This year the Bloggers Bash hosted a writing competition, the theme was connections. We had some fantastic entries, and today I am announcing the winners.
In first place with a chilling, visually stunning entry is Ellen Best click Ellen’s name to see the entry and the rest of her website.
She sat, on a low wall three bricks high. A wall that once was tall now a crumbled remnant beside the main road. She wore wrinkled long socks, one higher than the other they offered no protection against the easterly wind; that bitter December day. Her ditsy floral skirt flicked against the already chaffed skin; leaving pink welts. A grey knitted cardi hung from her shoulders, the sleeves fisted in her hands as she waited. Flat barren fields of East Anglia solid from the morning frost were inviting her gaze; her were eyes glassy, and wide.
I notice her many times as we flashed by on the way to Norwich. Each time we’d go I would see her, with pain in her shape a stillness about her. Once we stopped at the village shop, while I waited I asked her story. The postmistress said, ” She’s about forty a local she is… not been herself since her daughter… some says she were taken and others say different.” Slowly she shook her head as she stamped my letters. “Only six she was, her girl. Where she sits, it’s where she waited that day and every one since, for the school bus to bring her; she never came home”.
One occasion I stopped, pulled the car into the lay-by. I walked over and took a space on the rough wall alongside her; leaving a gap of two bricks between us, a respectful gap I thought. I gazed across the flat land as she did. “Hello, are you… Are you okay”? I felt a tug, a connection; fleeting though it was. She sat unmoved, undaunted by my presence. I felt the cold from her, saw the fogged breath, I could taste her sadness. An overwhelming urge to reach her enveloped me. Determinedly I unzipped my parka; putting it beside her, untied my wool scarf and wriggled my fingers free of the gloves. “Please, your skin is blue, take these, they’re for you.” I shouted, as the wind whistled by my ears and bit the end of my nose. The pile almost touched her chest; I began to tremble, a feeling of despair, soaked into me. Her eyes flickered as I put the clothes in her lap. “I don’t need them, can you hear me”? A pat to reinforce the point made her flinch and with a straight back but without a second glance I returned to the car. She hadn’t moved as we passed her, the bundle propped on her lap her glassy eyes staring forward; there she sat.
That day, the clouds gathered so swiftly that everyone around the conference table stared at the snow. The CEO said “Due to the change of weather we will take a working lunch. The sooner I get you home the better”. I remember hoping she had put the clothes on, I wondered if anyone would relieve her… because of the weather. I couldn’t get her out my mind, her eyes, the liquid that refused to drop but puddled in her lids as if scared to fall.
On the return journey we stopped next to the wall. I remember the wipers swished, the flakes came hard and fast, but she wasn’t there. Pleased to think her in the warm I began to feel better. In the spring my job took me once more to Norwich. We stopped, there, amongst the grass which grew in the crumbled brick, wedged between the cracks was bunch of brown withered flowers tied with a bright woollen scarf. The connection had forever made its mark.
In second place with a tear-jerker of a memoir is Noelle Granger click Noelle’s name to see the entry and the rest of her website.
I flew to Chicago alone to pick up our second child, a Korean adoption. All I knew of her was from a postage stamp-sized photograph of her tiny round face surrounded by a bowl of black hair. And her Korean name, Kim Hyung Ju. I had asked someone who spoke Korean what that meant, and he replied, “Wise Jewel.”
I had managed to stay calm during the flight from Raleigh-Durham, but when I was met by an old friend at the airport to spend the time between my arrival and Hyung Ju’s, nervousness and excitement started to mount. The feelings left me unable to eat much of the lunch my friend bought me to celebrate.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“You’d think I’d have this down by now,” I replied, pushing my food around on my plate. “I just wish Gene were here.” My husband had decided to stay at home with our three-year-old son, thinking it would be easier for our daughter to transition to one person at a time. She had lived with her birth parents for two months before being placed with foster parents by the adoption agency in Seoul. After having her for four months, this couple had wanted to keep her. When I learned that, I could only imagine their pain when she was taken away. Along with eleven other infant adoptees, she’d been cared for by another other couple during the flight from Seoul to Seattle, and yet another from Seattle to Chicago. I knew my daughter was old enough to be confused and frightened by the constantly changing faces.
