1.28.2005

Short Story Submission

A short while ago, Jaquandor pointed to a short story contest in the Buffalo News, whose rules go something like this (or, exactly like this):
    In the end, Chris decided, it had all been about the snow.

    If Chris had not trusted the weatherman -- or had managed to pack up and leave before Lee showed up with that package -- everything would be different now.

    But there was the snow. ...

    Want to try your hand at writing a short story? This month, The Buffalo News is sponsoring a Short Story Writing Contest, and all you have to do is start with those sentences above and then create the rest of the story.

    Entries, which are due Jan. 20, can be fit into any category desired -- mystery/suspense, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, chick lit or even nonfiction.

    All entries should be a maximum of 1,500 words in length, must be original work and must begin with the sentences provided.

    The contest is open to writers of all ages, but only one entry per person is allowed.

    You also must title the story -- the more provocative title the better.
    The top two best stories, which will be chosen by a panel of Buffalo News editors, will be published in the Life & Arts section on Feb. 1.


    Stories will be judged on plot, use and development of characters, quality of writing and creativity.

    The grand prize winner gets a year's worth of Buffalo News Book Club .selections and a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. Runner-up gets six months of Book Club selections and $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble.
Not a helluva exciting prize, but I hadn't written anything in a while, so I decided to give it a whirl. Though I hated the opening sentences, I figured I'm reasonably talented to overlook the Buffalo News' craptacular beginning and rattle something off. Well, rattle I did, and all told it took about an hour and a half to punch this baby out. For those of you who care, it's about an hour to put it all down and a half-hour to whittle it down to under 1500 words. No, there will be no DVD-release of the 'writer's cut'.

I don't anticipate getting any prize for this work. Really, how good can something be when I spent a grand total (including plotting) of about 2 hours creating it?
So, by popular request, here is, in its entirety, an original work by yours truly. Happy Friday. I encourage comments, but if you are writing to comment on grammar and such, you know where to stick it.
    "Expectations and Puppet Wisdom"

    In the end, Chris decided, it had all been about the snow.

    If Chris had not trusted the weatherman - or had managed to pack up and leave before Lee showed up with that package - everything would be different now.

    But there was the snow. He had always been a person who enjoyed the change of the seasons, a person who thought that Californians probably never really appreciated warm weather as much as someone who spent six months of the year in heavy coats and driving on salty roads.

    Unfortunately, the roads were not salted or even plowed, and they wouldn’t be for quite some time. The storm had caught the city unawares, a rarity as unusual as never hearing the phrase ‘lake-effect snow’ on the news in February. As such, the over thousand strong of dedicated climate control specialists (guys who drive the salt and plow trucks) had gotten a late start on the road-clearing task, a start which ensured that Chris, with his beloved Corvette, wouldn’t get the hell out of Dodge until much later than planned.

    He glanced out through his bay windows at his rear-wheel drive baby, and just knew that his neighbors were silently shaking their heads yet again for owning such a ridiculously poor snow vehicle. He knew this because one of those neighbors, his nemesis, Lee, was doing just that in his doorway.

    “Whew, where the hell did this storm come from?” the visitor asked, stomping his shoes on the worn welcome mat. Chris knew he didn’t have to answer, as Lee always preferred his own replies to that of anyone else in the room. “I swear on the local news last night they said nothing about this,” Lee continued. “Nothing. Just goes to show you that weather prediction still isn’t a science. How do they expect to predict global warming if they can’t tell me whether or not it’s gonna snow in the morning?”

    Lee couldn’t resist weaving in a political trap into his comments. Chris just shrugged his shoulders as if he too were baffled and exhaled.

    Lee seemed to notice and said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do now but wait it out. Damn side streets never get the first treatment. We’ll be a few hours before this stuff is cleaned off. And then we can break out the shovels and did out the driveway after the plows barricade us in.”

    “Yeah.”

    “So anyway, I’ve got this package from Karen for you,” Lee said, almost apologetically. “She said that she didn’t want it anymore, that it was all your stuff…”

    “What’s in it?” Chris asked, already suspecting the contents, and knowing Lee’s insatiable (read: nosy) curiosity wouldn’t have allowed him to deliver ‘a package’ without first going through it.

    A package. Chris snorted, still staring out at the Corvette. Lee’s overblown imagination had probably figured it was something private, personal, or hopefully sordid. Maybe some old letters between former lovers or pictures ripped up or maybe even a dead fish wrapped in Chris’ favorite t-shirt. Yes, her love for me now sleeps with the fishes.

    Lee didn’t answer right away. Given his penchant for speaking without thinking, it was a sure sign that he had indeed looked at the contents. “Well, Chris, you know, I don’t know. She just said that you were expecting it and I should give it to you today.”

