TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
She sat in her favorite spot on the porch of the weathered beach house, the salty air sticking to her skin, the oncoming storm blowing sand across her bare feet. The crisp envelope bent beneath her fingers as she laid it on her lap, and reached for the pen in her dress pocket…
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She sat in her favorite spot on the porch of the weathered beach house, the salty air sticking to her skin, the oncoming storm blowing sand across her bare feet. The storm surge was beginning and ribbons of foam boiled at the water’s edge as the sea pushed inland.
The outer beach houses that had absorbed the blows of mighty Sandy were no more – what remained was the rubble piled in hills that undulated across the battered beach – almost like a massive sea serpent stretching across, keeping the deep ocean at bay.
The divorce war, now a bad memory, had been inked into the records – only losers, as they say – whoever “they” are. A lonely train whistle wailed – its mournful sound wavering in the winds. She imagined the train heading into the ocean, drowning the past. Yet she had always thought of trains as representing her future – chugging up steep inclines, plowing through snow banks, but always getting there. It seemed they always moaned by in the middle of the night.
The fading light was dimming faster because of the storm clouds, but she could still see the lights up the shore, seeming to point toward the mansion where she married, the life she was leaving, and the false friends who left after the scandal and the divorce.
Her ex’s picture still graced the cover of business magazines on occasion, his opinion sought about the economy, the trends in the stock market, and the effect of interest rates. It seemed men could publicly survive better than wives, who were perhaps held back by a glass ceiling on escaping scandals.
From the good life to this beach shack was a short, sharp fall. She had refused to go to the press conference where he confessed his affairs and illegitimate progeny. She had seen the other wives, the distraught expressions, the zombie like moves of the betrayed, humiliated, and usually eventually abandoned.
After a few months, the public had lost interest in the divorce proceedings and the details of all the affairs, and he began his rehabilitation by appearing on cable and radio talk shows. But for her, she was nothing more than an ex-wife and a short curiosity paragraph in the ten years ago column. There were a few reports of her cancer and her legal battles with those who had squandered all the money and property she had taken out of the divorce. Only this tattered old beach house remained. The damage inflicted by Sandy had rendered it questionable for even this category one storm creeping in – its outer bands, which had been buffeting the house by the hour since yesterday, added to the shudder of the wood frame. It sounded like the old house was expressing its aches and her pains.
The children were all off at college. Their trust funds had survived, but they had given her nothing except birthday and Christmas presents of gift certificates at places she couldn’t afford to drive to. The children had never had to survive on their own, or to wonder where the next meal was coming from. They loved her for sure. They thought it was cool that she lived on the shore and could walk the beach and watch the sunrises and see distant cruise ships vanishing into the horizon.
Two days ago there had been only enough to pay the utilities and buy groceries for another year or so. Medicare was still three years away, social security was starting, but what can you do with $950 a month when your prescriptions use up most? The tabloids had somehow missed the fact that she was now on food stamps.
She squinted and watched a sign fly by on the latest gust. It hit the asphalt pavement and catapulted into one of the debris hills as plastic bags circled above the debris like vultures looking for road kill.
Yesterday, before the mail arrived, she noticed a droning sound and then realized it was a large plane flying over – probably one of those Coast Guard planes that fly over hurricanes and track the eye and the trajectory. She had seen similar planes dropping supplies to people marooned by storm or war. She had pondered over whether it would have to drop supplies for her since she had originally decided to ride out the storm, not chance a stay in a shelter where someone might recognize her and tabloids would begin pointing cameras at her tattered clothes and her ancient, dented, and rusty Toyota.
Then the mailman had come. It would be his last day delivering out here until after the storm he told her. He had always been nice, usually stopping to chat when he saw her out on the porch. Even though he wouldn’t be by to pick it up today, she decided to go ahead and write the letter. She would mail it tomorrow.
The crisp stationary, left over from a different life, bent beneath her fingers as she laid it on her lap, and reached for the pen in her dress pocket. She was nervous and her script was shaky but legible. As she wrote she heard the helicopter’s whopedy, whopedy, whopedy as it came flying in to pick her up and ferry her to her new life.
“Dear Publishers Clearing House,” she began, “I will set up a bank account after the storm and send you the information on where to send the million a year I won…”