Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lose Some, Win Some

"Man, I really like Vegas." - Elvis Presley

Once a year we meet our special group of friends in Las Vegas. While I’m there I make contributions to many one-armed bandits. Just doing my part to keep those bright lights in that city aglow! It’s the least I can do. So while the odds and past experiences tell me I will leave with less money than I start with—also known as losing—I thought I'd share a winning story.

A few weeks ago I learned that my short story, The Communiqué, was selected as the winning entry in the Winter Poetry and Short Story Competition sponsored by The Southwest Florida Women’s Digest. Needless to say, I’m very excited about winning, seeing a story of mine in their great publication, and walking away with a cash prize (which now makes up part of my Nevada investment fund). The story, limited to 500 words, appeared in their 6th Year Anniversary Fall/Winter 2009 Issue. With their permission, I’m reprinting it here. I hope you enjoy it.

The Communiqué

For inspiration John kept a copy of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls on his desk next to his grandfather’s antique pen set. Though his grandfather had been dead for fifteen years, John still missed the soothing sound of his deep voice. He sighed as he ran his hand down the spine of his grandfather’s favorite book. The rush of memories turned John’s frown into a smile.

“That book isn’t suitable for a young boy,” John’s mother used to say.

“It’s literature,” his grandfather had argued. “It’s suitable for everyone. John’s brain will absorb the sounds of great prose. It’ll help him become an illustrious writer someday.”

His smile disappeared. I must be a big disappointment to you now, Grandpa.

John’s thoughts drifted from his grandfather’s gravelly voice to Sara’s angelic face. Engaged to Sara for three years, John worried she was losing her patience. Since college he’d sold a few short stories and articles but his earnings were meager. They wouldn’t come close to covering the needs of a family. How stupid I was to believe I’d ever be a bestselling author.

With that thought, he forced himself to focus on the application in front of him. I have to do this. It’s the only way.

Becoming an accountant at the firm Sara’s father owned didn’t appeal to him in the slightest; however, eating did. He removed the antique pen from its marble holder and began filling in the tedious blanks.

Halfway through the form, the pen began to leak. The ink spread like an incoming tide; the questions and his responses descended to the murky depths of a great black sea.

Horrified by the sight of the ruined application, he groaned, rubbed his forehead, and closed his eyes. What am I going to tell Sara’s father?

“That is the sadness that comes before the sell-out,” he heard a raspy voice say.

Recognizing the quote from Hemingway’s book, John opened his eyes and looked around. He was alone and yet he felt a presence. I’m imagining things.

“Don’t give up so easily on your dream, my boy.”

“Is that you, Grandpa?” John whispered.

The only reply was the puff of air he felt waft past his ear.

“It is you. I know it is.”

John wadded up the ruined application and tossed it into the trash. He cleaned up the ink and carefully placed the pen back onto the marble stand before turning on his computer.

“Chapter 1,” he typed, “Not one to believe in ghosts, Max first refused to acknowledge…”

His fingers were barely able to keep up with his ideas as his hands flew across the keyboard and words filled the screen. After a few minutes, John paused and read what he had written.

He smiled, glanced upward, and said, “Thanks Grandpa.”
***

13 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Woo-hoo! Great job, Jane!

I can see why it won. Congratulations!

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I second the woo-hoo!

Karen Walker said...

Woo-hoos coming your way from New Mexico, Jane. Lovely, lovely story and so happy it won!!
karen

Joanne said...

And the woo-hoos continue! Great story, I like how when John reached rock bottom, his inner voice, his past, his loves, all spoke to him and inspired him to write on! Very moving tale, congrats!

Carol Kilgore said...

Cool story.
Never give up your dream. You might not reach your goal, but you'll have a fantastic journey trying.

Jen Chandler said...

Another woo-hoo for you! Congratulations! Love the message from Grandpa. He echoes the words of my writing mentor, gone 3 years this month. She's never spoken outloud to me, but I know she's watching and wants me to continue with my dream.

Jen

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Okay, can I have some of what John's drinking, 'cause I'd love to have my fingers, "barely able to keep up with my ideas as my hands fly across the keyboard and words fill the screen." But wait, this was when I realized you were doing sceince fiction. (Just kidding. Not sure if I can tease a prize winner, however.)

Can't leave without saying I loved this line... "I will leave with less money than I start with—also known as losing." Very funny. Take Care, Jane. Galen.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What fun to come back to all these woo-hoos! Thanks Elizabeth, Diane, Karen, Joanne, Jen.

Thank you, Carol. I do think it’s important to keep dreams alive.

Galen, thoughts flying faster than my fingers is not a ‘problem’ that I normally deal with either! I probably was hoping for the power of suggestion to take over when I wrote that line. Prize winner or not, I enjoy the teasing. Your comments always make me laugh.

Helen Ginger said...

Congratulations on your win and publication. That is so awesome and exciting. Yay!

Helen
Straight From Hel

Morgan Mandel said...

Congratulations, Jane!
Great story and great words of encouragement for all of us.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Kerrie said...

Thanks for sharing your winning story and a big congratulations to you.

The Old Silly said...

Love this - very visual writing. I was "there." Nice job!

Marvin D Wilson

Enid Wilson said...

Congratulations, Jane! It's a great story and may this be one of your many wins.

Bargain with the Devil

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world