So wonderful to see you all again! Thank you to everyone who wrote, commented, and tweeted!!
Honorable Mention | Soldier | Eric Martell | @drmagoo
Cara Says: How did Jo wind up digging her own grave with Billy and his gun to oversee the progress? And what or who caused Billy to scream?? Seriously, this tale left off on one helluva cliffhanger. I genuinely hope there is more to this creeptastic setup.
Ruth Says: I’d love to see more of this because I am ALL IN. Wow! 🙂
Second Place | Underboss | Brady Koch | @BradyTheWriter
Cara Says: Love the clinical assessment of the project that opens the tale. Transition to the coolly disinterested Barbara. Creepy kid + creepy spider + creepy spider babies? I wanted to hide under the covers and never ever go to a science fair. Thank God my kid likes art…
Ruth Says: Absolutely loved this piece but it was that final line that freaked me out! Ha! Great story! 😉
Winner | Boss | Mark Ethridge | @lurchmunster
Cara Says: Clara and her tale of four-legged friends loved and lost wins the day. This tale broke my heart wide open. I think I may have lost some important bits… It’s sweet and heartfelt, and cuts even as it comforts. I would like to add, that I also loved this latest Armor 17 outing, and the two stories together show an amazing genre gap with equally talented results.
Ruth Says: I can’t even … kitties … ghost kitties. All the feels. ❤
The Winning Story: Untitled by Mark Ethridge
Clara’s tears blended with the steady rainfall as she used her shovel to pack down the dirt on the shallow grave for Eskimo. Eskimo’s grave was next to Tiger’s, Tiger’s next to Stripes’, and Stripes’ next to Hazel’s. Little homemade tombstones stuck out of the ground for the others. She hadn’t had time to make one for Eskimo yet.
“The trouble with living a long time,” she thought, “you get to see everyone that matters die.”
She stood and looked at the graves for her four cats, “Hazel, Stripes, Tiger? Take care of Eskimo.” Clara was soaked, water dripped from her chin, hair, fingertips, and ran down her pants legs to the ground. Her shoes were a total loss to the mud.
“Oh, Eskimo. You died so young.” Eskimo had lived for eight joyous years. “I loved the way you used to sleep on my pillow, propped against my head.” She cried at the memory, her tears washed away by the rain.
“You never did catch the red dot.” Eskimo always chased the red dot the pointer made on the carpet and the wall, as if trying to stop it from moving. Clara giggled, “Tiger will explain the red dot to you,” she looked at Tiger’s grave. Tiger had figured out the red dot, and stopped chasing it.
Clara remembered the times Eskimo climbed into her lap, with that look he got that said, “I know you’re lonely tonight, Mommy. It’s OK. I’ll take care of you.” And he had. He’d given her a family, a friend, a confidant. Eskimo was who she talked with. She told him everything about her life, how her day at work went, how stupid and frustrating men were. Eskimo always listened, and always rubbed his cheeks against hers. He made sure Clara knew how much he loved her.
Eventually, the rain wore her down, and Clara started toward the house. Halfway there, she turned to look at the graves again, “What’s that?” Her jaw dropped, and she took several steps toward the graves. All four of her cats were there, looking at her. Hazel, Stripes, Tiger, and Eskimo. Their purrs, and their voices all told her the same thing.
“We don’t want you to be lonely, Mommy. There’s always room for another family member. When you’re ready we want you to find a new kitty who will take care of you.”
Clara smiled, happy tears blended with the rain, “Thank you, my children. Thank you.”
After a shower, and some hot cocoa, Clara curled up under her blankets, and hugged her pillows. “I miss you already, Eskimo”. She cried herself to sleep because she realized her friend was never going to prop against her head again. “Good-bye, Eskimo.” She hugged her pillow. “Good-bye.”