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Harold F. Hester

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The Morning of the Contest
By Harold F. Hester
Sunday, November 14, 2004

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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A bit of frustration about the subjectivity of contests from a contestants viewpoint

The Morning of the Contest

The sun was late this morning, or so it seemed. As the days go further into fall and closer to Halloween, Thanksgiving and the all important family Christmas holidays, daylight is scarce and if you get out of bed before 06:00 AM you should expect the sky to still be black, the lake and birds quiet and the fish hungry. Frank made his last trip to the bathroom a bit after 6 and his aim was as true as always. He grinned to himself as he thought about having the same target for 70 years. It should be, and is automatic now to raise, point, relax, lower and flush while wondering about the coming day. Today was normal, so far.
Lois was still hard into REM as her coffee and slightly cold buttered toast was placed on the night stand. The last few months, Frank had gotten into the habit of ‘clinking’ the coffee cup onto the night stand and sitting heavily on the side of the bed as he sang his good morning wake-up jingle. “Good morning Breakfast clubbers….” He was in fine voice as Lois moved first a toe, then a leg then finally an eyelid. It looked to be a real effort.
“What day is it?” or words to that affect as she muttered them without moving her lips.
Retirement does that to you. One day is just like all others except the week-ends and holidays. “Saturday sweetheart, rise and shine. The sun is up, boats are already making wakes and Max has been feed and done his thing …In the grass”. The coffee and knowing Max had ‘done his thing’ must have been key as she snaked her right hand from under the sheet and crooked her first finger. It was the ole coffee-finger sign. After a few unintelligent sleep-comments she, with great difficulty said, “Have you open your mail yet to see what the subject is today?”
“For the 24 hour writing contest?” Frank said with wrinkled brow.
“Yes dummy.” It was a term of endearment shared by two people that truly loved each other.
“Yea. Turned the computer on a few minutes ago and I had mail from what’s-her-name, you know, the contest director.” Frank said then added, “Not sure how I want to handle this subject.”
“Meaning?” Lois said as she blew on and sipped her coffee.
“How many times have I entered this writing contest?” Frank asked.
“Geese…not sure. Eight or nine times. Why?” Lois was still a bit out in sleep la-la land but the question made sense.
Frank was trying to make sure her eyes were open and she was not just making conversation because he turned serious. “You’ve read all the short stories I’ve written, right?”
“What did you think of them?” He was staring straight into her deep brown eyes as he threw the query at her.
“I liked all of them.” She said with a mouth full of toast.
“Could any of them have won, or at least finished in the top three?” He hadn’t said it right but she knew what he meant.
“One or two of them maybe, yes, but you did have a couple off-the-wall stories.” She tried to soften the words with, “I liked them but the folks that grade your work may not have been thinking the same as you and was looking for something else.”
“I know. I know. But I’m not writing for them. It’s me that counts. What is inside me and what I am trying to say that matters – not their feelings or what-ever. I’m not writing to please them, but I have to say, writing would be a lot easier if I could at least get a door prize or acknowledgment that I had busted a few brain cells coming up with some damn good short stories and... And especially with the endings the contest director looks for - surprise. So far I have yet to get even an honorable mention.” Frank seemed surprised he said that all in one breath as he took a deep breath and finished with, “Of the 500 entries you would think that it’s about time for my name to percolate to the top.”
“Subject?” Lois questioned with raised eyebrows and crooked head position. He knew what she meant.
“Actually, it’s not a bad subject this time. Kinda in line with the season. They gave us; The red, orange and yellow leaves traveling the river contrasted sharply against the black water. Distant thunder and a bitter wind promised an early winter storm. She shivered and walked faster, ignoring the muffled diatribe coming from the burlap sack in her arms.”
Lois giggled to herself before saying, “Sounds like they want you to write about a winters thunder storm with a sweet young girl without a raincoat trudging through snow flurries on her way a river bank where she has to drown a toe sack of kittens.” She seemed to ponder what she had just said, than added, “Maybe you could get dramatic and add her dad or boyfriend had forced her to do this dastardly deal because, oh maybe because they were diseased, or the moon was full, or their yellow house cat had been tomcatting the back alleys or they didn’t like the colors or numbers they were presented with on the back porch this last weekend.” Lois was sure feeling her oats this morning. Normally she is too pristine to even think such thoughts.
“So…. What are you going to write about?” She said taking the last bit of toast.
“Well… I thought about it and if you look at our conversation so far, we have exchanged about 953 words, so I might just leave it at that.”
“At what?” Lois was serious.
“One of the rules this time was a short story not to exceed 1100 words.”
Lois was quiet.
“Before you send this story in, do you want me to proof it?”
Several hours pass as Lois reads and rereads the story. She grins in spots, groans in others and is most critical in more then a few spots.
“Well one thing is for sure.” Lois says.
“Chances are pretty good you will finish in 500th place this time.”

Harold F. Hester
Word count = 1047
5856 Baydy Peak Road
Osage Beach, MO 65065

       Web Site: haroldhester

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Reviewed by Tami Ryan 11/14/2004
I sure did have to smile at this one, Harold. Thanks. :)

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