Yes. More of your entries to read and enjoy. And if that’s not enough for you, consider this silly old post on Fiction Trends of the Future! (This re-post is offered in honor of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” movie, which opens Friday and is based on the book, a book so good I was still able to fall in love with it even though when I read it I was in the middle of a terribly deep depression brought on by a relational meltdown of epic proportions. Oh to write a novel half as good as Audrey’s debut.)
The short stories now.
Jennifer Neri titled her entry “Morgue”:
The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. Or on Friday, or on Saturday. On Sunday, the day her body began to stiffen and turn cold, the sun shone. While she lay, dying, the clouds had covered the sky, and lighting had flashed, thunder calling her.
I stared at the body, trying to see the mother I knew. She looked the same, yet in another way, she was no longer the woman who had bore me, her middle son, forty-two years ago.
I heard my father shuffle back into the room, my eldest sister’s voice relentless in his ear. We had been waiting fourteen hours for them to remove the body.
Someone had come with coffee and a box of muffins that my youngest brother had placed on our dead mother’s leg. Eat, he had said. I took the box and moved it to the little table that had held her tray for the past seven weeks she had been in palliative care. I saw him pick up a muffin and bite half of it. My stomach turned, and I swallowed bile. In this way, we waited.
“They are ready,” my sister said. “But, she will not be moved until we are all here.”
The six of us, the children, had scattered when the first bird began to sing. My two sisters had uncoiled themselves from her. One had her hands under our mother’s breast, the other under her thighs.
“What are you doing?” I had asked them.
“She is still warm here,” the elder one had answered.
Suddenly, the room was full, my siblings moving about. Within minutes two attendants arrived, but they were pushed out of the way.
“We will do it,” said my eldest brother, the second born from her.
At the doors marked MORGUE, the eldest, my sister who had her hands nestled under our mother’s breasts, collapsed.
“No,” my father spoke. “She would not want this.”
My sister rose, resumed her spot, and we pushed through the doors. I knew each of us wondered how we could leave her; she had been so scared.
“I will stay,” I said.
The attendants looked at each other, then at all of us, and shrugged.
I was alone, and I reached for the bottle water I had placed on the floor, next to my chair. My lips were dry, and my throat ached. The bottle was empty.
Michelle Evans entered this short story:
‘It was the best of times… no, really, the very best of times. I can’t help but think if only… No but we must look to the future now.’ Louise went to stand up.
‘Oh, Aunt Louise, if you don’t tell me about those times, how will I ever know anything about Mother?’ Sophie, nearing adulthood innocently yearned to know more.
‘The best of times…’ she urged.
‘Yes, when your mother and I were in our early 20’s,’ Louise sighed.
‘What made it the best of times, Aunt Louise?’ Sophie asked.
‘Freedom! We were free and easy and loved it. We did what we wanted.’ Louise turned to Sophie and said in a low voice. ‘But maybe being so easy wasn’t the best.’
‘Tell me more, Aunt Louise,’ Sophie curled her knees in to her chest looking small and childlike.
‘Your mum had just finished her degree, we were pumped for a big night. Sophie, you’re nearly 17, I’m going to tell you this so hopefully you will learn not only about your mum, but so you won’t make the same mistakes.
‘But you said it was the best of times,’ Sophie was a little lost.
‘Yes, well I suppose that’s how we used to think. Looking back, all the hangovers, memory loss, men – many men…’
‘Are you saying, that my mother… many men?’ Sophie blushed.
‘I’m afraid so, Soph, that’s why you’ve never met your father. I don’t believe your mum worked out which one it was, so she never told any of them about you,’ Louise paused for a moment, then rushed on. ‘It was just after your second birthday, your mum rang me and said “Louise lets got out like we used to.” She drank a lot before we went out.’
‘Is this the night she died, Aunt Louise?’ Sophie’s wet eyes looked down.
Louise searched for courage, her lip quivered.
‘I went to the bar to get more beers while your mum was on the dance floor. Stories about spiked drinks were all over the papers and it crossed my mind your mum had left her drink at the table while I carried mine to the dance floor. I searched for her on the dance floor but found her just off to the side, lying on the floor. It was too late. I looked to our table. Her drink was spiked. The bottle was empty.’
