February 2013 Writing Contest Finalists


vote-picWe have four finalists for the February writing competition.  I must admit this was the most difficult contest I’ve had to judge yet.  A lot of great stories came in, making it almost impossible to narrow down to four (the number allowed if entries go over ten).  For those not chosen, please know that I truly enjoyed them all and did not make my decision lightly.  The following contestants are the ones who are up for voting.  Please do congratulate them!

*Stacey Roberts
*Debra Dunbar
*Sarah Fredricks
*Christie Stratos

Below will be a review of the contest stipulations, followed by the four finalists stories. At the bottom will be the instructions and poll for voting. Anyone may vote for the tale they believe is best, but you should take the time to read them all before making your decision. Remember, you may vote only once.  Contestants, please note that you cannot use blogs, twitter, Facebook, or any other site to ask for votes (I watch this very closely).  You are allowed to announce you are a finalist on those sites and link this page, but you should only tell people to vote for the best story, not yours specifically.

Stipulations:

1) Premise- It’s Valentine’s Day and your character has no one to go out with.  How does he/she deal with that?  Do they find someone, stick with friends, or stay home?  Your story should give an answer to that.

2) The following words must be included in some form in the story:

a) Heart
b) Ice cream
c) Toe nail clippers
d) Black
e) Flower

3) Word count requirement: 600-1200 words

——————————————–

Passing Time

by Stacey Roberts

My watch still works, so I know it’s Valentine’s Day. It means I’ve been stuck on this island in the middle of nowhere for sixteen days. Don’t get me wrong: I feel good about spending three hundred bucks on my timepiece. The waterproofing worked like a charm when the ship went down, and it has kept time with atomic precision. It is how I know that in the rest of the world people are going around in pairs today while I sit in the sand. I’d trade the watch in a heartbeat for anything that might be useful: toe nail clippers, a helicopter, a can opener, or a flush toilet. The last thing I need is to know what time it is.

The genie I let out of the bottle is hovering a few feet off the ground. Show off. No sand in his unmentionable areas. He doesn’t look eighteen hundred years old. In fact, he’s dressed a lot like me – shorts, T-shirt and a baseball cap. His skin is a deep mahogany brown, unlike my pink, flaky, blistered flesh. He looks like a frat boy on vacation, which is what I was until my ship sank.

Jaclyn James, my favorite porn star, is sitting a few feet away, her smooth, supple back turned away from me. She is watching reality TV on the black 80-inch LCD TV that, like the genie, hovers a few feet off the ground. Its power cord dangles from the back, plugged into nothing. She is a shrill, cranky bitch. Also, she hates my guts.

Two wishes down, one to go.

***

I’ve made it this far thanks to the supplies that washed ashore from the downed cruise ship. The few trees on this island have dented cans arrayed around their trunks like the primitive religious artifacts of a pagan tribe. When I needed a can opener, I had wished for a TV instead.

Island Survival Tip #1: Don’t make wishes when blind drunk.

Me: “I could wish to be somewhere else.”

Genie: “And what of Jaclyn?”

Jaclyn doesn’t notice us talking about her. Probably because Jaclyn isn’t her real name, or the Kardashians are so engrossing that she doesn’t hear us.

Me: “I don’t care what happens to her.”

Genie: “You brought her here.”

Me: “I was drunk, man! Don’t you have some kind of hardship clause or something?”

If I didn’t starve, or get beaten to death by an enraged, coconut-wielding porn actress, I was going to law school. I knew all about clauses.

Me: “Being here is good for her. It’s probably the first time in her life she’s watched the news.”

Jaclyn James had been on set, clad only in whore’s makeup, high heels, and a short towel when she disappeared. She spent some of her considerable free time on my island watching the news for any sign that she was missed. The lack of notice from the world was breaking her heart. She covered it up by being an utter harpy.

The helicopter wish sounded good for a while, but then I realized I didn’t know which way anything was. Or how to fly.

Me: “How about a helicopter with endless fuel, autopilot, and GPS?”

Genie: “That’s three wishes.”

