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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:19 pm GMT 
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Writing Contest entries

Theme- "Renewal"

This thread will contain all 7 excellent entries for the writing contest as well as a link to where you can vote for them. Please take the time to read through them all (though I recommend not in one sitting!)

Their titles are, in order.

The Emigrant
Life from Death
New Beginnings
Serve and Protect
The Sea
A Letter to Father


You can vote by visiting the following link and filling out your choices for first, second and third place, as well as for the special awards.

Vote in the contest

Note that you cannot vote the same entry for more than one place, and you obviously can't vote for yourself! You can vote the same story more than once for the special awards however.

Consider all aspects of the story, style, writing quality, composition and content, including how much it fits the theme, when voting.

If you have any problems or fill something in wrong, PM me and I’ll sort it out.

You will have 2 weeks in which to vote- from now until the 28th of July.

Be sure and use your Lackadaisy forum name to fill in the survey, especially if you are a contest participant.

All contest participants must vote or risk disqualification.


Please comment on the entries in the comments thread here

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:21 pm GMT 
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Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
The Emigrant

Shayna means beautiful. Upon hearing the name, strangers sometimes mistook her introduction for a joke. She was thick-browed, broad-shouldered, and big-boned, pale from long winters and rough from winter winds. Her glassy brown eyes seemed vacant, like those of a docile cow. But her name was Shayna anyways, and there were few strangers in the village of Tatarevke for her introduction to confuse.

The afternoons were longer than ever when she crept out into the orange sunshine, strung with empty baskets, the kind one loads onto a mule. Shayna’s mother had long since realized that her fingers were too big for sprinkling a pinch of salt, hemming trousers, or spinning wool. But they were not too small for an axe, and so Shayna would stagger back from the forest, laden with a week’s worth of fuel.

The girl liked the forest—the snickers of birds, the snapping of twigs, and the rustling of leaves, which glowed an exquisite glass green in summer. She liked how strong she felt as the wood splintered underneath her blade. She liked the fragrance and tacit company of pines. Shayna’s mind had grown like a tree on a bare rock. Without the nourishment of the written word, her roots sought soil in the air.

“Will we ever leave Tatarevke?” she had asked, peeling potatoes while her mother kneaded dough. The puffs of flour left a fine white skin on the older woman’s arms.

“May the good Lord forbid it. With things as they are, we’d be running away.”

Shayna did not know how things were, but she dared not hear the answer. Her mother never offered it.

“And where would you like to go?”

“Nu York,” said Shayna quickly. “I would visit Cousin Velvel in Nu York.”

“Cousin Velvel in Nu York is a fortunate man, that’s true. But Nu York, Shayna, it’s very far away.”

Shayna had seen Nu York’s rutted streets, and they were made of yellow gold. The houses were two stories tall with columns, and locks on all the doors. Cousin Velvel in Nu York was richer than the Czar. It was all very far away, and for that she was sorry, but only because it meant her father would never take them there.

Shayna told her mother and her mother gave her a look.

“I’ve been outside Tatarevke,” she said, one worldly eyebrow raised. “Wherever you go, there are rich men and poor men, except for a few places, true, where all the men are poor.”

“In Nu York, poor men drive motorcars and wear top hats,” protested Shayna. “They own their own hotels. And when they have parties, they light hundreds—thousands—of wax candles, in front of great big mirrors, until their houses smell like beehives.”

But by that time, the bread was prepared for the oven, and Shayna’s mother was not listening anymore. Shayna had found that, when she spoke for too long about her dreams, people ceased to hear them. She learned to talk less, and still less, until she found herself not talking at all. But Shayna did not mind that. The less she talked, the more she saw and heard and smelled.

* * *

Out in the forest, she smelled the smoke before she saw it.

The moss was damp with dew, and Shayna had never seen a wildfire, but she fit what rounds of wood she had into her baskets. As she lugged them through the trees, she walked ever faster, eyes straying up to an ugly column of black smoke. Her gaze wandered to the marred blue sky so often, she saw the man only after he saw her.

Mustached, fair-haired, and garbed in cossack’s clothes, he carried a shovel in one hand and an empty sack in the other, striding purposefully through the trees. A sword hung from his belt. He stopped in his tracks.

They stared at each other, startled.

Shayna’s heart pounded. An eternal moment passed, before the man burst into laughter and barked a few Russian words. Shayna did not smile. The Cossack took a few steps in her direction, and she hefted the axe. He blinked, laughed at her again, and shrugged, before marching away.

Shayna’s family had little, but its daughters had dowries, buried in a box in the woods beneath a stump that resembled a bird. She glanced in the direction of that secret place and saw only the Russian’s retreating back. Terror washed over her and, for one long moment, froze her limbs. Then she flung her harness aside and broke into a heaving run. The roots snatched at her feet and the axe swung past her flying ankles, until she emerged from the forest where Tatarevke should have been.

Villagers cursed and wept and yelled, but Shayna could not hear them. Her home lay at the end of Tatarevke's only street, reduced to a glaring black frame. The roof beams, whose cracks she knew like the lines in her palms, were a smoking rubble. Shayna gaped. Then she rushed to her neighbor. In front of his singed house, he was wringing his hands. Shards of his prized glass windows glittered in the mud.

“Where’s my father?” she demanded.

Tears stained the man’s face. He stared at the axe she gripped between her fists.

“Where’s my mother? Where are my sisters? My brother?”

“They—they left.”

Shayna went cold. She searched his face.

“Where did they go?”

The man just wept, and she repeated the question, louder this time.

“I don’t know. I don’t know! It happened so fast.”

She stalked back to the remains. Smashed plates and mangled candlesticks glinted in the ashes. Carved bedposts and chair legs protruded like a spine. Shayna spotted something different in the broken planks of wood and, in a daze, walked toward it. Coals hissed beneath her feet, but she grabbed the thing anyways and hurried back to the cool dirt.

The cover was blackened. The pages were creased. But the book had not burned. On its front, Hebrew letters curled, stenciled in dark ink. She had heard her father say, once, that all books held answers, and she flipped through the brittle leaves, marked with meaningless lines of type. This book did not tell her why her family had left without her, or if they had left at all. It did not tell her if they were bound for Nu York, or how to get there if they were. And it did not tell her why some Russians with swords and torches had reduced her world to a pile of ash.

Shayna shoved the book into her coat. She did not need it to tell her she would be leaving Tatarevke very soon.

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:22 pm GMT 
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Life from Death

“Detective?” a soft voice called into the fog. “Detective Morrison?”

Finally the detective stirred and looked to younger cop standing not more than five feet away from him but almost lost in the fog that had rolled in that morning and just clung to the city. “Yeah, what?” he asked, his voice sounding as thick as the fog around them. It had been years since he’d had a decent rest, and it had been days since he’d had any sleep other than the few minutes that he grabbed at his desk earlier. The chief had been about to send him home when they’d gotten the call and Darius hadn’t given the chief a chance to tell him otherwise and was off on the case.

It was a repeat of a case he’d been on a year or so ago. Bodies found on the outskirts of the city, few more out in the woods as well. They looked like they’d been torn apart by some beast, but there was still something so very human like about it as well. Darius hadn’t let it slid as just some animal maulings or anything, but he had little choice as his higher ups hadn’t wanted to pursue the case further and all the evidence had been locked up and the files moved to solved cases instead of cold cases. But now, now he could prove them all wrong.

