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Spring, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

He'd had a lifelong weakness for football, golf, and younger women but none of that mattered anymore. The vultures were just outside, already fighting over the best morsels. He hadn't moved or spoken in weeks but, as she reached over to touch the thin vein slowly pulsating in his hand, his eyes flashed open and he said...

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


Conditions of the Heart
by Linda Walker, Cypress, TX

Caroline Everett straightened her skirt and tugged nervously at the hem of her matching fitted jacket. When she'd spoken to the doctor last night he'd told her that her husband, Charles, wouldn't last another day. Charles had lain weak and fading since the day after they'd returned from a vacation in Mexico three weeks ago. He barely moved or spoke, only seeming to liven up when she read him the latest football scores.

She sighed exhaustedly, knowing the moment the elevator opened at his private hospital floor she'd be greeted with the bickering that had raged for days between her step-children. How she could even use the word "children" in regards to the lot of vultures who continued to fight over any and everything that held an ounce of value was beyond her. Especially considering that two-thirds of her step-children were older than she was.

The elevator gave a muffled ding, signaling Caroline to square her shoulders and inhale deeply before exiting into the melee that carried on around the clock. Her eldest "step-son" Stephen was, as usual, red-faced and repeating the fact that as the oldest, he would decide what was best for everyone. He tried to grab Caroline by the sleeve each time she arrived; although she wasn't certain if it was to intimidate her or to have her ally with him. Neither of which she had any intention of doing whatsoever. Today was no exception as she once again, side-stepped him and slid down the hallway and into her husband's room with a complete air of ignorant bliss.

Caroline smiled and nodded to a nurse who was paid to sit with Charles around the clock.

"Any change?" she asked.

The nurse shook her head sympathetically, then gathered her sweater and book before leaving the room.

Once alone, she gently rearranged the pillows behind Charlie's head and stroked his hair back from his forehead before leaning over and pressing her lips against his brow. Next, she settled herself on Charlie's bed, kicked off her Louboutins as casually as she'd kick off a pair of Wal-Mart flip-flops during a picnic, and snuggled up next to his still body.

"Oh, Charlie. It shouldn't be like this."

She began to stroke one of Charlie's hands. Hands that at one time seemed larger than life and could encompass the whole world and everyone in it. Her fingers found a single vein that held a slow and somewhat steady beat, showing his heart circulated the last rounds of blood that kept him here with her.

"I loved you, Charlie." She said on a sigh.

To her amazement, Charles eyes flashed open and he gasped, his lips opened and closed like a fish just reeled into a boat. Quickly, Caroline grabbed a cup with a straw sticking out of it from the bedside table. Charles took a few deep draws, then began to cough and sputter. She helped him sit forward and patted him on the back before he fell weakly back onto the pillows with a few wheezing gasps.

"Oh, Charlie." She squeezed his hand gently. "Let me call the doctor!" But his hand stayed her and he shook his head. His voice was watery and thin once he began to speak.

"Caroline, my love. I'm afraid we've only got these few moments and there are things I must say. Please just listen." His eyes had a frantic quality that scared her more than his stillness had.

"I've not been the best of husbands," His eyes slid shut tiredly and he wheezed a few times.

Caroline ran her hand across his damp brow and said, "Darling, please don't exhaust yourself."

His eyes once again opened and he shook his head slightly before continuing.

"Caroline, I neglected you while I had my every whim satisfied. I've lain here all these weeks and heard that pack of jackals fighting over all I own. Not a single one of them will see a dime. You see, I changed my will six months ago and everything shall go to you." The talking was obviously taking its toll and his grip slackened.

"Please, Charlie. Let me call the doctor," Caroline glanced furtively at the door.

"No, darling. Please, I need to clear my conscience. I know I haven't much time." He seemed to struggle to keep his eyes open, his next few words were said in a papery whisper. "I cheated on you with your best friend while we were in Mexico last month and I wasn't at your mother's funeral because I was working, but because I was playing golf." His eyes drifted shut and his grip slackened even more. Caroline could tell by the beeping of the heart monitor that he was growing weaker by the minute.

"Please," he rasped out. "Say you'll forgive me, Caroline."

Caroline wiped at the tears that she didn't even realize were running down her face. "Oh, my silly love. Of course I forgive you and I hope you will forgive me as well. I knew you changed the will and I also knew that you were playing golf instead of attending my mother's funeral. And Charlie, that's why while we were in Mexico and you were screwing my best friend, I met a pharmacist who told me that if your heart medication was increased by 5 milligrams, you'd be dead within a month."


What Linda 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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Contest guidelines are HERE.


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