Me: “The wish is the helicopter. The other things are accessories. Accessories!”

The genie, floating serenely, shook his head.

***

I would be in the same boat if I wished for a boat. I didn’t know how to drive one, or even what direction to go in, other than the classic “away from the island.” Also, as it turns out, boats sink.

Me: “I could wish to be teleported somewhere.”

Genie: “You can’t wish for technology that hasn’t been invented yet.”

Me (triumphantly): “You teleported her here.” I would be a whiz in law school, if I didn’t die of exposure, get eaten by a shark, or cut my finger on a rusty can of beans.

Genie: “You wished for her, I got her.”

Me: “So tell me how you got her here without teleportation, then.” Permission to treat the smug, levitating witness as hostile, Your Honor.

Genie: “It helps to be an all-powerful magical being.”

Me: “Cram it up your ass.”

Genie: “Is that your third wish?”

Me (panicked): “Noooooo!”

The genie smiled, and gazed at the ocean.

***

Can’t teleport. Can’t fly. Can’t sail. It turns out that my expensive education hadn’t prepared me for anything. I should have taken Wishes 101. I’m sure they cover pointless electronics, sex workers, and wishing for more wishes on the first day. That self-satisfied, gravity-defying bastard probably teaches the class.

Me: “Can I wish to be rescued?”

Genie: “By whom? When? By what method?”

Me: “The Jamaican Navy, today, by helicopter.”

Genie: “That’s three wishes.”

Me: “Asshole.”

***

Leaving the island was a death sentence. The most complicated thing I could wish for that I knew how to operate was a rowboat. I could roam the seas like Captain Bligh until I died of thirst.

Genie: “Maybe you should think about being happy with what you have. You’re on a tropical island with a beautiful girl on Valentine’s Day. Why not wish for a lifetime of food and just stay here?”

Me: “You’ve got to be kidding. With her?”

Genie: “You asked for her when you could have had anything.”

Me: “Drunk! No girlfriend for six months! Recently shipwrecked!”

Genie: “You make a lot of excuses.”

Me: “I could wish I never went on the cruise…”

Genie: “Can’t change the past.”

Me (inspired): “Hey! You don’t go free until I make my last wish, right?”

The genie sank a few feet until his butt scraped the sand. He looked at me sharply, his tanned arms uncrossed, his mouth open.

Me: “Aha!”

Law schools would be clamoring to get me, if I wasn’t struck by lightning, washed away by a tidal wave, or killed by pirates.

Me (smugly): “Maybe two wishes are all I need.”

Genie: “Asshole.”

***

I spent a couple hours thinking over the idea: wish for a lifetime of food (hopefully drink would be included, you magical douchebag), build some sort of shelter, move the TV inside, and find a way to win Jaclyn over. I could start by learning her real name, or why the Kardashians mean so much to her.

Me: “Hey, Jaclyn.”

Jaclyn: “I wish you would just die.”

I looked quickly over at the genie, who shook his head. Apparently I was the only one who could make wishes around here.

Me: “It’s Valentine’s Day. Maybe we could commemorate the occasion. Dinner, candlelight, some ice cream (her website said she was addicted to it), a walk on the beach…”

Jaclyn: “Really, jackass? You think I’ll just roll over for any guy who wines and dines me?”

Me: “Or has a video camera.”

Jaclyn: “Asshole.”

Me: “Fine! Whatever it takes! We could be stuck here for a long time, so if you need the full romantic treatment, then I’ll do it! Wine! Music! Hell, I wish this stupid sand spit had some flowers!”

Flowers pushed up through the sand at the base of the trees. The dented cans I couldn’t open rolled away.

The genie disappeared.

Me: “Oh, shit.”

——————————————————————

Cupid Pricked

by Debra Dunbar

Every Valentine’s Day it was the same thing. Mother would grow panicked at the rumors of a legendary beauty, obsess over whether her own looks paled in comparison, then send him off to take care of the situation. Women. No wonder her altars were empty and neglected. If she spent more time being a goddess, as opposed to comparing flowing locks and flashing eyes with every mortal alive, then he’d be making his sweet sixteen picks over a pint of rum raisin ice cream, and not off on this stupid errand.

