Short Story Competition 2: First Round Is Open for Voting

By Daniel Scocco

Sorry for the small delay. The first round was supposed to go live yesterday, but I had some technical problems on my side. From now on all other rounds will go live on Mondays though.

Thanks for all the readers that sent their stories, too. The participation rate was excellent, with over 90 entries, which tops the 86 entries we had on the last competition.

The Prizes

The competition will be sponsored by WhiteSmoke. It will offer 2 full licenses to the executive edition of its writing software (with a value of $310 each).

Now without further delay, the 8 stories competing on the first round. Vote for your favorite one! (RSS and email subscribers might need to visit the site to see the poll widget).

1. Coronation by Samyuktha PC

The eve overpowers my eyebrows and the frown is getting stronger. Every one seems to be an enemy. Every thing seems to need control. For that, I will get power. I will be Queen, tomorrow. It has been a long wait, for the elections to finish, and world-wide everyone wanted the first Woman Ruler to the United Nations Federation Assembly – The Queen of the World.

Tomorrow, the crown would be placed on my head adorned with only silver, gold, and pearls, for other gems are in scarcity these days. This month had me traveling in Ambassadors, sky-diving in the Grand Canyon, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, and joining the cross country marathon in support of the HIV positive inmates. The campaign has been a tough trial, something I had to stand up to show my worth to the previous ruler, but I have surely born fruit.

My kids are happy, and my husband is sitting with a calm serene look on his face, which I will duly interpret as pride. The news channels have forgotten the blasts in Mumbai, the floods in Tamil Nadu, but find solace in my historical moment. These may be my last free moments of life, where I get to be only myself, within my home and with my family. So, I am avoiding the huge queue of press outside my door, the senators waiting for me to sign papers, and the army personnel deciding which area to bomb next.

War seems to be the biggest industry in this world and following that Oil, soon Water and Air are going to join the politician’s table. Just to reduce work, I could go around begging everyone to stop what they are doing. I’ve read the Environmental Assessments, but cannot point my finger at one source and one solution. The white marble walls around me and the icy chill air conditioner are making my brain go blank. I have no idea what I would do to rule this world.

However, everyone seems satisfied if I come on television and proclaim that I will work for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Issues. Aren’t there any other issues left in this world? My typist and agent refuse to write anything else in my speeches. I pay condolence, I apologize, I wish you a holiday, and then I come back to be the First Woman’s Ruler of the World – The Queen of the World, who gets everything free and therefore will never get to know the world.

I used to think, I need to get to the top of everything to know this world. I got to have this power in my hand and then I will change the world. I do not know what I have changed or will be able to change. That lies to be a vague mystery still, though; I have a strange feeling I know the answer. I may never change anything.

Before the night gets too old, I’ll skip this for a bit. I think I’ve had a little too much coffee. Need to get started on the pot roast for the kids and the turkey for Jimmy. Ouch! There’s a pimple on my forehead. That’s sure going to hurt when they place the crown on my head.

2. Journey to Hindustan by Harsh Vardhan Dutta

1947 – A mere mathematical figure that floats on the lion-shaped map of Hindustan and Pakistan. Lucky are those who have just read this figure and not lived it!

It was to be yet another beautiful monsoon when Jinnah announced Pakistan and Nehru proclaimed Hindustan, while Mountbatten declared Partition. The salty air of Peshawar transformed into a wind running eastward.

Gurinder, a ten-year-old girl, her four younger brothers and her Bauji and Bebe, sat in the stifling compartment of the train to Hindustan. She was told she is a Sikh. In 12 hours, they were to arrive at New Delhi station where Bauji’s brother would receive them. All that was tangible was packed.

“Do we get raisins in Hindustan, Bauji?” asked soft-voiced Gurinder.
“Yes my little princess, we do get them there,” answered bold-voiced Bauji, dressed in his Pathani suit. A big white turban was placed over his big head.

“When will the train move, Bauji?”
“Bachche! In another five minutes. See, everyone is here now.”

