Saturday, September 8, 2012

Contest!


What's Their Story?
This Contest is now CLOSED. I am overjoyed with the amazing entries and will announce the winner on Tuesday. Thank you all so much for entering!


So, I was thinking and thinking... and I was trying to figure out a good way to share some of the luck I've had this year in the publishing industry with other writers. I remember (because it was NOT long ago), feeling lost and adrift... writing hard, and searching even harder for an agent. I wanted nothing more than to have someone who was inside the industry take a look at my words.

And then it happened! It was so validating.

I'd like to give that gift to someone else who feels alone. So here goes:

Flash Fiction Contest! The winner of this contest will have their words (query letter, OR first ten pages of their manuscript) reviewed by either my agent at Pen and Ink Literary, Anne Bohner, OR my editor at Saint Martin's Press, Vicki Lame. If you win, you get to choose who you would rather submit to, and what you would rather submit.

The flash fiction should be submitted in the comments. No more than 300 words. AND it must tell the story of the picture above.

To enter the contest and be eligible for the prize you must:
Tweet the contest (or Facebook announce)
Follow me on twitter @thelostwitch (so I can announce things there) (or "like" my facebook fan page)

If you don't do social media, but have a blog, you can blog about it. Just let me know your blog so I can follow it and read your words too!

There will be THREE prizes:
1st prize: noted above
2nd prize: 25 dollar amazon gift card
3rd prize: A critique of either your query or first ten pages of your ms by YOURS TRULY. :)

Contest will close by midnight  (Eastern Standard Time) Saturday 15th, 2012.

I can't wait to read submissions! Good luck!
PS: If you are don't have a query letter or a manuscript and you still want to enter, please do! If you win, I'll send you a gift card.

40 comments:

  1. Okay, my love...here is my flash fiction for you...I hope that I am meant to put this here:


    “Where did you get that picture?” he asks from the doorway. His voice is low and tentative, the voice of eggshell walking and fear.
    “Found it in the drawer. The old owners must have left it.”
    He takes three steps toward me. Then stops, too far away to touch, but close enough to see the black and white photo over my shoulder. I itch to bring it to my chest, keep him from glimpsing anything that feels private and personal. Even if it is someone else’s privacy. But I hold it out, wondering if he even realizes the consolation I’m offering.
    “Huh. It looks old.”
    “It looks lonely,” I answer back. My gaze returns to the image. I refuse to let my eyes stay too long on him, on the aching familiarity and excruciating distance of him. I feel his steady breaths wrap around me, trying to squeeze the sorrow from me like a sponge.
    “I’ll toss it,” he says after too much time. Too many questions unspoken between us.
    “Don’t,” I say, getting up. “I’m going to put it in my photo album.”
    His hand reaches for me as I pass, a moth’s wing fluttering over my bare shoulder. “It’s someone else’s picture. Someone else’s family. Someone else’s day at the beach.”
    I stare at him. “Yes. It is.”
    He draws his hand behind his neck, pinching and squeezing the constantly tight muscles of his shoulders. I almost blurt out that we hold our guilt in our shoulders, but that sort of honesty is past us now.
    “Why would you want to keep a picture of someone else’s family?” he asks.
    “Because, darling, right now, this day at the beach, this other family, this truth is so very far superior to my own.”

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  2. And here's my entry - thanks for getting the creative juices bubbling!

