Tonight I submitted my entry for a (very) short story contest at NPR.org.  It's a contest they've run once before, and I truly enjoyed listening to the finalists read their stories on the air.  In brief, the guidelines include a max word count of 600 words and each entry must begin with the same sentence: The nurse left work at five o'clock.

With the best of intentions, I began my contest entry last week.  But, as is always the case, everything else more important kept me skirting the edges of creativity until, at last, the deadline loomed.  Tonight, at 11:30, 29 minutes before the cut off, I crawled into bed and opened my laptop, determined to finish the damn thing or die.

I did finish it.  And, with less than sixty seconds to change my mind, I filled out the form, copied and pasted the text, and hit SEND. 

After sending, naturally, I saw several things which needed tweaking.  Each more glaring than the last.  Procession became setting.  Peppermint became Pepsodent.  The last line morphed thrice. 

It was too late to make those changes for any judge to consider, but I still felt compelled to make the corrections.  My piece needed pruning, and even though it was after midnight, I determined it was time to prune.  After all, that's what a real writer would do, right?  (Wouldn't she also make her writing a priority rather than neglecting it until the last second, gifting herself the possibility of edits and rewrites prior to the deadline?  A novel idea to be sure, and one I'd rather deny entirely at the moment.)

Finally, it was done.  It's far from perfect, far from poignant or insightful or memorable or anything else resembling good writing.  But it's something very near to what I envisioned last week when I began this circuitous journey in the first place, and that's a mini-victory in and of itself.  So, because this is better than what I just attached my name to and tossed out into the arena for judgment, I decided I should post it here.  My 515-word short story entitled Corregidor.
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confessions.jpegApologies are tricky.

When we were little, my brothers and I committed an endless stream of wrongs against one another.  Once we'd been caught by the folks, each of us was directed to apologize to the victim of the teasing, the ostracizing, the exclusion, the punching, the ditching, or the name calling.  Those apologies were never sincere.  We were unrepentant and eager to get on with our games.

"I'm sorry I abandoned you while we were playing hide and seek."

"I'm sorry I
accidentally made your lip bleed when we were wrestling."

"I'm sorry that I pedaled really fast and left you to bike to school alone."

Our parents knew we were insincere, too, but they orchestrated the whole ceremony of acknowledgment and apology anyway.  What's more, they orchestrated the ultimate act of forgiveness.  This last part was equally insincere, but even more important than the apology itself.

"I forgive you."

"I forgive you."

"I forgive you."

It was the act of repenting and the act of forgiving which my parents wanted to instill in us. They couldn't force us to be sorry for something, but they could teach the difference between right and wrong and then take us through the paces of apology and forgiveness.

Eventually, we began to apologize for stuff on our own, too. Wonder of wonders! We processed the situations and empathized with our victims and then, urged by something akin to the Golden Rule, we attempted to repair the damage with words.  Even at times when we didn't feel regret or guilt, seeing the sorrowful look on our sibling's face was enough to squeeze the apology out of us. And in the end we learned something, garnered trust, improved our relationships.  Apologizing made a difference, even when the motivation wasn't sincere.
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wakeu.jpgIt is a quarter to six.  Our window is open.  A thick layer of cloud stretches the expanse of the sky.  Sprinklers twitch.  Birds whistle.  Their songs are long and breezy, as cool as the morning air.  The tires of an early commuter's car crunch on the asphalt. 

My eyelids are heavy.  It takes me a second to focus past the blur of sleep.  It's not time to get up.  Most of the city is still sleeping, including my husband.  He's buried in blankets and I can only make out his forehead and the bridge of his nose and the crescent moons of his closed eyes, fringed with dark, sleepy lashes. 

I roll over slowly, so as not to disturb him, and settle back into the mattress for another forty-five minutes of sleep.

I wanna run through the halls of my high school.
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs!
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world,
Just a lie we have to rise above.

The alarm goes off at six-thirty.  John Mayer annoys me.  I squint against his gauzy voice and whiny lyrics, willing myself to stand up and shut him down.

Somebody narrates current traffic conditions.  Long lines of cars are oozing over the Altamont Pass.  Ambulances are shrieking toward the scene of a three car accident on 680 South.  The Bay Bridge back-up isn't anymore severe than usual, but that's still pretty bad.

Then the DJs begin their shtick, bantering about celebrity gossip and movie releases.  It occurs to me through the fog of fatigue that I loathe their voices. I miss Carolyn McArdle. The "best songs of the eighties, nineties, and today" aren't the same without her.

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084.jpg

I dedicate this entry to my husband, the best man I've ever known. Happy 5th Anniversary, Mr. Jonathan Peter Camp!

Five years ago, I stole down the curving staircase in my parents' home, an undulating cloud of white train and veil in my wake.  My hands met Jonathan's first, anxious fingers pulling us to one another.  Suddenly my hands and wrists and arms and elbows and shoulders seemed very grown up. 

With these hands, I would soon be working as half of a husband and wife team to make a stable home.  With these arms I would hold my husband, would care for him and comfort him, would convey love and desire and unity.  With these fingers I would provide nourishment (both by dialing the phone to order pizza and cooking, at least annually).  With these shoulders, I would bear the weight of responsibility that comes when there is no longer a parent to protect, but only you and your spouse to support each other.

As I reached the bottom step, we came together, embraced and kissed.  A shimmer of tears tangled in my lashes and threatened to fall, but then we were laughing, surveying each other in all our wedding day finery. 

Who were these sparkling, squeaky clean people?  Not a trace of dirt or sweat or chalk anywhere!  Not a scuffed sole, a torn jean, a wrinkled ballcap!  He was absolutely clean shaven and I was manicured.  For crying out loud, I was pedicured!  Where was the mountain man?  Where was the tomboy?      

I have been inspired by my friend and fellow blogger, Anthony (Anthony and his wife are expecting their first baby, and Anthony has taken it upon himself to catalog the throes of impending fatherhood with grace and humor.  Check out Baby C's Blog if you have a minute...), to tell the story of my first date with Jonathan.  The only trouble is I can't pinpoint the first date very easily.  There are several date-ish candidates which could apply.  That being the case, I thought I'd take a stab at summing up all three (or four) and then putting it to a vote.  When did Jonathan and I actually begin "dating?"

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