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Caged In Acrylic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I am trapped in a funnel-shaped passage that is rapidly becoming too narrow for my girth. I wander aimlessly down the tunnel, curiously inspecting the geologic formations, failing to notice that the ceiling travels a descending path. Finally, my bare knees acquaint themselves with the harsh and unforgiving floor, but the pain is merely a nuisance to my stimulated curiosity. I foolishly squirm upon my stomach, ever advancing toward an unidentifiable goal until the pressure of the ceiling halts my movement. I think Oh well! That was a pleasant little adventure with nothing to show for my efforts save two scraped knees and particularly moist armpits and I desire to recoil from the funnel's point. But alas, I am securely trapped, and therein lies my terror. The walls are reaching out with malicious talons, clawing and scratching my helpless body until the pain forces me into a state of paralysis. Of course, the walls are inanimate, but to my writhing and ultimately self-destructive thrashings, the rocks are torturously plucking out each individual leg hair. I don't deal well with being physically restrained.

I woke up with clenched muscles and a rigid body to balance my phobia on. And so, with the bothersome nightmare fresh in my head (no visions of sugar plums dancing anywhere) and my thoughts completely preoccupied, my mother (who remains ignorant to this recurring nightmare, mainly because I fear a mandated psychiatric evaluation) and I voyaged to the newly erected shopping mall about an hour from our home. Following my mother's theory on how to save time searching for an ideal parking spot, we parked a million miles from the nearest entrance; I don't think the mall was even in sight.

The trek across the concrete tundra was a haven of merriment, especially with the summer sun high overhead.

When we finally breached the wall of teenage angst and infiltrated the loiterers' defense, a virtual orchard of forbidden fruit seemed to be haphazardly scattered about the mall. Vendors to the right and left, as far as the eye could see, three spacious levels of pure euphoria. Rather unfortunately (as you'll see later) I spotted a trendy men's fashion boutique, and squealed an exclamation of untainted joy. I'm sure my mother paled a few shades when she heard the familiar squeal and traced my line of sight to the palace of style. With an audible sigh and an obvious effort to overcome inertia, my mom followed me into the store.

Almost immediately, the adrenaline still pounding in my head, I spotted a form-fitting, stylish men's turtleneck, and decided to throw it on. It was a dark navy blue (a particular shade that gives me chills to this day) and in my opinion, simply wonderful. I was so excited about this potential alteration in my fashion, that I tried it on right at the rack, in view of the whole store. I'm not a small, but that's the size I chose because I wanted the turtleneck to be tight. What happened next turned out to be one of the biggest embarrassments of my life. I struggled valiantly to squeeze into the diminutive shirt, and after a few minutes of pulling and stretching, prodding and tugging, I finally pulled it onto my shoulders. I looked in the mirror, turned a little to the left, puffed out my chest like an inflatable doll, and decided it was the most horrible, awful, loathsome shirt I had ever worn. I looked as if I was an extra in a classic 1970's disco film. John Travolta would have envied my style. My arms were suspended at an unnatural angle as a result of the armpit stitching being too tight, and I appeared as swollen as an over-cooked sausage link. Under normal circumstances, my well of humor would have overflowed in a splash of genuine laughter, but pins and needles had begun their determined assault on my arms, and suddenly there was nothing funny about my predicament.

My attempt to follow the normal extraction procedure of an arm was futile. I might as well have attempted neurosurgery. Without warning, my nightmare had become a reality, I was stuck. The restrictiveness of the shirt initiated an unpleasant deja-vu of physical restraint that recklessly galloped into my mind. The scratchy fibers of the turtleneck became shards of the blackest obsidian and the tight collar was a strangler's cord. I had apprehensions of the fire department having to rush to my aid and use the Jaws of Life to liberate me from my fibrous prison. I started to sweat uncontrollably, and figured that even if I did escape my seemingly imminent demise, the store manager would insist on my purchasing the demon shirt for sanitary precautions.

My mom began the tugging act when she realized that I was legitimately stuck, and her violent actions captivated the attention of an employee. Pretty soon, she too was pulling at the shirt. My torso had become the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner. I was scared, sweaty, and embarrassed, I wanted to crawl into a corner, huddle into the fetal position, and tuck my head behind the shield of my knees. My world would become a different dimension, a dimension absent of navy blue tight turtlenecks, and I would revel in it.

Finally, and it certainly felt like an eternity, I was freed from my prison by the dexterous fingers of my loving mother. She planned my escape with a devious mind, then executed the "double-arm-over-the-head" removal with tact and skill previously unwitnessed. I made a solemn vow never to say another disrespectful thing to my mom. She, the angel who released me from my nightmare, will have my gratitude forever.

I am strolling down a passage, deep into the labyrinth beneath the earth's crust . My voice is lifted in sweet melody and my steps are high enough to impress even the Rockettes. Suddenly, with unforeseen abruptness, my good spirits are pummeled by club-wielding miscreants. A gaping pit forms in my belly and I am scared. I quickly flash my beam about the tunnel and gasp m horror as it discovers a familiar funnel-shaped obstruction. Retreat, retreat!! There's no way we can fit through there! my mind screams to my extremities. I ignore my mind's irrationality and battle my limbs back into compliance. Calmly, I pull forth a red cylinder that's tucked into my belt, and feel as if I've unsheathed a sword. I light a match, frightening the bats with the bonfire in my eyes, and touch it to the cord which protrudes from my friend. A smile flickers across my face, visible in the sparking brilliance of my fuse, and I am freed as my phobia is blasted to dust. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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