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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 106: Lucky - Submission & Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Nov 7, 2011.

    Short Story Contest 106
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Lucky"


    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Sadly, there is no prize on offer except pride. The winner may PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "Lucky" (courtesy of member Precipice). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the theme explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Monday 21st November 2011 10.00 am (UK local)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.


    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.

    Thanks and good luck.
     
  2. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Thunder Thighs (2968)

    Just call me Thunder Thighs. Everyone else does. Ever since the fifth grade end-of-year pool party, when I dared to wear a swimsuit in front of the whole class, I’d earned the nickname. My mother had told me the suit she bought me at the mall would be flattering, its skirt hiding my worst parts, and although I didn’t really believe her, I wore it anyway. I wanted to have fun like the other kids, playing Marco Polo and volleyball in the pool, celebrating the end of elementary school. I’d been called other names in the past, like “piggy” and “fatty” and “wide load”, but this one for some reason hurt the most. And when they called out to me with this name, it was usually followed by a “whoosh-whoosh” sound to imitate my large thighs rubbing together. The name stuck all through junior high, and now that I was in high school, a whole new set of kids were learning my lovely nickname.

    For years, I’d begged my mom to move to another school. She told me it was impossible to run away from my problems because they’d be right there waiting for me wherever I went. She put me on all sorts of diets, had me checked out by doctors, tried to get me to come to the gym with her or for long walks after dinner, but no matter how hard I tried, I still was the fattest girl in class. My nearest competitor was Kathy Simms, and I had a good fifty pounds on her.

    Needless to say, I’d never had a boyfriend before. No boy would ever even talk to me, except to call out “Hey, Thunder Thighs,” when I walked by. And that certainly didn’t qualify as talking. One time in sixth grade, I passed a note to a boy I had a crush on. I gave it to Darla in first period, who gave it to Sherry in third period, and she gave it to the boy at lunch. The note said, ‘Would you go steady with me?’ and I gave him two choices. He had to simply check either a box for “yes” or one for “no”. When I got the note back from Mandy in sixth period, I saw he’d scrawled in his own answer below. He’d written “HELL NO!!!” in all capital letters. I never tried to talk to another boy again.

    On a Monday morning, I was rushing to get to class. My cat had stepped on my alarm clock and somehow shut it off, so I’d totally overslept. My mom came in finally and yelled at me to get up, and I didn’t even get a shower or breakfast before I had to leave.

    While heading down the hall, I heard the familiar “Hey, Thunder Thighs” as I walked past a group of boys I didn’t even know. However, even though I was frazzled, my hair barely combed, and I would be late for Mrs. Miller’s math test, nothing could ruin my good mood that day because I was the luckiest girl in the whole world. I was now somebody because for the first time ever, I had a boyfriend! A real, certifiable, wonderful, cute boyfriend who liked me for me. And he was a junior, which made it so much cooler. Maybe he’d even give me his varsity letter jacket so everyone would know! So, nothing anyone could say would make me feel bad today. I wouldn’t let that happen no matter what.

    I floated to my locker, my mind on everything that happened over the weekend. My best friend Allison, who was really my only friend, had three older brothers. When I went to her house, which was pretty often, they barely paid me any attention. Two had already gone away to college. Pete, the one who was still around, always ignored us. But, suddenly, three weeks ago, when I was spending the night, I bumped into him as I stumbled to the bathroom for a drink of water. Allison was already fast asleep. Somehow, we got to talking. I don’t remember what we said, but we ended up in the rec room in the basement, and he kissed me for the first time. The whole next week, I was on cloud nine. The following weekend, even though Allison wanted to spend the night at my house, I insisted we spend it at hers.

    I didn’t tell her about me and Pete. I didn’t know how she’d react. This time, I snuck out of her room at around two in the morning, and sure enough, Pete was there waiting for me. We resumed our make-out session in the basement. I even let him get to second base. It was really romantic. He put on a CD of Pink Floyd and dimmed the lights, and I felt special all over again. No one had ever made me feel that way before.

