Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Christopher Ryan McDonald
My name is Katherine Thomas. First off, you should know. In case you didn’t realize it from the scarred black leather cover on this silly thing that my school councilor pretty much forced me to write, I’m not a girly girl. Never have been, never will be. The only time you’ll ever see me with a purse is if I just ripped one off of someone else.
In six months I’ll be eighteen. In ten months, I’ll be dead. That’s the whole reason I’m leaning against my backyard fence writing in this stupid little book I dug out of someone’s locker and kept for some reason. My councilor said writing down my feelings will help me to vent in a safe way. Like hell. In a year it won’t matter anyway. For some reason I listened anyway. Maybe it will help. Fat chance.
My hair is mouse brown, I’m mid weight, pretty much just nothing special in any way you can imagine. Except maybe the fact that I’ve had a juvie record since I was twelve, and that I’m apparently gonna drop dead before I hit nineteen. Like anybody will miss me.
My parents died in a car wreck when I was three. Or that’s what they told me anyway. I have a scar from my upper arm to my back. I don’t remember them. From what I hear they were bigger losers than I am. Since then I’ve gone from one foster family to another. I’ve been molested twice, and I learned to defend myself against that and worse at an early age. I had to steal a lot of times for any kind of living whenever I got put into state “shelters”. The other foster families, mostly a bunch of goodie goodies that were horrified by my lack of pink lace, got tired of “trying to keep me out of trouble” and put me back in the shuffle. Guess pretty soon I’m gonna be the coroner’s problem.
They checked my x-rays a little closer whenever I had my teeth worked on one time. There was a weird blur, so they decided to take more. A month later they told me I was going to die. Guess that puts me past denial and into anger. The family I’m with at the moment have hung on to me longer than the average temp house, so they’re all freaking out about it. They don’t have kids of their own, and if I heard right from the caseworker I got foisted on they can’t. This is their first foster job I guess. Bad luck for them. They’re kinda nice in a yuppy over-lovey kinda cartoon parent way. Well that’s all for today. I don’t really feel any better. Maybe I’ll do some more later. Or not. Whatever.
Got caught lifting another candy bar at the 4less down the street. Guess I’m banned now. Whatever. The Parents came in and reeled off the whole teary eyed sob story so the place didn’t press charges. Dunno why they bother. Juvie, temp house, all the same to me. They gave me the usual speech bout how they’re “so disappointed in me” and all that crap. Like they actually know me or care. Shrug and walk like always. Why should anyone give a shit about me? Just another juvie down the tube that nobody wanted to start with.
Met a girl in the ward where they run my tests and poke shit into my arm. She’s all girly girl, or she was anyway till they found out she had leukemia and the chemo made her hair fall out. She’s always got a goofy ass grin on her face, reminds me of a bald version of The Mom whenever she’s not yellin at me. She says she’s been comin here a couple of years, ever since she came back out of remission. She used to play tennis. But she’s got so weak now, she can’t play or something. She just keeps yakkin at me like we’re best friends or somthin. Guess it’s not so bad since this place can’t afford cable, and there ain’t many TVs to go around anyway. She says she helps take care of the younger kids whenever she feels strong enough to get out of bed. I told her I’d go with her if she’s up to it when I come back in, in a couple of days just to shut her up for a while. It didn’t work, she’s still over there yappin away while I’m scribblin in this ratty little feeling book. Some people just can’t take a hint.
Came in for the EKG or whatever the hell it’s called, they’re still hoping it’s operable, there’s like a 5% chance of it being removed without me being a vegetable or somethin. Doesn’t sound so hot to me. Whatever. Why the hell are they even tryin? I’m just a threat to society anyway.
The girl’s name is Ashley, I call her Ash. It pisses her off a bit, she makes that little flinchy face every time I say it, but that’s kinda just a bonus. Who in hell names their kid Ashley anymore?
Anyway she’s takin me to the Children’s Ward today to help out. Guess she’s still workin on her Miss America points or somethin. Miss Bald Swimsuit. I’ll write about it tomorrow I guess, I don’t think I’ll have time today.
