This month we have the privilege of announcing the second category winner of our Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile.
The category is General Fiction, but there was nothing mundane about the entries. We had several excellent ones, and the judges had to get very picky in order to choose a winner.
After going through each submission with a fine-toothed comb, the judges came to the conclusion that there is, in fact, one that stands out from the crowd.
The winning entry this month seemed to both judges to be ready for publication just as it is. The story has depth and is well developed. The characters are three-dimensional. The action sucks in the reader immediately and the plot is layered with subtext. This is just plain good writing!
It’s our pleasure, therefore, to announce the winner of the General Fiction category: The Last Resort by Kerry Ann Morgan of Altamonte Springs, Florida.
You’ll find Kerry’s submission below. One thing I should mention: the manuscript isn’t targeted for a Christian audience, but this blog is read primarily by Christians. In the opening scene, the protagonist is under a lot of stress and responds in a believable, natural way. Because of the makeup of our audience, however, we were concerned that the language in a couple of places might turn off some readers; so we’ve taken the liberty of changing a word here and there. We’re not suggesting the author change the manuscript; we’re merely editing it for publication on this blog.
That said, we’re sure you’ll be impressed with the first chapter. Enjoy!
The Last Resort
Kerry Ann Morgan
One year, three months, and two days ago my husband wrapped his BMW around a tree trunk, forcing me into the role of an underage widow and single mom. Though at times my heart still wrenched inside-out missing him, most days I yearned for him to drive back into my life so I could kill him myself. This morning, as I ripped the final foreclosure notice from our hand-carved mahogany front door, I dreamed of slipping cyanide into his single malt scotch.
Sweat trickled down my dusty face as I plotted how I’d maneuver the hefty boxes inside the three-car garage into the storage trailer clogging the driveway. If we’d moved two years ago, the front yard would have been filled with a team of movers and a couple of eighteen wheelers. Now, except for the small stash of plastic bins and suitcases lingering in the foyer, the remnants of our life could fit into a single twelve-foot box.
Maybe I should have waited for my brother to handle the heaviest lifting, but Dave wasn’t off until Saturday, and the bank ordered me out by Friday at five. My parents offered to drive cross-country to help, but I couldn’t allow my dad to throw his back out cleaning up my mess. Mom would have chatted about their travels while labeling boxes, her Jean Nate perfume scenting everything she touched. I wanted my mom. I wanted to rewind my life.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I pictured Mom, feather duster in hand, belting out “I Am Woman” in her version of ’70s housewife karaoke. Yes, I could do this. Since I sang like a goat, I hummed while I hoisted an oversized stack of boxes from the ground and sidestepped towards the trailer. I could do anything. I was strong. I was invincible. I was— caught on a weed rising between the pavers. Before I could spit out a swear, I toppled face first to the ground.
Technically, I crashed box first.
“Cuss!” I pushed myself up, careful not to place my hand on any fragments of my great-grandmother’s china, now decorating the driveway with sprays of delicate roses and gold leaf. My grandma had bestowed this set upon me at my bridal shower. While I’d sold our fancy Wedgwood to catch up on the electric bill, I’d dreamed of eating turkey dinners with my own grandkids off this set someday. Not anymore. As I lifted a busted box corner, a dozen smashed dinner plates spilled from their tissue wrappings to the ground. I cradled a teapot, now resembling a cracked egg. A gallon of superglue couldn’t put it back together again.
Spinning away from the annihilation, I diverted my fury towards a boxwood topiary edging the drive. “Consarn it all.” I kicked at the shrub with my calloused food, savoring the adrenaline surge each time it snapped back like a punching bag. “Must. Every. Thing. I. Love. Be. Destroyed!” Each word was punctuated with a kick worthy of a Tae Bo instructor’s praise. Realizing I wasn’t going to knockout the bush anytime soon, I whipped back around, flinging the ruined teapot hard enough to decapitate a lawn gnome. The crash granted me an all too brief release before I realized I’d created yet another mess to clean up.
My glare tempered as I glanced towards to the front windows. No cherubic child’s face stared at me in shock, thank God. My six-year-old son, Brady, must still be plunked in front of my laptop watching a Wild Thornberrys DVD, unable to hear a thing over the cacophony of cartoon animals. Not that it would have been the first time he’d watched me melt down, but I was supposed to be past this anger phase and accepting my new reality. And he could do without the swearing.
As I stomped back towards the garage to fetch the broom and dustpan, I spotted Melinda Rogers― reigning Magnolia Creek Country Club Queen Bee―with chunks of china at her feet. Melinda wiped the astonishment from her face and picked her way through the debris. I longed to melt between the driveway pavers.
“Ivy, honey―any particular reason you’re slinging tea sets at me?” As Melinda placed her hand on her hip, the glare from her diamond ring flashed like heat lightning.
Everyone had expected me to channel Jackie Kennedy’s elegant facade of mourning and moving on. Instead I’d gone the Courtney Love route, and emotional exhaustion and financial ruin proved far from flattering. My so-called friends disappeared before the last sympathy bouquet wilted. Melinda and I had shuttled our kids to swim lessons and story times together, even escaped for girl-time cocktails at the club faithfully. Yet I’d heard from her once in the last six months. I couldn’t let her get the best of me.
“Why I do apologize, Melinda,” I drawled. “It seems my aim is off today.” Yes, I should have nailed her. “Just loading up a few boxes. Care to lend a hand?”
She snorted like a pig―a petite, pampered pet walked on a leash, of course. “Now there’s that sense of humor we’ve all missed. Sorry, but I’ve got a tennis match in ten, and I need all my stamina to knock Tish Jones on her bulimic behind. Plus, I don’t think they’d let me through the club gates all mussed up.” Melinda blatantly assessed my hot mess style. “Well—at least you’re thin.”
I wiped the sweat from my upper lip, smearing a dirt mustache across my pale skin. My frizzy ponytail sprouted from a NASCAR cap I’d dug out of the garage. Dirt striped my tank top and my cut-offs sported a glaring hole in the rear. I hadn’t bothered with makeup or razor blades for weeks, and blood oozed from my stubbly knee.
“Yeah, well, forget the Divorce Diet. The weight of widowhood can whittle any woman down to the nub.”