“But Bauji, I am feeling thirsty?”
“Lots of people are thirsty nowadays,” came a voice of a Pathan sitting nearby.
“Bachche, I will get some water from the platform,” said Bauji, ignoring the Pathan’s comment.

He caressed Gurinder’s silky hair, pulled a tumbler from the rucksack and made his way through a handful of Hindustanis who were going to Hindustan for the first time.

Gurinder looked at her four brothers aged four, five, six and seven – all sleeping with their heads resting on the others’ shoulders. She smiled and looked towards her Bebe, a middle-aged woman silently chanting some holy words.

“What are you saying, Bebe?” asked Gurinder.
Bebe glared at her. Gurinder had broken her momentum.
She whispered angrily: “How many times have I told you…”

“Someone help the Sardar…!”interrupted a loud voice from behind the men that stood in the compartment.

Bebe knew theirs was the only Sikh family in the compartment. Her expressions transformed and she stood up to run towards the compartment window, drawing people aside to see if it was her Sardar.

Gurinder cried, “Bebe, where are you going?”

Bebe’s inner fears had made her deaf. Gurinder held her long silk kameez with her hands and got dragged along. Bebe looked through the window. It was her Sardar!

Bebe pushed the men and women and kids aside to squeeze through to the compartment door. As Bebe made her way through the crowd, Gurinder lost her hold on Bebe’s kameez and stood with horrified eyes amongst tall broad men. Bebe moved hurriedly without looking behind. Gurinder found herself next to the compartment window and looked through it. She strained her vocal chords to scream, “Bauji!”

She clutched the horizontal bars of the window, watching her Bauji. Her breath moved at a rapid pace.

On the platform, a few men stood with swords in their hands. Gurinder’s wide eyes noticed a man with a black beard who stood in front of Bauji, so near him as if he were to embrace him. She looked directly at his face. His fierce eyes were gazing into the narrowing eyes of Bauji. Gurinder’s eyes moved rapidly downward from his face, observing the man’s broad shoulders, his long arms, and finally his hands that held a sword. Her eyes moved horizontally along the sharp glittering edge of the sword, till she found it thrusting it into the kameez of her Bauji. The sword cut through the intestines and its tiny sharp end came out of Bauji’s back.

Bauji lost his balance, with the tumbler in his hands still held tight. The man with the black beard pulled the sword out, leaving a hole instead of Bauji’s stomach, with blood gushing out of it. Bauji fell backwards. Gurinder tightened her grip on the horizontal bars of the window. Her senses refused to release into a yell. She was still, with her white duppatta sliding down her shoulders through the window onto the Pakistani platform.

Bauji fell on the cemented floor and his head thudded against the hard surface. The reverberations of the thud made the tumbler slip out of his hands. Through the tumbler’s small opening, water poured out, flowing across the slanted surface to wet Gurinder’s duppatta that hung out loosely from the window.

Bebe emerged from the left towards Bauji. Gurinder’s eyeballs got stuck on her Bebe, who was grabbed by her arms by the bearded man. He dragged her along, gradually taking her away from the Peshawar Station.

Gurinder felt a strong physical jerk. Her tiny legs rushed towards the compartment door. The little princess imbibed the energy of a monster. She pushed aside the crowd’s hard flesh with her soft hands and hurried as the train’s wheels gained momentum. She hustled and bustled restlessly, with the sound of the whistle rising in the air.

At last, she found herself at the door. She looked at the objects disappearing rapidly in front of her. She poked her upper body out to look back at the corpse of her Bauji. Then she lifted her left leg to jump out.

Suddenly, she heard a crying of a child. She turned back.

“Bachche, is this child with you?” asked a moustached man with a child in his arms.

Gurinder took the wailing child from the man and embraced him in her arms. The train moved like a jet now. The child became quiet in Gurinder’s arms. Gurinder made her way to the seven seats that were reserved by her Bauji. The solemn crowd made way for her. She placed the child on the long wooden seat with other three brothers. She sat with them and patted their heads to make them fall asleep and cosy.

