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Winter, 2009
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

The small wood stove kept the tiny chapel warm and their snowy footprints had already melted by the door. The dim light from the candle nubs played on the faces of the minister and his wife, and made the bride and groom's shadows dance on the empty pews.

The minister's monotone continued, "If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace."

All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the door...

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


Same Time Next Year
by Carol Bryant, Forty Fort, PA

Alice waited for this day her entire life. She played it over and over in her mind, waiting for mister tall, dark, and handsome to walk into the door of her heart. Who'd ever marry a waitress from a small town, she'd questioningly doubt herself 364 days a year. Now he was late for his own wedding.

"Someone call for a postman from a small town?" Carl beamed as he bolted through the church doors that cold December night, jostling his postal cap while wiping freshly fallen snow from his raven locks.

Alice ran so fast into his arms, her backdraft extinguished the dim light from the candle nubs.

"Oh Carl, I thought I was a jilted bride," Alice imparted, gently caressing his face as if stroking away a 5 o'clock shadow.

"Doll, you know the train doesn't run tonight, not at this hour anyway. Do you realize how long it took me to walk from the post office to the chapel? Age is creeping up on me." Carl reminded her.

"Silly, to me, you look just like the day we met."

Carl laughed, "You remember that far back? What was it, 1952? 53?"

"You ordered a cup of coffee, two creams on the side," Alice daydreamingly recalled.

"Gee, for a gal in a hurry to get hitched, you sure talk a lot." Carl mused, brushing wet snow from his pants.

"What in tarnation am I thinking? We've got to do this before it's too late! Reverend, we're ready!" Alice called out in a panic.

The small wood stove normally kept the tiny chapel warm, but the minister's wife couldn't keep the logs burning long enough to emit much heat.

Carl glanced over at Martha, the weathered hands of time etched across her skin.

"Let me help. You two sacrifice for us year after year, trying to get us wed. It's the least I can do," Carl said as he sprang for the wood pile.

"Dearie, you say that every year, and every year I tell you I need the exercise. Now go gather yourselves. You haven't much time."

"Oh, look at me, I'm a mess," tears mistily fell to Alice's apron, "Who in their right mind gets married in a waitress's dress?"

"Looks like you drew the short straw. Twenty-five years delivering mail to Forrest Circle's residents, and I can't do better than a letter carrier's uniform." Carl reminisced.

All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the door.

"Oh no, it's starting! I just can't bear losing you again, Carl!" Alice blurted and shook her fists to the high rafters.

"Maybe they'll just go away this time," Reverend Joe offered.

"We haven't time to waste." Carl glanced at his watch.

The sounds outside the church doors came closer. Martha stuck her head out to see if she could determine what creatures this way had come. Snowy footprints had melted by the door.

"Keep them away. It won't take Reverend Joe long!" Alice desperately pleaded.

Alice rose, soothed the invisible wrinkles from her dress, and scurried to Carl's side. Reverend Joe relit the candles and read silently from his prayer book.

"Tell me again, Carl. Tell me how our honeymoon will be. It won't be long now..." Alice begged.

With his arm around her, Carl began, "On our way out tomorrow morning, we'll stop at Harry's Pharmacy for sundries. Next, we'll make a stop at the five and dime so you can pick out some dresses. My doll deserves nothing but the best."

"Oh Carl, can we really? Truly and really this time?" Alice pleaded longingly into Carl's eyes.

He squeezed her closer and glanced back at the empty pews.

"You wanted our family and friends here, didn't you Carl?" Her sunken eyes followed his gaze across the barren rows.

"You insisted this is your dream wedding. You picked the worst night of the year to marry this old letter carrier. We're here and that's what counts."

Thunder rolled over the village and the lights went out.

"Get out! You don't belong in here! You'll wreck everything! Go wake up Timmy!" Suzy ordered.

"Carl, Alice. If you plan to wed, it's now or never!" Reverend Joe shouted.

The minister's voice bellowed, "Do you, Carl, take Alice to love and hold forever and do all the things I've said the 24 other times we've tried this?"

"Yes, I do, again and again!" Carl shouted.

"Me too," Alice cried.

"If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now or..."

And the chapel toppled on its side, bodies tumbled out onto the train platform, barely missing the diesel engine that wasn't running that day.

"Carl!"

"Alice!"

Charlie's Butcher Shop jackknifed to the left. Buddy's TV Repairs tumbled in the snow. Kegler's Lanes rolled down the tracks. Trees bent and townsfolk skidded onto the ice skating rink.

"Mama, get Shadow out of here! His big paws just toppled over the village! He's ruining Christmas morning!" Suzy yelled.

"Shadow, come here big fella! A Christmas village isn't a playground for dogs. Chew on your rawhide from Santa," Suzy's mom giggled as she lovingly stroked the Labrador's floppy ears.

"And Suzy," her mom continued, "stop messing with those villagers. You know your father likes the waitress kept in the diner and the letter carrier in the post office!"

"Yes ma'am." Suzy solemnly picked up the villagers, placed each figure upright, and returned each building to its proper location.

"Carl?" Alice's voice cascaded across the train tracks as she waited to be picked up.

"Yes doll?"

"Same time next year?"

"Same time next year."


What Carol 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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