1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Contest Winner! Congratulations @BookLover for contest entry, "Whitney"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Jul 7, 2014.

    Short Story Contest (157) - Theme: "The Bechdel Test"
    Congratulations @BookLover for your excellent story, "Whitney". It was so relevant to both the contest theme and an audience of story tellers and story-teller wannabes. I loved it!

    Competition was tough with nine entries. Congrats as well to @Leyanight for second place with a touching story, "Reunion"

    Send me a PM with your theme for the next contest. And we'll use it in two weeks.

    Thanks again to the other authors that entered and all the forum members who voted.


    ________________________________________________

    Whitney [2051 words]

    The musty, stale air filled Maxine's lungs as she clawed aimlessly above her head, searching for the string. Finally she gripped the thin thread and a dim yellow light filled in the dark corners around her. The boards beneath her feet creaked as she looked up, surveying the slanted ceiling. No beams. At it's peak, the attic was high enough, but it lacked anything to loop a rope around. The basement had been full of beams and pipes. It was an orgy of opportunities, but unfortunately, she couldn't even stand up down there without bumping her head. Her stomach sank as she realized hanging herself inside could no longer be her fantasy.

    With neighbors on both sides of the house, an outside hanging was also out of the question. She would have to think of a whole new form of suicide. She sat down next to a dusty, wooden box and racked her brain for a new fantasy. Suicidal thoughts were the only soothing thoughts she had anymore, but they couldn't soothe her unless they were realistic. Plus, she had rules. Her death had to be quick, painless, and guaranteed. The last one was the most important one. She didn't want to wake up the next morning still alive only paralyzed or brain damaged. Hanging didn't exactly fit all her rules, but nothing she thought of ever did.

    Absentmindedly, she opened the box by her elbow. Inside was a plethora of naked Barbies. She began taking them out one by one, not remembering any of them until she pulled out the long-haired blonde with the pink earrings. That was Rachel's Barbie, which Rachel had appropriately named “Barbie.” It still looked perfect, like it had just came out of it's packaging, that is if Barbies were packaged naked. It's hair was silky, smooth and tangle-free. Rachel had always meticulously brushed it.

    Maxine carefully laid Barbie on the floor next to her leg and then began furiously digging into the box looking for her own childhood doll. She finally found it at the very bottom. Whitney. The doll was missing a leg, and it's other leg was melted up to the knee. It's right arm had been gnawed by a dog so that it was just a lumpy plastic mess without any distinct fingers. Whitney didn't have a neck. Her plastic head had been squashed down to her chest, and her brown hair was matted up like a giant hairball. Her bangs had been cut so that they looked like little spikes coming out of the holes above her forehead.

    Maxine laughed and mumbled, “What was wrong with me?”

    “Max, where are you?” called a voice downstairs.

    “I'm in the attic!” A moment later Rachel's shiny black head of hair popped up from the hole in the floor.

    “Ew, what are you doing up here. This place is gross.”

    “I was looking at old toys.” Maxine held up Whitney for Rachel to see.

    “Oh my god! Whitney!” squealed Rachel, crossing over the squeaky attic floor boards to sit near her sister. “That is hilarious. I remember Whitney. I think about her all the time. I can't believe mom kept this stuff. Look at her leg! You used Mom's lighter to set it on fire, remember?”

    “Yeah, I tortured that poor thing.” Maxine pushed Barbie toward Rachel. “Remember her?”

    “Mmm, no. Geez, Whitney is such a fantastic mess! What happened to all their clothes? Mom kept the Barbies without their clothes? Weird.”

    “You don't remember Barbie? This was your favorite doll! Barbie. Remember, she could fly! She saved all the other Barbies all the time.”

    “Oh, right. Yeah, she used to fly around and talk to the fairies in the clouds. And she had X-ray vision, and she could freeze people with her voice. And a million other things. She was so ridiculous.” Rachel gingerly held onto Barbie's hips, and moved her around with her thumb and forefinger. It looked almost like Barbie was walking around on her own. Maxine's own childhood attempts at walking her dolls had involved holding onto their heads and bopping them up and down. They always looked like frogs hopping from one spot to the next because she could never emulate her older sister's graceful puppetry.

    “They sure do bring back memories, don't they?” said Maxine, pulling Whitney's head off and squashing it back down onto her shoulders again.

    “Yeah, but it's dusty up here. Come downstairs and spend time with me, Max. I barely ever have a day off, and you're up here moping in the attic.”

    “I'm not moping.”

    “You are moping. You seem so depressed lately. What is going on with you?” said Rachel, with her focus still on walking Barbie. Maxine suddenly turned her face away. She could feel the tears coming. She tried to hold them back, but trying to stop just made it worse. They came out with a vengeance along with a violent sobbing sound and her whole back bucked forward as she buried her eyes in her hands.

    “Oh Maxy! What's wrong?” said Rachel, abandoning Barbie, and tenderly touching her sister's head.

    “Everything! Everything's wrong. I'm useless. I'm worthless and useless.” She swiped at her face between sobs. “I had to move back in here with Mom because I can't pay my bills. I'll never be able to pay my bills. I work forty hours a week at a fast food restaurant. Fast food, Rachel! I think you can pretty much consider yourself a bona fide loser when you're 29 and you're scooping fries for a living. Yesterday, I made a cheeseburger for my high school chemistry teacher. I could see the pity in her eyes.”

