. Is that all your going to do with your life, dream? The least you could have done is told me before I went out and spent money at that natural foods market to get this stuff. You’ve been harping so much lately about the ingredients in this and the chemicals in that. I try to do one nice thing for you, spend a little quality mother daughter time, and this is how it turns out? Why bother!” with that she turns and storms upstairs to her room. I just roll my eyes. Oh the melodrama!

Just then Dad comes down stairs, dripping from the shower. “What have you done now?” He asks. “Don’t you know Dee Dee has an important interview this afternoon? Why are you always stressing her?”

“Me?” I protest, “What about her? She’s stressing me and I have tryouts today. I don’t need her guilt trip. Maybe she should go into acting instead of modeling; she certainly has you tricked into this pity party.”

“Do not talk about your mother that way. She planned this breakfast especially for you. We had to go out of our way yesterday to find that hippy marketplace. Why can’t you go on a normal diet like most people anyway?”

I didn’t wait around for the rest of John’s lecture. The last I heard was something about “this isn’t over…” and “when you get home…” as a grabbed for my book bag and headed out the door.

When I got to school I went straight to the locker room to weigh in. 98 pounds. I was hoping to get down to at least 95. I’ll have to continue my fast until after tryouts and ditch my vitamin drinks, maybe I can lose some water weight before this afternoon. My stomach feels really tight but it stopped hurting awhile ago.

My first class is music appreciation-the Italian opera. Luckily all we have to do is watch an opera in class as a backdrop for a paper next week. It’s an opera that was written in the 1600’s. I laugh as I think to myself, “Hey, I wonder if they recorded this way back then.” Yeah it’s a lame joke but it still makes me giggle. Or maybe I just need a nap. As the opera singers move across the stage, all I can think about is flips and cheers. I imagine the fat tenor doing a cart wheel and have to cover my mouth to hold back a chuckle.

When the lights come on the teacher comments, “I didn’t realize that Orfeo, as an Italian version of a Greek tragedy could evoke a comic response. Maybe the individual who found such humor can use their unique perception in next week’s paper.” I duck out hoping no one inadvertently glances my way and exposes me.”

Next is Science-the physical properties of flight. Yesterday I was paired with Amber for team projects. She’s actually really nice but I’ve held back on getting to know her ‘till I find out where she fits socially. Dee Dee always says you have to pick your contacts carefully.

Amber is cheerful as usual as she says, “I was thinking we could do a visual project showing the flight pattern and wing structure of the swan. I found this great resource at the library on the mute swan. I have already read it so you can borrow it tonight.”

“Yeah, that sounds great.” I say. “I like swans.”

As we flip through the book together for rough ideas, I can’t help but warm up to her small talk. Every day she makes a point to say hello, even though I ignored her for the first week of school. Someone said she wasn’t cool and I didn’t want to take a chance.

On the third day of school she came up to me in the hall and said, “I notice you get to school early every morning, I run a prayer group before school, would you like to join us tomorrow?” Although I never went, it felt good to be invited. She kept inviting me every day since. Today was no different.

“I have a flyer I printed up for prayer group that explains it better.” She smiles as she hands me a piece of paper with a picture of a man on his knees. His hands are raised and tears run down his face. The picture makes me feel awkward but at the same time, I wish I was that man. Something about him seems…happy.

“Maybe I will.” I smile as the bell rings. Maybe I will.

As I jump up to leave I run right into Chris in the doorway-Literally. The impact almost knocks me over. My heart stops. He is so cute.

“You’ll need better coordination than that if you’re gonna win at tryouts this afternoon.” He says “You look good in those jeans though, I can’t wait to see you in the midriff flex.” He smiles with a wink. I shove the flyer deep into the pocket of my skin tight jeans. I hope he doesn’t notice my big butt. I swear I am going to faint. “See you this afternoon.” He says and strolls out of the classroom.

In social studies class we study about the Ozark Mountains. My mind seems a bit to fuzzy to really concentrate. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud. I imagine the Ozarks drifting underneath me. The ticking from the clock on the wall seems louder than the teachers lecture. To keep from dozing off I keep watching it as the hands get closer and closer to third lunch. I don’t know why I’m so tired.

Instead of going to lunch, I sneak into the library without a pass. Usually the librarian just assumes I’m from study hall. So she doesn’t get suspicious, I always check out a book that looks interesting. Today I find, The Interpretation of Dreams, by some guy named Freud. What’s so wrong with dreams anyway? Dee Dee is always saying she doesn’t believe in dreams, only realities. “Dreams are for people to lazy to work to get what they want.” She says. I try to listen to my Mom but sometimes I just don’t agree.

Physical education is my last class. Finally! The after school tryouts are just 80 minutes away. My locker is covered in pictures of models. Not middle age Sunday flyer models like Dee Dee but skimpily clad teen models, real motivators. This is my last chance before I have to weigh in for the squad. ‘Time to work up a sweat. As always Mrs. Prada uses me as a class example of enthusiasm. I ignore her as I pass the slowest guy in class for the fifth time to take another extra lap. Then everything goes black.

