Alas and alack, I was not picked!

Alas and alack, I was not picked for the Notes from Underground contest.  Truthfully, I wasn't surprised since most of the folks who entered have been writing for years and years.   I think I entered more for the practice.  I remember years ago, going on job interviews for jobs that I really didn't want, and using them as practice.  The more you do something, the better you get.  I popped the safety bubble and entered.  The first times always the hardest is it not?  That first step.   The application was free form with no rules so here's my entry.  

Pick Me!

As I sit down to write this I’m reminded of elementary school.  We all have those moments which take us back in time. Those moments where you stand there, quiet and calm on the outside, nervous on the inside, trying not to squirm.  Your heart beating rapidly as the two team captains chosen by the coach, call out names.  You hope and pray you are not the one.  The last one.  The one neither team wants but one ends up having to take because the coach says so. 

That feeling really never goes away, even if you weren’t the last one picked.  Pick me. Pick me.  The mantra runs through your head.  Never did you know that you would experience it again and again growing up.  Those early experiences, sometimes humiliating, sometimes not preparing us for life.   Job interviews, school, parties.Did I know all those experience would prepare me for writing?   Life - experiencing it from the sidelines or in the center of things.  So many stories to tell from over the years.

My very first job was working at a deli in a mall in  Georgia.  One of the guys who worked in the shoe store came in daily.  I knew him as Steve until months later, someone walked by and called him Jerry.  I blinked and looked at him.  “Jerry?”  He nodded and I blushed crimson. 

“Why didn’t you tell me.”

“Because” he said, “I like how you said my name.”  

Conversations - drama and laughter and foolishness and love all overheard while behind the counter making sandwiches.  Some think you are invisible behind that counter.   Writers are invisible, hiding behind their words.  You sit, watch, notice and dream.  A thought, a comment makes a spark.

Little did I know each job, however different, were stepping stones filled with stories leading to this point.   Designing and painting billboards for my dad’s Senate race in Georgia or making sandwiches in a deli.   Substitute teaching junior high school kids and trying to corral their energy.   Working for our local PBS station, fund raising, supervising volunteers and working on live televised auctions.   Working for the county district attorney and leading groups  of domestic violence victims in filling out restraining order papers.  Underwriting and issuing  insurance policies for homeowners.   Owning an electronic repair business.   It’s amazing how open people are. How willing they are to share what is happening in their lives, tell their life stories.

I had a very vivid imagination growing up and dabbled with writing stories here and there.  But never seriously until now.   With age, comes experience, wisdom and freedom.  Freedom to no longer worry about what other people will think.  The freedom to change, to experiment more.  The freedom to write without censure.  I’ve always wanted to write a wickedly hot romance or a super scary thriller,  perhaps a paranormal story.  The stories are in my brain, knocking at the door, waiting for me to open it.    What was it Forrest Gump said: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.’"

Writing is life a box of chocolates. You never know what’s going to appear on that page until you start writing. 


She sat before me in her two-piece gray suit, hands clasped in her lap. She didn’t squirm or twitch as she waited for me to say something. A manuscript lay open on the desk between us, red pen marking up the page. I glanced up to be pierced by her blue eyes. A lifetime of living behind those eyes.

“Why did you want to see me?”

“I’ve been watching you.” she said.

I tried not to squirm, but couldn’t hold back several blinks at her words. I couldn’t fathom why her words were so discomforting.
“What did you see.”

With a slight lift of her shoulders, a quirky smile, she said “someone whose worked hard to this point.”
“This point?”

“Yes. You’ve gotten as far as you could. But now, you are stuck and you need me.”


“To go further.”

Her confidence, her calm impressed me. Her arrogance angered me.

“Why did you agree to see me.” she asked.


“You know what they say about curiosity.”

“Yes, well.” I eased back in my chair, tried to relax my tense shoulders. “That depends on who they is. Why do I need you. What can you provide that I can’t do for myself.”


I spread my arms wide and looked around the office at the plaques on the wall, the awards on the shelves.

“Did you deserve it.” she said.

“Hell, yes!”

“Is it your best? Or just good enough?”

“My best!"

She shook her head and I frowned."If it’s your best, then you are done. You have nothing to strive for." I sat there, my mouth open and she smiled, watching me. “You could do better.”

“And you think you are the one who can help me do that?”

“Certainly. I can provide you with a fresh perspective.”

I looked at her wrinkled face, the gray hair, and the ages spots on her hands.

“We can help each other you know. Your youth, my wisdom. A unique blend, don’t you think?”

“Perhaps.” I said with a shrug.

She drew a deep breath, leaned forward and tapped her fingers on the manuscript sitting between us. “Do you know what this is?” I shook my head no. “Your mother sent it to me.”

“What? Since when does mom….” I caught myself. Oh she didn’t, she couldn’t have, she wouldn’t. I’ll kill her. “You weren’t supposed to see it.”

She nodded. “I know, because you wanted to do it all by yourself without any help, like always.”

“Exactly.” I reached over and grabbed it off the desk. My manuscript, Red Lies. I flipped through the pages and saw there were red notes on almost every page. “I can’t believe…”

“It’s very good. Excellent as a matter of fact. I’m quite proud of you.”

“Then why all the red?”

“Like I said, I can provide you with a fresh perspective. Did you really think you could write a story about me and not get my side of it?

“Mom told me everything.”

“No, she didn’t,” She reached into the desk drawer and pulled out a thick file, handed it to me. Inside I found newspaper clippings, letters and a diary. “If you are going to write my story, you should know what really happened. Now go, I have work to do.” She said, waving her hand in dismissal and turned to work on her computer. I stood to go and took one last look around the office. My gaze fell on the shelf with all my school ribbons and trophies. She displayed them proudly in her office for everyone to see. Mom had never told me and I’d always thought she didn’t care. I started to slip out the door, then turned back. She glanced up to see me still standing there and raised an eyebrow, waiting.

“I never knew.”

“Well, now you do. Now shoo, child.”

“Yes ma’am and grandma, I love you too.”

Well, Tell me honestly what you think.  I had the image in my head of two woman, the older one sitting behind the desk, the younger in front of it. I wanted it to seem like the younger one was interviewing the older one. A twist, an impression, then suddenly the revelation that it was visa versa. but it may have gotten lost in the translation somewhere.   Critique anyone? What could I have done better?

1 comment:

  1. I'm good at critiquing. If I was, I'd do better at my own stuff and short stories aren't my thing. Even so, I can't see anything wrong. You know who might be able to help? Janel at and Hannah at


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