Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
* GRAND PRIZE WINNER *
Making Photocopies by Ellie Presner
There was a lot to like in this story. I wanted emotion, and I wanted a character I could connect with, sympathize with, root for.
In Ellie’s story, I got that and so much more.
The Main Character, as you will see, puts herself forefront into a situation easily avoided, and we are with her every painful step of the way as she deals with lost love and maybe a broken heart that appears to have never mended.
It was a beautifully written piece and well-deserving of first prize, and it was my honor to read it and share it with you.
This story, for whatever reason, spoke to me. I loved it from the opening lines and stayed with it all the way though.
I hope you enjoy it.
For winning 1st Place, Ellie will receive THIS prize package valued at over $200:
$125 Professional BOOK COVER designed by Select-O-Grafix, LLC (www.selectografix.com)
$50 Amazon GIFT CARD, compliments of ME
PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website (today)
Signed copies of a multi-book package from several published authors who graciously donated their books to our contest (see list below).
A GUEST BLOG POST or AUTHOR PROFILE to appear on this site (that’s priceless, really)
a video interview with me, should they so choose, also to appear on this site**
MASSIVE BRAGGING RIGHTS
** requires a quality high speed internet connection and a good camera on your computer or phone. Maybe other stuff. I’m not doing this at 3am, okay?
HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will be in these prize packages
Allison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant, the Project Renovatio trilogy
With over 550 reviews on Amazon, a signed copy of Allison’s runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant should be part of any book lover’s collection.
Allison’s amazing Project Renovatio trilogy has captivated audiences around the world. You want to win that, too.
Hugh Roberts, Glimpses
28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns. You REALLY wanna win that!
Is murder, sex, buried bank loot and legends of UFOs your cup of tea? Or maybe a clueless optimist who “ruins a perfectly good hell” Phillip T. Stephens offers crime, dark fantasy, young adult – and a good dose of humor.
Love letters are a nearly lost art form, but they are the easiest and least costly way to show your partner love and romance. Plus, it’s quick to do! I’m a fan of quick!
24 Romantic Date Night Ideas
Jennifer’s beautiful companion book is a terrific way to round out your romantic evening.
Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a fairy story? Plus, it’s set in Florida, a win-win. Then along comes a primeval nymph, who explains young Abby’s true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.
T. A. Henry, Scripting The Truth
Any story that takes place in post-WWII Britain and has the phrase “She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight” has to be read. You’ll agree.
and of course, ME
A few folks will be selected to receive a signed paperback of my hilarious sexy romp through Italy. It’s not available in stores yet, so these will be hot commodities. Probably.
A few other folks will win my amazing sci fi thriller The Navigators as a signed paperback or an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.
When I post their stories, I will tell you a little about why they won, and more about how tough the decision process was.
And now, the 1st Place Winner in Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
by Ellie Presner
N.B.: Please note that this is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
The wonderful thing about using a photocopy machine is the mindlessness of it. You feed stuff in, it whirs and flashes, it spits stuff out. So mechanical, so brainless, so empty.
From Lucy’s position at the copier, she can peek, if she looks through the doorway across the hall, into the reception room. She can’t see her ex-husband’s office, but she knows it’s there, to the right, in all its cluttered glory. She’s always found that paradoxical: the clutter. Immaculate press releases, computer-honed to remarkable paragons of hype, perch incongruously amid scattered piles of outdated film magazines, cracked coffee cups, and old scripts.
“Need any help?” asks a young woman, who Lucy assumes is an office assistant or secretary. Though you never know. Around here the producers often wear sweatshirts and jeans.
“No, I’m fine, thanks,” Lucy tells her, and the woman fades away. She wonders if he hired her. It’s funny how the women around him all seem cut from the same mold. Honeyed wisps of hair, scrubbed faces. Earnest, competent, solid. They have to be, to keep his chaos in check.
It was the chaos that first attracted her. Of course, she didn’t think of it as such back then; no, he was dynamic… charismatic… okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far. It’s just that, to her, the way she was at the time — honeyed, scrubbed, etc. — he was so… stimulating.
Oh, she has to add more paper. Now, where do they keep it? Seems to her that last time she was around, it was over — here! She’ll start with half the package; she’s sure they don’t keep track. She can’t imagine that after she leaves, voices will titter: Ah, the boss’s ex-wife, she takes such advantage of her situation. Actually, she probably does, but hey, he offered. After all, her articles do earn money.