    He had broken his promise. The crowd of eager spectators provided incontrovertible proof. Disguised by a floating mat of kelp she’d watched them since the sky had first blushed in anticipation of dawn’s arrival.
    Her mother had been right. Humans were not to be trusted. Not under any circumstances. She had allowed herself to be seduced by his shy glances and even shyer kiss. She had been deceived by whispered confidences and summer afternoons spent splashing each other in the cove near his cottage. She bit her lip to control its quivering.
    Diving deep, she resurfaced within a moored dory’s shadow. Closer to the crowd, now buzzing with anticipation. Scarcely able to believe they were about to see, in all its glimmering piscine flesh, a real, live, mermaid. Some, unable to contain their excitement, had even jumped into the water.
    He had told her to meet him here. Where was he?
    She scanned the shoreline, dotted with genteel ladies shading themselves from the sun, discreetly wicking perspiration from their upper lips with folded hankies. Surely under those corsets were unladylike trickles of sweat and angry welts made by unforgiving whalebone. Serves them right, she thought, murdering the gentle giants in cold blood to render lantern oil from their blubber.
    There he was. Perched on a dune, observing. The filthy coward.
    The pain, which had circulated through the chambers of her heart like molten lava, began to cool. As it did so it hardened, coalescing into something else. Something powerful, dangerous.
    The current strengthened, the waves churned. A riptide began drawing the floundering swimmers towards the open ocean where a swell was building.
    “Henry, get out!” screamed a frantic mother, her eyes darting between her son and the enormous rogue wave gathering on the horizon.
    The only survivor was the photographer.

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    1. OH MY GOD. So good. How will I choose between these?

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  3. Hey Suzy. I'll be sending fiction over soon! But I just caught up on your sidebar and want to say CONGRATULATIONS! I'm so happy for you. Flash fiction to follow...after I blog about this. Not much of a FB/Tweet woman.

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  4. Annabelle stepped on the sand, her ankle twisting at the unexpected give. The hard pack of the Kansas plains hadn’t prepared her for this alien place, where the earth shifted and as far as the horizon, dark water undulated. Mama hadn’t arrived yet, or she’d have lifted an eyebrow, demanding Annabelle stand up straight. “You’re not married yet, dear. What will Wilfred or his family think if they see you slouching?” She pushed her shoulders back and, heeding her mother’s warning about the sun’s weathering effects, opened her parasol.

    A man sat on the sand in front of her. Blood rushed to her face at the sight of his bare legs. Beyond him, two women stood near the surf, clad in short skirts and wool tights, their calves outlined in spite of the knit coverings. Their lack of attire reminded her. In two days hence, when her betrothed, Wilfred Hapford Allings, III, twenty years her senior and a stranger until last week joined her in their marriage bed—she’d be wearing less than those immodest women at the water’s edge.

    Annabelle had no illusions. At eight and twenty, she was long in the tooth—a catch like Wilfred far beyond her station. The only living son from a family of vast wealth, he needed to produce an heir. She’d wondered why a man of such fortune would arrange for a mail order bride from Kansas. But when she gazed into eyes as cold as this first glimpse of the ocean and his grip on her arm left bruises, apprehension transitioned to fear. Then she overheard the maid. Two older brothers dead accidentally. His first wife—simply gone. Nothing proved, but she’d been a Wigglesworth and scandal ensued.

    Annabelle Tougas from Far Prairie, Kansas? Who would miss her?

    Here’s the link to my blog post announcing your contest.
    http://middlepassages-lcs.blogspot.com/2012/09/im-in-how-about-you.html

    Liza@MiddlePassages

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    1. Oh Liza, you've been around since the beginning. I'm so happy that your are excited for me. Thank you for this.

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  5. Polly wondered how much longer she could stand still. How many waves would come and go? It was terribly hot. But she stood next to Mrs. Kinney. That was her job. As she watched the children she thought of the man who sold boiled peanuts to her.

    “What are you finding, Miss Polly? Shells? Rocks? What treasure?” He wrapped the peanuts for the children as she held her coins ready to pay.

    “I watch the children,” she answered politely, hoping he could understand her. Mrs. Kinney told her she sounded like a wild creature. “I don’t look for anything.”

    “You stand still under the noon sun today. You’ll find a treasure.”

    The children ran ahead and the beach was filling up. Little ones could be lost so easily. She nodded politely and said nothing more, but he called after her.

    “Under the noon sun, Miss, under the noon sun.”

    At the family cabana, Mrs. Kinney held out her hand for the leftover coins and Polly handed them over without a word. Mrs. Kinney wanted a respectable nurse for her children. One she didn’t have to watch for stealing, she complained to Mr. Kinney when Polly could hear. Irish servants were useless.

    Useless Polly stood at her post. Something blew her skirt so strongly she had to grab it. The wind didn’t stop. What was it? Some strange American storm coming?

