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Graffiti

Rating: Moderate
Status: Complete
Series: None
Preceding: None
Succeeding: None


So, I haven't really posted any writing in a while, so I decided that I might as well post this short story that I did for English.


The pages in my sketchbook crinkled, as I flipped through them quickly. I finally reached a fresh page, white as snow, but ripped a bit on the edges. I pulled a piece of charcoal out of my pocket, and began to sketch.

Before me, was a brick wall, towering high until it seemed to touch the gray, foggy clouds. On it, was a beautiful mural of an oak tree. I hoped to imitate its expertise, but I doubted I ever could. I wasn’t a very good artist. Honestly, I didn’t even know why I even kept trying. The branched I attempted to draw came out too rigid, and the leaves looked more like clouds than the star-like shape they were supposed to be.

In frustration, I threw down my piece of charcoal onto the bench, shattering it over the smiling face of a woman in the bench’s advertisement. What was I thinking? There was no way I could focus, sitting on some damp, dingy public bench in the middle of my trashy neighborhood in the middle of Detroit. Although, I supposed that it was better than being at home.

My mother was drinking again. Those bottles, cold and covered with condensation, would determine everything for me. One day she was sweet and loving, gently helping my wobbly hand hold my sketching pencil, telling me that she loved me. Even taking me out to the movies, if we ever had enough money. But as soon as the bottles began to clatter, it was all over. She was a demon.

So I had to escape my crappy little house, before anything went wrong. Honestly, that house itself seemed like it was frowning upon her, the way its shingles sagged and the yellow paint chipped and cracked.

I gathered my sketchbook, and began to walk down the dirty sidewalk, past the Evergreen Elementary School. On the fence, little boards were hung up, saying things like “LOVE” and “EDUCATION”, along with little pictures of stick-figure children smiling. They were now spattered with foul graffiti, no surprise there. What a shame.

I nonchalantly kicked a discarded soda can into the gutter. Sitting on the curb next to the gutter, was an old man in ragged clothes, hunched over a half-finished slice of pizza. Just from his pale, ashen face, and his poorly cared for clothing, I could tell that he had the same thoughts as me. Even if he was a homeless middle-aged man, things were the same all around.

He grinned at me.

I gave a nervous smile, and began walking again at a brisk pace, sketchbook under arm. I sighed slowly.

I wish I was somewhere else, I thought to myself, Anywhere but here.


First, I peeked in the window. No sign of movement.

Slowly, I pushed in the door, wincing at the loud creak that it made. I sighed loudly, and tiptoed in.

But I still wasn’t careful enough. A slender hand whipped out and grabbed the collar of my shirt.

“Glenda Rose,” my mother said, her words slurred, “Leaving the house without my permission.” My mother lashed out to deliver a stinging slap. 

“Mom?” I whimpered quietly, as she stumbled into the kitchen, and knocked an empty liquor bottle into the sink. It shattered loudly. She muttered something unintelligible, and pushed me to the side. After a few footsteps, she collapsed on the rug, moaning.

I walked over and grabbed her hand. No matter what she did to me when she was drunk, I could never hate my mother. Just remembering all of the happy times that we had together was enough to keep a small flame of hope burning inside of me.

With my right hand, I stroked her curly black hair. Mine was limp and mousy. I hoped that one day my hair would grow to be like hers. Unless, of course, my hair was the gene that my father gave me that I cannot change. My father had either left or was dead. I avoided the subject, because I didn’t want to upset my mother, and I honestly wasn’t ready for the answer myself.

I curled up next to my mother and closed my eyes.


I do not like school.

In fact, there’s not one thing that I could say that I enjoy about it.

Well, that was a lie. Every now and then, I would receive a compliment, or do exceptionally well on a test or quiz. But it still wasn’t a great experience. Over all, it wasn’t the education itself that got to me, or the early morning and late nights of homework (but I wouldn’t complain if those didn’t exist). It was the loneliness.

For most of my life, I distinguished myself as an introvert, an introvert with no friends. But realistically, I was more of a floater. I would have friends every now and then, but they didn’t talk to me as much as they did to each other, and I would never really belong. I would keep moving on.


The day dragged on at a snails’ pace. Homework heaped up on me. It wasn’t like I even needed to do it all to understand the concepts, which was what frustrated me the most.

It was a huge relief at the end of the day, as I was able to walk home. I dawdled a little bit, as my mother could still be in her drunken haze. As I had nothing better to do, I stopped by the gutter to see if the homeless man was still there. He wasn’t; but set on the sidewalk was a styrofoam box, with greasy stains of an old piece of pizza. I picked it up, and threw it into a nearby trashcan.