    This past weekend was still great, but as we were getting hot and heavy again, my pajama top in a ball on the floor while Pete’s pants were down around his ankles, we heard a loud voice that stopped us cold. Allison was at the stairs glaring at us, hands on her hips. She really let us have it, screaming so loud that even her parents woke up. She told them to drive me home at three-thirty in the morning because we’d had a fight, and she wouldn’t return any of my calls on Sunday at all. I hadn’t seen her yet this morning. I felt bad for not telling her and upsetting her so much, but at the same time, she should have understood. It wasn’t every day that I got a boyfriend, even if it was her brother. I was mad at her for being mad at me. But, like I said, nothing was going to ruin my good mood, so I put it out of my mind.

    “There she is,” I heard someone say. I assumed they were talking about me, so I spun around. When I saw all eyes on someone else, I realized that for once they weren’t talking about me. Otherwise, I’d be hearing the familiar “whoosh-whoosh” sounds by now.

    Janice Hubbel sauntered down the hall, her long blonde hair flowing behind her. She’d only been at our school for two weeks, and in that time, I’d heard she’d slept with half the football team. Already, every boy in school had a crush on her and every girl hated her. As I eyed her perfect size-six figure, clad in low-riding, ultra-tight jeans that were ripped in all the right places, I could see why. Her huge boobs threatened to erupt from her extra-small tank top, and I don’t even think she was wearing a bra! She didn’t seem to notice all the eyes on her; she walked with the confidence and ease of a supermodel. I didn’t hate her like every other girl; I was the exception. I admired the way she carried herself, oblivious to everyone as they whispered behind her. I wished I could walk like that.

    She disappeared around the corner. I quickly gathered my books, but as I was about to shut the door, I noticed an envelope at the bottom of the locker. It had my name on it printed neatly in unfamiliar writing. I was about to open it, but then I heard a clanking sound beside me and realized Allison was at her locker two away from mine. I shoved the envelope in my book and turned toward her.

    I didn’t know what to say. I stood there staring at her, trying to think of what could smooth over our fight, when she beat me to the punch.

    “Don’t even,” she said, rolling her eyes.

    “Don’t even what?”

    “No apology will undo the damage you caused.” She slammed her locker door shut.

    “What damage? Why aren’t you happy for me? I finally have a boyfriend!”

    Her lips curled into a sneer. “Boyfriend? Really? Is that what you think that was?” She laughed in a way I’d never heard before and walked away shaking her head.

    Well, that ruined my good mood. I didn’t think anything could, but the tears started before I could do anything to stop them. I rushed around the corner to the bathroom as the warning bell rang.

    Some girls pushed by me as if I wasn’t even there. “Out of the way, Thunder Thighs,” one of them said. I pressed to the wall to let them pass and then hurried to the farthest stall, hoping to hide before anyone saw me crying.

    The locks on the doors never worked in any bathroom at our school. They were either missing or broken and they never seemed to keep the doors shut. So, when I pushed into the stall, I didn’t notice it was already occupied.

    I didn’t realize who or what I was staring at, it all happened so fast. Someone was in the stall peeing, but she was standing up. My eyes found their focus through my tears, and the parts I saw weren’t exactly female. In the same instant, the girl whirled around, spraying pee on my good suede shoes. I looked up and stared right into the face of Janice Hubbel.

    I jumped back, completely startled, while she finished peeing all over the floor.

    “What the hell! Don’t you knock or something?”

    “I – I didn’t know,” I stuttered, still trying to process what I was seeing.

    She finished and zipped herself back into her pants. Or his pants. I wasn’t even sure at that point. She turned toward me, lunging and pressing me against the sink. My head slammed into the mirror, and for a second, I actually saw stars.

    “Listen, bitch. If you tell anyone, and I mean anyone, what you just saw, I’ll make your life a living hell.”

    My head was spinning. My ears rang. Nothing was making sense that day. “I promise,” I whispered. My voice squeaked instead as her hands squeezed around my throat.