    “Miss. I see you’ve found my project”

    A young man took off his hat as he spoke to her. She looked down to see a pipe just behind her.

    “We’re blowing clean the drainage pipe today.”

    “I hardly knew what it was.”

    “I’m sorry if it startled you.”

    His brown eyes were kind, and as he spoke, she heard he shared her accent. The noon sun shone on them both.

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    1. NICE! Reminds me of The Awakening. Thank you for this beautiful entry!

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    2. You're welcome! I wanted to say thank you for doing this, and for your words reaching out to the writers still working away. It meant a lot. I DIG YOU!

      Barbara

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    3. Love the line, "I watch the children." The shared accent line gives me that warm feeling of a rekindled and very sweet love.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Tweeted about it here: https://twitter.com/tinapickles/status/245289957994938369

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    2. (Sorry, sorry, sorry--I saw an mistake and needed to fix it). Let me try this again:

      I'll give it a go :)

      I am a rock as I sink to the bottom of the sea floor.

      My butt bounces and then settles. I open my eyes in this new liquid world. Fractured sunlight plays games with the water molecules, bending and contorting the forest of legs around me. A sea creature, pale arms and legs flailing, paddles by, followed by a pair of hairy appendages wrapped in woolen swim trunks. The cast-off ripples in their wake makes the walls of my watery sepulcher shimmy. On the surface, the undulations of too many bodies cause the images of the world above to waver and distort. Bathers no longer have heads; upper bodies float at right angles to their lower halves. The white ball of the sun splinters into three pieces, four, now three again.

      High-pitched squeals travel to my underwater haven as rumbles and occasional clicks. I think, this must be what whale song sounds like.

      My air runs out, forcing me to surface. “I killed my mother,” I say, but my words are lost in the shrieks and squeals of children splashing in the water. I say it again, with the vague hope that someone will call the authorities and expose my sin. I add: "I didn't mean to." This time the waves catch my words and whisk them out to the vast and endless water. My choice of confessional renders me a coward.

      And yet, my hand did not waver as I pressed the pillow over my mother’s face as my weight pinioned her frail body to the bed. I only pressed more firmly when her hands—white as little doves—beat against my arms and clawed at my hair.

      I am a sinner, I tell myself. But I am free.

      My confession is a lie.

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  7. I immediately thought of Seurat, and his paintings. (This comes to me):



    It's Sunday.

    I'm walking through this familiar French sand, this beach, where I have been a thousand times. Like an old film, I can see myself running behind my father. He walks tall and strong, carrying his camera and tripod. I stumble to keep up with him, sand filling my shoes. Sweat is dripping from my forehead, salty as a sea.
    My father loves this beach. He tells me there are a million stories here walking around. As many stories as grains of sand he tells me. But my father is not a writer.
    He is a photographer.
    I watch the people watch the water. I watch this paragraph of time, frozen into a black and white image, at the command of my father's fingertips. I imagine the stories, I try to see what my father sees.
    I watch him focus, and nearly climb through the lens to claim his picture.
    It seems to me he has inhaled all of the color right from this world.
    My clothes are nearly soaked in sweat, the irony of the cool water so close, I wish I could drink it with my eyes.
    I'm stirring a sugary brown tea, making a small tornado in my perfect white teacup cup. I imagine it getting bigger and bigger until it swallows everyone here in this Sunday scene.

    The sound of the waves, and the staccato of the clicking camera become some kind of song. I am lost in my own story.

    "It's time to go" says my father, and it shocks me awake from my daydream.

    It's Sunday.
    I'm holding this picture, mad at my father for dying.
    I can smell the blue of the ocean when I look at this picture. I can imagine the countless voyages in our Sunday best, to find 'the perfect spot'.

    I walk across the sand steadily.
    Barely a breeze, but it seems to carry me there.
    I set up my equipment. There seem to be a million colors here. As many colors as grains of sand.
    I brush this story onto canvas. Colors are my words.
    Because I am not a writer, I am a painter.























