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School Years 11 to 13 Category Highly Commended Looking Out the Foggy Window by Christopher McKay

Walt Kleezac was a special man that used to be as strong and brave as superman, he loved to help people no matter the cost. But that was fifty years ago, now he is all alone in his living room on his 83rd birthday in silence. Walt could see the sunrise through the window, but it looked more like a gloomy painting due to a blanket of fog covering the glass.

The intense whistle of the kettle broke the eerie silence, so Mr. Kleezac got himself up, poured his morning tea, and sat down once again sipping his tea in the tranquillity. Walt lives in a remote part of town that used to be full of life and children but now there is not a single soul left. Walt misses the sound of children playing outside, he misses the sound of distant music and he somewhat misses the sound of cars passing by.

Even though Walt has two daughters and a son who all have kids of their own, they were not able to visit him on his special day. Walt would rarely leave the house because the family next door would normally do his shopping but last week, they said their goodbyes to Mr. Kleezac and moved away, leaving him with extraordinarily little food and no form of transport. It was now up to Mr. Kleezac to fend for himself and get himself food. Walt had been dreading this for days, but the time had come to leave the house. Walt prepared himself by changing his old clothes, getting his shoes, and getting his walker, and he was finally ready to leave the comforts of his home.

The closest bus stop was in another pa1i of town, so he knew it was going to be a long walk. As he hiked all you could hear was the thump of his boots hitting the wrecked tarmac and the sound of change rattling in his coat pocket. He walked whilst the surrounding street signs gave him a countdown of how far he had left to walk but he could never see the glowing lights up ahead, but he kept walking.

After what felt like a decade of walking Walt saw something brilliant. A bench! For many people, a bench wouldn't be very special, but for Mr. Kleezac it was astonishing because it told him that he was close to civilization. His legs had swelled up to the size of balloons, so he waddled to the bench and sat on the cold metal bars.

After a while sitting on the bench Mr. Kleezac knew that he had to continue his journey to the shops. He yanked the lamppost as he struggled to get up and he carried on walking. At this point, the sun had risen so the temperature was also rising, beads of sweat ran down Walt's face and even though he had taken off his jacket and put it in his little trolley, it was as if there was a magnifying glass above his head heating him up. By now he had seen more benches, but he refused to sit down as they were as hot as frying pans and Mr. Kleezac did not want to get cooked like a steak. After even more walking he couldn't believe what he saw. It was a human figure, he had seen the finish line, he was relieved, he was proud of himself. But that moment of glory ended when Mr. Kleezac tripped and fell because of a pothole in the damaged road. Walt’s body froze into stone and although there was a lot of pain, his expressions didn't leave his body and his consciousness faded away.

Walt woke up in this white bed, in a white room. He was thinking about how death snatched his body and his soul before anyone else could find him. He let out a sob, then followed by a monstrous wail of sadness. "How could someone have such bad luck" he babbled. "I haven't left my house in months!" his crying was hailed to a halt when he saw three people enter the room. His wails of sadness turned into a howl of happiness as he realized that he was still alive, and he was just in a hospital. He called over the people whom he realized were his children and he embraced them with a strong grip whilst thanking them for coming. Shortly after his grandchildren walked in with a big cake and Walt couldn't be happier. Walt spent the rest of the day in his hospital room celebrating his birthday with his family, and he realized that the best moments happen at the worst times.

Judge Charles Durante’s comments:

“The trials and tribulations of old age are all too common nowadays when the elderly often have to cope on their own. Impaired mobility, lack of inner resources, frequent illness, the feeling of loneliness, the awareness of the proximity of death, all contribute to making the twilight years painful and distressing. Mr Kleezac is old and lives on his own, but he is still keen to venture out on his own, even if it’s with the help of a walker. The trek to the shops starts promisingly, but the weather, the swelling in his legs, the distance which seems unending once he starts the painful journey, all come to a crisis when he falls and loses consciousness. The poor man thinks he is dead, only to wake up in a hospital bed. What could have been a tragic ending is transformed into a joyous occasion when his family visit and he has a truly happy birthday! This is a story with no hidden meaning or moral-an old man, despondent and crestfallen, has a moment of great joy and celebration with his beloved family.”

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