The inaugural Anderson Park Short Story Contest, a competition for middle school students, asked students to write stories that incorporated the park in some way. The winning stories — by Maxwell Kumahor (“Stand Up”) of Buzz Aldrin Middle School; Juniper Shelley (“Walking”) of Glenfield Middle School; and Madeleine Young (“What Happens After Dark: The Monsters of Anderson Park”) of Glenfield — were judged by local authors Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs; Sharon Dennis Wyeth; and Nancy Star, and their authors received $75. Suki Grabcheski of Glenfield was given the Olmsted Oak Award for the creative way she integrated Anderson Park into her story.
Reading the stories aloud at Watchung Booksellers on May 5 were Ann Anderson Evans and Charles Loflin. Evans, who organized this contest, is a trustee of Friends of Anderson Park and a descendant of Charles W. and Annie Anderson, who donated the land for the Olmsted-designed park. There were about two dozen entries from all Montclair middle schools, reflecting a wide range of styles.
Suki Grabcheski’s entry, “Posie in Anderson Park,” is the fourth and final winner to be published by Montclair Local.
Norbert and Posie are the best of friends. It’s just so simple that Norbert wouldn’t be Norbert without Posie, and Posie wouldn’t be Posie without Norbert. They live on the edge of Anderson Park where the grass grows free and wild and the sun shines through the brawny tree branches. They also have a magnificent friend named Tilly. Tilly is an elephant, but she’s not like other elephants. She is teal with purple polka dots all over, and she has a piece of 5-cent chewing gum stuck to her head; she is zany and wild. Posie is a nimble, dainty flower; she is softhearted and bighearted at the same time. Norbert is a mighty tall tree, in other words, a gentle giant. Their favorite season of all is summer, except for Tilly, because she says it’s so hot that if she could, she would scramble an egg on her head. Norbert and Posie like people-watching, but they don’t enjoy the occasional dog bathroom break in their spot.
Tilly’s favorite season is fall; she likes watching the leaves leisurely fall off of their branches. Summer and fall go by quickly and winter is just around the corner. Tilly is counting leaves; Norbert is watching cars and playing the license plate game, and Posie is sitting there, just simply being Posie. Norbert looks down from his game to tell them that he has seen a license plate all the way from Maine until he realizes that Posie is not okay. She is sickly looking and her petals are drooping down. He asks if she will be all right and she says, “Yes, it’s just a little cold.” Everyday, Posie gets weaker and weaker and Norbert always asks the same thing and she always replies with the same answer, “It’s just a little cold.” Norbert and Tilly know something is not right but they don’t want to worry Posie. The first snowflakes start falling and Posie’s last petals are falling too. They don’t like to see her this way. They feel somewhat empty; they don’t feel the same without her. Posie’s last petal is dying and her stem is cold and dried up. As Posie sits there with wearing a little scarf made of grass, she tells them about pollination. She explains that she is not doing well, but the bees have her pollen, and one day when the weather gets warmer and the sun starts shining again, the bees will drop her pollen and she will be back to her regular self. She reassures them that it is like a vacation, but a bit different. It becomes silent, so quiet that you can hear the grass blowing. They are losing Posie. Her last petal falls, her stem shrivels away, and the wind blows harshly.
Winter comes and Tilly gets lost in the mounds of snow. Norbert is all alone, cold and alone. There is no Tilly to talk to, and no Posie anywhere. Norbert sits and he waits, and waits, and waits. Every day he waits a little more and he weeps a little more. Winter is coming to an end and spring is arriving. The snow melts away and he can see Tilly again, but it isn’t the same without Posie. But then he sees the bees reappearing from their hives, and he grows hopeful again. The sun is shining again, and the weather is becoming more pleasant. Norbert waits and waits for Posie, but there is no Posie. One week goes by, then two weeks, then three weeks, and then it is a month, and still no Posie. He is starting to lose hope again.
Norbert looks down one day, into the grass where Posie used to sit, and he sees something. Something tiny and green; it’s a sprout! He becomes more fascinated about the tiny green thing, and he thinks more and more about it. The next day Norbert looks at it again but it’s still the same. He does this for days, weeks, and another month but it is still the same, just a bit taller. Norbert is standing like he always does, watching people walk around the park, when he hears a familiar voice. It’s Posie! He looks down to see Posie looking fresher than ever. He can’t believe it; he didn’t think she would come back. He and Tilly are so exhilarated that Posie is finally back. Norbert, Posie, and Tilly stand there watching the sunset. They are back to simply being Norbert, Posie, and Tilly, and just in time for their favorite season, summer, which is also Tilly’s favorite season now too.