TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Her shoes clip-clopped along the concrete like a sticky metronome. Approaching a hot dog vendor, she said, “What types of mustard do you have today?”
He responded, “I had a pure-bred Schnauzer but now he only has three legs.” He then handed her a sweating bottle of water before turning away.
A few feet away, a metal newspaper dispenser reflected the harsh sunlight. She stepped closer, blinking at the headline…
(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)
Maybell hunched her shoulders and exited her house. Still furious for letting her paper service lapse, she worked up the courage to walk down to the metal paper dispenser at the end of her block to buy one for fifty cents. The sun was bright overhead with promises of another sweltering day, but it did little to lift her spirits. She disliked being outdoors. Countless calamities could befall her outside the tepid cocoon of her condominium.
Anxious to return there, Maybell reached the newspaper dispenser in mere minutes and sighed in, knowing that soon she would be home. She peered through the glass with narrowed eyes to make the headline out against the glaring sun.
Crazed Assailant Safely Behind Bars: Local Woman Pleads Insanity
Blocky letters were slashed across the printed page. Maybell became aware that she was no longer alone on the small patch of street. She realized a tall man loomed behind her with a grim expression on his face. He glared at her, their eyes meeting in a familiar way that did not belong to unfamiliar people, and Maybell shivered. She knew she should say something, but dreaded the interaction.
As though in response to her mood, the sky overhead gathered together wisps of clouds that seemed so inconsequential moments before, and blotted out the sun. Maybell’s eyes drifted skyward.
“Odd,” she found herself saying in spite of her previous misgivings, “it’s supposed to be sunny today.”
“I killed my wife,” the man said in response and Maybell’s eyes snapped back to his glaring indifference.
“I’m sorry?” she managed, stumbling over the words.
“I buried her in the basement,” the man went on. His eyes never left hers. “No one knows she’s down there, but sometimes when I’m separating the whites and the darks, I can still smell her under the earth.”
Maybell ran. What else could she do? Who was this man to say such a thing to her? Was he joking?
Maybell spotted a police officer lingering near a hot dog stand. She ran to him, feeling that she should report what had transpired, and only stopped to catch her breath when she was upon him.
“Excuse me,” Maybell wheezed, “I need to report a crime.” She glanced over her shoulder and saw in the distance that the man was still standing next to the newspaper dispenser. He stared through her, even at this distance.
“I have an addiction to cocaine,” the police officer announced and Maybell turned to stare up at him dumbfounded.
“Why are you telling me this?” Maybell felt delirious. The world was spinning faster and faster and she had nothing to hold on to. She needed to get away; get home. She took a step away from the officer, then another. His expression turned from mild curiosity to suspicious puzzlement.
“I steal it from the evidence locker,” he said slowly as his hands raised in supplication. “Just a bump here and there but it’s all I ever think about.”
“Stop it!” Maybell shouted, and stumbled away from him. She ran. Her chest burned. She wasn’t used to all this physical endurance. She yearned for her chair and her cat and the newspaper on her lap. Newspaper. She forgot to get her newspaper.
Maybell turned to look back up the road and at the distant intersecting street. She saw the police officer talking to the tall man who murdered his wife. But no arrests were being made. Instead, Maybell realized, they were both looking at her. Thunder rumbled overhead and Maybell took it as a sign. She rounded back towards her house, and abruptly ran into an elderly woman and her dog.
“I’m sorry!” Maybell mumbled frantically as she reached to set the woman to rights. The dog, a three legged Schnauzer, merely sat and admired the show.
“I wasn’t looking where I was going, I just-”
“Often,” the old woman rasped as she lifted her head to flash a toothy smile, “I eat my own ear wax. I love the way it tastes.”
“Stop!” Maybell shouted and then shoved the woman hard so that she stumbled out into the street. A passing car swerved just in time to avoid catastrophe and blared horns of retaliation. The world stopped turning, and all eyes looked at Maybell.
“Why are you saying these things?” Maybell pleaded as she turning in a circle to take in the growing number of spectators. In the distance, she could see the police officer moving towards her. “I don’t want to know!”
“I touch myself when I’m sitting in church,” a young man said stepping towards her.
“Shut up!” Maybell covered her ears but the words came anyway. The people around her loomed, driving her down to the dirt of the street.
“I like to cut myself,” a green haired girl said flatly. “I carve cruel words into my soft thigh.”
“Disgusting!” Maybell screamed and squeezed tears from her eyes. Thunder echoed her screams and the first drops of rain mingled upon her skin.
A hand clamped onto her shoulder and Maybell looked up startled. Before her, the police officer stared intently down at her with a frown.
“Do you have any cocaine?”
Maybell was lost. She tried to back away but the police officer wouldn’t let her go. Panic gripped her and Maybell thrashed in his grasp. Kicking, punching, pushing at him, she fought until the cold steel ring of handcuffs barred her wrists. Before she could comprehend what was happening, Maybell was being shoved into the back of a police car. Just as the door slammed shut, rain clouds gave over and the world was washed clean in a downpour.
“I don’t understand.” Maybell whispered, peering intently out the window. “It was supposed to be sunny today.”