Where was she? Stimulating. No, before that. Ah yes, his women. She’ll never forget meeting that first clone, ten years ago. It happened accidentally, just after he’d moved out.
The “other” woman had been a production secretary. Lucy refers to her as Mina, as in: “It was kinda mina her to steal my husband.” It was the love affair of the twentieth century, the romance for which he left his wife, his two little children, and his hearth. Lucy would add his self-respect to that list, but she’s a teeny bit biased.
She had gone after work to his office to pick up Trish, their daughter. He’d been babysitting for her, as her teachers were out for a one-day “study session.” What they were studying was beyond Lucy, but it certainly wasn’t More Ways To Teach the Gifted, judging by Trish’s boredom with 52 x 3 = ?, etc. Anyway, his babysitting technique consisted primarily of assigning to Trish all the office chores he hated, like filing. Trish liked things neat and orderly, and still does. Lucy thinks Trish resembles herself in that respect. In any case, Trish was pretty smart for eight: she knew darn well that, when filing, Below-the-Line goes neither before nor after Budget, but in. Come to think of it, wasn’t that Mina’s job? Filing? Well-l-l, Lucy supposes Mina was just too busy doing other things.
So Lucy walked in and beheld the following scene:
INT. FILM PRODUCTION OFFICE – DAY
Two large desks face LUCY, about five feet apart. Her ESTRANGED HUSBAND (E.H.) sits at one desk, a telephone receiver pasted to his right ear. PAN across to a WOMAN sitting at the other desk, also talking on a phone. TRISH is filing at a cabinet behind the desks. Lucy doesn’t yet know who the Woman is. She thinks she looks like any of E.H.’s honey-haired, scrubbed, earnest, solid workers. However, Lucy suspects she could very well be the infamous MINA. Women just know these things, Lucy muses, in her pre-radical-feminist mindset of that more unenlightened era. Her heartbeat accelerates just a tad, anticipating fight or flight.
Lucy peers curiously at the Woman; the Woman, sensing Lucy’s stare (or perhaps reacting to the searing heat generated by it), glances up at her, and — yes — actually smiles a tight little smile. Lucy quickly looks away, not wanting to be contaminated by it; she then tries to catch E.H.’S eye. She longs to know, perversely, if this is indeed Mina, Annihilator of Marriages. E.H. seems to have a vaguely sheepish expression on his face. This bodes well (or is it badly?) for the theory that she is Mina. But Lucy has to know. Consequently, she sits down on the chair across the desk from E.H., and searches for scrap paper. E.H. pushes a scrap pad forward, and a pen. He is so obliging. Lucy prints, pressing a bit unnecessarily hard with the pen, M-I-N-A, followed by a huge “?”, then draws an arrow under it pointing in the appropriate direction; she pushes the note in front of E.H. She waits, tingling, for his response. A ZITHER begins to TWANG ominously in the background, and then —
“Oh, sorry, sure, just one copy? Go ahead, my goodness, it’s your office I’m in, after all.” Lucy likes this secretary; she’s polite, efficient, and when she explained the photocopier to her the first time Lucy came in to use it, she actually spoke in plain English, and Lucy understood every word. Lucy belongs to that breed of baby-boomer who is technologically impaired. If a device was invented after, say, 1964, she’s in trouble. During her marriage, it had never helped matters that whenever he explained to her how any gizmo worked, he did it in such an abbreviated, cryptic way that she never got it right. Ordinarily this wasn’t of great consequence, but it did occasionally cause problems, like the time he allegedly demonstrated to her how to activate a house alarm. It’s a subtle way to make someone feel stupid, she now realized, without being caught: “But I showed you how to do it!” Later, when Lucy took psychology courses, she learned a name for this personality aspect: passive-aggressiveness. Lucy didn’t have to study this section of her psych text very hard.
Anyway. CUT back to: The ZITHER. Well, of course, the woman behind the desk was Mina! Her E.H.’s affirmative nod told her that.
So what did she, Lucy, do? Fight or flight were her options, remember? She fled. She grabbed Trish and got the bejeesus out of there, before her mascara started to run. One thing a wronged woman does not want to reveal to her rival is any imperfection, however trivial.
Yes, in real life, Lucy ran. But in one of her more vivid dreams at that time, Mina did not get off so lucky. It was not a pretty picture. Put it this way: Mina was not permitted to survive.
