FIRST PLACE: Colleen Chesebro
SECOND PLACE: Frank Hubeny
THIRD PLACE: Faith A. Colburn
HON MEN: Tracey Robinson, Nidheesh Samant, Liz Husebye Hartmann
A Visit with Grammy by Colleen Chesebro
Jess ran. She couldn’t miss this bus, or Grammy would worry at her late arrival.
She stumbled into the queue as a woman towing a wheeled suitcase pushed past her. Jess swerved to miss it, whacking the woman’s elbow with her own. She stepped out of the way and bumped into the man in front of her.
“Sorry,” Jess muttered.
“Ouch! Who’s there?” asked the woman.
“It wasn’t me,” said the man.
Then, Jess remembered. They couldn’t see or hear her, only feel her ghostly touch. She didn’t need to ride the bus to visit Grammy – she flew.
Untitled by Frank Hubeny
James had just enough cash to fill the tank of his pickup. He started up the ramp to the interstate when he saw the couple in the dark wave him down. He stopped, but he didn’t expect them to ask to be taken to Canaan, over a hundred miles away. At this time of night there would be few cars. She was pregnant.
He brought them to their rundown apartment.
While driving back James wondered why he was asked to help those two angels in the north woods. He never saw them again, but they never left his side.
Time Travel by Faith A. Colburn
Exploring Grandma’s house, I set a ladder into the attic. As if waiting for me, a leather-bound journal appeared in a stray sunbeam next to the ladder. Opening it, I journeyed back to 1886. With Great-Grandma, I watched workmen lay limestone foundation stones, level them, and frame the two stories with gables. She couldn’t wait to move into her very own space. At the end, she wrote that things started moving mysteriously. She heard noises. She described a ghost in the attic: brown hair, green eyes, dressed like me. She even noticed my silver barrette—her barrette I inherited.
Untitled by Tracey Robinson
The greenhouse effect was brutal in the car and Lindsey’s three year old howled with misery. It was a long drive from Montana to Arizona. Spying a park at the next exit she found a deserted, shady playground. Soon Katie was worn out. “Want ice cream?” Lindsey asked Katie.
As Lindsey strapped Katie into her car seat she felt dizzy and decided to find a place with air-conditioning. She closed the car door and collapsed, her head bouncing off the pavement. Katie’s wails went unheard as the temperature in the car climbed and then she too succumbed to death.
Untitled by Nidheesh Samant (The Dark Netizen)
This was it, the conclusion of my long journey.
I was tired of the slum I was living in. It was suffocating, seeing the same sad faces every day. I could not continue living in the darkness as my family did. One day, I left my home and decided to travel to the glamorous big city. I managed to hitchhike at a highway diner.
As I reached my destination, I thanked the man in the only way I knew how. I drank his blood. Now it’s time to live my dream of spreading dengue and malaria in the city.
Homeward Hike by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Above the timberline, stunted trees of high altitude are little more than memory. As far as the eye can see, reindeer moss is sparked with tiny white flowers and golden clusters of cloudberry. My boots crunch and drag across sharp gravel. I should break for steaming tea and chocolate squares, gather cloudberries, and save my orange.
The final peak stands stern above the clouds.
No stop, berries abandoned, I emerge, eyelashes ice-coated, blinded by sunset. I’ve made it from filthy city to purified mountain top, in time for transport.
I lift my hands to the pulsating beam of light.
Batter Up! By JulesPaige
Such a pleasure to travel and get together with family. Read into that sarcasm. Stuffing people into all corners into a crowded motorhome is a challenge. One family of four in one room barely big enough for the double bed. Kiddies slept on the floor. What a treat.
Controlling cook can’t take friendly advice… Grandma just has to make waffles for everyone, but the batter sticks. Ignores husband’s suggestion for vegetable oil spray. Wants to start over. Son In Law hadn’t heard; just sprays the unit… Look Mom, no sticking!
Observers excuse themselves, to the backyard. For hysterical laughter.