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  8. Well, a friend told me to write something and I apologize in advance. :)

    Only the women kept watch. The men were defeated, hopeless. They’d done their best on foreign shores and now it was the tide that was coming, only the tide. But the water would soon build a wall too high to combat and a trench would offer no shelter here. Only the mothers knew what to do. They knew to spare their children a truth that couldn’t be changed and face a day for which they could not be prepared. So they brought them to the water, to the edge or into the still low tide. Better to be here than to be chased. Of course they’d wade out into the twinkling ocean blue before the sun began to set and bring the men out with them. They’d hold together for the end or they’d play in the starlight when nothing happened. And if the world went on, if things kept spinning at just the speed they always had, the women would know how to get back home. They would laugh at themselves, let their children laugh too at the state of their skirts and hairdos. They would trudge back to shore, light though their dresses weighed them down with ocean water. They would pull their children along, gathering speed and sand when they were back on land and they’d carry them all – the children and the brown grains and even the still-heavy men. The women would carry them home.
    -------------
    Congrats on your successes and thanks for the task while I resist going to bed! :)

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  9. Watching out to sea, my hand clutches more than a parasol to protect me from the blistering sun. It holds a thousand memories of walking, hand in hand, along this very beach.

    We were the perfect couple, Henry and me. He with his chiseled face, kind eyes, and old money, and me with my huge curiosity and love of all things musical. Together we formed a perfect union, a sort of cosmic yin yang that can only be imagined in books or in the daydreams of young girls. We shared our love with the world, but kept our pet names of Precious Henry and Angel Alice to ourselves. The wedding, graced with white Lilies, golden table cloths, and glittering candles, was the most majestic the Pawtucket community had ever seen.

    I remember the jealousy on Estelle’s face when we’d first met. At the time, I had no way of knowing she and Henry had been engaged prior to his eyeing me playing, “Fur Elise” on the rickety Chickering in the lobby of the Hotel Astor. Her chilled face matched the icy January night and made my heart freeze. Henry had grabbed my hand, the one that now clutched a pointy, black umbrella, and pulled me away.

    “Never mind her,” he’d said, as we nearly ran out the door and down a cobblestone alleyway. Lifting my heavy skirt, I did my best to keep up. After hailing a carriage, Henry relaxed, but his faraway look halted me from asking questions.

    My eyes scan the beach looking for a corridor to propel me back in time. Instead, I see only children building sand castles, parents watching nervously, and waves nipping like tigers at the seashore.
    If only I could have been there that night. If only I could have pulled back the small arm and exposed the evil intent. If only I could have stopped the woman with ice running through her veins from bringing the buck knife down again and again into my Precious Henry.

    The ocean still lifts and falls, the sun still rises and sets, and the children still laugh and play. And I still walk hand in hand with the Ghost of Henry along the sandy dunes of Nantucket beach.

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    1. GAH! The stabby lady! I like this, Debra.

      Barbara

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    2. Glad you liked it! I had a ton of fun writing it. Thanks, Suzanne. As always, you rock. ;-)

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  10. Outstanding entries so far! I jumped over from Liza's blog, and glad I did. :-)

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  11. Ethel and Lindy were late for their annual appointment at Morehead Beach. It was entirely Lindy’s fault – the doctor, the waiting, the prescription.

    “Children will get colds,” Ethel said again. She flicked the reins.

    “You don’t have children,” Lindy sniffed.

    Ethel bit the air. No, she'd never bred like rabbits.

    On the beach, below her parasol, she checked her watch. One-fifteen.

    “We’ve missed him.”

    “Perhaps he’s running late,” Lindy said, white skirts plucked up in the breeze.

    “Not in twenty years.”

    “There’s always a first. Otherwise, why would we keep coming?”

    That was true. They still expected him to choose, to break a triangle they’d drawn in childhood.

    Ethel scanned the beach. Lindy watched the bathers. Daniel wasn’t there.

    “I don’t believe it,” Ethel said.

    “I never believe it,” Lindy answered. “Never. It’s a shock, each time he rises from the water.”

    Ethel disagreed. She dreamt of it all year, always. His smile came up like fishes. Broad shoulders in a faded swimsuit. Water sliding off his hips.

    “That leg,” Lindy shuddered. “Such a jagged wound.”

    “Vicious shark,” Ethel said.