Wow. Just. Wow. I feel bad about myself now. I went to the Children’s Ward yesterday with Ash. There were little kids there some of them not even half my age. Most of them had no hair left anywhere on their body, their veins were standing out. The few who were actually able to drag themselves out of their beds, looked like little corpses dragging teddy bears. I never thought there’d be so many of them, there were at least twenty of them, all pale and listless there. But so many of them still managed to smile, whenever we walked through the doorway. Just walking in the door, that’s all we did, and for fifteen minutes these kids were Christmas in July. We played checkers with them. Pulled out the most ancient looking rainbow painted xylophone I’ve ever seen and let them beat on it with wooden spoons that had seen better years. They were in heaven. All they had to do all day was just sit around and try to entertain themselves, while slowly waiting to die. The Ward couldn’t afford anything else.
For the first time in my life I know what suffering really is. It isn’t mine. I’m going to die, yes. But these kids are gonna die before their lives even begin. What is wrong with the world? Why them, and not some crooked politician in D.C.? They deserve better than this. I’m going to see what I can do to change it.
I’m having to stay another night in the Ward, the Parents have to go talk to some doctor somewhere about some new operation. I don’t care anymore. I’m a waste of space as far as the human race is concerned, there are people who deserve to live more than me. Like those kids 500 yards east. Each one of them is worth five of me. Take me if you want, whatever God there is. Let them have a chance at life. That’s all I ask.
I listened, really listened, to Ash for the first time today. From what she’s heard some of the nurses say and her own parents even, the Ward will have to close down soon due to lack of funding. If that happens, she thinks and I agree that a lot of the kids in the Children’s Ward who could get back on their feet will die without treatment. This is just wrong. What the hell, I mean, what did they cut funding for to add a shuffleboard court on some rich senator’s favorite golf club? Something’s gotta give. I’m gonna find something. I gotta. Those kids deserve better. She’s been trying to spread awareness and raise money for years for this, apparently. Her parents are rich and all, but they don’t care about anyone else in the Ward but her, I guess.
I told Ash that I’d start calling her Ashley if she’d like. She just smiled at me in that cute, bald way, and said that she was used to it now, and it would be fine. She’s not bad, Ash.
Ash bought me a friendship charm bracelet today. I’m not usually into this girly kinda stuff, but she was just soooo excited about it (her exact words) so I put it on anyway. It’s actually not half bad looking at least without the charms. But I’ll keep em on there for her I guess. She’s always been nice to me. We’re gonna go to the Children’s Ward again tomorrow. She says I should show em my new bracelet. I dunno about that, one of em might get so excited they try to eat it or something.
Feeling sick from all the shit they pump into me to do the tests. The Mom saw my bracelet and started spazzing out thinking I had lifted it or something. I had to have Ash call her and tell her that she had given it to me. That wasn’t awkward at all.
Well after the tirade and phone call, she got all teary eyed, and said it was great that I’m making friends. She been doin that kinda thing a lot lately, going from pissed to cryin and such. Maybe it’s her time of the month or somethin.
The Parents seem like they’re really gonna try and fly me out to that doctor, the one with the experimental surgery thing. I’m not looking forward to brain surgery but they say there are really low risks to this and it’s at least worth a try. I guess I’ll go with, I don’t really have much choice anyway. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. I hope they know what they’re doin.
They tried the surgery. I guess it didn’t work, the tumor was in a more difficult position than they thought. So basically they cut a hole in my head for nothing. Typical. At least I’m still alive, at least for now. Just chillin out recoverin at the house. Not much to do but sit and watch TV, try to play a few games but nothin major.
Sad as it is to admit, I kinda miss talkin to Ash. Hope she’s been doin okay while I’ve been gone. She acts all tough sometimes but everything she does and says screams girly girl. I bought her a bracelet to match mine before I went into surgery. I’m gonna give it to her in two days when I go back to the Ward.
I hesitate to say that the Mom… well her name is Sandra, I guess I can call her that. Sandra and her husband have been real nice to me since I’ve been here. Almost feels like a real family sometimes. Or at least what they look like in the movies. Maybe they really are good people for once. It’s prolly just the hole in my head talkin. Anyways, till next time.
