Summer, 2002
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!


It always looked so easy on television! But she had been teasing the door lock with a bobby pin for almost 10 minutes and it didn't show any signs of opening. The ocean surf pounding in the background drowned out any clicks that she thought she was supposed to be hearing. Suddenly, the door flew open, she fell forward with grunt, and there stood...

Grit and Grain
By Jackie Koch, Adrian, MI

It always looked so easy on television! But she had been teasing the door lock with a bobby pin for almost ten minutes, and it didn't show any signs of opening. The ocean surf pounding in the background, and her heart pounding in her chest, drowned out all other sounds. Suddenly, the door flew open and there stood her sister, Linda, with a glass vase in her hand. "Mary, what are you doing?" Linda smirked.

"I should ask you the same thing." Mary replied, looking behind her sister to see a jumble of household articles piled on the sofa. "How did you get in?"

"I didn?t have to pick the lock," Linda answered smugly, "I left the sliding glass door unlocked when we were here with Aunt Doris." She turned and walked to the heap, tucking the vase between an old quilt and a bag of dishtowels and tablecloths.

Mary felt her anger rising when she looked at the assortment on the sofa. "We?re only supposed to go through her things when Aunt Doris is with us. I came here to remember Mom. You?ve torn the place apart!" Her heart began racing and she suddenly felt dizzy.

"I?m not stopping you from remembering her. Why did Mom want Aunt Doris to supervise us, anyway? And what about the will? The part that said ?I hope my girls will find a purpose? was weird." Linda walked into the kitchen and opened a cupboard door, climbing up on a stool to reach the top shelf. "Oooh, look, corn flakes! These are ancient!" She tossed the box to a wastebasket by the sink. "This is going to take time, but there?s still a lot of good stuff here."

"Listen, Linda, can?t we wait a while before we clean out her house? I don?t know if I?m ready for this." Mary?s heart was doing flip-flops.

"Mary, get a grip. Mom?s gone and we might as well get on with it. By the way, I have first dibs on the old clock, along with the things on the sofa. If you want anything, you?d better be looking around."

Linda turned to the cupboard and went back to work. Mary had to get some air. Going through the sliding doors onto the deck, she found a plastic chair and sat facing the ocean. The sun had risen across the water just two hours ago, but already the heat was nearing eighty. As she concentrated on slowing her breathing, she thought about her mother?s reasons for moving here when she could have lived closer to her daughters.

It wasn?t just that her mother had friends here; it was more. It was one overbearing, selfish daughter, and one fearful, anxious daughter. Her mother, drowning in a sea of familial mire, had moved away to save herself. She must have agonized over the decision, but in the end, decided that her survival depended on it.

Mary?s panic attacks had her thinking about survival every day. She kept a paper lunch bag in her purse to breathe into in case she hyperventilated. She avoided busy streets and crowded places. Her doctor?s offer of anti-anxiety medicine had been rejected. She would work this out on her own, somehow.

"I?ve got to go," Linda called from the living room, "I?m meeting some friends who live down the coast. Don?t touch my stuff. I?ll be back around five to get more." The front door slammed and Mary sighed with relief.

Wandering through the house, she looked in her mother?s bedroom. Cologne bottles, lotion, a hairbrush, a clock, and a small plastic toy were arranged on the dresser. She picked up the toy, a cartoon figure of a tiger, and recognized it from her childhood. It had been a prize in a cereal box. Why had her mother kept it?

As Mary entered the kitchen, she was drawn to the box of corn flakes lying in the wastebasket. Opening the box, she saw that, instead of cereal, it held papers. "Women?s Shelter Needs Funds" was the first article, dated a year ago.

Next, "Sweets Keep Them Off The Streets" told of confections a local woman was selling to benefit the shelter. The treats were so tasty that people were buying them as fast as they were made. The woman was Mary?s mother. According to a recent news clipping, she had raised almost ten thousand dollars.

The cryptic message in the will now made sense to Mary. Her mother had found a purpose, something that she wanted for her daughters. She had left clues. It was never too late to start anew.

Mary had to honor her mother?s wishes. Somewhere deep inside, she knew where she had to start. She was breathing easier now, her heart beating a slow, steady rhythm of determination.

She picked up the phone book, found the listing, and made the call. Shelter staff would arrive with a truck at two o?clock.

By one-thirty, she had boxes stacked in every room. By four o?clock, she was sweeping the floor, the house empty except for two boxes, one for her and one for Linda. At a quarter to five, she was sitting on the deck, a plate of fresh treats at her side. On her lap, a tattered, stained card gave the recipe for cookie bars made with corn flakes.

The top of the card said only, "They?re Grrreat!"

The 3rd Place Winner Got:

$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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