    “A leviathan.”

    “I suppose I’ve gotten used to it.”

    Ethel could get used to almost anything. Daniel’s ghost. A life spent on rivalry. The wide blue deathlessness of grief.

    But not this. Not missing him completely.

    “We’re too late,” she whispered.

    Lindy sighed. “Looks like it. Ah well, doesn’t matter, does it? He’ll never choose. And I’ve got dinner to get on with.”

    Ethel didn’t follow. She watched the flat horizon, imagining next July, how his golden curls would break the surface. This time, he would take her hand. She’d feel the slip of water on her skin, cool, despite her heavy skirts. “Hello,” he’d say, and then, “always.”

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  12. The salted air rose effortlessly over the whitecaps, pushed ashore past the wool-encased recreants along the shore, then swiftly wound around its intended two disciples like an endless, opiate-laced tendril.
    Violet’s finery was intentionally appropriate for a stroll around a botanical garden and not for a jaunt on a public beach. Yet there she stood, boots dusted with sand, cheeks flushed and strands of her long hair swirled around her nape. Her parasol was being shifted in time with the clouds by the girl at her side. Still, she closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and for a moment, smiled.
    “Alice! The blanket!” Violet exclaimed.
    The girl at her side jumped. “Oh, so sorry Miss,” Alice cried. “I’ll retrieve it straight away.”
    “I shall be fine.” Violet said reassuringly. “Take care not to trip, Alice. Please, take your time.” Her eyes turned from Alice’s retreating form to the shore, but not before halting briefly on those of the handsomely-clad man reclining in the sand nearby.
    “Good afternoon, Miss Heatherton.” The man said and tipped his hat.
    “I believe it is customary, upon greeting someone, to rise.” Violet replied her eyes on the sea.
    “I assure you, part of my anatomy already has.” The man responded as he raised himself to his full height and strode boldly over to her side.
    “You’re incorrigible.” Violet whispered as he gently took one of her gloved hands and pressed it to his lips.
    “Hardly.” He murmured his lips now against her exposed wrist, “I am positively depraved. As you and you alone, are well aware.”
    The color returned to Violet’s cheeks and the smile to her face as she looked up into his eyes and said,
    “Truly, Alexander Collier Edwards, tomorrow you will officially make me the happiest woman in the world.”

    ReplyDelete
  13. The gossip reached Jane’s ears long before she met the water’s edge. Apparently, a young man had chosen that morning to debut some rather scandalous beachwear, and the respectable ladies of Southend were in a tizzy.

    “I nearly fainted at the sight of it,” whispered Mary Asby. Her tremendous feathered hat poked at Jane’s face.

    “I heard the bottoms stopped well short of his knees!”

    “And the fabric clung so tightly, honestly, it was criminal.” Mary drew out a little white fan and whipped it furiously beneath her chin.

    “Could you tell who it was?”

    Mary shook her head. “I only saw him . . . from behind.”

    “Honestly, I don’t see the trouble,” Jane said, adjusting the angle of her umbrella. She regretted wearing her felted hat. A stream of sweat trickled down her neck.

    “Surely you aren’t suggesting this kind of dress is appropriate. It was—” Mary paused, her eyes darting around. “It was obscene I tell you!”

    The ladies tittered over the word. Jane suppressed a giggle.

    “You’ll see! When you see it for yourself, you’ll see what I mean.”

    “I certainly hope so,” said Jane, laughing openly now.

    Horror flashed across Mary’s face. She opened her mouth to retort, but then her eyes grew wide, and she pointed up the beach.

    A figure approached from some distance. The manner of his dress was unmistakable. Jane couldn’t tear her eyes away from the curve of his body, even as he drew closer and returned her smile. He was none other than Lord Halling’s son, the most eligible bachelor in all of Southend.

    “Hullo, Jane.”

    Mary fairly snorted.

    “Good day, James. I quite admire your suit.”

    His eyes gleamed. “Would you care to join me?”

    At this, Mary gasped.

    Jane reached for his arm. “I’d be delighted.”