    “I know people, so don’t go messing with me. I’m totally serious here.”

    “I won’t. I promise I won’t say a word.”

    She didn’t seem satisfied. I couldn’t breathe, and my chest heaved as I struggled against her vice-like grip.

    “Look,” I said, barely able to get the words out as she increased pressure on my windpipe, “no one at this school even likes me. No one would ever believe me even if I told them.”

    This seemed to work. Her death grip relaxed slightly.

    “And as I said, I won’t tell anyone.” I pulled at her fingers, trying to pry them loose. She held me against the sink a little while longer, as if she were trying to decide whether I should live, when a voice interrupted us.

    The guy hired to police our halls, who everyone called “Robocop”, was standing at the door frowning at us. “Ladies, get to class now!” he barked, and Janice let go of me finally and grabbed her bag, pushing past him and disappearing down the hall.

    I stood at the sink, trying to regain my composure as Robocop stared at me.

    “Didn’t you hear me? Get to class, or you can go to the Principal’s office. Your choice.”

    Didn’t he see what just happened? Didn’t he notice her hands on my throat? I grabbed my books and ran past him, wondering if there was another bathroom nearby. I’d about given up on my math test by then.

    The only bathroom I could think of was near my classroom, and there was no way I could sneak by. Mrs. Miller had the eyes of a hawk, and she’d definitely see me. So, although I was all shaken up and on the verge of more tears, I finally decided to go to class.

    ***

    “Do you have a late pass?” the teacher asked as I entered.

    “No, I’m sorry I don’t. I just overslept this morning.”

    She thrust a test at me. “Well, better get started then. You lost fifteen minutes already.”

    I went to my seat at the back with my face red as a few eyes stared after me. I couldn’t concentrate at all, so although I knew mostly everything on the test, I just doodled in the margins. I was always really good at math, but the weird events of the day prevented my mind from conjuring up the right answers. Instead, my thoughts drifted between the startling revelation of Janice Hubbel’s true gender, the fact that my only friend hated my guts, and that somehow even though I was known as “Thunder Thighs”, there was actually a boy in this school that thought I was pretty. Like I said, it was kinda hard to concentrate with all that on your mind.


    ***

    At lunch, I didn’t look for Allison at our usual meeting spot. I knew it would be pointless. I didn’t even go into the lunchroom at all. I had no appetite, for once.

    Instead, I made my way out to the courtyard where many students were gathered, laughing and throwing Frisbees on the grass. I found a quiet corner away from everyone. Sitting on a bench, I stared at an ant as it tried to carry a bit of food across a puddle of water. The poor ant struggled desperately as it sank. I’d started off the day on top of the world, but now I was like the ant, sinking lower and lower as I relived the morning’s events.

    A strong gust of wind swept by then, and my math book beside me flipped open. The envelope I’d shoved in there, which I’d totally forgotten about, drifted away. I heaved myself up and went after it.

    I was a little too late. By the time I got to it, the note was under Penelope’s shoe. The most popular girl in school snatched it up before I could bend down to get it.

    “Hey, Thunder Thighs,” she greeted with her usual nasty smirk. Her sidekicks, Cindy and Tracy, giggled behind her.

    “What’s this we have here?” Penelope asked as she tore open the envelope. “A love letter, perhaps?”

    “None of your business,” I said, trying to grab it back from her.

    She held it out of my reach as she and her gang laughed. “Come on, Thunder Thighs, I know you can do it! Just reach higher!”

    I put my hands down. It was no use.

    “Let me see now,” Penelope said as she opened the note. She looked to her group for approval, and they nodded enthusiastically, encouraging her to continue.

    She began reading aloud:

    Dear Marla,

    I don’t know how to say this. I think your real cool and all. I know we’ve been messing around lately and stuff. But, I think I’m into someone else. I don’t want any weirdness, and I hope we can still be friends. I just think you should know.

    Pete



    I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. My tears threatened to return. My face flushed with embarrassment, hurt and a torrent of other emotions I wasn’t ready for.

