2022 Washington Youth Tour Winning Essay

Electric Cooperatives: Building a Brighter Tennessee 

By: Maria Galue Ojeda 

The golden hour sun hit my face through the car window. I felt the warmth of the glass against my forehead and each little bump the car went over. I looked at the nostalgic sights of the endless plains of cattle pastures through the car window.  

"Hey, buddy! We're almost there! Are you excited to see grandma?" dad asked excitedly. I looked up from the window and shrugged. 

"Yeah, I just hope she doesn't smother me," I said sarcastically. Dad chuckled. 

"Oh, you'll be fine. One day, you'll miss her smothering you," He joked. I smiled, shook my head, and put it back on the window.  

A couple minutes later, we arrived at grandma's old ranch house. I got out of the car and grabbed my bag. I looked up at the old house. It cast a shadow onto us as the sun set behind it. It's been in my family for generations and hasn't had many upgrades. 

"Huh, that's weird," dad said. 

"What?" I asked. Dad walked around from the back of the car. 

"Grandma usually has the lights on by now. I hope she's ok," he said. 

"Maybe she's just napping," I said skeptically. My dad nodded and started to head up the creaky stairs. My dad went to knock on the door, but it creaked open. He looked at me concerned and went into the house.  

The vintage interior looked pretty much the same as it always had been. Tidy and clean. The only new thing was a giant mirror that hung above the fireplace between two bookshelves. My dad tried flipping the light switch. Nothing. 

"That's a problem. She really needs to get this fixed. I'm sure our local electric cooperative would do it. They're all about helping the rural community by providing better energy and broadband services," he said. I walked over to the mirror.  

"Didn't she already do something with them. Aren't they the reason she even has cell service here?" I asked, staring into the mirror.  

"Yeah, it's also pretty inexpensive, so I don't see why she wouldn't have someone from there come and check out her house," he said. I studied the mirror intensely, looking at all the edges for imperfections. None, the mirror was flawless. 

"Dad, when did she get this mirror? Has this always been here?" I asked, turning away from the mirror to look at my dad, but he wasn't there. I looked around confused. "Dad? Where did you go?" I shouted. His stuff was still on the ground, but he had vanished. I looked back at the mirror, and a dark figure appeared behind me. I gasped and whipped around to see if it was there. Nothing. I slowly looked back at the mirror. Nothing. 

"Huh, must've been in my head." 

It was getting darker, and the lights were still off. I turned on my phone flashlight and cautiously walked into the kitchen. I looked around, and something ran past me out of the corner of my eye. I gasped and grabbed a plate to throw, waiting for it to move again. The plate shook in my clammy hands. I took small shallow breaths. Waiting and waiting. Suddenly, I saw movement and threw the plate. It smashed against the wall. Pieces fell to the ground with a small crash, and a rat scurried away from the wreckage. I took a deep sigh of relief and turned around to see the tall, dark figure standing right behind me. I covered my face with my arms and shined the flashlight at it, waiting for my demise, but it didn't come. I looked up and he disappeared. 

"What?" I said confused. Then, I looked at my flashlight and realized that it feared the light. I opened my phone to call the electric company to see if they could turn on the lights, but it only had 5% power. I would also have to turn off the flashlight to call them. "I better make this quick," I said. I turned off the flashlight and dialed the number. 

Thump ... thump ... thump. I heard it come closer. 

Ring ... ring ... ring. My palms were shaking and sweating so much that I almost dropped my phone. 

"Hello, you've reached your local electric cooperative’s emergency hotline. How can I help you today?" the lady on the other line asked.  

"Hello! I need some help! The power at my grandma's house went out, and I don't know what to do. Her address is 111 Sycamore Dr.," I said shakily.  

"Yes, that was reported a while ago. There is already someone out there working on it," she said. I sighed in relief. 

"Oh thank ... " I was cut off when the call suddenly ended. I looked at my dead phone in shock. I held my breath as I looked through the small keyhole in the door. WHOOSH. Something darted past me. I pinned myself up against the wall and shut my eyes, hoping it would end soon, and then, light. Through my shut eyelids, I saw light. I opened both my eyes and the closet door and saw that the house was illuminated by the old light bulbs. I saw my dad and grandma standing confused in the living room and ran up to them, giving them a big hug. Thank God our local electric cooperative fixed the lights so I wouldn't have to fear what roams in the dark. 


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