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  14. Okay Suzy, you twisted my arm! *grin* What GREAT entries you have here. This was a nice departure from revisions and may or may have been influenced by the kind of scene I was just tweaking (*ahem*). :-)

    Cole’s breath whispered against her neck. “What’s that, Mira?”

    “My namesake. She’s holding the umbrella.” Mira pointed to the old photo on her nightstand, curling along the edges. “Nana gave me this picture before she died.”

    He leaned over for a better look and a gasp caught in her throat. They’d stood this close before. They were best buds, after all. But lately, something had changed between them. Like the air was crammed with a zillion electrical sparks. “She was a year older than us—only seventeen—and already married.”

    “Seriously?” he said. “That’s crazy pants.”

    “Tell me about it.” Mira laughed. “But there’s something else. A secret in this picture."

    His chin fit in the space between her neck and shoulder, snug as a puzzle piece. “What do you mean?”

    Mira breathed Cole in. He smelled like soap—clean and woodsy. “See how she’s looking down the beach?”

    “Yeah.” His voice vibrated against her bare skin.

    “He’s out of the frame, but she’s looking at the boy she loves.” Mira bit her lip, her own secret suppressed. “And it’s so not her husband.”

    “Whoa,” Cole said, taking a step back. “Scandalous.”

    Mira nodded and slipped the photo in her drawer. “Nana said that picture was a reminder, of sorts.”

    She turned and Cole held her gaze, giving his full attention.

    “To always hear the song in your heart,” she said.

    “That’s pretty cool.” Cole stepped closer, his eyes sliding from her eyes down to her mouth.

    Mira felt a winging in her chest. “Cole,” she murmured.

    He moved a stray hair from her cheek. “What’s your song, Mira?”

    Her heart strained against her chest as he tipped his forehead against hers.

    Mira tangled her fingers in Cole’s black waves. “This.” Then she moved her lips against his.

    It was fun. Take care, Lady Love!

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  15. Hi Suzanne! I came here from Liza's blog! Thank you so much for the opportunity to flex my rather lazy creative brain.

    Here is my entry - good luck to everyone! Take care
    x

    ***********


    She has her back to me and it is all I can do to stop myself from taking a few steps towards her - to rest my cheek on the nape of her neck, breathe her in, smell her scent, wrap my arms around her ridiculously tiny waist and just listen to her breathing, the way she does with lips parted, her breasts rising beneath her lace corset. Oh how many times have I watched her whole body shudder as she sighs while sipping her tonic or pondering her embroidery and not felt a stirring in the depths of my heart?

    She holds a parasol even if she wears a hat. Earlier she joked how she only trusted the sun to ruin her skin and I had wanted to say, no, not a fiery storm nor a super nova could ever ruin your beauty.

    I avert my eyes and stare at the cratered beach. Salt dusts my lips and my eyes blur. I try to breathe in the sea air but it only makes me quiver cold inside.

    I know she watches Billy romping along the shore. He is a happy little boy blessed with his mother’s elegant nose and kind eyes. He has been the most joyous of my charges and I could only be grateful. Yet he also possesses the best of the other - the stout chin and strong limbs of his father who sits behind me, a boulder casting a long impassable shadow across the sand.

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    1. nice! I like the father as boulder metaphor, very fitting.

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  16. Bobbing in the warm waters, on the cusp of summer and fall, I saw the Widow Doyle on the shore with a yellow ribbon in her hair. Out from her house for the first time in months, she was tucked under her parasol, staring through me and the other swimmers. I figured she was straining her eyes over the oblivion to the continent where her lover was littered in the singed timber of Belleau Wood.

    4F with a curved spine, I plumbed the pipes of Asbury Park while my brother found his grave among the moonscape of Cantigny. It was in the Atlantic where the pain in my back dulled to an ache. There in the ocean, atop steep sandbars and wilted sea weed, the thoughts of flanges and washers, funerals and flags, receded with the tides.

    The sea foam still sticking to my chest, I lurched onto shore, my right shoulder higher than the left. A herd of children paraded past her slight statue, their squawks competing with the mobile of gulls that swung above. I stopped in front of her and said, “They don’t know.”

