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Winter, 2006
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

She shivered and wrapped her arm more tightly around her little brother. The grocery cart that held their tattered possessions was now full of cans and they steered the rusty contraption toward the local recycling shack. Suddenly, a man in a black coat and hat stepped into their path, thrust a piece of paper into her brother's bare fist, and hurried away. The two children looked at each other and then at the piece of paper...

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


White Rabbit
by Pamela A Shirkey, Colorado Springs, CO

Marta peered at the grimy piece of paper in her brother's hand.

COME TO THE FULL GOSPEL CHURCH FOR A FREE MEAL it said, along with directions on how to get there.

"Was that a priest?" Freddie asked as the black shrouded man disappeared around a corner. Marta looked down at his pale cheeks, thin neck and fingers blanched white by the cold.

"No, just a man who wants to help others." She pushed the shopping cart forward. "We could use a free meal."

"I'm hungry." Freddie shivered, his words were snatched away as a cold gust of air swirled around them.

Marta was conscious of the dull ache in her stomach. She and Freddie
hadn't eaten today and their last meal had been discarded leftovers from a trash can. Was it yesterday? She couldn't remember. The days and nights on the streets had blurred into one long nightmare. She barely remembered the rat infested apartment their mother had been evicted from but she did wish that she and Freddie still had the abandoned car they had all three slept in for a month or so. Their mother would leave for hours at a time and come back drunk or
too full of drugs to move. Soon, she was gone for days at a time and then she left one night with a man and never came back. The car had been towed and Marta and Freddie slept in a cardboard box in an alley.

Once, Marta had stopped a policeman and asked for help. She and Freddie had been taken to the police station. There she overheard the cops talking about sending her to a home for wayward girls and Freddie to an orphanage. She took Freddie's hand then and crept out a side door back onto the street. No one was going to take Freddie away from her. No one. Ever.

Marta collected the money from the recycle man, tied their meager
belongings into a bundle and headed toward the bus station. The few coins she clutched in her hand would get them to the church for the free meal.

The church was a large, red brick building with a white cross on top.
People bustled in and out as Marta held Freddie close to her on the sidewalk.

"What little angels are these?" Marta looked up to see a tall,
dark-haired man in a leather coat and sunglasses looming over them.

She stuck out the flyer. "We've come for the meal..."

"And you shall get so much more, I promise you." He said, his voice deep and gentle.

The basement of the church was filled with people. A kind woman helped Marta and Freddie out of their frayed jackets, washed their face and hands with warm soapy water and sat them at a long table with other children. The meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and milk seemed never ending. She and Freddie had second helpings and a slice of pie besides. The motherly woman fussed over them, calling them "My poor dears..." and wiping tears from her eyes with a hanky.

She took them home with her that night and put them to bed between clean sheets. Marta objected at first as the woman who wanted to be called Aunt Lolly took Freddie to the boy's sleeping room. There were four bunk beds filled with other boys already asleep and Freddie was so sleepy he could hardly keep his eyes open.

"Freddie, if you need me, I am right across the hall." Marta whispered.
"Just call me."

"I like it here." Freddie replied and then yawned, eyes closing.

"Good-night. I love you." Marta touched his hair, slightly damp and
clean-smelling from shampoo.


Their days and nights became a routine. Days, they went to the religious school in the basement of the church where they stayed until the Reverend came to speak. It was the tall man in sunglasses who told them scary stories from the Bible filled with blood and retribution. He used those words a lot. He warned them of the dangers lurking right outside the church doors. Marta nodded.

She knew those dangers well but now she and Freddie felt safe here in
this place with these people. Then dinner was served, hymns were sung and more preaching until bedtime at Aunt Lolly's.


One day, the routine changed. Everyone was excited as bags were packed and plans were made. The children were bundled onto busses, their belongings packed neatly into small bags for them to carry. Marta carried Freddie's bag onto the bus for him. Freddie clutched a stuffed white bunny that the Reverend had recently given him. Marta found their seats and arranged their bags under them, unzipped Freddie's jacket and took off his warm knitted cap.

Lolly came by, counting heads and marking off names in a small
notebook.

"Are you two comfortable?" She asked scrunching her eyes up in a
reassuring smile.

"Yes, thank you." Marta smiled back. "Where are we going, Auntie?"

"Oh, Marta, we are starting a wonderful new life! Reverend Jim has found us a home in Guyana and we leave today." She positively beamed at Marta and Freddie. "Isn't it heavenly? We're going to Jonestown."


What Pamela 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)


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


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