Coming of Age Inspirational Sad

The world has a way of taking a peaceful life and bringing into it storms of turbulence. Skies once clear and cloudless overtaken by a dark overcast of depression. Rains of doubt and winds of worthlessness screaming down until they destroy everything in their wake.

Every feeling of hope and every ray of sunshine blotted out by a thunderstorm of the worst life has to offer.

When I was eight, that was before the clouds started to roll in on the horizon. When I was eight, I had a toy astronaut. He had a shiny, silver suit and a space mask. His name was Rambo. I loved watching that old movie with my friends.

Rambo was amazing. I had him go on adventures to the moon, fight space aliens, and save the world from a deadly virus from Mars. Rambo did it all and still came back unscathed (most of the time, there were a few occasions where the rubber of his suit tore or the plastic on his arms chipped, but hey, what was a warrior without a few battle scars?)

One day, at dinner, while Dad was reading his newspaper and Mom was dishing out a second helping of pot roast, I made a grand announcement. 

“Mom, Dad?” I declared, practically boiling with excitement. I held Rambo tight to my chest. “When I grow up, I’m gonna be an astronaut.”

Mom looked up from spooning out the roast into my bowl. 

She scowled. “Dash. Don’t be ridiculous. You won’t be an astronaut.” 

My heart sank. I peeked at Dad. He was clicking his tongue and shaking his head in bitter disappointment. 

“Why..." I swallowed hard. Rambo was pressed to my heart. “Why not?”

“Because that’s an unrealistic dream.” My mom grunted. “Only the elite get to be astronauts. And,” she scoffed, waving her spoon to indicate our dining room. It was about the size of a small bedroom. With low-hanging ceilings and yellowing walls. “We are not the elite.”

“With your grades,” my dad added. “We’ll be lucky if you can even make it through high school in one piece!” He rolled up his newspaper and tapped my arm. “Eat your supper, boy. Stop talking fool’s talk.”

My lip trembling and my eyes filled with tears, I shakily picked up my spoon and forced myself to eat every last bite of that tasteless cold dinner. 

Afterwards, I went up to my room. I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at Rambo. He didn’t seem like a hero anymore.

Just a hunk of plastic.

A toy I’d dreamed into something special. 

Tears streamed down my face. I glared at Rambo, like he was the enemy.

“Worthless.” I whispered. “Worthless dream..."

I stood up and flung Rambo across the room. He hit the wall and slid down behind my dresser. 


My parents were right about me. I didn’t make it through high school. The work was just too hard, and my heart wasn’t in it. 

I wasn’t smart enough to amount to anything, so what was the point of trying?

I dropped out a few months into my senior year. My little sister, who’d been born my freshman year, was four then. 

Madi was the joy of my life. I’d rather be with her than anyone else in the world. She was a cute kid, with a button nose and golden, fluffy hair with big brown eyes that made her look like a happy golden retriever. 

Madi reminded me of... me. Me back when the world was still all sunshine and rainbows. Me back when I still had hope in my future.

Before I became a high school dropout living in his parents basement. Ignored and locked away like an animal. A ghost lurking in the darkness. Best to forget about and never speak of, lest people judge you for keeping it.

Madi was the only one who came down those rickety basement stairs to see me. She would bring her dolls and her stuffed animals, and I would play with her.

Some of the games we played seemed insane. One time, she had us playing zombie apocalypse, where only two dogs, Bark and Fluffy, were left to save humanity from the virus. I laughed when she first told me the premises of the make-believe game.

“Why are you laughing, Dash?” The four-year-old asked me, blinking her wide, innocent eyes. 

I smiled. “Well, I’m laughing cause something like two dogs saving humanity is..." I trailed off, my heart thudding painfully in my chest. Madi’s sweet eyes never left my face.

“Is a wonderful idea, sweetheart.” I reached out, ruffling my sister’s fluffy hair. “You’ve got a beautiful imagination, you know that?”

Madi grinned.

“I know!” She chirped. ““Now, listen real carefully, Dash, cause we have to be…Pre… Prec…”


“Yes! Because if we don’t, then the zombies will win!”


Two years after I dropped out, a few days after my twenty-first birthday, the morning started off okay. I woke up. I got dressed. I poured myself a bowl of milk and filled it with fruit loops. I turned on the TV to the news and sat on my couch...and my bed... a mixture of both in one jumbled mess of blankets and throw pillows.

The weather channel was a chaotic mess of flashing red and yellow splotches all over a map of Kansas. The weatherman was practically jumping around in panic, waving his arms around like a stranded man trying to hail down a plane. 

Heavy rain here, and powerful winds there. Chance of tornadoes there, and warnings for anyone in this and that area to evacuate.

I didn’t bat an eye. What did I care? If a tornado came and swept away my house that would be the most exciting thing that has happened to me in years...

It’d be neat to fly, but I guess thinking that is foolish and a dreamer’s mindset, huh, Mom and Dad? I cast a disapproving look at the ceiling above as it creaked and groaned from footsteps on the floor. 

I sighed. I got up and put my dish atop a mountain of them in the sink in my small kitchenette in the corner of the wide basement.