Back in the Ward again, and no Ash. Figures. It’s really empty and lonely without her blabbing my ear off. Oh well, she’s never gone for long. I asked the nurses what was up, cause they’re doing the whole gossipy whisper number, but they just kinda give me this look, I dunno what it means, and then they wipe their eyes and run off. Must be allergy season or somethin. Maybe they’re weirded out by the juvenile delinquent asking about the cheerleader. Anyway, not much happenin today aside from the nurse weirdness. Can’t wait till Ash gets here. Bet she’ll talk my head off for days about her new bracelet.
Ash is dead. She went to sleep on the 13th and didn’t wake up the next morning. That’s what they told me. I thought it was some kind of screwed up joke or something. I guess one of the nurses called to remind her parents of the appointment, heard about it and told all the other ones. They didn’t know what to say to me. So they just didn’t say anything. I asked Sandra if it’d be okay to go and see her parents but she said I’d have to wait til they had the funeral in a couple of days. I guess I can get that. Her parents must be really having a tough time. I haven’t even been able to cry yet. I feel like shit cause I can’t even cry about my one friend in the whole damn world dying.
What the hell is wrong with me?
The funeral was today. First time in my life I’ve ever worn a dress, I think. Sandra said it looked good on me, but I think she was just trying to make me feel better. I finally started crying when we came into that room and the people moved aside and I saw that long black box laying on the table. That’s when it really hit me. That it wasn’t a movie or whatever, that she was really gone and wasn’t coming back. It’s weird that even when you know things are true, or you see them happen to someone else, or even have them described to you, it’s still not really real until it’s you. Until you’re in it.
It was really weird cause whenever I moved forward and saw her laying there, I saw this ridiculous little curly blonde wig on her head, and it made me want to just bust out laughing while crying at the same time, right in front of everybody there. I almost peed myself trying not to laugh for a second, but it didn’t last long. That probably sounds weird to anybody who’s never been to one of those deals, but maybe if you’ve been there you’ll know what I mean. Maybe it’s cause the person you know isn’t really there anymore, it’s like a wax sculpture of them or something, and if there’s something you would normally find goofy about it in the picture, that plus your being all bummed and everything just makes it hysterically funny for a second.
I talked to her parents, and I gave them the charm bracelet that I had bought her. Her mom just sorta nodded while crying and her dad just had this look on his face like I had kicked him in the balls or something.
Whenever we got to the plot after the drive, I saw it hanging there on one of the handles when they were carrying the coffin by, like one of the things you hang on your rearview mirror or whatever. I saw her mom open up the lid real quick and slip it in before they got ready to lower it. That made me feel a little better seeing her do that, like I got to give it to Ash after all.
Maybe if all that junk really is true, at least for her anyway, she’s all showin it off to baby Jesus or somethin, yakkin his ear off about how she’s sooooo glad her friend got it for her. Maybe. She’d like that I guess. Long as she has somebody to talk to.
Ash’s parents came to the Ward to visit and stuff. Her mom was still all teary and lace covered but her dad looked only like his pepto wasn’t doing the trick today. I talked to them about Ash and what she did while she was here. They asked me a lot of questions about funding and stuff like that when I took em to the Children’s Ward. I guess the nurses told all the kids about Ash, they were all lookin bout like how I feel. I wished I could cheer them up, but that’s a tall order when you feel like crap yourself. I told em I’d still come as often as I could to check up on em. Right before I left, one of the little girls came up and gave me this little bitty angel charm. It said to K from A on the back of it in little tiny letters. I cried again.
I never thought about it before now, but I had never heard her last name until today. It’s an odd one too. Her full name was Ashley Anne Mowse. If I had heard it when I first met her, I probably would have made fun of her for it. We might never have been friends. I might have died without ever knowing that feeling. But now it just made me smile. Ash Mowse, and Kat. Kat and Mowse, the best of friends.
I filled in the front page today. I guess it’s supposed to be where the guy or whoever owned it was supposed to put his name. I made it my dedication page. My little shrine to Ash. I love you, and miss you, girl.
