Story #1 – Kelsey Rohren


When you see this small town, the first thing you might think of is how peaceful it looks. There are green trees everywhere, planted down the main street in front of all the buildings. Perfectly spaced light posts at every corner. Each building is differently shaped, made of different materials. Some are brick and quaint, others are newer and more modern. The bars are a little run down looking and stereotypical. And the churches, oh man, there are churches everywhere. Church, bar, church, bar. At the end of the main street is park, in the shape of a triangle, possibly meant to be the city center, although the main street strip feels more of the center. The park is small with, with newer playground equipment and wood chips underneath the swings. The houses are all different shapes and sizes, but most are moderate and comfortable looking. The people all look friendly, and most smile at you, but something sinister is in the way they won’t really make eye contact, as if they’re hiding something or don’t really believe you will ever fit in there.

It smells of trains, cow manure, and dust. There are railroad tracks that run through the middle of town, cutting it in half. The tracks are used several times a day for freight trains and Amtrak going to and from Chicago. It is a farming community with three giant grain elevators two blocks behind Main street, so the smell of manure and corn fill the air all summer and through the fall. The corn gets crushed and creates a fine dust in the air and covers the ground. If you ride your bike by them you’ll get a mouthful of what feels like dirt and the smell will stick to you all day. It’s not a strong odor, just enough that you know it’s there and you know it’s summer.

It sounds like train whistles, bus engines, and cheers from the crowds. The train doesn’t blow its whistle in town, but blows it right outside to let us know it’s coming. It sounds like summer, although I’m not sure why, because the trains come all year long. It’s a small town, with its own high school, so the town’s livelihood is high school sports. The school buses transport kids in and out of town, to other tiny towns, all year long for the football, baseball, volleyball, softball, and basketball games. When they win, they get an escort back into town, down main street, with the police car and firetruck sirens. The town is small, and through the school year you can hear the bell ringing every 45 minutes to signal the start of the next class through half the town, probably a 4 block radius in every direction of the school.

It feels like home, but also a place that you’re not entirely welcome. It feels like you are always being stared at, but a place that you’re accepted as long as you’ve lived there your whole life. It feels like a place that no matter what your life turns out to be, you’ll be accepted, but judged, for who you are. You’ll always be one of them, a Cougar for life.

I had always done okay with fitting in, I think that made you happy. One less thing to worry about. I felt like I could see your furrowed brow relax as you thought, “But Ellis has friends. She’s liked. That is taken care of and checked off my list.' You always had to-do lists taped to the fridge, sticky notes stuck to mirrors to remind you to pay the electricity bill, and mental notes of what needed to be accomplished that day running through your head like a rolodex. Some might think that made you seem forgetful or scattered, but it brought me comfort to know you always had everything taken care of and filed away in your imaginary filing cabinet. Why didn’t we ever get a real filing cabinet?

Track and field helped me fit in. We live in a town of extracurricular activities, so if I was good at running, I had to be deemed worthy of a social calendar. My chest helped with that too. Developing a C cup seemingly overnight when you’re twelve does things to the people around you. All the boys wanted to be my friend, or boyfriend, and all of the girls wanted to be my friend because all of the boys wanted to be my friend. Looking back, maybe I can just blame mother nature for my downfall. When you’re in junior high, you are made to feel that your body isn’t really yours. It’s not a sacred thing to be kept private, it is for jokes and commentary from everyone around you. Being told you’re part of the big tittie committee, being put on a “butter face' (everything is good to go, but her face), hot or not lists, and nicknames announcing your body type are just parts of school. We’re groomed for it. And you better laugh, otherwise you’re just a dumb bitch. I guess when you’re thirteen or fourteen, anything is better than being known as the dumb bitch, so I laughed. Looking back, that might have been where we all went wrong, but who’s looking past anything further than surviving gym class when you’re in the 8th grade?

There was a night at the end of junior year, just as summer was starting, that I had sex with Alex Casner, right outside of the house where a party was happening a few feet away, where everyone saw and heard everything. However, I think I need to tell you now that that was actually the night I was raped by Alex Casner, in the bed of his truck a few feet away from where everyone saw and heard everything. It’s weird how one word can change a story, isn’t it?  It was normal that guys make the girls drinks, and girls drinks always have a few extra shots. You’re supposed to be drunk, what fun are you if you’re not a paralyzed slobbery slurring mess? Looking back, this could have been where we all went wrong. Who made up these rules? Why did we accept it? I know that I screamed, I know that I yelled, until he put his elbow into my throat so that I would shut the hell up. Why didn’t anyone come outside? Why didn’t anyone help me? In the morning, I asked myself all of these questions as my body ached and screamed at me in protest as I tried to move as if I hadn’t been injured, but I knew what the eyes would say. I knew how the eyes of the town would look at me. And I knew that the furrow in your brow would get deeper, so I didn’t ask any questions, and I buried it down.

