Writer’s Quill Winning Story!


Katherine Milliken

Made by Katherine Milliken using Canva.

Welcome back to the Writer’s Quill. We have a winning story for our last contest of the school year! Please join me in congratulating Alexandria Wodka, and enjoy her winning story below.

Have a great summer, and don’t forget to check for new contests in the fall!

Jesus is the Reason
Alexandria Wodka (Grade 8)

I grabbed the shovel and continued to scoop the manure up, the foul smell overflowing my senses. How have I not gotten used to the smell yet?

Jean stood next to me, his muscles flexing every time he dumped yet another shovel load of manure into the pile. He looked up, dropping the shovel and wiping the beads of sweat off his face.

“You ok, Hugo?” He rolled up his sleeves, revealing his soft, tanned skin. Jean and I were very different in complexion, even though we were brothers. I had pale skin, blue eyes, and dirty brown hair, whereas Jean had tan skin, dark, capturing brown eyes, and brunette hair. He was not your average French man you could say.

Jean clapped his hands in my face. “Hugo, are you OK?” His eyes looked at me again, suspiciously.

“Yes, I am fine. Just… Thinking.” I rushed to keep up my work, trying to not to make Jean concerned about me, he had enough on his plate.

“Are you thinking of our mother?” I sighed, not wanting to admit that I had been wondering about her.
Jean crossed the barn and sat down next to me on the hay bale. He wiped his hands on his uniform, the striped pattern visible to all.

“Hugo, the more you think about it, the more you will mourn. And the more you mourn, the more the Nazis see that you’re weak, and they will kill you, as they did to mother.” He whispered, attempting to keep quiet so other prisoners didn’t overhear their conversation.

I clenched my jaw. Why did he always speak of mother’s death so nonchalantly? She was our mother for goodness sake!

“Mother was killed in a gas chamber, our mother, and you want me to act strong and just suffer through the pain?” I tried to comprehend Jean’s words, but still didn’t understand where he was coming from.

Jean rested his arms on his knees, his whole ‘strong’ posture lost. He looked vulnerable, which is not something you wanted to be in a concentration camp.

“Can we not talk about this?” he asked, helplessly peering at me.

“Fine.” I said, and I walked off to finish my work. Just forget it, I tried to tell myself.


I sat in the eating hall, silent. Jean and I hadn’t spoken all afternoon, and I didn’t mind. His ignorance was disgusting.

Vincent, a man I had become acquainted with, nudged me.

“Do you know what day it is?” His eager eyes bulged.

I sighed, how would I know? “No, I don’t.”

Vincent raised his eyes, surprised. Why was he surprised? Vincent was a mysterious man. Always whispering words and talking to himself. The camp had obviously gotten to him.

Vincent then leaned in, his breath blowing into my ear. “It’s Good Friday. The day Our Lord was hung on the cross. I have been hearing rumors of a priest who will be saying a mass on Easter Sunday. Would you like to come?” He looked at me, waiting for an answer.

I shook my head. I didn’t really follow the Catholic religion, I knew my father was a part of that church, but when he died, mother didn’t bother with religion. For Easter, mother always took us to the festivities, but we never went to the church to celebrate.

“No, I don’t practice religion.” I kept on eating, ignoring his shock.

“Oh, just come, please. Don’t you want to know why we celebrate Easter? How it’s not all about the bunny, and the chocolates. It’s about Jesus Christ who died for us, and the sins of the world. And then how he resurrected.”

I bit into the bread, its bland taste unsuccessfully pleasing me. How could this man be so neurotic? Jesus? Really?

“Say what you wanna say, but I really don’t get this whole ‘Jesus’ thing.”

Vincent had a smug smile on his face, not believing a word I said.

“Well, just come Sunday, I think your mind will be changed.”


That night, I lay on my pallet and tried to get the old man’s words out of my head. Jesus, a man who died for us. Yeah right.

I looked at Jean, who was wide eyed and staring back at me. He cracked a smile.