Ash’s parents announced on the local news today that they were opening a foundation in her name, to raise money for cancer research, for kids who can’t afford the treatments, but first and foremost to keep the Ward open. They started it out with around two hundred thousand dollars, because they really couldn’t afford more than that, but they asked that whoever can spare some to donate. Some people have, they said but in order to keep the Ward open for starters, they’re gonna need almost five million. I’m going to do what I can. Not just for the kids, but that alone is reason enough. Because it’s what Ash would have done. By herself if she needed to. This is for you, Ash.
I talked to Sandra. I’m going to drop out of school. I mean, really what does it matter at this point? I want what little is left of my life to matter as much as Ash did to me. I took my license test and passed. Sandra bought me a car, a clunker but it’s all they can afford what with all the testing and such. I don’t mind. I’m going to go on a trip as soon as I hit eighteen. I’m not even gonna have a birthday party. It doesn’t matter anymore, none of it does. People need to know what’s going on. They need to see that their prefect world is not so perfect.
I want them to know before it’s their own kid on chemo. Ash, be with me girl.
Sorry bout the length of time it took to get back, but I’ve been preparing speeches and such for when I leave. Takes a lot of effort to get ready for this sort of thing. Just cause they felt like they had to get me something, Sandra and her hub decided to get me a lotto ticket. They said I’m gonna need luck, so why not. I just laughed and thanked them. It’s a little early for my birthday but they know when I’m leaving.
We had Christmas at the Mowse’s just like Thanksgiving. Their idea, Sandra was all worried about looking nice and stuff. I just told her to be herself, Ash never minded how I was, just who I was. That seemed to calm her down. It was just a real quiet Christmas, the Mowses had always had Ash before now, I think that’s really why they asked me to come. They just didn’t want to be alone with memories of Ash and nobody to talk to. I saw Mrs. Mowse crying a bit whenever she thought nobody was looking.
Four more days.
I’m gonna be busy busy from now on so I prolly won’t have time to write. I’m gonna keep calling mom and dad. Yeah, I actually called them that for the first time. My Christmas present to them I guess, since I couldn’t buy anything. They deserve it. I hope of they find another foster kid sometime, it’ll be some nice kid who’s never got into trouble and doesn’t stress em out.
I’ve had a will written today, all my stuff, and “salable items” will be liquidated and the proceeds go to the Ashley Mowse Foundation, or like I call it, the Kat and Mowse fund. I’m only taking a little bit of my junk with since I’ll be livin out of my car, but what I’m bringing is all stuff that’s important to me.
Well this is Katherine Thomas, signing off for now.
Ready for me, world?
Approximately five months later, along what she called her “campaign trail” Katherine Thomas called her foster mother Sandra Williams, told her that she had finally dropped off the lotto ticket that had been her early birthday present in the mail, and asked her mother to send it in, and that she’d be coming home for a bit to prepare for another trip cross country in the opposite direction. She died quietly in her sleep that night.
The next day as we were watching the evening news the winning numbers for the lottery were announced. They were the same numbers as the ones on Katherine’s ticket. In accordance with Katherine’s will, all of the proceeds of her lottery winnings, as well as her liquidated assets were placed into the Kat and Mowse Fund. The total approached nearly one hundred and fifty million dollars.
Her efforts around the country succeeded in changing public opinion enough that finally, and perhaps fittingly the Kat and Mowse Bill passed through Congress, extending loan periods, and in general financially assisting hospitals and medical institutions in need. “The Ward” as she called it, was fully renovated and a new Children’s Section, christened the Kat and Mowse Ward.
All of these words in the diary are hers and hers alone. We faithfully transcribed them all except for four. Those four are framed and hang from the archway that leads to the Kat and Mowse Ward. They were the last four written in the dusty journal that was found among her possessions. “From K to A.”
Whenever her funeral was held hundreds from across the country attended. Many were forced to wait outside in the rain for as long as two hours. They all paid their respects. Before the coffin was lowered I placed her charm bracelet inside with her. How could I do any less?
We all love you and miss you, girl.