Winter, 2005
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!



She screamed, "No! Did you hear me?! I said no!!"

She slapped him hard but he had already catapulted out of reality...

Perennial Paths
by Karen Ott Mayer, Hernando, MS

She walked from the market, slowing swinging a basket of fresh fruit by her side while savoring the salty air sprayed from the sea. After a long spring and the trouble with her sons, she felt hopeful that their seaside respite would bring much needed peace to the family.

Raising two sons was never easy, but she couldn't help feeling that the cities had become restless and divided on everything from politics to religion. She could deal with it, but the young people were caught in whirlwinds of emotion, bad influences, and strange alliances. It had become a dangerous century.

Walking along the stone seawall, she had a good view of the sea and the fishermen who were tending nets and casting lines. She searched the faces for her husband and two sons, wondering if they had already returned to the house. Just as she was about to turn up the stone street towards home, she caught a glimpse of her men near the shore. Andy was in the small boat while his brother and father held it steady against the relentless waves lapping the beach. She walked down the steps and across deep sand that soothed her bare feet with its soft warmth. She waved to the threesome. No one moved, and as she neared them, she noticed the tension on her husband's face and her heart fluttered as she heard their voices carry on the wind.

"I don't care, son You're not going I don't care what everyone else is saying about this guy, he's done nothing but cause this family trouble and I can't believe he's shown up here now."

Her throat tightened at the words.

Peter, her oldest son, had seen her approaching and now stared at her with a resigned sadness, an expression of surrender. She stood at the water's edge and listened to her husband's voice again.

"If you want more reasons, how about these? He's never gone to school, he's unemployed and he's a bum. His mother lets him come and go as he pleases and run the streets telling people who knows what."

"You can't keep us here. I'm telling you that he's a good guy and has helped everyone he's met. Why don't you at least meet him? How can you judge a man without ever meeting him? asked Andy.

Her husband exploded

"I forbid you to see him any longer! I don't need to meet him after hearing what all the other parents say about him. He's a bastard who has no real father. Lucky for his mother that some believe their lies more than others. They have moved around the country, taking charity from anyone who will give it. He's completely brainwashed you two. You should see yourself, following around after him like puppies. Can't you see he's just using you? He's a fraud and a danger."

Peter let go of the boat and began walking out of the water towards his mother. The older of the boys, she had relied on him to guide Andy, keeping him away from the troublemakers in town. Never had she dreamed that he would have fallen in line with them as well. Now as he approached her, she searched her mind for something to say that would make him see the foolishness of his actions.

"Peter? You're not leaving again, are you? Think of your brother. If you go, you know he'll follow you. Why are you doing this to us? You knew your friend would show up here, didn't you?"

Peter's eyes softened slightly when he spoke.

"I wouldn't go if I thought any harm would come to Andy. I just wish you and Dad wouldn't be so old fashioned. We have a right to believe what we want and I think our new friend makes a lot of sense."

Trying to quell the anger growing in the pit of her stomach, she kept her voice even and calm.

"You are not leaving. I've had enough of hearing about this man. He's trouble and that's the end of it. Help your father pull the boat up, and then follow me to the house."

"No, I won't. I'm going into town and you can't stop me," said Peter loudly.

When Andy heard his brother's voice, he jumped from the boat into the water, wrestling from his father's grip. She watched as her husband lost his balance and fell backwards into the water.

She ran towards the water, meeting Andy who tried to storm past her. She caught the sleeve of his weight shirt and held on, beginning to cry in frustration. She screamed, "No! Did you hear me?! I said no!! You're not leaving again!!"

When he ignored her, she slapped him hard, but he had already catapulted out of reality the day he had met this new friend. She knew her sons would leave to follow this stranger who had traveled across cities, spreading lies and pretending he had the power to cure people. It was inconceivable.

Andy stood before her, silent and rubbing the bright red mark glowing on his cheek and she knew her sons were lost to them. Standing across from her youngest son, she suddenly heard the sound of light singing coming from behind her. Turning, she saw their friends waving at them from the road, laughing and singing.

Her husband joined her, taking her hand in his wet hand and she heard him quietly sobbing. Andy caught up with Peter who was midway up the beach, and both boys turned towards their parents for one last long look. Strong, dark eyed boys who looked beautifully bronzed and alive in the setting sun, she thought wistfully, leaving to follow their foolish, young hearts. She watched as they ran up the beach towards the crowd, waving joyously to their friends and to the guy from Nazareth who stood among them, promising to change the world.

The 3rd Place Winner received:

$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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