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Fall, 2005
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The pristine snow on the hill was marred only by the bright orange and red leaves that had fallen in the night wind. The early snowstorm had pushed fall into winter, but fall was still fighting for recognition. She couldn't dwell on the beauty around her, however, because she had only moments to decipher the etchings on the gravestone...



Good Breeding

By Linda Hughes, Westerville, Ohio

The pristine snow on the hill was marred only by the bright orange and red leaves that had fallen in the night wind. The early snowstorm had pushed fall into winter, but fall was still fighting for recognition. She couldn't dwell on the beauty around her, however, because she had only moments to decipher the etchings on the gravestone.

Erin's head throbbed. She rubbed her temples, squinted against the unforgiving brightness of the day reflected in the blanket of white around her, and used her ungloved fingers to help her trace the letters in the worn stone.

This had to be the right one. R-O-B-E-R-T, yes! And Laurence with a U. Thank God! She smiled and rested her forehead against the stone for a moment. Then she reached into the deep pocket of her barn jacket for the supplies she would need to make a quick rubbing. When she finished, she straightened and gave the grave a mock salute. "Later, Bobby!"

Cupping her hands over her nose and mouth, blowing warmth onto her face and fingers, she shivered as she ran cautiously downhill to the cozy shelter of the caretaker's cottage.

She stamped the snow off her feet and burst through the old, heavy door calling, "Uncle Barney, I found it!" She crossed over to the welcoming warmth of the pot belly stove, and finally let her shoulders relax. "Uncle Barney?"

"There's my darling girl. I just now got a call from young Mr. Laurence. He's minutes away. You found it, you say? I'm eternally grateful!"

"Grateful enough to computerize? If you ever find the map..."

"It's found!" The old man's cloudy blue eyes shone as he held the tattered roll of discolored paper as high as his arthritic shoulders would allow.

Erin laughed with relief. "I made a rubbing, just in case. We'll need to plot all the grave locations on computer, and scan in photos and rubbings of the headstones. That blueprint is falling apart, and..."

"Slow down, Dear One. It will be fine. I put on some water for tea and we can discuss computers after Mr. Laurence leaves. I think he'll be pleased, but he sounded quite anxious on the phone. Quite anxious."

Loud pounding on the door heralded the arrival of their visitor and interrupted their conversation. "Don't worry, Uncle Barney. The grounds look beautiful, even in the snow."

Her uncle opened the door, and his smiling welcome speech was quickly drowned in the thick syrup of a condescending Southern drawl. Mr. Robert Colpepper Laurence IV arrived dressed for subzero temperatures and carried a subzero attitude.

"I cannot believe my beloved ancestor has been allowed to remain in this dreadful place, buried inYankee soil! Over a century has passed since the war of Northern aggression, well past time for a good Confederate Officer and gentleman to return home to a more appropriate final resting place."

Erin walked into his field of vision, and asked, "Oh, he was an Officer?"

Mr. Colpepper stiffened at the supposed affront, but the sight of Erin's dark curls in charming disarray around her rosy cheeked, smiling face raised his temperature considerably.

"Of course, little lady. When your damnable Union soldiers set fire to half the state, many records were lost. The only way left for me to trace my ancestry was an old family Bible. Many fortunes were lost, as well as plantations. It has taken several generations for my family to regain and restore our cotton plantation. I plan to exhume the bodily remains of Robert Colpepper Laurence the First and place them in the family mausoleum."

"I see," commented Uncle Barney. "May I offer you some tea?"

"Yankee tea?" he laughed. "I do not believe so. You Northerners are not known for your hospitality. My wife, a true flower of genteel Southern womanhood, is anxiously awaiting our return" He gave Erin a sideways look, smirked, and slapped his gloves against his palm. "However, young lady, I could be convinced to give you the opportunity to make up for your unfortunate upbringing and ancestry by showing me your hospitality later this evening."

Erin put her arms around her uncle to prevent him from replying, and asked, "This Great-great-great or whatever grandfather of yours - he was killed in battle and his body left here? Your family knew he was here, but no one has made an attempt to recover his remains until now?"

"As I said, our fortunes were reversed. But good breeding won out. Bringing his body home to rest in our beloved South is the last Herculean task I must achieve before running for Governor."

Erin looked deeply into his dark eyes and smiled. "Governor, indeed. Very impressive! Are you a Democrat or a Republican?"

Robert Colpepper Laurence IV raised one eyebrow. "I will run and be elected on the Aryan ticket. When the time of reckoning comes, and it will, don't forget who you are and what you are."

"Never," replied Erin. "Oh! Before you leave, I have a present for you."

He chucked, "I was hoping you had."

Erin crossed to the coat tree holding her barn jacket, and took a large sheet of folded paper out of the pocket. She opened it and smoothed it on the table. "I did a rubbing of his headstone. Come and look."

Uncle Barney's eyes widened as he looked over her shoulder at the rubbing:

Here lies Robert Colpepper's Laurence Faithful and Beloved Slave He served for his Master 1838 - 1862




What Linda won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)


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