Winners of the Visual Arts Junction “Bedtime Story” Writer’s Contest (April 2010)
Professional Category: Donny’s Friend by Salvatore ButtaciIf Donny could’ve somehow unraveled the wires in his brain so that thinking came easily, he would have eventually forgiven them.
All those barren years they had prayed for a child, until finally in disgust Donny’s father had decided, “No more prayers. What’s meant to be will be. No more knocking at Heaven’s door.” If Donny could have, he would have taken pity on the two of them: his proud, exasperated father and his brokenhearted mother.
“Keep this up, Tina, and I’ll get on the horn and call the ones in the long white coats and let them haul your skinny ass out of here!” Then, realizing his cruelty, waved his hand as if to erase the threat, and said, “I’m sorry, Tina, but you’ve got to pull your pretty self together. No kid? Okay, we live with it. We still have you and me, right?”
And Tina smiled at Milt, but they both knew it was insincere.
Autism. Donny at three. The pediatrician explaining how it wasn’t the end of the world, but the diagnosis fell on Donny’s parents like a ton of lost dreams.
Donny sat still on the white table. When Tina walked over to the table and affectionately squeezed him, he did not react. His brown eyes scanned the room, jumping from the desk to the ceiling to the doctor to his parents to the white walls hardly visible behind the twenty or so framed degrees and awards that told the story of Dr. Peterson’s career. What those eyes saw never made it back to Donny’s tangled-up brain.
Dr. Peterson explained autism to them, but neither was listening. All those years waiting. Then this. It wasn’t fair. But what was even less fair came later. Milt and Tina gave Donny hardly any attention. He could not speak except for grunting whatever he was feeling but could not communicate. It especially unnerved his father while his mother would try to speak over those sounds till it got so that Milt did more and more overtime at work, not for extra money but for some quiet peace.
Most of Donny’s grunts were responses to the stuffed bunny Donny’s Aunt Meg had brought him, the one that suddenly one day had come to life. “A troll in the woods knew some magic, so I asked him to change my cotton stuffings to flesh and organs, let blood run through my veins. You know, be alive! And that little man made me real.”
Bunny paused and said, “Hey, care to be my friend?” Donny grunted, then held the white bunny against his chest, and grunted some more. “Yeah, kid, I know what you mean. Humans ain’t big on listening. Things turn sour, they give up. But you and me, we got each other now.”
Without knowing why his eyes were filling up with wetness, Donny brushed the beads away and grunted. “Oh, that?” said his only friend. “They call them ‘tears.’ It just means you’re one happy little boy!”
Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer who plies his craft everyday. His work has appeared widely. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from All That Matters Press or from Amazon.com. He lives with his wife, Sharon, in West Virginia.
NOTE FROM SALVATORE: Aggie, the good news of my contest win comes on the same day I will be taping an interview on our local NBC-TV station to run this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. here in southern West Virginia. The show is called “In Focus” and I will get the opportunity to speak about my writings, especially about my new book Flashing My Shorts.
Amateur Category: Paint my Dreams by Lubna KablyAnn’s eyes sparkled when she saw this book lying on a corner table in the attic. What was next to it? It looked like a magic lamp. A few other interesting bric-a-bracs lay scattered around.
Ann inched closer towards the table. Her grandmother had recently expired and she had accompanied her mother to this rambling old house. The assets were to be divided and the house sold.
She could hear Uncle Neil and Mama arguing again. Ignoring the shrill voices emanating from the living room downstairs, she looked closely at the book cover. “The Velveteen Rabbit”, it read. Ann always wanted a pet rabbit, but they lived in a tiny cramped flat in a crowded city. A rabbit will not be happy in a tiny cage, her mother had patiently explained, over and over again. Yet, whenever she passed a pet shop, Ann could not help halting, even if, to just peer through the windows.
Ann dusted the book and opened it. The childish scrawl on the front page was faint with age, perhaps it said: Hazel. “Oh, this is Granny’s book”, said Ann to no one in particular. Hugging the book tightly to her chest, she ran downstairs. “Mama, Mama, I want to keep this book”, she pleaded. Uncle Neil roughly pulled the book from her, flipped open the pages, said it was a worthless piece of junk and that she could have it. Mama had smiled and told her to run out and play.
Back home, tucked in bed, Ann began to read the book. It was about a toy rabbit who wanted to be a real rabbit and whose wish came true. “I wish my wish would come true, Mama”, she said, as her mother kissed her goodnight and switched off the lights.
Ann was lonely. Her mother caught up in her work and household chores was never around. She used to meet her father over weekends, but now he had moved away to another city. Phone calls from him were getting less frequent. A silent tear rolled down Ann’s cheek as she fell asleep.
The days rolled on, the book lay on a shelf, quite forgotten. Till one day, Mama told her that they were moving to a large house in the suburbs. Some art which Granny had in her house had fetched a good price. Ann didn’t then know what art was, she didn’t care. She was so excited about the move.
She remembered that she had rubbed hard on the magic lamp in the attic and had made a wish – for a fluffy white rabbit. Her pet rabbit – Velveteen and she would now play in the front yard of their new home.
Today, twenty odd years later, as a struggling artist, holding a temporary part time job to make ends meet, Ann looks back on the day she walked into the dusty attic. She knows there is no place for pessimistic disbelief in her life.
“You need to tread on the path of wonder, joy and trust and you don’t need a magic lamp to achieve your dreams”, she tells her friends. She knows that someday soon she will be a success and she heads back to her tiny studio to paint her dreams.
Lubna Kably is based in the busy city of Mumbai, India. While she is a number cruncher by profession, she loves writing – especially travelogues which appear occasionally on various portals. One of her submissions was accepted by Traveler’s Tales in their compilation of funny gut-busting misadventures: The Thong Also Rises. She is currently experimenting with Haiku and this is her first attempt at writing something unrelated to travel or taxes...
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