1st Place Writing Submission for 2020!

Sally & Jerry Start a Band

by Riley Goldstone

Sally O'Malley hated her name and she hated that she hated it. She was proud of her heritage, as much as possible for a fourth generation Canadian. Her knowledge of Ireland was limited to pop-culture with the exception of her Great Uncle Ciarán's stories, whose tales were less history lessons than the ramblings of an eccentric elder. When her classmates teased her about her name she picked up her pen and filled journals with poetry.

Jerry Kerry hated his name and he hated that he hated it. His parents told him it was a “proper English name” but as third generation Canadians, their knowledge of things English was limited to Dr. Who and bad cockney accents. They never used those accents around Great Uncle Hwit, whose own ancient accent was so thick that his stories were near undecipherable. Jerry's cultural pride started and ended with the Sex Pistols and when his classmates teased him about his name he would hide in the band room and play his guitar.

“Do you know any Pogues?”

Jerry stopped playing and looked at the person interrupting him. He could count on one hand the number of girls that have talked to him since he started high school. “No.”

Moments passed awkwardly.

Jerry realized he should say more. “...but they’re a great band. I’m gonna learn some of their songs - just haven’t yet. Mostly play my own stuff. You hang out by the stairs writing all the time, eh? My name is Jerry.”

“I know. I’m Sally.”

“I know.” He chuckled. “So, ah, for two geeks, we’re both sorta famous.” He winced once he realized what he said. “Shit, I mean… I don’t think you’re a geek, I just meant that everyone…”

“It’s okay, I have no illusions about my popularity.” She laughed and her laugh made Jerry smile.

“What do you write in that book?”

“Uhm, I don’t know… thoughts, poems…”

“Any song lyrics?”

“Yeah, some of my poems are kinda like lyrics.”

“Can I have a look?”

“Sure. If I can hear one of your songs.”

Sally and Jerry left school that day feeling happier than they had in a long time. Jerry liked her chubby cheeks, both on her face and in her jeans, and Sally liked the way his long hair hung in front of his intense brown eyes, but mostly they were happy because their budding friendship was already pushing back the loneliness that had seeped in around the edges of their lives. Unfortunately, the flush of those feelings paled when they arrived at their respective homes.

Great Uncle Ciarán sat at the head of the dinner table flanked by Sally's parents. A large, black handled knife lay in an ornate box in front of her Uncle. Sally's mother spoke first: “Sit down. It's time we told you about your true history...”

...and also your future - what duty and destiny require of you. We need to teach you about the Reckoning,” Jerry's mother said while glancing nervously at Great Uncle Hwit who sat straight-backed behind the box with the white-handled knife. Jerry’s father spoke: “You are the chosen descendant of Clan Hwit, an ancient lineage of warriors who are oath-bound during the appointed Reckoning to take the life of a descendant from Clan Ciarán. It must be you...”

“What? This is stupid!” If it wasn't for the knife and Great Uncle Ciarán's baleful stare, Sally would have assumed this was a practical joke. She asked, “Who chose me? Why do you want me to kill some stranger?”

“The Fates chose you, dear, but Chief Ciarán,” Sally's father gestured at her Uncle, “read the portents as he has done for each generation since the dawn of the Clan. Why? To maintain the good fortune of our family. So long as our chosen descendent slays one from Clan Hwit, or dies in the attempt, our family and all our relations will prosper for all generations until the next Reckoning, when again we must earn our fortune. And as for whom you must kill, it is a boy at your school named Jerry Kerry. If you do not do this, our family will fall to ruin, now and forever.”

“I am not going to kill Sally, what the hell?!” Jerry shouted at his family, although he could not meet his Uncle's iron gaze. “That's murder, and she is...”

“...and Jerry is my friend.” Sally pushed back from the table and ran to her room, locked the door, and packed a bag with a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and her journal, then climbed out her window. Not knowing where to go, she ran somewhere familiar: high school.

Jerry saw Sally from across the parking lot. She looked relieved and started jogging towards him, then stopped suddenly. “You're not trying to kill me are you?”

“What? No, of course not! Wait, you're not trying to kill me are you?”

“No! Holy shit, did your parents tell you some crazy story too?”

“Yes! I have this spooky-ass uncle and he had this knife in a box and my parents kept talking about some Reckoning... do they want us to fight or something?! That’s dumb, right?”

“Very dumb. Okay,” Sally took a deep breath, “we got a lot to talk about, but we got to get out of here. Well... I mean, I have to get away from my family, but if you want you can come with me... we don't really know each other, but...”

“You think I'm going home to that insanity? I'm coming with you.”

“Do you have any money? I have eighty dollars. We're going to need bus tickets.”

“I only have forty, but I brought my guitar – we can sell it.”

“No,” said Sally, “You're going to need that. Come on,” she grabbed his hand, “let's get out of here.”

They ran away together, eventually started a band, and they never, ever, killed each other.


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