The four brothers stretched their limbs and the journey to Hindustan continued…

3. Drama Boy by Ann Bibby

Walt took a moment to survey his classroom and was actually pleased to discover that it didn’t look any different that it had when he had been a student here 26 years earlier. Metal desks with Formica covered plywood desktops. Fabric covered metal blinds with knotted cords in various stages of stuck. Green tile that could never be removed without benefit of a hazmat team. One outlet at each end of the room, and nowhere near the ethernet jack he noted on the opposite end of the front wall near the phone.

The phone was new. Walt couldn’t remember a phone. He did remember the call switch which connected directly to the main office that Mr. Rickey would use to summon the vice-principal on occasion. He wondered if it still worked but thought better of flipping the switch from the private to call position.

Some might have found the lack of modern amenities one more reason to regret moving back to one’s hometown and teaching in one’s old high school, but for reasons he was still working out, Walt was delighted by every unchanged aspect of his past life peeking out under his present circumstances.

Although not particularly nostalgic, Walt appreciated the comfortable. The boyhood he had chafed under however was a surprising fit for the man he found himself. Who knew?

The room faced the inner courtyard, and trees which had been mere saplings now blocked the view and in certain spots, poked leafy arms through the screen less windows. He had arrived quite early to find a squirrel at breakfast in the middle of the room that morning, and a bird’s nest on top of the intercom above the door. There was nothing like this in the last school he’d taught at in San Francisco.

212 was a narrow room, running the length of two classrooms with an instruction area in the front and a small stage in the back. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the stage lights were functional and dismayed to discover that the cabinets that lined one side of the back of the stage and nearly half the room on the other were stuffed with what appeared to be decades worth of discarded textbooks, moldy costumes, sports magazines and leftover stage props. It appeared that more than one of his predecessors had simply walked away with nothing more than the clothes on his or her back.

He stood in the middle of the room, hoping a plan for organization would manifest if he simply allowed himself a moment to feel completely overwhelmed before digging in to what promised to be several full days of sorting and hauling and being coated with the thin grim of school eras past.

Holding out his arms with palms facing up and thumbs pinched to pinkies, he parked his feet in third, closed his eyes and let his head tip back. Taking several deep breaths, he opened his eyes again and looked around.

“Well, that did nothing,” he sighed and headed wearily to the first set of cabinets.

He opened the doors and cast off clothing from cleats to prom gowns tumbled out, burying him knee deep in debris not even worthy of a rummage sale. A decidedly stale odor followed closely, grimacing he lifted one foot and took a step back while pulling the other free. He was shaking a pair of Christmassy striped boxers from his leg like a randy dog when he heard a rap on the open door, and she walked in.

“I always wondered what was in there,” she commented and curiously peeked around and in at the mounds of dank clothing which had not spilled out onto the floor.

She waved a hand in front of her face and stepped away.

“I hope you brought gloves.”

“It might have been a good idea,” he agreed. “I get the feeling that the last guy didn’t bother much with details like props, scenery, scripts, teaching in general…Stop me if I hit on anything he might have actually accomplished.”

The woman shrugged and rolled her eyes.

“That bad, huh?”

“We haven’t had a drama production in about 6 years.”

“How’d he get away with that?” Walt asked.

“Theories abound. My favorite one has bondage overtones that probably aren’t appropriate for a conversation with someone you’ve only just met.”

Walt appraised her admiringly. A helluva opener from a woman who looked like she practiced wallflower techniques. Possibly pretty but with the hair pulled back in a tight pony-tail, colorlessly framed wire glasses and clothes at least a size too big, it was hard to actually tell.

“Walt Lucas,” he extended a hand and was surprised to meet a firm grip in return. She had looked like one of those women who presented with their fingertips and clamped with the thumb. A pageant princess interpretation that always tempted Walt to make a sweeping bow.

“Julie Cooper,” she motioned to the door, “I teach 11th grade English across the hall.”

“Very nice to meet you. You know you’re the first person who’s actually spoken to me first all morning,” he told her. “Mostly it’s been head nods, whispering, and pointing. Although the home ec teacher is quite the versatile conversationalist.”

