Senior Reid Corless Earns National Silver Key Award For Writing

Each year, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, along with more than 100 visual and literary arts organizations across the country, accept submissions from teens in grades 7-12 for their Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Hundreds of thousands of writing submissions across 11 categories are judged based on originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice. Regional winners receive a Gold Key and move on to the national competition. Roxbury Latin senior, Reid Corless—after earning a Gold Key in the regional competition—went on to win a Silver Key at the national level for his writing submission. (Reid’s award-winning piece is included below, in full.)

Three other RL students found success in this year’s Scholastic Regional competition: Andrew Zhang (I) earned two Silver Keys for his writing and two Honorable Mentions for his art; Ethan Phan (II) won a Silver Key in Writing; and Daniel Berk (II) earned an Honorable Mention for his writing, as well. While several talented Roxbury Latin students earn regional honors for their art and writing in the Scholastic competition each year, Reid’s National Silver Key represents the highest award an RL student has won in the competition in recent history.


By Reid Corless

In a sandy parking lot a few yards from the Atlantic sits the Beachcomber, the popular restaurant bar where I, along with a collection of college kids trying to save up some beer money, work in the kitchen. The days are long, hot, and soul crushing; working perilously close to the fryers and open grill makes the August heat exponentially worse. I often forget to put a burger on the grill while trying to catch the eyes of a beautiful group of girls wearing bridesmaid attire. Coming to the Beachcomber would be fun for a bachelorette party, they all thought, not anticipating the unsettling stare-down from the desperate grill guy. We don’t come back every year for the twelve hour days, the never ending shrieking of the ticket machine, or even the delusional hope of a personal relationship with a bachelorette. We come back for Saturday nights. 

On Saturdays the restaurant closes early to get the day drunks out so that the band can set up for the night. This means that we get off early, to set up for our night. After I finish scrubbing the solidified grease off the grill, I am free to go. I walk out of the back door, and head to the backhouse: a shack in the middle of the sandy parking lot that my best friends call home for the summer. Chris, Brian, and Paul knew each other from high school, and the college kids decided to rekindle their friendship through tireless work and shared sleeping quarters. I don’t think they anticipated befriending an innocent seventeen year old along the way. Without knocking, I push the old door open. It is simple living in the backhouse. There is one main room with a craigslist leather couch and a TV propped up by two stools. I spend more nights sleeping on that coach than at home. There’s a stained fridge that contains spoiled milk and Busch Light from the local liquor store. The floor is always sandy and covered in unclaimed flip flops and t-shirts. There’s a bathroom where the toilet rocks from side to side like a boat on the open sea and a sink that hasn’t worked in years. There are two bedrooms for the three of them with doors that never stay closed. 

I’ve become a regular at the backhouse, like your bachelor uncle that sleeps in the guest room. When you spend all your time with the same people, you start to notice the little things. The sink is always scattered with squeezed lime quarters; Chris thinks lime juice gives his orange hair a hint of blonde. If you hear The Band’s Greatest Hits echoing through the parking lot, Brian is taking an outdoor shower underneath the summer stars. Paul is clean shaven every Saturday night; he thinks it gives him the boost of confidence he needs. I’m sure they notice the little things I do, but it’s not really something you talk about.

 I borrow Chris’ towel and go to take an outdoor shower. The smell of fried fish and grease can serve me no good now. The sand eroded wooden shower closes with a hook and eye latch. There are about ten different shampoo bottles along a wooden shelf, all half empty, but no soap. As I wait for the water to heat up, I can hear the murmurings of a family packing up the car from across the fence that acts as a border between home and parking lot. I can hear a man, a woman, and two little children. Their voices have the slight aggravation that people get from being in the sun all day. The cheap metal of beach chairs clank together as they are thrown into the back of the car.  I like to imagine that they are husband and wife who love each other, quietly – not the same passionate fire that burned before the kids and the mortgage. The father works a couple extra shifts to save up for a week long beach vacation for his family. The kids will not know the sacrifices their parents made for them until dad can’t make it down to the beach anymore. A mind likes to wander in rare moments of solitude, like a stint in an outdoor shower.

In front of the backhouse there are wooden pallets stacked up like cans of preservatives in a bomb shelter. When a US Foods delivery truck comes, the lot boys ask for the wooden pallets on the truck used to transfer the food. The truck drivers don’t care why we want them, as long as they don’t have to worry about the now useless palettes in their trucks. The palettes are saved all week inside the fence of the backhouse for this fateful night. The four of us carry them over our shoulders to the edge of the parking lot, beyond which lays the beach.  The palettes look like children cartwheeling as they roll down the sandy dunes towards the beach. Sometimes yours doesn’t make it all the way to the bottom – you have to slide down the dune on your stomach to your failed attempt, and push it the rest of the way down. When you climb back up you can see your friends laughing at your expense from the top of the dune. 

We get the bonfire started, and it does not take long for some curious bar goers to make their way down the dune to investigate. Soon the guys and girls from work make their way to the beach after going home to clean up. The crowd is always a mix of drunk locals, drunk tourists, and people from work. It’s hard to imagine a place where this group would gather otherwise; everyone likes fires. The tourists are always so enthralled by the simplicity and the beauty of the beaches of Cape Cod. It’s funny to think that our regular Saturday bonfires might be the high points of countless vacations, perhaps a novelty, a good story to tell the folks back home. 

The missed orders, dropped plates, or inter-kitchen feuds don’t seem to matter as much when flaming palettes warm you from the chill of night ocean breeze. But sometimes a thought creeps into my mind that is hard to push away. The day when I will look back on these nights, with eyes a little sadder and memory a little more foggy, is coming faster than I’d like. These nights will become distant stories, and we will be somebody’s mom or dad, loading beach chairs into the back of the car. That day is not today, however. Today, I am sitting next to my best friends with sandy jeans and empty pockets. Today, I am looking across the fire, and I can see her eyes through the flickering of the flames and see a sly smile across her face. Today, I get up and walk to the other side of the fire.