Holly Tupper, who is 15 years old, entered this clever story. (I think you’ll agree Holly is well on her way to becoming a published writer.)
“The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. Everyone was bumping into each other because no one could see anything! That’s what Alex said happened after he ate your cooking, Sash! What is this stuff anyway?” My little brother, Josh, eyed the repulsive yellow lump on his plate.
I shot him a poisonous glare. “It’s macaroni and cheese.” A skeptical frown crossed his face, so I added, “You like macaroni and cheese.”
Josh wrinkled his nose. “Not when it looks like that.”
I glanced at the pathetic pile of watery, half cooked macaroni and clumps of dry cheese sauce and sighed.
“Just eat it.”
I slumped onto a chair next to Josh. So much for my cooking skills. Only my second time babysitting, and not only had I locked myself out of the house while taking out the trash and had had to run over to the neighbor’s to phone Mom to find out where the spare key was, but now I had made a complete mess of dinner.
And it was macaroni and cheese! How hard is it to cook macaroni and cheese?
I brought a forkful of macaroni to my mouth. An unusual odor filled my nose––kind of like the smell you get when you burn oil. I instantly burst into a fit of coughing. I grabbed my cup and gulped down the water, ridding my mouth of the nasty taste.
Josh’s eyes bulged and his mouth dropped open.
“No way am I eating that!”
“Forget it!” With one artful sweep, I dumped the macaroni into the trash can. “We’re ordering pizza!”
Josh flashed me a mischievous grin. “Oh, and Alex said that after he ate your food, his house was stormed by big, scary, green…”
I threw my head into my hands.
Remember that I told you to keep your eyes peeled for a story by Andi Newton? Here it is:
Somewhere between roof and the pavement, Sam remembered where he’d left his wallet.
“Ah, crap.” Stepping off the landing, he rode the sliding ladder the rest of the way down, one foot on a rusty rung, the other stepping onto asphalt as soon as the ladder stopped.
“Find it?” Janowski asked.
Sam shook his head. “No, but I know where it is.”
Janowski’s shoulders sagged. “Any idea where she is?”
Sam switched the blackout monocle from his left eye to his right and scanned the skyline. The silver ring of his exposed eye flicked in mechanical stops from one building to the next.
“There,” he said, pointing at a brick building sporting a neon “Beckman’s Soda” sign.
Janowski sighed and, pulling the gun from his holster, followed Sam down the street.
“It’s of no use to you, Maddigan.”
The woman opposite him turned Sam’s wallet in slow circles with nicotine-yellowed fingernails. A corner caught her hair, and it wrapped in brittle layers around the leather.
“Perhaps not,” she admitted, “but it’s of importance to you, and that gives it value.”
“And that value would be?”
“You would blind me, Maddigan?”
Maddigan shrugged. “They say children have their parents’ eyes, and parents swear by their children’s. I have no children, but if I had your eyes I’d have something to swear on.”
Sam watched Maddigan’s hair wrap around the wallet. He could let her keep it, find some other way…
“I’ll let you take one.”
Maddigan curled her hand around the wallet. “Which one?”
Slipping the blackout monocle off, Sam leaned forward. “Your choice.”
Women always told Sam that his right eye was a nice shade of blue when it wasn’t bloodshot, but the valuable one, of course, the useful one was the left. Titanium in iron, fitted with the latest tech. Maddigan didn’t even have to replace one of her own with it. That just made it portable. Finding a new one wouldn’t be easy, but the wallet was worth it.
Sam jerked backward as Maddigan lunged forward and dug fingernails into his eye socket. Grinning, she held her hand open, palm up, for him to see, but Sam didn’t need to look to know what she’d done. He knew already, in the blood that smeared his cheek and the gray that edged his vision.
She chose the blue one after all.
And there you have it. Four more clever entries in the “First and Last” contest. See why it’s so hard to choose a winner?
A few more tomorrow, too. Yup. There are more.