Cupid stomped through the perfectly manicured flower gardens, wings tight against his back. Heaven forbid he accidently knock over one of the precariously perched marble vases, or statues of his mother in various states of undress. She’d have a fit. He’d never hear the end of it.

Finally he reached the two fountains, sweet water bubbling up from one in golden ambrosia, the other choked with a bitter black sludge. He filled one bottle with each, checked his arrows and set forth. Should be a quick job. Dump the bitter water on the girl, nick her with an arrow, nick some ugly bloke with the same arrow, throw the sweet water on the pair, and voila! Nuptials. And the beauty safely married off to a troll of a man. Although that last one seemed pretty happy with the minotaur guy. They actually made a nice couple. He’d gone to their wedding. Gave them a matching set of engraved toe nail clippers.

In a flash, he stood over the woman. She was rather attractive, but they usually were when they were sleeping and not talking. Invisible, he crept silently over to her and carefully placed the bitter drops against her lips, freezing when she stirred in her sleep and moaned. She opened her mouth slightly, running her tongue along her full bottom lip.

Okay. That had never happened before. He’d better wrap this up quickly in case she woke up. After all, he had to get his picks in before Artemis. She always beat him in the office pools, but not this year. No way.

Cupid pulled the arrow from his quiver and aimed it right for the woman’s heart. There. Now remove it, find some homeless guy in an alley, and wedding bells would be ringing. Grasping the arrow, he tugged. And tugged. What in Hades was it stuck on? With a mighty pull, the arrow came free, ripping the woman’s lacy nightshirt with it and sending Cupid flying backwards. She shrieked, sitting upright and instinctively covering her breasts with her hands. As if he cared.

“Who. . . who is there?” she asked, her voice laced with fear.

Cupid bit back a laugh. He was invisible. She’d never see him. He’d just sneak out, and a week later he’d be toasting the happy couple. Her eyes darted downward to his hand, and instinctively, he followed her gaze. Drat! The stupid night shirt dangled, fully visible, from his arrow. Without thinking he thrust it behind him. And jabbed himself in the leg. With a growing sense of doom, he looked down at the spreading red on his invisible thigh. Could this go any more wrong?

“Who is there?” she demanded again, her voice stronger.

“Cupid,” he told her, stepping closer to the bed. She was more beautiful than his mother, than any woman he’d ever seen. Her hair was like a raven’s wing, her skin like alabaster, her lips sweet berries on a summer’s day. His eyes drifted lower, all thoughts of double elimination grids flew from his mind. Oh such lovely breasts, soft and round. If only she’d move her hands, so he could see them in their entire glory.

“Cupid? The fat baby with wings, Cupid?”

He felt a surge of anger. Those animations had gone viral on YouTube within seconds. He’d kill Apollo if he ever got his hands on him. Jerk.

“No. That’s a different Cupid. I’m very good looking with six pack abs. I’m rich. And I’m a skilled lover whose brooding, and sometimes violent, demeanor hides a sensitive and caring soul.”

“Why can’t I see you?” She looked about, her hands still stubbornly covering the parts of her he was longing to see.

Oh. He’d almost forgot the last part. Leaning over, he sprinkled her lovely bosom with the sweet water, before emptying the rest on himself. A golden glow lit the room, the birds sang with joy, the woman’s eyes slowly examined her suitor from head to toe.

“Nice,” she approved. “You did say you were rich, didn’t you?”

“Yes, my beloved Psyche.” Her name was Psyche, wasn’t it? Or was that the woman last year, the one with the minotaur?

She smiled, and he breathed a sigh of relief that he’d gotten her name right.

“And now I will sweep you away, my darling bride. You will dwell with me and my mother in the beauty of Olympus.”

“Your mother?” she asked, her brow creased with doubt.

But it was too late for second thoughts. Gathering her into his golden arms, Cupid made off for the heavens above with his lovely Psyche. And the three of them lived reasonably happily ever after.

