Sunday, April 29, 2007

Take Out Your Mont Blancs - "Table for Eight"

I'm very excited! -- I made the Readers' Choice category.

Readers' Choice, 1st Runner-Up -- ESTHER AVILA, Table for Eight (story below)


Entry #31

Table for Eight

“Perfect,” Emma said to herself as she placed a small vase with a handful of daisies in the center of a small round table. Eight veneer dessert plates were already carefully placed – each on a pretty paper doily.

Emma glanced at the clock before smoothing her blue dress down with both of her hands.

She loved the color of the dress – and the matching blue ribbon keeping her long ponytail in place. It reminded her of the robin eggs she had seen while on a picnic with her mother.

“Look here, Emma,” her mother had said as the 9-year-old child peeked into the nest. “New life will begin soon.”

Emma tried to remember what they talked about. But she couldn’t. She missed her mother and she tried not to think of the day her mother left.

Emma peered out the large window. Her mother had called and promised to join her for tea. But there was no sign of anyone coming.

“Emma Johnson – a most interesting case,” said Dr. Jason Sanders to three young psychiatrist interns as they watched the little girl in the blue hospital gown through a two-way mirror. “Child Protective Services picked her up from a filthy home. Her mother had been dead for two days – alcohol and overdose. Poor kid. As they took her from her home, she ran to the sink and salvaged those little dishes. She sets that table every day and waits.”


briliantdonkey said...
I really like the duality of real vs dilusion. EX: Blue hospital gown become pretty blue dress.

Nice work.

Joni said...
I agree with BD. Masterfully done.
September said...
Thank you for the nice comments BD and Joni.
Jaye Wells said...
I'd love to see this one expanded a bit because there is so much to be explored. Great job.
Scott said...
You guys are killing me with these sad, sad stories! It breaks my heart to think about that little girl.
September said...
Thanks, Jaye.
Scott, you are right. I've been reading sad story after sad story.
But then again, all of Jason's photo prompts have been either dark-like or [the first one] dark but with light.

I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?
mutleythedog said...
I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?

More sad stories I should think...
Beth said...
This is so well done, September. Pulls on the heart strings!
Jude said...
Really really touching- clever story too.
Verilion said...
The clues left in the first part are very clever. A very poignant tale.
heather said...
oh i wanna slap the doctors and go hug that little girl and talk of robin eggs and pretty blue dresses. very well done. thank you!
Trevor Record said...
Oh, that is so sad! I think there should be a rule against writing sad stories about little kids!

September said:
I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?

Mutley Said:
More sad stories I should think...

I say:
Heh, Mutley tells is how it is.
September said...
Come on Mutley - think positive, dawg. :)

Beth, Jude and Verillion - thank you.

Heather: I know what you mean. And, thank you.

Trevor: Dejavu. Sigh. What is really sad is that these situations really exist.
Terri said...
This one is particularly, well written :)

Heather: I'll second that.
September said...
Thank you, Terri. Children do have a way of getting to us, don't they?
Susan Flemming said...
Oh... that last paragraph really gets you. I'm picturing a little girls getting ready for a tea party... and I suppose she is... just in a different setting than first thought.

That switch/surprize is one of the things that is characteristic of well written flash fiction. And yours made the story especially poignant. Well done.
Susan Flemming said...

little girl... not little girls.
September said...
Thank you, Susan. Poor little kid - waiting and waiting...
September said...
Thank you - for voting for my story. It is an honor for me to have won the runner up Reader's Choice award. :)
Beth said...
Congratulations on the Reader's Choice!!
jason evans said...
Wow, that was a tough ending. The gown/dress was brilliant!

High marks for pacing and entertainment value.

Congratulations on 1st Runner-up, Readers' Choice Award!!
September said...
Thanks, Jason. I always appreciate your comments. Thanks again for hosting the contest.

April 29: Winners announced
1st Place--TREVOR RECORD, Sleep
2nd Place
--SEAN FERRELL, Talking Down the Flames
3rd Place
4th Place
--JAYE WELLS, Werewife
5th Place
Honorable Mention
--JUDE ENSAFF, Case #453
Honorable Mention
--BRILLIANT DONKEY, Its All Relative
Honorable Mention
--BETH, Things We Cannot Say
Honorable Mention
--G. LI, Afterglow'
Honorable Mention
--JOHN MCAULEY, Steak & Pork Brains
Readers' Choice
--JAYE WELLS, Werewife
Readers' Choice, 1st Runner-Up -- ESTHER AVILA, Table for Eight (story above)

ALSO - I want to let you know about another writing opportunity. My blog friend, Bhaswati, has posted about a project about an author calling upon other writers to help compile and publish a book to raise funds for a young child who suffers from apraxia. Check it out.

Jim Kusserow and Fabulous Studio Band to visit Shinnston

Porterville Panther Band Concert

If you're in the Porterville (California) area, and you want to catch some great music, Jim Kusserow's Porterville Panther Band will be performing Saturday, May 5 at the Frank "Buck" Shaffer Theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium.

You won't be disappointed. His concerts are amazing. They really are and you are in for a treat if you attend.