“That would be Susie Klein-Kelly. And it’s Family and Consumer Science teacher, for future reference. You’ll never get fresh baked cookies otherwise.”

“Good to know,” he wasn’t sure but he felt she had another purpose for introducing herself and whatever it was she had changed her mind because she smiled a little shyly and began backing towards the door.

“I’ll see you at the department meeting then.”

“Department meeting? Oh, yeah. Eleven?”

Julie nodded, disappearing.

He followed, watching her slip quickly into her own room, closing the door behind her. Interesting, he thought and turned back happily to the mountain of apparel just as a cockroach scurried out and across the floor.

Arms out, palms up, Walt assumed the position.

4. Crazy Fay by Sherry Roth

The outer bands of Tropical Storm Fay were circling unpredictably over South Florida, sometimes lurching forward and dumping buckets of rain that flooded the streets, sometimes shrinking back, allowing all the waters to recede. Weaving through this schizophrenic weather were blustery winds that came and went, so that umbrellas were rather useless.

Hurricane season in South Florida is a mental strain, and I was too tired of dealing with the vicissitudes of the weather to think about cooking dinner that day. Instead, I chose one of the restaurants along University Drive, conveniently on my way home from work. Several people stood in line ahead of me, including one woman who had matted, wet salt-and-pepper hair, with rainwater droplets bizarrely hanging from her earlobes like a poor excuse for earrings. I tried not to stare, but those little droplets had me mesmerized. For her part, she didn’t seem to notice them. I tried to think when, if ever, I had ever seen anything like that. The woman was short and skinny, malnourished like, and her jeans were soaking wet from the hems to the knees. I can’t say how old she was; she might actually have been my age but looked older. Her shirt was clean and not torn, and she had a small white canvas purse slung over a thin shoulder. She waited on line quietly, patiently.

Then it was her turn. I’m not an eavesdropper by nature and I certainly wasn’t going to attempt to listen outright. With all the ambient noise I couldn’t quite catch the entire exchange anyway. So I can only assume that the young employee behind the counter said something helpful like “What can I do for you?” The skinny woman began rifling through her purse in an agitated manner; “I’m very angry at my government. If you want to help me you can do something about that.” She wasn’t particularly loud, but she kept up the harangue, talking the way people talk when for whatever reason they have not taken their psych meds in a few days. The employee handed her a cup for a drink; the woman snatched it from her, filled it with water from the nearby carafe, and surprisingly sat down without another word. My turn soon came; I ordered, got my food, purposely sought out a seat with my back to the woman, and ate. As I was leaving I glanced around, but she was gone.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Heading north on University in the fading light amid Fay’s renewed squalls, I tried to scan the sidewalks and side streets looking for her, knowing that it was ridiculous and probably futile, since she could be miles away in any direction. Why was I looking? Crazy, illogical thoughts; I wanted to help her somehow. What would I do if I saw her? I wanted to know her name. I had an extra umbrella. I had a $20 bill.

Suddenly, just north of Sample Road, I saw a skinny figure in soaking wet jeans, a white canvas purse slung over her left shoulder, head high, marching along in the pouring rain. I was in no position to pull over because of the evening traffic. Trying to drive and prepare everything at the same time, I fumbled in my purse and took out a $20; I twisted halfway around and reached into the back seat to get my spare umbrella. I made a U-turn as soon as I could, doubled back quickly and made another fast U-turn…but by the time I got back there, she was gone.

5. The Misadventures of me and Little Jon: Background by Jon West

I live alone; well, not completely alone. It’s just me and my dog, Little Jon (pictured). Yes, little Little Jon is a lucky pup and here’s his story.

One night after a strenuous workout, I was taking my usual 15 mile run through the Black Forest when I heard a faint whimper. “What could this be?”, I thought to myself. Instantly my one (and only) fear paralyzed my body—spider monkeys. Those little demons are quick and ferocious, not to mention unkempt. They’ll hurl last night’s digested banana at you before you can say “Is that scheisse?”. Anyways, I digress. So then I thought to myself “Hero, that’s crazy… you haven’t been attacked by a spider monkey in this forest for weeks, months even.” Well played, memory.