“You got things ‘ere or you need me around still?” asked the young cop who’d been the one to secure the scene for them. It was late, he’d been on shift for hours and he wanted to go home. He wasn’t a detective yet, he still needed sleep.

“Naw, I got it. You go on home Jones,” Darius replied, shaking his head as he pulled out a pack of cigarettes, lighting one up as he waved Jones off for the night. Their photographer’s had been there, the coroner as well, taking the body with him. Now all that was left was the blood that had pooled on the forest floor and even that was starting to be pulled in by the forest.

Darius stared down at the ground, still remembering clearly the look of the corpse that had been here not more than half an hour before. The man hardly looked like a man any more. His chest had been ripped totally open, his insides had either been missing or spilled out. His face was gone, and bits of limbs had been ripped away as well. It wasn’t any different from the bodies that had been found about a year before. This was just the first in this string, he knew that. There would be more and this time he wasn’t going to let whoever did this get away with again.

With the crack of joints he stooped down, squatting and taking long, thoughtful drags off his cigarette. He took off his fedora and scrubbed at his hair, messing it up before sticking his hat back on without a care. What kind of person could do such a thing to another human? They were surely sick and twisted in the head. “I’ll get you,” he grumbled to the ground, looking up and around him as if the killer was still there, still able to hear what it was that he had to say.

Slowly he stood back up, grunting as his knees popped again as well as his hips this time. It took him a moment more, but he finally turned and hobbled back to his car on the dirt road that was silent now and no longer filled with cops and cars trying to get what they needed before all the light was sapped from the sky. It was already well past dusk now, the sun having gone down a while ago. Still though, he lingered. There was something off about this place. It was more than just a dump site like the others had been. There was something about this place.

Putting out his smoke he walked around his car and into the trees, tossing his hat into the passenger seat of his car. He wouldn’t need it where he was going. Hesitant steps brought him into full embrace of the trees, once there he stepped faster, moving along in the dark shadows of the old woods. There was life here, he could feel it, pressing in all around him. The trees felt alive, the scurrying little animals in the underbrush being pray to the big birds and bigger animals around.

The deeper he walked, the bigger the eyes that were on him felt. They didn’t grow in number, they grew in size. He wasn’t one for being easily scared or spooked, but just then, he felt very out of his depth. Staring down a man with a gun aimed at you was one thing. This, walking into this forest alone at night with a possible killer, was another thing. No wonder so many of those dime store horror books were set in the woods. There could be nothing sinister at all in here, yet in the gloom, everything, even little bunnies, felt like they were out to get you.

The problem was that he didn’t hear this threat coming. Darius had wandered deeper and deeper into the forest, he wasn’t for sure how long he’d walked, but it felt like hours even if it had only been minutes. The smaller sounds of bunnies moving about had faded away and near silence had taken its place. He should have been at the advantage then on his predator, but he wasn’t.

In a clearing in front of him on the path stood the figure of a large wolf. It wasn’t much larger than any wolves he might have seen at the zoo growing up. But right that moment, in the dark embrace of the trees, that wolf was huge. The beast growled lowly, the sound coming from deep in its chest, saliva dripping from its jaws and fangs as it bared them. Darius didn’t know what to do other than pull his gun on the creature. He couldn’t just shoot a wolf though, could he? He didn’t want to. He’d walked into his land and as thus he should leave. So he started to back up, keeping his gun out but not aimed at the beast.

His idea of escape failed him though as the wolf matched every step of his, coming forward on his padded paws without a hindrance. Before Darius could trip or fall or turn, the wolf launched itself at the detective, who fired his weapon at the wolf without thought. The shots rang out in the silent forest, scattering the birds that had nested above. Almost all of them went wide of their mark, one grazing the wolf’s shoulder as it flew through the air at Darius. The pair of them tumbled backwards and a scream soon followed after the ring of bullets fired.

Teeth sunk into flesh, deeper and deeper into Darius’ throat as the man fought and struggled against the surprisingly strong and heavy wolf on top of him. Suddenly the beast was off of him, running away with a howl. It echoed around Darius as he laid panting and feeling blindly at the wound on his shoulder and throat. His world was clouds and shadows. Nothing was solid, nothing was real. The tears above him seemed to part just enough in his field of vision that he could see the shifting clouds in the evening sky above him. He smiled stupidly despite the pain that was radiating out from his shoulder. It was so lovely looking, the sky. And he wanted to stare at it for ever, yeah, he did. If only his eyes wouldn’t close.

When he awoke he was in pain, he was sweating, and he felt like he was just a pile of goo. He felt mushy as he struggled to sit up. He didn’t make it very far before there was a firm hand pushing him back down to the bed that he was turning into a wet rag with his sweat. He’d been stripped of his jacket and vest and shirt. All he wore now was his pants, even his socks and shoes had been taken from him. His eyes wouldn’t focus enough to tell him where he was or who it was that had pushed him back down onto the mattress that as far as he could tell wasn’t on a bedframe at all and was instead just tossed on the ground.

“Stay down, it’ll be over soon,” a thick, smoky voice spoke from the darkness nearby. And Darius complied to the voices commands and drifted back into his fevered dreams.

Darius slipped in and out of those dreams for a long time before he was full awoken again. This time the pain was even worse as he felt what was surly his mush of bones in his legs breaking and popping into some odd direction. And that was just the beginning. Soon other joints where popping, bones snapping and reshaping themselves in the most painful way. He hardly noticed that his fever had broken as his body changed, hunched, elongated in some places and just became whole unlike anything he’d been before.

What felt like to him to be his final breath was let out in a half scream that turned into a howl at the end. Big hazel eyes blinked in the grey canine face as he tried to take in what had happened to him. It wasn’t until he was greeted with the face of the man who’s pushed him down before that he calmed a bit. He at least wasn’t alone and hopefully whoever this was could tell him what was going on.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly, looking over the large, panting form of the now grey-wolf that was Darius Morrison. “I wish I could have known that he was in our lands again and taken care of this before people got hurt. We will deal with him, I swear we will, Detective. But for now, I do believe that you’ve got a bigger case to solve than that.”

Darius looked over the man, looking younger than his tired voice sounded. His face much, much younger than his eyes. He didn’t look more than forty, but his eyes spoke of a weariness that came with either a hard life or a long one. And while his skin looked worn enough, age was a much more likely factor. Even if his face still looked rather fresh and the grey at his temples was hardly visible. What was he going on about? And how could he stand here and not want to be out there? Darius felt impatient and wanted to be out, running in the woods. He could smell the trees now and he knew he’d not gone far from where he’d been when he’d been attacked.

When he’d been attacked.

The words played over and over in his head and he looked away from the man in front him. He’d been in the forest, following some gut feeling about those murders. And then there’d been that wolf. And he’d attacked, and now here he was, standing on all four legs, covered in fur and most definitely a wolf himself.

He was a wolf.

A wolf.

He was a werewolf now. He’d been changed, rebirthed. A new life had been handed to him. He’d could have very well died but he hadn’t. And here he was, made new again in a sense. But he wasn’t for certain if he wanted this new life or not. It was a lot to take in all at once.

"Just breathe," the man said, smiling at Darius as he looked back. "And listen to your heart." But his heart was beating to fast, and any metaphorical sense was lost on him as he tried to wrap his mind around what had happened.

In the end all he knew was that he wanted something rich and meaty and bloody then.

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 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:23 pm GMT 
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Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!

