Prompt Contest Winners

promptcontestwinners

Congratulations to the Redwood Writers
2016 Prompt Contest Winners!


1st-place

“Squeakers”
by Roger Lubeck

Roger Lubeck is a Vice President on the Board of Directors for Redwood Writers. He was the Editor-in-chief on four anthologies and a memoir by Samuel Chandler. Roger’s published works include business articles, short stories, six novels, two business books, and a contest winning ten-minute play. His newest novel, Ghosts in Horseshoe Canyon is a modern crime novel set in southern Utah. In addition, Roger is developing a treatment and screenplay for a new TV comedy.

Click here to open the Winners Flier and read the winning story, or open the tab, below:

The yellow pavement dividers, still wet with morning mist, are an iridescence ribbon guiding you through the winding redwoods. You love these early morning drives. Some days you go as far as the coast. On the beach, you wear binoculars and pretend to watch for whales. Other times, like now, you find a secluded spot in the forest with space for two or three cars. A beat-up Subaru parked just off the road is a magnet for tourists visiting the big trees. The empty parked car suggests there is something for others to stop and see.

You choose a turn out with room for three cars. From the back seat, you pick up a small digital camera, binoculars, and a Giant’s baseball cap. Useful props. You check the buck knife on your belt. From under the front seat, you find the Colt 1911 your father brought back from France. The forty-five has real stopping power and you like the weight and feel of the older weapon. You chamber a round and make sure the safety is on before putting the pistol behind your back and under your jacket.

Walking to the highway, you stand at the edge of the pavement and glance both ways. Nothing in either direction. It is too early for tourists. Your only worry is a nosey sheriff. One look in the trunk and your hunting days would be over. You step back from the highway. The big trees dominate the smaller pines and ferns. It is cool in the shade of the redwoods. You feel like you are one with the big trees; their deep roots hunger for moisture as their leafy tops search for the sun. You find comfort in their strength and longevity. You believe your secret will be safe with these silent guardians.

There is a path leading deeper into the forest. You walk to the path. The dark, green forest beckons you. The smell of wet redwood and eucalyptus invades your senses. You should find a good place where you can be undisturbed. Maybe later, you think. Now, you need a place to sit. There are tree stumps and boulders everywhere. You sit on a rock. Let the game begin.

The first beams of sunlight break through the forest canopy and warms your face. You listen to the trucks and cars racing past. People going nowhere in a hurry. You wonder what it is like to live such ordinary lives.

A German sedan pulls in and parks to the left of the Subaru. A woman alone. You slip behind the rock to watch. You can’t be sure of her age. She is smoking a cigarette. A definite strike against her. The window on the passenger side rolls down. Her face is framed in the open window. Short blond hair and bright red lips. She is older than you like, but not too old. Her eyes dart back and forth. She is cautious.

A station wagon with fake wood on the sides pulls in on the other side of the Subaru. An older man and woman in get out followed by two boys. The woman has a cane. The boys appear to be under ten years of age. One of the boys runs to a redwood, pulls down his pants, and pees. The woman yells at the boy. The sedan backs out and leaves. The man walks to a different tree, and he pees, too. When he is finished, they all climb back into the station wagon and leave. The woman in the German car seemed possible. Now she is gone. Your dislike of families has moved up a notch.

A VW van pulls off the highway and parks next to your car. There is a surf board on the roof of the van. A man in his early twenties gets out of the car. He is dressed like a hippie; wearing jean shorts and a tie-dyed shirt. He has a camera like yours. He looks in the Subaru and then around the forest until he sees you.

“Hello,” the hippie calls out.

He waves and you wave back. He crosses the distance between the cars and you. He has a red bandana on his head; his long blonde hair is tied in a pony tail. Close up he seems younger than twenty.

“Bird watching?” he asks.

“Hoping to see a white deer.”

“Are you a hunter?”

“Out of season.” You show him your camera. “You must not be local?”

“I’m up from Los Angeles. Headed for Stinson Beach. Gonna try your northern waves.”

“This time of year, the whales are bringing their calves north. There will be Great Whites in the water. You might want to try farther south.”

“Where’s the adventure in that?”

“Are you looking for danger?” you ask.

The hippie takes a moment to consider the question and the questioner. You give him your hard look. He needs to leave.

“I’m looking for that perfect wave and a little peace, Brother.” He smiles, and gives you the peace sign. “I best be going.” He turns and walks toward the van.

“Enjoy your life,” you offer.

Standing by the van, he takes several pictures of the big trees. The front license plate of the Subaru should be visible in one of the pictures. He steps away from the van and takes a picture of you. You touch your cap in a salute. He’s smart. You like that. He waves as he drives off and you wave back. A squeaker, you say to yourself.

You lie back on the rock letting the morning light warm your face. No amount of heat will melt the cold hatred in your heart or quell the voices in your head. You wonder when you are famous, will the hippie show your picture to his friends and talk about the day he met a serial killer and managed to squeak by?

