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Fall, 2009
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin next weekend. His chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, especially that pretty, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.

The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly. As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he instinctively turned his head toward an infant's cry. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, his stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse...

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


Crowning Achievements
by Bronwyn Lane, Winston-Salem, NC

When I knocked on Melissa Ryan's door this afternoon I didn't think it would be a big deal. Sure, we have never been friends, but a lot of time has passed, and a lot of things have changed. Maybe I'm still the unpopular girl that's shy and plain, and she is still the most popular girl in town and has everything any girl could ever want. She has a successful husband, three insanely beautiful daughters, all on the pageant circuit, and a newborn that will no doubt start her pageant career by the end of next year, and Melissa herself still looks effortlessly fantastic. But in the last 15 years I have made quite a success of myself; I finally found my niche. I'm a grower. I can grow anything: fruits, vegetables, legumes, anything. I have won 96 blue ribbons at various fairs across the state, and at next weekend's fair I expect to add four more to my collection. Next weekend I will be a winner 100 times over. I grow, and I win. That's who I am now. I'm still shy, still plain, but finally good at something.

She looked a bit flustered when she answered, with the baby in her arms and a towel over her shoulder. I squared my shoulders slightly and smiled.

"Hey Melissa, I'm not sure if you remember me but I'm Dana Dennison. We went to high school together. Anyway, I live next door and the mailman has accidentally delivered some of your mail to me." I held a stack of mail out for her to take.

"Dana, yes, hi, come in." She backed up to let me in. "I think he gave me some of your mail, too." I followed her into the kitchen where she put the baby down in a bouncy chair and started rifling through a pile of mail on the counter.

"So how have you been?" she asked.

"I've been well." I said. "How about you?"

"Good. Busy, but good. The girls have a pageant coming up next month that we've been getting ready for, and of course Kendall is keeping me plenty busy." She nodded over to the baby who was sleeping soundly in the bouncy chair.

"Yeah I've been pretty busy myself, getting things ready for the fair next weekend."

"Oh, have you entered something in the fair?" she asked, only mildly interested.

"Yes. Four things actually, including a pumpkin. It's the first pumpkin I've ever entered. I've been perfecting my cultivating method for the past three years, and this year my pumpkin is finally ready. It's 12 inches bigger and five and a half pounds heavier than Stan Herrmann's winning one last year. It's sort of my crowning achievement." I suddenly realized how stupid I sounded, so desperate for her approval.

"That's nice." She said politely. I looked around idly as she continued to look for my mail. I caught a glimpse of a trophy in a room off of the kitchen. I carefully moved closer to the doorway to get a better look. The room was full, wall-to-wall, with trophies, crowns, ribbons, and sashes.
"This is some collection." I said dryly. Melissa looked up and smiled widely.

"Yeah, Lola has been the reigning Little Miss Starbuck for four years running, and Allison is two time winner of the Mini Miss title at the state finals, and Keri just won the regional title at the Little Belles of the South pageant. There's more than that obviously, but those are the most recent. It's still early in the season." I stood there for what seemed like forever just staring at all of them. The second the question rolled off of my tongue I regretted asking.

"How many do they have?"

"Um, altogether I think about a hundred and thirty, give or take a few." She handed me my mail. "Thanks for bringing my mail by."

"You're welcome." I said, barely audible.

"Good luck at the fair next weekend." She didn't really smile when she said this, but instead she sort of cocked her head to the side and gave me a look of encouragement out of pity.

"Thanks." I said, and then let myself out.

When I knocked on Melissa Ryan's door this afternoon I didn't think it would be a big deal. Now, as I stand here in my garden, staring down at my pumpkin, I feel very small. I heard an infant's cry and instinctively turned my head towards it. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, Melissa Ryan was coaching her daughters as they danced, and shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse. I watched with disgust as she fed it. Fed her youngest crowning achievement; fed it so that it would grow.


What Bronwyn won:

$200 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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