Summer always brings about something special. Nevermind what it is-no one could explain it. There's a certain charge to everything. Tress grow new leaves, bright and green, flowers blossom and bloom, and animals hatch from their eggs and start their lives. The people of my city are much the same, too: when Spring graces our doorsteps, the buildings all sport new coats of paint, the people boast proud and loud clothes, and they dare to venture from their homes out into the sunshine.

So why I stay holed in my room is a mystery to anyone.

I suppose just wandering through the daytime is good enough from me; I feel no real need to journey outside-it gives me neither pleasure nor pain. I simply wish to stay here, in comfort, solitude and simplicity.

And please don't assume anything of me-I've never been in any relationships, so I haven't had my heart broken. I run my business from my computers, so I haven't lost my job.

Really, I just prefer it inside. There's no hassle to go anywhere; there's no rush; there's nothing to bother me. Most of my joys are in here-my phone, my laptop, my music...what else could I want?


...At times, though, I feel my resolve slipping.

I always torment myself; I don't know why, but for some unexplainable reason I keep glancing out my window. That big, ugly portal giving me glimpses of the outside world-it always tempts me, mocking me. It knows I'm powerless against its charms-that's why it's there.

It sits there on display, flashing bait at me to give in and go outside: children, care-free and happy, playing with each other, laughing all the while...neighbors and old friends, walking to their destinations with smiles on their pleasant faces...or even just the stores and shops, showing the passerbys all the treats they house inside...

Give me a break.

To give in and cave would show weakness-I might crumble; I'll stay here in my fortress, content and happy like I should be.

...Although...I did hear that new art exhibit opened yesterday..,and I heard-no, I can't; I MUST stay strong. I have no need for that world; mine is in here, where I belong. This is my place, my goldfish bowl-where I shall stay.

...But I do need food.

And I hear there are some good films at the cinema...


Alright, I give.


...What a fool I was. It's much nicer out here than it looks from that ugly window. It's nice to be out, to have room to roam, to be free.

Spring had started a few weeks ago, but somehow never seemed to really be there. But now that I'm free, having it happen to me, somehow...somehow, in some way, it seems whole again.

I always did like Spring the best.

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:24 pm GMT 
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Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
New Beginnings-

She stepped out into the open air, but just as quickly shielded her face from the howling wind and the biting cold. It would have been snowing, but there wasn't enough precipitation for that. So they were forced to deal with this dreadful cold; the below freezing temperatures that dug its way through clothing, through skin and flesh and bone, reaching to the very core, trying to extinguish whatever hope the soul holds.

Leah was skinny. Not slim. Skinny. She hadn't had a filling meal in years, and her stick-like figure showed it. Her hair was a light brown, her skin was pale, and her eyes were gray. Although everything else about her- her permanently tired facial expression, the dark creases on her forehead, the dry and cracked skin- screamed a hard life, her hands did the exact opposite. Her hands were slender and delicate, moisturized and obviously well-conditioned. Still, they were graceful and beautiful. In motion, they were quick and precise, purposeful and constant.

Leah was a crafter, and she was very skilled at her art. But it wasn't enough to keep her from the wave of poverty that had swept over her homeland.

The ship suddenly lurched to the side. Leah frantically grasped the railing as various crates on the deck began to slide. She felt her feet slide on the slick floor and she held on tighter. Finally the boat leveled itself out and Leah loosened her grip on the rail.

She looked around, took one last gulp of fresh air and hurried below deck before any of the crew spotted her where she shouldn't be. The first thing that hit her, as always, was the overpowering stench. She couldn’t blame them, really. They hadn’t had a chance to bathe since the boat left port. None of them expected conditions like this, but you had to take what you were given.

She sat down in the small area that she had carefully guarded from everyone else and curled up. The few blankets they had were almost without question given to the elders. She shrugged her worn coat off and used it as a blanket instead. As she sat, facing the wall, she could hear everything- every couple fighting, every infant’s cry, and every mother soothing her children. She closed her eyes and drifted off into another time, another place...


“I can take you with me!”

“No, you can’t, Leah. You know there’s only enough money for one person’s passage.”

Leah sighed. “I know.” She hugged her mother. “I’ll come back for you. I promise. I’ll come back for all of you.”

She looked at each of her brothers and sisters, each of them staring back at her, already missing her. She shouldered her pack. “I promise.”


The ship jolted sharply, pulling Leah out of her sleep. She heard a few startled cries from other people on the ship. And then she heard a loud crash from up above. Everyone stared at her, knowing that she was the only one among them that would risk going above despite the warnings from the crew.

With a grumble, she stood up and started up the stairs.
When she opened the door a crack to peer outside first, a fierce wind caught it and slammed it against the wall. Water poured into the lower level, and Leah hurried to close the door behind her. Another crash sounded, like the sky was being ripped apart. A blinding flash of light followed soon after. The boat was in the middle of a storm. A bad one.

A crew member who was running to the other side of the ship caught sight of her. “Hey! You’re supposed to be below deck!”

A tall, rough man standing behind him cut him off before he could say anything more. “You, there.” He said, pointing at Leah. His voice was deep and commanding, rough around the edges but boasting raw power. His face was weathered, but the finer details were unnoticeable underneath the huge, black beard that dominated most of his face. His eyes were little black beads, barely showing beneath big, bushy, black eyebrows.

“You have small hands. Smaller than any of these lousy dogs.” He said, shoving the scrawny crew member away. "Those may be useful." He turned to walk away, obviously expecting Leah to follow. She did.

He led her across the deck, where she had never dared to venture before. He pointed to a small gap between the floor boards. “The master keys fell through there. It doesn’t lead anywhere, but there’s enough space for it to be somewhere down there.”

Leah swallowed hard. Just looking at the crevice, she knew that she would never fit her hand down there. She knelt down, not bothering to find a drier spot since her clothes were already soaked through. She bent over and peered into the crack. She could see the keyring, lying about six inches out of her grasp.

She sat up.

“Of course, I would reward you for your help. Those keys lead to everywhere, including the storage, the kitchen, and my personal quarters.”

Leah thought hard about how she would get those keys. She knew instinctively that this situation would turn her life around. She may even be able to return to her family sooner.

“I’ll need some string, but not rope. And do you have a fishing hook?”

“I’m sure something can be arranged.” He called out to a scrawny crewmember. Soon, he returned with a length of thin string and an old fishing hook.

Leah quickly threaded the string through the eye of the hook, and bent over the crevice again. Carefully, she lowered the makeshift fishing line through the gap, and caught the ring on it. She hauled up her prize and proudly presented the precious keys.

He was delighted. “Come, come.”

He led her through a series of hallways, and unlocked a door along the way. He opened the door and led her through.

"These are your new quarters. You will eat like us, and you will be given the best treatment. If you need anything, just holler. I am, of course, the captain. But just call me Joe." With that, he winked and left, closing the door behind him.

Leah looked around her new room. The floor was hardwood, and the walls were painted white. There was a bed with fresh sheets and a wood desk with paper and a pen on it. There was a window that overlooked the ocean, but right now that window was blurry with raindrops. She sat on the bed and smiled for the first time in a long time.

Was she going to go back for the others? Hell no. She'd earned this and she wasn't going to share it.


The next few weeks, Leah got chummy with the crew. She taught them how to make their rope stronger just by weaving it differently. She taught them how to make cups and bowls out of wood. In return, they told her all the stories of their travels, and of all the lands that they'd seen. She ate with them, talked with them, and laughed with them.

So it was a sorrowful departure when the boat finally pulled up to dock at their destination; America.