Return to top


2nd-place

Robbi Sommers Bryant-1

“Number 14”
by Robbi Sommers Bryant

Robbi Sommers Bryant’s award-winning books include a novella, 4 novels, 5 short story collections and 1 book of poetry. Her work is published in magazines including Readers Digest, Redbook, Penthouse, college textbooks and several anthologies. She is past president of Redwood Writers and currently works as a developmental and copy editor. www.robbibryant.com.

A dim streak of sunlight stalks the cheerless sky and spotlights my face through the windshield. The road’s wet and forlorn, and the sky wraps the forest like a funeral shroud. On the passenger seat lays an empty bottle of scotch. In the backseat, knotted pantyhose, a cell phone, and purse—everything but the girl.

Shouldn’t have drunk so much whiskey, a rule made after I strangled girl number 3. Sucks the smart right out of me. But this one wanted to party, I figured why not. Alcohol takes the kill a notch higher. The pleasure hits harder. The release is divine.

My head bangs; I’m dizzy.

Jesus Christ, where’s the girl?

Okay.

Okay.

C’mon, think.

So . . . I was driving down this deserted stretch of Old Redwood Highway. Yeah . . . I was driving down old Redwood Highway, and she was walking, seconds ahead, wobbling like a clown on a tightrope. As she crisscrossed the double yellow lines, she entered the dark den of trees. A perfect opportunity for a guy like me.

“Where ya’ heading,” I said, slowing my car. Three large drops hit my windshield. The sky was a blur. The storm wasn’t far. Rain-soaked clouds held the sun hostage—it struggled to break free—sorta like the women who hook up with me.

She covered her hair with her purse and kept walking but didn’t say a word.

“Starting to rain,” I said. “Would you like a ride?” She was a wasp in a web. A jackpot for me. I’d choke her to death–she’d be number fourteen.

The thing is—maybe it’s kind of a crime—my all-American-face makes my mask pleasant and trustworthy. Women climb into my car with a smile. With my charm and charisma, some call me “a catch.” But when I unravel, I’m brutal.

The rain started a cha cha on the hood of my car. She shrugged her shoulders and opened the door. “Ya some kind of killer?” she said with a slur. “I ain’t got no time to for that shit.”

“Do I look like a killer?” I flashed a nice smile.

Women say that I’m every girl’s dream.

She climbed in the car and let out a sigh. “All that talk about the Lace Ribbon Killer, gets a girl nervous, ya know what I mean?”

“All those victims were men,” I replied with a wink. “I promise you’re safe with me.”

“Can’t be too careful,” she said with a snicker. “Ya wanna drink?”

She passed me the bottle and what could I do. Chasing the dragon, I craved the high. I took one shot after another. I got kinda woozy. I pulled onto a dirt road, but she didn’t seem nervous. In fact, it appeared she was game.

She said, “Where ya’ heading?”

“A short cut,” I muttered, distracted. The kill had my mind in a spin.

A mile or two down the dirt road, I jammed on the brakes. The roar in my head was exciting. In a flash, I was on her. She thrashed and she grappled. I had her and then . . . I went blank.

Shit. The clang in my head brings me back to myself. How the hell did I get back to Redwood Highway? Drunk driving? I should be ashamed. I’m a stickler when it comes to those kinds of rules. What if I’d gotten someone killed? Jesus. No more drinking and driving, I promise myself and this time I certainly mean it.

Where the fuck is that bitch?

She’s not in the back seat and not on the floor. Either she ran or I trunked her. I do that sometimes. I save them to play with—like a cat swiping a spider—especially the ones with spunk. Especially the ones with personality. I choke them, release them, and do it again. I choke them, release them, until they stop struggling. I choke them, release them, until they turn blue.

The fear in their eyes intoxicates me. Their terror is highly erotic.

It takes several minutes, can go up to five, simply to strangle a person. On TV dramas, writers shorten the kill time. Do the research, you’ll find that I’m right.

I turn the car, head back down the dirt road. When out of view, I climb out of the car. She’s either unconscious or dead in the trunk, either way I have unfinished business.

I pop the trunk. The woman springs up like a trampoline jumper, my crowbar firm in her hand. She comes at me swinging, screaming all the while. She goes for my head, and I duck. The crowbar hits me hard on the back. I stumble. She kicks me in the groin. I buckle to the ground.

“You mother-fucking pervert,” she yells. “Trying to strangle a defenseless woman. I hate that shit.”

I manage to pull myself to my hands and knees, but she’s fast and the crowbar swings toward me.

I slowly awake like a snake charmer’s cobra. For a moment, I feel hypnotized. My arms are bound behind my back. It’s stuffy and hard to breathe. The darkness immediately gets to me. I’m locked in the trunk. What the fuck? This is crazy. It’s too small. I need out. It’s too tight—set me free. Gasping for air, panic threatens me. I bang on the metal with all kinds of pleas. My head pounds, my back aches. My breaths get shallow. “Let me out,” I scream. “I’m suffocating. Let me out.”

When she opens the trunk, the sky is dark soup. My claustrophobia has beat me and I’m weak. She still has the crow bar, that dirty bitch. She swings and she swings and each time it hits. I feel my self fading. My breath almost gone. She takes a lace ribbon, ties it on my arm.

