Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
* 5th Place Winner and Honorable Mentions *
The Last Letter by Maribel C. Pagan
This story had some great elements to it, and a lot of emotional range in a short span.
Read it and be sure to continue on to the Honorable Mentions
Like the 4th place winners, we didn’t create a prize for these folks, so I am posting their winning entry here and I’m going to request they do an author interview or author profile here on the blog, as well as hooking them up with some signed copies of paperback books from some of the following authors.
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.
The Last Letter
Maribel C. Pagan
Passports were laid upon the coffee table. Adam held a pamphlet in his hand. Travel to Spain.
His Mom walked into the room, coat on and dragging a suitcase. His suitcase. “Are you ready to go?”
He stood up. “Not sure I would like to go.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “And why not?”
“Because, Mom,” he slammed the pamphlet onto the coffee table, “I don’t think this will be a good experience for me.”
“It will be a great experience visiting another country, and…” she paused. “Is this because of your Father? You know he wants to see you again. He misses you.”
He scoffed. “Yeah, or you wish he did.”
She squinted her eyes. He realized his mistake and lowered his head.
“You are going to see you father again. It’s not right that you leave him like this, wondering how you are doing, missing you, and wanting to speak with you again.”
Tears formed in his eyes. He looked up at his Mom. “Why not? That’s what he did, isn’t it? Admit it. He shouldn’t have done that. I am not going to a foreign country just to see his damn face that betrayed you—that betrayed me—and ruined out lives! And that’s final.”
Her eyes widened. “Adam!”
Before his tears spilled out, he ran up the stairs. A door slammed above.
She let out a deep, long breath.
A man stood in the airport. He checked his watch, glanced back at the screen listing the plane departures and arrivals. His hand scrubbed his hair back.
He opened a paper. Only five words jotted down in a hurry:
He looked back up at the screen, checked his watch again.
Then left, the door slamming behind him.
I was like, hey, a fun trip! Spain!
I enjoyed the mystery and the tension, plus wondering how it would end. Short and bittersweet
Good stuff, even if it’s sad.
I enjoyed these two stories a lot, feeling as though they had good bones and a good writing style, and probably in a different contest on a different day, they are 1st place winners.
Here, in this contest, the stuff that appealed to me more had to win, but I wanted to explain what I found special about each of these.
“Honorable Mention” is a lackluster title, but these stories – and their authors – are anything but lackluster. Expect great things from these two writers in the future.
Destination Seoul Tokyo
To say we were unprepared for Japan is an understatement of no small proportions. A week before we arrived we weren’t even headed that way. We were off to Korea to teach English. Only a chance meeting with a recently retired TEFL teacher in Hong Kong changed the direction of our journey toward the Land of the Rising Sun. We really had no plan at all.
We landed at Narita International Airport in early afternoon rain. Immediately it was obvious we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The signs directing inbound passengers were pretty clear – Japanese this way, Aliens over there. We didn’t seem to belong in either category. I didn’t know whether to be mildly confused or profoundly offended, and I wondered exactly how I was going to answer the inevitable question, ‘Where are you from?’ Should I launch into a long and convoluted explanation about how we were actually heading for Venus but our space ship had been thrown off course by the rings of Saturn and we were forced to drop out of warp speed and de-cloak just south of Jupiter? Maybe the flight from Hong Kong had taken us off-planet and this really wasn’t Earth. Though I was unaware of it then, I would begin to believe this was in fact the case in about three hours’ time.
We were admitted without further insult, other than some heavy eyeballing of our scruffy backpacks and the baby on my back, and a difficult conversation in pidgin English about the bananas pictured on a box of cereal we were carrying. Armed with only a dog-eared and out of date copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Japan, we headed for the banks of bright green public phones. For the next six hours, James entertained Mani – no small feat – and I made phone calls.
But my pleas for a room for even one night fell on deaf ears. At first it was just a matter of being fully booked, but soon the real reason for the refusals came out, in the form of a confession, as if they had been caught out – ‘We don’t want any baby!’ One innkeeper even started to lecture me on my poor holiday planning. Holiday? We had arrived here to look for work and start a new life with a nine-month old baby and only the contents of two backpacks. We must surely be insane. It wasn’t going to be a picnic, let alone a holiday.
