I’m not sure how long our local paper “The Acorn”, appropriately named as we live in Thousand Oaks, has held the competition, but I’ve entered it at least three times. Each time I write and rewrite my story over and over, tweaking a word here and changing punctuation for more impact there. I make sure there is a beginning, middle and end. And I try to add a touch of humor to the plot, as well. I’d like to think I impart a little bit of wisdom in my brief and concise sentences, but when you only have 100 words to play with, I may fall short.
From my journal: October 9, 2018 Thousand Oaks, California
“Writing a story for the In a Nutshell contest again this year…the idea came to me while brushing my teeth… made me laugh!”
The newspaper publishes the winning essay, if you can call it an essay, two weeks after the deadline. Because I haven’t ever received a call from the publication, I know I haven’t won the top spot. Nor have I placed at all. But what I have earned each time is Honorable Mention.
I didn’t enter this year, but last year alongside my credit was the name of one of my writing instructors, so I felt in good company.
Even though I have yet to place, I like the challenge. Writing a 100-word piece allows me to say what I want to say and nothing more. It’s an exercise in choosing words wisely. It also helps me convey an immediate emotion.
You be the judge. Here are my Honorable Mentions.
In her head, whirls the words, “We’re letting you go.” Shaky hands guide her into a chair, then grip the arms like vices. Perspiration trickles down her back. Twenty plus years of sixty hour weeks. Missed events and worrisome deadlines. Postponed vacations. Early mornings and late nights. Each beat of her heart amplifies as she swallows hard.
Now behind the closed door, she lets her teary eyes shut. The only sound is that of a clock…tick, tick, tick. Time. Time spent. Time left. A small smile appears at the corners of her mouth.
On her lips, rests the word, “Freedom.”
All He Ever Needed
She could barely focus on the words of her eulogy. Trembling notes in hand, she managed to go on. “Johnny always said faith was all he ever needed. Faith gave him purpose…faith made life worth living.” Through a veil of tears she looked out at the congregation, some people nodded as if they too, understood.
When the service came to a close, she saw a woman she didn’t recognize. She walked towards her. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Susan,” she said. “Johnny’s wife.” She extended her hand to the woman. “And you are?”
Approaching the kiosk, the gate opened. The man on duty waved as he drove through. In his driveway a push of a button allowed passage into his garage. Then a press of a key unlocked the door into his house. Quietly, the door shut tight.
Inside, dual paned windows hushed out noise. He checked his security device. Nothing disconcerting.
In the kitchen, he retrieved a sealed carton from the freezer. Minutes later, the microwave beeped. He flicked on the TV then ate his dinner. A text pinged on his phone. He responded.
Alone now. Insulated. Safe from the world outside.