Kristin LaMonaca is a junior at Merion Mercy Academy. She lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and enjoys many different types of art. She is an editor for the art and photography section of her school’s literary magazine, and works with her school’s art department. Kristin also plays guitar and works on sets for plays and musicals as a participating member of her school’s stage crew.


Kristin LaMonaca 3

Kristin LaMonaca is a junior at Merion Mercy Academy. She lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and enjoys many different types of art. She is an editor for the art and photography section of her school’s literary magazine, and works with her school’s art department. Kristin also plays guitar and works on sets for plays and musicals as a participating member of her school’s stage crew.


Kristin LaMonaca 4


Kristin LaMonaca is a junior at Merion Mercy Academy. She lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and enjoys many different types of art. She is an editor for the art and photography section of her school’s literary magazine, and works with her school’s art department. Kristin also plays guitar and works on sets for plays and musicals as a participating member of her school’s stage crew.

Melting Head

Kristin LaMonaca

Kristin LaMonaca is a junior at Merion Mercy Academy. She lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and enjoys many different types of art. She is an editor for the art and photography section of her school’s literary magazine, and works with her school’s art department. Kristin also plays guitar and works on sets for plays and musicals as a participating member of her school’s stage crew.



Ganesh by Paxton Allen, a student enrolled in the Salem County Vocational Technical Schools Visual Arts Academy managed by Appel Farm Arts & Music Center.


V. Gunther

V. Gunther is a sophomore in high school. “To me, art validates that I am not just living life, but that I am alive.” In addition to visual art, she enjoys reading and writing.


unnamed (1)Alyssa Chomo, a student enrolled in the Salem County Vocational Technical Schools Visual Arts Academy managed by Appel Farm Arts & Music Center.



Lia Stiles, a student enrolled in the Salem County Vocational Technical Schools Visual Arts Academy managed by Appel Farm Arts & Music Center.

The Modern Gift of the Magi

Five dollars and eighty-three cents. That was all. And three of those dollars were in nickels. Cents and dollars saved one and four at a time by searching under the cushions and in the hospital kitchen. Five times Cassidy counted it. Five dollars and eighty-three cents. And the next day would be Cassidy and James’s one-year anniversary.

There was clearly nothing to do but to flop down on the hospital bed and scream into a pillow. So naturally, Cassidy did just that, which brings you to the conclusion that the moral reflection of life is full of sobs, storms of rage, and smiles, with the storms predominating.

While the young teenage girl passes through the first stage to the second, take a look around the dreary setting. A hospital room furnished like all the other 245 rooms in the building. It did not exactly have a description of wealth, but who needs luxuries in a patient room?

In the waiting room below, was a nurse who had yet today (and yesterday) let a family visit the poor teenage girl. The mother and father bearing the last name of “O’Leary.”

The name “O’Leary” had never been full of wealth, but the household at one point was close to making the average American income. When their one and only daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia hard times fell upon the family. Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary both had to get two jobs. Then Mr. O’Leary lost his first job. So, Mrs. O’Leary had to get a third job while her husband was looking for another source of income. But whenever Mr. Dean O’Leary came home to his wife, the financial worries were lost in a sea of certainty.

Now Cassidy had a man to call her own, a man named James Abbott. They met in tenth grade and had been dating for almost a year. This was why she needed a gift for her boyfriend. Cassidy finished her tantrum (which the nurses would later scold her for because it was not good for her condition) and wiped her two waterfalls with the back of her hand. Her heavy crying had created red, puffy marks under her eyes. The tears had spilled over her eyes like waves and surfed her face until they reached the sand or the pillow, which was pressed against her sullen face. She moved into a sitting position and looked around her room, which she had resided in for the past few months. Her parents could barely afford the grey wall, which she stared at, the grey tiles the nurses claimed she was not allowed to walk alone on, and the dull grey sheets of her even more grey bed that she had to be in every hour of every day. The only time she was allowed to leave her uncomfortable bed (which gave her a stiff back) was when she was going to another room to get poked at with shiny utensils that reeked of disinfectant spray. The nurses, doctors, and even her parents tried to hide the fact that she was dying. But she knew; it was her body after all.

Her mother and father felt guilty because they could not provide the money to keep her alive. Cassidy felt bad about this, because it really was not their fault.

Cassidy looked to her left and saw the IV that peeked from under her pale skin. Her reflection shined in the metal tube that held the bag. Her eyes were shining brightly, but her face had lost color weeks and weeks ago. Rapidly she looked down at a charm bracelet resting on her wrist.