Leah leaned over the railing, trying to see as much of the land as she could from her perch. Right now it didn't look like much; a thick layer of fog blanketed the shore, and nothing could be seen through it. She breathed deeply, the wet air filling her lungs. One look at this place, and she was already homesick. The thought of home reminded her of something that she had wanted to ask Captain Joe.

She turned around to look for him, and found him almost immediately. He was hard to miss, with his massive body and striking beard. He looked up, and when he saw Leah he smiled and waved. She walked over to him.

"Shouldn't you be getting off here, kid?"

"Yeah, but can ask you guys to do a huge favor for me?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"You see, when I left my home country to make a fortune in America, I left behind my mother and my brothers and sisters. I promised that I would come back for them when I had enough money for their boat fare. I know that it's asking a lot, but do you think you could bring them here, free of charge?" Leah braced herself for the answer.

Joe laughed, the sound booming across the whole deck. "Of course!"
Leah smiled with relief.

"Now, you get off this ship and you go make a fortune for yourself." he said. He discreetly handed her a thick wad of money. "And here's some to get you started." Joe winked.

"I can't thank you enough."

He tipped his hat. "No need. Now get off my boat." He said with another thunderous laugh.

Leah merged into the crowd that was going down the ramp from the boat to the dock. At the base, she turned and waved to the crew, who waved back.

She tugged her coat around her shoulders to ward off the early morning chill and walked into the dense fog. Already she could feel her heart puff up. Things were looking up after all.

She looked into the pocket that held the stack of bills from Captain Joe and smiled. She would have to get used to this new currency.

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:24 pm GMT 
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Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Serve and Protect

Morgan Galbraith scowled at the book in front of him, his feline claws tapping the table in his annoyance. Three months ago he was on the fast track at the St. Louis County Police Department. One screw-up involving a couple of faggots and overzealous fellow officers, and after a laughable Internal Affairs investigation Morgan was lucky to be alphabetizing files while the higher-ups sought an excuse to be rid of him. That he hadn’t laid a finger on the pansies was less of a consideration than the fact that he was the least senior cop present.

Morgan had started reading every law book he could get his hands on, determined not to let the pencil-pushers force him from the department. He couldn’t tell if it had done any good; maybe the dark glances he’d been getting from his fellow cops had eased up, but it wasn’t his fellow cops who would decide his fate. Telling himself he was doing the best job he could got old after the first month; by the end of the second month he’d been fighting old memories of the sweet burn of whiskey…not that he had anything against Prohibition…and now… a few days ago he’d found himself staring at his service pistol, his tail dead-still behind him.

Morgan tried shaking off the gloom that hung over him, rubbing his eyes and attempting to refocus on the book, but the sprawl of words refused to make sense. While it was easy to read about how “excessive force” applied to scofflaws, there was nary a mention of how you should stop your fellows from applying it. Morgan sighed resignedly as he realized he wouldn’t be rid of the book anytime soon. He’d borrowed it from the library hoping for a quick read, but had struggled with the final chapter. He’d brought it to the St. Louis Public Library hoping to finish it there and be rid of the accursed volume, but it now appeared he’d be renewing it. The feline rose to his feet feeling much older than his 23 years, wishing he saw something ahead of him grander than a middling desk job at the station house. Morgan made his way to the check-out desk, stopping en route to pick up a copy of volume two of Bouvier’s Law Dictionary to help him with some of the pricklier terms he’d run across. The librarian behind the desk paid him little mind as she processed his books, which suited him fine given his mood.

As his home was nearby, Morgan had walked to the library. It was later than he’d anticipated, shadows lengthening as St. Louis slid into twilight. Preoccupied with morose thoughts, Morgan was startled when he heard an agonized grunt from a narrow alley, his head jerking upright as his delicate ears caught the sound. The lanky feline slowed as he approached the alley, wishing he had more threatening objects than books at hand.

Morgan’s nose twitched at the scents of blood and booze before his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the alleyway. On the ground, conscious but seeming disinclined to move, were two men. At a glance one would be needing a dentist’s attention, while the other favored one of his arms and had an eye swollen shut. Standing over them with billy clubs in mid-swing were officers Gareth Kenrick and Jarvis Llywelyn. Morgan suppressed a frown; both of them had been among the men who had likely cost Morgan his future. While Kenrick was a brutish thug, Llywelyn was a sly, sycophantic type better suited to life as a weasel.

“What’s this, then?” Morgan asked casually, acutely aware that he had no real idea what he was walking into, nor any actual authority in the situation.

“None o’ your concern Galbraith, ‘specially not with you being out o’ uniform,” Kenrick replied sharply, the older and taller feline looking down at Morgan with irritation. Llywelyn’s amber eyes averted Morgan’s questioning gaze, the expression on his face alternating between guilt and annoyance.

Keeping his tone mellow while adopting a more defensive posture, Morgan replied, “Humor me.”

Kenrick parted his lips to respond, but Llywelyn cut in before he could speak. “It’s nothing Morgan,” the smaller cat replied too hastily. “We found these two sissy boys boozing it up and canoodling. Thought we’d make it clear that we don’t appreciate that sorta behavior in our fair city of St. Louis. Rough ‘em up a bit, you know…” Llywelyn’s voice trailed off as Kenrick stared at him venomously.

Morgan’s hands tightened on his books, but he affected calm as he replied, “Rough ‘em up? Like we roughed up those two miscreants in lock-up? That kind of roughing up?”

This time it was Kenrick who replied, a low growl in his voice as he took a step in Morgan’s direction, nightstick still lifted. “What of it boyo? This isn’t the station house. We’re not going to have IA prigs snooping into two fairies who got into a ‘bout in an alley. Unless you’re knowing someone planning to shoot his yap off.”

Morgan eyed Kenrick for a moment, the other cop looming over Morgan’s 5’8” frame. With an effort he kept his voice reasonable as he replied, “I’m not looking to cause any trouble for you gents. You’ve had your fun with them. How about you let them go and we forget we were here?”

Kenrick squinted at Morgan, then took another step forward, close enough that Morgan could smell alcohol on his breath. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Jarvis and I let these little bufters go, then you report us and end up looking like a feckin hero!”

Morgan stepped backward as Kenrick advanced upon him, his claws starting to prick the covers of his books as he realized the situation was deteriorating; Kenrick was in a snit and intoxicated, and Llywelyn wasn’t the sort to let principle imperil his standing with other officers. “Listen mate, no need for anyone to get reported. Those two will keep their muzzles shut, and I’ve no interest in raising a ruckus.”

From within Kenrick’s shadow, Llywelyn regarded Morgan with a mix of pity and determination. “Sorry Morgan. Nothing personal, but I’ve got a wife and kids to feed, and I don’t need anyone screwing with my career. Anyone asks, we found you getting jumped by these two. Good thing we got to you before they did any permanent damage. Make it quick, Gareth.”

Llywelyn’s words barely gave Morgan enough warning for him to get out of the way before Kenrick’s billy club landed inches from where his shoulder had been. The large orange cat advanced on him while Llywelyn’s ebony form moved to flank him. In the growing darkness of the narrow alley it was unlikely any passers-by would see them, and Morgan knew a scuffle between cops wasn’t the sort of thing likely to encourage public interest anyhow. Thinking quickly, Morgan raised his right paw and slammed his copy of Bouvier’s Law Dictionary into the side of Kenrick’s head. As he’d hoped, the blow stunned his fellow officer, and Morgan swiftly traded the heavy volume for Kenrick’s dropped baton as he dodged a blow from Llywelyn. Out of the corner of his eye Morgan noticed the two alleged faggots had risen to their feet but seemed paralyzed, watching the fight with wide eyes.

