Sunday, September 12, 2010

Contemporary/Women's Fiction, Round II

We're happy to report the winner of the second round of the Contemporary/Women's Fiction category in our OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest: Mother of my Son, by Rachel Allord of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
The entry shows good craftsmanship. Its opening line grabbed the judges right from the start, and the remainder of the chapter held their interest to the end. Furthermore, the synopsis sketched out a story that promises depth and relevance. It looks like a book we'd like to read.

For these reasons, we're pleased to present to you this month's winning entry:

Mother of My Son
by Rachel Allord

Chapter One
June 10th, 1992

The solution might be as simple as a green utility dumpster. Then again, the metal device that stood before her glinting in the moonlight might send her to the very pit of hell.

A muffled whimper escaped from the bundled towel in Amber Swansen’s arms. She ignored the noise; shut her mind to its existence, just like she had denied all the telltale signs crying for her attention these past few months. Even now, the quivering lump she clutched seemed like an illusion. It couldn’t be real. This was only a setback, an accident that should’ve been taken care of months ago by walking into one of those clinics, signing a few papers, and poof- problem solved. Evaporated like a bad dream. But she had ignored everything and forged on with life as usual, attended classes, rationalized away the signs, hidden behind baggy clothes, and now was left with no other choice but to take matters into her own hands.

In the end, what difference did it make? Ending it in a clinic months ago or ending it now like this? A few months or days or hours didn’t matter when the outcome, the remedy, was the same.

Her biology professor last semester asserted that existence, in it’s most primal of states, boiled down to random chance. Cells and tissue haphazardly joining together resulting in life. Cells to fish to ape to man. Why did it all matter anyway? If life was just a lucky fluke and everything had come about by happenstance, then they were all nothing but walking mistakes. Unwanted life should be terminated.

Amber eyed the dumpster again, took a step closer.

Survival of the fittest. That’s what this was. She was only doing what needed to be done in order to survive. She’d fought too hard to escape the trappings of her small, stagnant town and toxic grip of her mother and this problem couldn’t ruin her now. She had vowed to not turn out like her mother.

Lurking behind an overgrown shrub, Amber peeked back at her apartment building. No one stirred. Except for the anemic security light mounted over the back door entrance, no light flickered in any of the evenly spaced apartment windows. She returned her attention to the back lot of On the House, a local bar and grill, back to the waiting dumpster.

The full moon hung above her like a watchful eye, illuminating the metal bin, causing the edges of the apparatus to quiver like fluid. Or maybe the wavering was just an illusion, a side effect from the Peppermint Schnapps she’d consumed some time ago to get her through the horrors of the night. Her mind felt frozen and numb, like she’d
been swimming in cold water for too long. She felt outside of herself, detached from her movements, as if she were watching a character in a movie, wondering what she’d do next.

Amber zeroed in on the dumpster. A cool breeze lifted her blonde hair from her shoulders as another muffled whimper escaped the bundle. In a couple of hours, the light of impending dawn would expose her. If she was going to do this, she had to do it now.

Don’t think. Just act. What other choice did she have?

Disregarding the pain and the faint, imploring voice in the deepest corner of her mind, Amber broke into a run, her bare feet slapping against the asphalt, a deafening sound in the otherwise silent June night. The sprint across the road left her breathless and dizzy but she couldn’t pass out now. Not yet. She approached the dumpster and with one violent tug, flung open the lid, disposed the bundle on top of the stack of broken down cardboard boxes, and dashed back to her apartment.

A fleeting sense of horror washed over to her. What was she doing? Who was this girl running in the darkness? From somewhere deep within her a voice pleaded with her to wake up, jolt free from this nightmare, snap out of the trancelike state.

Wake up. Turn around. Undo.

Yet she didn’t turn back. Didn’t even look back. It was done.

Amber tumbled back through the common door of the building, back to the life she fought for. A trickle of blood traveled down her thigh inside her sweat pants as she staggered down the hallway. A shower. That’s what she needed- a good, hot shower to wash away the filth and horror and memory of the night.

She watched her hand turn the doorknob, a trembling hand that seemed to belong to someone else. She stepped over the threshold, into her tiny kitchen, and the trance was shattered. Robin, her roommate, was there to meet her.

“Amber. What’s going on?”

She hoped she was hallucinating. “I thought you were at Caleb’s for the night.”

“I was. We had a big fight and I just couldn’t stand the sight of him any longer.” Robin gave her the once over. “You look horrible. What’s the matter? What were you doing out there?”

The room took off in a spin. Raking her hand against the wall for support, Amber made her way to the bathroom. She was going to pass out. Or be sick.

Robin was close on her heels. “Something’s going on.”

Amber continued her trek. “Leave me alone. You shouldn’t be here.” She shut herself inside the bathroom, her body trembling and soaked in a cold sweat. Just in time, she hung her head over the toilet. She heard Robin trampling around. A thud of a knuckle on the bathroom door.

“Amber. I saw your room, I saw your bed! What have you done?”

Amber laid her cheek against the frigid, tile floor.

Robin had never voiced her suspicions outright but had, a few weeks ago, made a passing comment about her weight gain. Not everyone could be a beanpole, Amber retorted, and hadn’t she ever heard of the freshman fifteen? She’d never been a slim girl but was sturdy and voluptuous. Her steady diet of soda and fast food had caused her waistline to expand, she’d reasoned. Everything had a rationale. Anything could be explained away if you tried hard enough.

The bathroom door burst open. Robin stared at her with eyes as wide and manic as a marionette. “It is true, it is true. You were trying to hide it. You were…”

“No,” Amber roared then lowered her voice. “No. It’s taken care of.”

Robin froze. When she found her voice it was a mere whisper. “What do you mean it’s taken care of? What did you do?”

She only wanted to sleep, drift off into nothingness and never wake up.

“Where’s the baby? What did you do with the baby?”

Amber wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. “There is no baby.”

“Don’t play stupid with me. Tell me what you’ve done with the baby?”

“There is no baby!”

Amber closed her eyes and heard Robin shuffle out of the apartment.

Pulling her knees up to her chest, she gave voice to the words that had sustained her the past several months and wished with her entire being that it were true. “There is no baby, there is no baby, there is no baby…”


PatriciaW said...

Congratulations, Rachel. Intriguing story. I'd read too.