October, 2011 Winners
The judges have conferred, discussed, and decided. The top six stories were listed in the November newsletter and here we have the top four winners in the October Fiction in Five Contest in 2011!
First Prize, a $25 Amazon Gift Card, a canvas tote bag, publication on this Website, publication in the Second Annual Fiction in Five Anthology, and a recording posted in the Center for Writing Excellence Story Time Channel, went to Seema Bagai for her delightful story about a little ghost on Halloween:
Seema Bagai is an elementary school teacher and writer in Southern California. Her work appears in several anthologies including My Teacher is My Hero and Penned From the Heart. Currently, she is working on a historical fiction novel. She also enjoys entering writing contests–deadlines are a great motivator. When she is able to step away from the classroom or computer, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, and reading.Here is her winning entry:
Shortly after sunset, the volunteers put the final touches on the fall festival. The grounds of Canyon Crest Community Church had been transformed into an autumn carnival. Piles of pumpkins. Bales of hay. Game and food booths. Not a creepy decoration in sight. Everything appeared flawless until the parade of costumed children emerged from the classroom where they had gathered for pictures.
Across the way, at one of the food booths, Darlene gaped in horror at her son. What did Isaiah do? Why did I let him make his own costume?
The eleven-year-old paraded across the basketball court with the other kids. Murmurs from some of the other parents rumbled through the chilly air. In seconds, the event had become a cauldron of anger.
The white sheet with black eyes peering through the holes of the costume gave little clue as to who the kid was, but Darlene knew. She spotted Isaiah’s green sneakers peeking out from the bottom of the sheet. But this costume was not typical poltergeist attire. His ghost outfit looked just like Charlie Brown’s Halloween costume. Instead of having two eye holes, this sheet was covered in holes of all sizes.
Heat rose from Darlene’s neck up to her face. She jabbed a stick into another caramel apple and tried to block out the chirping ladies slicing pumpkin pie in the adjacent booth.
“Marcie looks adorable in her angel costume,” one remarked.
“Thanks. I saw Jerome decided to be Moses again. Did you see the ghost? I thought that was against the rules,” another replied.
A sharp voice called her name and Darlene whirled around to find Margaret Reynolds hovering beside her. The self-appointed rules enforcer stood rigidly with one hand on her bony hip and the other pointing at the parade of costumed children.
Guess I won’t be earning any brownie points from her, Darlene thought.
“Is that your son in the ghost costume? He’s violating the rules.” Margaret announced to everyone.
“Yes, that’s Isaiah. But I thought—” she stammered. “I thought he understood the directions.” Darlene turned her head toward the children.
“Well, clearly he didn’t. He’s out there dressed completely inappropriately.”
“There has to be some explanation. Isaiah wouldn’t break the rules on purpose.” Would he? Darlene licked her lips and wished she had brought a water bottle in her purse.
“He’s a kid. They all want to see what they can get away with.” Margaret’s eyes narrowed, her outlandish eye shadow looking like two blobs of purple goo. “You need to take him home right now.”
With that statement, the heat on Darlene’s face erupted into an inferno. She stomped away from the booth with Margaret’s stilettos clicking behind her. The parade of kids had made their way over to the parking lot for trunk-or-treat.
There has to be an explanation for Isaiah’s costume. We talked about it last Thursday after dinner.
“Mom, I have a cool idea for a costume for the fall festival. But it’s gonna be a surprise. Okay?” Isaiah’s eyes glowed as he cleared the dishes from the table.
“Do you remember the rules?”
“Yeah. I have to be a character from the Bible. But not the devil or anything like that.”
“I’d be glad to help you with the costume.”
“That’ll mess up the surprise. I talked to Gary. He’s gonna help me make it.”
“Okay, just…” Darlene’s words trailed off as Isaiah dashed to his room to call his youth group leader.
Maybe I should have listened to my intuition on this one.
With Margaret in her shadow, Darlene crossed the parking lot and searched through the line of children. “Isaiah Gipson! Come over here, please!”
The ghost appeared, clutching a sack bulging with candy. “Hi, Mom. Hi, Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Honey, take off your costume for a minute so we can talk.”
Isaiah complied and pulled the sheet off his head. “Like my costume? Cool, huh?”
Before Darlene could formulate a response, Margaret interjected, “That’s what we wanted to discuss with you. Your costume is not appropriate for the church fall festival.” A cluster of kids stopped to listen.