I carefully made my way closer to the distressed creature, my carved body glistening in the moon light. The animal was trapped under a massive oak tree, only his head and upper torso was visible. Even after a grueling workout and 12 miles of my 15 mile run behind me, I managed to free the agonized pup. He was cute… and hungry. There was a fire in his eyes that was apparent from the moment I saw him. He wanted revenge on his abandoner. I instantly took to the K9. Sure, he was missing his hind quarters because of the mighty fallen oak but he was still three fourths of a worthy companion (explains the cropped picture, don’t it?).

I ran the remaining three miles home with him over my shoulders; like I imagine Rambo would do. Back at the place I cleaned and fed him. I could tell he was thankful for my overwhelming kindness and general disposition. It was as if we were a family from the start. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Was he lucky I found him, or rather, was I lucky because he found me?”. Then I realized something: my life before was fueled with empty happiness; the money, fast cars, and constant hot super model sex just wasn’t fulfilling anymore. I needed to care for something that could, literally, die if I didn’t feel like feeding it anymore. Seemingly overnight, this little pup turned my amazing Uptown penthouse, with a spectacular view, into an amazing Uptown pent-“home” with a spectacular view.

The pain of dragging his hindquarters around everywhere was getting to be too much for him to bear (there’s a lot of concrete in the city). Using some spare car parts, rubber bands and a set of unused training wheels I fashioned together a little puppy wheelchair for him. Finally, he was mobile!  Now, we were an unstoppable—and more importantly, inseparable—duo. We did everything together. I even brought him along to The Autistic Orphanage for Cancer Survivors in Wheelchairs of North Carolina (A.O.C.S.W.N.C.), where I volunteer on Tuesdays, and they took him in as one of their own, almost like a mascot – a half dog, half market cart mascot.

It’s true, Little Jon was a big hit wherever he went. One of my students, Monique, at my weekly ballroom dancing classes (oh yes, I’m a phenomenal dancer) even tried to buy him off of me. What ever happened to her?…

Now, fast forward to last week. It was a Tuesday so I left my Uptown pent-home and made my way to A.O.C.S.W.N.C., obviously. After making sure all the diapers were changed, I was helping the last little chap on the smaller stature bus when suddenly somebody yelled “FIIIIRRREEEE!”  Being the only able bodied body within ear shot, my heart started racing. Was I going to have to single-handedly rescue all of these helpless kids? Was it hero time, again? Did I smell steak? Where was Little Jon? Oh no! He was trapped on the bus like a rolling rotisserie!  All of this flew through my head in a split second… finally, I snapped back into reality, realizing that it was little autistic Billy and he just kind of does that sometimes. But, little did I know how foretelling Billy was… to be continued.

6. A Ravens Lanyard by Leslie Johnson

The noontime sun made shadows that puddled around their boots as they approached the gypsies selling wares along the dusty crossroads. Five wagons some covered and some not were parked in a line, all in different stages of decomposition. Small stands were erected where ragged women stood selling jewelry and housewears, and at the end stood a tall lanky man selling elixirs. As the man and his boy approached the gypsy he lifted his hat to his head and ran his fingers on the front of his vest as if wiping something from his hands.

Afternoon, the gypsy said.

Afternoon.

The boy noticed a raven sitting on a perch beyond the gypsy’s potions. The perch was nothing more than a set of dowels that teed at the top and a lanyard of crude twine bound perch and raven together at the ankle. The raven croaked when noticed and moved crabwise to the far side of the perch.

Ye look like a man that could use a little love in your life. Set your eyes on this here love elixir, the gypsy smiled.

I don’t need none of that. I’m lookin for medicine. Doctorin medicine—not no gypsy potions.

What got ye ailed?

Not me. My wife. She’s been bad off last few weeks. Caint leave bed, sweatin but cold all the time.

Aye—might just have somthin for that. I better go have me a look, the gypsy said straitening his hat.