Disheartened, and with my face still wet from the tears of begging, we headed for the official airport reservation counter. I’d been on the phone almost continuously for over six hours, apart from crying breaks, during which I also wrung my hands in despair. The last train had long since left on its 60-kilometre journey to Tokyo Station, and the only remaining option, that we could really not afford, was the Limousine Bus. It was a quiet, dejected, one-hour ride, just the three of us and the driver, on a dimly-lit, luxury coach. We arrived at Tokyo Station around midnight with a booking for a hotel on the Ginza that we could also not afford if our stay in Japan was going to last longer than a few days.
Tokyo Station is like a small city, with 3000 trains and millions of passengers passing through it every day. Finding the right exit from the hundreds of options was a nightmare, but somehow, we managed to emerge into the cool, rainy night on the right side of the tracks. Breaking the golden rule of travel – never trust a local – by asking a local for help, an elderly gentleman waiting for a taxi pointed us in the direction of our hotel. Luckily, he spoke a little English, and he hurriedly advised us that it was a very long way, and we should take a cab. In typical stubborn Aussie style, after confirming the correct direction, we set off on foot, in the rain, without umbrellas.
Fifteen minutes later, we stumbled into the expensive-looking lobby of a four-star hotel in Tokyo’s ritziest neighbourhood, soaked to the skin, with our two backpacks and baby, much to the horror of the doormen in their pristine suits and white gloves. To their credit, they still managed the slightest of bows in our general direction as they swung open the heavy gilt and glass doors.
Despite their obvious contempt for the two grubby gaijin creating puddles in front of their clean white counter, the reception staff checked us in with the utmost politeness, and just a hint of disbelief that we actually had a booking. I think they would have preferred we hadn’t so they could ever so politely turn us away. But alas… we were in.
Our room was on the tenth floor. I remember that distinctly for the oddest of reasons. An earthquake. As seasoned backpackers, we had rarely found ourselves in the midst of such luxury for a place to sleep. The ¥15,000 price tag ensured that it would be for just one night, so prudently we took advantage of the handheld hot shower and deep Japanese tub to soak away the woes of the previous 12 hours.
Our son, never one to sleep at normal hours for his age, set about exploring the technologically-enhanced accommodation, starting with the mini bar. Settling himself in front of the open fridge door, he liberated two cans of soft drink in quick succession simply by pressing on each one in turn, marvelling at the way they fell at his feet and grinning from ear to ear. As I recklessly tried to reinsert them into their pigeon holes, another two swiftly popped out, sending my son into peals of laughter. What an excellent and expensive game. The blurb in the information folder informed me that drinks from the mini bar were automatically billed to the room via a sophisticated electronic link to the shelves in the fridge. Excellent news! We were already up for four unwanted cans of Coca Cora and something called Calpis.
A couple of hours later, I finally started to relax, lying on the double bed admiring the neon view over this new city. The entire day had taken its weary toll, and the words of a hotel manager I had spoken to on the phone that afternoon were still ringing in my ears. He had told me, rudely and in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t think much of my planning skills, and that I was going to spend a lot of money in Japan. It seemed he was right after all.
It was well after 2 a.m., when, without warning, the bed began to vibrate, a gentle, easy, side to side motion reminiscent of the old massage beds frequently found in cheap Australian motels in the 70s. Alarmed at the thought of more Yen being added to our account, and assuming my son had somehow triggered a switch, I began frantically searching for a way to shut it down. But I couldn’t find one.
As I looked up from the floor in desperation, I noticed that the bed wasn’t the only thing moving. The chandelier light was also swaying from side to side. It was only then that I realised we were experiencing our very first earthquake. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped, and the room returned to an eerie quiet. Welcome to Japan, sitting squarely on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Over the next few years we would become well-acquainted with the ups and downs of Japan’s volcanic geography, and learn that more is actually better when it comes to earthquakes. Upheavals every few days – pleasantly inconvenient. A couple of weeks with no movements – prepare for imminent disaster.