Twisted Trail by Carol Keefer
The bus driver quit after about an hour on the road. We were delayed for quite a while until a new driver took over driving the bus. The delay meant that I would miss the departure of the commuter van from Rock Springs and would have to stay overnight at the bus station in Rock Springs and depart the next morning for Jackson Hole. To my surprise, the Rock Springs bus station wasn’t open at night. I didn’t have money to get a hotel room in Rock Springs. I had to sleep outside in the cold under the stars.
Untitled by Joelle LeGendre (Floridaborne)
Morocco. My God, the stench!
My daughter met me at the airport, taking my luggage to a train, and then stuffing it into a taxi the size of a two person bathtub.
No lines on the road, cars weaving… a near miss! Daughter insisted upon talking at a woman in the midst of an anxiety attack.
I barely heard the list of cultural no-no’s thrown at me, “Never enter a taxi without a meter. Wear flip-flops if there’s a shower… ”
I did hear the very last one, “Don’t say anything bad about the King or you’ll be killed.”
A Boor Abroad in Europe (1963) by Bill Engleson
That first week, we hit Paris. A week of baguettes, cheese and wine.
Kavanaugh may like beer, but me? Vino, mon ami.
The second week? Switzerland. Clocks and way too much cheese.
The third week? Italy. Venice. More vino. And tons of pasta.
But I’m here to talk about the fourth week.
I must say that Austria is a blur.
Except for Hellbrunn Castle.
Now that was a brilliant castle.
Maybe you have to be sixteen to appreciate an outdoor concrete dining table…and chairs, each chair outfitted with a geyser shooting guests up the butt?
I sure did.
Untitled by Lori Bonati
When my husband divorced me, I gave myself one week to recover. Then I booked a flight to Rome. Time to move on!
My preparations were simple. I bought a suitcase, studied Italian, and researched my family tree.
I discovered I had a second cousin my age, living in Rome. When I arrived at my hotel, I emailed him.
Me: Please join me here for a glass of wine!
Him: Sì, naturalmente! Ciao!
He was tall, dark, and vaguely familiar. He kissed me and removed his sunglasses. It was my husband! The cad had been living a double life.
Lilith by Saifun Hassam
Along the coastal highway to SeaQuail, the stormy gray Pacific mirrored my heartache. Near the crest of Old Forest Road, I turned into Lilith’s cottage. On the teak desk was my birthday gift to Lilith, from several years ago. A driftwood cornucopia of sailboats, seashells, and seagulls.
I remembered long ago summer days, when Dad, Lilith and I sailed to the Sea Caves. And the up and downs of living with Lilith.
A week ago, Lilith died while sailing along Seaquail’s forested shores. She left the cottage, and a deep love for the sea, to me, her stepdaughter Geena.
Always Be Prepared by Ritu Bhathal
Travel light. That’s what mum always said.
Easy enough when you are off on holiday to a sun-soaked destination. What more do you need than a few swimsuits, some cheap sundresses, sunglasses and sun cream?
So, there I was, with my one bag, ready to be slung into the overhead locker.
And there was Jen.
With her huge suitcase.
“Jeez Jen! What’s in there? Your whole life?”
“Always be prepared,” she smirked.
The wind howled.
For the third day running the weathermen warned us to stay inside.
I sat, shivering.
Not Jen: in her emergency thermals and gloves.
‘C’est la vie’ Maui by JulesPaige
Maui, what could go wrong on an island that has every temperate zone you would ever want?
Freezing your backside off at Mount Haleakala, sipping pineapple wine at the old plantation distillery. Snorkeling to witness ancient and colorful coral with fishy companions in bath water? Maybe even finding (on private property) petroglyphs on a cave wall.
That is one way to spend your twenty fifth wedding anniversary. What we didn’t expect were the high grocery prices, since almost everything has to be shipped in.
Hubby did not want a photo of the flat petrified frog. ʻO ia ke ola!
