Winter, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!


From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny overalls, she pictured the little ones' faces, pressed against the icy windowpanes, waiting for her to arrive with another basket of her lifelike, homemade gifts. The last strand of hair was finally in place. As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, he lurched in her hand and a high-pitched voice said...

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


Careful What You Wish For
by Nicolas Hoover, New York, NY

You probably already forget your first moment in life, lost it somewhere in the cushy folds of your infant brain, your soft skull floating above it like Pangaea, your cerebellum whizzing with all the new stimuli: the slick icy air, the racket of delivery, the slap of the nurse's palm launching you into your first gasp, the piercing musk of blood, and then the wide smiles of your parents' gloating pride.

I'm not so lucky.

I awoke into this life like a light bulb, like a switch was flicked and there it all was: the lick of winter chill through an ancient breezy house, the sputter of the pot-belly furnace, the prick of a needle along my side, the rancid odor of spoiled milk, and her leathery face twisted with horror.

I screamed every curse word I knew. Wouldn't you? A shock like that.

And then my mother dropped me. She dropped me.

I'm mostly padding and that softened the blow, but then I slid on my back across the dusty floor, those wood planks chafing the whole way. Yow. And I was lying there dazed, trying to come to terms with my sudden existence. Well, it didn't take me long to realize that my body had pretty limited functionality. I tried to blink, but didn't have any eyelids. I tried to bend at the waist, but didn't have a spine. I tried to wiggle my fingers and toes, at least, but you can guess how that turned out.

I only had a few seconds to reckon with my list of shortcomings before the mad woman who brought me into this world started whacking me with a broom, bleating shrilly. She hit me with a well-placed swipe and sent me flying across the room, where I landed on top of the pot-bellied stove. Boy, that sure kicked my reflexes into full gear. If I wasn't given joints, I'd have to invent them. And I did.

Soon I was diving off that stove, landing in a somersault, and sprinting away from the crazy lady as fast as possible. Not bad for a glorified potato sack, huh? Unfortunately, I ran straight into the old woman's cat. It was surprised, let me tell you. It hissed while I was inches from its ugly mug, which I don't recommend, by the way. And then it swatted at me, sending one of my eyes bouncing onto a throw rug across the room. Then the cat skated out the cat door with a snarl, knocking over its water bowl on the way.

Water sloshed out of the cat bowl and pooled around my feet, which cooled the burns from the stove. I looked down, and there it was. My reflection. Burlap haphazardly sewn together, cinched here and there to suggest a neck, a waist, ankles, wrists, stringy red yarn for hair, one black shiny button for an eye (the other one now just a dangling thread), and ugly hand-sewn overalls. That woman must have been blind as a bat, because she created a monster.

I turned to face my maker. She was standing on a chair like I was some unwelcome rodent instead of her creation. She had a fork in one hand and the hem of her skirt in the other, and she was screeching, "Stay away from me, you devil!" Like anyone in their right mind would try and get <i>closer</i> to her.

"You think this is my fault?" I said. "You think I wanted to be a crappy doll? You're the one that made me."

She must have disagreed with me, because she put down the fork and picked up a carving knife.

"Probably trying to fill in for the kids you never had," I said. (I don't know why she gave me such a big mouth, but hell, I was going to use it.) "What, that monstrous feline that ripped my eye off wasn't enough company for you? Had to go and wish poor ugly me into existence? What did it? Some innocent, twinkling star? A lucky penny down some generous little well? Blow out all 500 candles on your stupid birthday cake? And now you're threatening me with a knife like I had anything to do with it?"

I was so busy ranting, I didn't notice her step carefully off the chair and shuffle towards me, her hands shaking. Before I knew it, she was slicing through the air at my head. I ducked just in time.

"What are you trying to do? Cut my head off? So, I'm not what you expected. Relax."

The old woman threw the knife at me and grabbed a fire poker. Well, I can take a hint. My mouth was the only asset she had given me, and it was getting me nowhere fast. I gave up trying to convince her I wasn't some devil possessing her doll. I bolted out that cat door (luckily the cat was long gone), ran through the snow, and here I am.

You're the first sane person I've met. Got any advice? No?

Why am I wasting my time talking to you? Slurping on that binky like it's getting you somewhere.

Can I catch a ride in your stroller? I'd hitchhike, but I don't have any thumbs.

What Nicolas 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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