The man rode the boy up near the horn of his saddle, and the gypsy tagged behind on an old mule. They found the woman in bed as the man had described; wrestling feverishly with her soiled blankets, her skin like moist lamb skin. The man and the boy watched the gypsy step through the tungsten light of the room and settle next to the woman on the bed. He rested his palms on her gaunt cheeks and whispered something into her eyes. He then retrieved a vial from his vest pocket, and turning her on her side he poured the contents slowly into her ear.

Outside the gypsy wagons had pulled in around the front of the cabin and the women tended to their small troop of young and they peeked out from the canvas covers; faces filthy, eyes dark and hollow. The boy sat on the porchbench watching them like raccoons.

When the sun tripped down behind the mountains beyond, the gypsy women built a fire that they first used for cooking large portions of anonymous meat, then later in the night they fed the fire till it was of equal height to their wagons and they sat circumscribed around the brilliant yellow caldron chanting in a tongue long lost to the ears of man. The raven rested on his perch gazing into the night. His feathers shone dull purple and his eyes dancing with the reflection of the fire. An old soul indeed and he looked as if he had seen this ritual before. So long ago that it was almost a dream lost to the morning, but he remembered. He was there.

The boy remained on the porchbench watching the spectacle from under a flannel blanket and before long he was asleep. The dawn found the boy where Orion had left him and he sat up to face the morning. A cold prairie fog had rolled in obscuring the horizon in a shield of grey. The gypsies’ fire had all but died and a solitary woman sat before it in her filthy dress stirring the coals. The boy stretched his arms and was wiping the sleep from his eyes when the man walked through the door. He stood there on the porch looking out at the woman before the fire adjusting his hat.

Momma gunna be ok, the boy said wiping his eyes with the back of his wrists.

The man continued to stare into the grayness and said, Yes I reckon she is.

He lit a cigarette and smoked it leaning against the porchrailing then walked out past the gypsy wagons and far into the flowing fields; the opaque void swallowing him, hat and all.

The gypsies began to stir from their wagons and after a beat the gypsy man emerged from the cover of his wagon fully clothed with his hat on like he had slept that way. The gypsy women made a breakfast for their young and the one gypsy man, and they all sat around the fire as they did the night before knawing on the cold remnants of meat. By mid morning they had packed up camp and the gypsy man stood facing the house from the yard.

After a moment the woman appeared from the doorway; pale in her nightgown and unsure of her footing. The boy ran to her at once and hugged her hips, she let her arms fall to his back before he turned around and she then placed her hands on his shoulders. They both faced the man in the yard. The corners of his mouth bent to an ambiguous smile.

The two of them, mother and child, stood on the porch while the man heft himself to the seat of the wagon and all at once the wagons rolled from their places as he tipped his hat. The dilapidated wagons rattled and groaned together like a single mechanical beast, and the boy ran behind them to the road, seeing them off.

He stood in the road watching the wagons rocking on their swollen axels, and pumice dust rose from the giant wheels as they pounded their way through the ruts. The back of the gypsy man’s wagon was open and he could see the raven perched upon his dowel watching the boy disappear into the dust.

The boy paused for a second to look down at his boots and when he leveled his eyes upon the raven’s perch once more, there were two.

7. Last Words by Misti Sandefur

As a heart-broken Jenny walked into their quiet country home, she grabbed the tissue from her pocket to wipe away the tears that trickled down her cheeks. She didn’t know what she was going to do without her fun-loving husband to keep her laughing. He had only been gone for four days, but to her it seemed like an eternity.

“We had only been married for a few short years, and we never got to share the family we always talked about,” Jenny spoke softly to herself.

Jenny stood for four hours by Joe’s purple casket; purple was his favorite color. To relieve her aching feet, she kicked off her shoes and flopped down in her tattered, but comfortable recliner. Another wave of grief washed over her as she looked around their small house where memories lingered. Her eyes blurred as she gazed at their wedding picture, which hung on the wall. Pictures were all she had left of Joe now. Without Joe the house seemed so empty and lonely.

Her heart sank as she reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter Joe had given her just before his death. As she pulled out the letter, she remembered the words he had spoken:

“After my funeral is over, I’d like for you to read this letter. My hope is that you will find some comfort in it.”