Now there is one possession that Cassidy was proud of. It was a bracelet that her great grandmother, grandmother, and her mother had sported before it was passed down to her. It was a diamond-encrusted chain with four small charms on it. A charm had been added by each owner, except for Cassidy. Had Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain checked into the room next door, every time she was wheeled to surgery Cass would make sure to dangle her charms just to depreciate Her Majesty’s numerous articles of jewels.

Now James had a possession of his own. His father had given him the extravagant and expensive family ring. James would joke that if Bill Gates were his housemaid, he would drool at the idea of how much money that ring costs.

So now as the dying teen dangled her charms, she knew what she had to do. She faltered for a minute, but she knew the consequences. She picked up her ancient iPhone 3 (which was her first and only phone) and dialed up someone who would take her into town.

Thirty minutes later, James’s mom entered her room. Her parents were working their multiple jobs so they could not come. But Mrs. Abbott would do anything for Cass (who she claimed was her daughter) and going into town was a wish she would grant. The reluctant and skeptical nurses signed Cassidy out but warned her to sit and rest if she felt out of breath. Cass rolled her eyes and promised with little to none enthusiasm.

Cassidy relished the smell of fresh air as she stepped outside. She never feels the direct daylight anymore, but a distorted version shines through the old windows that never seems to cheer her up. She could have jumped for joy at the sight of the sun, but she did not have the energy. In other words, this was the best day ever.

“Cass, dear, where do you want to go first?” asked the older woman.

“A place where I can sell this…” the teenager pulled out the box in which a familiar bracelet was kept.

“Honey! You cannot sell that! You love that thing!”

“I do not care, I have to get something nice for your son. And I do whatever it takes to get something for loved ones!”

When they arrived at the store a dingy sign read “I SELL CASH FOR GOLD”. Cass sighed and opened the door. A middle-aged man sat on a stool behind the glass cage. His hair as greasy as a deep fryer. His eyes flashing with excitement at the box in her hands. Cass summoned all the courage she had in her weak body and walked all the way into the shop.

“Hello, I would like to sell my bracelet,” she stated.

“Well, you came to the right place. Now let me see,” he rubs his hands as she takes it out, “Ah, this is very nice. I will give you four hundred dollars for it.”

“Four hundred? I will take that!” Cass exclaims.

For the next hour or so, Cass enters shop after shop, but cannot find anything for her dear James. James’s mother convinces her to rest before they head to another store. Cassidy stresses that time is running out, but the older woman will not hear it. As they sit on a bench the younger girl wants to cry in frustration. She surveys her surroundings for something to buy. She is losing daylight and she knows it. An adorable toddler waddles by, clinging onto his mother like she is a lifeline. Cassidy watches the child until he passes a store she never saw. There it was, the perfect gift for James. It was a simple but had a quietness and value that was much like her boyfriend. It was perfect. James always complained that his ring was going to fall off when he played a sport but never got around to getting a chain so he could put it around his neck. She had finally found a good chain for him. Upon further inspection, she realized that she could add a message on a thin metal circle that attached to the silver chain. She quickly bought the gift and the two women hurried to the hospital.

The next day James walked eagerly into the room. He surveyed the dull room until he saw the spark that was Cassidy. She looked as radiant as the stars to James. But one thing looked off to him, she was not wearing her bracelet.

“James!” She smiled, “you are here!”

“Hi Cassidy,” he walked over and gave her a hug.

“Open this…” she shoved a velvety purple box at him. James opened the box to find the chain. He knew what it was for and it really was perfect, but his eyes held regret.

“What is there something wrong? Is the engraving wrong? I can return it if you do not want it,” Cass rapidly exclaimed when she saw his face.

“No, it is perfect, thank you,” he smiled, “but I sold my ring to buy you a charm for your bracelet and to…”

“Oh, James! That is super nice and all, but I sold my bracelet to buy you your present.”

James enfolded Cassidy in a tight hug anyway. For ten seconds, they stare at a trivial object that faces the other way. Five dollars and eighty-three cents or a million dollars- what is the difference? A mathematician or genius would give the logical, yet wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This will be explained later.

James handed Cassidy her present and she opened it. It was a beautiful charm that Cassidy had told James she wanted. It was diamond-encrusted heart and on the back was the letters “C+J”.

“This is beautiful,” Cassidy cried, “but I no longer have my bracelet.”

“And your chain you gave me was beautiful, but I no longer have a ring,” James replied, “Cass let’s put our presents away for now and keep them for a while. They are too nice to use at the present. But I have to tell you something.”

