Fall, 2003
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!


"I must have taken a wrong turn after the river, Dad. The pavement stopped awhile back and there's nowhere to turn around."

"Hold on, honey, I'm trying to find it on the map."

"You're starting to break up some."

"I don't see any dirt roads in that area. I'm hearing another voice on the line. It's like a whisper, can you hear it?"

"No, I'm just hearing you and static."

"hang... now... mine..."

"Did you hear that?!"

"Did I hear what, Dad?"

Borrowing Hope
By Deborah Koller-Feeney, Syosset, NY

"I must have taken a wrong turn after the river, Dad. The pavement stopped awhile back and there's nowhere to turn around," my sister shouted into the speaker on her cell phone. My father hated it when she put him on speaker.

"Hold on, Honey. Jesus Christ, you are always getting lost. I'm trying to find it on the map here." I could hear my father clearly through the little black box. He sounded annoyed.

My sister smiled without her teeth. She grabbed the wrapper from the hamburger she ate a little while ago and crumbled it over the phone. "You're starting to break up some."

He replied, "I don't see any dirt roads in that area."

She added softly under the crinkly noise, "you stupid asshole."

I'm hearing another voice on the line. It's like a whisper, can you hear it?" My father asked.

"No, I'm just hearing you and static." She looked over at me and gave me a look that told me to keep quiet. I took another French fry from my bag and put it in my mouth to show her I wasn't going to say anything. I knew Honey needed to concentrate right now.

"Hang...now...mine", Honey said to the phone while crinkling the wrapper some more.

"Did you hear that?" My father asked.

Honey pressed a button and the phone went dark. "Did I hear what, Dad?" she said to the dashboard. Then she rolled down the window and threw the phone out the moving car. Silently she rolled the window back up.

I ate another French fry.

Honey looked at me, looked at the road, and then back at me. Finally she spoke.

"Look, I don't want you to be afraid, okay? We're going to be okay. We're going to be fine."

"Where are we going?" I asked.

She sighed. "West" was all she said. I knew she didn't know.

I wondered if I would ever see my father again. I didn't understand why Honey hated him so much. He paid attention to her. He loved her. I always saw him with her, hugging her, touching her. He never touched me. I think he thinks I'm ugly because my skin is darker than his and Honey's and Mom's was. I miss my mother.

"When we get to the city, we need to get rid of this car, okay? We're going to take a bus the rest of the way."

I looked at Honey. She was so pretty. She just graduated High School two weeks ago. I remember in her white cap and gown she looked like a bride. My father wouldn't take me to see her graduate but I walked to the school anyway. I don't think he even knew I went. When Honey saw me, she left all her friends, picked me up and hugged me. She wasn't mad at all. "Not much longer" she said. Now I knew what she meant.

"If anyone asks you where we're going, we need to say we're going to visit our grandmother in San Diego. Got it?"

I nodded. My grandmother was dead, though. So was my mother. She died when I was one. Honey said Dad killed her. I used to think she was kidding. Honey seemed to think Dad would kill us, too. I didn't get it. Dad was always watching TV and drinking beer. How would he kill us? He only used to get up to go to work or to spend time with Honey in her room. For a while now, Honey would make me hide in the closet when it got to be late at night. She said it was a special game of hide and seek and I wasn't supposed to come out until she came to get me. No matter what. I made a little bed for myself in there. I wondered if I'd have to do that when we get to where we're going.

"How long will we be gone?" I asked while I took my last French fry out of the cardboard holder.

Honey thought about her answer. "Long enough to be okay" she said.

I looked out the window at the white line on the road rushing by me. I wondered what it meant to be okay. Weren't we okay before, the three of us? We had food and a place to live. Honey always took care of me, and Dad...well Dad just stayed away from me. I didn't hate him like Honey did. Maybe he hated me, though. I looked down at my old sneakers. They had been Honey's. I didn't have the heart to tell her they didn't fit anymore and my feet hurt. I slipped them off and sat Indian style on the seat. I figured we'd be in the car a while.

Honey was looking at me and then the road again.

"Guess what, squirt? You get to have a new name. And you can pick any name you want."

I thought for a minute. "Can I have Mommy's name?"

Honey let out a noise that sounded like a cry. She took a deep breath. "No, sweetheart. Someone might recognize that name."

I looked down at my legs all tangled up. I didn't see why I couldn't have it when Honey said I could pick any name I wanted. I felt like crying, but I didn't really know how. I had never cried before.

"Maybe you could have Mom's middle name. How about that?"

I looked up and smiled. I didn't even know Mom's middle name. "What is it?"

Honey thought for a moment like she was trying to remember. "Hope," she said. "You can have Mom's Hope."

I nodded my acceptance and looked forward at the dimly lit road. The future was terribly uncertain, but for that moment, the moment I was given Hope, I was okay.

The 2nd Place Winner Got:

$250 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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