I lost my mind in early December and signed up for a writing conference. It’s coming up in April, and there was an associated contest. I decided to enter, but I thought I wasn’t going to make it. The essay was due on January 3, and we all know how I feel about December. It was a little bit of madness even to try.
But our nephew got married on New Year’s Eve, and there was a little travel. We drove to Michigan, and by we I mean Paul. I discovered that I can write pretty well with the laptop propped on the door of an open glove compartment. Paul’s contribution (in addition to driving) was not talking to me very much, which those of you who have met him will know was a sacrifice.
I ended up with nearly 700 words, and the maximum allowed was 450. Gulp. I edited. Hard. I sent it to a couple of friends. They edited. Hard. I couldn’t believe it, but a few iterations later, it was under the limit. I slept on it, gulped again, and hit send.
Well … I didn’t win.
I wasn’t expecting to. There were a lot of submissions. A LOT a lot. But I like what I wrote, so I’m sharing it with you. You can decide for yourself what you think.
Essay below the picture, which will make slightly more sense after you read.
I had to go up in the attic. I didn’t hate it the way I hated the cellar, but still. Yuck. I’d married a bachelor farmer just turning forty, and he came with a farmhouse constructed around a 150-year-old cabin made of twelve-inch logs. The original cabin was solid, but had become a little whopperjawed in the intervening years.
The coolness of the cellar would at least be refreshing in the summer heat. It was going to be sweltering up under the uninsulated roof. I was tempted to strip to my underthings to climb the attic stairs, but I just needed a couple of suitcases. I’d be quick.
I was prepared for the mounted groundhog staring dully at me as I reached the top of the narrow staircase. I was not prepared for him to move.
I shrieked, and discovered I’d descended the stairs, though I’d made no conscious decision to retreat. I took a breath, put a foot on the bottom step, and looked up. Stuffed groundhogs did not move. Was I hallucinating in the heat?
I crept back up and checked my furry friend. He was motionless on his side. Huh. I reached toward him and motion exploded again, but this time I held my ground.
A lone starling was sheltering behind the groundhog. We locked eyes.
“You don’t scare me,” I said, and moved toward the suitcases. A second later, I was at the bottom of the stairs yet again.
I was standing there contemplating cowardice when my husband, Paul, arrived. “Are you being murdered?” he asked. My startled shriek had brought him scurrying up from the cellar.
“There is a bird,” I said, pointing sternly upward. “Get rid of it!”
Paul looked up and cocked his head.
He turned dubious eyes on me.
The silence stretched.
“Are you sure?” Paul asked. “I mean, did you see the bird?”
I stared, dumbstruck. We were newlyweds, true, but surely he’d learned something in those five months.
“There is,” I enunciated, “a live bird in the attic. I was going after suitcases. You get them!”
I left to wash my hands and pretend I couldn’t hear the crashing, the cussing, or the pitiful chirping above my head. Shortly after things fell silent, suitcases splattered with fresh bird droppings appeared at the bedroom door.
The incident wasn’t mentioned again until months later when Paul came in after parking the tractor in the shed. “I swear I saw a bald eagle when I was working!” he said. “Just a glimpse and then when I looked again he was gone.”
“Oh?” I said. “Are you sure? Did you see the bird?”