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Winter, 2005
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

ENTER THE NEXT
24-HOUR SHORT STORY CONTEST HERE!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

She screamed, "No! Did you hear me?! I said no!!"

She slapped him hard but he had already catapulted out of reality...


Reading Bruises
by Eric E. Wallace, Boise, ID

Bruises are like inkblots. The ones they show you on white flip cards. Roe
sharks, we called them when we were kids, laughing as though we were
pretty smart. It's easy to snicker at things you don't understand. Roe
sharks, ha ha.

You could read a hundred different images in every one of those cards. Odd
notions. Amusing shapes. Private visions. Some you might not want to speak
of.

The people holding the cards tried to have poker faces, but they looked
bored if you simply said you saw spiders or weird plants or fantastical
aliens. It was easy to make an eyebrow rise if you said there was a hint
of something sexy. You'd get a confirming nod if you told them maybe your
father's face was showing up. Put dad and sex together in one image for
them and you rang the bell, won the big kewpie doll. It was fun. Flip,
stare, think, wonder, create, pronounce, provoke. Flip.

Reading bruises is pretty much the same. Not always fun in the getting,
but a good way to chart time, direct your thinking, watch the slow color
changes over hours and days-- blue to black and sometimes a hint of
sunset. Did you know there can be beauty in hurt? The best bruises ripple
out over the contours of my body, marking territory like some crazy
mapmaker trying to keep up with the ever-shifting geography.

Take this bruise on my left arm. I have to bend and turn to see it
directly, but that doesn't matter, because there's always my friend the
mirror. I use the mirror a lot. No vanity. Well, okay, sure there's vanity.
But this is pure utility. A bruise can't be taken back, but you can use
the mirror to turn one backwards. You can study it-marbled flesh and skin
twists and fuzzy follicles, yesteryear's freckles trying to flee the
upsurge of angry blood. Or is it healing? Healing, yes. Anger comes before
the bruises.

Anyway, it reminds me of a lake. A blue-black lake. Now, I know you think
that's too easy, but give me a minute. Yep, there's a little floating dock
out a bit from shore. A kid on it. Buttass naked. Young skinny dipper up
for some sunny warmth. Dripping. Rough wood feels good on the backside.
But watch for splinters. Something's still under the water. Shadowy. Not
roe, no shark. But something. Someone? If I clench my fist or flex my arm
it goes completely under, see? That feels better.

I smell wood smoke. Rotting weeds. Sure, that's not what the card holders
used to ask about. Smells, I mean. But smells are in there, too. And
sounds. Buzz saw in the woods, ever so slight. Some kind of birds
chattering. Water plup-plupping against the dock. Pretty good bruise, huh?
Lots to tell.

I like the colors of this little one on my forearm. Subtle. Overtones of
green. I don't have to study to read it. It's a belt buckle. Handmade. No,
a buckle didn't make the bruise! The buckle is in the bruise. A lion
rampant. Rearing up, triumphant, conquering. The pin is a jagged lightning
bolt reaching to pierce and hold the strap. I see a rundown cabin. Smell
aftershave, Old Spice. Rainwet dust. A trapped fly buzzes. A whimpering.
It's all in that bruise.

Got a doozer on my thigh, too. Right--there. Past its peak but holding on
with a fading majesty. Even got a trace of buttercup yellow. Or would you
call that mustard? Dijon, maybe. Must be getting hungry.

This one is easy. The swirl of my wedding dress, Grandmother's really, the
old-fashioned train. Virgin white streaked with the paleness of vanished
years. The bouquet's there, too, tight little buds clenched in tight little
hands. Deep scent of roses, spiced with rosemary.

That darker whorl is fear. No, not fear. Tumult. The creaky whirlpool
merry-go-round of marriage. No calliopes, but a dull thumping. Drums.
Furniture polish. Sweat. Easy bruise.

I guess its like reading tea leaves. Only mostly I see the past, not the
future. Just as well. Some futures you don't want to know.

Say, did I show you my shin? A real shindig. Sorry. I have to have my
little moments of levity. This one's upside down, but it's easy. You might
think it's the Titanic sinking, and I could see why, with the hint of
icebergs, but it's more clearly a cemetery in my home town. Only went back
once, to look and to spit, but the place shows up in my bruises now and
then. See the squirrel perched on the headstone? Life goes on, I reckon.
Nicest thing is the smell of honeysuckle--that and new leather. My jacket
moans and crinkles. Deep breathing. Jet overhead. Quite a bruise, this
one.

No, don't ask me about my eye. Too new. Bruises have to develop a bit,
sort of like photographs in a tray. I know about developing because
someone once taught me all his darkroom tricks, including tricks I didn't
want to know.

Sometimes I'm sorry about my husband. It wasn't all his fault. But he
never listened. Tuned me out too often, I guess. Just like my... like too
many other men in my life. I told him to back off one last time. He zoned
out on me, got that crazy look and took his swing. Not like my sparring
partners--focused, calculated, reserving some measure of self protection.
Just another stupid, vicious jab.

Never marry a boxer, I'd told him. Even an amateur one. He never listened.
I didn't say no again. Poise, parry, coil, connect. All fluid. My best
shot ever.

Help me tape up, would you?

With a fair judge, good behavior and my gig on the women's team, I won't
be here long. Probably win us a trophy. It'll take a bunch more bruises,
but that's fine. Part of life. Gives me lots to read. Like inkblots, those
bruises.


The 2nd place winner received:

$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)


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


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