Bob Boone

Student Writing

The following selections are from prompts from Bob's new book, Writing
Through Chicago

WTC – Chicago Fire Prompt

I came here from Ireland about a week before the fire; my brother found me a factory job working an assembly line at the meat packing company he worked for. When I first arrived and saw the statue, I still expected to see gold paved streets beneath Lady Liberty. New York was still hardly what I expected but I was still hopeful on my train ride to Chicago. I walked down a narrow street with my brother, the little alleyway his apartment building sat in was hardly a street built by dreams like I’d been told. It was close quarters in my brother’s house. Our cousin, his wife, and two children all stayed in one room while my brother slept in a room with his wife and young daughters. I shared the couch with my nephew; he was only nine and didn’t take up much space though. When I started work at the factory it didn’t exactly seem like a place that would help me achieve my dream of becoming a pub owner, but it was money, and I needed that. One night I woke up to my young cousin staring out the window and the smell of smoke. I looked outside of our tiny, dirty window to see what looked like half the city engulfed in flames. At this point, America looked more like Hell than a golden land of prosperity to me. We didn't leave the apartment all three days of the fire. My cousin’s wife said it was the apocalypse and walked around mumbling passages from the Bible because “judgment day had come.”

When the flames finally stopped raging, three hundred people were dead and the meat packing company had been reduced to a pile of ash, apparently because of some vow kicking a lantern.

It was when we began to rebuild that U began to see that golden shimmer all immigrants come here for. I got money for losing my job at the factory and opened a pub with my brother and cousin. We now live in a nice house and all have our own rooms. The fire was a tragedy, but here we are four short years later, and for me, the streets have been replaced with gold.


“The Day the Beatles Came to Town”
By Jonathan Klopp

As you my fellow students know, this week was “Beatles Week” in honor and celebration of the newly popular British Rock n Roll sensation’s arrival to America. Although I have not been much of a fan, your enthusiasm in the halls inspired me to investigate this British Phenomena further. Thus, I jumped at the chance, when given the opportunity to attend their concert this past week and will enlighten you about my experiences. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing it and will learn something new about that rock group you so admire that you did not realize before.

My entrance into the park was fairly erratic. The pushing and pulling of crowds of young teenage girls and elderly women accompanied by unwilling and disinterested male counterparts demonstrated not only the men’s disgust and lack of interest in attending this event, but also of the females’ blindness and unyielding devotion to this group of teenage boys. Once I entered I found my seat placed upon the bright and perfectly manicured green grass of this once proud ballpark that at least for today would sully its reputation in guise of making profit, I must say my sea, just seven rows back from center stage, was very well placed. The seats were mere folding chairs and quite uncomfortable, but as I soon realized, they would not be used for their intended purpose, but as ladders for hundreds of girls in their efforts to be as close to the stage as possible. With the stage void of human life and decorated only by the musical equipment of a drum set, several guitars, and microphones, it was cause enough for the hundreds and thousands of screaming fans to confess their undying love, dreams, and wishes to the boys who had not yet made their appearance upon the stage. The girls showered the stage with gifts of flowers, panties, and unburned poke-a-dot and flowered bras. The stage soon became so cluttered that a man of his 30’s, most likely a poor and lowly sound technician appeared and began clearing the area with luck, for every piece of clothing he removed, another quickly took its place.

As the lights began to pulsate, a much older man in a dark suit appeared, stood in front of a microphone, and with a wave of his hand yelled in his best announcer voice reminiscent of the Johnny Carson Intro, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatle!”

Almost immediately the sound of cheering and screaming fans deafened my ears to the point that as these long haired boys appeared, OI could no longer hear anything that resembled any acceptable form of communication. Thus, instead of listening to the music, I had no other choice but to rely upon my other senses. My immediate attention was drawn to the police officer on my left, two rows up. Dressed completely in unfirmed black, his thick black-rimmed glasses matched his black hair. His stern face as he glanced back at me for only a second revealed his young, newly shaven face, and his disgust at the atrocious actions that were gracing the stage and of his required presence  at such an event. His Peter Pan Pose with his left hand gripping his black nightstick, and his right hand resting on his gun, demonstrated to me that he was ready for action as he stared intently at the group of four on the stage, instead of at the crowd of unruly teenage girls confessing of unspeakable acts that they wished to do to the boys and places of ecstasy they wished to take them. Who was he really here to protect, I wondered. The first coherent and logical noise I heard was from a man who suddenly appeared to my right. He was an older gentleman of at least 70 and clearly out of his element. Dressed in a greyish-brown wool suit and coat, his hat made of the same material reminded me of the days my father spoke of when men dressed like men, and everyone knew their place. His long drooping nose, sunken eyes, and wrinkled face, revealed that he had indeed lived a long and difficult life.

“Damn pot smoking, brownie-eating, war-hating, tea-drinking, biscuit –eating, hippies!”

My curiosity certainly got the better of me and I had to ask, “Excuse me sir, but what sis you say?”

Startled, he looked at me and responded, “Oh, uh, nothing.” However, as he glanced away, not so under his breath, he continued, “pansies, momma’s boys.”