    “Awww, so sorry. That’s really too bad,” Penelope said with fake concern.

    I stared intensely at the ground.

    “So, who’s this Pete? Do I know him?” she asked.

    I remained silent. Tracy tapped her on the shoulder and whispered something in her ear. Her eyes lit up. “Yes, you’re so right!” she said to her friend. “It’s gotta’ be Pete Mackey! He’s that loser Allison’s brother. It’s totally gotta’ be him!”

    Her friends nodded in agreement.

    “Yep, makes total sense. I know I’m right, aren’t I?”

    I stood there, humiliation spreading across my cheeks, my tongue swollen and unmoving as my heart sank to a level lower than the drowned ant in the puddle.

    “Okay, Marla. Nod once for yes, twice for no. Is Pete Mackey the one you’ve been messing around with?”

    I turned without a word and ran inside. I found the nearest bathroom, knowing this time I would check under the stall thoroughly before entering to bawl my eyes out, but of course on a day where I swore nothing could ruin my mood, I was met by an even bigger surprise.

    Pete was there, leaning over someone, his hand bracing against the wall as he bent down to whisper something. The person giggled, and I knew it was definitely a girl. No boy would lean over another boy like that. As I got closer, I tried to see around him. He turned then, his face flushing when he realized it was me, and he revealed the identity of the girl.

    Boy, that Janice Hubbel sure got around!

    Pete started to say something while Janice glared at me. I ignored them both and continued on my way to the girl’s room.

    I checked under the farthest stall, finding it empty. I was all set to cry my eyes out, but the final surprise of the day caused me to almost fall into the toilet. I laughed like I’d never laughed before, until my sides hurt and I could barely breathe. It was perhaps the best revenge of all, more than I could ever imagine. Nothing better than getting dumped for another girl who wasn’t even really a girl at all! What a surprise for Pete if he ever got to third base with her!

    After awhile, I felt much better. I wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes.

    That evening, I joined my mother for her nightly walk. As I told her about everything that had happened, she made me realize that even though I was known as Thunder Thighs, I was still lucky to be me. I was special, whether Pete thought so or not.
     
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  3. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    To Really Be Lucky

    Colin tried to be a happy guy, why wouldn’t he be?

    He just graduated at the local community college and now was headed to his dream school, Florida State University. He breathed football since he was a child, and had numerous trophies to prove his skills.

    In his senior year, he broke his leg during the homecoming game (which happened to be one of the three games the recruiter was watching). But after being rushed to the hospital and having numerous X-Rays and tests, the doctor came back with a smile.

    “What a lucky boy!” He said, his large white teeth glowing in the bright lights of the ER. “It was a clean fracture, and it’s going to heal just fine.”

    ‘Lucky’, Colin hated that word.

    He went back to school the next week; he rolled in as a hero. All he heard throughout the day was:

    “Oh my god, Colin, you’re so lucky, I thought you were going to die.”
    “Wow, you’re so lucky all these chicks are freaking out over you in that wheelchair.”
    “Colin, you’re lucky I’m going to forget about that test you missed last week.”

    Why was he always lucky? Colin couldn’t understand, he just wanted to be a normal person. He didn’t want all this fake dramatic attention over the devastating loss of his football scholarship.
    But his dad said he was ‘lucky’ because FSU said they would take him as a junior, as a defensive tackle, if his leg healed correctly.

    And after two years, he was still lucky. He always happened to study for his classes the night before a pop quiz. And always got front row parking, he figured it to be good timing. Not to mention he got more tail than a lab in a dog beach.

    But he was living in this looking glass version of his happiness, and when he was alone, he hated himself. He hated his friends and the stupid things that they would do for entertainment. The queue of beautiful women he went through never caught his attention because non of them had anything useful but two large “conversation starters” and a place to get his rocks off. He never felt bad for using them because non of them really had the intellect to understand anything else outside the backseat.