“I came up with this idea and Gary helped me. I followed the rules. A Bible character, but not one of the bad ones.”
“What do you mean you followed the rules?” The crowd grew as Margaret continued her inquisition. “You are dressed in a tattered bed sheet. How could you possibly be a character from the Bible?”
Without hesitation he proclaimed, “I’m the Holy Ghost. You know, Father, Son, Holy Ghost? Tell them Gary.” Isaiah looked up to the young man who had squeezed through the crowd to stand beside Darlene.
Before Margaret could spew a reply, Gary said, “Pastor Jay approved the costume idea.” With a humph, she clacked over to the ticket tables.
“Come on, kids. Let’s head over to the booths. Who wants popcorn?” Gary asked as he led the group away from the parking lot.
Darlene watched Isaiah drape his costume over his growing frame and smiled as her son raised his arms and swayed around the other kids. From a distance, it looked like he was floating. Shaking her head, she couldn’t help but smile at her clever son, The Holy Ghost.
Second Prize, a $15 Amazon Gift Card, a canvas tote bag, publication on this Website, publication in the Second Annual Fiction in Five Anthology, and a recording posted in the Center for Writing Excellence Story Time Channel, went to Lindsey Bramson for her story about theft and impressing a new love on Halloween:
Lindsey Bramson grew up in Benton City, Washington. After graduating high school, she went to Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, and majored in English with a minor in Spanish and was also a part of a fantastic creative writing group. During her sophomore year, she sent an historical fiction story called Guardian Soldier to a publishing company called Xlibris, and within three months, it was published! She said she had never felt so excited – although now comes pretty close as this is the first time she has ever won a writing competition. She graduated from NNU this past May and now lives in Prosser, Washington where she is busy writing, working a Mary Kay business, and teaching middle schoolers at her church.
“Orange” Letter Day
The scarecrow standing outside the coffee shop gave Jackson a sinister stare. It’s creepy little eyes penetrated straight through his shirt pocket to where the stolen item lay. “Thief,” it seemed to call out as Jackson walked through the door. He felt like he was Hester Prynne with a giant orange letter “T” bleeding through his shirt. Rubbing his hands together, he walked briskly up to the counter where a large plate of cauldron-shaped brownies sat. The young woman behind the counter gave him a smile.
“Hello, sir, what can I get for you this evening?”
“Um, is Amelia here tonight?”
“Amelia?” The barista looked slightly confused. “Um, no, she’s sick tonight. She won’t be coming in.”
“Oh.” Jackson felt his heart drop.
“Can I get you anything?”
Jackson glanced up at the menu, choosing the first thing he saw.
“I’ll have a small caramel apple latte.”
“Alright, one tall caramel apple latte -”
“No, I said a small.”
“But you said ‘tall.’”
“A tall is a small,” a voice said behind Jackson.
Jackson turned to see a young man sitting at one of the tables with a book in his hands. He gave him a smile.
“They’re the same thing here.”
“Oh.” Jackson turned back to the woman. “Well, yes, I’ll take one of those.”
She punched it in. “And since tonight is Halloween, if you buy any one of our Halloween drinks, you get another item free.”
Jackson glanced at the plate in front of him.
“I’ll take one of these brownie things.”
After he’d paid and gotten his brownie and drink, Jackson turned to find a place to sit. The young man glanced up from his book and smiled at him, waving him over. Jackson hesitated a moment, then walked over and sat down next to him.
“I’m Carter,” the young man extended his hand.
“Jackson.” Jackson shook his hand. “Um, do you want this?” He pointed to his latte.
Carter gave him a puzzled look.
“You haven’t even tried it.”
“I know, it’s just….I don’t really like coffee.”
Carter reached over and took the latte.
“If you don’t like coffee, why are you here?”
Jackson took a bite of his brownie and chewed slowly.
“You’ll think it’s stupid.”
“Try me.” Carter gave Jackson a challenging look as he took a sip of the latte. “By the way, your teeth are purple.”
“What?” Jackson quickly slid his fingers across his teeth. Sure enough, his fingers were purple when he brought them away.
“It’s your brownie, man.”
Jackson picked up his brownie and examined it. There seemed to be some kind of purple goo inside. Now that he thought about it, there had been an odd taste when he bit into it. He set the brownie aside and licked his tongue over his teeth. Carter took another sip of the latte.
