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Grade
7

I have been to everywhere to deliver mail. I have knocked on every door- white doors, blue doors, completely glass doors, even bright green doors. And I do not only notice the doors. Some neighborhood streets are densely packed with screaming kids, and some are completely quiet. Others have colorful houses and blooming gardens, while some have grey structures that look nothing like homes at all. Every place is one more trudge to go, one more piece of mail to put in a mailbox. But there is one home I will never forget.
I was young, only seven years old, when I started delivering mail. At first it was a joy for me- I got to ride around different neighborhoods waving at all the people I passed. I could whizz down the streets, or idle on street corners; sometimes I would race against the wind, the mail in my basket billowing around me like a flock of birds in the wind. And so my childhood days would fly.
Slowly, winter came, washing away my happiness. The rain pounded down for weeks, leaving my hands black with ink. I tried to bundle up, but the cold and the water sneaked into all my clothes and shoes. Biking against the wind would freeze my nose and hands, leaving me desperate for summer.
The cold meddled with my mind. All I could think about were my icy toes. I began to want. I would ask for wood for the fireplace, and gloves to protect my freezing hands. I wanted blankets to warm me in the night, a mattress that did not stiffen my back, a cabinet full of food to fill my craving stomach.  And I did not stop. As I biked, I thought of all I needed. My friends had announced that their families had gotten a new invention, the telephone, which was a definite essential. Why couldn’t I have that?
By the time the seasonal clock turned back to summer, I had acquired a list. But I no longer wished to get the items I had been begging for before. I was no precocious child, but I was smart enough to know that I would have to pay for what I wanted. My dad’s condition had worsened, and mother had began ripping apart the hospital bills I handed to her. She was talking about divorce, saying my father was suffocating us.
Each day, when I would return home, I would take my dollars, and allocate them in a basket. Mother was very organized, and she labelled each basket with a name. One basket would write: Groceries. Needed $25 weekly, the other: Clothes. Needed $20 yearly.
My mother would return home late at night, and do the same as me. Then she would throw off her cherry pink apron, always tied tight around her slim waist, and settle down in the armchair to watch Jeopardy. And as we slept in that ragged chair, I felt her heat, her warmth, her love. That was one thing time would never change, I told myself.
When the divorce was finally settled, we moved out. We left the small apartment- the ragged chair, the miniscule TV, the couch bed. My mother plucked me from our home- waking me up in the middle of the night with ready suitcases. We traveled far; I remember my mother leading me half-asleep through the night to  the trains. It was the first time I saw a train station, a cold, dirty, dimly-lit place that suddenly burst noise.
The new apartment was worse than our old one. It was grey and moldy, with rats and puddles of water in the corners, from the dripping pipes. Dirt and spiderwebs collected on the ceiling, and a long scratch down the table. It never could substitute for my home.
I realized time had stolen my old life the night before I saw the wicked house. Watching Jeopardy next to my mother and blissfully embraced, I had fallen asleep in the new, narrow armchair. I woke up in the middle of the night, bouncing as my mother carried me. The next thing I knew, I was on the hard mattress of the pull-out bed, only protected by the winter moon’s soft white rays. Mother re-settled into the armchair, and I closed my eyes, pretending to sleep.
The next morning, I went more slowly than usual in my delivery. I examined each letter, trying to find its content, as I had done only last year. The letters were adorned with their own stamps- some American flags, others drawings of eagles, bears, and trees. I loved catching a glimpse of each stamp before they were devoured by the mailbox. It was as if I were catching a glimpse into each person’s life. 
When I finally finished, and was about to turn back for school, I noticed a small, crumpled piece of paper plastered to the bottom of my bike basket. The destination was smudged, and the stamp half ripped. I picked up the soggy piece of mail, and slowly examined it. I could make out the number 547 and the word Lane. The word before might have read Primrose or President. I pondered for a while, and I decided to deliver it. I would go to Primrose, which was 6 blocks away, and try to find the house.
I turned to the right and began to bike. The houses were grand. Towering windows, silky curtains, steel mailboxes. Nice cars parked in the road. An arch of of hanging orange and yellow tree branches beckoned me to stay, to stop to smell the blooming, colorful flowers. 
I continued on, turning left at the stop sign. The properties lost their grandeur. They displayed small, clean-cut grass lots, one-story homes, and metal mailboxes. Some houses welcomed me with small patches of flowers, or clean porches; while others turned me with trash-ridden yards.
And I continued to bike. My hope dwindled, and so did the houses. Tiny lots, tiny houses, and everything covered in dirt. Some cigarette stubs in the road, some trash littered on the ground. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my new home.
Finally I saw it. The crooked house number 527. It was an old, run-down place. The paint on the picket fence had peeled and faded. It shied from the challenge of protecting against invaders, and limped along in a line. Its gate sat agape, hanging awkwardly on its hinges. There was no standing mailbox, so I cautiously entered the property. Rocks were spewed about, not forming a straight pathway, and the yellowish, brown grass clumped and clustered. Weeds intermixed with the dry patches of grass, gradually conquering the land. 
The broken path led to a dirty porch, which covered the entire width of the house, a rather small distance. It hid a a wooden rocking chair, chipping from the years in the sun. Layers of dust had piled up near the door, and I was afraid to disturb the dirty organization. The doorway had no mailbox nor doorbell. Glaring at me with long sharp teeth and broken whiskers, the knocker threatened my hand. Deciding to use my knuckles, I gently tapped on the door, which shook on its hinges.
After impatiently waiting for a couple minutes, I turned away in distaste. I closed the gate behind me, and took a final look at the house. The broken fence partly contained the weedy lot, but the walls were covered with messy, dead vines. The windows were grimy, and had not been opened for years. From the gate, you could see the infestation of dust clinging to the porch and chair. They drooped from the weight, giving in to its commandment. The roof stooped too. It leaned forward, bent and haggard. The whole scene was from a black and white movie: colorless and old.
I almost turned away, when I caught glance of something in the back of my eye. An ancient woman was standing in the doorway.
I picked up my feet, rushed through the fence, and reached out with a smile. But I gasped in shock when I saw it- her.
The tall and thin woman stood in a long, almost clear, nightgown, gazing at me questioningly. Her cheekbones were gaunt and strong, and her lips were a very light purple. I felt that I could see through her glowing pale skin. Above her miniscule nose, rested a pair of blank, dark black eyes. They popped out of her face, beckoning for attention. But when I looked into them, I felt that I could see the darkest pits of hell.
I dropped the letter in the dirt, forming a soggy, muddy mess. Almost ripping the gate off its hinges, I threw it behind me and jumped on my bike. As I pedaled away, I knew I would never return.
Later that night, I told my mother that I had seen a very frightening house, and that it had terrified me. We cuddled in the small armchair; for the first time I was really in Jeopardy. I thought we would stay together, to fight off the cold. But, as was our new habit, my mother told me to go sleep in the pull-out bed. 
In that moment, I understood that the day’s events were a sign from the eternal clock that time would slowly wither and dry me, of my strength and happiness and friends and family, until all was left...well until all was left was that.
In bed, I swore to Him that when I grew old and dry and withered, I would look upon my hands and smile. Because I knew what I had built with them- my happiness, my love, my family- would be precious forever. And time would never steal that from me.

State
CA
Zip Code
94303