“I was waiting for you to notice my eyes on you,” he said, his grin big. I gave an exasperated laugh, and looked at him, his eyes all glossy and red.

“Jean, do you think Jesus is real? Do you think he actually died for us? Who would die for me? I am a jerk.”

Jean smiled, and moved his head to the side so I could see his whole face.

“I do. I think Jesus died for us. And yes, Hugo, he died for you, too. Jesus died so that he could save us from eternal damnation. Papa taught me that.”

I sighed. Maybe I should open my heart more, maybe there is more to the reason for Easter?

“Jean, before Papa died, what do you remember doing on Easter?”

Jean looked up, losing eye contact with me.

“We used to go to all the celebration masses, and mother would also go. I truly miss those days.”

I was shocked. Mother never attended any Sunday services, but she did go for father? Must be true love.

“Jean, the old man, Vincent, told me that they are holding a mass on Sunday, which is Easter Sunday, and he invited me to come. I told him I wasn’t going to go, but maybe you could come with me? It could be nostalgic.” I tried to hold up my nerves, hiding my shaky words.

Jean leaned down, checking to see if anyone would have heard what I said. You never know, anyone could report you to the Nazis, even friends. Mother’s words played in my head, her sweet voice calming my butterflies.

“I would love to go, but is it too dangerous?” Jean’s voice drew my attention back.

“Jean, we can’t live in fear, can we? Papa’s words, not mine.” I didn’t know where I was coming from, I mean, I was always the worrier. But, I really did want to see what mass was all about.

“Well, I guess so. But if it seems too dangerous we aren’t going, alright? I know the Nazis will be more slack considering the holiday, but you never know.”

I smiled, not knowing why, but I did know why, and I still wasn’t so keen on the whole, Jesus dying for us thing, but if Papa believed so strongly that it was true, maybe, just maybe.


It was Easter Sunday, and the camp was humming with conversation and Nazis laughing and drinking.

Jean pulled me down the street, trying to act normal, but still keeping his eyes out for Nazis. We went down a back road, through one barrack and back to the main street where we finally reached the destination.

When we entered the barrack, I looked around. They had arranged the barrack into a church looking set up. Someone had brought candles in and set them on the pallet being used as an altar

Vincent waved to us, motioning for us to join him.

“I am glad you came, boy,” said Vincent, patting my shoulder. I couldn’t help but see that people were starting to kneel. And, I observed that a man had placed a tiny gold box in the center of the so-called ‘altar’.

I then jerked my head to see Jean kneel down, and pull my leg down with him. I toppled to my knees and was about to yell at him when he spoke,

“Hugo, that gold box contains the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus, so show some reverence to him!”

I was baffled. How could Jesus, a man, be in that box?

Jean saw my confusion and further went to explain that we would discuss it later. Thanks for the explanation, I thought.

When the same man who had placed the gold box on the altar proceeded into the barrack, he was clad in a white tablecloth, which, I couldn’t help but giggle at the appearance .

Folks gave me looks, and Jean nudged me.

“Stop that! They are trying to work with what they have. Normally a priest would wear a white vestment, but considering they don’t have one they used a tablecloth.”

I tried to act like I knew what I was doing through the whole start of the mass, but Jean constantly was pulling me up, or down. Plus, the priest was speaking some other language, so that didn’t help.

When it was time for his homily, interpreters were translating it to French. It wasn’t perfect, but I got snippets of it, and it definitely hit deep.

“Jesus took up his death willingly, he didn’t have to follow through. He wanted us to have a chance at heaven. He wanted what was best for us. And, on this day we remember him, and his resurrection. We remember the joy that was held by so many seeing, and having proof, that Jesus is God.”

I sat, trying to digest the words. Jesus is God. All my life, I had always thought of Easter as a celebration, with chocolates and sweets and games. But, the true meaning was that Jesus, the Son of God, died for us, and rose again. Jesus is the reason.