The Last of the Contest Entries

Just in time for the weekend, the last of the entries from the “First and Last” contest. (And, yeah, my short story, too.) Once again, thanks to everyone who participated. If you still haven’t read the winning entries, click here. Next week it’s back to regular blogposts, so be sure to come back to see what wisdom and nonsense I come up with.

Tanja Cilia titled her short story “Time, and Again”:

It was the best of times… no, really, the very best of times.  I’d married the handsomest man on earth, and I was pregnant.  We’d just moved to an old town-house, complete with antique furniture.

Idly, I twisted a knob on the bureau – and something clicked. A tiny drawer sprang open and a stack of old papers, tied with yellowing ribbon, fell out.

Hey!  That’s MY handwriting.   Weird.

The date on the papers is 1984. The squiggles crossing the t and the curls at the ends of the y and j are unmistakably mine. But…  I never use blue ink, because it reminds me too much of the school homework I loathed so much.

In those days, no one had made concessions for my dyslexia.  When, in my very last year at school, I had a teacher who understood what the matter was… it was almost too late.  Almost, but not quite.

She tutored me privately and taught me how to read, from scratch.  Eventually I got a job at an English-language newspaper.  I soon became their top accredited journalist.

The keyboard is the logical extension of my fingers. But for private use, I always use “nice” colour inks like aqua and lilac and preach…. curiosity got the better of me, and I felt compelled to read what’s written…

April 12… The day Ms Debono drove me home after I had twisted my ankle. It was the day before my sister’s wedding, and I was the hobbling bridesmaid!   Hey!  The name of the teacher as given here is Miss Camilleri.  But she could not drive…

I felt dizzy. I took the papers down to the kitchen and cracked open a bottle of fizzy water.  I took one sip, and forgot all about it.

I turned to June 5.  That was the day the brakes of our car didn’t hold, and we ran into the car in front of us.  Yes… here it is, “car crash”.  Oh, no!  It says we were in the ‘new’ Getz Malibu…  but the car had actually been dad’s old Triumph Toledo.

My husband returned from work, and walked towards the kitchen. I began to tell him what had happened – and then I glanced at him.

He was not my husband.  I saw the puzzled look in his eyes. And when I looked down at the papers, the pages were blank, and… The bottle was empty.

Because I am a fan of creative symmetry, the very first entry I received will be the very last one presented here. And it’s a good one from Kelly Sauer:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday.

Maybe it isn’t really Thursday, Annie thought, dragging her aching body out of bed. Maybe it was still Wednesday night. The crash was nothing but a nightmare. The sun had to rise today. It was her wedding day.

She groped in the dark for a light switch, tripping over a pile of clothing and stumbling into the wall beside her closed door. She flipped the switch.

Oh great, the power was out. Of course. Her digital clock wasn’t glowing.

Annie rubbed a hand over tired eyes. The darkness was so thick she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face.

She scrabbled through her bedside table drawer for a flashlight. She tried flipping it on. Hmm. Batteries must be dead.

Frustrated, she pitched the light across the room. It hit the alarm clock off her dresser, clattering to the floor.

The clock radio began to play.

“…80 degrees and clear for you today, with mostly sunny skies…”

Annie froze at the sound, then pitched forward, passing from one black world into another.

———-

Her cell phone was ringing. Where had she left it? Her head was spinning. She opened her eyes into darkness, pulled from unconsciousness by the urgency of the identifying tone.

“Jase?” She croaked into the mouthpiece. Why was she croaking? “I can’t see.”

“I’m coming! I’m here!” She thought her apartment door was coming down in the other room. Her ears were ringing.

Someone burst into her room, hitting her leg with the door. Then he was beside her, his touch piercing the isolating black.

“Please help,” she pleaded. “The sun didn’t come up today…”

———-

She was four months late for her wedding. The sun did rise that Thursday. One of her bridesmaids attended her in a silver frame at the front of the church.

Too many tears, Annie thought, leaning heavily on her father’s arm for her walk into Jase’s arms. But she could see them. The tears. The camera flash. Those who loved them. The look on Jase’s face. The tie he was wearing. She couldn’t quite see the color yet.

She stepped toward him. After weeks of blackness, she’d forgotten what colors she’d chosen for her wedding.

Sunlight streamed through cathedral windows across the aisle, bathing Jase in light, drawing her smile.

Ah. She chose the blue one after all.

And, finally, because I thought it would be fun if I had to write a story, too, I asked you to suggest first and last sentences for my own short story challenge. I chose “The striped cat glared at me” for the first line and “The rain washed it all away” for the last line.

Here it is.

The striped cat glared at me.

Horatio.

That was his name.

He was sitting in a circle of sunlight on the carpet, a statue in a spotlight.

“You want me to feed the cat?” I’d asked.

“Yes, if you would,” she’d said. “You do know the cat has a name, right?”

“Of course.”

“And…?”

“And I prefer to call him ‘cat.’”

She didn’t say anything. But I saw disappointment in the turn of her lips.

***

The next day I was sitting on her couch. She was beside me, smelling of cinnamon and sipping a glass of merlot, her body humming along with Sia’s “Breathe Me.”

We’d been friends for a long time. Shoulder-crying friends. Best friends. But something turned in me and before I could deny it, I realized I was in love with her.

That’s exactly when Horatio jumped onto her lap. Somehow, she kept from spilling the wine. I think she laughed.

I said words I wish I hadn’t. Words that weren’t true. Yet out they came, pressed by panic into an uncertain moment where they could do the most damage.

“I hate that stupid cat,” I said.

She hugged Horatio tighter and he purred.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t mean that. I love the stupid cat.”

“He has a name,” she said. Then she drank the rest of her wine.

***

After a week without words, she invited me over to watch a movie. Breakfast at Tiffanys. Not our first choice. But we were lazy. Do you know how it ends? The taxi ride. The cat. The engagement ring tossed on Holly’s lap. And all the while it’s raining and you’re wondering if she is going to give up a chance to be with the man who loves her.

“Where’s the cat” Holly asks, frantic.

“I don’t know,” says Paul.

And that’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t know. Our relationship was at a crossroads. Did she see it too? I was afraid to ask.

As if cued by the closing credits, the night sky began sheeting water against her living room window. When thunder boomed Horatio leaped onto her lap.

“Horatio,” I said, and it was a sigh.

She turned to me, smiling. But this was a new smile. One that would lead to a kiss.

Suddenly, there was no more uncertainty.

The rain washed it all away.

Some of you might be disappointed I didn’t write a science fiction or fantasy story. But look closer. See the ending? It is a fantasy after all.

Okay, kids. Nothing more to see here. Get back to work.

See you Monday.

5 thoughts on “The Last of the Contest Entries

  1. That cat reminds me of one of my parents’ cats. When he looks at you, beware. When he jumps in your lap, don’t move. If it’s not his idea for you to pet him, watch out for those toxic claws. Actually, he’s pretty sweet most of the time, but I’m a cat person & can forgive the many personality quirks of most felines. Anyway… very good story. :)

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