I spent the day playing Xbox with Lance and Danny until I got a call from Walmart about my job application.

Another rejection.

I hung up the phone just as the rain picked up speed outside. I glared out the one window in the basement. Lightning flashed, and thunder roared ominously. 

I heard the door to the basement creak open. Madi flaunted down the stairs, grinning.

“Hey.” I said, swallowing my anger and disappointment. “How was school, rugrat?”

“We got let out early!” Madi told me. She jumped up and sat on the back of my couch. “Because of the storm and the tornado warnings!”

“You are back early, aren’t you?” I looked at my phone. It was 2:30. 


“Well, whatcha wanna do?” I wrapped one arm around my sister’s shoulders. “I’m all yours.”

Madi didn’t leap into an explanation of her newest game idea. Instead, her face was contemplative. She brushed a lock of hair from her eyes and gazed out the window. My own smile slipped, and I kneeled down so I could look my baby sister in the eyes. 

I let my hand cup the side of her face. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? You look like someone just killed your best friend.”

Madi blinked hard.

“Dash?” She breathed, as though she could barely force out the words. “If I tell you a secret, do you promise not to tell anyone? Especially Mommy and Daddy?”

“Sure, well, as long as it’s not anything dangerous.”

“It’s not.” Madi promised. “But it’s special and it’s important, and it’s not something Mom and Dad will like, you know?”

My jaw tightened. An image of my old astronaut figure, Rambo, flickered in my mind. 

“Yeah. I know what you mean.”

“Dash, I wanna be a storm chaser!” Madi’s eyes glowed. “We had a man come to school today. He talked to us about what it was like to be a chaser, and I just knew, in my heart, that that’s what I want to do! When I grow up..." Her little face fell. “But I started to tell mom and she said... that man was a fool and that he was just a burden on hardworking folks like her and Dad. Is she right, Dash? Is wanting to be a storm chaser a dumb dream?”

My stomach clenched. My mouth went dry. I remembered that night, at the table, when all of my dreams were torn apart and ripped to shreds by the merciless sharks that had brought me into the world. 

I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen to Madi. 

“No dream that is important to you is dumb.” I told my sister. “And don’t ever let anyone else tell you what you can be. Madi, if you wanna be a storm chaser, you be a storm chaser. You’ll be the best one in the world; I know that much.”

Madi beamed, gazing at me as though I’d just brought the sun out from behind the clouds to shine just for her.

The six-year-old hopped off the couch and raced to the window. She pressed her face against the glass and took in the storm outside with her body quivering in awe. I came to stand beside her, leaning against the wall and half-closing my eyes. Sparks crackled around gray clouds, and rain shimmered like diamonds as it fell across a violet sky. 

It was a sight to behold.

“I wish I had a camera. A camera like the chaser at school showed us. I’d go out there and get a picture of a real tornado.” Madi spoke so fast her words rolled along with the rumbles of thunder. “So I could put it up on my wall, right behind my bed, and look at it every night and every morning so that I can see my dream.”

My lips curled up as I observed her optimism. “Well, you could print one off the internet.” 

“Yeah." Madi’s shoulders drooped. “But it’s not the same as having one you took with your own camera.”

I nodded slowly, thoughtfully. My eyes never left the storm. 


At 5:00 PM, Mom called Madi upstairs for dinner. When my sister left, I began digging through piles of clothes on the floor and rummaging through my storage space under the stairs. 

I found it lodged between a box of clothes and old stuffed animals. My camera.

I picked up the camera. I tested its buttons and its zoom.

Everything worked as good as the day I’d gotten it. I grabbed a backpack and put my camera inside. I picked up my phone and pulled up a map I'd been studying. A map marked with red splotches.

Before I left, I went over to the couch, to the place where Madi had left one of her stuffed animals, and I placed a carefully written note under the dog’s silk paws.

I left my other gift to my sister, leaning against the toy’s side, where she would be sure to see it. 

I swung the backpack over one shoulder, and I made my way upstairs. I was careful not to make enough noise to alert my family of my presence. I opened the front door, slowly, and stepped outside. A blast of wind struck my face. Rain dribbled down from the gutter above like drool from a dog’s jowls. Goosebumps popped up on my arms. My teeth chattered against the biting cold. Holding an arm in front of my face, I fought my way from the house to my car. 

I got in and started the engine. The old Ram sputtered to life with a shake and a cough. I sat there for a moment. My phone, with the map on the screen, sitting on my thigh. I stared out into the downpour. 

Was I really going to do this?

Madi’s face flashed through my mind at the same time that a flash of lightning lit the sky above. Her smiling mouth and her twinkling eyes. Her imagination in all its beauty; raw and untouched, magical.

Yes. Yes, I was going to do this. I was going to do for my baby sister what my mother and my father had been incapable of doing for me. 

I was going to help her chase her dream. 


Chasing down a tornado is no easy task, even with a map that predicts where one may form. I took back roads through thick woods and then raced down crowded highways before ending up on a deserted roadway cutting through pastureland. My old Ram chugged along, hacking like a dying man. 

