The short story, "Harder than Corundum," takes place against the backdrop of the Chernobyl disaster and is told through the eyes of a search and rescue German Shepherd. The author, Brynn Cochran, is 12-years-old.
The sixth grader at Palmer Middle School recently took home first place in her grade level in the Georgia Young Authors' Writing Competition. She won top honors at the Cobb County School District Writing Fair and then advanced to the State competition where she also placed first.
Brynn said she enjoys studying Social Studies and Science, and that she gained inspiration for her story while in school. At the time, her class was learning about the history of the Chernobyl disaster.
"We were learning about that in Social Studies, and I loved just learning about that," she said.
Brynn said she's always loved to write and that she gained encouragement from her Advanced Content Language Arts teacher, Terra Mahre.
"It was actually just a writing assignment we were doing. I had no idea what we were writing down. I didn’t know it was that good,” she said.
But Mahre, a teacher for the past 18 years, took note of Brynn's talents during class.
"She is really a prolific writer, and she edits her work," said Mahre. "The first story just caught my eye because it brought tears to my eyes as I read it."
"She really does like to write," she said, noting that Brynn likes reading and writing stories about animals and historical fiction. Brynn's story, "Harder than Corundum," combines the two genres in the poignant tale of a rescue dog's final mission.
Mahre said writing is an important skill for students to grasp.
"The students have to know how to express themselves, and no matter what career they go into, they really need to know how to use the English language to their benefit," she said. "Whether it’s writing for their own pleasure in their own journal or a story, they really need to know how to express themselves properly."
Brynn also acknowledged her father for encouraging her pursuit of writing. While she said she's still too young to make any definitive career choices, a career in writing is among her top choices.
"My dad told me sometimes your career finds you," she said."I’m kind of thinking that when I grow up, I just may be a writer."
Brynn will be honored on May 23 during a Georgia Department of Education reception acknowledging Excellence in Student Achievement, hosted by State School Superintendent John Barge.
Below, we have printed Brynn's first place story, "Harder Than Corundum," for your reading pleasure.
Harder than Corundum
By Brynn Cochran
“Next,” the ticket man called.
I walked up to the white and glossy large ticket counter to the train.
“Corundum, the black German Shepherd,” I said, putting my paws on the sparking counter.
“Corundum, the German Shepherd? The one who saved all those lives? Everyone says you should have stayed on Earth. We can’t believe you died,” the ticket man said as he wrote something down on a gold sheet on paper, “The train doesn’t leave till two. Can I hear your story?”
“Sure. I’m a black German Shepherd trained to sniff out human bodies, dead or alive. Sadly, I died on my 10th mission at Chernobyl. This is how I became a hero…….”
“Come on girl! Let’s go save some lives!” Rick, my owner, said.
I jumped up on him. I loved saving lives!
Rick clipped the leash to my spiky, black collar. He led me out of kennel where other soldiers and their dogs waited too. We lined side by side where we were waiting for “Sir” to come out.
Sir was the leader of all the people who looked like Rick. Sometimes, I could tell Rick hated him. He had been mean to all of us, making us work all day long lately.
“Men and dogs, you have been part of this group for…….” Sir said.
I wasn’t listening. I was daydreaming about my tenth mission. How I would be the best dog ever and I would get a medal and…….
My thoughts were interrupted by Sir saying, “Good luck to all of you good men.”
Sir patted all the soldiers’ shoulders and gave me and the other dogs a treat. It tasted like bacon.
Then, he pointed to a “chopper”.
A chopper was a big whirly thing that Rick and I would fly in when we would go into far away missions. It was almost better than a treat!
As Rick and I jumped off the chopper, a man gave me a poky thing in my leg. Just as he moved to the next dog, I fell into the darkness of dreams……
When I woke up, we were at a place that smelled like fire and radiation. I thought I could smell other people, but where were they? I pushed that thought out of my mind and began to look around.
After Rick and I jumped off the transport, we ran over to a fallen building. Rick gave me the sign to look for humans.
I put my nose to the ground and sniffed around a bit. Then, I could smell something strong. It smelled like human! I sat to show that there was something there.
“She found something!” Rick yelled to the other soldiers.
The soldiers ran over to see what I had found. Rick started to move some stuff, when he found a hand. And the hand was connected to an arm, and that came with a body.
As Rick and the other soldiers helped the man up, I walked over to a place where the smell of radiation was very strong. I wasn’t sure if this place was good or bad, but I walked on.
Suddenly, I started to feel very weak. My legs gave way, and I fell to the hard, black ground.
Then, I heard Rick say, “Corundum, no! You can’t die now!”
I looked up at his dirty face. He was right. I had to get up.
I got up, but my legs felt like jello. I took a step toward Rick, but I moved backwards. Rick held out his hands and started calling for me. I walked heavily toward him. When I got to him, I put my black muzzle into his hands. Rick rubbed my head.
Rick clipped the leash back to my collar and said, “Come on girl. Let’s use these last hours as our own.”