“Clear out!” Morgan snarled at them, baring his teeth for emphasis. While it had the desired effect, the distraction cost him as Llywelyn’s billy cub found his left arm, sending a shock of pain through it. Morgan thanked fortune it had been Llywelyn rather than the much stronger Kenrick who made contact; happily the larger cat was still looking a bit dazed, shaking his head to clear it. Morgan eyed the opening to the alleyway, but Llywelyn moved swiftly to block it as Kenrick recovered, the larger cat glaring murderously at Morgan while his partner regarded Morgan through narrowed eyes, probably trying to guess his next move. Morgan was no fool; even with Kenrick disarmed the man had a boxer’s build, while Llywelyn still had his own billy club. Thankfully neither of them seemed inclined to go for their guns.

The three circled each other, Morgan trying to maneuver for the entry to the alley while Kenrick and Llywelyn kept him penned in. Morgan considered making for the far side of the alley, but even if he could outpace the sleek Llywelyn, a chain-link fence blocked the exit. Morgan had no doubt he could climb the fence even with his arm injured, but he also had no doubt that the others wouldn’t give him the chance to try. He was considering taking a wild swing at Kenrick before breaking for the entrance to the alley when a gruff voice rang out.

“What the hell is going on here?” came the bass roar of Lawrence Warren, captain of their district. Training swiftly kicked in, Morgan going to stiff attention and lowering the paw holding Kenrick’s nightstick. The other two followed course a moment later as Captain Warren stepped between them, glancing over the three men with a look of disgust plain on his muzzle. After an eternity of the captain staring down his subordinates, he turned to face Morgan. “Officer Galbraith, you’re wielding a weapon while out of uniform. Explain yourself.”

Morgan’s hackles rose at the unforgiving tone in his superior’s voice, taking a moment to compose himself before he spoke: “Sir, I came upon Officers Kenrick and Llywelyn exercising excessive force in dealing with suspects. When asked to desist, they became belligerent. I defended myself, captain.”

Warren’s ears twitched as he listened to Morgan’s report, his tail flicking contemplatively while his eyes shifted their cerulean gaze from Morgan to his assailants. After Morgan finished speaking, Warren relaxed his posture slightly, nodding as he replied. “Provided you’re telling the truth, you of course acted appropriately, Officer Galbraith. Surrender your weapon,” the captain stated before extending his right paw to Morgan. He proffered the billy club to his superior with relief, glad that Warren had shown up before the conflict had escalated.

Abruptly the alley grew darker as the crack of thunder filled his ears, and it took Morgan several seconds to recognize that the captain had reversed the billystick and struck Morgan’s forehead. Time slowed as he crashed to the floor of the alley, smelling his own blood as it poured from his wounded head. Dimly Morgan heard Warren speaking to the other two, “Stupid Teuchter. Should have kept his nose out of his fellows’ business. As for you boys, what were you thinking? Next time you’re looking for fun, see if you can’t have enough brains to keep it out of plain sight.”

Morgan fidgeted against the ground, trying to right himself as the world spun about him, but only darkened his view further as blood dripped into his eyes. His injured arm had gone numb, while his right didn’t seem to know what to do with itself, claws extending and retracting uselessly. The dark threatened to engulf him, the voices of his fellow police becoming indistinct as Morgan gave up on getting to his feet and focused on trying to get his legs to cooperate enough to let him crawl out of the alley.

“Yes Sir!” rang voices in stereo. Kenrick and Lly…Lly-something. It was getting harder for Morgan to think.

“Good lads. As for this sorry heap over here…” a grunt was forced from Morgan’s muzzle as Warren’s foot came down on his side, halting what meager progress he’d made. “…we’ll bring swift justice to the bastards who thought they could mug a cop and then cripple him. It’s a damn shame he’ll never be a police officer again. Good man.” Warren’s voice faded into the distance as he spoke, and it took long moments for Morgan to realize that Warren had left the alley.

A large, booted paw kicked Morgan’s torso, and as he felt the cracking of bones he couldn’t decide whether that pain hurt more or less than knowing that his dream of serving the city of St. Louis as a police officer was turning to dust. Morgan tried to cry out for Warren, but all that emerged was a harsh cough.

Kenrick and Llywelyn closed on the prone Morgan, blocking out the light of the moon as they towered over him in pregnant silence.

Then they really hurt him.


Morgan’s eyes snapped open and were flooded with light. His body jerked upright only to slump back against a bed as pain coursed through him. A hand closed over his shoulder, steadying him.

“Easy. You’ve had a rough week. They almost lost you a couple of times,” a smooth masculine voice rumbled above him. Morgan realized bandages were wrapped over the top of his head as well as much of his body as he tried to see who the hand belonged to. As he relaxed against the bed the paw left his shoulder, the man who’d evidently spoken to him settling into a nearby chair. Morgan realized he was in a hospital room as he took the measure of the only other person present. The stranger lifted a pipe to his mouth, regarding Morgan through intense green eyes as Morgan assessed the unfamiliar man. He wore a carefully-tailored suit and had an official air about him. Police? Internal Affairs? Private detective? Morgan attempted to speak, but his voice was a weak croak.

“Don’t try talking just yet, Officer Galbraith. I’ve sent a nurse to get you water,” the stranger stated while looking over Morgan’s battered form with that appraising expression, the whiskers on his gray muzzle twitching. “I’ll tell you I’m not with the police. I wouldn’t even be here if two men who were clearly the worse for wear hadn’t almost collided with me. In my position, you take notice of such things.” The stranger paused for a moment, then added, “You’ll forgive me for not introducing myself just yet; in my line of work one doesn’t give out their name willy-nilly.”

Morgan’s eyes closed briefly as he considered the stranger’s words. During his musing the unfamiliar man regarded him with a narrow look. Beneath that unsettling expression Morgan shifted in his bed, glad he was more numb than in actual pain, wondering what the stranger’s intentions were.

As though reading his mind, the stranger spoke again. “I’m not here to cause trouble for you, Officer Galbraith. You’ve done quite a job of that on your own.” At that, the gray-furred man reached into a bag at the side of his chair and started leafing through a file. “Seven months on the force. Three months ago you were involved in…let’s call it an incident, shall we? Suspension for a month, ongoing restricted duty. Let’s be frank. Your career’s in a rut, and that’s before you stupidly decided to take on two muggers who almost killed you. While off-duty. Without calling for back-up.” The stranger held up the folder as though taunting Morgan with it, a stern note to his voice. “Officer Galbraith, you’re reckless and incompetent and lucky to be alive.” The harshness left his voice as quickly as it had emerged as he continued, “At least, that’s what your file is telling me. You’ve also been put on report by Captain Warren.” With that, the unknown feline tossed the file onto a nearby table.

“What your file doesn’t say is that there are two men who might have been beaten to death by cops if you hadn’t intervened. It also doesn’t mention that you’ve been reading up on police procedure and other matters of law since that incident, and that of the eight men involved in that incident, you’re one of two who showed any degree of restraint or remorse for what happened; the other resigned and later killed himself. You have principles, officer. Principles that have put you at a crossroads.” The man paused, leaning back in his chair and taking a puff from his pipe as a nurse entered the room, offering a glass of water to Morgan. He had to grit his teeth, feeling his bones move unnaturally against each other as he took a careful sip, his voice hoarse from disuse as he addressed the stranger.

