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24-hour short story contest entry

Story ID:4996
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Fictional USA
Year:2009
Person:Fictional
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
WARNING!!!!! MATURE CONTENT

I was entered in the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story contest this weekend.

They send a topic and the word count. I have
24 hours to send my entry in.

The topic and word count were:

TODAY'S TOPIC!

"Silly Scilla, silly Scilla," the young girl
sang, as she pushed another tiny blue flower into
her hair. She knew she would have to remove these
adornments before they returned to the house.
When Mamm gently cleared her throat, the girl
remembered the tiny celery seeds that had been
spilling out of her apron all morning.

She sighed and settled down in an empty row,
digging her bare toes into the cool soil. She
froze when her foot bumped something hard.
Scooping the dirt aside with her fingers, she
found a tiny, tattered purse. Glancing at her
mother to ensure her secret treasure was still a
secret, she opened the clasp...

~~~~~

WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not
exceed 900 words. (Your story's title is *not*
included in the word count. We use MSWord's word
count function to determine the final word count
in submission.)

Rules:

1. Your story does NOT need to include the exact
topic, word-for-word, as written above. It must
only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.
Lots of writers ask this question during each
contest, so we want this to be perfectly clear.
You don't have to quote the topic word-for-word,
but you may if you like. It's your decision. Yes,
you may change the gender and/or age of the
character(s) in the topic above.


***********

They like something different. The last winner of the contest didn't come close to touching the topic.

The lady who does the contest, posts the most
common themes of the entries after they have
completed the judging. My entries always seem
to fall into one of those themes.

This time, I tried to take it in a direction no
one else would. I changed the genders and barely hinted about the planting.


I'd love your opinions.
I warn you, this is not my normal style.
This contest makes me think outside the box.

My entry:

Can You Here the Rain

Jim sat on the edge of his bunk and
stared at the bricks walls. The shouts of
scared, angry men echoed around him. The door to
his cell rattled and opened with a
clatter. “You got company, Jim.”

Jim looked up to see a man more than six
feet tall and three hundred pounds
block the doorway. The light from the hall
reflected off his bald, black head, as he turned
and smiled at Jim. “That’s my bunk, punk!” the
man snarled.

Jim faked bravado. “I was here first.”

“They don’t call me ‘Jack Hammer’ for
nothing, white boy!” Even though he was
six feet away, Jim winced at the foul odor coming
from between the man’s rotted teeth.
“I’ll have whatever bunk I want.”

Jack moved toward Jim with an awkward
gait. The prison uniform, several sizes too small
for the big man, restrained his movement. As
Hammer sauntered closer, Jim
heard the taught material creak as it stretched
over the rolls of fat at the man’s waist and
the budging muscles of his arms and neck. Jim
jumped down from the top bunk. He was
stupid enough to be in prison, but he wasn’t
insane. “Here, man. You can have whatever
bunk you want. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“You’re smarter than you look, shit-wad.”
Jack moved toward the bunks. As he
passed Jim, he turned with surprising speed for a
big man, grabbed Jim by the throat,
lifted him from the floor, and slammed him
against the wall. “You do as I say and you’ll
live to experience another day in this hellhole.”
He tightened his grip on Jim’s throat.
Hammer’s face was inches from Jim’s face. Jim was
almost grateful for the death grip
on this throat. He didn’t want to smell Jack’s
breath up close. “You understand me,
asshole?”

Jim nodded his head.

“Good!” Jack dropped Jim to the floor.
Jim curled into a ball, gasped for breath
and watched the big man leap onto the top bunk
and lay down. The frame of the bunk
bent, threatened to break, and then held the
weight of the behemoth. Jim waited to see if
Jack would attack again. When he thought it was
safe, he crawled to the lower bunk.
Quietly and gently as he could, Jim pulled
himself from the floor, and settled into his
lower bunk without disturbing the monster above
him.

Jim dozed off, but was awoken minutes
later by the shouts of a thousand men. He
jumped up and was nearly killed when Jack-Hammer