What Are Friends For by Susan Sleggs
About a year after my older husband died, my high school chums, Tina, Joan and Liz invited me for a long weekend in Key West. I had my doubts it would be a fun time, but the sunshine, sea and reminiscing over drinks was therapeutic. One particular bar had an awesome piano player that always played with his head down. On our fourth visit it was my turn to feed his tip jar. As I dropped the five, he looked up and said, “Hi Christy.” I nearly fainted onto Liz’s bother’s piano bench; my fondly remembered high school sweetheart.
A Break with Tradition by Norah Colvin
As was their tradition, a month before their anniversary, they’d spread out the brochures. “Where to this year, love?” they’d say, then close their eyes and spin the globe. Wherever the pin stuck was their destination. This was her turn.
“The Pacific. A cruise,” she said. “You always loved a cruise.”
As always, she organised and packed.
“It’s time,” she said when the taxi arrived.
She pulled the door and twisted the knob.
“On your own this year?”
“He’s done with travelling.” A little too much in parts.
The insurance made hers an around-the-world ticket; his to worlds beyond.
A New Life in Australia by Marjorie Mallon
Michael opened the pill pack and saw a tiny warning – you may experience unknown side effects. He disregarded caution and swallowed. As he boarded the plane, he felt no flight anxiety, but a weird sensation lingered around his nipples. He took his seat and within seconds he fell asleep. Before he knew it, the plane landed and he made his way towards his lover. His body trembled with excitement. As he approached her, she looked past him. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, so he hugged her. She shrieked.
His huge breasts and an absence between his legs overwhelmed her.
How far from Home Had She Travelled? By Debbie Harris
Who knew, and in the end, who really cared?
All she knew was that she had left her old world behind. The water filled, floating world inside her carrier was long gone.
This was now her home.
A new world in which to start over again, blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead.
Starting over was always like this, a bit of a thrill and yet slightly sickening at the same time.
Life would never be the same again, for her, or this new family she’d been gifted to.
She’d travelled a long way and her new life had begun.
Untitled by H.R.R. Gorman
The houses looked like tiny squares from my vantage in the sky. San Francisco, home to this year’s Harry Potter conference, grew closer as I descended. The pyramidal financial tower became noticeably taller, and the garbage-laced scent of the atmosphere burned my nostrils. I clenched as my descent steepened.
When my broom finally landed, I dusted off my robes and shuffled through the barbecue rubs in my satchel. I found my Slytherin house sticker sunk to the bottom. I peeled it off the wax paper and stuck the cosplay camouflage on my breast. Those muggles wouldn’t suspect a thing.
Leaving His Mark by Geoff Le Pard
‘This is fine, Martin.’ Sheila wiped away sweat.
Martin squinted at the harsh blue sky. ‘You going to tell me now.’
Not sweat, tears. She looked round. Scarfell hadn’t changed much.
Martin shivered. ‘Come on. Seven hours in the car, before this bloody mountain and…’
Sheila opened her rucksack. ‘We met just here…’
‘Are they dad’s…?’
She unscrewed the lid of the urn. ‘I promised him.’ She knelt by a sloping rock. ‘I caught him taking a leak.’ She smiled. ‘I covered up for him. Many times.’ She tipped out the ashes. ‘Now he can cover up for himself.’
Escape by Sascha Darlington
Uneasily Mariele guided the horse-drawn wagon, her stomach roiling. Dressed as a boy, she was accompanied by her little brother, Marc.
Soldiers stopped them before the exit leading to the monastery.
“What do we have here?” a soldier asked.
“Hops for the Trappists.” Marc’s voice quavered slightly.
The soldiers examined the hops, joked about beer, then waved them on.
They rode to the back of the monastery. Monks swarmed the wagon. To an onlooker, they appeared industrious.
The tall British flier escaped into the stone building, unnoticed, except for Mariele, teary-eyed, yet lighter of heart, knowing he was free.
Ancient Treasures? by JulesPaige
Lake Michigan, even in the summer can be a very cold body of water. There is a nice little historical town on its south west border that I got to explore. The two beaches had some limitations due high liquidity. That didn’t stop me from exploring those sandy shores almost every day.