“What…what do you want?”

“Me? I want to know what you want. Bluntly, Officer Galbraith? Your career is over. Oh, maybe not officially, but do you really think any cop in this town will work with you now? Even if you avoided being kicked off the force, you’ll never amount to anything.”

Morgan took another sip of his water, his eyes burning for reasons that had nothing to do with the beating he’d taken. “Then what I want…doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Mmm. What if I could offer you a chance to do some good? You’ve been trying to be a better cop, but this city will never give you that now.”

Morgan couldn’t keep the cynicism from his voice. “If I’m not good enough for this city, why am I good enough to work for you?”

“Because you did what was right instead of easy. Because you didn’t resign. Because you knew you made a mistake and tried fixing it instead of letting it go. Because I get the sense that you deserve another chance.” As Morgan watched him the stranger’s eyes looked away from him, a haunted look entering his face. It was the first time Morgan had seen the man show any real emotion, his voice quieter, not quite so smooth as he added, “And because you’re not the only cop who ever got into an incident and made a mistake.”

Morgan lay back in his bed, trying to think clearly despite his aching body. In the end, it really wasn’t a very complicated decision.

“Where do I sign up, sir?”

“Agent, actually. Agent Drago. I’m with the Treasury Department.”

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:29 pm GMT 
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The Sea

Near Calais, France, 1919

The sea.. It had become bound up in memories and longing, it had become something of the past and not the present, a painfully idyllic set of images of untouchable brightness and cleaness and beauty when everything around was ugly filth and darkness. Sparkled sun glimmering on water as deeply blue as the sky and the blinding white crests of rolling waves and the rush of the pull of sand on the shore. Summer evenings lying back with warm sand against his shoulder blades, eyes shut with a breeze across his face and the light bright even against his closed lids. The coolness of water around his body as he floated in the shallows with the water lapping at his ears and high white clouds above. Cries of gulls and the echoing, eerie calls of Curlews behind him as he cycled with the wind behind him, back from the coast to his home town.

The kind of memories that were like the thought of good food when his stomach was bitten deep with hunger, that only deepened the sense of loss and emptiness and made it bite all the stronger. Sitting in a trench or travelling over landscapes of blasted mud and ruined villages, thoughts of home were the kind of memories that hurt as much they’d soothed, that could only be bittersweet and never just sweet. Things he wrote about in his letters and diaries, as if that wordy, grandiose description could ever do them justice enough to re-conjure them properly in his mind. There seemed so small a chance of making them real again.

It was still hard, even months after the war had ended, to believe things could really be as they always were, that there was anything beyond ruin, anything untouched by war, anything clean. Hard to believe that somewhere out there the streets of his home town were still as they had always been. Quiet, mundane, beige sandstone in the sun, swifts screeing about between the poplar trees, snatching up flies from the river. His mother and father, greeting customers to their bakery, calling out ‘Bonjour madame, bonjour monsieur’ as he had once done, taking out loaves from the ovens, plunging floured hands into dough.

Yet the sea, unlike the woods and the fields and the buildings he’d seen in the French countryside reduced to shell holes and charred stumps, always remained untouchable.

It could not be ruined by warfare, it washed away all that contaminated it with the tides, and if the ships of war passed through it, they left little trace. The sea was more eternal, constant, strong, than anything that went on land.

He’d longed for the sea as he longed for home, but even all these months after victory, he’d delayed going back there, out of a combination of a feeling like he wasn’t ready and some misplaced, irrational dread that it couldn’t really be a real possibility any more. Like it was something from his half remembered past, bound up with being a child. Something he couldn’t return to any more than he could suddenly go back to being a school boy again. Like it was still some memory he was trying to save himself from torturing himself with, which he had to keep pushing away thoughts of just to get through the day.

At least that reluctance to return had won him a new friend- a woman he was growing more fond of every day despite a feeling that he shouldn’t be getting too hopeful she felt as strongly as he did. A woman who was at his side now, who’d agreed with him that, released from the duties of war, free to go wherever they pleased, they should go to the sea.

This was not the sea of his home town- they’d simply travelled North from where he’d ended the war until they reached the coast. Travelling was what she did, being from a travelling family.

He was at the sea now, and she was at his side, and it was nothing like the sea of his memory.

The beach was grey and the water the colour of mud, and the rain clouds blurred the lines between shore and sea, between sea and sky, and there was a wind across the shore so cold and sharp it hurt to turn his face towards it. This was winter, and it showed, a touch of sleet in the air alongside the rain. Grey waves roared on the shore, foam churning at sand, ripping at it instead of lapping it gently.

Yet he ran towards it like he had as a child in Normandy, his worn boots sinking a little in the sand and scuffing it up but breaking free with a clean freedom they never had when he’d had t run across the mud of no-mans land, his threadbare soldier’s great coat flapping out behind him, running here not for his life, not weighted down by helmet and pack, free to go where he wished. The wind blew sand and rain into his eyes, and the roar of the sea rose, and something rose also within him, a tangled emotion so strong that to plunge it into icy water seemed oddly appropriate and yet he also wanted it to burst forth and free of him. He had an urge to kneel to the shore when he reached it, to pray to that cold indifferent voice of the sea, to run his hand over the velvety surface of wet sand.

Salty water stung his face, he took his boots off and felt the ice grip of the sea on his battered feet and that velvety surface sinking between his toes. He walked forwards, deeper although though it was so cold it almost burned, even though the waves rose higher around him and splashed ice up to the bottom of his great coat. The rush of the tide on the shore was the scrabble of pebbles and shells and he could feel them pulled by his bare cold feet.

He remembered lying at night in the winter, feet numb with cold, fantasising of the fire, wondering if he had frostbite, practically wanting to bathe himself in flame. He remembered standing up to his ankles with his feet practically rotting in stagnant, filthy water, and yet having to push down thoughts of drinking it because he was so thirsty. He remembered making little forts on the edge of sand and sea as a child. He remembered the stench of waste and rotting bodies, mutilated faces, his bayonet in another man’s chest, that numb fear, that sick push of adrenaline in a fight for his life. The water pulled the sand in little currents around his feet, and in the wake of the waves his flesh was as white as bone, blue veins standing out on his legs. So very cold, but only on the outside.

Something shifted, within him, that iciness gripped deeper, vice like on his feet, and yet he walked deeper and the cold was deeper too.

She was still standing on the shore behind him, giving a laugh at his madness in wading into rough water with his clothes on, her hair whipped back by the wind and her eyes half shut against it.

He was so cold and the heavy wool was now slapping at his legs, that heaviness at least that was no longer weighed down by weeks of dirt, that heaviness he could now cast off when they returned to the warmth of a fire.

He plunged a hand down into the ice water and shuddered and gave an unconvincing smile for her benefit. She smiled back, a real smile.

“Are you not freezing?” she called from the shore, incredulous but bemused, “going to go for a swim?”

He knew he ought to feel like a lunatic, going into the sea like that, but he couldn’t muster the ability to feel any kind of self consciouness at it.

“Of course,” he said, with a slight laugh, turning back to that horizon of blurred grey, meeting the waves. Waves rising high and dark before they curled in on themselves and collapsed with a crash and sent splashes of cold wetness up his legs.

