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The Great Escape This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Rule #1 of being a teenager: Everything is more exciting if you’re not allowed to do it. Phoebe and I didn’t sneak out to meet boys or do anything against the law, we had no dishonorable intentions that could only be carried out at night. It’s just being able to walk and talk and dance and yell when everything else is asleep, is the most wonderful feeling in the world, or possibly the universe.

At the end of the summer before ninth grade, I spent a week with my friend Phoebe in Virginia. She lives on a back road where there are more chickens than people, and the only lights you can see at night are the fireflies. When I was visiting her we got hit with a heat wave, and her room was the only one in the house without an air conditioner. So we would lie awake late at night, listening to the wheezing central air unit’s throughout the rest of the house. It was a blessed opportunity, we were awake when everyone else was not only asleep, but deafened by the sound of their fans. Phoebe and I crept slowly down the stairs, treading lightly in the old house that groaned at the slightest touch. But when we made it to the front door we were running faster than the devil, our bare feet slapped against the hot pavement, and tripped on the bubbles and cracks the heat had made in the burning day. Most of the time we would go into the field that belonged to her closest neighbor, and lie side by side across the hay bales, or climb a tree and watch the cars whiz past out on route 29. We always made it back by sunrise, because not long after her mom would wake up to maker her morning coffee. She probably wondered why we slept til noon, and why our legs and arms were so covered in bites and scratches we looked like we had been dragged through a bramble patch. But she never mentioned it, and in retrospect I think maybe she didn’t want to ruin our fun.

One night we didn’t want to go to the field, so we came up with a new plan. This time when we got out the screen door we slipped into our flip flops, and walked in the opposite direction of the field, towards civilization. Civilization is also known as the 7/11 a mile and a half away, right on the corner of someplace and the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t much to look at during the day, with weeds coming up through the painted cinder blocks, and the woman who rang you up at the counter had to redo the total because her fake nails got in the way. But the neon sign flickering in the window over the doughnut display, and the buzz of refrigerators, and the smells of stale cigarettes and trans fats when one pulls open the door, were full of mystery and potential in the calm of night time. Phoebe and I browsed the aisles, full of energy drinks, and energy bars, and pork rinds. Eventually we buy a dozen donut holes and a liter of root beer, and the woman who rings us up hits all the right buttons even though her perm is covering most of her face and you could make shish kebabs on her stick-on nails. Before leaving we glanced, only a little nervously, at the trucker stopping for a smoke on the bench outside, but when his cigarette flared bright he only smiles absentmindedly at us in the quick glow of orange.

On my last night at her house, we only made it halfway down the stairs when we get caught. our heartbeats quickened and our palms sweat, it’s the moment before you die when you’re life flashes before your eyes, and I could see it all. My parents were going to find out, I was going to be grounded for so long I was forgotten, and become a social recluse who develops a severe alcohol problem and drops out of school, I would live in my parents basement until I die in a meth lab explosion at 45. In my will, I will have left my entire stash of $13.57, in dimes, to my hairless cat, Mr.Fluffington. But when I turned around on the stairs, it’s Phoebe’s older brother. He put a finger to his lips, and then went down the hall ahead of us, and got in his truck. Phoebe sat shotgun and I got in the bed, and he rolled quietly down the driveway, cringing at every squeak of the tires. When we hit the road we went fast, the wind whipping my hair ‘round my head and whistling through my fingers. I spread my arms out by my sides and Phoebe leaned way out the window, and for hours we just let the sleepy world whip past.

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