The Summer of Reality

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This story was part of the collection of writing samples I submitted for the Creative Writing Scholarship contest at Arkansas Tech University in Spring 1999. I placed 4th, so I was pretty excited about that. The scholarship paid for my books for my first year in college. 

The Summer of Reality, 1999

The last day that I was ever fifteen, I went to the mall with my Mom, my aunt Carrie, and my best friend Melanie.

Earlier that morning, I mailed a letter that could change my whole life if the receiver decided to at least humor me. During the previous school year, I had developed a crush on a new boy named Mike. He was everything  I wanted and so wrong for me. He seemed like the perfect guy, except for the fact that he was nervous and tongue-tied around me, which did not help in our getting to know each other.

The mall seemed better than usual, or maybe it was just my birthday money burning a hole in my pocket.

“So what are you planning to do this summer?” Melanie asked me to take my mind off of the slow restaurant workers. “You never did tell me where you’re going for vacation.”

“We’re not sure yet, but I think we’re going to Alabama, Mississippi, and possibly Florida,” I told her, wishing that our conversation could switch to serious matters such as the letter to Mike.

“Maybe you’ll get to see the ocean,” she said. She smiled. “Or maybe you could even see a lighthouse. Then it would all be worth it.” She knew my fascination with lighthouses and old ships, among other things.

I decided it was up to me to change the subject. “Do you think Mike will answer my letter? Tell me the truth, do you think he’ll even read it?” I asked desperately.

She hesitated, but then answered. “Honestly, Pearl, I think he’ll read it, but he would never in a million years answer it. He’s got this chip on his shoulder put there by the morons he hangs out with, you know that as well as I do,” she said sympathetically. “You deserve better.”

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I Remember Purple Skies

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I Remember Purple Skies-  Fiction Workshop 2002

Mattie pushed her newly-dyed purple hair out of her face. Her green eyes filled with tears. She had fun during earlier road trips with her friends Sunny and Jade, but now that her first semester of college was almost over and her heart was broken, Mattie felt like she couldn’t enjoy anything anymore.

“Are you dwelling again, Matilda?” Jade asked, pushing her short black hair behind her ears. “Don’t make me come back there and beat your ass. You know I’ll do it.”

“A little,” Mattie said. “It was the song I guess.”

“Don’t just sit back there and cry, Mattie,” Jade said. “Bitch about it to us. Or scream, whatever works.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Sunny said, looking at Mattie in her car’s rearview mirror.

“I told you I wouldn’t be any fun on this road trip,” Mattie said. “You should have left me at the dorm.”

“You had to come to keep me and Sunny from killing each other,” Jade said.

“Yeah,” Sunny said. She pulled out her ponytail holder, shook out her long blond hair, and threw the holder at Jade. “Hey, that’s not funny!”

Jade and Sunny playfully argued while Mattie stared out the back window. The sky was purple under the haze and clouds.

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Too Much

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My first publication and also my first time writing from a male point of view. I wrote this short story when I was in college for a Fiction Workshop. I made a lot of revisions based on feedback from my classmates, who thought it was confusing at first. 

One classmate didn’t think so.

I submitted my final draft (my third) for consideration in New Mexico Highland University’s student edited Sendero Literary Journal my last semester in college, which was spring 2003. 

Her jeans are on the floor where she left them, one leg inside out. The dark red curtains are closed because she changed here yesterday. It’s better that the sun can’t shine in today. I don’t want to look at the light. The house is too quiet. All I hear is the dress bag on the closet door moving in time with the fan. The broom falls at my feet as I sit on our bed. Lanie had put it there. I don’t have to look. I know her sneakers are under the bed. At night she would take her shoes off beside the bed and I would push them underneath before morning. I couldn’t convince her that our new house was haunted. She was too intelligent, or might have seen me push them under the bed after I thought she was asleep. She looked so cute raking her shoes out with the broom handle.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

I remember when we first met in college. I was a senior and Lanie was a freshman. She got a job in the wildlife department where I worked. I noticed her right away. She was adorable-long red hair, green eyes. She was dressed like a little girl in her jean short-alls and sneakers with her hair in a ponytail. She looked so small, her body, the features on her face. Her breasts were a nice size.

“Hi,” She said as she approached the front desk. “The people at the student services office told me to come here to work. I’m Lanie.”

“You’re in the right place,” I said. “I’m Wes. Someday I’ll own this place.”

“So I should probably be nice to you.”

“You should.”

“Where do I go?” she asked, slinging her backpack on to the desk.

“Follow me,” I said, and began a tour of the department.

Lanie was there for the same reason I was. She wanted to study animal habits, protect the environment and most of all protect endangered species. We began talking after the Wildlife Club meetings. I liked spending time with her, so I called her up Labor Day weekend with the number she had left on the club sign up sheet.

I had big plans to go to Scotland to study for a year so a relationship was the last thing I needed since I would be leaving so soon, but something about Lanie made me want to spend time with her. Other women I’d dated would never speak to me the way she did. I thought she and I could be friends, but things got serious. Before I could stop myself, I’d kissed her, held her, made love to her. I was in love with her. That meant missing her while away, thinking about her all the time. It was a bad time for that.

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