Winter, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd 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.

The Tie that Binds
by Gayle Rodcay, Loveland CO

My mom sews dolls. Oh, not in the artsy-craftsy way. In the guilt/compulsion/crazy kind of way. She sews them because of me.

"Mom, let me go."

I see her flinch and clutch harder the cloth doll that looks up at her from her lap. Sometimes, when I focus my energy, she hears me. I think. But then the moment passes, and she whisks a stray strand of graying hair behind her ear or brushes another tear from her cheek and goes back to perfecting the doll.

I think it was about 3 months after my death that my mom decided the dolls were her path to redemption. The original doll had been my early friend, the simple kind a 4-year old whispers her best secrets to, but then forgets about when she turns a fickle 5. And yet, I hadn't quite wanted to relegate the doll to the garage sale bin yet. So there it sat, a few years later, in the cubby space of my headboard. It was what my desperate, flailing hand happened to grab hold of for survival when he crawled on top of me. It was the only thing my mom saved when the police brought my "personal effects" home when they no longer needed the evidence. The doll became her lifeline in the abyss of her loneliness and her madness.

Sometimes I see him here. My murderer. My mother's friend. My mother's guilt. He took himself here shortly after he sent me here. He skirts my existence, avoiding my eyes, but is constantly connected to me, I guess because of what he did.

That's what Hell is you know. It has nothing to do with up or down or eternal damnation to the fires of Hades because of a condemning god's pursuit of retribution. It means forever connected to your actions and having to look at them without veil or excuse. I really don't give my murderer much thought. He was a brief moment in my life (well, more exactly in my death), a moment that will haunt him for the rest of his days, yet barely makes a smudge in the history of mine. The balance of life. I don't know if there is redemption in the afterlife. I haven't been here long enough to find out, but I hope so. Why be made to understand our sins if there is no hope of redeeming them in eternity?

I wonder sometimes if he knows about my mother's dolls.

The dolls truly are extraordinary. The plain-sewn cotton bodies have exquisitely painted faces, painstakingly and lovingly created from my mother's memory. Sometimes I think she's trying to erase the ugliness of my murder. She found me, found my limp, lifeless, pummeled wreckage of a body that had been my vehicle of life and her object of devotion for nearly 11 years. If there were any one thing I could remove from all this it would be that sight. I see her pain in the bright black eyes of the perfect faces she portrays in her dolls. I feel it when she gives those pieces of me to the squealing child reaching out for a new item of adoration, and when I lay abandoned in the graveyard of outgrown toys.

I've seen my father here. I never really knew him before. He died when I was 4 months old. His car crashed into a cement bridge girder. It wasn't an accident. Later, but when I was still alive, I sometimes wondered why he didn't want to take me with him. Someday maybe I'll ask.

"Mom, please let me go."

But she continues to stitch the simple seams that hold the doll, the reminder of her guilt, together. Every stitch, every brushstroke is an act of absolution. I know that before the closing stitch, she'll pinch a tiny bit of ash from my urn and insert it lovingly into the doll's stuffing. "So you can live the life you should have," she'll say. "The life I robbed you of." Every guilty moment shows in every stitch, every brushstroke. Even when her only fault was hoping for a good life for her and me with a new man.

Here in heaven, I mostly miss not being able to crawl into my mother's lap and feel her comforting caress for a skinned knee, or for when my first adolescent crush moved his eyes from me to my best friend. Those are memories to build a life around. And in my case, an afterlife on, yet I cannot. Her guilt binds me tighter than the nylon my killer used to bind my panicked limbs.

Mom, let me go.

What Gayle won:

$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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