Lucy yawns; photocopying is not very challenging. She has a sudden craving for coffee. She looks across the room at the coffee machine on the craft table and notices that, although the switch is on, there’s very little liquid left in the pot. They must have a full house this morning, maybe a production meeting, to go over an updated script for the current episode of “Byline.”
Although Lucy has never worked in film or T.V., she has soaked up so many details of the field simply through osmosis, that she almost feels capable of working in it herself. The operative word here is “almost.” The truth is, she feels eminently comfortable and competent on her home turf, which is teaching college English. But the greater truth is, she would never want to put herself, however remotely, in a position of competing with the Perfect Dynamo himself, her ex. And the idea of working for him fills her with — nausea? anger? fear?
Lucy observes that a motley succession of film types are on the move in the corridor, headed for a meeting in the conference room, most likely. Where her ex will hold forth. A sly vision begins to formulate itself in Lucy’s mind:
INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
A nearly room-sized fake-oak table is surrounded by a dozen assorted seated FILM PRODUCTION PEOPLE. Their “look” is off-hand arty. Her ex, MR. DYNAMO PRODUCER (MR. D.P.), enters the room. He wears a purple shirt and green tie. Mr. D.P. takes his seat and begins to pontificate.
Okay, hi hi hi everybody, let’s get going, we
have to —
MEDIUM CLOSE-UP of LUCY appearing, grinning, in the doorway.
Oh! Am I on time? Goody!
WIDE SHOT of most of the room. Lucy strides up to the table, and, before the gaping mouths of everyone, climbs up onto its gleaming surface. She deftly avoids knocking down the many coffee cups (so that is where all the coffee went, she was right!) as she paces back and forth along the length of the table, delivering her speech.
Okay! Listen up! Do not — I repeat — do not
listen to this man.
(She points to MR. D.P.)
This man is not your friend. Do not believe
anything he tells you. I lived with him
for many years, I know. He will make you
feel like an idiot. He will lie to you. He —
“— Oh, uh, hi there! I…I thought you, ah, were in a — a meeting?” Lucy isn’t normally this flustered when her ex comes on the scene, but under the circumstances, it’s kind of hard to change gears.
As usual, he fills up the room, stealing her air. “How’s it going? Got enough paper? Are they dark enough? Let’s see one of these things. Hmm…wouldn’t you like it better if this was over here? Lemme try one and see if —”
“Uh, Dick, you ready?” One of his gofers hovers in the doorway.
“Comin’ right now… Try it this way, it’ll look cleaner. Later,” and he’s gone as suddenly as he’d appeared. The room expands again.
Dick. His “public” name. Lucy could never get used to calling him that. When she met him at sixteen, he was Richie. The best she can muster now is Rich. No one else calls him Rich. Lucy feels that, in a small way, this sets her apart from the others in his life. Other women. This is important to her. Whenever she calls him Rich in front of his current girlfriend, she feels almost — smug. I had him way before you. We share a past you can never be part of. This helps to salvage her self-esteem, which had been quite ravaged when she was cast aside for clone number one.
Of course he tried to “improve” her photocopies. He often volunteers his opinions and assistance for everything from soup spice to furnace filters. His generosity is legendary. It is also crippling, if, like Lucy, your level of self-confidence is tenuous.
Well, looks like the last of the batch is done. Lucy neatly stacks her still-warm photocopies into a perfectly sized box she found behind a door. The box is aptly marked: “Stillman’s Home-cooked Applesauce.” Applesauce is not too bitter, not too sour, not too sweet. It’s all of these, and none of these. Just like the newest contents of the box — 50 copies of Lucy’s latest article: “Better Relations With Your Ex-Spouse.”
It has been my pleasure to showcase these amazing writers. Look for interviews and more on them in the upcoming weeks.
Why did it win? What spoke to me?
The pain. The unresolved heartbreak I felt in the character – among other things. The longing and the pride – and the frailness. But also the moments of humor and levity. This story, for me, had it all. Like I said, I was hooked and stayed with it all the way through.
By the way, I did my best to format Ellie’s story as she sent it, but WordPress has its limits.
If you liked this story, please share it on StumbleUpon and other social media so our winners can get the recognition they deserve.
Tomorrow, the 2nd place winner in the Word Weaver Writing Contest:
The Crescent by Anne Marie Hilse
If you would like to sponsor our July 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your book or a product or service beneficial to authors, please contact me.