I could hear a faint sobbing, as I stepped through the puke-colored door to my house.

See, there was always a cycle going on with my mother. She would be great, then she would drink, then she would go into this awful state of being for a few hours until she finally awoke herself and started sobbing her heart out. Then she would apologize, then apologize over again, and it would hurt so much.

“Hi mom,” I said softly, “I’ll get started on dinner if you want.”

She waved her hand. “Go do your homework. Don’t worry about it.”

Ignoring her, I dropped my backpack on the wood floor and pulled a pot out of our kitchen cabinet. I boiled pasta, and set it out on the table for her.

“How was your day at school?” she questioned.

“Fine.” I shrugged. The truth was, there was not one good thing that happened at school, it was all stress, and boredom, and the daunting fact that it was day one hundred and twenty-two of having no friends.

We ate the rest of the dinner in silence, as I thought about everything that I had to do tonight, and tomorrow, and the day after.


The more time I spent alone, because I didn’t have anyone to talk to, the more time I had to think. I would think about all the schoolwork that would have to be done, how we would pull by for dinner, and how much I was hoping that my mother wouldn’t get drunk again. That hope was in vain, as she had reached for the bottles by the time it was Thursday night. Then I realized how incapable of dealing with stress I was, and how everyone else was able to cope with their miserable lives just fine. And this is why I had no friends, because I worried too much, and now I was completely lonely. And with that concluding thought, the cycle started all over again.

It was a huge relief, when I could finally walk home from on Friday afternoon with nothing but the beautiful weekend ahead of me. Of course, I worried for my mother, and for what we would eat each day now that the school didn’t supply me with lunch, but Saturday and Sunday were still two sweet, blissful days of relaxation. I turned my usual corner, and walked past the tree mural of the Evergreen Elementary. I had finally mastered the discreet flow of the tree’s roots and branches in my sketchbook, and was proud of myself for that. The only problem was that now I was uninspired, and I couldn’t find something that I wanted to draw.

Quietly, I snuck into the house, just as a precaution. I heard no noises, and there was nothing out of order. Assuming that my mother had decided to work overtime at her gas station, to put food on the table, I just grabbed a snack from the cabinet and started on my homework.

The next time I glanced at the clock, a whole hour had passed. The sun was already beginning to sink below the horizon. Instantly, I began to worry. With my mother, you could never know what was going to go wrong next. All of the possibilities started popping up in my head, and no matter what, I couldn’t shut them out.

When I got the phone call, it didn’t even come as a surprise.

The shrill ringing reached my ears from the next room. Preparing myself for the worst, I stood up, and trudged to our shabby living room, where I grasped the phone and held it up to my ear.

“Hello? Who is this?” I said politely.

“This is Childcare Protection Services,” the deep voice on the other line responded, “I’m afraid that your mother has been arrested. Until further notice, we shall put you in a temporary home.”

It felt like I had been plunged into cold water. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. I was all alone in the world.

This time, I just got angry. With a sharp kick, I sent the chair in front of me toppling over. “Why was she arrested? When is she coming back?” I inquired desperately. I felt too hollow to even cry.

“We’re not sure. It shouldn’t be long, you don’t need to worry. We’ll be right over to take care of you in a minute.”

Still in shock, I opened my mouth to speak, but I could hear the click and beep of the man hanging up before I could even get one word out.

Instinctively, I packed my bag. I would run away. I wouldn’t let the CPS place me in a foster home… I would never truly belong in a place like that. I belonged here, even if it wasn’t much. Suddenly, I stopped, sorting my thoughts. I couldn’t run away. It would make things much worse for everyone, especially my mother. It would be cold, and the police would be constantly searching for me.

Bravely, I answered the door when I heard the knock.

“Hello, is this Glenda Rose?” The woman standing before me asked.

I nodded.

“Are you aware of your current circumstances?” she chirped, obviously trying to keep a smile on her face.

I nodded again. “Where am I going to go?”

She threw a quick glance to the side. “Well, the plan is usually to put you in a foster home until all problems are resolved, but in this case, we are going with another plan. Your neighbor, Mrs. Moore, is a trusted adult to you, true?”

“Yes,” I replied. Mrs. Moore was almost like the grandma or aunt that I never had. She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family, and occasionally helped us when we were having financial troubles. It was an instant relief that I knew that I was going to be with her, not some family that l didn’t even know.

“Alright. My name is Mrs. Howard, if you need to know anything else.” She gave me a brisk handshake, as well as her phone number. I forced a smile to tug at the corner of my lips, as I shook her hand.