——————————————————————

Her First Day

by Sarah Fredricks

He sat in their bedroom chair and watched her as she slept. He’d sat there every night for the last six months. Until he’d started this ritual he’d kind of forgotten how serenely beautiful she was. He hated that he’d taken her for granted, hadn’t told her enough that he loved her.

She stirred. He glanced at her clock – seven a.m. – waking up time. Today was another first for her. She’d got through her first Christmas, her first birthday. And now it was Valentine’s Day. He felt his heart crack. It startled him, because it was impossible. How could a heart already broken crack any further?

Tears fell silently from his eyes as she opened hers. She stared up at the ceiling. He knew what she was thinking – she was wondering how she would get through this day.

He’d always been a glass half full kind of guy and until six months ago he’d never cried. Now, he couldn’t stop, but then, he’d never had the opportunity before to be an observer of others. Not only did he feel her pain, he absorbed it. His tears were her tears – that was the only explanation he’d been able to come up with. How otherwise had he cried so much when she had cried hardly at all?

He closed his eyes against the bleakness on her face. That bleakness hadn’t changed in six months. In these few moments before she took a deep breath and started her day, her eyes always looked so vacant. He felt the darkness swirl around him, saw the velvet black as it swamped him. He tensed against its effect and waited for it to squeeze him hard as he journeyed through its vortex.

His eyes flew open. The blackness had slunk away. He glanced over at her and saw life shimmering in her eyes. For the first time in six months he breathed more easily. Today was the first day her bleakness had cleared on its own. Up until now, it had taken the presence of their son to chase away the deep, dark shadows.

As she stretched out he continued to watch her, with a tender smile on his face. He was proud of how far she’d come in six months. Proud of how she’d stood up to everyone and everything. Proud that she hadn’t caved in to her parents’ demands to go home.

Just as she started to move the quilt back a little body barrelled into her and pushed her down into the mattress.

‘Mum! Look what I found on my pillow!’

The little body waved something at her. She sat up against her pillows and stilled the waving hand. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at.

He grinned. He’d known that would surprise her. He’d left it to give her hope, to let her know he was there for her. He’d wanted his son to give her this gift of love.

Tears poured down her face now as she recognised the tiny red flower in her son’s hand. It was the single rosebud that had blossomed on their rose bush – the rose bush they’d planted the day they’d married.

The day it had opened its heart to the sun he’d picked it for her and presented it to her on a tray filled with her favourite food. She’d dried it out, and six months ago she’d left it with him as a symbol of her love.

He held his breath, waiting for her wracking sobs to subside. His fingers touched his own cheek. There were no tears. He smiled. She’d finally taken ownership of her own grief. Now, her healing would begin.

She hiccupped as her overwhelming emotions subsided, and she stared at the rose. She reached out and stroked its petals. ‘Where did you get this?’ she whispered.

‘Daddy gave it to me.’

She looked her son in the eye. So many times in the last six months he’d said that. It had started with the toe nail clippers. She’d found them on the bathroom counter and asked her son how he’d managed to climb up to the cupboard and remove them. It had been five months ago and she was certain they hadn’t spent a month on display. There was nothing on show in the bathroom; everything had a place in the cupboard. There had been other moments in the months that followed but nothing since the ice cream last month. She’d gone into the kitchen to see why her son was so quiet and found him stuffing his face with it, the empty tub sitting by the sink.

At that moment she’d felt as if she might collapse under the weight of it all until something had strangely held her up, made her feel lighter.

As she lay in her bed, she closed her eyes and prayed for assistance in helping her son through their loss. Just at that moment she sensed the comfort of an embrace, an embrace that felt so much like her husband’s. She leaned into its warmth, a sense of peace enveloping her.

She felt the small, soft body of her son snuggle in beside her.

‘Hello Daddy.’

She tensed, until the warmth of the embrace seemed to massage her shoulders. She sighed. Her husband had always known just where to apply the pressure.

She imagined she heard his voice whisper in her head.