The best things I found after all the colorful beach glass and a few shells were two pieces of pottery. A local expert explained they were from shipwrecks. I also found a aged clay bit decorated with fossils. Better than diamonds and pearls for a history buff.
Nailed It! by D.G. Kaye
My seat vibrates with the familiar sound of wheels locking, in preparation for landing.
Good to be home despite missing the sizzling sunshine of St. Martin.
Glancing my souvenir, my stomach tightens at the familiar fear of having to pass customs with zero intentions of mentioning my sparkler. Sliding the ring off, I stashed it in my bra. Please don’t send me to inspection, a familiar prayer I chant in silence awaiting my turn to declare, or not.
Customs form in hand, I immerse myself in the cattle-like crowd, hoping to go unnoticed by the inspection deciders.
Honeymoon by Kerry E.B. Black
After frantic wedding festivities, Cam and Saleem rushed to the solitude of a Bermuda honeymoon. Pink sand beaches, intimate dinners, Vespas instead of cars.
They’d planned the elaborate wedding for over a year, accommodating international guests and coordinating elaborate expectations. They’d dated for seven years before his proposal.
Cam longed to finally enjoy alone time with Saleem. She admired his chiseled profile as she slipped into her negligee. With a sigh, she nestled into his lap. “Now we can begin married life.”
Saleem pushed her away. “This is a mistake.”
“Us. Married. I want an annulment.”
No Vacancies by Anne Goodwin
As we left yet another fully-booked hotel, the woman beckoned. Down a dingy hallway, up a ramshackle staircase, along a corridor scented with pine. No fire escape, but it was only one night.
Proudly, she unlocked a panelled door and flicked on the light. No window, however tiny. No wash basin, however grimy and cracked. No bed, not even a hammock or sperm-stained mattress on the floor. The woman cackled when we voiced our disappointment. “You wanted room. No-one mentioned bed.”
Streetlights spangled the drizzle as we headed to the station, striking Lima from the itinerary in our heads.
Garbled Creese by Steve Lodge
I’d had a lot on my mind lately, but not a lot in it. I filled the car so full of petrol, that I couldn’t get in it. So I took the train.
I remembered our parents taking my sister, Moon Over Tuppence and me to some hotel near the gorge at Garbled Creese, so we could taste emmental.
Now I return in triumph, having created a stuffed broccoli cheese premix. If blended in a wok the mix could be taken intravenously, while Shakespearean lessons could continue uninterrupted. Let’s see them try dangling me off the gorge bridge now!
Untitled by Sam Kirk
Off I was on an adventure of a lifetime. Kissing my mother goodbye, I assured her I would call every day. She was happy for me, but also fearful, knowing she could not protect me any longer.
It felt freeing to be on my own. But when I made some friends along the way, who joined me, I could not have been happier.
We rented a car, but soon the fuel flashed “empty”. Having nothing to refill the tank with, we crawled towards the horizon where we found a toll booth.
“I will now weigh your sins” – said God.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Nancy Brady
Daniel told Bonnie to dress for hiking and to pack water and trail mix.
When they arrived at the trailhead, they began the climb to the top of the hill where the Sand Cave was located. Each switchback provided a new wonder to behold: a babbling brook, deer crossing the trail, a cataract whose droplets formed a rainbow in the sunlight, and most wondrous of all, the cave itself with its colorful sands and a proposal.
Wreathed in happy smiles, they hiked down. Still staring at the rock on her finger, Bonnie twisted her ankle in the parking lot.
Chester Takes Ruth on a Trip by Molly Stevens
Ruth burst in after a visit with their neighbor, and said, “Chester, we need to go away!”
“What cockamamie idea has Myra planted in your head?”
“She went to Mexico.”
“I see plenty of the world here in my recliner watching the Travel Channel. And I don’t have to wear pants.”
“You know it’s not the same.”
But Chester heard her, and did the unexpected – booked them a trip around the world.
“What country did you like best?” he asked.
“It’s hard to pick, but I loved Morocco.”
“Next year I’ll rent us a scooter. Epcot is humungous.”
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