We've narrowed the field down to eighteen and now it’s time to move into play-off rounds – which as promised will come at a rapid fire pace. I will be posting one contest a day this week (Mon-Fri) and four next week (Mon-Thur). The voting for all nine bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, August 31st. Your task remains simple…read the submission from each WRiTER carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most. If you haven’t already done so in the previous rounds, offer some critique if you have time. Anyone reading this can vote, so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun. Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to. Whether that is one bout, or all nine, how much you participate is up to you.
Here’s something else to keep in mind for this round...every vote counts. That’s because the contestant who doesn't win their bout but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers, will become a wildcard winner and still advance to round 2.
The winners will be posted late in the afternoon on August 31 and then round 2 will kick off the following Monday, September 1st, with all new 500 word submissions from the nine advancing contestants.
Good luck to all of the WRiTER’s!
In this corner welcome back to the ring.....Dame Hortense Pemberton
Winicker would rather pee in her pants than use the Plouffes’ bathroom. She opened the front door and stepped into the apartment building’s courtyard, wiggling and crossing her legs. She rushed to the big, iron gate and looked down the street in one direction, and then the other. She spotted exactly what she was hoping to find—an ugly gray pay toilet.
Winicker dug a handful of change out of her pocket and inserted four coins in the slot next to the door until it opened. Inside, the bathroom was dark, and the smell of disinfectant stung Winicker’s nose and eyes. Even with the smell, and even with the scary-looking French graffiti scrawled across the thin wall above the toilet, Winicker was glad not to be using the Plouffes’ bidet.
When she finished using the bathroom, Winicker sighed a very content sigh. “Sweet relief,” she said. But the sweet relief only lasted a moment. The pay toilet suddenly seemed much smaller and darker than it did just a few seconds earlier. She rubbed hand sanitizer on both hands from a little dispenser on the wall, and stood to open the door. The problem was, the door wouldn’t open. Winicker pushed as hard as she could on the handle. Then she pulled as hard as she could on the handle. The door did not budge.
“Help me! Can anyone hear me? I’m stuck in here! Hello! I need help!”
Winicker banged on the bathroom door with both fists. She looked around frantically for some kind of emergency button, but all she found were more graffiti, lots of old gum, and a wad of wet toilet paper stuck to the wall. “Help! I’m stuck in here! Can anyone hear me?”
Her stomach felt like it was falling out of her body when she realized that Grandma Balthazar and her mother didn’t know where she was. She never told them that she was going to use a pay toilet. They thought she was next door in Mirabel Plouffe’s apartment!
“SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME! I’M TRAPPED IN THIS PAY TOILET!”
Winicker imagined Mirabel watching the story unfold on her daily afternoon news show. She would sip some kind of awful French tea and shake her head and say, How perfectly terrible. I wonder why she didn’t just use our bathroom with its fancy French bidet? Winicker wished more than anything that she had used the Plouffes’ bathroom. She wished that she had seen the Eiffel Tower and all of the other things in Paris that Mirabel and Grandma Balthazar told her were so wonderful. Instead, the very last thing Winicker would ever see would be graffiti and a wet wad of toilet paper stuck to the wall of the pay toilet.
“LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT!”
And in the other corner, also anxious to return to the ring, let me re-introduce.... petrichor
We drift to Montpelier on the last of the winter’s wind. It is April. Time for crocuses to be born joyous amid the green grass and forsythias to spread their golden arms wide, laughing at us who cannot bear the cold wind that bites our noses and stings our eyes. But there are no flowers here. The grass is sparse and the shrubs dormant.
Before I can stop her, Analise removes her coat and gives it to a girl with bruised eyes who sits hunched over and shivering at the train depot.
“Anali!” my daughter scolds her. “Gramma stitched that coat for you. Must you be so careless with it? You have no other.”
What Claire says is true. I made that coat myself. Late hours that stretched autumn into moonlight, every stitch of the compass on its back embroidered and blessed, and Analise had only that coat to ward off the chill.
“She needs it so much more than I do,” Analise answers. This girl, my granddaughter, her heart warms her from the inside. “Besides, I think we will settle here,” she says. “I like it already.”
There is not much to like here yet. We only just arrived at this station and have not seen the town. Still, we promised to let Analise choose our destination this time. She wore the compass and was sure of our direction. Now here we are, and she has decided to stay.
Claire and Analise shoulder their bags and share the weight of mine between them. I am old and it is enough that I carry my own weight down the cobbled streets. Analise points to a sign posted on a grimy window. The tailor shop is for rent, and the apartment above it, too. Inside, a thick layer of dust pads the floors and all the surfaces need scrubbing, the walls a fresh coat of paint.
“You can use whatever is here,” the rental agent says. “The apartment is furnished.”
“And the sewing machines in the shop?” Claire asks. “Can we use them?”
“Yes, of course. Whatever is here is yours. The price includes everything. The previous owners have no use for it now,” the rental agent says.
“Dead?” Analise asks. She has never cared for subtlety.
“Yes,” the rental agent says. Her whisper is barely an answer.
“But not gone,” Analise says and I wonder if she can sense ghosts here. My own eyes have grown too dim to see them. Or, maybe I don’t want to see them. Surely, they are a reminder of what is yet to come soon, too soon.
“They were your parents,” Analise says, “and you still think of them.”
I do think of them, my own parents, and I wonder if I could have changed anything by stitching health into his nightshirt, long life into her apron. But Analise is speaking to the rental agent, not me.