I just have to share this in the wake of the Pats’ thrashing of the Steelers (don’t click that, it will just depress you) last night. Courtesy of the SI Vault, if a picture of a pudgy 13-year-old Tom Brady doesn’t ease the pain, nothing will.
Sidenote: Gotta love the era of white hosiery. Someone bring it back, quick. I’m looking at you, Ke$ha.
So yesterday NPR picked a winner for their Three Minute Fiction contest. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t me. *SHOCK *AWE).
The winning story, “Roosts,” was picked as one of the favorites by NPR through the process of the contest. It wasn’t my favorite OF the favorites, but it absolutely holds its own.
BUT this gives moi the perfect excuse to share with you the entry I submitted for the contest for this week’s Two-and-a-half-minute Fiction Prahject. I was pretty proud of it when I sent it in, but after reading weeks and weeks of NPR’s subsequent favorite stories, the more I felt a collective feeling of, “well, crap buckets.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Did you really expect to win!?” As my naiveté would have it…YES.
So you be the judge, dear readers. I gave Jack a cameo in it. Can you find it? I told him about his fiction debut and he was all, yeah, whatever, where’s my treats…
The stipulations for the contest were that the stories start with the line…
“Some people swore the house was haunted…”
…and end with the line…
“Nothing was ever the same again after that.”
Cliche, right? Well people came up with some really imaginative stuff. I’d really like some feedback on this one, so let me know what you think.
Enjoy: Red Sky Country
Some people swore that the house was haunted. My dad got a real kick out of that.
To look at the house is to see a high school kid’s nightmare. My nightmare. An antique whitewashed farmhouse, solar panels on the roof, failed sculpture class projects of my mother’s flaunted on the wrap-around porch, and a dozen cats roaming the grounds. In a word, it was odd. My mother had directed me to refer to it as “having character” to my curious classmates.
Then there was the lawn. It was like moss, practically dripping with moisture. In the bright pink of the evening sun, it looked swollen, like it would burst if your toe prodded it. Dad would step out of his moccasin every once in a while and wriggle five lucky toes in it. He would grin with delight, look at me and say, “It’s the cow manure.”
Sitting on the wooden steps near the screened-in porch, I swaddled Jack in my lap. Jack, the orange cat whom, in a sweeping act of teenage generosity I had claimed as my own, laid stretched out on me, paws hanging over the edge, his dark and light orange markings mimicking the wood grain of the stairs. I stared intently at him, as if my only purpose was his comfort, combing his long body with my fingers in a revolving, alternating rhythm.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”
I looked up and saw Dad smiling at me. He gave me a wink. He turned his head back toward the pastures. Hands on his hips, his gaze didn’t move. A few cats came into the cool porch from the hot barn and rubbed up against his legs and still he didn’t move. Dad believes in three things: the weather, ketchup, and cats.
The whole farm was becoming wrapped in the ruby red grapefruit glow of the soon-to-be night sky. If only life was always in this color. Nothing bad could happen when the sky looked like a seashell.
“We’ll get a nice final buzz from the panels tonight,” Dad said, still looking outside.
“How can you think about solar panels on a gorgeous night like this?”
It was my mother, entering the porch in her usual grand fashion. Arms extended, she gave Dad a look that said, “just kidding,” and they gave each other a tight squeeze.
“Look at that sky,” she murmured, arms still locked around Dad, “It’s murderous. It’s going to set us all on fire.”
Sitting there, I put my mother’s words into motion in my imagination. The strip of blood red sun that ran parallel with the fences sparked and engulfed the galactically hot solar panels. The flame would work its way down and liquefy the chipped white paint and melt the clay forms and amateur busts that lined the porch. We’d have to move into a respectable split-level lined with garden gnomes like all the other kids. No more teasing, or questions, or accusations of hauntings. Only the soused lawn would survive.
Jack momentarily awoke and extended even more, pushing out his claws and then relaxed again. Would the fire take Jack, too? Or Dad? And Mother?
I snapped back to Jack, who was spinning himself into a tight ball on my lap. A wave of guilt sunk me deeper into the stairs. I looked up at my parents, the red sky behind them.
“Isn’t it ravishing, darling?” Mother said, turning to face me.
My face softened and I smiled at her.
“It is beautiful,” I said. I meant it.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.