leaped from the bunk above and knocked him out of
the way. “What’s going on, white mouse?”

“I don’t know, Hammer?”

“It’s ‘Jack’ to you, punk.”

“Sorry, Jack. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Jack ignored him. They both rushed to the
cell door and stared out through the
small, grated opening. On the other side of the
prison complex, one tier below them,
guards dragged a young man of about eighteen
along the caged walkway. They stopped
three-quarters way down and signaled to an
unknown viewer. The cell door in front of
them opened and they roughly shoved the young man
into the dark opening. They
signaled again. The doors closed, but not before
Jim and Jack heard the beginning of the
screams that would last for hours.

Later that night, Jack, who seemed to
know the guards who patrolled their section,
asked one of them. “Harry, what’s up with that
screaming kid?”

“Him?” Harry slapped his nightstick
repeatedly against the palm of his hand and
nodded his head toward the cell where the young
man’s whimpers could now barely be
heard. “The kid snatched a woman’s purse. A guy
of about fifty tried to stop him from
getting away. The kid shoved the old guy. The man
fell and racked his brains out against
the bumper of a parked car. The kid kept running
and left the poor guy to die.

“We put him in with Crazy Corkem.” The
guard chuckled. “The kid is going to
be with us for awhile. He may as well get used to
his new life.”

When the lights went out for the night,
Jim lay in his bunk and hoped the bunk
held the weight of the monster above him. He
pictured his tombstone. “Here lies Jim
Salter – crushed by one mean piece of shit.”

Jack snored, comfortable with his
surroundings.

Jim felt tears run down his cheeks. He
was only nineteen. Until his trial, he
didn’t know how many of his young years would be
wasted in here. His life story ran
over-and-over in his head. It was always so
easy. He never thought he’d get caught.

He remembered the first time. He’d been
planting the garden with his father and
grandfather. They were always poor. The garden
saved money. Jim, even at the age of
twelve, knew he would do better when he was
older. He planted the seeds as his father
tilled the soil ahead of him. The wallet fell
from his father’s back pocket. Jim looked
up, but when his father seemed not to notice his
loss, Jim kicked dirt over it.

They finished planting. On their way back
to the house, Jim held back and
waited for his father and grandfather to enter
the barn. When they were out of sight,
Jim uncovered the wallet. Inside was all the
money the family owned - $56 dollars.
It was a fortune to the young man. To the family,
it meant survival. Jim took the money
and buried the wallet deep in the soil, below the
level a tiller could reach.

That evening, the whole family searched
the property for the lost wallet. Jim
pretended to search with them, but his thoughts
were on what he’d use the money for.
His mother’s tears failed to touch his
conscience. His family’s plight meant little. Jim
was rich.

For the next seven years, Jim stole
little things whenever he could. At first
it was just pens, calculators, and spare change.
The thrill of success made him giddy with
power. A year ago, he entered a home of a
neighbor’s while they were out. He stole a
camera and cash from a purse. Soon Jim made their
house a regular stop. One day he
discovered a credit card. Without thinking, he
grabbed it up.

The next day he bought hundred’s of
dollars worth of new clothes. A few days
later, the police showed up at their home. Jim
was caught on camera using the card.
It was his first big mistake. He was charged with
several counts of burglary, theft, and
fraud and faced many years in jail.

Jim remembered the first time his father
visited him. It was three weeks after
his arrest. Jim cried. “Dad, I’m sorry. I don’t
know why I did it. I know you’re ashamed
of me.” His father just stared at him with his
own tears rolling down his unshaven face.

“Dad, say something.”

His father wiped his eyes. “Jim, I don’t
know what to say. I see you behind this
thick glass and wonder where I went wrong.” He
paused. “Jim, I think about you all the
time. I worry about you, but I know this is where
you need to be. You have to pay for
your wrongs.

“You’ve tossed away your freedom. It will
be a long time before you feel
the wind in your hair or the sun on your face. A
storm rolled through last night.
It brought much-needed relief to the parched
fields. I sat in my chair and wondered
something. Jim, behind these thick walls …” he
paused. “Jim, behind these walls,
can you hear the rain? Can you hear the rain,
son?”


Michael T. Smith