Her hands trembled as she unfolded the letter.

“My darling Jenny,

Thank you for all your love and care during my illness. You always made me comfortable and tended to my every need. Without you I couldn’t have gotten through it all.

I was looking forward to growing old with you and building a family together. However, my time on Earth was cut short, and I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t.

I know right now you’re wondering if you can make it without me. In time, when the mourning subsides, you’ll find the strength I’ve always seen in you, and someday you’ll find someone who can give you the family you’ve always wanted. When that time comes, know that you have my blessing.

Thank you for bringing me joy and happiness. I loved every minute of our three years together. I’m going to a much better place now, a place where I will no longer be in pain, a place of peace and happiness. Everytime you look toward Heaven know that I’m looking down upon you.

Jenny, I will meet you at the gates of Heaven when you’re time comes, and we’ll be together again.

With all my love,
Joe.”

Slowly, she folded the letter while tears poured down her face like rain. Clenching the letter close to her heart, she looked up toward Heaven and said, “Joe, I don’t know if I’ll ever love another again, but no matter what the future brings, I will always hold you in my heart.”

“There’s something I kept from telling you, because I didn’t want you to have to deal with it along with your illness.” She took a deep breath as she tried to collect herself.

“Not long after you were diagnosed with cancer, I found out I was about four weeks pregnant. It’s going to be hard now without you here to share the joy of our first child.”

She paused for a moment to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“I will make it with the support of the family, and when our baby comes into this world it will carry your name. If it’s a boy I will name him Joseph JR., and if it’s a girl, I will name her…” Josephine. Yes, Josephine is a beautiful name.”

“One last thing, babe: I will make sure Baby Lawson knows what a great man you were and what a loving father you would have been.”

“Until we meet again, I love you, Joseph Allen Lawson.”

8. Oh, The Trouble That Creature Caused! by Jeffrey Irving

Some days were better than others in the Gishler house, because
Corbin, the littlest boy who lived in the house often made mischief.

Corbin’s family, while loving him very much, knew that his imagination often got him into trouble.

One day, Corbin found an unattended plate of cookies in the kitchen.
Before Corbin knew it, a creature hopped out of nowhere and gobbled all the cookies up…Crunch…Gobble…Gulp!

When Corbin’s mother asked what had happened, he shrugged his shoulders and wiped some crumbs from his mouth. “A creature ate them all up Mommy,” Corbin told her, “but I’ll make sure it doesn’t come in here again! “ His mother just smiled.

One afternoon Corbin was playing in the hall, by his room, coloring pictures on some paper. All of a sudden the creature appeared again. The thing grabbed Corbin’s crayons and marked some spots on the wall, then dashed away just as Corbin’s Father rounded the corner.

“And what are these young man?” Corbin’s Dad asked, pointing to the marks on the wall. “Uh, well this creature took my crayons, scribbled on the wall, then ran away” Corbin told his father innocently.

“We’re going to have to do something about this creature, or it’s going to get you in trouble someday,” Corbin’s Dad told him as he cleaned the colorful spots from the wall, shaking his head.

Things weren’t always this way at the Gishler house; not every day. Strangely, Corbin seemed to see the creature only when no one was around or paying him any attention. That creature was a sly one…

…like the morning Corbin was in his room looking at all the books that were stacked in his bookshelf. He was pulling some of his favorites out when, all at once, the creature bounded from the top of the bookshelf, onto his bed and into the closet.

The bookshelf toppled over…Crash…Bam…Thump! Corbin jumped out of the way just in time, as his mother came racing in, worry on her face. “Are you ok?” she asked. “I’m ok,” Corbin gasped, ”but that darn creature knocked over my bookshelf!” His mother rolled her eyes at him as she picked up the mess.

A few weeks later the creature paid Corbin another visit. One evening Corbin was pretending to be a dog. He was crawling around the den, where his father normally worked, burying a pretend bone.

From behind the couch he heard meows and hisses so he crawled around it, only to see the creature there, pretending to be a cat. Corbin chased the creature around and around until the sound of something breaking made him stop.