In warmer waves like this, he had played as a child, shrieking and dodging them, swallowing more seawater than was healthy. He looked back to the cliffs, speckled with birds, and imagined the coast line curving round, the chalk cliffs giving way to decadent coastal towns of the sort that lived for tourists. Then round along long stretches of golden sand to the Normandy coast, across which he could trace lines and routes through places he could name and places he knew, roads he’d cycled down many a time that led back to the outskirts of his town.

Somewhere up the coast was his beach, grey like this one, beset by storms with the seagulls nestling on the cliffs edge to avoid the wind.

That odd tangle of emotion was not doused out of by the icy water, that pure shock of the cold seemed not to touch deep enough. He wanted to plunge his chest into the water, to swim out into that cold and lie on his back, though his body shivered already at the thought of it.

Was it elation, some variant of the strange, unfamiliar relief and joy he’d felt over the war’s end?

He didn’t really know and he didn’t know why he didn’t know, and he was shivering, and he turned back to the shore and he saw her looking at him with concern, a deeper shudder went through him.

“Remind you of home?” she asked, and there was a hint of another concerned question underlying the actual question she was asking. Sympathy and warmth in her eyes, her epxression though if he’d been paying more attention he’d have realised she was cold and windswept too.


He said it without thinking, wasn’t sure if he meant it. He blinked, his eyes stung with wind and salt. “ehh.. I mean.. I.. “

He couldn’t look her in the eye any longer, couldn’t really look at anything in particular. Fought back some of those images he tried hard, always, to fight back. Tried to bring up old ones, new ones, anything good to cover them over. The power of waves, surges of tides, cleanness.

He summoned some words. Inadequate words.

“It’s good to see the sea again.”

He wanted to reach out to her, to draw her close but not for her sake, he had to confess, for his own, but he wanted equally to turn from her and try and drown that feeling in that cold, numbing shock of the cold waves.

But this wasn’t some kind of cold baptism, that plunge that cured all at Lourdes. There was no quick miraculous fix to heal all that he’d been through, all the country had been through, all everyone had been to, and like the tides, what was drawn back by that cold water could be washed ashore anew, and what laid buried underneath the sea could be dredged up and laid bare by the pull of the tides.

Normandy, near Bayeux, 1946

The sea.. It had become bound up in memories and longing, it had become something of the past and not the present, a painfully idyllic set of images of untouchable brightness and cleanness and beauty when everything around was ugly filth and darkness.

He was at the sea, and his family were by his side, standing on the beach he’d always loved. Looking down at sparkled sun glimmering on water as deeply blue as the sky and the blinding white crests of rolling waves and the rush of the pull of sand on the shore.

The beach where he’d built sandcastles and played in the waves as a child, where he’d learned to swim. Where he’d lain back and floated with the water lapping at his ears and heard the cries of seagulls and curlews.

The shore where, with a bottle of wine and a picnic blanket in the evening he had finally summed up the courage to awkwardly, stumblingly rush out the confession that he wanted this woman he had met to stay with him, that he loved her, that he wanted her to make her home with him, that he did not want her to leave, that he wanted her to be his wife.

Where breathless, she’d said yes, like he’d hoped beyond hope she would. Where they’d lain back on the sand in an embrace with the distant of that same sea behind them, and with the sun dappled on the back of his eyelids and her body warm against him, and he’d felt again a soaring burst of emotion tight in his chest, like some channel gashed open within him, and the emotion had been so strong and so strange it was almost dizzying, almost painful, almost like he needed to douse that emotion in something like he needed to set it free and yet which was caught within him. Where he’d felt a fear had torn at the edge of his consciousness that this was all too fragile, that this couldn’t be trusted in, and darker images had rushed in and anger had rose at himself for letting that thought intrude on anything.

Where he’d returned with her as his wife, and they’d swam together when the sun had warmed it enough that it was no longer a shock to plunge into white crested waves.

Where they’d taken their children, later, where the children,, in turn, had swum and played and complained about only getting to have one flavour of ice cream at once from the kiosk at the shore, made castles with moats to defend. at the junction of sea and sand.

Where, years later, he’d found out he’d been wrong about the sea.

The sea, his sea, was not untouchable. War could touch it, war could scar it, war could be right there on the juncture of sand and shore. War could fence it in, round it with concrete and barbed wire, pepper it with signs in German with skulls and cross bones to mark out where they’d placed mines under its golden sands, ready to tear the flesh of any who’d dare tread over it.

War could fill the shore with blood and bullets, blasts of shells on that golden sand. War could make the sea a battleground, a passageway, a place where the lives of men were wasted and blasted and glutted out.

There had been no sea, for him, during those years of war after France fell. Only a horrible, sucking, dark despair that undermined nearly all hope and replaced it with a terrible, constant dread. Fear for his wife and for his sons, who seemed so close to being taken to the work camps or concentration camps, for his daughters, who could suffer and perhaps die at the hands of the Germans posted in their town who made up the laws as it suited them, who did as they liked. Sleepless nights, furtive whispers of resistance, that terrible uncertainty.

He’d survived. They’d survived. It was hard, again, to think it was all over, for him, for his family, for France. That it was safe, that they’d managed, again, to come through all this with their lives and their town, intact, pristine, when so much else had been reduced to ruin, so many lives lost, so much despair.

He inhaled the smell of seaweed and salty air. The sea was nothing and everything like he’d remembered.

The roll of waves and the push and pull of sparkling water, between the remnants of anti-tank defences, mines, temporary jetties, spiked fences where barbed wire and mines had been positioned. Chalk cliffs where the seagulls nested, topped with battered German gun emplacements and bunkers.

His daughter Esmé at his side, a young woman who’d grown into adulthood, as he had done, in a time of war, bending to pick up some fragment of sharp metal from the sand, setting it aside so that others could not tread on it. Standing up, she give a sigh, straightening her back, and slipped out her feet from her shoes.

“Ah.. so good to feel the sand on my toes again,” she said, raising an arm and shading her eyes with it, looking out over that flat expanse of sand where so many men had died. That beach she had loved as much as he had, that beach she’d always known, which had perhaps retreated into memory in the last few years.

“It’s strange..” she said, glancing at him, eyes half narrowed against the glare of the sun, hair whipped round her face by the wind, “but for .. well, those things” – here she pointed to the coastal defences- “it’s as if none of it every really happened. Like the sea just.. washed everything else away. As if it’s all gone. As if I could just.. go back out there and swim and it would be like it was before. All those men down here who came ashore and fought. But really.. how could it be the same as before?”

She walked slowly towards the ocean, treading carefully, pulling up her skirts, giving a faint gasp at the sudden shock of the cold water.

Bernard, his son, naturally stocky figure still unnaturally gaunt from scarce rations and hard labour, eyes with a sunken, glazed quality they’d never had before, following Esme’s figure as she walked towards the waves.

“This place is like a graveyard, now” he muttered, those glazed eyes brightening with some sudden bitterness that was so unlike anything he’d have been capable of, before the war.

Dead men had littered this beach, made swollen and putrid, pulled out and washed up again in greater states of decay. But they’d been taken away and buried under white crosses in the town. Bernard had helped dig those graves.

He looked at Esmé with her feet in the water, looked back at his son’s face, and the salt stung his eyes, the wind in his ears, cold despite the sun, he looked back to the shore, eyes bleary, and was no longer sure if he’d been wrong or right about the sea.