It was in the pastureland where I saw it. A thing of true magnificence. An embodiment of destruction.

It dipped down from the sky like an ice cream cone, its tip dancing over the fields. The wind was so powerful that it rocked my car from side to side like a horse on a carousel. 

At first, I couldn’t move. I sat with my hands gripping the steering wheel so tight that it was a wonder I didn’t snap it into pieces. My breath caught in my throat, and my eyes watered with awe.

What a wondrous, terrifying, phenomenon to behold. 

Madi’s drive to study and witness such events as this made perfect sense to me then. Oh, forget what mom and dad said. Anyone who has the guts to chase down beasts of glory like this spinning whirlwind before me was a person worthy of respect.

Shaking, I picked up my camera and slipped from the car. I pressed my body to the hood as the wind beat and battered my weak form. I held up the camera with trembling hands.


I took that picture Madi wanted so badly. I could have left. I could have taken my camera and climbed back in the car, gone home to my cellar and my worthless world. A world so dull in comparison to the one I’d longed for as a child. 


I took another picture. This one was more detailed than the first.


What a dangerous thing I was doing. 


But I didn’t care. How was this for being a responsible and relational adult? Mom and dad would be disgusted. But I didn’t care. I just didn’t care anymore.

Snap! Snap! 

I should have run when I realized that it wasn’t the camera making that grand funnel bigger and bigger, closer and closer. I didn’t though. 

Snap! Snap! Snap!

I didn’t stop taking pictures until that powerful beast of the sky pounced upon me. Because this time, I wasn’t letting anything chase me away from where I wanted to be.


“Madi... Madi, honey. It’s been two weeks. You have to stop pouting and eat something.”

I looked up at my mom. She looked furious, not sad. 

She and Dad hadn’t cried at his funeral. They’d stuck together and whispered. They’d whispered about how devastated they were that their son turned out to be such a wimp. A fool who’d broken their hearts. 

“I’m not hungry.” I whispered, my lip trembling. I pushed my chair away from the table and ran. I started for my room before changing directions and rushing down to the basement.

No one had been down there since that night two weeks ago, when Dash had... gotten caught in the storm. 

The police had come to our house. They’d looked at me with such sorrowful eyes. They told my parents what happened in hushed voices that I hadn’t been able to make out.

They gave Dad a memory card from a camera.

“Somehow,” the cop had told him. “That little drive there made it out in one piece. Your son took photos before... before.” The man cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably. “Thought y'all might wanna hang onto them.” 

I didn’t know what was on the drive at first. But when Dad came stomping out of his study after bringing it in there to check and threw it in the trash can, I knew I had to know. 

I was in a computer class at school. I had a school computer that people in my advanced class brought to and from school. I loaded the drive onto my computer and pulled up the pictures.

Beautiful and deadly, picture after picture, far off and up close, of a twister met my eyes.

I burst into tears. 

Through those tears, I printed the photos and taped every last one behind my bed. Where I wrote on the bottom of each-.


My mind flickering back to the present, I sniffled as I shakily made my way down the stairs. 

This was where my brother had been cast away from the family like an unwanted jacket. An outcast in his own home.

I reached the bottom of the stairs and stood there.

Everywhere I looked. I saw him. This basement to me was him. 

I stumbled my way over to the couch. A couch that we’d sat on together and watched movies or played games for hours and hours. Dash was never too tired for me, never too sad, no matter how bad things got.

I sat down and yelped as something sharp poked at my skin. I jumped up.

There was an action figure lying in a pile on top of one of my stuffed puppies. 

A little astronaut.

I picked it up. It wasn’t one of my toys. 

That was when I saw the paper trapped under my stuffy's paw. 

I grabbed it and held it with my other hand, clutching the astronaut.

This is Rambo. He’s a good and faithful friend. I gave up on him. Don’t you do the same. Chase your dreams, Madi. Believe in yourself. 

Love you, kid.


April 06, 2024 03:41

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Isabel Jewell
02:10 Apr 13, 2024

Wow, this was so emotional, powerful. I loved it -- it never went where I expected and I could relate immesely to your characters! Well done!


C.N. Jung
14:58 Apr 20, 2024

Thank you, Isabel! Dreams hold great significance in our lives, and in this particular story, I aimed to portray the perspective of someone whose dreams were shattered at a young age, and the lasting effects it had on him. However, I also wanted to highlight Dash's compassionate nature through his unwavering love and support for his sister, despite his own struggles. I’m so glad to hear that it turned out a pleasant read! And I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback!


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Darvico Ulmeli
14:49 Apr 07, 2024

You put a tear in my eye. Nicely done.


C.N. Jung
15:21 Apr 12, 2024

I appreciate that, Darvico! Thank you for reading my story and sharing your feedback! 😊


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Mary Bendickson
16:39 Apr 06, 2024

🥹 Dashing...


C.N. Jung
15:25 Apr 12, 2024

Thanks a lot, Mary! I really appreciate you dedicating your time to read my story! 😊 Your clever comment brought a smile to my face, love it!


Mary Bendickson
16:49 Apr 12, 2024

It is really good!


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