Summer, 2002
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

It suddenly came to him in a flash, a complete insight, the whole plan, every detail, and he saw that it would work. "The perfect crime!" he thought, "And there is no way anyone can tie it to me. All I have to do is take care of one little detail first."

By Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, Tuscaloosa, AL

That detail is love. Loss. Committing the unimaginable. There are kinds of death other than clinical.

Flash. Brilliant eye-scorching starbloom of cameras at their wedding.

Rosary: delicate, glistening, exquisite and--only later would he know how terribly true this was--fragile, as her sacred name. Do you Nillson Elijah Howard take Rosary Annie Miller...then the flashbulb splash not unlike the flash of a dark plan that came to him-weeks before their sixteenth anniversary-reverberated with afterburn of two figures, a diminutive third, and how murderous time re-shapes photographs, makes them dated, bellbottomed, stupid with their own captured joy.

Rosary: like paper parasols and the first time he saw one bobbing brightly so many summers ago it might be his son’s memory instead of his own.

The parasol day was technicolor. The umbrella-bird-boned architecture, tiny wooden frame, how it opened, glowed in a crepe paper sky-as if perpetually candlelit. Orange, turquoise, spider-lilies, firework-tasseled flowers in a color he’d recall magenta always echoed Rosary.

Magenta. A word Rosary re-lit for him, when he wore a purple Hawaiian shirt on their honeymoon.

"Magenta, genta prince," in her Southern belle drawl. He never wanted to hear Ls in gentle again.

Rosarese. The only language in his Utopia-which it turns out means no place. How it all turns out, after something so party-colored, toothpick, house-of-cards frail, otherworldly true as their life was before doom stikes and your wife turns to a bad luck lightning rod.

So much of her beauty was in its motion.

"We’re graceful women, my mother, my sister. Not really pretty, just carry ourselves like we are."

The day on the boat, her hair in a low ponytail and windy tendrils streaked across her face. Tree limbs shadowing water. He said she was mother-of-pearl, lovely in stillness, lovelier with the way she turned in light. She turned in the light of that feathery afternoon, the wake behind the boat feathery too, tinseled with summer and kissed him and it felt like his own breath gone helium in his lungs.

They were too much poetry. Fifteen-plus years, closest friends, still stupidly in love--that was the real crime.

Their son, Henry, just seven, much more like her than his father. Just look at him reading on the landing in one cross-barred square beaming in just for cats or little boys turning pages in a bath of security and windowlight, his mother looking down at the boy and him-father, husband, accomplice watching them both. It was only four years ago.

"I love my life, Neeley," she’d said before, "I love the way I am, everything I have, you, this life, our son, health. But Goddamnit, I’d want no part of it in a coma someday or something. Promise me that much. Promise." Said with sudden soberness to her voice and complete sincerity.

Breakneck they called the brand of fast of Rosary’s swimming. Breakneck speed.

She’d never backed-off. Not when she swam, even won trophies for the way her body entered the water like a knifefish--cut through like a limber blade, a silver leaf. Now she never backed off of wanting to die. Not if living meant the last four years, all mangled angles and ache.

She dove, from the high rocks she’d left so many times before, let her body, fluent in the fall, lead her like always to the depths. Drought plus minor miscalculations replaced stone with water, her spinal column with blown glass and she shattered from within until she might’ve rattled like a sand dollar when they pulled her, unconscious, from the water.

Rosary’s hands atrophied into mangled flowers in her lap, turned in at the wrists and flaring out again suddenly like wings--one twisted moment of the breaststroke when the hands move from prayer posture to twin inkblots of bird-of-paradise pointing away from one another and spreading-batwings, x-rays of lungs-hanging in her lap--simultaneously gorgeous, grotesque. Forever-nowhere eyes. A mouthstick for writing notes. A voice flat, little to say. Severe seizures that scared Henry no matter how they tried to explain. Most of all pain. Rosary didn’t shine in this new light. In measure to her previous love of living, maybe more, she hated this broken life.

"I don’t care that I’m a mother. Yes, I love you and Henry. No, I’m not good at suffering. Please keep your word."

A living will. (To replace my will to live, she’d joked that day at the attorney’s when it was all hypothetical still).

"Hell on wheels," she called her world now. Hell on (you promised) wheels. Tones of resentment, (could that be hatred?) something ending in an almost-growled hiss of s.


"I’m not courageous," she’d said before. "Don’t make me do something brave like suffer. I have to know you promise."

No one could tie it to him. Crucial, because of Henry.

The bridge had a notched-out place where a car, all alacrity and icing-over, spun, erased a section of the railing. The bridge was on an overlook, where any couple might gaze over, plan futures through the rush and tumble. Crush and crumble.

Her dignity gone. Her body carved from passive verbs. To be moved, to be changed, to be washed. Once carved from water, sinew, bone, now a ruined sculpture propped upright. Her spine a Picassoed-thing. Out of perspective and hurting, every minute. Her body.

Kinds of death.

Kind deaths.

She couldn’t pull a trigger. Couldn’t really even engineer an overdose. But there was water, altitude, the mouthstick she used to propel her chair forward. That moment, seamless save for the detail of one husband-forever shattered inside, a premeditated looking away--leaving her alone for one strategic second, to engage the power switch, push forward, roll first away, then off. Finally diving again, falling first in the chair, then out, seeking speed, air, water. The chair ricocheting light off every shiny point. The woman-was she smiling?-hitting water and breaking through.

What Ariana-Sophia 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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