1st Place 14-17
Lost in Translation
By Kimberley Monteith
Two people, a mother and her son are leaving the boy’s High School. His name is Avan. It is exactly four forty two in the afternoon. They have been in the principal’s office for over an hour.
Avan and his mother get into their car. It is a white 2001 Mazda. They do not talk for precisely a minute and a half. Suddenly, his mother takes a breath. “You haven’t done any of your homework for a month. Again.” She does not sound angry, just resigned, which somehow makes it all the worse for Avan.
“No.” Translation: I’m sorry that I can’t be perfect mom, but I do try, I really do.
A mumbled ‘I don’t know’. Translation: I was out being a perfect little super hero last night. I stopped a robbery, and the anonymous person that you cooed over when you read about him in the paper this morning because he rescued that man from that burning building? That was me.
“You told me you were at Derrick’s two nights ago. Studying for math.”
“Yeah.” Translation: No, there’s actually no such person as ‘Derrick’. I made him up so you’d think I had a normal life. So you wouldn’t get suspicious when I didn’t come home until late (because I was talking some fifteen-year-old kid out of throwing themselves off the top of their apartment building), so you wouldn’t try to touch the part of my life that no one can touch – because it’s too dangerous (because I won’t let them).
“You failed the test.”
“Because I didn’t get it.” Translation: I can’t pass a test when I have no idea what it’s on. I’m lucky if I make it to all my classes two times a week, these days. Unfortunately for my education, criminals don’t seem to want to wait to hatch their plans until I’m out of class for the day.
“Why didn’t you talk to your teacher about it?”
“I felt stupid.” Translation: Because I spend every waking hour of my life trying to stop humanity from running itself into the ground.
“You should never feel stupid for not understanding something.” A pause.
“Why didn’t you talk to me?” She’s testing him. Avan knows that if he gives the right answer, she won’t feel like a failure as a mother. Anything else, and he will break her heart. The only problem is, he has no idea what she wants to hear.
“I didn’t want to bother you. You have so much going on already.” Translation: How could I tell you that I’ve been lying to you since I was twelve years old and decided that I wanted to use my powers for the betterment of mankind? How could I tell you that I don’t understand because my education is just one of many sacrifices that I make on a daily basis so that everyone else can have a safer life.
“Nothing you do is a bother to me.” She gives him a sad smile.
He remains silent. Translation: I hope you never have to deal with any of my actual problems, mom. You’re too good of a person for them. The only problems you should have is wondering what to have for dinner, and which of your many normal kids (not me and only me) should get to ride shotgun.
“Is there anything else going on in your life that I can help you with? Something that’s distracting you?”
He pauses, pretending to ponder the question. “No.” He finally responds. Translation: I refuse to drag you into my problems and, consequently put you in danger. I will suffer alone, if it means I can protect you.
She looks at him for a long moment, not quite believing that he is telling her the truth. Eventually, under his even stare, she is forced to conclude that her son must be being honest. Because her son would never lie to her and not look guilty, he’s too good of a boy; too smart, despite his failing grades.
“Alright,” she smiles softly at her son. “Do you want to get an ice cream?”
“Yes.” Translation: Ice cream won’t help the hole that the guilt of lying is eating in my heart, but I’ll get it any way, because even dirty-rotten-lying-superheroes need a treat once in a while.
They enter a small ice cream parlor and buy two ice cream cones. Avan’s is non-descript. One scoop. Vanilla. Normal cone. His mother’s is bright and vibrant, just like her. Two scoops. One rainbow sherbet. One mint chocolate chip. Waffle cone.
They walk out and joke about something meaningless and stupid. But Avan’s eyes are still sad. Translation: Even as a super hero, life gives you no reprieve. Pets die, girlfriends break up with you, you fail your classes. And you have to lie to the best mother in the world about how talented and good you actually are. Because you can’t let anyone in. Because that would mean that you put them in danger for your own comfort. And that is unacceptable. So you sacrifice yourself. Alone.
I actually wrote this story as a ‘background sketch’ for a character (Avan) who lives in my head. I’ve been planning his full story for a while now, but I could never get into his mind and feel sympathetic towards him. This was my attempt to get closer to that. As for how it feels to win, I am quite literally speechless. It’s a great feeling to come home and find that out! I don’t think that I can explain it much better then that, but it’s defiantly given me a confidence boost, writing wise, to get such a compliment from outside my circle of friends and family. Thanks once again for this opportunity.