We are pleased to announce the winner of the Contemporary/Women’s Fiction category of our OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.
A tight call between two stories of comparable merit, it boiled down to a question of which should receive greater weight: plot line, or technical skill? After much discussion among the judges, plot took the day, making the winner of this category Amy Sue Nathan of Flossmoor, Illinois, with her novel The Glass House.
The story is told in a distinctive voice, featuring a likeable protagonist who, despite a certain sassy flavor, acts with maturity and does the right thing. The judges liked the cultural contrasts, the descriptions, and the “elephant in the room.” There are a few technical flaws, but everyone agreed that, with the solid plot sketched out in the synopsis, this story shows the most promise of all the entries.
We’re happy to share the chapter with you. Enjoy!
by Amy Sue Nathan
Evie never expected to get divorced, let alone sit Shiva for her ex-husband in a house with a Christmas tree. Yet there she was.
The imitation pine tree was dressed in tinsel and shiny red balls. Hallmark ornaments masquerading as heirlooms dangled from its branches. Stockings hung from the mantle above a card table topped with a green velveteen runner, holly-stamped paper plates and a Lucite platter heaped with lox, cream cheese balls and a mountain of seeded bagels. Evie shook her head, unsure which was more shocking – Richard’s death or the attempt for cultural balance. Richard had mocked Christmas folderol until he married Nicole a year before. Now he was being mourned in the company of a motorized Santa.
Stocking-footed and sitting on a wooden bench with her feet turned inward, Nicole, at twenty-six, looked like a little girl digging her toes into cool sand. She slumped, arms at her sides, hair in disarray. It made sense -- all the mirrors in the house were covered as dictated by tradition. Nicole’s skin was sallow without the benefit of foundation. The circles under her eyes stretched to mid-cheek. Her daze extended beyond her personal space and touched everyone in the room.
Evie stared because she could.
Within three years Nicole had been Richard’s mistress, wife and was now his widow. The blood must have left Nicole’s extremities. Her stomach would be in her throat. Her heart would ache for touch as her head searched for answers. She would be nursing a cocktail of anger, sadness and shock. Evie was sure because she had mourned the loss of Richard too. But she had done it when he was alive.
The Shiva food sat untouched and started to curl and crust at the edges. Everyone hovered, waiting for some official signal it was Time To Eat. Only then would they soothe their psyches with time-honored Jewish death fare.
Nicole lifted her sleeping six-month-old baby, drew him to her chest and stood.
“Everyone, please have something to eat,” Nicole said. She side-stepped the oncoming mob and inched her way to Evie on the couch, a black leather casualty of divorce.
(Click here to continue.)