The End of the Harvest

by @AnnieDaylon

What follows is a seasonal story, flash fiction, originally written for a 24-hour writing contest for Writers Weekly and currently published in Passages A Collection of Short Stories. It is definitely one of my favorites…

The End of the Harvest

© Annie Daylon

            The little boy stands at the log cabin’s rear window, peering out at us. The corn stalks rustle in the brisk breeze, waving at him. Laughing, he returns their greeting. I want to wave at him too, but my limbs are shrivelled now, useless appendages. I sigh. I observe the boy.

He seems happy. Does he know? Has he heard the news about the baby brother that his mom promised him? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he is too young to be told.

But I know.

His mom, my caregiver, whispered many secrets as she planted the fields. When my seed sprouted and breached the surface of the rich soil, she stooped and told me about the life that was developing inside her own body. She promised that she would create siblings for me just as she was doing for her little boy. I beamed with pleasure for I did not want to live a solitary life.

In a short time, her truth became evident: I was surrounded by an abundance of relatives—long and green, round and yellow, plump and orange. So strong was my appreciation of my caregiver, so great was my loyalty to her that I tolerated without question the summer heat and the frequent watering and the incessant buzzing of the hordes that swarmed around, flitting from flower to flower. Without complaint, I obliged when she redirected the growth of my rapidly spreading arms. ‘Not here, but there’, was her mantra, as she donned kid gloves and shifted my limbs around. So much attention. So much care. I noticed that the bodies of both my caregiver and me were becoming spherical, and that hers seemed to achieve the desired shape more easily than mine. Obviously aware of that, she added regular rotation to my fitness regime. I responded by becoming corpulent and carroty.

The summer lazed away and autumn slid in to replace it. The rains came. And the mud. And the children, bus loads of children, laughing and trampling and squelching through the muck. Choosing and plucking and stumbling away with their heavy bundles. One by one, my brothers and sisters and cousins disappeared. I wondered how it was that so many school children whirled around me, brushed against me, slid past me, and yet, none chose me. My caregiver explained that she had great plans for me, that I was the chosen one, the one who would light her doorway on that important night—All Hallows’ Eve. I would be the first to welcome the newborn child she would carry to the door that very day. I would witness the smile on her little boy’s face when he first saw his new brother. All this she promised me.

But sometimes promises are broken.

 When I had grown to the size of a soccer ball, I looked to compare my shape with hers and realized that her spherical form had vanished. Her body had flattened, returned to its former size. Her spirit, too, had vacated, leaving only sadness, which bled through her pores. Empty in both body and spirit, she had no words, no whisperings. On most days, she just stayed away.

So now I lie here—alone. Leading a solitary life after all, the very life I did not want. But what of the boy? Is he still waiting for his new brother?

The dusk deepens on this, All Hallows’ Eve. The wind picks up and the front gate swings and creaks. Puffs of blue smoke rise from the kitchen chimney. The house is well-lit now, but here, in my resting place, it is dark and lonely. As night falls, my body sinks and just sits, marinating in mud.

Suddenly, the cabin door opens and she emerges. She dons her heavy boots and, with her head low, trudges through the mud toward me. Nearer and nearer. As she stoops, I long to console her, to slide my arms up her back and embrace her. But my arms are just flaccid vines and it is she who comforts me, talks to me, apologizes for leaving me alone for so long. I want to tell her that I understand. She reaches into her pocket, retrieves a knife and frees me from my vines. Then, she hefts me into her arms and straightens her back.

On the way to the cabin, my caregiver explains that there is a new plan—that she wants me to smile for her young son. This evening, she will carve a grin on my face and, while she is doing that, she will tell her son that he will always be a solitary child. We reach the porch and hover there, waiting for her body to stop trembling and her tears to abate.

Despite her distress, I am pleased with this new plan. I want her to carve me a ridiculous grin, tooth-filled or toothless, whatever it takes to ease a lonely boy’s acceptance of unwelcome news. I know of the difficulty of the solitary life. Unlike the boy, I have experienced the joy of siblings; however, many died before maturity and all the others were taken away. Like the boy, I represent the end of the harvest. I am the very last pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Together, the boy and I—and our mutual caregiver—will face the night.

