20. LEFT WITH US – Young Adult Literary


Mentor Name: Dionne McCulloch

Mentee Name: Corey Ryan


Category: Literary

Genre: Young Adult

Word Count: 81,000


Ellery Cole cleans to forget. Scraping brains off walls and sanding blood-soaked floors in the family business helps him forget that day, seven years ago, when a shooter walked into Bear Street Elementary and took 17 lives. Now two fellow survivors want Ellery to join them on a road trip. Forgetting is no longer an option.


I should have been pulling teeth from the wall, instead I was on my hands and knees, running gloved fingers through the carpet and removing pieces of skull, sharp-edged, crimson and white puzzle pieces that once protected someone’s memories, hopes and fears.

I laid a shard in the palm of my hand. What caused this mind to give up and pull the trigger on itself?

If I couldn’t forget Bear Street, one day this could be me: broken pieces of a puzzle.

A black garbage bag next to me held the fragments I had found. All traces of this tragedy, whether I found them or not, would soon disappear. Carpets ripped out. Furniture removed. Only walls stayed because walls could be scraped and painted and made to look as if nothing had ever sprayed across their surfaces.

Teeth became shrapnel when bullets ripped through skulls. Removing teeth from the wall required needle-nose pliers. After removal, a little bit of patchwork using tape over the hole and plaster smoothed the wall back to pristine flatness.

I stood back and surveyed the room. No traces remained of the gore remained that had greeted my parents and I when we turned up for the job. Dressed in our blue suits, breathing through our ventilator masks, we helped people move on. We helped them forget. We cleaned up after suicides, decomposing corpses and crime scenes (never meth labs) and in doing so I was able to forget too.

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