    “Nor should they.” she said. We talked about Wilson and the War, about the mayor and the radio, until the sandcastles became spent votives, until the sun’s embers extinguished below the waves’ crests.

    I walked her back to the faded planks of her porch. Before I waved goodbye, I thought of the monuments to come, “dulce et decorum est” and all the rest, my brother bleeding out in a town whose name he couldn’t pronounce, and asked, “Will you let me know when you untie the ribbon?”

    The widow nodded as she mounted the stairs, her thick heels thumping each step.

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  17. I nod at the women in the picture in solidarity, gaze out at the ocean, and sit down at my desk to write another letter to my husband that will never be sent, never received. Five hundred fifty two such letters command one far corner. Every day I write to him, detailing for him the endless vacation he never got to finish. I have now written to him more days than we were married.

    He knew not to go diving alone, knew of the currents that could sweep someone out to Molokai. He risked it anyway. And I let him go, content to sleep in. At first, when he failed to return, I was annoyed, assuming he went surfing without telling me. I sought my revenge in the hotel’s overpriced boutiques and by flirting with the local boys at the bar.

    By afternoon I returned to the hotel room, longing for his touch. It was devoid of any trace of him. I waited. By evening, my shaky fingers managed to dial the front desk, the flood of tears not cracking until my voice squeaked out my plea for help. The police were kind, but muttered, “Stupid tourist” in front of me, as though my fear and grief rendered me deaf.

    I sold everything we owned and rented this ocean-front condo, keeping watch for his return. I promised not to leave without him. They never have found his body.

    Now I tick off time in a paradise that has mutated into a living hell of regret. The women in the photograph are my only real companions. Like me, they stand on the beach every day, no intent of ever sliding into the ocean and exploring its mysteries. They seek a deeper communion. Like them, I now am married to the sea.

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  18. Here's my entry! :) I just followed your twitter--my twitter is @dazedpuckbunny, and I shall "like" your facebook as well (also will post about this contest on facebook now) . Cool contest! :)

    ------------------------------------------


    Daisy ran faster than the boys to the ocean. She stumbled until it engulfed her bare, gleaming calves. Its caress sent prickles over her flesh. She trembled despite the heat.

    The boys left Daisy alone, she could punch a throat to drop any boy--in private of course. In public, Uncle Skeffington would box their ears. Uncle Skeffington, however, never would deliver such a blow to The Aunties, even when they pinched her to leave purple flowers on her flesh.

    Mama died of consumption in Uncle’s arms. The kiss he pressed to her forehead did not wake the princess.

    Kiss me like you kissed Mama....

    Oh, there are questions a child can regret asking.

    Anger is confusing when the man who has wronged you is so warm, and the women who can save you are so cold. Imagine if the aunties knew? Wrapped in whale bone, but sharp as sharks....

    Sandpaper rough between her thighs... Daisy’s feet left her, she bobbed and felt another shove against her waist. Despite her racing pulse she wrapped her arms around the object. Ah, such a queer thing to find oneself embracing a large fish with black button eyes and flesh rough as uncle’s cheek. The fish’s pointed nose pushed into her chest--like the stab of Auntie’s accusing finger. Daisy punched it.

    “Gumble, gumble, you have no teeth!” she said.

    It couldn’t mean anything to the fish, but swim away it did.

    Wheezing, Daisy stared at her bloodied palms, forearms, and legs.

    The Aunties lost decorum and screamed when they saw her state. Uncle Skeffington tossed his hat aside and tried to embrace Daisy but she shoved him off.

    His chocolate eyes could never be shiny as a shark’s.

    “You have no teeth, Uncle,” Daisy said.

    At his stricken expression, she laughed.

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  19. “A hat under an umbrella is redundant. Full regalia on sand is impractical to say the least. Never look like you are looking at people. Stare at water. Shape the waves. She knew there were two adolescent boys holding 10 foot length of stick behind my grandfather. Grandfather was stoically indifferent to Granny's future plight. He understood that no amount of hormone based energy could apply the leverage needed to reach their goal.”