“Alright I will save my present. But please tell me!”

“I had extra money from the ring…I am going to pay for your medical bills!”
At this moment Cass bursts into tears. Instead of sobs and storms of rage, smiles are predominating. She was going to be alright. She pulled James into a hug and they cried for a long time.

Years before you, Cass, James, and I were put on the earth, there were three men who brought gifts to baby Jesus in the manger. The three men are known as wise men or the magi. Because of them, the art of exchanging Christmas presents was born. The magi’s gifts were sensible and caring indeed. The point of this story is to retell the modern tale of two children who are in love that most unwisely gave away their greatest possessions for each other’s happiness. But let the most experienced of them hear this. Cass and James are the wisest when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. In every situation, time, place, or hospital room they are the wisest. Cass and James are your modern magi.



Emily Mahaffy is in seventh grade and loves to read. Her favorite book series include Harry Potter and The Mysterious Benedict Society. She also spends most of her free time playing field hockey. She lives with her younger sister in Haddon Heights, NJ.

The Saga of Sir Marcdalf the Valiant Part I: The Math Menace

Once upon a time, in a land that is not as far away as it seems, there was the Kingdom of Cramalot. Cramalot was ruled by King Sinderon the Strong. In the city of Monolinth, the capital of Cramalot, there lived a young squire named Marcdalf. Marcdalf was the squire of Sir Renald Shiningsword, who was a knight of the Octagon Table: a group of seven of King Sinderon’s most trusted knights. “One day,” said Sir Renald as Marcdalf helped him into his armor. “You will become a knight and replace me when I step down from my place at the Octagon Table.” This was an encouraging thought to Marcdalf, but he needed to train in order to become a knight.

One day, as Marcdalf and the other squires were sword training in the castle courtyard, the King himself walked in! With him was a cloaked figure. The squires knelt when they saw the King was present. “You may rise,” said King Sinderon. “I would like to introduce the Math Queen to you. She is a traveler from distant lands, and is here to help further our Kingdom’s technology and knowledge. I was just showing her around. Carry on.”

That evening as Marcdalf was walking home, a strange light glowed from the windows of the tallest tower of the King’s keep.

Over the next month, Marcdalf noticed strange things happening in the city. Some people were getting sick. But this sickness caused numbers and symbols to appear on people’s skin. Marcdalf suspected the Math Queen had something to do with it, but no one believed him. So he took matters into his own hands. He climbed the steps to the tower.

When he reached the top he knocked on the door. No response. “Hello?” Marcdalf called. No answer. He tried the doorknob. It was unlocked. No going back now, thought Marcdalf. He opened the door. It opened with a slight “C-R-E-E-E-A-K…” Before him was a dark room. He drew his sword. In the dim light he could make out bookshelves lining the walls. In the center of the room there was a small table with a book on it. The book was opened, and numbers and symbols seemed to be floating out of it! The source of the sickness! thought Marcdalf.

“Well, well, well, it looks like you have seen too much,” a voice echoed throughout the tower. “We can’t have you telling anyone now, can we?” The Math Queen stepped out of the shadows, sword raised. There was a strange light in her eyes. Marcdalf leapt forward and shut the book! There was a blast that knocked them both to the ground!

As the smoke cleared, two guards walked into the room. “What happened? One of them asked Marcdalf.

“I came to investigate the sickness,” Marcdalf explained. “I think that book may have been the source. I closed it, and there was some sort of explosion.”

“Well, whatever you did worked,” said the other guard. “The sickness has disappeared!” The Math Queen rose to her feet. The strange glow was gone from her eyes. “Now what’s your story?” the guard asked her.

“I opened that book,” she said. “I don’t remember much after that.”

Marcdalf and the Math Queen were summoned by King Sinderon. He held the book before him. It was now bound in chains to ensure it was not opened. “This can only have come from one place,” he said. “The dark land of Math-dor.” He looked up, his face grave. “We are being attacked. We must fight back.”

“One does not simply walk into Math-dor,” said Sir Morgan Freeman, the King’s advisor and knight of the Octagon Table. “That land is filled with fouler things than just equations. They say the very air you breathe is toxic there. The math there does not sleep.”

Suddenly, a cry of: “To arms! The city is being attacked!” was heard. It was a terrible battle. Monsters, whose skin was covered with numbers and symbols, ruthlessly attacked the city. But in the end, the attackers took the city. The survivors had barricaded themselves inside the keep. It seemed all hope was lost. But there was a secret exit that only the King and the Knights of the Octagon Table knew of. King Sinderon approached his throne, pushed a hidden button on its side, and the throne slid away, revealing a staircase into the depths of the city!

