Sunday, February 6, 2011

Write a Story about Eddie Currents and Win a Drawing

Write a story about Eddie Currents and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday February 28, 2011 

Eddie Currents 
20"x16" collage, oil paint, 
and graphite drawing




Click on drawings to enlarge
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at kmencher@ohlone.edu with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at kmencher@ohlone.edu

Go to my website for more contests: http://www.kenney-mencher.com/

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).

The show is called:
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes.

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)
______________________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:
By Colleen Craig
Eddie Currents was a dreamer. The men at the bank where he worked called him crazy Eddie, and told him to straighten his hat. Serious guys wear their hats directly across their heads, they said. But Eddie only laughed, putting on his hat in that odd little angle every afternoon when he left for lunch, and every evening at closing time.  
Women saw him differently. Eddie’s a dreamer, they said. They could tell by the way Eddie’s eyes grew soft when he talked about the lake near the town where he grew up. He remembered the early mornings when he swam out beyond the buoys, and floated under great banks of clouds. And then there were the stories about his little red sailboat, carrying him along the shore for miles -- just Eddie and his dog Midgie, who used to bark at the waves.
“I had adventures there,” Eddie would say softly.
“What kind of adventures, Eddie?”
“Oh, you know, the swell kind. I had a tiny cannon that shot a real ball into the air, and I would take it on my sailboat. You never knew what kind of people you’d meet when you were out on the lake.”
“You mean, you’d pretend to be a pirate or something?”
“No,” said Eddie, as if the question surprised him. “I was never a pirate. But sometimes, I met pirates, and I had to do what I could to defend Midgie and me. You know how it goes.”
Then Eddie would smile his sweet smile, and the woman listening had no choice but to say ‘sure Eddie, I know how it goes.’
 Sometimes Eddie would compliment a co-worker on her eyes, her silk scarf, or even a jeweled pin. He liked blue, and he liked green. ‘Your scarf looks like the color of a lake at twilight,’ Eddie told Miss Mabel Regan, the receptionist. And to Elinor, the phone operator, he said that her brooch sparkled like sunbeams falling on water. Then he would quietly return to his numbers, slowly adding one column after the other, and writing the amounts in small, perfectly formed numbers. Eddie didn’t make mistakes, which was why the managers kept him at his accounting work, in spite of his strange ways. Eddie also didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, and if he told a tall tale now and then, what difference would it make to their customers? He showed up every morning at exactly ten minutes to eight, he was never sick, and after ten years of such punctuality, they doubted things would change. Eddie was the kind of employee banks made money on.
“You ever been in love, Eddie?” He and Elinor were sitting in the lunchroom on a rainy day. Eddie hadn’t brought anything to eat, because he usually went out, so Elinor shared her tuna fish sandwich and an apple with him.
“Why do you want to know?”
Elinor shrugged her shoulders. “You’re a cute fella, but you never talk about anyone special. And you sure as heck never ask any of us out.” Elinor turned red as soon as the words left her lips.
“I would most definitely like to ask you out, Elinor, because you are kind, and a man could go swimming in the depths of your heart. That’s what I believe,” said Eddie.
Elinor blushed even deeper. She brushed a few crumbs off the table, then bit into her half of apple.
“However,” Eddie continued, “as I am engaged, I am not in a position to ask anyone out.”
“You’re engaged, Eddie?” Elinor was incredulous.
“I have been engaged since I was sixteen years old.”
“To who? Who’s your sweetheart? Where is she?”
“If I told you that,” said Eddie, “I would never hear the end of it.“
“That’s not true,” Elinor protested. “C’mon, Eddie, you can tell me. Have I met her? Has she been in the bank before?”
Eddie shook his head. “She doesn’t need banks. Not banks, not clothes, not houses to live in.”
Outside, the rain grew louder, and thunder rumbled across the city streets. The weather was shaping into one magnificent storm.
“What kind of woman is that?” asked Elinor.
“Well, said Eddie slowly. “She’s not a woman at all.” He leaned in close to Elinor, and whispered: “She’s a mermaid.”
Elinor stared at Eddie, who easily held her gaze. She felt something sweep through her, something that felt like the softest breeze, and a smell of wet earth and water. Then Eddie smiled, and Elinor started to laugh. “Jesus, Eddie, you kinda had me there for a minute.”
At that moment, one of the bank tellers burst into the room. “We’re on flood watch!” she said breathlessly. “I just heard it on the radio. The lakes are starting to rise.”
“It’s time for me to go,” said Eddie suddenly.
“Go where?” said Elinor. “You just ate.”
Eddie took a deep breath. “Why, back to my desk. Lunch is over.”
The next few hours seemed slow and heavy as the afternoon grew darker, and rain lashed the bank windows. Finally, at 5 pm, Eddie rose from his desk, grabbed his coat, and headed for the door.
“You forgot your hat, Eddie,” yelled his manager. Eddie paused, then returned to the coat rack and retrieved his hat. He put it squarely on his head, and waved.
“Say, Eddie, you gonna be serious for once?”
“You bet,” said Eddie. “But just this once.”
The next morning, Eddie didn’t show up at the bank, and didn’t call, alarming his co-workers.
Later, one of the accountants took Eddie’s stack of paperwork from his desk, and discovered a note in Eddie’s neat printing underneath the pile.
Gone fishing, it said.
Two days later, an article appeared in the newspaper about a red sailboat that had been found floating in the lake several towns over. There was nothing in the boat but a brown felt hat.
_________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:
Eddie Currents - A Little Sole Food by  Gigi DeVault