I will look around for my newspaper story on last year's concert and return to post it. (I'm not sure I still have it.) But I did blog about the concert - click HERE to read - and scroll down to the May 13 posts. OR to read lots of band stories, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Prom night - two down, one to go

For the second time in my life, I helped one of my little girls get ready for prom. I have three girls. Jennifer is a freshman in high school this year - but she is already picking out prom dresses and she is hoping she can attend next year.

2001: I remember helping Marisa prepare for prom. Even though Marisa is Down Syndrome - when it came to preparing for prom - she was like any other teen girl. She was excited. She loved her dress - loved getting her hair and nails done - loved going out to dinner and loved dancing the night away. It was a very special evening. And, yes, I cried when I saw her. I took her to my sisters house. She cried. I took her to my niece's house - she cried. It was a beautiful night to remember.

Tonight it happened again. My second daughter prepared for prom. And yes, I cried. She looked like an angel. She looked beautiful.

I never went to prom. My father did not allow me to date in high school. I never had one date or attended one dance.

[Catherine at home before leaving for prom]

Friday, April 20, 2007

Papa was my Hero

Me at age 7
I was only four years old when I fell from a tall wooden fence. But a large nail caught me – or my arm – and there I hung, hooked to a rusty nail as cherry-colored blood squirted in all directions.

It was Father’s Day and all of the children were playing outside. I was told I passed out. I do not remember the fall, nor hanging there, but I do remember the story of how my papa saved me.

Hearing the screams of children, papa ran out of the house and through the yard in the direction of the screams – tripping twice and getting up, his trousers torn and face scraped.

You see, papa was blind. He could not see but he knew something horrible had happened.

“She’s up there, she’s up there,” the other kids cried as they pointed, as if my father could see them. He couldn’t, of course.

Yet, somehow, he reached up, found me, lifted me off the nail and got me down. Taking a handkerchief out of his pocket, he pushed it against my skinny left arm and pressed tight to prevent more blood loss as he commanded to someone to call an ambulance. As he rushed through the yard, I regained consciousness. I have flickering memories of people screaming and crying and can remember the distant and then loud sirens of the ambulance.

“You saved her life,” the ambulance attendant told my father. “She cut her main artery and she lost a lot of blood. Any more and she would not be here.”

I remember seeing my mother next to me, crying in the ambulance, and as the sirens took me away, I remember looking out the window and seeing my papa's worried face, his shirt covered in my blood. He couldn't see that I was fine. But his face, at that moment, is one that I will never forget.

That was my papa. That was my hero.

I do not remember how old I was when I learned that he was blind. I simply remember always knowing it. By the time I was born, my papa had already been blind for several years. He never saw me. But his heart did. He did not let his blindness keep him from loving life -- or living it.

I believed my papa could do anything. And Papa made me believe that I could too.

“You can be anything you want to,” he would tell me all the time. “You can do it.”

I believed it because he believed it. Together we were invincible. My papa was so powerful. Or, so I thought.

The day came when I realized my papa was not powerful. That’s just the way things were. Some things were stronger. And papa and I could not fight it.

I was 16 the spring that Papa was diagnosed with cancer. I did not realize how serious it was. I kept waiting for him to get better. That is how things worked. People got sick. People got better.

Spring turned to summer and Papa did not get better. Instead he was told that he had only three-to six-months to live.

Never in my mind did I ever imagine it would be the last Father’s Day I would ever spend with my father.

Oh how I remember that day. It was not every year that all of my 10 siblings made it home on the same day – not for Mother’s Day, not for Christmas, not ever. There was always at least one person missing. But that day, everyone came.

By then Papa was in a hospital bed. He called us into the room, one at a time. Because he tired easily, someone – not sure who made up the rule – told us we had 10 minutes to talk to him.

“I’m so proud of you,” he told me as I nodded – forgetting he could not see me. “You have made me proud.”

I had just made the Orange Blossom line – the marching band’s elite front-line of marching girls – something I had wanted for 10 years.

Papa had encouraged me to audition for one of the 12 coveted spots.

“Of course you’ll get it,” he had told me. “Why wouldn’t you?”

Now, there I was – tears streaking my face.

Papa could not see my tear-streaked face, but he knew I was crying. With all the strength he had left in his weak arm, he reached his hand to my face and brushed away a tear.

“You’re going to get better, Papa,” I said. “Of course you will. Why wouldn’t you?”

“Not this time, little one,” he said. “Not this time.”

I remember looking at the clock and each time, he sensed it.

“I don’t have much time,” he would say and I would kick myself for looking at the clock.

I do not remember what else we talked about but I do know we talked for 20 minutes before I was told I needed to step out and let someone else in.

“Thank you for being my Papa,” I whispered to him. “And thank you for saving my life when I was little. You're my hero."

“No,” Papa said. “You are mine."

Lily and I

I am back!

Dear Friends,

Somehow -- and I have no idea when, why or even how -- I changed my password and for the life of me, could not figure out what it was changed to. Attempting to contact administrators to reset the password was not working. Every time I did that, they would refer me to another blog I created for a friend.

But persistence paid off -- and here I am. Finally!

A lot has happened since January. I once again covered the World Ag Expo and got to meet (and write about) presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. I also started writing for TC Style Magazine and have been writing a lot for three newspapers.

I have a short story I wrote for an online contest. For now, I will paste that here -- but I promise to return to blogging regularly soon.

~ Esther