Marcdalf walked beside Sir Morgan Freeman down a tunnel lit by torches. “This,” Sir Morgan Freeman said, “is the Chunnel. It was built long ago as an escape route for times of crisis such as this.” Soon, the tunnel ended at a cave in the Foresty Forest. It was here that the survivors set up camp. “There is a way to stop the attacks and reclaim Cramalot,” said Sir Morgan Freeman as they sat by the fire, eating a stew that they had made with ingredients from the forest. Everyone eagerly looked up at him. A gloom seemed to have lifted from the camp. “In this forest,” Sir Morgan Freeman explained, “is an ancient ruin that houses the Sword of Alevan-Fiften, which means “math’s end” in an ancient language. It is said that only the Hero of Cramalot can draw the sword from the stone it is set in. The hero, with this sword, can then defeat the Dark Lord Saxon, who commands the math monsters from the land of Math-dor.”

“Well then,” said King Sinderon, “tomorrow, we will go to this ruin.”

The next day, they trekked to the ruin. And there was the Sword of Alevan-Fiften! One by one the survivors of the attack on Cramalot tried to pull the sword out of the stone, but to no avail. All hope seemed to be lost. Every single person there had tried to pull the sword out, except for one: Marcdalf. He stepped up to the sword. He gripped the handle. His hands were sweating. And then he pulled.

With a sudden “SHWING” it came out! The sunlight glinted off of the gleaming sword. Everyone was amazed. And they were relieved, for the Hero had ended up being one of them! Hope was not lost!

So it was decided that Marcdalf would then set out to Math-dor. With him would go Sir Morgan Freeman, for he was very wise, a great warrior, and knew much about Math-dor. They traveled through plains, into woods, over mountains, and across rivers. Finally they made it to the dark land of Math-dor. It was barren and desolate. But there was a tower in the middle of Math-dor. “That is where the Dark Lord Saxon is,” said Sir Morgan Freeman to Marcdalf. They set off across the land to the tower.

They reached it and climbed to the top. There, was the Dark Lord Saxon himself! He stood, looking over the land, in armor and a dark cloak. In the center of the top of the tower there was a table with a book on it, just like the one in back in Cramalot. “I knew you were coming,” said the Dark Lord Saxon, not turning at first, but he knew they were there. He turned to look at them. “I see the book I planted in Cramalot was useful.” Indeed, when the Math Queen opened the book, Saxon got a hold on her. She really was a nice person after all. The Dark Lord Saxon used confusing math, not basic math.

“You will not defeat us!” shouted Marcdalf, drawing the Sword of Alevan-Fiften. Sir Morgan Freeman drew his sword. Saxon drew his sword as well. They engaged in an epic sword fight on the top of the tower. When Saxon turned his attention to Morgan Freeman, Marcdalf saw his chance. Saxon furiously attacked Morgan Freeman, but the knight blocked each blow. Marcdalf then grabbed the book and cut it in half with the sword! A blast of light shot from the tower. Saxon fell to his knees. He laughed.

“You may have defeated confusing math, but you have not won that easily!” Saxon said. Suddenly, the earth around them began to shake. There was a roar of thunder. Lighting shot down from the sky.

“Oh no!” Marcdalf shouted. “We haven’t only destroyed confusing math, but math itself!” You see, the world needs math.

“There must be some way to restore math!” Sir Morgan Freeman said. Then, Marcdalf saw it: a slot in the table where the book had been. He took the Sword of Alevan-Fiften and slid it into the table!

Somehow, the power of the sword restored math. The world went back to normal.

Later, there was a great ceremony in the King’s keep of the now reclaimed city of Cramalot. Marcdalf knelt before King Sinderon. “Today,” King Sinderon said. “We honor this hero who has saved our kingdom. He traveled far and fought bravely to save the land.” He drew his sword, and as he knighted Marcdalf, he said, “Today, I proclaim him: Sir Marcdalf the Valiant!”

End of Part I

M. G. Sherman is in the seventh grade at Tall Oaks Classical School in Delaware and likes creative writing, drawing and writing song lyrics. He also likes playing piano, running cross-country, and playing video games. He lives with his parents, older brother and rescue dog, Nydia, in Newark, Delaware. Some of his favorite books include The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hunger Game series. He is currently writing three novels and hopes to be a famous author before high school graduation. His disdain for math inspired this creative short story.