I brought clothes, and anything else that I might need to Mrs. Moore’s. I set up a room in the living room, so I could sleep on the couch. Around nine o’clock, my mother called.

“Hi Glenda. Is everything all right?”

No, everything was not all right. My alcoholic mother just got arrested, leaving with no home. “Yeah. I’m doing okay.”

“Listen, I’m so sorry Glenda, it was all a mistake…” She trailed off. I heard a faint sniffing in the background. “I was just worried about putting food on the table… I was panicking over money… I stole a wad of cash from the register at work, as well as some food. And they caught me.”

As always, she was just trying to look after me, even as she struggled with her own problems. “But… that’s just petty shoplifting. You won’t be in jail for long, right?”

She sighed. “They found out about my little… problem.”

“Mom, it’s not your fault-” I stuttered desperately.

“No,” she interrupted, “It is. I’ve been a terrible mother. I deserve to stay in jail for longer, because of what I’ve done to you.” She paused. “I can’t afford rehab. I’m so sorry. I will just stay in here for as long as necessary.”

At a loss for words, I stood there, pitying myself.

“I need to go now. We only get so much time at the phone. Love you.” She finished the conversation.

“Love you,” I said distantly, and hung up the phone.

Mrs. Moore came into the living room, asking me if I was all right and what did my mom say and if I was hungry. Shaking my head, I walked past her bedroom, and into her bathroom, carrying my bag.

I took a deep breath, and began to shuffle through the meager amount of craft supplies that I had brought. Tossing the sketching pencils aside, I grabbed my pair of scissors. I rinsed them off in the sink first, and then pulled them open.

Gentle at first, I pressed the blade against my skin, and lifted it. It left a small red mark on my arm. I pressed it down again harder, and moved it side to side. A scarlet bead of blood began to swell out of the scratch. I repeated again, this time closer to my wrist. More blood oozed out gently. There was no way to describe it, other than the crimson slipping out of the cuts seemed… beautiful in a way. I wiped my finger in the blood gently.

They began to bleed more. I dropped the scissors on the floor, and began to rinse off my arms in the sink. This time, tears did come. I was powerless to do anything to help my mother. I hated the thought.

Gingerly, I grasped the scissors, and rinsed them. Next, I rustled around in my bag, and swiftly tugged out one of my hoodies. Shoving the scissors back into my bag, I walked out of the bathroom, like nothing ever happened. Ignoring Mrs. Moore’s concerned expression, I walked into the living room and flopped onto the couch. I closed my eyes, although I wasn’t able to sleep, as I dreaded tomorrow with a passion, as I had to face the facts that my mother really was gone.


It was rare that the sun shone in Detroit when it wasn’t the summer, but that day was one of those days. The sun rays beaming through the windows as I woke up almost seemed out of place. Reality hit me like a hammer.

“Good morning Glenda,” Mrs. Moore said to me from the kitchen, startling me.

I gave a small smile. Then to my surprise, she walked out of the kitchen carrying a whole plate with fruit and whipped cream and ice cream. My stomach growled at the sight.

“Happy fourteenth,” she exclaimed, giving my dark hair a pat. I nearly jumped to my feet in surprise. With all of the recent events, I forgot how close my birthday was.

The delicious fruit tasted like sawdust. I felt completely empty inside.

I walked to the park. A group of students from my school were horsing around the the broken-down jungle gym, obviously irritating a homeless man that was sitting underneath a tree. I turned my attention to the group of kids.

“Hi,” I said loudly, as I approached them. A couple of them turned their heads. I was expecting them to return the greeting, but they just turned away silently, and began walking in the other direction. I bit my lip and walked to my familiar detour past the mural of the tree.

Slipping my fingers across the beautiful brushwork, I wondered what it was like to create something like this. As I admired the painted leaves and branches, something in my mind sparked. That morning, I was peeking over Mrs. Moore’s shoulder, at the newspaper she was reading. An article was printed towards the front of the paper, talking about one of the Detroit ghost towns that was scheduled to be torn down. Apparently, graffiti artists were flocking from places all over the country just to do their art before the buildings were destroyed. For once, I allowed myself a small flame of hope.

I rushed home as fast as possible, and swiped the newspaper off of the kitchen table, and reread the article. Mrs. Moore was out of the house--probably trying to find work--and probably would be for an hour or two more. I paced the kitchen, planning in my head exactly what I was going to say.

The sun was beginning to set by the time the door rattled, as Mrs. Moore unlocked and opened it. Slowly, I approached her, the newspaper in hand.

“Hello Glenda,” she sighed, “I’m sorry. Not a very lucky day for me.”

