Paly Literary Shorts on “Inspiration”

Check out these literary shorts written by Paly students about a person or action that inspires them.


Oma, I called her. Grandma in german. When she laughed, she grabbed a nearby table or the chair she was propped up on while her body quaked and tears burst from her eyes. 

“Sei doch mal ruhig,” she would scold my grandpa: “Be quiet.”

She was weak when she died, her body giving out after almost a decade of kidney and heart failures, but I remember her for her strength. I admire her for shamelessly expressing her thoughts and emotions and for enduring such a tedious battle against death. 

The funeral took place in the sanctuary of my church, a room of a warm but vibrant hue of gold. As I grasped a microphone with my younger sister next to me, tears spilled down our faces, and “The Prayer” by David Foster spilled out of our throats. The lyrics spoke a prayer to God but I spoke to Oma. My emotions flowed freely down my cheeks and my voice cracked, while I harnessed the resilience I had observed in Oma and let the lyrics portray my pain. 

After the service, Oma’s family and friends hugged me because I had been open with them, a superpower that lives within me despite my beloved grandmother’s passing.

– Stella Essenmacher, senior


The time I took the Advanced Level CM piano exam was something that I would probably remember for a long time. 

“You must take theory on Friday. Then on Saturday, record and upload your three pieces,” my piano teacher, Dina, told me. 

I sighed. “When is it due?” I asked with a slight feeling of dread. 

“This Sunday.” She answered. 

“No way.” I exclaimed. 

“But you should finish everything by Saturday,” my teacher told me. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the past, the theory exam was held at a church in Cupertino. Kids would take the test there and it would take about two to three hours. I remember going there every year since second grade. But this year, because of COVID, the test would be online. 

Since the test had 100 problems, I was worried I would end up spending too much time on it. 

“One of my level 8 students said it took shorter than three hours and it was easier because it was online.” Dina reassured me. “After CM, you will graduate from…my piano lessons.” 

I must have looked crestfallen, because she then told me I could continue my lessons if I wished. I grinned hesitantly. 

After piano class, I ate a quick dinner, too nervous to have much of an appetite. When I was ready, I started the theory test. 

Like my teacher said, it was not hard. I breezed right through it. The ear training section at the end was easy as well. Then after I checked all my answers, I submitted my final CM exam.

Now that there were no more CM tests, I wasn’t sure what to do about my piano career. The only thing I knew was that I was going to keep playing.

– Michelle Pan, sophomore

Rachimoff’s Rhapsody of Paganini still remains Michelle Pan’s favorite and most impactful piece due to its complex beautiful structure.


My breath was ragged. My insides, filled with seawater. From horizon to horizon it was all that was visible. Not a single soul knew where I was or that I needed help. I had never felt so alone. So insignificant. 

A wave crashed against my back. The log I spent hours clinging onto slipped out of my reach. The water drowned me, submerged me. My whole world was a blur of blues and greens, and then black. 

The water stung my eyes, but still I was alive, with nowhere to go. With every stroke upwards, the weight of water countered me, as it was an opponent with a goal only to keep me down. But still I pushed on. I couldn’t succumb to the darkness. I had so much more I wanted to see. So much more I needed to say and do. 

I thought of my mother who stayed up late at night, preparing the house for the next day. I thought of my father who worked long at the office to support our family. And finally, I thought of my sweet little brother who could light up my days even when I thought a storm similar to this one was drowning me. 

Somewhere in the distance there were sirens. At first I thought it was all in my head, but the sound got louder, and the water was illuminated by flashes of red and blue.light. 

I ignored the numbness that spread throughout my body. I refused to leave Earth like this. With one movement, I thrusted myself out of the water. I had never felt so relieved to breathe simple air. 

“Hope,” I whispered. 

The cloud seemed to part just a bit. Behind was a corner of the Sun, shining its beautiful rays onto me. There was someone looking over me. A higher power that my new time to go was not yet. Until that day came, I would keep living and remember to hope and dream.

– Megha Madhabhushi, sophomore


I watched with Jane as The Boys played their daily game of Survivor during lunch. There was nothing more I wanted to do than run around, pushing each other, alongside them. Dylan swung across the monkey bars, desperately trying to escape Ian who had finally spotted him. Jane and I walked up to him, tapping him on the shoulder to ask if we could join in their game. 

“No, you’re both girls. You can’t play Survivor. Go play fairies or something.” 

My eyes widened. “We are here to play Survivor. You cannot just exclude us just because we’re girls. It’s stupid!” I scoffed

“Well I doubt you could even keep up,” he retorted. He stood up and took a step towards me. “You’re just a weak, pathetic girl.” 

I could feel the blood in my veins burning with rage as he emphasizes each syllable in every word. My hands flew up to his shoulders. Before I knew it, I had pushed Ian onto the rubbery floor.

He could not talk to me or Jane like that!

“What the heck?!” he responded, eyeing something behind me. 

I turned to see the Yard Duty power walking her way over. Her eyes seemed fixated on me of all people.

“What do you think you’re doing young lady? You cannot push people!” she snapped. 

I attempted a response but was cut off before I even got the one word out.

“Go! I do not want to see you with these boys for the rest of today!” 

Ian, Dylan, and the rest of The Boys were all smirking. 

Those little brats. 

“C’mon,” Jane said, tugging at my arm. “It’s ok. We can play pirate ship instead.” 

I stormed off with my head held high and Jane at my side. Just because someone put an end to one of my adventures, doesn’t mean I couldn’t continue on in a different journey. Just as long as each of those adventures were with Jane.

– Jules Irulegui, sophomore