    And although he was getting to fulfill his dreams of being on the FSU football team, his major was total crap. Was he really supposed to go into accounting, just like his father? And throw his life away managing millionaires bank accounts and trying to figure out how to cover their frivolous drug behaviors under ‘entertainment’ and f***ing his secretary while mindlessly punching a calculator?

    He just wanted to be a football coach, and live in the old part of town he grew up in. Get some tattoos and marry a ex-Suicide Girl, that’s all he wanted out of life, and to be happy.

    And he wasn’t happy at the moment. Wearing tuxedoes and going to important meetings and charity events with his father didn’t feel right. He felt like he was acting.

    So Colin acted his way through two more years of it. Lucky, but he was unhappy. More women, touchdowns, fundraisers, frat parties and finals, it was all on fast forward. And it seemed like he glided through it all, seamlessly without a pause. Nothing seemed to stick in his mind and he couldn’t even remember the name of the chick he was texting (her identity known as: Girl from McDonalds).

    And then all of a sudden the movie slowed back down to regular speed, and there he was, standing on the grand auditorium, next in line to receive his diploma. Dressed in the school colors, he followed the line dumbfounded and tried to at least spit out a 'thank you' when he shook the Dean and the President of the College’s hands. He looked out in the crowd and his mother waved at him frantically, snapping pictures. His current girlfriend, a grade below him, sat next to his mother her beautiful cleavage making her torso heart shaped.

    His father shot himself a few months ago. After divorcing Colin’s mother and yet again divorcing the woman he cheated on with Colin’s mother with, his father was almost broke.
    As a graduation gift his mother gave Colin his fathers dark green Corvette she won in the settlement, with the license plate that read: LUCKY7.

    Colin’s supposed lucky number was two, and he just felt totally disgusted with his mother. He hated her for taking this car away from his dad in the first place, and then he dies and she doesn't want that 'ghost' haunting her. So she passed that burden of memory onto her son. He thought of going ballistic in front of the student body and just punching his mother in the face, but he hugged her instead and took the keys.

    The car still smelled of the cigars his father smoked. He didn't feel his dad's presence as being in heaven or hell, he just made it out of this rat-race.

    He followed the convoy to a large house party most of his friends were going to.

    It was an understatement to say that Colin was drinking too much.

    People cheered him and thought he was celebrating his graduation and the fact that he was to now take over his father’s business and make a lot of money. But in reality Colin was celebrating something else.

    His girlfriend sat on the kitchen counter with her legs wrapped around him, the frantic music, voices, screaming of a large party in their ears. Colin thought of just one more thing to do before he left. He grabbed her and threw her over his shoulders like a caveman and carried her upstairs, where they found an unlocked bedroom door.

    After they both were satisfied, he excused himself to the restroom, but instead took two shots of tequila and left out the front door, pushing his way through the crowd of drunken souls.

    The hunter minx of a car purred under him as he revved the engine to a growl. Tires squealing, Colin took off down the road.

    It was weird for him to plan his own death, he wished that it would have just happened now, but he had a tolerance for drunk driving. He didn't want to hurt anyone or cause a lot of damage, but he just didn’t want to live anymore. He wanted to be happy with his father.

    “Let’s just see how lucky I am.” Colin mumbled as he turned up the radio and slammed his foot on the touchy gas pedal.

    The sports car zipped back and forth maybe because Colin closed his eyes.

    He got his wish as he collided with the guard rail on the side of the road, his car went out of control and he began to over-correct the steering in a moment of desperate attempt to survive.

    But he actualized his fate and took a deep breath. A strong jerk of the steering wheel to the right sent him colliding, again, with the metal guard rail. Screeching and grinding, the car flipped over the metal edge and top over end rolled down the decline and into the river. Colin was already knocked out by the time the car started to fill up with water.



    Pain and a body sense of emptiness caused his eyes to jump open, as his brain started to play exactly where it had left off. But he was not in his dad’s ‘Vett anymore. He was very cold.

