Fall, 2001
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

She shivered violently while running through the cold night air. Orange, yellow and red leaves crackled beneath her tiny shoes when she stepped on them. Why hadn't her father picked her up from school as he promised? Now she'd be late for her own Halloween Party.

by Jackie Hirtz , Los Angeles, CA

Lucy closed her eyes and prayed that her father would find her soon. She knew he would scold her for not waiting for him after school like she had promised, taking the short cut home through the park instead. Then he would hug her, apologize for his tardiness, and tell her he was glad she was safe and that he loved her for infinity.

"Oh Papa," she rehearsed silently, "it was stupid of me to run through the park in my good school shoes, clumsy of me to trip over a log in my rush home. I didn't think you were coming and ?" She moaned aloud, her back ached and she felt dizzy. The pile of autumn leaves beneath her tiny body felt both soft and scratchy and reminded her of the cozy calico couch in the living room of her family's bungalow on Pacific Avenue. If she were there now she wouldn't shiver so - not from fear, nor from the cold.

Lucy pulled her hand knit blue and white sweater up to her neck and stuck her hands in the pockets for warmth. She kept her eyes shut, preferring the images that raced through her mind to the dusky park with its huge oak trees that had become dancing monsters on this Halloween night.

Sliding into a kind of reverie, she thought about her Papa. He loved holidays and the Halloween party had been his idea. "I'll carve a jack-o-lantern and your friends can bob for apples," he told her, "just like I did when I was a boy." Lucy thought about her best friend Sarah, nine-years-old, like her, with her freckled face in a big bucket of water. She saw candles glowing inside jack-o-lanterns and the beach across the street from her house strewn with yellow and orange candy corn stretching from Venice all the way to Malibu. She felt something in her mouth and recognized the smooth sweetness of candy corn melting into grainy bits of sugar. The chill in the air evaporated leaving her warm and comfortable.

Colors flashed before her eyes - red, white and blue starbursts in the sky -fireworks shot from the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Lucy saw herself on the beach, candy corn turned to sand. She was holding a Fourth of July sparkler in each hand, her Papa next to her.

She decided to keep her eyes closed until her father found her. It was better that way, with images of holidays riding through her mind like a train, each car a different holiday. She took a deep breath, smelled pine needles, and saw Christmas. She opened a long box wrapped in red and green snowflake patterned paper. When she saw the baby doll she could only manage an "Oh."

Lucy felt the soft plastic baby doll in her arms, even though her hands were still in her sweater pockets. Then she saw the hearts float by, big red and white valentines. She remembered finding a pink envelope beside her cereal bowl at breakfast. "To my Valentine, Love, Papa" it said. Where was that valentine now? Where had she put it? She tasted something in her mouth again. Something familiar and good, but not sweet like candy. Something that came from the oven, large and brown.

"Eat it all," her father said about the turkey drumstick he placed before her, "you'll grow up big a strong." A smile swept across her face as the holiday train picked up speed. New Year's Eve, Saint Patrick's Day, May Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day. The Fourth of July, again. She could feel the holidays, taste them.

She heard leaves crunching and was confused. What holiday is this? Her eyes stayed shut, she wouldn't open them until her Papa arrived.

"Miss Lucy, dear, wake-up now." She felt a soft hand on her shoulder, pushing it gently. "Wake up now, it's Ms. Lopez coming to get you for dinner.

Lucy lost sight of the train as she opened her eyes. The park was a broad lawn with some oaks; most of the leaves were on the ground.

"Come on, I'll help you up," said Miss Donna as she leaned over Lucy's deck chair to provide support for the frail woman with silver whisps of hair falling into her face. "You should see the dining room tonight. There's a jack-o-lantern and orange and black streamers all decorated for Halloween."

Inside the dining room, Miss Donna settled Lucy into a chair at her regular table. If only Lucy knew who all these people were. They looked liked grandparents. Even older. Her tall, gentle Papa was younger than all of them. "He's not going to find me here," she told Miss Lopez.

"Who, Darlin'?" said Ms. Lopez as she guided a spoonful of mashed potatoes into Lucy's mouth."

The taste of pumpkin spice faded from Lucy's tongue. "He's not going to find me here," she said again.

"Who are your talking about Miss Lucy?" asked Ms. Lopez.

"I don't know," said Lucy. "Don't know."

What Jackie won:
$300 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)

Contest guidelines are HERE.


Copyright 1997 - 2015 WritersWeekly.com
All rights reserved.