She’s the lace ribbon killer, my last fleeting thought. She’s the flame, she’s the nightmare, and I am the moth.

Return to top


3rd-place

taryn-young

“Sunday Drive with Grandma”
by Taryn Young

Taryn Young spent her working career as a technical writer, workplace investigator, and human resources manager. In her semi-retired state, Taryn enjoys hearing, and telling, a great story.

Iris could see he was distraught.  She saw that he was losing his boyish features, and glimpsed the beginning of a worry line in his lean face.

He took his eyes from the road, and studied her closely.

“That really wasn’t one of your best ideas.  What the hell were you thinking?”  He jerked the bench seat forward.

So he was still angry. She hadn’t asked him to come get her.  Still, she was relieved that he had.  It hadn’t turned out as she had planned.   People had been so distrustful.  And no one had mentioned the trailers would have rats.

She liked his old Mustang.  She listened to the rhythm of the tires against the highway pavement.  She sat quietly, letting her eyes be drawn into the forest, and delighted in how beautiful the October afternoon light was filtering down from the redwoods.  Her trip up had been by van, and as a novice worker she sat on the floor and had not been able to see.

“Do you remember when you were eight, and your mother and I brought you here to see the giant redwood tree? You insisted that was all you wanted for your birthday, was to drive through that tree.”

“Nine,” he corrected.  “Don’t change the subject. Nobody I know has a grandmother that goes to trim weed.   Don’t you know how dangerous that is? “

He was close to sputtering he was so angry.  She sat, staring straight ahead.  Funny, how tables turned.  She could remember spanking him very hard when he had run across a street without looking.

Iris responded calmly.  “I needed to make more money, boost the pension a bit.  I should have started working earlier, I guess.”   And not have given so much money again and again to her daughter, she thought.  But she left that unsaid.

“There is a lot of other work you could do”, he said, calmer.

She felt the Mustang take the gentle curves of the highway, and sighed.  “Not so much for someone over 60.  Wal-Mart is out.”

Adam contemplated.  He did some memory math to place his grandmother’s age closer to 70.   He felt guilty for not keeping in better contact the past few years.  He had been so busy setting up his business. He should have checked in more, made a better assessment.

She saw the elk in the roadway before Adam, and braced to avoid the impact.  She heard the skidding sound of the tires and felt the sharp pull to the right, as the Mustang landed hard, then rocked to a stop.

“Adam, are you okay?  She crawled toward Adam, nudging him gently.  Adam didn’t respond.  She needed to get out of the car, get help.   She scooted back and wedged her feet against the door.  No use, the door was not budging against the embankment.

Adam stirred, pushing himself up from the steering wheel.  He could see his grandmother with her skirt hiked up trying to push the car door and knew she was okay. He opened the door and stepped cautiously onto the road.   He walked tentatively to the front of the car, praying both the elk and the car could find their way away from the crash.

Iris followed Adam out of the car.  She was relieved to see there was a pretty good red welt on his forehead, but no blood.

“Adam, there” she said, pointing to the left side of the road.

Adam saw the elk standing under the redwood tree, frozen against the mist.  It was a magnificent elk; standing taller than any he had ever seen. As the elk raised his head and shook his antlers, Adam could feel the flood of relief, replacing the pain from his left arm, and his headache.

“It’s a sign of good fortune” he heard his grandmother whisper. She had taken his hand.   He remembered her as he was at nine, and at twelve, and during the year they buried his mother.   He put his hand over hers and guided back to her car.

He turned to see the elk again, but there was just a whisper from the fog where he had been.

They sat for a moment on the side of the road, watching the road unfold before them.   It angered him that no matter how carefully you charted a course, it was still so subject to things you cannot see.

“So it’s time for a change,” he told her, as he skillfully rocked the car away from the embankment, back onto the road.  “You’ll come live with me for a while, until we can figure something out.” He was a bit anxious about how Marianna, his girlfriend, would react, although he knew that she would see the humor in the escapade.

“I couldn’t do that”, his grandmother responded.  “I would never want to impose.”

There it was.  The out his grandmother had always given.  She was a strong and a proud woman.   Adam surprised himself with the assurance he felt. “It’s time to let someone else do the steering for a little while.”

She kept her eyes on the road ahead of her.  She bit her lip, as she didn’t want Adam to realize she was crying.  She stared hard ahead for quite some time.  When she dared, she glanced over at Adam.  Adam was relaxed back into the seat, his left arm on the car door, window down letting in the cool mist, drumming his slender fingers on the steering wheel.

Return to top


honorable-mention

Sandy Baker

“Toll for a Troll”
by Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker thrives on short, as in eight children’s gardening books and a middle-grade collection of short stories about the 1920s. BAIPA awarded Baker’s second book, Zack’s Zany Zucchiniland, Best Children’s Picture Book of 2014. So far, she has co-written one novel, with the sequel sitting in her WIP file. Sandy is the current President of the Redwood Writers’ Board of Directors. Find out more about Baker and her books at www.sandybakerwriter.com.

Return to top