Even though I was exhausted, sleep still eluded me. So, I continued poring over the guide books and information pamphlets we had picked up at the airport reservation desk, looking for a cheaper option for our second night. I didn’t really find one, well, not one that was going to prolong our stay in Japan anyway.
But a little ryokan in a slightly less-expensive, leafy suburb near Roppongi came to our rescue. With a price tag about one-third that of the Ginza hotel, it became a base from which to make another thousand phone calls to what were affectionately termed gaijin houses, places where poor, broke backpackers like ourselves congregated in the hope of saving money by sharing the rent and utilities. Eventually we found one, a former dormitory-style apartment house built by a local company to accommodate their employees. It was located in Chiba Prefecture, just a half-hour train ride to the east of central Tokyo. Together with about thirty other international expatriates who already inhabited its rustic carcass, it would become our home for the next six months.
I liked the shared experience we’ve all had as unlucky travelers, but what caught me was the opening: unprepared and not even headed there… Usually, Seoul is a place you know you’re headed to. They were headed to Korea. That caught my attention, and the frustration after that was palpable – as well as the lighthearted moments.
It was well done and I think we’ll enjoy more of Heather’s writing in the future.
Trip Of A Lifetime
Carrie Ann Alexis
“1.2 million dollars? Did you actually say one. Point. Two. Million. Dollars?” Michael questions as he scoots to the edge of his chair as if getting closer will allow him to hear better, one hand clutching his chest and the other resting on the desk in front of him. With an eyebrow raised he looks at the lawyer waiting for his reply.
“Yes, Mr. Alexander that is correct. Your Aunt Hazel instructed me to tell you the amount of your inheritance, and to give you this.” The lawyer hands him a sealed envelope.
“What is this?” Michael inquires.
Michael struggles to open the envelope, as he alternates from fanning himself, to dabbing his brow with one hand, as the other shaky hand holds onto the envelope. He finally manages to get it open, he takes a deep breath as he unfolds the paper, recognizing his Aunt’s handwriting, he is overcome with emotion his hand involuntarily covers his mouth as he reads to himself.
My Dearest Michael –
Surprised? I can just picture you now, you frantically fanning yourself like you are about to pass out. Breathe dear, calm down, no need getting all verklempt.
Let me explain. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make everyone happy by doing what was expected of me, and what was right. I have decided that in my passing, I will finally do what I want. You and your mother are the only family I have left. Well…the only family by blood. There is actually someone else. There always has been someone else, but I think you already knew that. She is the other beneficiary.
Being neighbors for so many years, and then young widowers for many more, Rose and I formed a bond that went beyond friendship. Our husband’s life insurance policies paid off our houses, and left us enough money to raise our kids and live a comfortable life. Together we invested wisely, and multiplied what we had. We had a good life together, and we were very happy.
Michael, she adores you, she remembers the conversations we all had talking about traveling and seeing the world. That is what I want for you Michael. I have watched you live your life to the fullest, not caring what anyone thinks of you or the choices you make. I want you to use this inheritance to travel and see the world. I want you to be happy. Please resist the urge to put this money into the hair salon. You’re smart as a whip and a damn good hair stylist, the salon will be just fine. Go. See the world!!
One final request. Please look after Rose for me, and be sure to send her a postcard from all the faraway lands you visit.
With a smile on his face, Michael carefully folds the letter, and places it back in the envelope, and whispers more to himself, “Wow.”
With pen in hand, the lawyer says, “I just need you to sign these papers. I’ve known your aunt for many years, she was an exceptional woman, she will be missed by a lot of people.”
Michael handles the paperwork, albeit in a bit of shock. Thanks the lawyer by shaking his hand and leaves the office.
The top was still down on his bright red BMW Z4 Roadster, the sun was still shining, as he started the car. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he didn’t turn the music on, instead he let the wind wash over him as the memories flooded his mind, as he made the short trip to Rose’s house.