‘Happy Valentine’s Day darling. You’re ready now. Know that I loved you deeply. Know that my heart broke over and over as I kept watch over you. Know that you’re strong enough now to move on. You’ll find happiness again, I promise you.’

She shuddered as a soft breeze swiped around her and caressed her face.

‘Bye Daddy.’

She sat up and stared at her son. ‘Why do you say that sweetheart?’

He pointed to the window. ‘Look Mummy. He’s waving goodbye.’ He waved as his daddy’s spirit floated away.

She turned and looked out the window, confused that the curtains were open. In the blink of an eye she saw a swirling of puffy cloud blot out the early morning sun. She smiled. In that moment she caught the face of her beloved man.

A stillness, a peace, settled in her heart.

He’d been right. She was strong enough now. And maybe her little boy really had been able to see his daddy’s ghost. She held him to her heart and breathed in the innocence of her child.

He was her Valentine for now and she’d relish every moment of this wonderful day with him. The first, bright day of their future.

——————————————————————

The Opposite

by Christie Stratos

Valentine’s Day. The beginning of the end of my relationship with my most significant other thus far. I can never forget what he put me through. A three day breakup starting on a day we should have been expressing our love for each other. Instead, he was dead drunk and the façade had fallen away. It turned out he was an alcoholic, and the man I’d fallen in love with had never existed. The alcoholic who showed himself was the truth. And our relationship had been fiction.

They always tell you in all the movies that eventually you run out of tears. That’s not true. I wish it was. I cried for a month straight, and to this day – four years later – I haven’t run out of tears.
I wouldn’t wish on anyone the anxiety he’s caused in my life since then: my newfound fears of trust, love, being blindsided. That’s what happens when perfection is betrayed by reality.

So now I tend to choose guys who are wrong for me. That way, at least I know where the relationship is going: to a definite breakup. I never have to worry about trust, love, or being blindsided. Those things are impossible when you know you’ll be leaving soon.

So here I sit, in my office on Valentine’s Day, four years later. I’m staring at the flowers my current boyfriend has sent me. They’re red and pink roses in a red vase with a puppy dog stuffed animal stuck to it. The puppy holds a note in the shape of a heart, and the note says that he loves me – a sentiment I haven’t yet returned – and he can’t wait to keep learning more and more about me. I should appreciate this, but instead, it’s only brought on a panic attack. One I had to run to the bathroom to deal with.

I can’t concentrate on anything but the ice cream waiting for me at home. Double truffle fudge with fudge nuggets. You can always depend on ice cream – the taste never changes.

The day goes by, minute by minute, and it feels like a year. I get a text from him saying he can’t wait to see me later for dinner. I had been looking forward to the dinner part, but I really didn’t want to get soppy with him. Words are words, and we all say the same words in one relationship that we say in the next. That’s not very special. Or very sweet.

When 5:00 finally comes, I pack everything up and head home, even though everything isn’t finished. I’m supposed to meet him at the restaurant at 7:30. All I want to do is take a shower and eat my ice cream and watch some mindless TV. Maybe finish up some work.

I walk into my apartment and kick the door closed. I take the ice cream out of the freezer for it to soften while I take a shower. The hot water always soothes me. I always feel like I’m taking a break from the world while I’m in the shower. I dry myself off and put on my favorite pair of PJs: a soft black cotton t-shirt from college and blue patterned fleece pants. I turn on the TV, turn on my computer, and grab a spoon for my ice cream. I can’t find the scissors to get that ridiculous piece of plastic off of the top, so, in an ultimate bachelorette moment, I use my toenail clippers.

6:30. I can fit some comfort in before I go out to dinner. Only…there’s nothing that fits my mood on TV. Since when does TV let you down when all you want is a mindless show? And my computer is freaking out, blue screening on me. And when I take a huge spoonful of ice cream to quell my disappointment, they’ve apparently started using some sort of cheaper chocolate to make it. The whole thing is chocolate, so now the ice cream sucks.

Curses fly through my head. And out my mouth.