Excerpts from the Autobiography of William Henry Thorne, concerning the Events at
Fort Dearborn.

I have often been urged by my friends and family to record some instances of my
life, which has been adventurous enough to make out of it many wonderful stories for
the entertainment of my children and grandchildren. Although I have often recounted
these stories, (at too much length, according to some of my acquaintance,) I had never
considered putting them to paper. However, I have been prodded and cajoled and
downright threatened, so I have finally decided to concede.


The Author's Recollections Concerning Fort Dearborn:

In the spring of 1812, I turned fourteen. This momentous occasion was
unfortunately overshadowed by the mounting tensions between the local Potawatomis,
Ojibwes, and Oddawas against our small settlement. Their visits to the fort became
more hostile, and I, who was privy to the Algonquin language through the good sense of
the Ouilmette sisters and the warrior Black Partridge, understood perhaps more
thoroughly the intense hatred and distrust directed our way. I once heard a young
warrior murmur to his fellow, in his own tongue, of course, that he would have liked to
take a tomahawk to the head of every white child.

This was no more extreme than the sentiments of the Americans; my own father
told me at every opportunity that all Indians should be boiled in oil. Yes, emotions ran
very high in those days, and do still, as the Americans push ever westward and there is
nowhere left to go.

At any rate, things came to a head. Captain Heald received orders that the Fort
was to be evacuated. We were all bound to follow orders from above. In exchange for
the provisions of the fort, we were to get a Potawatomi escort through the dangerous
march to Fort Wayne. William Wells, the great war hero, and honorary Miami, advised
Heald to dispose of the ammunition and alcohol beforehand-- it would fuel the war, he
said. Heald agreed, and as a result our escort never appeared.

We marched out of the Fort at nine o'clock in the morning on August the 15th. I
was among the soldiers, in the company of my father and a young soldier named
Tanner Freeman. He and I knew each other well. He had learnt Algonquin from a poor
Potawatomi widow, to whom he gave food and clothes, and we often spoke to each
other in that language.

It was very quiet, I remember-- no chatter, or other friendly noises. Even our
marching was swallowed up by the sand. On that hot, windless day, only the little
lapping waves of Lake Michigan cut through the heavy air. I was sweating horribly in my
uniform and was very thirsty. A few times I was tempted to break rank and drink from the
lake to my heart's content-- but of course it was unthinkable, and I checked myself.

William Wells had ridden ahead as a scout, his observation and knowledge of the
terrain being the keenest. I still remember him, bursting like some demon out of the
horizon, waving his hat over his head. His face was terrifying to look at-- he had painted
it all black, in the way Miamis do when preparing for battle and death. It was enough to
make you wish you'd never been born-- and he was on our side!

He was informing us of an ambush. We formed rank and faced away from the
lake, towards the dunes.

We were not kept waiting.

They had been hiding in the trees behind the dunes, and now they ran out,
hundreds of warriors armed with muskets and tomahawks and clubs. I fired my own
musket wildly. I'm quite sure I missed; and then before I knew it I was using it as a club
against an Oddawa warrior. Imagine that! A young man whose best experience with a
gun was small-game hunting, fighting against a full-fledged, angry warrior!

Well, I certainly didn't kill that man-- he almost killed me-- but just as the
tomahawk was coming down on my head, I blinked. When I opened my eyes, he was
gone, and I was fighting someone else! Life is stranger than fiction, I can tell you.

My recollections are a little hazy-- I'm sure anyone who's done any fighting can
tell you, it's not easy to keep your head-- but by the end of it I was in a very bad way.
Two deep wounds to my left leg, three gashes on my right arm, and a club wound to the
side of the head, never mind the usual cuts and scrapes. I was in horrible pain, and took
no note of the carnage. I vaguely remember seeing the fort going up in flames and a lot
of very happy warriors celebrating, but the rest of the journey to the Indian camps
escapes me.

At the camps, however, my memory serves me well. Tanner Freeman and my
father had both survived, and they were in much better shape than me. One of my
father's friends, Thomas Burns, was not. I will not recall the details of his torture and
killing, but if I was lucky to escape remembering the carnage of the battle, my luck did
not carry far.

Freeman, perhaps to distract himself, engaged me in conversation. I will always
consider myself in his debt for our talk-- for I'm ashamed to say that I was angry, and full
of hatred.

I said something to the effect that all Indians were savages who ought to be
culled. Freeman's face turned anxious.

"You must never say such things, William." His voice was strained, as if he were
reminding himself as well as me. "'That way madness lies.'"

I was resolute. "No human behaves like that." I said, jerking my head at one of
the women torturing Thomas Burns.

He turned to follow my gaze and was silent for a few moments. Then he turned
back to me, eyes eerily calm. "And what would you do to her, if you could?"

I looked away, and was overcome with fury. "Rip out her scalp." I snarled.

Freeman nodded, and indicated the scene in front of us. "Like that?"
My lesson was learned.

Badly wounded, I knew my fate was to follow Burns. I am proud to say that I did
not panic, although I came close. I believe it was this steadfastness that saved my life.