I wake up in the nurse’s office. “Your Mother’s on her way.” She says just as I black out a second time.

I don’t know how much time passes. Then I hear Dee Dee’s stressed voice in the outer office. “She does not have a weight problem! She happens to be physically fit.” She says. “I can’t believe you pulled me away from an important interview for this!” Her voice is growing higher and louder, but the Nurse keeps rattling off numbers and statistics. When the nurse says the “A” word, Dee Dee goes silent. Then the Nurse mentions the “B” word, like gross. Dee Dee freaks at the word vomit.

“If you are not going to take action then as the school nurse I will have to refer her myself.” I hear the Nurse say.

“No, I’ll take care of it. I’ll have to call my Agent. I expect discretion from the school. I don’t need this kind of publicity.” Dee Dee grumbles.

“Of course.” The nurse replies curtly.

After 30 minutes of Cell phone conversation Dee Dee walks into the nurse’s office with my book bag and cloths. “Let’s go.” She says with a stern face.

“This is no big deal Mom,” I try to reason. Her sharp eyes remind me not to call her Mom. “”Mom” is for housewives not models.” She would always say. She didn’t have to actually say it now, the words echoed in my head without her making a sound. Oh, how I hated some of her “Hundred rules to live by” quotes. They seem to have grown into a thousand over the years.

“I was only dieting for the try outs.” I continue to protest. “We can’t leave now.”

“You have no choice.” She explains. The school nurse is going to call the department if I don’t take you to see someone. I don’t have time for this! I had to leave in the middle of my interview! It took my agent months to book this opportunity. Do you know what you have cost me?” By the bright red complexion on her perfectly powdered face, I knew my protests were futile.

We get in her car and drive away…away from my one shot at high school success.

After about thirty endless minutes of silence I ask. “Where are we going?”

“My agent made a few phone calls and found a place out of town. In a week this will all blow over and we can say you came down with a severe case of walking pneumonia.”

“A week, I can’t go away for a week! What will happen to my grades? I won’t get high honors. I’ve already missed my chance at the cheer-leading team. How am I supposed to make a good impression in my fresh man year if I’m in a hospital for a week? I’m not even sick!” I shriek.

“Oh get over it! You think you’re the center of everything don’t you? It’s not a hospital anyway. It’s called “The Youth Foster” or something like that. They help kids with lots of different problems… which jogs my memory me… I got a call from Bunny’s Mom who said she has her whole church praying for my quick recovery and how thankful I should be it wasn’t a facial.”

We drive for another hour. My face is hot from whipping away tears. Mom never listens to me any way, why do I even bother and I can forget about Dad, he always takes her side. According to him she’s the next best thing to Madonna. If I could I’d tell him, “Hey Madonna isn’t a sex goddess any more, she’s just old and so is Mom. Stop treating her like a princess. I’m your Daughter. I’m supposed to be the princess. Mom is more like a wicked step mother than a Mom anyway. I hate them both. I wish I had been adopted or better yet, never born…

The car pulls up to a big brick building. It looks like an orphanage from and old English movie. As we approach the entrance the “old” perception wears off quick. We stand in front of a camera, state our name and are buzzed in through big steel doors.

Mom talks to the reception staff as one person sits me down and asks me a bunch of questions off a clip board. “Have you ever been arrested? Convicted of a felony? Do you smoke? Have you ever taken drugs? Do you drink alcohol? Have you ever been hospitalized for mental illness? Have you ever had thoughts about suicide? Are you sexually active? Do you have any communicable diseases? …”

I sit, stunned, looking like an idiot in my tea shirt and gym shorts and I stink. I’ll never complain about taking a shower after gym again…

Finally Mom comes over. “I called John,” She says. “You’ve really disappointed your Father. Maybe this will give you an opportunity to think about how you treat us.”

“You’re leaving me here?” I ask. I can’t believe it. What did I do wrong?

“Just for a routine evaluation, we’ll see you in a couple of days.”  She says. She acts so casual I want to slap her face and scream at her “A couple of days! Why don’t you just ship me to a third world country, sell me into slavery, make a profit while your ruining my life?” instead I just stare at her. I can’t speak. She walks away without even saying goodbye.

“Turn your pockets inside out and lift your hands above your head.” A woman says sternly. I do so as if in a dream. She pats at my sides like I’ve seen in cop shows on T.V.

“This way.” The guy with the clipboard says.

“What about my things?” I ask.

“You’ll get them after they’re searched and cleared.” He says back. We walk towards another set of steel doors. A buzzer sounds and the door opens. I glance back at my back pack on the table. A man is going through the pocket of my jeans. He pulls out a crumpled piece of paper, reads it and tosses it into a trash can. The flier Amber gave me earlier. “I guess I won’t be going to prayer group.” I think as the door closes behind me.