    “When did you see her?”

    “Last night. She stopped by for two seconds. Left the package and vamoosed. So do you want it?” he asked, with a hint of eagerness, as a child might then follow up with a request to keep it.

    “Yeah,” Chris said. Karen had left a message on his machine saying that she was going to drop off something for him. She also rightly guessed that he was screening his calls.

    Lee’s shoulder’s seem to sag just an inch. He looked at “the package” and held it out to Chris.

    “Can you just leave it on the table?”

    “Sure,” Lee said, and turned to find an appropriate place on the coffee table. “You know, what was the issue with you two? From my perspective, she wasn’t all that bad, right?” he said, finding his rambling tongue again. “I mean, she was nice – is nice I mean – we all liked her. I guess just not your type, Chris.”

    Or maybe what you imagine your type to be, which would be anyone who can stand talking to you for more than ten minutes without searching for a trap door, Chris mused.

    “I mean, you’ve got this whole thing going with the flying and the trips out of town and the lifestyle. You know. Karen needed a little more domestication. She just needed someone a little more stable. Domestic.”

    Once Lee found a word he felt captured what he wanted to say, he wouldn’t let it go, as if finding the perfect phrase that should be repeated for all the world to hear his wisdom.

    “Yeah, I guess,” Chris replied, still gazing blankly out at the white flakes keeping him from leaving. “Maybe someone more like you.”

    “Me? No, no way. Not my type,” Lee said. “I mean, I don’t really know her. She was okay, well, she was real nice. I mean good figure and cute, sure. But yeah, you know, I don’t think so.”

    “I wasn’t really suggesting that you and her should get together, Lee.”

    “Right,” he said, rubbing his hands together that signaled his intent to leave. “Well, I better get going.”

    “To where?” Chris asked. “There’s a foot of snow on the ground.”

    “Uh. You know. Go down to the store and get some smokes or something.”

    “Or something.”

    “Yeah,” Lee said, stomping his feet on the welcome mat to shake off of any remaining snow he’d missed dumping on his way in. “Okay, see ya later,” he said, opening and closing the door behind him in a smooth motion.

    Lee. Karen no doubt gave the package – the “package”, he mused – to Lee knowing he’d dive through it first. Karen knew Chris was irritated by his harmless but steadfastly busybody neighbor, mostly because Chris held things close to his chest. He was a private man. Well, she was making sure he wouldn’t keep this to himself. She liked symbolic gifts, and this was meant to remind him that he blew it by keeping himself closed off.

    For the first time he turned away from the window and looked at the shoebox. “The package”, he thought, and wondered if the movie of the same name with Gene Hackman was any good. He tried to think of who else was in that film, but couldn’t place the actress’ name. A little disappointed in his trivia failure, he reluctantly plopped down on the couch before “the package”.

    Karen and Chris’ last conversation wasn’t pleasant. She wanted more from him, and he was too busy with work. He wanted to, or at least he thought he did and hoped he’d gotten that across, but wanting wasn’t the same as doing. Damn, she even turned Yoda on him when he said he’d try, and she came back with ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ That was painful to have his favorite movie betray him.

    How could he fight that? In all his geekly wisdom, he couldn’t argue with the puppet – back in the day when it was a puppet, he wistfully thought. A small, green, furry Styrofoam Buddha. He couldn’t admit that he was making the same mistakes, so he just said he was sorry, and she matter-of-factly said she’d be returning his things.

    Not that he’d kept all that much at her place to get back. Except for his favorite t-shirt. Now, looking at “the package”, he braced himself to see what manner of destruction had befallen the old blue shirt. I deserve this, Chris told himself, loosening the top of the shoebox. I deserve this.

    Inside, neatly folded, was the shirt. He picked it up and inspected it. Smelled it. It didn’t appear to be damaged in any way. She had returned it in pristine condition, maybe even ‘Downy’ fresh. Chris felt a little let down. Wasn’t he worth some measure of revenge?

    Aha, he thought. There was a card inside. He withdrew the handwritten note from the standard white envelope (“To Chris”). When he unfolded it, two airline tickets were tucked in the center. He was surprised to see they were from Buffalo to Jamaica.

    He read: “Chris – I’m sorry, too. I won’t just try if you don’t. Let’s do. Starting with getting the hell out of this icebox for the weekend. I’ll pick you up in my Blazer at 4. I know you won’t be going anywhere in the ‘Vette ;). Love, Karen. PS. Lee, if you don’t deliver this I will hunt you down and destroy you. For pleasure.”

    Chris sat back and chuckled to himself. She was his type.

1 comment:

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