    All white blinded him as he began to feel around at the wires and tubes attached to him, the loud monotonous beeping began to increase in pitch and rate.

    A woman ran into the private hospital room of Colin Others, an RN, who paged the doctor.

    Colin realized he was alive, and began to cry as the nurse mentioned over the radio to call Colin’s mother.

    “Son, you’ve been here for three months, you were in a car accident. Do you know what your name is?” She said, trying to grab hold of his hands and calm him down.

    Colin covered his eyes and sobbed.

    “Oh baby, I know you must be so happy. You’re so lucky, you almost died.”

    Flashes of his father's dead body went through Colin's head as he cried and whimpered.

    His dad was the lucky one, because he realized that you can't live a life that's not alive, and he got out.
     
  4. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    Her (Approx. 618 words)

    They told her she was the lucky one. At least her mother wanted her. In the world where things that looked up, were actually looking down, and illusions smeared before her eyes and made it harder and harder to figure out the right way to walk so she didn’t hit walls…in that world, she was still considered lucky. The people around her, they told her she was so very lucky indeed.
    Her father had screamed at her, he had cursed at her, then hugged her and kissed her cheek, pretending that everything was so very fine, and told her that he loved her. But those times never lasted long, because when things started to roll slowly from average to bad, then stepping dangerously over the line to horrible, it all started again. The yelling, the throwing things, the accusations of “I’m not crazy!” and “You need to see the therapist.”
    Her mother was troubled. And pretending like everything was fine but didn’t know how to deal with it all. Mother-love was worried about what her baby girl could do to herself left on her own devices. And to make sure that never happened, the set up boundaries and lines that made it harder and harder for her to live. And her baby girl finally caved inward, not that Mother-love would ever notice, because her baby girl was good at probably one thing and one thing only: hiding it.
    Her brother had managed to make it through. He had his “support system”, he had someone to call when he was crying and felt like beating things and slicing his wrists to shreds. But he made it through, and if he could do it, even with the blows he received, couldn’t she?
    I guess she just wasn’t strong enough.
    But she turned to the comfort of the blinking line on an open page on her computer, she turned to grasping for the last shreds of her imaginary world that could only be lived in the strokes of her own pen. She turned to doing things that all the textbooks defined as “self injury” and “destructive downspiral.”
    She used to have it all. The perfect family, the best friend who soon turned into the best boyfriend she had ever heard of. He was sensitive, and most of all, he understood what she was going through. And talking her through it was what he wanted to do, because he knew he was the only, tiniest spark of light in her life just then. And she always thought he strived on it. But her ups and downs were like that of an addict. And, like an addict, the bad days started outweighing the good. And suddenly when he said he loved her, all she saw were lies and knew that even if it hurt him, saying “I love you” back would be such a lie. And she couldn’t lie to the man she loved.
    That’s when he decided that he couldn’t take it anymore. And he left her, expecting it not to affect her at all. But it did. Oh hell it did.
    She used to have religion but suddenly in the sprawling black print of the bible, she started to see the white of the page behind it. And instead of finding comfort, she started to see a million flaws. She started to see a million loop hoops and cracks in the carefully laid pavement and she knew it was only a matter of time until she fell through.
    But like I said, she was good at one thing and possibly, maybe, one thing only. She was good at hiding. And because of that, the whole world told her she was lucky.
     
  5. Rabble
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    Rabble New Member

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    Digits (1035 words)

    James Laurel walked through the crowded bar of the Kingsford Hotel. He had never been a good looking man with his round body, short thick fingers, and thinning auburn hair, but he dressed in better clothing than anyone in the bar, despite it being the most expensive hotel in the city. He had gone there every Friday for the last three years, and spent those evenings flirting with the women staying at the hotel. While most of the hotel staff believed he came each week looking for singles, he had, truthfully, come to find hundreds. The hundreds he wanted were not women, but rather dollars, because James spent each Friday using his stubby fingers to pick pockets.

