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Anthony
Seventh-grader Beckett Simon is one of the winners of the Anderson Park short story contest. COURTESY KRISTIN WALD

The second annual Anderson Park Short Story Contest, a competition for middle school students, asked students to write stories that incorporated the park in some way. Friends of Anderson Park sponsors the contest. The judges were Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs; author Sharon Dennis Wyeth; author Nancy Star; and Ann Anderson Evans, an author and descendant of the parkland’s donor.

Beckett Simon’s entry “Anthony and the Mole” is the second of three winners to be published in The Montclair Local. The third will appear in a future issue. Simon is a seventh-grader at Renaissance Middle School.

It was a sunny, beautiful day in the tiny town of Anderson Park. The ants, who were the citizens, were always working so very hard so that they would survive the long winter to come. Every ant had a designated job, and every ant worked extra hard each day to contribute to the cause. 

Every ant, that is, except for Anthony. He always was camping out in his room, in the anthill, and snuck food from the winter stash into his area. That is where he would snack, and become very, very fat. One day, though, he was caught.

“Anthony! Just what do you think you’re doing?!” That was Anthony’s mom. It was pretty obvious what he was trying to do, but Anthony tried to cover himself up anyway.

“Yeah, I was just checking… the stash? To make sure it was okay?” Anthony didn’t sound confident at all, and his mom definitely knew what he was trying to do. 

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READ: LOCAL WRITING/ANDERSON PARK: ‘ELVES’ BY ABIGAIL SHEPHEARD-WALWYN

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“I can’t believe you.” He was definitely in hot water now, and his mom sounded fumed. “You would let the rest of the colony starve as long as you had enough food to survive.”

That was definitely not how Anthony had planned for the situation to go, but looking back at it from his mom’s shoes, it did sound pretty bad. He just sucked up the pain as his mom dragged him to his room with his antenna. He had only just realized how terrible what he had done was.

“You are going to stay here until dinner,” his mother decided, “and if I see you outside of your room, you’ll be staying in the Bunker overnight.”

Anthony couldn’t help but gulp. The Bunker was where the bodies of the dead ants were kept, and it was also where everyone would go in the winter. It was at least another foot underground, and there was no light whatsoever. It smelled terrible, and it was freezing.

“Okay, okay, jeez.” Anthony was very upset with his mother for threatening him with something like that. He made sure that he didn’t go out of his room for the rest of the night, though.

***

Anthony woke up, and somehow, he had ended up in the hallway. He tried to scramble back into his room, but his mom’s eyes just moved so fast. 

“Anthony!,” his mother sounded outraged, “you know that you are going to be sleeping in the Bunker now, right?”

“Nooo, please! I don’t even know how I got here!” Anthony searched his mind for who could possibly have taken him out of his room.

“Oh, yeah? You don’t know how you opened the door of your room, and made your way right next to the door of the stash?”

Anthony took a moment to realize where he was, and sure enough, the door to the stash was sitting right in front of him.

“You are in so much trouble! How could you actually still go and try to get food from the stash when I told you what the consequences were?”

“Okay boomer, let’s take a step back here, got it?” Anthony was trying to say anything that would take his mom’s mind off the Bunker. “Do you really think that I would go to the stash after being threatened with that death pit? No! Someone obviously took me out of my room and put me in here.”

The look on his mom’s face was so vile, so disgusting, that he had to turn around so that he wouldn’t embrace the anger that was coming from it. The dirty walls of the tunnel seemed to close in as his mom started to chew him out.

“Yes, I do think that, and just because you called me ‘boomer’ you are going into the Bunker right now, and staying there until tomorrow.” Anthony’s mom was definitely not handing out second chances this time. 

Anthony was screaming as she dragged him down the soil-covered hallway by his antenna. He couldn’t contain himself. He passed his brother, who had a smirk on his face. It was probably he who took him to the stash.

“I hate you so much,” Anthony muttered as they passed his brother’s room.

The two of them reached the Bunker. Its terrible smell reeked even from outside of it, and there was a chill coming from inside the door.

“Now, I’m going to lock you in here so that you can’t get out,” his mother said. There was no pity on her face in any form.

The door slammed shut, and the smell took hold of him. His nose sniffed out moldy bread, probably from last winter. 

The place was cold and smelly. Honestly, it was worse than his room, which was also terrible. Anthony took a look around the Bunker. He couldn’t see much, but there was definitely a hole just sitting on the other side of the room, etched into the wall.

There was a faint but definite rumbling sound coming from the hole. It was pretty scary, but Anthony just decided to suck it up and see what was going on. 

“Hoo boy!” Anthony wasn’t really trusting himself for making these decisions, but he still took three more steps closer to the hole, and said, “Hello? Anybody in there?”

Anthony was quite satisfied when there was no response. He settled in a corner of the musty room and tried to think of something to do, because if he were keeping track of the time correctly, it wasn’t even past noon yet. 

***

Anthony woke after an afternoon nap to the sound of rumbling coming from the hole. The rumbling kept getting louder and louder, and then a little face poked out.

 The little face was definitely bigger than Anthony, but it was too small for the animal’s size, or at least Anthony thought that it was an animal.

“Hi,” the thing said, “who are you?”

Anthony jumped something like 10 ant feet from the animal, and responded what could be thought of rather rudely. 

“Well, my question is, What are you?” Anthony shivered as he said this. It was a creepy creature, with a strange-looking face and long, sharp claws. 

“I’m a mole! I have been storing food down here! Wanna see?” the thing replied, very calmly.

“Um, okay.” Anthony did not feel very secure about this, but he followed the mole into the hole. What he found was amazing. There was a huge pile of food, either dropped by the big feet up above, or crumbs dropped by the flying birds. It was truly amazing. 

“Hey, are there any other of you guys?” Anthony had an idea pop into his head.

“Nope. It’s just me,” said the mole. “Why do you ask?”

A smile stretched across Anthony’s ant face. The idea was a good one. With all this food, he was sure that the mole wouldn’t mind lending some food to the ant colony, and maybe then Anthony would be able to go back to his room and be completely off his punishment.

“So, I noticed that you have a ton of food. Would you mind giving the ant colony just a small portion of it?” Anthony asked in his most sincere voice.

“Yeah! This is where you guys stay in the winter, isn’t it?” the mole said.

“Wow! How’d you know that?” Anthony was surprised.

“Well, I will stay around here to get ready for when I give birth, in about two days. That’s why I have so much food! For my babies that will come soon.” That sentence was all it took. Anthony immediately felt guilty. He had been so selfish! 

“You know, I don’t think I’ll be needing that food. I think I have a better idea!” Anthony smiled, but with a different heart this time.

***

“Okay, everyone! Say happy birthday!” A lot had happened since Anthony had left the Bunker. Now, the mole, who turned out to be named Emily, had just given birth, and they were currently giving the two babies a birthday celebration.

The idea that Anthony had thought up almost a month before had been to help Emily feed her babies, by sharing all the food among everyone, including her. She was able to give birth and feed her babies what they needed to be fed. Anthony’s personality had really changed that week, and it really seemed to have paid off.