Wow! Great turnout this week. And new faces. Hello new faces!

So did you have fun? I was ready for it. Took a long vacation from pretty much everything the last two weeks of December. Didn’t even write much. I needed this little sprint as a bit of a kick in the tail for momentum.

And that picture cracks me up for some reason.

Too much fabulous writing this week. I’m, yet again, glad I don’t have to judge this time. I think I’d go mad if I judged every week rather than the random once or twice so far.

Well the finalists are chosen, thank you very much Jeff  Pfaller, @pfallerj.   He worked long and hard to make this list. And here it is:

Paul Freeman, @PolFreeman

Aisling Weaver, @AislingWeaver

Leah Petersen, @LeahPetersen

Noelle Pierce, @NoellePierce

Matt Schulz, @matthewschulz

That’s them. And here are their entries. Get to a readin’ and a votin’ and come back at 9:45 for the winner!

Paul Freeman, @PolFreeman

“Attach this to your collar and you will always remeber me.” Those were the last tearful words she said to me, as she pinned a feather to my jacket. She was crying I was crying. My heart was been ripped in two and I could not understand why.

“Why are you doing this?” I whimpered, pathetically.

“We can never be together, we are too different.” I held her close cheek to cheek, I could taste her salty tears, feel the dampness on my face.

“Fuck them!” I said. “Fuck their rules and their feud and their bitterness. Let’s runaway, we can go somewhere no one will know us. We can live together just the two of us.”

“I can’t do that,” she said, pulling away from me. “I love you,” she mouthed. She ran from me then. I wanted to follow her, to hold her fast and never let her go, to make her understand we could change things, we could break with tradition. But I didn’t, I couldn’t, because she was right. We could never be together, we were like night and day.

I watched her spread her wings then, her glorious off-white wings as she took to the air, so graceful, so beautiful.

“You coming them? If we don’t have fifty souls in the bag by morning there’ll be hell to pay.” He cackled at his own joke.

I nodded my assent. Behind him a smoking pit opened in the ground, with a smile he leapt in, his fiery red tale the last thing to enter.

“I’m coming brother, I’m coming.”

Aisling Weaver, @AislingWeaver

Letting Go

“You knew this day would come, Vi.” My brother’s voice did nothing to stem the steady trickle of tears down my niece’s cheeks. “I told you not to get too attached.”

I sighed and waved him away, ignoring his scowl as I ushered Leah along with me. “You can come visit any time you want,” I promised, heart breaking as her shoulders hitched in a sob. “Trey will only be a few miles away.”

“You promise?” Hope filled her voice and I heard Matt choke back a qualifier behind me.

“Yes.” There was no doubt in my mind my niece would be over often. There just seemed to be a special bond between a girl and her first horse; even if Trey was mine, and had only stayed at their place while I built his barn.

I still remembered my first, a little pony owned by our neighbor I’d feed carrots through the rail. And my broken heart when they moved away.

“Do you want to come help Trey settle in?” The gelding nickered through the trailer window and I laughed as Leah ran ahead of me.

“I’m coming home with you, Trey!”

Tears forgotten, angst delayed, heartbreak avoided.

Leah Petersen, @LeahPetersen

Attached to the pure-black vase was a tiny figurine, held by a thin wire, wrapped about the neck of the figure and the vessel. The likeness was horrifying. It was the face of her father as she had seen it in pictures–and it was contorted into an expression of abject terror.

Sella shivered, wrapping her arms tight around herself, blinking back tears. Was all her searching for him for this?

She’d felt compelled, always pulled toward him, toward the mystery of his disappearance, toward a father she’d never known. She found accounts of his bravery, his goodness to the people he ruled, a life of peace and comfort amidst family he loved. Until he disappeared.

Now this. A sick horror bubbled in her stomach. Because she knew. She knew somehow this was what she’d been seeking all along. That she’d always known that the things she heard, read, found, were incomplete; there was a truth hidden that no one else seemed to want to know.

There was a door, behind the table that held the vase, the only other thing in the room. She reached for the knob with a trembling hand. It turned. It wasn’t locked; she’d known it wouldn’t be. She pulled slowly and before her the door opened, the room behind was revealed. Sella looked inside… and screamed.

Noelle Pierce, @NoellePierce

The child stared at the small blanket in his hand, then back at the social worker. It was for the best, she said. His older sister came out of her room and grasped his small shoulders to reassure him, a grim smile plastered on her face.

“It’s going to be better this way,” she whispered to him. “We won’t hear mama cry anymore.”

He couldn’t see how it would be better. He wasn’t even sure what was happening. All he knew was that things were changing and he didn’t like change.

His fingers tightened around the clump of fabric that was once his prized blankie. The edges were frayed and there were patches of dried juice and drool across the surface. Everywhere he went, it went–his mom used to say he needed something to attach to. Whatever the reason, it gave him some comfort now.

“Are you bringing that with us?” his sister asked.

He nodded.

She turned to the social worker. “We’re ready.” Her voice was strong, confident. Not scared at all, like him.

Risking a last glance toward the chalk drawing on the living room floor, he linked his free hand with his sister’s, then they proceeded forward to the sedan parked outside.

Matt Schulz, @matthewschulz

Just over one attachment. One.

I’ve worked my ass off for 20 years. Twenty damn years. I’ve practically never taken a day off. I’ve worked insane hours — like medical student-type hours — when they’ve needed me to work on game plans. Snow. Sleet. Hail. Blazing heat. Major injuries. I’m always there.

I’ve even been what everyone calls a “team player” — whatever that means. I’ve helped bring new guys along, showing them how things work around here. Everything from making sure their money gets handled properly to which fork to use when you’re at a nice restaurant to where to buy a house in town.

So I send one attachment, and then this. This. For me. Unbelievable.

I’ve never asked to be treated any differently from anyone else, though Lord knows, I could have. (I mean, really.) I’ve never tried to be anything other than one of the guys. Playing Madden. Grilling brats. Downing a few beers — or maybe trotting out the Crown once in a while.

And the bosses treat me like this. Taking me away from my job, my livelihood, the only thing I really know how to do. They’ve taken it all away, and now I look like an idiot.

All over one attachment on an email.

Don’t these people know who I am?

And the worst thing: She didn’t even respond.

Doesn’t she know who I am?

She will soon. I promise you that.

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