    He was about to approach someone, when he saw the man next to him open his wallet to pay for a drink. In the wallet was a reckless amount to keep at once. By his fair judge, it was almost three thousand dollars. The man began to pocket the wallet when a photo slipped out. He seemed not to notice and turned to go sit in a nearby booth. James reached down for the photo, and made his way to the owner of that wallet.

    “You dropped this.” James held out the worn photo.

    “Did I? I’m sorry you had to find it for me.” The man replaced the photo into wallet.

    James took a step closer to the booth, “If you don’t mind me prying, you don’t seem dressed for this kind of place.” He wasn’t. He was an older man wearing a short-sleeved white shirt and stiff grey slacks. “Most women here won’t even look at you unless wear a suit.”

    “I came here for a drink. My wife is pretty agitated, so I suppose came down here to avoid her too. We haven’t had time to talk to anyone so if you wanna hear me out, I’d really appreciate you doing me another favor.”

    “Sure,” he sat down across from the man and his wallet “I’m James.”

    “My name is Ben. Well, here’s the short part. I won the lottery.”

    James had expected something like this, but he forced himself to show surprise on his face. He steepled his fingers to keep his anxiety from making a mistake for him.

    “I didn’t win the lottery first. I got laid off first. I worked there for years, but they still had to get rid of me a week ago. I had a bit of time before my bus would come to take me home so I went into a convenience store to buy milk. I don’t gamble and I’ve never bought a scratch card in my life, but when I got to the checkout line I saw the bright green tickets and I just assumed my luck couldn’t get worse so I grabbed four. I scratched all of them at once in front of the clerk, and, well, the first was ten dollars, the next had five thousand dollars. The clerk actually clapped for me. I couldn’t have been happier.” Ben reached for his beer to take a drink.

    “So you lost your job and came here? This place costs more than five thousand a night. Why waste your money?” James was actually getting angry and it was showing. He was a robber, but he didn’t want to leave the man with a bill he couldn’t pay. He had come to the Kingsford hotel to steal from businessmen and trust fund kids.

    “Would you let me finish? I bought four tickets. The next one was the jackpot, a hundred thousand dollars. The clerk actually gave me a bottle of champagne from behind the counter. He called me the luckiest man he’d ever seen, but I stood there like an idiot expecting a camera to come out like that show from all those years ago. The business in the store made me miss my bus, so I had to walk. I came in so late my wife said she called the hospital to see if I had died. I told her about the tickets first so she didn’t mind the unemployment part.”

    Ben leaned forward and produced his wallet like he was doing a magic trick. One second it was there for James to see, the next it had gone back into his pocket and all that remained was the photo that had started the conversation.

    “This is my daughter. Carrie.” The faded and bent picture showed a smiling teenage girl. “She was fifteen when this was made. I haven’t seen her in twenty years. We got into a fight and she ran out when she was seventeen. My wife always said we should hire a detective, but we could never afford it. Few days ago a detective we met with after I won said he found three people in this city who look like the picture and call themselves Carrie. That’s why we came to the Kingsford, to impress the her if one of them is her. She deserves that at least after how we fought the last time.”

    He took out his wallet again and put the photo back. Before the wallet disappeared, Ben took a folded piece of paper out of his wallet and handed it to James. “Thanks for listening, been a really hectic few days so I haven’t been able to talk to anyone.”

    James unfolded the paper, and recognized it as a lottery ticket. “I can’t take this. I really don’t need it. I promise.” He tried to hand it back, but Ben refused.

    “ You earned it listening to me, and besides, the last thing I need is more money. You keep it.Its more than enough payment for finding my photo.” He leaned to get out of the bench and stood up.

    James got to his feet and shook Ben’s hand. “Good luck with your daughter.” He patted Ben on the back and made his move to reach the wallet. “Congratulations too. I can’t think of anyone who would have needed it more.”

    James Laurel sat back down at the bench and steepled his short fingers to keep them from fixing his mistake for him. Ben walked out of the bar with almost three thousand dollars and a folded lottery ticket in his wallet.
     
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