Summer, 2009
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!


She was licking the cotton candy crystals from her fingertips when she felt the first raindrops. She joined the other visitors in racing for shelter as the drops turned into a summer afternoon torrent. She ducked into the nearest red-and-white striped tent, almost running into a woman with caked make-up and large rings on every finger. As the girl started to offer an apologetic smile, the woman looked up. Her wrinkled face registered instant recognition and she screamed, "It's you!"

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

The Wrong Side of Heaven
by Jason Walter Vaile, Frisco, TX

It was so hot that summer. We're used to hot summers in West Texas but this one was different. Somethin' different in the air. Even the jar flies were too hot to sing. The air didn't seem to move at all. So the first breeze we felt was when He drove down main street. His black car was clean and shiny. This stood out cause all the trucks around here were covered with that red dust. He unfolded out of the sedan to stand a foot taller than anyone else in town. He donned the black fedora hat on his slicked back black hair and brushed some unseen lint from his shiny black suit. He'd stopped in front of the sheriff's office. See, the sheriff had this thing against the circus. He'd said somethin' about clowns being the spawn of Satan. But the Preacher Man in black said there'd be no clowns at His circus. This was gonna be a Jesus Circus.

Now, I'd never heard of a Jesus Circus before, but I was smart enough to know that Jesus wouldn't be there. He died when we started counting years. But I was curious to see what'd be there. The only circus I ever saw was over in Bugtussle. They had this freak show with a lobster boy and a lady that was so tiny she fit right in the palm of our hand. When I'd paid my nickel, I saw a boy that sure enough looked like he had crawdad pinchers for hands. The Tiny Lady was kinda a rip-off. She didn't have any arms or legs so it was just her mid-section. And her head, of course. She started asking me all sorts of questions about me. I had a fit of weird and ran out. I'd only paid a nickel after all.

Anyway, Pop and I passed by the field where they were settin' up their big red and white tents when we went fishin' at Tickler's Bluff. They waved real friendly like and offered us some lemon water. Pop raised his hand back but kept walkin'. He's not the stop and chat kind. It seemed unordinarily cool that morning while we were fishin'. I looked up at the sun poppin' through some clouds. It was real pretty. I asked Pop if that's what the wrong side of Heaven looked like, what does the right side look like? He glanced up, shrugged and cast his line out again. Like I said, he's not real chatty.

Mimi always liked to put my hair in pig tails. She said it would keep my "wiry red hair off my neck in this heat". It always felt like they were pinching my brain. I'd yank 'em out as soon as I'd get out her sight. I stopped askin' her about my ma and pa. She would just wring her hands on her apron and turn away before I could see her eyes well up. But I didn't miss much.

I was pullin' out the braids when I heard a commotion comin' up the street. Everybody was runnin' after that Preacher Man who was on the back of a flat bed truck. His voice was rollin' up and down about somethin'. He was talkin' through a bullhorn so it was really garbled. Everybody kept followin' him though. There was somethin' kinda nice about his voice. When he passed by me, he looked right at me. His eyes were filled with fire and brimstone. I turned tail and ran.

I was kinda scared to go but Mimi insisted. She even got Pop to put on a tie, which is no easy feat. When we got to the field it looked like the whole town was there. It was twice the size of the Bugtussle circus. The sheriff had his sleeves rolled up and was tryin' his hand at the Strength of Samson. He heaved the hammer down as hard as he could and still only rated a "Philistine". There was a guy shoutin' out that he could "guess your sin". I steered plenty clear of him. There was a booth with a Cross Toss. My friend, Yancey, was tossin' washers at the nails on the little wooden crosses. Then I saw it. A little red cart that was makin' cotton candy. I'd only had cotton candy one other time. Pop said never again. He said I didn't stop talking for three days. I watched as they poured the whole bag of sugar in. Then, a rumble began in the north. Everyone looked up to the darkening clouds. This was my chance. I stuck my whole hand into the sticky mass of tornadic sugary goodness. While I was licking off the last crystal of cotton candy, I felt the first rain drop.

I made a mad dash for the big tent with the rest of the town. I ran straight into a rather large fanny. The lady turned, and locked her eyes on me. Her face was caked in make-up that was now smeared and dripping from the afternoon torrent. She looked like some hell spawned clown. She grabbed me with her ringed claws. She looked at my Mimi for confirmation. Mimi nodded. Traitor. "It's you," she shrieked. She pulled me right down the middle aisle of that tent. The Preacher Man pulled me up on his preacher box. He shouted something about missing the everyday miracles and then pulled the shirt up off my back. The crowd hushed and then the "Amens" started. Mimi had showed it to me once in the mirror but I didn't think it looked anything like Jesus on the cross.

Damn freckles.

What Jason 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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