*****

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My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

Pick of the Twitter: March, 2015

Pick of the Twitter 005

Looking for writing/marketing/tech tips? Here are my Top Twitter picks for March, 2015:

  1.  How are short stories evaluated for publication or awards? by @JodieRennerEd via @KMWEiland

  2. 5 Ways Pinterest Can Help Authors  @IndiAuthorALLI via @K8Tilton

  3. Top Ten Things You Need to Know About the Writing Life  by @JamesScottBell via @thecreativepenn

  4. How to make pictures behave in WordPress  @BakerviewConsul via @sugarbeatbc  @christinenolfi (Love this one!)

  5. Great Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary by Maria Popova @penguinrandom @brainpicker

  6. Blogs Vs. Newsletters: What’s the Diff? by Jim Devitt

  7. Tips on writing an e-book series by Nikki Moore via @WomenWriters

  8. The Complete Italicization Guide  @write_practice

  9. The Benefits of Hybrid Publishing by Melissa Donovan @WritingForward

  10. Build your audience WHILE writing your book! -Jason Wiser, The Author Hangout! @bkmkting

  11. 21 Book Marketing Tips for Authors by Heather Hart

  12. 10 SIMPLE, CLEVER TIPS for Computer, Web, Smartphone & Camera Users.  by columinist David Pogue @Pogue (Great Tips! Love this!)

Many thanks to Tweeters and Bloggers alike!shutterstock_48236599

Please subscribe to my blog by including your email in the space provided on the upper right.

 My best to you,
Annie Signature Light Blue

Two Routes to Publishing Short Stories and Poetry

by @AnnieDaylon

Looking to Publish short Fiction and PoetryAre you looking for ways to get your short stories and poems published?

I recently received an email from a writer who was seeking ways to do that. What follows is what I offered her, what I thought could be shared here as well.

I have used two avenues for publication of short stories: Story Contests and Literary Journals.

I use story contests to hone my craft; therefore, I’ve researched them and have entered many, including 24-hour story contests. This has resulted in having many stories published, both online and in journals in Canada and the United States. 

The most comprehensive resource for contests in Canada is the Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar.  This calendar is published in the fall of each year, usually by November. All contests are listed by deadline. Everything you need to know—submission guidelines, eligibility, word count limits, etc. — are given for each contest and, yes, poetry contests are included.

The best site I’ve found for information on contests and journals in the U.S. is Poets & Writers, “the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers.”  On the right hand side of the landing page, under Tools for Writers, you will find an impressive list of databases for literary magazines, contests, agents, etc.

I know how much time and energy go into the pursuit of publication. I hope the above is helpful to you.

Do you have any suggestions to share? Please send them along.

Annie Daylon reading Buryin' Day

Annie Daylon reading short story “Buryin’ Day” at launch of Freefall Literary Magazine (Vol XIX, Number 1) in Calgary. (First contest entry, second place!)

Good luck on your journey.

Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by placing your first name and your email address in the space provided on the upper right.

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

Short Story: “A Button in Time”

 

shutterstock_89518414A Button in Time

Heads turned as Gerald stepped out of the midnight-black limousine. One woman even stopped and lowered her sunglasses to stare at this tall, silver-haired man in the dark, pin-striped suit. Oblivious, focused on the task ahead of him, Gerald climbed the stone steps of the cathedral. At the top, he paused.

From his suit pocket, he pulled a tiny, pink-and-white button. He gazed at it, fingered it and returned it to its place. Then he pushed open the mahogany doors and stepped inside. The doors slammed behind him, creating a rumbling echo.

No one here, he thought. Do I have the wrong day? He adjusted his tie and headed into the nave of the church. Once there, he sighed with relief.