For the rest of the summer I couldn’t get the smell of crushed grain out of my nose and throat. It’s like it had been burned into my esophagus from his elbow pushing down down down. As fall began, and senior year started, it got worse. People thought they knew what had happened and their eyes burned off my clothes every time I walked through the doors. I would hear him laugh from somewhere behind me and it froze me. My mind would shut down and my fingers would go cold. I got called a skank and boys texted dick pics to me almost daily. I felt the same burning humiliation as I did when I first saw my name scribbled under the Big Tittie Committee column when I was twelve, but this time I couldn’t laugh. I started to feel as if all of my laughs had been stolen. However, I was still a Cougar and that meant something. The same girls who called me a skank in the hallway cheered for me as I crossed the finish line. Maybe that should make me feel better, but it made me feel less. Do nothing, say nothing, be a Cougar. That should have been our school motto.

It was about Thanksgiving when I knew you were starting to worry, I saw you scrolling through your “Top 5 Signs of Teenage Depression' list in your head, and so I mustered up the last of my laughs and talked about funny conversations that had never happened in Chemistry. It had been too long. The lies ran too deep, the weight too heavy. Sometimes I got close to spilling   my ugly truth, and then I remembered the feeling of being crushed and I turned and ran the way I wish I could have that night. By Spring it was too much.

So, I am telling you now, I’m screaming it actually, but I don’t think you can hear me, because you don’t lift your head from my gravestone that was finally placed. Looking back, I know I am too late, because I don’t think I have ever seen the furrow in your brow so deep. I don’t see you checking through any lists, I don’t see anything in your eyes. I fear I have broken you, when all along I was trying to keep you from breaking. Looking back, I have been so wrong.


12 thoughts on “Story #1 – Kelsey Rohren

  1. nmfleming

    That was a very good story, it was extremely good. I love the idea that you can live in a small town but you might not actually know what is going on you might just know stories that people tell you. Your first paragraph reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and when she’s describing what the houses look like on the other side. Your story also reminds me a little of Thirteen Reasons Why. It was very good, the fifth and sixth paragraph I didn’t feel flowed as well as the other paragraphs did.

  2. Lilia Lundquist

    I loved the detail you incorporated. There was a movie playing in my head of how the town looked. I also liked how I couldn’t tell where the story was going. The raw emotion of pain is so apparent, but it is clearly being experienced by no one but the victim. I think the ending could use some revision, I like the idea you’re going for but I would love more detail as to what is occurring.

  3. Meghan Geary

    Your descriptions and imagery pulled me in from the very beginning and kept me enthralled to the end. I felt like I was right there in the small town. The ending felt a bit rushed- while your exposition flowed very well and I wasn’t sure where exactly your story was going, I feel like the emotion at the end could’ve been taken a bit slower. At the same time, it had a killer impact (no pun intended) and I was really surprised to find myself feeling so much empathy for your character. You did a really great job conveying the pain, and I really enjoyed the style in which you wrote your story.

  4. Tometria Jackson

    The little town you described sounds like it is hiding secrets. Perhaps that’s why the main character felt like she would never fit in although she knew she would be a Cougar for life. I enjoyed your description of town and could easily picture it. I had a harder time picturing the main character and the ‘you’ she referenced. Was it her mother or father? Although the main character’s end was tragic (I didn’t see it coming), I couldn’t really grieve her loss, because I didn’t know her very well.

  5. Benjamin Hayward

    Wow. Your ending caught me by surprise. I did not see that coming. You portrayed small town living very well. I couldn’t help but think of a small Midwest town in the back end of nowhere in the 1940’s-50’s. I was a little caught off guard when you transitioned between the different persons view. I did multiple views in my story, but I used a medium to signify when I transfer between them. I do still need to work on it more.

  6. Delaney E Reece

    I liked the idea of the story, you kept the same dark theme through which I felt was good. I found there were some issues with the tenses, which is tricky because it is hard to tell if it is all completely in the past, or what is happening now. I think that reworking and making sure the tense is all solid would help it flow better.

  7. Courtney Kisner

    I really loved your story! All of the details about the town painted a picture in my head. I love the plot and where the story heads. I think something that would maybe benefit it is if you worked into the rape and the downfall sooner rather than later. It felt a bit rushed towards the end–I had to re-read the last few paragraphs a couple of times. Overall, I really liked it!

  8. Angela Rodriguez

    This was a really great story! I loved the imagery you used for the small town. It reminded me of a small town in Washington that I once lived in perfectly! I felt like I was walking home from middle school all over again! The ending of the story was unexpected but interesting. Good job!

  9. Shana Waring

    You hit on so many aspects of a small town. I instantly was able to place myself in different areas and recall different events from my own small towns. As for your movement through emotions, I’m thoroughly impressed. The lighthearted romance novel beginning making a complete transition really highlights you “ugly truth”. You pulled the reader into the story and left a bit of the story to be desired in a great way.

  10. Jess Young

    I loved your imagery and description of the town! It was a surprise for me at the end, as well. Good work, I can tell you put a lot of effort into the details!

  11. Reggie Hurry

    That is the suitable blog for anybody who wants to search out out about this topic. You realize so much its nearly exhausting to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You positively put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!


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