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“What? Oh, yeah, um….this.” Jackson reached into his shirt pocket and brought out an orange fluorescent Sharpie marker.
“You’re here because of a Sharpie?”
“Well, I was here yesterday for a muffin and the girl I saw here – Amelia – she told me how she thought it would be cool to mark all the drinks with an orange marker since it’s Halloween and all and so I thought I’d bring her an orange marker but I didn’t have one, so I kind of took one from the office supply store without asking and now she’s not even here, so I stole the stupid Sharpie for no reason.”
Jackson took a quick breath and looked at Carter. The young man was staring at him with his eyebrows raised.
“Yep, that is pretty stupid.” Carter took a quick swig of the latte.
“In an ingenious sort of way.”
Jackson gave Carter a confused look as a group of teenage boys burst in through the door, whooping and hollering. They were all dressed up like ghosts and carrying large bags. They sauntered over to the counter, knocking signs over as they went. One of them whistled for the barista. She came out, her facial expression showing she clearly wasn’t amused.
“Hey, baby, we’re in the middle of a scavenger hunt and we kind of need five frappes,” one of them said. “You think you could help us out and give us them for free?”
“No, I cannot do that. If you want five frappes, you can pay for them. And I would appreciate it if you would stop knocking things over and making noises.”
“We’re your friendly neighborhood poltergeists, sweetheart,” another one said, spreading his arms. “We can’t help it.”
“I’m sure there’s something you would appreciate,” the first one said, reaching his hand across the counter. She drew her hand away.
“If you’re not here to order and pay for anything, then you need to leave.”
“And who’s gonna make us?”
They all turned to see Jackson standing behind them. He didn’t know how he had gotten there; one moment, he was casually sitting at the table with Carter, the next, he was standing behind the boys with his arms folded. They all gave him smirks until they noticed the badge on his shirt. They slowly backed up as the first boy cleared his throat and said,
“Calm down, man, we weren’t gonna do anything.”
“Looks like you already did,” Jackson nodded toward the signs they had knocked over. “Pick them up.”
The boys quickly picked up the signs, then turned and hurried outside.
When the door had shut behind them, Jackson turned toward the barista, who mouthed “thank you” to him. He nodded and returned to his seat. Carter sat open-mouthed, staring at the badge on Jackson’s shirt.
“Dude, I didn’t know you were a cop.”
“I’m not.” Jackson took the badge off and laid it on the table. “I kinda stole this, too, to impress Amelia.”
“And you were worried about the Sharpie?”
Third Prize, a canvas tote bag, publication on this Website, publication in the Second Annual Fiction in Five Anthology, and a recording posted in the Center for Writing Excellence Story Time Channel, went to Rhonda Jackson for her story about Halloween costume that wasn’t a costume, or was it?:
Rhonda Jackson, of Apache Junction, Arizona, is a librarian at a local community college, has a MLA/MS in History and is a part-time History Instructor. She has two fictional short stories and a prize winning historical article. She is currently working on two unpublished novels.
The Biggest Trick of All
Moll stood staring at the big barking Doberman beyond the gate. She was small for an eight year old but brave. Still, the dog was large and her sister, Ally, who was four years older, was talking to other kids and not paying any attention to her. Mrs. Maize made the best brownies for Halloween. Moll couldn’t get around the dog to get them.
Turning slightly, Moll jumped, discovering that a poltergeist had materialized next to her.
The white sheets with black eyes peering through holes of the costume gave no clue as to who the kid was.
“Getting any good candy?” the ghost asked. “I love these things,” holding up a candy bar.
“I know you. You’re the new kid,” Moll said.
“I hate wearing this sheet. Why wear costumes?” The kid asked. “But the candy’s good.”
“Halloween is a time to be weird and creepy,” Moll said.
“Oh. Then I can be different,” The kid took off the sheet. The black eyes turned blue as a humanoid with cat features shimmered into place where the kid had been.
“You’re not in costume. You always look like that,” Moll stated.
“You’re the only one I can’t fool. Don’t tell. I’ll get in trouble,” The kid said.
“Ally doesn’t believe me, anyway, when I talk about you,” Moll grumbled.
“She seems nice at school,” the kid said.
“Hi,” Ally said coming over to them, scuffing her foot on the curb. “I stepped in some purple goo back there. Bubble gum. Yuck.”
