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Spring, 2009
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

"Silly Scilla, silly Scilla," the young girl sang, as she pushed another tiny blue flower into her hair. She knew she would have to remove these adornments before they returned to the house. When Mamm gently cleared her throat, the girl remembered the tiny celery seeds that had been spilling out of her apron all morning.

She sighed and settled down in an empty row, digging her bare toes into the cool soil. She froze when her foot bumped something hard. Scooping the dirt aside with her fingers, she found a tiny, tattered purse. Glancing at her mother to ensure her secret treasure was still a secret, she opened the clasp...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.



1ST PLACE!

Mysterious Ways
by Denise Neary, Rockville, MD

1963 was awful for everyone, especially for me and Mamm. Papa died two days after the assassination.

Papa was gone, we were poor, and Mamm was frantic.

At ten years old, there was little I could do to help. I did pass out mimeographs the day after Papa's funeral, advertising that Mamm would provide laundry, sewing, babysitting, and other services to paying customers.

The terrifying Father McTeague stopped me on the rectory stoop.

"What's this, Mary?"

"Mamm needs work, Father," I said, handing him the paper and running away.

When I returned home, Father McTeague was in the parlor having tea with Mamm. Mamm was crying again. I ran to her open arms.

"Mary, Father has given you a scholarship at St. Agnes. The rectory will be giving me their needlework, and I'll be helping with their gardens in spring."

Mamm called Father McTeague our angel, but it was impossible for me to believe. He barely grunted hello when he saw me.

Young Father Jamie was a different story. He always had a smile, and would tousle my hair, or give me a tickle or a pat when he saw me. I missed my Papa so, and it was lovely to have a man pay some attention.

He saw me as special - not the unfortunate girl that Father McTeague, the women in the rectory, my teachers and my classmates saw.

He left little treats for me.

I wasn't positive at first that they were from him.

I opened the top of my desk one morning and found a Sugar Daddy inside! Father Jamie winked at me from across the classroom. That's when I knew it was him.

His little gifts - hair ribbons in my galoshes, a diary in my book bag, some Bit o' Honey in my lunch pail - meant the world to me.

I burst out laughing one afternoon when I saw him just after finding one of his treats, and he called me Silly Mary. Mamm told me to show respect, but Father told me later that the treats should be our little secret.

After all, he said, he could use a friend as much as I could.

Mamm was working so hard to keep going. She developed a plan to landscape the huge gardens behind the rectory - she chose a glorious April Saturday to have the volunteers convene at the rectory to help.

She was as happy and as excited as I had seen her since Papa died - reviewing plans with Father McTeague, giving the workers their assignments.

I was in the kitchen reading when Father Jamie came in.

He told me all about a jigsaw puzzle he was working on.

"Do you like puzzles?"

I didn't want to disappoint him, but I had never done a puzzle. "I don't know, Father. I never tried."

That tickled him; he grabbed me by the waist and swung me high into the air.

"Silly Mary! Do you want to learn?"

We both laughed as he put me back in my seat, and he knelt down before me. I heard Mamm calling for me. Before he let me go, he whispered, "Look for another little treat in the garden, Silly Mary."

We all hiked with Mamm to the gardens to work. Father Jamie made me a crown of early spring flowers, with beautiful blue scilla. He bowed as he crowned me "Silly Scilla."

My crown was so popular that other girls clamored for one. I felt sorry to lose Father Jamie's attention, but Mamm reminded me that I had work to do. Mamm would die if she knew I had a crush on Father.

I worked aside Mamm for an hour or so, and looked up to see Father Jamie.

"Mrs. Moran, this garden will be beautiful, thanks to your labors. As beautiful as this little bud of yours." He lifted my chin and smiled at us. "Forgive me, but I must return to some work at the rectory."

I was crestfallen. He'd forgotten my treat.

But wait. He stopped at a flowerbed, bent over, took something from his pocket and left it on the ground.

He watched me as I watched him. Winked, waved, and was gone.

I wanted to race to the spot, but didn't want to bring attention to myself. The girls in school were already jealous that Father Jamie was so good to me.

I meandered over to the flowerbed. Under some disturbed dirt, there was a small purse, and in the purse, a key. Like the room keys in the rectory.

What sort of treat was that? I'd been hoping for waxed lips.

And then it made sense. He knew I wasn't allowed upstairs in the rectory - and he wanted help on his puzzle. So he left me his room key.

I snuck out to the garden, and raced to the rectory. My crown of blue scilla fell as I ran.

The back door was open. I walked in, as I have done so many times before, but this time to an empty rectory.

I crept up the backstairs, something new.

I faced four locked doors, and don't know which was his.

At the creak of the stairs, Father Jamie calls out "Is that my Silly Scilla?" and I laugh and go to his door.

I can hardly wait to see what's inside.


What Denise 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)

ENTER THE NEXT 24-HOUR SHORT STORY CONTEST HERE!
Contest guidelines are HERE.


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