Other parents gathered at the arrival gate to meet their new children, but first the passengers had to leave the plane. Finally, just a cluster of remained, many whispering excitedly. When my name was called, I walked down the gangway to the plane and entered coach class. “Mrs. Granger? This is your daughter.” A young woman motioned to one of the babies in the first row.
And there she was! Her foster parents had provided a traditional Korean dress with little rubber shoes and her hair was pulled into a tuft on the top of her head. She was adorable. I gathered her up and took her back to the gate, where I held her on my lap and talked to her. She looked in my eyes… and started screaming.
I held her and rocked her, but the screaming continued. I changed her clothes into ones I had brought, soft and comfortable. She screamed. I changed her diaper. More screaming. I offered her a bottle. She took a sip, rejected it and continued screaming. I walked her around and around in the stroller I’d brought and then went to the gate for the flight back to Raleigh. With her still crying at the top of her lungs, we boarded our flight.
Once we were seated, I held her in my lap facing me. “Cameron (the name we had chosen for her),” I said in a soft voice, “you need to quiet down now. I’m your mother, your only mother. You’re home.”
She suddenly stopped crying. She put her little hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment. There was something there, a moment of recognition, an acceptance. She leaned into my chest and closed her eyes. We’d made the connection.
In third place with a fantastic final twist is Steve Tanham click Steve’s name to see the entries and the rest of his website.
The Final Digit
(Released under the Freedom of Governmental Policies Act)
Play the tape…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Who’d have thought that the Black Room would have a ‘black box’? When the end of the world came there he was… swearing away at the buttons, and it’s all on tape or disc or some memory device embedded in concrete.”
Camera follows turning anchor:
“Can you tell us any more about it, General? We really appreciate you opening up like this – such a refreshing change of policy. Would you like some of my iced tea?”
“Thank you… ‘Damn, damn, damn’, is all you can hear on the recording – as the world goes to hell and he frantically punches at the last of the codes. It turns out that the Black Room was remarkably old-tech. Everything else was modern: the planes had been changed, the missiles updated and charged back to the rest of what was left of the Alliance, the procedures and escalation workflow had been streamlined in accord with the latest findings of psychology… Everything thought through.”
“Foolproof, then, you would say?”
“Hell, yes! As idiot-proof as you could imagine…”
“And in the end it was… idiot-proof?”
“Yes, but not in a way that any of us had anticipated!”
“You’re sweating a bit, General. Is it the studio lights?”
“Might be… who gives a damn… Been up for twenty-four hours, helping to pick up the pieces. Gimme some of that iced tea, will you?”
“Here, General. have the pitcher, you look like you could use it. Were you the first to get to him?”
“Sonofabitch locked himself in there… We’d all said don’t do it! Told him it was a Mid-East bluff, but he ran for it, locked the door and started to push the buttons. Shot half his closest advisors at close range before he left the emergency council chamber. We didn’t even know he was armed – you don’t advance your career by searching someone of his rank…”
“But you got to him in time to stop the conflagration?”
“Yes and no. I was the only one old enough to remember the backup failsafe code and the fact that four of the top advisors’ fingerprints would open the door. A good number, as it turns out…”
“A good number?”
“Hell, yes! There were only four of us left alive at that point! Not counting the man in the Black Room.”
“But the bad guys’ nukes haven’t rained down on us all…”
“You’ve got to understand bluffs… and strategic gains. The only people who truly want the planet to go up in flames are mad…”
“So the real game is something else?”
“Hell, yes! it’s about positioning before the stand-off.”
“And that’s all about being creative with the truth?”
“Hell no! It’s about being exact with the truth…”
“I see… No, I don’t… Did you save us all, General? Most people think you’re a global hero”
“No, got there too late… One digit too late.”
“Too late? Are we dead, then?”
“No, but the thirty-year-old connector that linked the final digit to the nuke was…”
Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to the sponsors of prizes: