The Contest by Jack Coey

Trevor read the ad:

            Announcing the Walter P. Hodgkins Literary Contest.       

Submissions are now being accepted for The Walter P. Hodgkins Literary Contest until September 1st. Please submit an original short story of not more than 1000 words to the e-mail below. The judges will select one winner and two runners-up on September 10th. Any topic is acceptable except please no sex or violence. The winner will receive a prize of $200.00 and the runners-up will receive $50.00 in addition to publication in The Arts and Leisure Magazine. All submissions must be original, unpublished work. Please submit as an attachment to: walthodlitcon@gmail.com.

 “$200.00!” he thought. He thought about a story about a man who goes blind and has greater illumination after his blindness than before. He thought about Becket at work who was a fall-down drunk but understood so much about life it was hard to understand why he treated himself so poorly. But that was the idea, the greater the suffering, the greater the wisdom. He himself was an example: working as a cashier in a supermarket while being a talented writer. But now he could change that, or at least get the recognition, so others would know who he was. And Deborah too. He could buy her an engagement ring with the money. She too could see the true Trevor and not be so ambivalent. He got out a notebook and pencil and started a story about a man named Byron who goes blind at thirty-four from looking into the sun. He thought he would have to explain how that happened, so he made Byron a birdwatcher who looked too long at an eagle and suffered from solar retinopathy. 

 “That’s believable?” he questioned. He held his pencil in the air as he thought about it. He finished the first part of his story when the doctor told Byron his sight loss was permanent.         

He sat at his kitchen table and plotted his story. Byron’s girlfriend, or maybe wife, named Daphne leaves him in his disability. 

 “Or his darkness and despair?” he thought. “Is that too sad?” He tapped his fingers on the tabletop. He thought about it and decided to have Daphne abandon Byron.

 “Okay, so what wisdom does Byron learn from this?” he asked himself. He tapped the end of his pencil on the tabletop. “That people are fickle…no, no, that women are fickle? Jeepers! Too negative.” He put his hand under his chin and stared at the wall. 

“Byron would be heart-broken…” He felt sad for Byron. “It’s like he gets victimized twice, once with the blindness and secondly with the desertion,” he tallied. “And what about Daphne? She would have to be cold to kick a guy when he’s down like that? Maybe the story is about Daphne and how she comes to compassion?” Trevor didn’t know. He felt immersed in possibilities. He heard the door open. It was Deborah carrying a package.

“I brought you a sandwich for your lunch,” she said.

“Why, thank you,” answered Trevor. He was moved by the gesture. She got him water from the refrigerator and put the sandwich in front of him. 

 “Why, thank you,” he said again. He thought how Daphne wouldn’t do that for Byron. 

“I’m writing a story,” he told her.

“Really? What about?” 

“A man goes blind and his wife deserts him.” 

“Depressing.” 

“Maybe not though. What if the wife has an epiphany?” 

“What’s that?” 

“Discovery or realization.” 

“I suppose.” 

“I could win $200.00 dollars.” 

“My!” 

Trevor took a bite from the sandwich.

“Ham alright?” she asked.

He was annoyed. He’d told her multiple times he didn’t like ham. He nodded his head. 

“She must want to annoy me,” he thought.    

“I got you wheat bread,” she said. He would rather white. He nodded his head just the same.

He thanked her even though he didn’t mean it and she held her gaze until she felt what he felt. They sat in silence. Trevor thought that Daphne would bring Byron sandwiches he didn’t really want and do so knowingly. It was dawning on him there was fiction in truth. 

“If I was to go blind, would you still bring me sandwiches?”  

“Of course, I would.” 

He didn’t believe her. He took another bit of the sandwich.

“Why are you testing me?” 

“I’m researching for my story is all.” 

“I thought you were supposed to make stuff up?” 

“That’s part of it. Part of it can come from life though.” 

“Oh?” 

She warily eyed him. He wondered at what Daphne – no, he meant Deborah, was looking at. He blinked his eyes.

“Why does the man go blind?” 

“From looking into the sun.” 

She smirked. “That’s kinda dumb.” 

He felt anger. He was silent. 

“And his wife leaves him? That’s what you said?” 

He looked at the floor.

“The guy must be a retard to look at the sun.” 

“I only have started it.” 

“Oh? I don’t mean to be critical.” 

  “We’ll talk later when I’ve worked on it some more.” 

“I can see how a woman would leave a man when he’s done something really dumb that complicates their lives unnecessarily so.” 

“Of course.” 

They were silent.

“Well, I’d better get to my accounting class,” she said. She gave him a tepid kiss on the cheek. He drummed his fingers on the tabletop and had the idea of a security deposit with the $200.00. 

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