Once Burns was dead, it was my turn. Someone grabbed me by the scruff of the
neck. I could hear Tanner Freeman and my father shouting. I looked around me blindly,
and caught the eye of an old woman.

She regarded me with a furrowed brow. I focussed on her, a point of thought and
calm, while all around me was shouting and hollering. She stood up.

"Wait!" She called in Algonquian, and threw up her hand. Although her voice was
not loud, the shouting stopped in an instant.

The woman who had tortured Thomas Burns turned to her. "What is it, Prairie

Prairie Hen pointed at me. "I want that to be my grandson."

There was an uproar, but Black Bird, who had led the ambush, stood up and
gestured for silence.

"He's mine!" Shouted the man holding me. "He's mine to do with as I choose!"

Black Bird glared at him, and asked Prairie Hen, "Why this man? Why not choose
one who is healthy?"

She shook her head. "It must be this one."

"He's wounded!" Came a shout from the crowd.

"He's not fit to replace Red Hawk!"

The old woman snapped. "He is more than fit to replace my dead grandson,
should I say so!" She turned to my captor. "I formally request that you relinquish him to
my care, to do with as I choose."

"Why?" I heard him snarl, his breath hot on my face.

There was a gasp from the assembly.

It was Black Bird who spoke then, his voice frigid. "For the honor of helping an
elder, Wolf. Hand him over."

That moment before he did so was the longest I've ever spent in this world. At
length, however, I was released to Prairie Hen. I'll admit, I was so grateful to have my
life once again in my own hands that some of my hatred vanished there and then. The
rest of it was to slowly dissipate through the next few years, until at last I embraced my
new existence wholeheartedly.

Of course, I was one of the lucky ones. Other captives were tortured and killed.
However, Tanner Freeman also made a new life for himself-- as husband to the widow
he had helped so many times. They lived together until their deaths.

As for me, you children well know that I also married, and am now a respected
elder myself (though not by some of you!). Every day I think of Prairie Hen, and pray for
her guidance. Because of her decision, I was able to live to see many things, and have
had time enough to come to understand them. Not many people can claim to be so


Pork Fat

By Brittney Conner, YCA Corp Teaching Artist


I was raised on Pork fat and penny candies

Ass whoopin's and fighting to lick cake batter outta bowls

Yo mama jokes and my grandma's southern accent.

I've never had my mah-mah's twang I have her voice.

There's a shiny diploma on my shelf.

A white man somewhere told me I speak good English, I speak well.

Gave me a degree.

Niggas forget I know niggas.

My diction is often mistaken for privilege.

I read books when we had nowhere to sleep.

Digested epilogues when there was no other option.

My hands are smooth.

Lotioned them with education.

Few in my family have smooth hands.

Few have washed the blood from them.

I am lady Macbeth, no matter where I go I can't remove them spots.

Do you see the King blood on my hands? Vice Lord, Queen, Cobra blood?

Do You see? They are red like my Brother's, like my Uncles, like the men I share blood with.

Like the men I share colors with.

Niggas forget I come from niggas.

I was raised in the Low Ends. On Gun shots and Rest in Peace T-shirts.

My Mah-mah has the weight of five children, and their children's children and children of children that aren't even her children's dreams buried in her apron.

I have more cousins then we have food.

But none is left unfed, She cooks ever meal like last supper.

You never know when you'll need one less table setting.

Niggas forget I was raised by niggas.

My nigga mother has a Masters degree.

Some white man somewhere told her she could count right.

She knew I was counting on her, so she saved pennies like prayers. Showed me copper can be spun into books, travel, a diploma.

Gave me more than she even knew was out there.

Niggas forget I am a nigga.

I was raised on Jiggolo, jig jig o lo and smacked lips.

On quarter juices and knowing I was going to be bigger than the hood.

On dictionaries and homework assigned by my mother.

By niggas who would rather be niggas.

Who still love pork fat and licking the bottom of the bowl.



We Step

By Lamar Jorden, YCA teaching Corp artist.


Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" furnishes a dance hall filled with 50 rhythm-less spoken-word poets somewhere in South Florida.

The classic ballad behooves you to move once the groove Electric Slides into your eardrum.

The dance floor was a vacant plateau urging to be occupied.

Neglected by the rhythm-less standing off to the side who decide to twist, rock and glide at their own personal leisure.

Creating sights similar to miniature seizures.

It's quite a sad thing to watch.

Those who botch even the simplest of moves,

groove next to those who haven't decided whether they want to nod their heads or bend their knees.

So, they do both.

Not quite simultaneously, but the effort is imminent.

And in a sense, I expected to see better dancing before remembering that we're in a night club in the day time, surrounded by poets;

people who are more constructive with their hands and damn near destructive with their feet,

and finally, I remembered that we're in West Palm ...




Read Camping Trip.

Read "Someone's Cheating," by a 9-year-old student. See how Moe's Café prompts work with young kids!

Check out Say What magazine's first on-line issue:

Two Stories by Lauren

Young Chicago Authors has a new publication called Under Construction. It is an anthology of YCA writing for the past 20 years. Call 1-847-835-5430 for a free copy.


  • Click here for more student writing.




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