Summer, 2001
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

She walked quickly through the dark streets of downtown and noticed that the only lights illuminating the entire block were from the old barber shop which had been vacant for years. Even the barber pole was slowly spinning in the dark. When she got to the window and looked inside, she was shocked to see a myriad of couples...waltzing.

The Model Maker

by Lisa Loucks Christenson, Rochester, MN, USA

At seventy-seven, Cora Stephans, a model maker, was nearing completion of her grand masterpiece. The City of Cresco, Iowa, commissioned her to create a mechanical townscape based on her life study of the area. During her studies more than one man studied her too. In fact, if you asked Cora what made those old men blush, she?d confess: ?Beauty is only skin deep, but mine?s still a dollar short of pin money.? Whatever that meant.

She ignored the leers of the widowers, and bypassed the steady gaze from men who never did settle down and marry. Cora avoided divorced men, because they couldn?t forget their old baggage. After losing Jonathon, her only love, she ignored her yearnings and immersed herself into her artwork.

The townscape of Cresco took years to create and each character was hand designed. From handmade curtains, to special flooring, everything within the walls of Cora?s townscapes contained the stories, the hopes, and the dreams of real people.

Who could resist the country store? When you opened the door, a hound lifted its head from its paws, and howled. Every store was animated with characters, props, and lights or fans that turned on and off. The player piano played a tune and the mechanical bartender poured a mug of beer. Cora struggled trying to figure out how to keep the beer mugs frosted.

She credited her mechanical skills to her father. Everyone respected Harlan. He was witty and gifted and could make anything tick, and come alive. Cora believed if he were alive before Jonathon died, he would have found a way to save him, too. Cora tapped into her father's gift and expanded upon it.

Her flamboyant mother had a different effect on Cora who hated her perfume, fancy dresses, and flashy hats. Her mother wouldn?t rest until she knew Cora could be depended upon to wear proper attire for every occassion.

Now, Cora combed through the piles of her childhood memories, gathering her mother's comments and attitude, and used this imagery to dress her characters? personalities.

Jonathon and Cora had finished celebrating their engagement with his family. Eighteen, and in love, they hardly noticed the only lights illuminating the entire block were from his family's old barber shop. He lived in the quarters behind the barber shop, and Cora lived above the cafe across the street. He walked her home, kissed her goodnight, and they parted. However, at dawn they were together again, wrapped in each others arms, sharing one barber chair and one sunrise.

The memory of their first kiss hung like the mistletoe under the ?Zobeck Barber Shop? sign. Cora reached inside and pulled the curtains back. She wanted the room lit by the dawn's light, like it was during their last embrace. She arranged the barber chairs. She hung the advertisement for Glenmore Straight Bourbon Whiskey on the left side of the doorway. The top of the ad asked: ?Do you Know Why There Are Barber Poles?? It went on to explain, but Cora had her own answers tucked deep inside her heart.

Cora choked back her tears while she hung up another memory to the right of the door: ?Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes.? There was a lot of tarryhootin? after reading that sign. Jonathon and Cora vowed to each other under the moonlight to take turns at being the lead dog, so when they married each would always have a new view. That was the same night he borrowed the waitress's pen and scribed his undying devotion for her on his napkin.

Seven nights later a winding, sleet-coated road called Jonathon home. Over time the constant pain softened the jagged edges of her broken heart, but his memory remained and triggered emotions that cut to her core.

Cora created the townscape in eleven years, out of sheer devotion to the life she cherished. Now she was ready to place the final piece, a tribute to her only love. Cora walked to her nightstand, pulled open the second drawer, and lifted out a box. A tiny hook guarded her greatest possession. Cora lifted the lid and pulled out the folded napkin,

Dear Lovely Cora,

Only eight days separate
our union as husband and wife
Did you know, eight is the
symbol of eternity?
You?re my souls truest
test of love,
for all eternity.


She felt a strange pull in her chest, unlike the pain she endured for sixty years. She winced at the pain shooting up her arm and tried to ignore the sweating. The nausea and dizziness urged her to place the final piece; her note from Jonathon. Carefully, she pulled open the drawer of the minature nightstand and tucked the note inside the second drawer. She left the drawer partially open, secretly hoping someone would notice it someday.

Cora was surprised to see the barber pole slowly spinning in the dark of the vacant Zobeck Barber Shop. She saw a fleeting bright light and ran toward it, but she ended up staring through a dimly lit window. When she looked inside, she was shocked to see a myriad of couples...waltzing, under a large banner: ?Congratulations Jonathon and Cora.?

In the doorway, light spilled over his strong shoulders, and she saw his outstretched hand motioning for her to take hold. Cora fell softly into Jonathon and, when their bodies touched, the music began to play their song.

?Who are all these people?? Cora asked.

?Observers.? He smiled.

?Observers?? Cora questioned.

?Observers, of the longest Waltz in the history of Cresco.? Jonathon smiled.

?I don?t understand.? Cora confessed.

?You will. Take my hand Cora, lets dance.?

As they waltzed, the light above embraced them, pulling them upwards to the promised land. Jonathon wrapped himself in Cora?s arms.


?Yes, darling??

?Is it the eighth day?"

?It is. For all eternity Cora."

What Lisa won:
$150 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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