    “Stop! You are not a loser. You have a degree.”

    “Don't you see? That makes me more of a loser! I have a four year degree, that I owe hundreds of thousands of dollars on, and I don't even want to use it. I wasted time and money to study something that I want nothing to do with. I'm more than a loser. I'm pathetic. I'm hopeless. I don't see a light at the end of this tunnel, Rachel. There's nothing for me. This job is soul crushing. I go to work. I come home. Eat. Sleep. Go to work. Come home. Eat. Sleep. This is my life now. All I think about is death.”

    “Well change your life. So you picked the wrong career. Find something you love and do it.”

    “I can't! You think it's that easy? I don't love anything. And when I do think of something new to do that would be tolerable, it almost always involves going back to school. I can't afford it, Rachel! Mom's already paying some of my bills on her fixed income. She paid my car insurance just last week! She can't afford to support me like this, and I'm such a disappointment to her.”

    “Well, don't go back to school then. There's no point in wasting time and money on something that's only 'tolerable' anyway. Find something you love!”

    “No offense, Rachel, but I'm not going to take career advice from someone who works the night shift at a Super 8 hotel.”

    “Ha! I know. I know. But I'm not depressed. I'm not hopeless. I'm writing, Max! Every day. I have dreams, and I'm slowly going to make those happen. There's always hope. You have to go with what feels good, and things will fall into place. Look at Whitney! You remember that one game we played where Whitney was locked away in the evil Witch Rapacious's castle?”

    “No.”

    “Well, try to remember. It was a black castle on top of Mount Wicked, the darkest area in all of Couch Kingdom, and Whitney was captured and stuck in the dungeon. Do you remember how she got out?”

    “How do you remember this stuff? Okay, I sort of recall Mount Wicked being the arm of the living room couch. It's coming back. The castle had a mot around it full of rabid alligators.”

    “Right! And Whitney was kidnapped. How did she get out of the dungeon?”

    “I don't know. Barbie flew in and saved her?”

    “Nooo! Barbie couldn't fly to the castle because there was a magnetic field encircling Mount Wicked, and if she went through it all her powers would disappear. She wouldn't be able to fly or anything. Remember?”

    “Just tell me. I don't remember. How did Whitney get out of the dungeon?”

    “No, you have to remember. I can't help you. That would defeat the whole point. Remember Witch Rapacious used to go down to the dungeon and give her bread and water once a day, and that's all she could ever eat. And there weren't any light in the dungeon, and the dungeon was so small she couldn't even move. Remember? You're the one who made all this up.”

    “God, I was sadistic. Look at this girl?” Maxine held up Whitney by her matted hair. “The things I did to her. There was something wrong with me.”

    “No, there wasn't. You were a good story teller. All good stories involve strife. You always knew that. I'm just now trying to become half as good a story teller as you already were when we were kids.”

    “I'm not a story teller. I don't want to write, Rachel, if that's what you're getting at. That's your passion. Not mine.”

    “No, that's not what I'm getting at. Just try to remember how Whitney got out.”

    “I don't know! Barbie saved her somehow.”

    “No, Barbie never saved her. Ever. Don't you remember?”

    “I don't know, and I don't care!”

    “Okay, fine, I'm going back downstairs. If you want to talk some more about it, you can bring down the Barbies. It's nasty up here.” Rachel made her way to the square hole in the floor.

    “I – I remember now, sort of. She befriended the witch. That's how she got out. Her and the witch became friends and she was allowed to walk out. So what?”

    “I knew you'd remember! She saved herself! Whitney always saved herself! She was never a victim. No matter what you did to her, no matter how much the odds were stacked against her, she always found a way out.”

    “Geez, Rachel, you're corny.”

    “No, seriously, look at that doll. You were always handicapping her. In one game she couldn't walk. In another she was blind. You once played a game where she was a deaf mute with cerebral palsy and alzheimer's disease and you put her on top of a ceiling fan and pretended she was falling out of a plane.”

    “I repeat, I was a sadist.”

    “But instead of falling to her death, she landed safely because she aimed herself at the Ocean of Melancholy. Remember? She was okay. She was always okay. And look at my stupid Barbie. She never had any hardship. She could fly and had every type of magic power possible. She was boring. She lived on easy street, and nothing about her was realistic. Just compare the two. Which one is more interesting? Which one has more character? Which one speaks more to you? Even now, all these years later, I think about Whitney almost every day. I honestly forgot about my boring Barbie, but I remember your Whitney. I especially think about her when my day is going bad. Customers yell at me. My cash register doesn't add up at the end of the night. When I want to cry and feel sorry for myself. I think about Whitney and all that crud you put her through and how she didn't ever complain or feel sorry for herself. She accepted her many, many problems and kept going. She always had hope, and things always turned out okay for her. She befriended the witch. She landed in the ocean. She made it work. You can't lose hope, little sister. Things get bad sometimes, really bad, and no one saves you, and every possible solution turns into a dead end, but you can't lose hope. Look! Whitney's still around even today.” Rachel grabbed the doll's head and bounced her up and down the way Maxine used to.

    “Yeah,” said Maxine, smiling, with a tear falling to her lips, “Whitney always pulled through.”
     
  2. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    I really loved this story!!
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.

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