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Summer, 2008
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

The bells on the door were still echoing as she stepped further into the old toy store. The owner winked at her and turned back to his black and white television set. She reached under the rack on the back wall and pulled it out. It was just where she'd left it last week. She approached the counter and put the item down.

He turned to her, grabbed the item with surprise, and said, "This is NOT for sale..."

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


The Owner, the Girl and the Truck
By Jack Mason, Binghamton, NY

Kate stopped outside and closed her eyes. Please, she said to herself. The bells over the door rang as she walked in. The lights were dim. She wondered why a toy store would be so dim; after all, the point is to get people to come in. The owner looked at her, smiled and winked. He turned back to the small black and white television.

She pretended to look at toys on the tables and glanced at the owner every few steps; he was engrossed in a rerun of Ozzie and Harriet. She walked to the back wall and reached under the rack. The truck was still there. She sighed in relief, but it wasn't really much of a surprise. The toys on the rack were covered with as much dust as the ones on the tables.

Kate was excited and smiled as she approached the counter. The owner turned to her and grabbed the truck, "This is NOT for sale." His eyes were wide, almost as wide as hers she imagined.

She stepped back, "But it I mean I I'm sorry." She pulled her coat up around her neck and hurried out. Kate stopped just outside on the sidewalk. The cold wind bit into her. She had to go back. She had promised Ben.

She turned around and peered through the window. The owner was watching the television again. She took another deep breath, pushed the door open and walked halfway to the counter, "Please, sir. I would like to buy this."

He peered over his horn-rimmed glasses, "I told you. It's not for sale. Buy something else or run along, missy."

"But, sir." He glared at her. She hurried out the door, turned the corner to the alley and sighed. I can't do this, she thought. She paced back and forth in the snow. I have to get it for him. It is too important. "Pull yourself together, Kate," she said out loud.

She straightened herself up. Her dad always said, "Pull those shoulders back. It makes you look confident and you'll feel that way too." She strode back to the store. This time she pushed the door open and walked straight to the counter.

The owner looked at her, "I told..."

She slapped her money down on the counter. "No sir. I'm telling you. I'm buying this truck. It was here last week and it's still here this week. I worked very hard to get the money to buy it."

"But I told you, it's NOT for sale."

She took a breath, reached over the counter, grabbed his shirt and pulled. The stool he had been sitting on skittered across the floor. It banged and clattered as it fell over. The owner's eyes were wide. His pungent breath made her catch her own.

"No, sir. I'm buying this. My money is on the counter. I'm taking the truck." The owner pulled back. She let go. He fell against the other counter.

"As I was telling you, missy, this is not for sale because it belongs to my grandson. He lost it. Thank you for finding it. You can HAVE anything else in the store but this is NOT for sale."

Kate was deflated. Her shoulders fell. She picked up her money and shuffled to the door. "I'm sorry, sir." The bells rang overhead as she opened the door; the cold wind blew in and through her.

"Miss, wait. What's so important about the truck?"

She let the door close, fidgeted with her coat buttons and pulled it up around her neck, "My brother. It's the only thing he wanted for his birthday and the only thing he was going to get. I already told him I got it. My mistake." She opened the door again.

"Miss, please wait. Come here."

She took the few steps to the counter. Tears started to well in the corners of her eyes. It wasn't intentional. He leaned forward, "You were here last week. I saw you put the truck under the rack. You didn't think about stealing it?"

She straightened herself up and looked him square in the eye, "Yes, sir. I did. But that would've been wrong and I couldn't give my brother a stolen truck."

The owner stood up and crossed his arms. He looked down at her, the light from the television reflected in his glasses. He slid the truck toward her, "Take it."

"But..."

"No but. Take it. Most kids would have stolen it. Besides, I don't have a grandson," he smiled.

She caught her breath. "Thank you, sir. Thank you." She tucked it in her pocket and placed the money on the counter.

"No, missy. Just take the truck."

Kate smiled. "Oh no, sir. I have to pay for it. I don't take charity. If you gave it to me and then I gave it to my brother, it wouldn't be from me, it'd be from you, and you don't know my brother or me, and my dad always said not to take gifts from strangers." She patted her pocket as she turned and walked out the door.

Kate made the turn into the alley and pulled the truck out. She smiled as she turned it in her hands. With a quick flip the truck disappeared into a dumpster. She smiled, patting the owners wallet in her other pocket, "Ben will be so proud of me."


What Jack won:

$250 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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