7:00. I text my boyfriend and say I can’t make it to dinner, that I’m not feeling good, and can we postpone it until another night? It’s only a Hallmark holiday after all. I know that will probably disappoint and maybe even hurt him a little, but I can’t say I care much at this point.

I take some work out of my bag – just a bit of paperwork that I might as well get out of the way.
I try one pen. It doesn’t work. So I try another. Nothing. One more. What the f-

There’s a knock at the door. I freeze as if I’ve been caught in the middle of committing a crime. I’m afraid of making a sound, hoping if I’m quiet, whoever it is will go away.

Another knock. I get up very slowly, trying not to make any noise, and tiptoe over to the door. I look through the peephole. It couldn’t be…

My alcoholic ex. I don’t know what to do with myself. Then I see the doorknob start to turn…and realize I forgot to lock the door when I came in earlier in my distracted state. I quickly slide the chain into the lock towards the top of the door.

“I know you’re in there. I saw your car outside. Just let me in. We haven’t talked in a long time and…I just need to talk to you,” he says in his deep, beautiful voice. I hate that voice now. Tears start to well in my eyes. I back away from the door, my fingertips lined up on my bottom lip, still not making a sound.

“Please,” he says softly, and I lose it. I start crying uncontrollably. He says my name. I wish he wouldn’t. He’s pulling and pushing the door and I don’t know what to do. But suddenly, he stops. I’m afraid to say his name, afraid he’ll answer. I stand there, completely unmoving, for an entire minute. That’s a long time when all your fears are culminating right on the other side of your apartment door. I hear nothing. I sink to the floor and cry, tears streaming down my face. I can’t stop my sharp, loud breaths. I haven’t cried like this since we first broke up.

A hand on my shoulder.

I gasp and turn around quickly, startled. My boyfriend. He must’ve come in through my window.
He doesn’t say anything. He just kneels in front of me and holds me, one arm around my waist, one hand clutching my head, holding it to his shoulder.

“Is he gone?” I ask between sobs.

He takes me by the shoulders and eases me away from his body, looking me in the eyes. “He won’t ever be gone. But I’m here. You don’t have to trust me. You just have to know that I’m here. And I always will be, even when you push me away.” He strokes my hair and wipes the almost-dried tears off my cheek with his thumb. I hadn’t realized I’d stopped crying. I hadn’t realized…

“I love you,” I whisper.

“I love you, too.”

——————————————————————————

Congratulations to the finalists.  You all did a wonderful job and I wish each of you the best of luck during voting.   The poll will stay open until midnight (EST) Wednesday, February 13th.  That gives a little over two days for voting.  On Thursday, the 14th, I will announce the winner and runner-up.  They will both receive their Amazon gift cards at that time via email.

Once again, the contestants are welcome to announce their story being up for vote on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. but I require you DO NOT tell people to vote for you specifically.  Ask others to simply visit and select the story they think is best.  Please make this a fair contest.  I really do not want to disqualify anyone.

*Poll has been removed in favor of a private vote by carefully selected judges.  This is not due to any fault of the finalists, but a decision made by the site administrator to ensure a fair contest.

Also, for those interested I have posted the stipulations for the next writing contest.  It will be for March and have a St. Patrick’s Day theme.  Check it out if you are interested by clicking HERE.

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~ by Suzie on February 11, 2013.

10 Responses to “February 2013 Writing Contest Finalists”

  1. Congrats!! Great choices 😀

  2. Congratulations on being finalists, everyone. All well-deserved! 🙂

  3. Well done to everyone who entered! Special congratulations to the finalists! 🙂

  4. Congrats to finalists!!!

  5. There were a lot of amazing entries – tough choices all around!

  6. […] https://mistressofthedarkpath.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/february-2013-writing-contest-finalists/ […]

  7. […] February 2013 Writing Contest Finalists (mistressofthedarkpath.wordpress.com) […]

  8. It was a tough choice for sure

  9. […] Our runner-up for this contest is Stacey Roberts with his clever story, “Passing Time”.  Stacey is also an author and co-hosts the SOJCast radio show.  You can read his story entry here. […]

  10. […] February 2013 Writing Contest Finalists […]

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