Spring, 2007
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

She could hear the buoy bell ringing in the distance but it was too dark to see anything beyond the receding foamy water. She shivered as the wind picked up, knowing a late-season Nor'easter would hit in the next few hours, and knowing this was her last chance. She raised her arm and threw the glass bottle into the darkness...

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

Wear These Mittens
By Jeanne M. Oravec, Crescent City, FL

Three weeks earlier, her grandmother had taken her in with the stipulation that "you have exactly one month to do something about your condition or you will have to leave. I cannot support another person."

"You don't have to to this now...there are still a few weeks left," the old woman said in her high-pitched voice. "You shouldn't be going out. You heard the forecast--there's a Nor'easter coming!" Her cane made clunking sounds on the wooden floor as she walked toward the door. "Well, if you're going to be stubborn, make sure you wear your scarf. And here, wear these mittens I knitted. Now, you be careful! In your condition..."

The young woman grunted, slipped on the mittens, threw the scarf over her head and surreptitiously tucked a glass bottle under her coat.

She never understood how people romanticized old coastal towns. During the day, everything looked ugly: Old dilapidated houses, built close together, with shingles turned different shades of sick gray from two hundred years of being attacked--yes, attacked--by the salt air.

She hated the town. She hated the sea. She hated the ocean air. She hated that no matter how much hair spray she applied, her long, wavy hairdo was ruined within minutes of stepping out into the wind. And she hated to shovel snow, so each time she heard that a Nor'easter was coming, she became even more disgruntled.

Once, in her teens, she had seen a summer tourist stick out her tongue and exclaim how wonderful the salt air tasted, and how great it would be to live there year round. You must be sick and demented, she had thought at the time. Try being born and raised here!

She always preferred going out at night. In the dark, she could pretend that the houses were painted a clean white, with light blue or green shutters, and that the vast ocean was a thousand-acre pasture, lush and green.

As soon as she turned eighteen, she had moved to New Mexico. She got a job as a waitress and met new friends. She loved the dry weather. She loved the brightly-painted buildings. She especially loved looking out over miles of desert.

She met Frank, and he introduced her to new experiences. For a while, her life was wonderful. Then, things happened, and now, ten years after she had boarded the bus for her new life, she was back to the old one. And she was miserable.

She closed her eyes for a moment and wished for the thousandth time that when she opened them, the vast ocean would have been transformed into a lush pasture. But then she heard the buoy bell ringing in the distance, and reality enveloped her like the thick ocean mist of morning.

She stopped for a moment and looked toward the water. It was too dark to see anything other than the foamy breakers that glistened when the lighthouse beacon flashed over them.

This was the third time in a week when she had vowed to go through with her plans. But each time, once she read the sign over the door, she had turned around in fear.

Now, for the third time in a week, her thoughts once again began to work against her. I'm afraid they'll ask me questions. I'm afraid that there'll be someone there who remembers me. Then, for the third time, she remembered the brochure. They don't ask questions.

She shivered, then continued on. The wind had picked up, and it took more of what little energy she had. What if they tell me I'm too late?

A block ahead, the light above the sign cast eerie rays over the road and toward the ocean. For the third time, she almost turned back. She covered her face with the mittens. I need to read the sign and not turn away. I need to believe that what the brochure said, is true. I need to walk into that old building...and trust.

The odor of the mittens filled her nostrils. They smelled of salty water...and love...and acceptance.

For the third time that week, she took the glass bottle from under her arm. She had been warned that the experience would be painful, and she knew that the contents of the bottle would numb some of the pain. Strangely, though, she felt that enduring the pain would mean that Frank's influence over her would have ended. And now or later, there would be pain.

She raised her arm, threw the glass bottle into the darkness, and when she heard a splash, she sighed. She tightened the scarf around her neck and crossed the road.

The young woman walked into the old building. The people she met were true to the brochure--they did not ask questions. They stayed with her through the physical and emotional pain of that night and countless nights thereafter.

A year after that night, the woman's grandmother died and left her the old gray-shingled house. Surprisingly, the woman did not sell the house. Something had changed. She had learned to embrace the coastal town and the kind people who had become her dear friends.

She had slowly begun to appreciate the beauty of the ocean, and to enjoy the smell of the sea air. She still hated Nor'easters, but she planned ahead to have gas for her stove, food in her pantry, and a few motivational books to read. And she hired school kids to shovel the snow.

She changed her hairstyle to short and curly, so the wind didn't bother her as much anymore.

The young woman became one of the most ardent speakers for Alcoholics Anonymous, and she often shared the story of the night when she had thrown her last bottle of vodka into the sea and attended her first AA meeting.

What Jeanne 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.

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