He has so many fond memories of long summer evenings spent with his Aunt Hazel and Rose. No topic was off limits with the three of them. They would sit on the back porch talking and laughing until the lightning bugs came out. Even on the hottest of days, they sat and drank coffee, and snacked on Sara Lee Coffee Cake. Aunt Hazel would bring out the flavored coffee creamers whenever she had company, calling herself fancy.
He smiles at the memories, and continues his drive. It’s amazing how drastically life can change in the blink of an eye.
As he pulls into the cul-de-sac, he sees the two familiar houses standing side by side. Even the house itself displays a loss all of its own. A house once so warm and inviting, seems to have lost its fervor without a life residing within it. Even the neighborhood has seemed to have lost its sparkle. He sees Rose, sitting on her porch swing, the slow motion not unlike a pendulum of a clock that is just abiding its time. As he walks up to the front porch, she sees him and smiles, it barely reaches her eyes. They greet each other with a hug, as Michael says, “Hello there Doll Face.” This time with a little less enthusiasm, and a lot more melancholy.
Rose can only muster a single word response, “Michael.” As she holds back tears and leans into his much-needed embrace, knowing this once joyous reunion has quickly turned bittersweet.
She reluctantly steps back, and quickly wipes her eyes. “Let’s go inside. Hazel would have a fit if she knew we were standing out here blubbering all over the sidewalk.”
Michael follows her into a well-kept house. “Make yourself comfortable hon, the coffee is already on, I’ll be back in a minute.”
“I can help you.” Michael insists.
“It’s no trouble, you sit, relax, you’ve been driving all day.”
Michael stops and looks at all the beautiful pictures of Rose’s family displayed proudly on the mantel. Children, grandchildren, and a few great-grandchildren. Many include his Aunt Hazel, with that fabulous smile of hers. She did live a happy life.
Rose enters the dining room and sets a tray on the table. Michael takes a seat as she pours coffee. The Sara Lee coffee cake is already sliced, he smiles as he takes a piece. “You know I had to do it, kind of feels like she’s here with us.” She says with a half-smile.
“Ok Missy, spill it. Did you know about my inheritance?” He eyeballs her as he prepares his coffee with cream and sugar.
“Yes. Yes I did.” She says nodding her head knowingly. “Hazel was so practical that way. You know, my Frank passed away first. She saw how difficult it was for me to make all the arrangements and decisions at such a vulnerable time, but she helped me through it then. Shortly afterwards, she sat your uncle down, and they got all their affairs in order, not knowing she would be burying him just a year later.” She pauses and solemnly shakes her head in disbelief. “Then once her and I started investing together and sharing more of our lives together, she sat me down too. I hated having to think about all that stuff, but that was Hazel, she was the planner, and she wanted the final say for her life.”
Michael quietly takes it all in as he sips his coffee. “So Lovie, we have all this money to see the world, where to first?”
“Oh, Michael dear, those were just silly pipe dreams from a couple of old bittys. We were trying to live vicariously through you. Besides, I don’t think I’d want to travel alone at this point in my life.”
“First of all, you are not an old bitty Sugar. But I do understand your apprehension.” He reassures as he reaches over to lay his hand over hers. “But I tell you what, if ever you get a bug in your bonnet and you just need to get away, you call me, and I’ll be your travel companion. Belize…France…Switzerland…Wisconsin, skies the limit Chica, you let me know.”
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that Michael.”
“Rose. Look at me.” Michael says with a dramatic point towards himself, and an eyebrow raised. “I’m serious.”
“If you’re serious…there is some place…”
With an excited gasp, Michael says, “Really? Where?”
“My granddaughter is having one of those destination weddings in Hawaii in December, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there alone, everyone is so busy preparing for the wedding I didn’t want to bother anyone to travel with me.”
“It’s done Darlin’, I’ll be your plus one. After the nuptials, we’ll get ourselves a place on the beach, hire us a cabana boy, and we’ll be sipping margaritas as we watch the sunset. Give me all the info, and leave the details to me. You just worry about looking like the fabulous grandma that you are.” He takes her hand and kisses it with a loud “muah” sealing the deal.