Corbin lay sprawled on the floor, the vase from the table broken to bits next to him. “What happened Corbin?” his mother demanded as she stood in the doorway. “The creature broke the vase and jumped out the window,” Corbin said sadly. The window was closed. “To bed with you,” his mother ordered. Corbin stood up and sulked to his room.

The next day Corbin’s mother gave him a special chart to put on the refrigerator, just for him. It had a big word across the top. “RESPONSIBILITIES” it said. At least that what his mother told him it said. It even had a list of things Corbin could do to help the family.

Corbin’s Mom and Dad put stars on the chart when he would finish things around the house. They praised him for the great job he was doing and praised him often. Corbin liked the chart and especially liked his growing collection of stars.

One day, months later, after finishing taking all the dishes from the dinner table to the sink, Corbin saw something out of the corner of his eye. Something had run by the doorway to the kitchen. The creature, Corbin thought mischievously as he stalked toward the hall.

As he reached the doorway he looked down the hall and saw his parents there, playing with a kitten. “What is this?” Corbin smiled as he approached them. “This is your new friend,” his father told him. “Mine, oh boy,” Corbin said excitedly, ”what’s his name?” His parents both grinned as his father told him the cat’s name, ”Creature.” They all laughed as they played with the kitten…mother, father and Corbin, the littlest boy in the house.

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17 Responses to “Short Story Competition 2: First Round Is Open for Voting”

  • holly delia

    Ms. Roths story was excellent. she is a very talanted writer.

    I will look forward to seeing her stories published someday.

  • T. Grillo

    At last! Thank you ~ this will be great fun ~

  • Katt

    Leslie Johnson, that was very well-written and I enjoyed your style and imagery. You’ve got my vote for this round!

  • Mary Ann

    Good job Sherry Roth. Your story “Crazy Fay” made me think. I love stories involving random acts of kindness – even if the attempt is unsuccessful. Thank you,

  • Jeanette Cheezum

    I wanted to vote for two of the stories. Good luck to everyone.

  • Gurke

    Ann Bibby,
    Good work. I felt like I was covered in the dusty grime of the drama room by the time I read through your story. I think you could keep developing this into a novel. It would be interesting to see the character development of Julie. I wonder what her story is…
    Anyway, good job!

  • T. Grillo

    I agree – “Drama Boy” is a good start for a novel!

  • Mary Rowe

    I had just watched a documentary on television on important events that were determined and/or changed by the weather. Had you been able to successfully contact that skinny, cold, hungry woman, it would have changed her course in life if only for the day. However, I think the kindness would have made a change for a much longer time in the hearts. Good reading……

  • annie

    Gurke and T.Grillo, thank you. It is a short but I have other stories with the same characters, together or individually which might be the making of a novel. Julie is actually a character in a novel I wrote over a year ago but I don’t feel is good enough to pursue any further than the couple of drafts I did. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  • Les

    So who moves on? Just the number one story? (close)

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Les, yeah.

  • Mohammad Iqbal

    Story Journey to Hindustan is very impressive and emotional. In 1947 such incidents did happen on both sides of borders. Number of Muslim families were also slain down by Sikhs while they were migrating from East Punjab (India) to Pakistan. Any way this was a human tragedy which provoked the sensitive writers to put forward their emotions. I congratulate the writer of Journey to Hindustan for writing such a touchy story.

  • katt

    I just want to say one more thing about the Raven Lanyard story. I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but this story looks and feels very much like that show CARNIVALE. It’s cool. Just wanted to say that.

    Good job to Ms. Roth!!!

  • gurke

    Where is the second round?

  • Wendy

    I really enjoyed the story by Leslie Johnson. I am very sad that it didnt win.

  • Katt

    @gurke- it’s UP and the competition is fiery! This is sooo much fun! I’m glad I found this helpful website!

  • gurke

    Hey Katt,

    Thanks for the info… I finally saw it and now it is gone again… must be something wrong with my computer or something… I will check back later. You’re right… these stories are great!!!

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