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Summer, 2006
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The group of four tipsy teenagers were playing yet another loud game of Mixin' Fixion in the back of the commuter bus. After her contribution, the youngest girl turned her face toward the breeze coming through the window, enjoying the canopy of trees along the country road. Up ahead, she noticed a man flagging down the bus while slinging a large black bag over his shoulder. As he stepped onto the bus, he turned his head toward the bag, slapped it, and yelled, "...


Life is Where the Heart Is
by Hope Yeager, Custer, SD

The group of four tipsy teenagers were playing yet another loud game of Mixin' Fixion in the back of the commuter bus. After her contribution, the youngest girl, Susie, turned to face toward the breeze coming through the partially opened window, enjoying the canopy of trees along the country road. Up ahead, she noticed a man flagging down the bus while slinging a large black bag over his shoulder. As he stepped onto the bus, he turned his head toward the bag, slapped it, and yelled, "Anyone want a kitten? I sure don't need these critters for all of eternity."

Susie stared at the fur balls the man began distributing. Wanting so bad to have one to love, and to love her, she knew her stepmother, Irma, would never allow her to keep it.

Susie fought the tingling of tears in her nostrils. Nothing had been fair or right since her father caused their car to go off the road over a year ago. It was July 4th weekend. She had stayed with her friend, Cindy, while her mother and little brother, Eddie, died. Her father had stumbled away with enough alcohol in his blood to supply a fraternity.

She turned her attention back to the country road, breathing in the fresh air and willing her tears away. Her father never looked at Susie anymore. Just worked at the office and at home, shut up in his study.

"How ironic," Susie thought. "Now sober, he acts as if I don't even exist." Susie had taken to partying with her own friends to forget what she no longer had. Susie looked at her friends, Cindy, Michelle and Nancy; all laughing as they married off characters from different movies and books in their singsong game.

"Why can't I be a happy drunk instead of a moody one?" the sixteen-year-old asked herself as the countryside blurred through the tears filling her eyes. "Dad's gonna' kill me when I get home," she thought, knowing he would not see the humor in the deaths of his wife and son curing him of his disease but making a lush out of his daughter.

"Here you go, little girl. You look like you could use a friend."

Susie jumped at the stranger's voice. It was the man with the bag of kittens.

"Come on, sweetie. I can't keep them..."

"Neither can I. My step mom will just throw the poor kitten out on his ear."

The man leaned in close, drilling Susie with his eyes. A wicked grin curled upon his lips. She drew back as if smelling something unpleasant.

"She won't even know you have it," said the man and then he turned around with a laugh, leaving a little fur ball in her lap.

Susie thought, "How strange, of course she'll know." Then an idea struck her. Maybe Irma wouldn't notice she had been drinking with a kitten in tow. As Susie nuzzled the kitten, he opened his eyes and let out a long yowl. In that instant, Susie's world began to shift.

The kitten, a cute, fluffy fur ball a moment ago was now dripping wet. His hair and ears were plastered down while his small body shivered.

Susie didn't understand, but started rubbing, hoping to warm him up. She opened her jacket to nestle the kitten inside, but froze as she saw the blood soaked T-shirt beneath. Panic made her look to her friends, still singing their ridiculous rhymes. A scream choked her as she saw Cindy with one ear torn loose and hanging in a curtain of bloodied blond hair while singing of a marriage between Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh. Michelle and Nancy laughed through a gurgle of blood, and clapped their limp hands.

Susie looked around the bus, the panic rising like bile in her throat. The stranger with the kittens was still pedaling his wares, but this time she observed he was dripping wet and had a gash across his forehead.

The nice old blue-haired lady accepting a kitten was normal. "Good." Susie thought, and then she noticed the congealed blood in a line across the woman's wrist.

"Air, I need air." Susie clawed at the partially opened bus window, dropping the kitten in the process, but she couldn't open the window any wider. The bus was stopping yet again, this time for a charred flight attendant pushing a drink cart.

"NO, NO, NO! Help!!" Susie began screaming. As the disfigured flight attended boarded, a little boy toddled out of the trees and onto the bus. Susie stopped screaming as she watched in fascination. The little boy walked down the aisle towards her. He was perfect. Beautiful. He bent down and picked up the kitten Susie had dropped, now a cute fur ball again.

"Can I sit wit you, Susie?" Stunned, Susie watched her little brother Eddie climb onto her lap. All remnants of blood and death had disappeared. Eddie and the kitten nestled in. She knew for certain she was dead. Remembered the car Michelle drove plowing into a moving train. But if it meant having Eddie back, she figured she could deal with death.

Susie felt her brother tug on her jacket so she leaned in, catching a whiff of his little boy scent. Eddie kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear, "I missed you. Mom's waitin' for us. She made basaghetti".

Susie ignored her friends' noisy game. Ignored the man who had accidentally killed himself while trying to drown the poor little kittens. She ignored the changing scenery between spiritual worlds she couldn't see through her tears.

Susie was going home.


What Hope 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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