“Oh Michael, thank you so much, I’m excited now.” She reaches over and gives him a hug.
Mumbling more to himself in silent outrage, “Hm…missing your grandbaby’s wedding…no siree…not on my watch!!”
Michael stays overnight and heads home in the morning. He genuinely enjoyed his visit, he makes a mental note to do this more often.
Before he gets on the road, he calls Nita. She’s not only his business partner, but his best friend. He knows she’ll want to hear all about his trip, and he’d rather talk with her without the interruptions of a busy day.
“Hey, I’m on my way back, let’s meet somewhere for lunch. I have so much to tell you!!”
“Ok great, I just found this wonderful new sub shop, called Firehouse Subs, it’s decorated like a firehouse, and was actually founded by fireman.”
“Ohhhh sounds delicious.”
“Michael, they’re just subs. It’s in the strip mall on 119th Street. What time should I meet you there?”
“I can be there in about an hour and a half. Oh, and Nita, I wasn’t talking about the subs. Bye!!” he disconnects the call with a mischievous grin.
As they walk up to the sub shop, Michael reads the sign on the door aloud, “Founded by Fireman, Ohhh now that’s fun, I hope we run into some. I mean literally…run into them.” He turns his head and nods as he looks at Nita and opens the door.
Giving him a playful push through the entrance, “Oh my god Michael, behave.” Nita says shaking her head.
After taking far too long to decide what he wanted to order, they finally get their food and find a table and sit down.
“So, tell me all about your trip.”
“Well. The ride down is always nice, the weather was gorgeous, I was cruising in my Beemer with the top down, and the tunes cranked up, the wind in my hair and not a care in the world.” He dramatically says as he looks off into the distance.
“Michael!!” Nita startles him out of his reverie. “How about you get to the part about meeting the lawyer.” She nods her head with a smile as she takes a bite of her sandwich.
He clutches his chest and laments, “You wound me with your harshness.”
With a dramatic eye roll, Nita takes another bite of her sandwich.
“Fine. I was getting to that part anyway. It seems that dear Aunt Hazel had a secret. Pfsh, like I didn’t already know.” He gave a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Really?” With eyes wide and eyebrows raised.
Michael knowingly nods his head and hands her an envelope, “The lawyer said he was instructed by my aunt to inform me of my inheritance, and then give me this letter to read. Here, read it for yourself.”
Nita wipes her hands on a napkin and reaches over to take the envelope. She pulls a folded letter from it and reads it to herself.
“Wow Michael, that is wonderful!! When is your first trip? Where is your first trip?” truly excited for him.
“I’ll get to all that. Don’t you want to know how much?”
“Sure, if you want to tell me.” She replies as she reaches for her Coke.
Michael looks to his left then to his right. He leans forward and whispers, “One point two million.”
She almost spits out her drink, but instead starts coughing, but manages to say, “Are you kidding me?”
“Oh. My. God…Michael!!”
“I know right?” He says with his hand splayed across his chest. “But anyhow…before I left, I went to visit Rose. We had a nice visit. Turns out, her granddaughter is having one of those destination weddings in Hawaii. Rose didn’t want to travel alone, so she thought she would miss it.” He lifted his shoulder in a half shrug, “I suggested that I be her plus one. The wedding is in December.” Thinking nothing of it, he takes a bite of his sandwich, then looks up at Nita.
She is just staring at him with a huge smile on her face.
“What?” He questions.
“Michael!! You are simply the best.” She says with admiration.
“Yeah, I know…it is a gift.” He replies with a smirk.
Nita wads up a napkin and throws it at him. Shaking her head, smiling, she rolls her eyes.
© 2017 Carrie Ann
Let’s face it: $1.2 million dollars caught my attention, and I was wondering what he’d do with the cash – as well as what was up with all those kinda zany characters. It was equally fun and mysterious to read. Again, I expect great things from Carrie Ann going forward.
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