Fall, 2008
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!


The cast iron pot was blackened and warped, but had provided years of delicious concoctions. Movement caught her eye through the cracked window. She turned her head, but saw only red, orange, yellow and brown leaves racing by in the fierce wind. She shivered as cold air leaked through the window's cracks, and leaned down to stoke the fire.

Squinting at her recipe book, she scratched the mole on her nose. The fourth ingredient was always the hardest to find...

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

By Lucinda Gunnin, Carbondale, IL

Constance shivered as she bent over the small soup pot boiling in the fireplace.

Zeb, why did you have to leave me so soon?

Her withered hand grasped the long wooden spoon, and pulled hard to keep the stew from sticking in the cast iron. Carrots, potatoes, onions. The local townspeople had been so generous with her since Zeb died last summer, but none could spare the meat.

What good was stew without meat?

Constance looked at the worn pot and remembered the day her parents presented it to her and Zeb. A late wedding present they had said. "Something youíll need in Wyoming Territory."

She smiled weakly as she remembered how often she and Zeb had used that pot over the years, fifty of them now. Her parents had thought she was crazy moving to the West. Looking at the tiny shanty surrounding her now, she thought maybe she was. She had never been this cold, hungry or alone in New York.

"Ah, but we had a good life, didnít we, Zeb?" He had been dead for months, since a late spring bout of flu stole his breath away. She still spoke to him almost every day.

The town had helped her bury him and once a month or so, someone stopped by to check to see how the old woman on the mountain was getting along.

She did all right out here on her own. She had made the mixture of mud and grass to patch the cracks in the cabin just like Zeb taught her. Up higher than her arthritic hands could reach, there were still holes in the slats. In the warm fall afternoons, she could see the canopy of golden aspens over her home. Today, the wind whistled in the cracks, chilling her old bones.

As they began to look for winter lodging, the deer still wandered through her yard on occasion, seeming to know that her gnarled hands could no longer hold the shotgun and they were safe.

Venison would have been good meat for the stew.

Constance had almost given up on the idea of having meat for the stew at all, resigned herself to a dinner of vegetables again, when Zeke stopped by this morning.

He had been out hunting and came by the cabin to share his bounty.

Zeke is such a good boy. We were lucky to have him.

Still, she felt badly as she took his kill and cleaned it, cutting the meat from the bones and removing the fur. He worked so hard for it. Did she have any right to ask him to share?

Constance tried to return it, but Zeke steadfastly refused, stalking off to hunt more and leaving the meat behind.

As she added some garlic and browned the meat before adding it to her stew, Constance was torn. It wasnít her favorite, but she had eaten it before. Times were lean when she and Zeb first moved west. And, it was meat, something she had not had since she killed the old rooster in May.

At least it isnít chicken. I hate cleaning those things. Feathers everywhere and the smell. Ugh!

Itís just like eating a rabbit, she thought as she removed the tail.

Once the aroma of the cooking meat filled the tiny cabin, all concerns about the meatís origin left her. Rabbit, cow or field rat all smelled the same when dredged in flour and garlic and fried in a little oil.

Taking the ladle from its place in the kitchen, Constance was dishing up her supper when she felt the cat rub against the back of her leg.

Looking down lovingly, she smiled. "Yes, Zeke, Iíll get you a bowl, too. After all, you caught the mouse."

What Lucinda won:

$200 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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