Pink flowers adorned the main altar, pink carpet covered the aisle floor and pink bunting draped the empty pews. Definitely the right day. He smiled. After looking around, he walked to a side aisle, plopped into a back pew, closed his eyes and folded his hands—not to pray, but to remember.

Gerald was only thirty-two when his wife died. He plummeted into a black hole then and would have stayed there had it not been for their baby daughter. She was all he had left and he adored her: reveled in holding her chubby hand, experiencing her toothless smile and hearing her first words.

He wanted to be with her all the time, but that was not possible. Even though he found an excellent daycare facility, Gerald cringed every morning when he left his little girl in the care of strangers. He wanted better. He wanted relatives. When his mother-in-law offered to leave her home and husband in South America and come to Florida to help, Gerald accepted.

The arrangement worked well. But, after some time, Gerald noticed that, although his mother-in-law’s face brightened when she looked at her grandchild, it darkened when she looked at him. Soon, she started leaving the room whenever he entered. She’s avoiding me, he thought, puzzled. Maybe she’s lonely. Maybe she misses her husband. And maybe I can help.

“Would you like to go home to South America for a while?” he asked.

She kept her eyes down and did not respond.

“I will pay for a return ticket.”

Her head popped up. She grinned and nodded. “The little one, she come with me?”

Gerald’s eyes widened. “I’ll think about it,” he said, furrowing his brow. After a while, he decided it would be okay; it was only for two weeks and he would be joining them for the second week anyway. So he made the arrangements, took them to the airport and bid them good-bye. Everything seemed fine.

However, after twenty-four hours of trying, and failing, to contact his in-laws, Gerald knew that everything wasn’t fine. He looked up the emergency phone number. His heart pounded as he remembered how reluctant his mother-in-law had been to give him that number. Hands sweating, he picked up the phone and punched in the digits. He listened. He counted the rings… One, two… eight, nine…

Finally, “Hola.”

“Hello, hello,” panted Gerald. He stumbled out a question. He waited.

“They move. Leave no address, mister.”

He dropped the telephone and slid from his chair.

Gerald tried everything to find his daughter: phone calls, e-mails, police, letters and private detectives. Over and over, the powers-that-be reminded him that his daughter had left the country with his permission and in the care of the guardian he had selected. “It’s out of our jurisdiction, sir.”

No one could help. Even his many trips to South America were fruitless. His in-laws never stayed in one place for long. Every time he got close to them, they moved. Again and again.

Eventually, he gave up.

Devastated, he burrowed into darkness. Sat for days in his basement, curtains drawn, no hope. In his hand, he clutched his last connection to his only child: a white button with a pink tulip engraving. She had given it to him at the airport.

“A button fell off my sweater, Daddy.” Her eyes were filled with tears. “Can you fix it?” She held it up for him to see. Gerald gently removed it from her hand.

“How about if I hold onto it for you? I promise I’ll keep it safe in my pocket until I see you again. It will be my good luck charm.” The little girl smiled and her misty eyes twinkled.

Gerald kept that button with him, always.

As time went on, Gerald began living life, or at least going through the expected motions. Every day, he got up, placed one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Hour by hour, minute by minute. Just killing time, he told himself. Yet he knew that the truth lay in a quote he read somewhere once: Men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them. It didn’t matter. He felt dead anyway. No hope. No light. On and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades.

Then, just last month, a letter arrived. And with it an invitation.

He read the letter four times to comprehend it. He read it four more to believe it.

Dear Gerald,
You barely know me but I am your father-in-law. We, my wife and I, have caused you much pain and I need to set it right. Please try to understand—the loss of our daughter was too great for my wife to handle and she had to have her grandchild with her, here, in her homeland. She desperately needed that and I could refuse her nothing.
My wife is dead now, and our grandchild—your daughter—is getting married in a few weeks. It is you, not I, who should be giving her away, Gerald. She wants that and so do I.
You do not need to respond to the attached invitation but I hope you can attend. Nothing would make me happier than to see you when I walk into that church. Can you find it in your heart to forgive the unforgivable?
Yours in regret,
Antonio

The sound of the church door snapped Gerald back to the present. He looked up to see an elderly, well-dressed man shuffling down the centre aisle. The man appeared nervous, glancing this way and that, searching. Gerald continued to watch as the man stopped, sighed, and shriveled into a stooped position.