“This is Jax. I told you she was a cat,” Moll said.
“That’s a costume,” Ally said, pulling on Jax’s tail.
Jax yelped. She shimmered into human form. “Rule One. No pulling tails.”
“How did you do that?” Ally demanded.
“She didn’t do anything. She always looks like that. You just can’t see it,” Moll explained.
“Looks human to me,” Ally retorted.
Jax shimmered back into a cat body.
“All you need is a witch with a cauldron, passing out caramel apples,” Ally said. “How do you do that?”
“I’m not from here. This is the first time in a while I’ve gotten to just be me. It’s nice. I think I like this Halloween thing,” Jax said.
“Where are you from?” Alley was suspicious.
“See that star up there? Third one down in the Scorpion? There,” Jax said, opening a bag of jellybeans. “What are these?”
“Jelly beans,” Moll said, “You’ll like these Boston Baked Beans better.” They switched bags. Jax popped the beans into her mouth. She gave a slow smile of satisfaction.
“You can’t be from there,” Ally objected.
“I live out at the old Landers place. My uncle bought it. We’re … marooned. Our ship crashed.”
“You’re lying,” Ally said.
“Not lying,” Jax denied opening the gate.
“Don’t. The dog will bite you,” Moll said fearfully.
“The dog is on a chain. He’s just trying to scare you to give you a good Halloween,” Jax smiled.
“How do you know?” Moll asked.
“He said so,” Jax said. “C’mon. There are little cake things. Brownies. I love those things.”
They walked through the yard. The dog laid down grinning at them. Jax took three brownies, passing them out. They walked back to the gate and sat down on the bus bench to eat.
Jax sat back looking up at the star she had pointed out. “I miss home,” She said tearing up.
“Are you really from that planet?” Moll asked.
Jax nodded, wiping her eye with her tail.
“Won’t they rescue you?” Moll asked anxiously.
“They don’t know we’re here. We were exploring. Someone on this planet shot us down,” Jax said sadly.
“So. That was true,” Ally asked remembering the UFO story on the news months before.
“Yes. Don’t tell. I don’t want any experimenting on me to find out what I know or what I am,” Jax said.
“We won’t tell. Can I have a Snickers?” Ally asked. Jax passed her one. “Jax is a funny name.”
“Not my real name. You couldn’t pronounce that. Moll gave it to me,” Jax said, patting Moll’s shoulder.
“She didn’t talk too good. She likes Jacks. She kept asking us to play. Jacks? Jacks? So we called her that. But she picked it up in a hurry. Jacks and talking,” Moll said.
“Going back to your human form?” Ally asked.
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow I have to. Tonight, I get to be me,” Jax said.
“I like you,” Ally said. “Just the way you are.”
“I like you, too,” Jax said, “And Moll.”
“Is it hard changing?” Ally asked as they got up, walking towards Ally’s house.
“It’s sort of mind control. I only appear human. It doesn’t work on Moll, though,” Jax explained.
“She has no mind to cloud,” Ally teased. Moll punched her arm and sulked.
“It’s hard to do all the time. I’m getting better. Sometimes, I get the wrong colors,” Jax lamented.
“Yeah. I didn’t recognize you at first with those black eyes,” Moll said.
“Stay the night with us unless your uncle is coming to get you. It’s a long way to the farm unless you can sprout wings,” Ally offered.
“He’s out of town,” Jax said. “And no wings. I can only do human.”
“Better do human if you stay the night,” Moll advised. “Otherwise, you’ve got to explain to Mom.”
Jax shimmered back into human form, putting the sheet back on. “Got the eyes, right?”
“Yep,” said Ally. “ Nice blue.”
“You won’t tell?” Jax asked again.
“Nope. You’re part of the family. Might as well share ours if you don’t have anyone but an uncle,” Ally said.
Jax looked up at the stars again. “I’d like that.”
Moll ran up the walk, ringing the doorbell. Her mother opened the door. “Trick or Treat!” Moll yelled.
“We’ve got the biggest trick of all,” Ally whispered to Jax, grinning. “Come on. We’ve got Twinkies.”
“I love these things! “Jax said, taking off her sheet and taking a Twinkie. “I love Halloween.”
Honorable Mention, publication in the Second Annual Fiction in Five Anthology, and a recording posted in the Center for Writing Excellence Story Time Channel, went to Kellie Haze Klocko for her story called The Dare.