I was still weak, but I ran beside Rick. With every step I took, I felt weaker and weaker. Yet I pushed on. This was going to be the best mission ever.
“Did she find something?” a soldier asked Rick.
“I think so,” Rick said, looking down at me.
I was sitting at his feet with the smell of human in my nose. Rick started digging in the pile that smelled like old gym socks when he found someone.
The man, a worker in the building, came out. He was still alive, but he looked sick. His short brown hair was matted down with sweat, and his eyes had fear in them.
“I’ve been stuck in there for hours,” he said, wiping the sweat off his forehead, “I got trapped in there when it exploded.”
As he stood up, I noticed that he only had one arm. I looked at the one armed man as he walked away with Rick and some other soldiers. The man got in the chopper and left.
“Poor guy,” Rick said as he walked back to me, “Very slim chance of living.”
I felt bad for the one armed man. I hoped he would make it back home.
Then, I started to wonder what happened to the humans who were very sick. Would the vets put them to sleep too?
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an explosion. Rick picked me up and ran out of the way of the explosion. He ran until he panted, and sweat formed on his forehead. I jumped down and stared at Rick as he placed his hands on his knees.
“Man, dog. You need to lose some weight!” Rick said as he panted and petted my head.
I knew I probably did need to lose weight, but I was a German Shepherd. Wasn’t I supposed to weigh a ton?
I looked back at the spot where Rick and I were standing. At that same spot, the ground was burning up with orange flames that were dancing in the wind. If Rick hadn’t picked me up, I would have been killed.
Then, I heard something that sounded like a pop. I hopped to one side, but realized that it came from my body. I fell to the ground again, but this time, I couldn’t get up.
A few minutes later, Rick came running to my side, yelling, “No! Corundum, please get up. Come on!”
I looked into his blue eyes. He knew I was dying and there was nothing he could do about it.
Tears filled his eyes as he hugged me. “Come on girl. Let’s go home.”
Rick picked me up and carried me to a chopper. On the way, he groaned, and I tried to jump down, but Rick held on to me as if he never wanted me to leave this Earth.
When we got to the chopper, Rick carefully put me on a blue blanket. I tried to move, but I was too weak.
Just as the chopper took off, I fell asleep.
When I woke up, vets were everywhere around me, and Rick was in a chair looking at me. I whined for him, but wouldn’t come. I barked. He still wouldn’t budge. Rick just sat there looking at me, and at last, he got up and walked over to me.
“I’m sorry girl.” Rick patted my head. “I shouldn’t have put you through this. Good bye, Corundum.”
Rick got up and walked out of the room. I barked, but he didn’t look back.
A vet pulled me out of my cage and led me over a mat. She pushed me onto the floor and tied something around my head to keep me from biting around my muzzle. I pushed her out of the way, so I could try to get free. But she held me down.
“Hey, Sarah, you can put her back into the cage. I need to talk to you,” a man in a white coat said.
“Okay, I’ll be there in a second,” Sarah said as she let me up.
I pulled myself up and launched toward the door. Sarah pulled me back and yanked me into the cage.
I hit the cage door hoping it would open. I barked again and laid down listened to what the vets were saying.
“Are you sure we should put her down? I think she’ll be fine,” Sarah said.
“If we don’t put her down then she might have to suffer. I think it will be easier now,” the white coat man said.
“Okay, do you want me to let her out of the cage now?” Sarah asked.
“We need to do this,” the white coat man said.
The vets walked over to my cage. Then, I felt a poky thing in my leg. I turned my head to see what they were doing, but Sarah held my head down.
The vets held me down for two minutes then, let up their grip.
“Why isn’t she dead?” Sarah asked.
“She’s a big dog. I think we need to give her one more shot,” the white coat man said.
“Okay,” Sarah said, taking another poky thing off the white counter.
They pulled me out of the cage and set me down on a table. Slowly, Sarah took the poky thing and put it in my leg. I squirmed and tried to get free, but they both held me down.
After the shot, I started to feel tired. I tried to keep my eyes open, but they just kept shutting. I shook my head. No good.
Then, someone I thought I’d never see again walked into the room. There was Rick! He came back to save me!
“Is she gone?” Rick asked, wiping a tear from his eyes.
“She’s a big dog, and we’ve put two shots in her. She is trying to stay alive. She’s such a fighter,” Sarah said.
Panting, whining, and now dying, I got up on my legs. They were bloody and torn, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was Rick. My person.
Eyes watering, legs wobbling, I limped over to Rick. When I got to him, my legs were about to give way. Rick held out his arms and said, “I love you, Corundum.”
At that moment, the shot kicked in and my heart stopped. I stopped breathing in Rick’s warm arms.
“So that’s how you became a hero,” the ticket man said, looking at his watch. “It’s almost two. Here are your tickets.”
“Thanks,” I barked.
Before I left, I looked off into the white clouds and saw Rick. He was visiting my grave and arranging some flowers. My favorite type. He patted the ground and stood up to leave.
“When I get my wings, I’ll come and see you,” I said waving through the clouds.