“Antonio.” Gerald’s voice was a mere whisper. Yet Antonio heard, straightened and turned. He began walking fast now. The anxiety in his face had transformed into a smile by the time he reached Gerald. There he hesitated, tentatively extending his gnarled hand.

Gerald stood to accept Antonio’s hand, and fearful of placing undue pressure on the crippled fingers, shook it gently. At first, he sensed tension in the older man’s body but, within seconds, that tension seemed to just melt away. When that happened, Gerald noticed, with great surprise, that his own body was calm as well. For a long time, he had fantasized about this moment and, in his mind’s eye, this time was always one of revenge. Where had the rage gone? When had it left?

“You’re here. Thank you, God and all the saints. You’re here!” exclaimed Antonio.

“Yes, Antonio. How could I stay away?”

“I am sorry, Gerald. So sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”

With truth and tranquility, Gerald replied. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Forgiveness was a foreign word to me for a long time. But I am here. I am grateful to you for contacting me. And yes, Antonio, I forgive you.”

“Gracias, Gerald, gracias.” Antonio placed his other hand over Gerald’s. “You will give her away, then? You will do that?” His gaze was direct, pleading. Gerald’s eyes flooded with tears.

“I gave her into someone’s care before, Antonio, and I lost her. And now,” he sighed, “she won’t even know me. It has been too long. She was just a little girl. Time has surely dissolved her memories.” He slowly shook his head. “She won’t even know me.”

Antonio just smiled and looked over Gerald’s shoulder toward the door. From behind him, Gerald heard a rustling noise. Releasing himself from Antonio’s clasp, he turned. A beautiful, dark-haired bride stood before him.

“Time could never dissolve my love for you. My only fear was that you may have forgotten me,” she whispered.

With tears streaming down his face, Gerald reached into his pocket and withdrew a tiny button with a pink tulip engraved on it. He held it up for her to see.

She, in turn, held up her bouquet. Woven among its flowers were replicas of the same tiny button.shutterstock_89518414 “There’s just one missing, Daddy,” she said, “but I always hoped you’d return it, just like you promised.” She held out her free hand.

Relinquishing two decades of darkness, Gerald stepped toward his daughter and placed the treasured button into her waiting fingers.
******
Passages Book Cover

 

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Why Enter Story Contests?

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163750679My primary aim when I started writing was to pen novels. One day, I veered from that path into the world of the short story. The result? An immediate burst of accomplishment and, surprisingly, a joy in the genre itself. I still participate in the marathon of the novel, but am always up for a short story sprint.

In order to get my work out there, I entered story contests. Rejection? Yes, lots of it. But considerable success, too. Knowledge crept in: the contests, especially the twenty-four hour dashes, were helping to hone my craft. I kept entering…

Reasons for Entering Short Story Contests

  1. Fun. You have opportunity to play with styles and voice.
  2. Readers.  Your work is seen by objective readers.
  3. Inspiration. Topic is often given. You get to brainstorm around it.
  4. Blind judging. You can dip your toe into the water anonymously: no query letter; no dreaded synopsis. You are selling your work, not selling yourself.
  5. Motivation. You have a deadline, so you have to put BIC (butt in chair) and just write.
  6. Feedback. Sometimes you get feedback.  Disagree? Reject. Agree? Apply.
  7. Word Count Limits. You have no choice but to tighten writing by dropping modifiers and using stronger verbs.
  8. Credibility. Published? Short-listed? Either gives you credibility… something to put under “Recent Awards and Publications” when submitting queries.
  9. Immunity to Rejection. Rejection gradually loses its sting. You simply edit your stories and submit them elsewhere.
  10. Collection. Stories accumulate. Before long, you have a collection.

