A teenager with cancer is fighting to make it to her high school graduation:
"At the end of her junior year, the doctors said there was nothing more they could do for Lyndsey. 'Six months to a year,' they told her. She might not even be alive for her family to break the no-applause rule.
"But the principal, Dan Evans, just told her, 'Okay.' They'd get her to June 5 at Tropicana Field.
"And so began a much quieter race to graduation, one that has not announced itself by shrieking in the hallways or picnicking on the campus lawn, but with all of that urgency and more."
PUBLISHED: May 17, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2989 words)
A young woman tries out a bionic hand after losing her fingers and toes:
"Her dad wonders if the financial burden of the bionic hand is worth it. A left hand device won't be considered until that's clear. If the bionic hand's too hard or awkward to use, will it collect dust on her nightstand? 'She's good without it. She's so independent,' he said once in the doctor's office. 'She does it all on her own.'
"Tisa's progress depends on her determination, Bauer, the orthotist, tells them. And she has already come so far."
PUBLISHED: April 14, 2013
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1745 words)
A couple's five-year divorce battle:
"Motion to enforce court orders on sale of property. Motion to modify temporary relief. Amended motion for contempt to enforce order. Motion for protective order and extension of time. Emergency motion to modify temporary primary residence.
"All of these meant Terry and Murielle and their lawyers and their experts would come together in front of the judge, sometimes at a combined cost of $1,250 an hour. She did this, he did that. No, he did this; no, she did that. An endless battle of wills. The pair — through their attorneys — hurled seemingly unrelated and unsubstantiated accusations at each other, all of which entered the permanent public record of the court file.
"Then one day in August 2009 came this: emergency motion for return of the child and to terminate contact."
PUBLISHED: April 3, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6234 words)
Did Joy Hunley give away her daughter, or was the baby taken from her?
"Something happened in July of 1981. It triggered a process at the end of which Joy no longer had custody of her toddler daughter. For more than a quarter century, she convinced herself she had made an awful mistake, had signed something she shouldn't have signed. Over the last few years, though, she had learned new information. She believed she had been the victim of a fraud.
"This was last year, the afternoon of June 26, just before 5. Her attorney brought the records into a small side room and put the papers on the table.
"Somewhere on the consent form in front of her, Joy thought, was going to be the truth — proof of an incomprehensible crime. The other possibility was terrible, too, in its own way — that she had signed it, and had spent more than half her life telling a lie.
"Victim or liar? Wronged or deluded?
"She took another breath.
"She looked at the consent."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 6, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3383 words)
The writer faces the prospect of giving birth to a child at 23 weeks—when the odds are slimmer that the baby will survive, and the family must look for clear answers on what's medically possible to save the child:
"We learned her gender in week 16, cataloged her anatomy in week 20. I scrubbed the baseboards in the spare bedroom and stopped buttoning my jeans. I tried to imagine her as a real child, in my hands and in my life. I drew, in ballpoint pen, her cartoon outline on my skin — with big eyes, a sprout of hair, and an umbilical tether to my navel that made her look like a startled space walker. That was the extent to which I understood her: only in outline, the details waiting to be filled in.
"Suddenly there was blood. Blood on my hands. Blood on a thin cotton hospital gown. Blood in red rivulets and blood in dark clumps. Bright beads of blood on the doctor's blue latex gloves. Blood in such startling quantity we could only imagine there was no life, no baby, not anymore."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 7, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4985 words)
A college marching band's hazing ritual claims the life of a star clarinet player:
"The young man stood at the front of Bus C, his ribs rising and falling with each breath. Before him stood about 20 members of one of the best marching bands in the world, Florida A&M's Marching 100, which had performed for presidents and before a televised Super Bowl audience of 106 million, and now, on a Saturday night last fall, was gathered in the dark inside Bus C, parked behind the Rosen Plaza Hotel off International Drive in Orlando, not far from Pizza Hut and T.G.I. Friday's. The doors of Bus C were closed and the lights were out, and at the rear of the bus sat two panting people who had been beaten about the torso and were now trying to recover. The man was about to vomit and the woman would later tell detectives that she had been hit and kicked until she was unconscious. The young man waiting at the front of the bus was Robert Champion.
"He played the clarinet, played it so well that he had rocketed through the ranks of the band and had been appointed drum major, one of six students who wore white uniforms and carried batons and led the band, high-stepping, onto the field. He was in line to become head drum major the following year, the equivalent to a starting quarterback on a world-famous team of 350."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2664 words)
Hailey and Olivia Scheinman are seven-year-old twins with an unshakeable bond. Olivia was born with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and Hailey spends much of her time raising money for her sister's care, and awareness about families with children who have disabilities:
"It wouldn't be hard to imagine a scenario in which the trajectory of the sisters' lives simply continues to diverge. But something in Hailey has resisted that. She seems determined not to lose her grip on the being to whom she is closest in the world. Her mom thinks that because of Hailey's efforts, the sisters are closer now than ever.
"What makes a good sister?
"Hailey Scheinman doesn't have the answer. She's 7.
"Hailey Scheinman is the answer."
PUBLISHED: July 15, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2357 words)
A former crack addict sues a Florida farm, accusing the owners of modern-day slavery—set up to live in an environment that preyed on his addiction and left him without a paycheck:
"There's something going on in this small town and it might be hard to care because the victims are often homeless black men who live mostly in the shadows. Many have criminal records and sins in their past.
"But many served in the armed forces and lived good lives before they dropped out of society and wound up in bondage.
"Authorities have failed to stop a form of slavery that begins with indebtedness and sometimes doesn't end until a worker is dead.
"And it continues today."
PUBLISHED: May 13, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2451 words)