    The sun juiced pomegranate through cottonwoods as EMTs rolled her out the ambocab into the September dusk. An unexpected bowel release moved her hand to her mouth. A littlegirl giggle escaped. “That one smells like marijuana.” She took my hand as I walked alongside the cart. “It's ok, we're almost done.” A slip of photograph falls away.
    “I know, mom.”

    “People don't really swim in water. Only drowning people swim. People stand in water. Stare at sand, shape dunes. It's impolite to stare. Sand is savage in so many ways. That's why people stand in water. People who stand in water don't use hats and umbrellas. Little girls didn't have to wear sand-length dresses back then. Little girls don't have to stand in water. They're already water. I want my water back. I want to die standing in water.”

    “Can I help you to your car? We loved taking care of your mom. She always had a witty comeback. That is, until she couldn't talk anymore. Then we tickled her to create an autonomic smile. You know, that littlegirl smile.”
    Nurse talked on as I secured remnants into the back seat. Letters fell from mouth to pavement, briefly formed stale aphorisms, then pinged back into the atmosphere. I thought she was waiting for a tip and offered her a twenty. “Keep the change.”

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  22. Lucy wished she could run unfettered by long skirts like the young girl at the water line, hair tumbled loose, toes washed by surf. Sweat trickled down her back under her corset. To be so close to freedom and not share it! This was her life now. She inhaled the ocean breeze and lifted her face to the sun, daring a freckle.

    Pearl frowned at her from under her parasol. “You will ruin your complexion.” Doubtless she felt that this would present yet another slight against her brother by a selfish, immature wife. Lucy bit back a reply. She could not be properly grateful to William, though she tried hard to be. He seemed to think that because he had no heart, neither did she.

    The waves beckoned to her, rolling hills of green glass glinting in the sunlight and crashing merrily onto the sand. Gulls cried above her, mocking and sad. A fierce desperation gripped Lucy. She could not bear another day of watching life instead of living it.

    She bent down, pretending to fix her bootlaces while loosening them. Pearl refused to wait for her. When her sister-in-law was far enough away and no one else nearby, Lucy slipped her feet from her boots, tossed off her hat and ran to the water. The world seemed unbearably bright as she fought the waves, beating her way past the swells to the current. The corset grabbed her breath and her skirts tangled her legs but she was young and strong. She could do this.

    She heard shouts behind her and laughed. When she was far enough to stop swimming, she unfastened her skirt and kicked it away. The current swirled silky cool around her legs, carrying her far from Pearl’s tiny, indignant form. She was free at last.

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  23. I couldn't get the picture out of my mind, how clean the horizontal line of the water looked with all the vertical people, and so:

    “There’s a ship,” Abigail insisted. “Does no one else see it?”

    Everyone along the beach looked from Abigail again to the horizon, but began to shake their heads, they saw no ship. Abigail, in turn, looked east, ashamed. “I’d swear it.”

    “Maybe the heat has got to you,” murmured Eleanor, “that black umbrella can’t be helping.”

    “Maybe,” she agreed. People were whispering now, she had made a scene, again, again, but she looked, and there – yes, still, she saw it clear as her hand before her, a sailing boat.

    Eleanor said, “I knew this outing was too much, too soon; you weren’t ready. Let’s get you home.”

    “No!” Abigail strode away from Eleanor. How quickly the nurse shamed her.

    “Abigail, come back here,” Eleanor said. People did not acknowledge either woman this time, despite the raised voices, embarrassed for them both, no doubt. Abigail strode toward the water.

    Abigail turned and called back, “Why should I? I’ll just make another scene and another. I want to be on that ship.”

    “There. Is. No. Ship,” Eleanor said. “You know it.”

    “I see it,” she cried. “It doesn’t matter, I see it.”

    Eleanor did not move, not even as the water swirled around Abigail’s ankles and she kept walking. She wasn’t dressed to go in the water, she wasn’t to go in, but there she was in it and still going. Eleanor considered.

    Abigail kept walking straight out, out to the ship.

    “No, it doesn’t matter, anyway,” Eleanor said, softly. She turned to go.

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  24. By the way, I did tweet and post on FB about the contest, and am following you. @crishardy. Thanks!

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  25. I'm so impressed with the entries! Thanks, Suzanne, this was so much fun!

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