I had better say it before I chicken out. “Mrs. Moore… if you could give me the birthday present that I’ve always wanted… would you?”

“Oh… well of course! I mean… it depends,” she replied.

I held up the newspaper and pointed to the article. “This is only about twenty minutes away. It would be the most amazing thing ever, if I could go see all of the artists doing their work. I mean, you don’t have to, if it’s asking too much…” I trailed off.

Mrs. Moore smiled at me, although I could tell that she was tired. “Of course. Just give me a minute to get everything organized.” At that moment, I could sing with happiness. But as soon as I realized how happy I was, guilt washed over me. My mother was rotting in jail, while I was going to see something amazing.

Dressed up in my nicest jeans and plaid shirt, I climbed into the car, pushing away my doubts.


I had seen completely empty houses. I had seen completely empty houses almost collapsed on themselves, covered in graffiti art. Once, I drove by a completely hollowed-out mansion. But it was all nothing compared to the ghost town.

If it weren’t for the artists, scattered all across the groups of empty houses and buildings, the place would be completely desolate. It was almost kind of creepy.

Yeah, but it it was all Detroit, right?

We passed numerous artists, working on the walls of buildings, with practically heaps of paint and all types of paint brushes.

Mrs. Moore and I exited the car, at a spot where an artist painted away at a brick wall. Already painted, was a side profile of a young girl, holding a small sprout in her hand. Surrounding her, were the stunning colorful swirls that graffiti often contained.

Timidly, I approached him. “It’s very beautiful,” I said softly.

He smiled. “Thank you.” He turned back to his work. I watched, wonderstruck. Mrs. Moore stood a few feet back, snapping a picture with her camera.

I watched him for a couple more minutes.

“Do you like art?” He finally said.

I nodded. “Yes.”

He held out the paintbrush to me. “Do you want to try?”

Taking a small step backwards, I shook my head. “No, I can’t, I’m not quite good enough to paint here.”

“It doesn’t really matter how good of an artist you are. Art, especially street art, is an expression of self. That’s what makes it interesting.” He paused. “I’ll help you.”

I took the brush in my hand, and moved a bit to the right. Lightly, I brushed some black paint on the wall, slowly making the shape of a face. The man took the brush, and painted towards the top where I couldn’t reach, on his step ladder. After a couple of minutes, the profile of the face began to take shape. Then, I began to draw some black curls for the hair. The man gave me tips, every now and then, as Mrs. Moore watched with interest. By the time I was beginning to fill in the skin, there was a couple watching me, their arms wrapped around each other. A few more people came to watch.

Nervous, I tried to pretend that they weren’t there.

“Why are all these people here?” I whispered to Mrs. Moore, as I wiped off my brush.

She shrugged. “To some people, a young girl doing street art as good as yours is an interesting sight.”

I looked up at my rather mediocre painting, that was starting to take the shape of my mother’s face.

“Don’t worry about them,” Mrs. Moore said, “You should finish it.”

The man helped me with the shading and details, as I was filling it in.

The sky was getting dark. It was hard to see what we were doing, with the lack of light. But by then, I was done. I looked up at the stars, twinkling beautifully. They were much easier to see in the ghost town, as there wasn’t as much light emitting from it.

My painting wasn’t exactly the most miraculous thing ever. Nevertheless, I was proud of it.

The couple walked up to me. “You are very talented,” the woman said, “How old are you?”

“I turned fourteen today,” I answered politely.

She gazed at my painting. “Is that of someone?” she asked.

Before I stopped myself, the words came spilling out of my mouth. “My mother. She’s in jail.”

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting them to say. The woman smiled, and just said, “You are a brave young girl.” At that moment, I felt some sort of gratitude for her, like she was reaching out to understand me.

The young couple walked away.

I yawned. Mrs. Moore started up her old Ford. Waving the man goodbye, and telling him thanks, I climbed into the car.


Driving home, I realized something.

Tomorrow, I would still be living in Mrs. Moore crappy house in her tiny living room, my mother would still be in jail, and we would still all be poor. And I doubted that I would make any friends anytime soon either. There would still be the scars on my arm.

But I still had years to go, before it was my turn to control my life. And when that time came, I would make sure not to fall like the rest of them. Heck, I would try not even to touch a drop of alcohol. 

I could go to a university, and maybe major in art, even if it wasn’t the most well-paying job ever. I would find some way to get by, like I always have. Thinking, I realized that I had hope for my future.

I wouldn’t live in Detroit forever. I would find some way to escape from it, and I would support my mother as well, by the time I turned eighteen.

If I stayed strong, just maybe everything would turn out all right.

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