 

Along with the above benefits comes the awareness that a lot of small publications are staffed by volunteers, many of whom are writers. They give their time to support you. You give a small fee to support them. The result? A writing community. A complete circle. Bonus!

My Best to You,

Annie Signature Light Blue

Short Stories

 

Passages Book Cover

My short story anthology, Passages has seven award-winning tales in its pages including:

• “Castles in the Sand,” the story that inspired the novel of the same name;
• “Buryin’ Day Today,” my very first story; and
• “The End of the Harvest,” possibly my favorite story.


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March, 2014

Short Story, The Thing with Feathers, won second place in The Brucedale Press 14th Annual Alphabet Acrostic Contest.

Judge’s Comments:
A story that sums up a life in its twenty-six sentences. The ending gives the main character what she wanted as a child “hoping to fly,” before being “disillusioned with
gravity,” which comes in the form of death. The Thing With Feathers takes the required beginning phrase, and also chooses to end with it, reflecting with form, the moment of a body’s dissolution, as well as its birth and death. The story knows from the start what it wants to do, and does a good job carrying that out. The concept of flight propels this piece and gives us bitter sweetness in its final moment. A thoughtful story, containing moments of crafted imagery, given to us in the final thoughts of a ghost.~S. Radojkovic

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Published Prize-Winning Short Stories and Articles:


 

Through the Closet Wall
Short-listed, Wyn Lit 24, #53.
A daughter’s homecoming, a mother’s anguish and the truth about a father’s death.

Carpe E. M.
Top five, New York Midnight Madness Flash Fiction.
A magical librarian lamenting the loss of adjectives and adverbs confronts the ghost of the author she holds responsible.

Academia, Amusement, and Music
Published Placentia, NL, Come Home Year book, 2012 and on the Downhome Magazine website.
A memoir: My School Days in Placentia, Newfoundland.

The Rebirth of Rose
First Place, Wyn Lit 2-Four, # 51.
A woman trapped in an abusive relationship contemplates her fate. Can she summon the courage to escape?

Lighting the Beacon
First Place, Wyn Lit 2-Four, #49
A seventeen-year-old boy with a lame leg has only minutes to climb the one hundred steps in his father’s lighthouse. He must light the beacon in time to avert disaster.

The End of the Harvest
First Place, Writers Weekly ezine Short Story Contest.
The passage of life, the poignancy of loss, from an unexpected perspective.

Lost Forever
Published, Wynterblue Confabulation 4
A grieving widow turned hoarder accepts organizational help from her two nieces.

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The following four short stories are published in Wynterblue’s Confabulation 3:

A Button in Time
A tiny button is the only connection between an anxious widower and his long-lost daughter.

Tall Letters
A deluded woman’s determination to become a supermodel.

Terminal Endearment
A young woman struggling to win her mother-in-law’s approval.

X Equals Fifteen
A health care worker’s frustration with the limitations of his job.

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Buryin’ Day Today
Second Place, FreeFall Magazine Short Story Contest. Submitted by publishers of FreeFall to Journey Prize Jury.
A young woman on a routine trip to the UBC campus soon regrets choosing “this day, this bus.”

Have and Have Not
Published, Placentia Charter (May, 2009) and Downhome magazine (December, 2009). This article is a portrait of memories–my father’s and mine–and a result of research for in-progress novel set in Argentia, NL.
The upheaval created in the lives of the residents of Argentia, NL, during WWII when their tiny fishing/farming community was transformed, almost overnight, into a strategic naval base.

Castles in the Sand
First Place, Wyn-Lit Short Story Contest.
A snapshot of a man’s journey from middle class to homeless.

Bacon & Eggs
Published Wynterblue Confabulation 2 Anthology.
A woman dealing with loss and remembering joy.

Introduction Time at the Book Man

Introduction time at the Book Man in Chilliwack.

Winner of a Free Copy of PASSAGES

Winner of a free copy of Annie’s book PASSAGES.

Sharing A Smile With A Fellow Book Lover

Sharing a smile with a fellow book lover at the Chilliwack Book Man.