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Summer-Spring 'renewal' writing contest entries and voti
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:30 pm GMT 
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Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
A Letter to Father

Dear Father,

I remember how your warm, prickly face rasped against mine whenever I gave you a hug. You used to carry me over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes, just for fun; and when I had a hard time seeing something, you let me sit on your broad, comfortable shoulders. The apple tree in our back yard gave us so much fruit in the fall, and you boosted me up so I could stand on those same strong shoulders while I picked the biggest ripest apple I could find. After you let me down, I shined it on my shirt and took a bite of that apple, only to spit it out again when I looked down at the half-worm that my teeth left in their wake. You laughed and pulled a brand new apple out of my ear; I forgot about the wormy apple and tossed to the side before taking the new apple from your hand and cautiously took a bite. My teeth penetrated the waxy skin squirting the sugary juice in a fine mist, as I tore away the chunk of white flesh. Apple juice trickled down my chin as I took another bite, leaving a sticky sweet slug-trail that I wiped away with the sleeve of my shirt. You said, “Don’t let mom see you doing that, or she’ll be upset with you.” I smiled and told you not to worry. You laughed.

We went fishing the next weekend. I didn’t catch anything with my rod, but I had fun splashing the lure in the water, pretending to be like the fly-fisherman wading in the shallows to our right, and about catching your ear. You ducked away from the hook as it whizzed by your face, and told me to be more careful. Around noon I said I was hungry and you smiled at me. We ate the sandwiches that mom packed especially for us. We were just about to leave, when your line went taut, and the tip of your pole bowed as you set the hook deep in the fish’s mouth. You handed me the rod, and told me to reel it in. I followed your directions exactly, pulling and reeling. The fish was strong and nearly pulled me into the water. It jumped and tossed its head trying to spit out the hook, but it stayed in. I reeled with all my might, and you put the net out into the water, father, and scooped up the fish in one motion. I’ll never forget your words, “It’s a keeper.” We laughed, because the fish was bigger than me. We took the fish home, and you showed me how to clean it. You told me I was too young to fillet the monster bass, as you called it. You grilled up the fish outside, and we had the best dinner ever, you mom and I. After dinner, we set up our tent in the living room, and we slept all night on the floor, in our sleeping bags.

I also remember that you let me watch shows that made mom cringe, but she didn’t know. You got in so much trouble when I told her we watched Robocop on VHS. There was also the time when I was older, and we went to see The Terminator, “I’ll be back,” you said, before going to the bathroom; your Arnold Schwarzenegger impression was spot on. What a great time we had with all of the other movies we saw. You showed me all of the old movies you grew up with, and being older I appreciate it more than I used to. You had to tie me to the chair, or bribe me with legos to get me to try those old westerns and war movies. I felt like one of the prisoners in the Great Escape as I plotted my way out of the room. “Just sit and watch the movie, Son,” you’d say, patting me on the back. You were a much better prison guard than the ones in the movies. I realize now that it was your way of flooding my world with light, and knowledge. Honestly I didn’t just watch the movies to appease you, I actually grew to like them despite my griping. You knew that though, and I wish I had said something more. Those were the good old days, and I sorely miss them.

You taught me that living is not the most important thing in life, but having something to live for. I didn’t catch on for the longest time, and I am not sure I still grasp it fully. Maybe you don’t know this but I always had a goal of becoming a drifter, just like in those old westerns. I never wanted to settle down, and I did my best through high school to make sure you knew it. I didn’t sleep around like some of the other kids, and I didn’t do drugs or drink, but I drove too fast and I’m surprised that you didn’t put your foot through the floorboards of the passenger side when you taught me to drive. “Stop, hit the brakes!” Your face nearly went through the windshield when I followed your exact instruction. Somehow, you helped me to tame that wild car of yours, and I really was glad that you still let me drive after that. I got a lot better after all that practice, to the point where I finally saved up my money and bought my own car. What a wreck it was, too: the exhaust rattled and the muffler fell off in the middle of the street. I loved that old Ford, though. I’m sure that the question, “why on earth would you ever want a car like that,” ran through your head when I lost a hubcap going over the curb into the driveway that first day, but you didn’t let on if you did.

You always gave me advice when I went down the wrong road, but you let me figure things out on my own, and I really appreciate that now, because you taught me to be able to rely on myself. I never would’ve met Amy, and we never would have broken up when we went to different universities. You helped me to realize that things don’t always work out the way we plan, and I guess I unwisely thought that you’d always be there. I learned that just liking a person isn’t enough reason to talk about long term commitment, there has to be something more to it than that. I’m glad that I learned that lesson on my own. It definitely helped to know what to look for, or to at least have some idea. Molly fit me so much better than Amy ever did, and I didn’t realize just how much I’d need her in the coming months, especially when mom called during my Sophomore year of college to let me know that you were diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic cancer.. Molly helped me to get through the week, but I am so grateful to you for teaching me that it’s ok to cry even though I’m a boy, because I think I would have exploded if I tried to push it all out of my head.

You lived long enough to see me married, and I am so happy that you were able to see me become a man. I just wish that I could be half as strong as you. We cut our honeymoon short when you started tumbling downwards, even though I know you would’ve wanted us to have a good time. There are some things you have to give up when you are a man, and a son. You taught me that, and most importantly you taught me that nothing is more important than family. I know you’re not here any more, but I am so glad that you gave me so much of your time, and put so much energy into filling me with knowledge, while not trying to impose your own biases even though I follow most of your logic, and agree with many of your opinions. Even as you lay in bed suffering through the chemo and proved that even the hardest of fighters doesn’t win every bout. I stayed with you as much as I could, the least I could do to repay you for holding my hand while I was in the hospital when I broke my leg while playing superman, and jumped out of the treehouse you built, but I digress.

I wanted to tell you that Molly is pregnant, and I hope it’s a boy. We’ve agreed that if it is, we are going to name him after you. I’m sure you would be honored, and are. I hope that I can be as good a father as you were, and really wish that you could be here to see your grandkid and to give me fatherly advice. I promise that I’ll make sure that when Molly’s and my baby is born, I’ll teach him all of the things you taught me, and I’ll be sure to tell him all about all of my childhood escapades, especially the ones involving you and me getting into trouble, like the the time we got caught movie hopping. I only hope that he doesn’t do half of the things that I did, like sticking the keys in the electrical outlet, or sticking his finger into the nightlight’s bulb socket. I remember the scared look on your face when you caught me doing just that. I honestly am shocked that you didn’t have a heart attack. I can still see you running across the room with your eyes wider than golfballs, and popping out of your head like those of an over pressurized chihuahua. I don’t know who I was more afraid of, you or mom; regardless, both of you set me straight that day.

I love you dad, and I miss you so much. I still want to make you proud, even though you aren’t there to watch me succeed. I just made partner at the engineering firm, and the extra money I’m getting will definitely help to cover any loss that we face while Molly is on maternity leave. I only hope that I can find the time in my busy schedule to make half the impression on my child’s life as you made on mine. You will always be at the forefront of my thoughts as I try to balance my time as well as you did. I don’t know how you managed it all; well, mom certainly helped a lot, and she deserves a lot of credit, much more than I gave her in this letter, but you, father, were always my biggest role model, growing up. I guess that you felt the same way I’m feeling now, with a baby only a few months away; I mean, fatherhood is something that you just jump into, there is no way to practice. I’ll try to make you proud.

Love always,
Your son, Jack.

P.S. I know you’ll never read this letter, Dad, but I had to put it all down in writing so I could tell you everything when I visit you at the cemetery this weekend. I love you, and I’ll see you then.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:09 am GMT 
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