 “What brought you to Monroeville?”  The past few weeks, I’ve answered that question as often as I’ve said my name.  The harder question to answer is what keeps me in Monroeville. 
My momma always knew when I was hanging around some girl  I bet my momma always thought those girls were like Miss Betty.
Some folks will say that a woman’s got eyes that smolder and burn right into your head, all the time pestering you.  That —and the heat of a southern night—keeps you good company when sleep don’t come.
I’m from up north a bit where I went to school on a GI and got hired at an insurance company.  My boss says one day, “Boy.  I got a job for you.” He says this like he’s offering me a sack of pralines.  I never saw Mr. Strecfus Upright-Persons share anything he got what others might want.  “Boy,” he says. “You get yourself down to Monroeville and deliver this here check.  A young girl done lost her father.  That ol’ hillbilly had an Armor-All Term Life Insurance policy—seems like he was a soldier once.  $5,000.  That’s what she gets as ben-ee-fish-ary.“
But that’s not the part that set me up to stay in Monroeville.  It was this.  Then Mr. Upright-Persons says, “You got to make sure that Miss Sheedoes is who she done said she is.”   I head down to Monroeville, now, I don’t exactly know how to be sure who Sheedoes is.  But I’m thinkin’ on it. 
I took the bus from Backwatersberg to Monroeville, which takes six full hours.  Meaning I got a lot of time to think about how to prove somebody is who they say they are. 
At the bus station, I see I got another problem.  The Sheedoes’ cabin is not handy to anything south of the Sticks County line.  This problem disappeared like bacon grease in a pig sty.  There was all-of-a-sudden all manner of fellows ready to drive me out to the place.   I settled on Eez.  Eezechiel.  A, for Archulus or Adonus.  I forget which.  Eez A. Hunk.  He’d come in handy with any band of bullies who don’t cotton to insurance agents.
 Eez and I had to leave his pick-up at the bottom of the hill and walk up a ways.  There was nobody around.  Eez said, “She’ll be at the crick.”  Eez didn’t say much. 
She was at the creek, alright.  I know you think she was bathin’ in the creek, but she wasn’t.  But she wasn’t dressed for company neither.  Her skirt was all hiked up and bunched between her knees—to get it out of the way, I reckoned.  She wore a blouse with no sleeves and no collar and not much of anything, really. Least not to cover up what all she had in abundance.
The girl was fishing, but she was in no danger of scaring the fish by movin’ all of a sudden.  Like as not, she caught fish mostly for that reason: Being able to sit real still and stare into the back eddie—where the old timers lingered—and see right when a fish was on the edge of taking a chance. 
Her brown eyes were as liquid as the dark water of the slow movin’ creek.  It struck me that any creature—fish or man—who looked too long into those eyes was lost.  Eez appeared to be moving in that direction.
I read from the check: “Miss Betty Mae Bea Sheedoes?” I sounded like a fool, even to myself.  The girl slid down the front of that rock real slow— so as not to startle the fish—until she could dip her toes into the creek.
“Bet,” she said.
I stood there—silent as Eez—feeling dumber than the rock under Miss Sheedoes’ behind.  Then Eez said, “She goes by Bet.”  I knew then that I had a true ally in Eez.
“How do, Bet,” Eez said brightly.  In two mother-may-I-steps he was sitting on a wet log real close to Miss Bet Mae Bea Sheedoes.
“You all got bid-ness with me?”
“Yes, Ma’am,“ I said, before Eez did.
Now it turned out that Miss Bet didn’t have a bank account, so Eez and I took her to the bank in the County seat. She liked the picture of Uncle Sam on a poster, so she bought herself a $10,000 EE US Savings Bond, sayin’ something about her daddy fighting for his country, and that she was putting the money right back where it came from.  
“In twenty years, Eddie,” Bet said, “The other $5,000 will be for you because you brought me this money.”  We sealed the deal over a chocolate soda at the drug store.  Even though Eez wasn’t getting’ a share, he drank to it.
I got to wondering how I was going to prove to Mr. Upright-Persons that I gave the check to the right girl.
Eez said we just needed to get witnesses.  He volunteered to be the first.  Getting other witnesses in Monroeville was easy enough, but getting people to think it was a good idea to ride in the back of Eez’s pick-up all the way to Backwatersberg . . . We was havin’ some troubles with that.  Specially since Eez spent his waiting time working on a bottle of spirits, until even Bet and I wouldn’t ride with him.
“Still waters run deep,” my momma used to say.  I don’t think that she had Miss Bet in mind, but it describes her just the same. After a couple of weeks of witness-hunting, Miss Bet showed me her social security number on the EE Savings Bond.
The banker sent a letter to my boss verifying the “most unusual” transaction by one Miss Betty Mae Bea Soshedoes.  Mr. Upright-Persons thinks it took me two weeks to find that girl.  Heck, it didn’t take me more than two minutes to know I was goin’ to learn to fish real good. 
____________________________________________________
_______________________________________ 


This came in by e-mail:
The Shtory by Patrick Nelson
"This knish tastes like a boiled sock!" Eddie groaned as he grabbed a napkin from the vendors cart and spit the last bite into his hand. "How come nobody sells any good grub at these carts? They need to sell some tuna salad or a nice fried fish sandwich, y'know?” He asked Franklin, his friend and co-worker from the dock. He wadded up the whole thing and tossed it in the nearby garbage can which gained him a very scornful look from the vendor, a short, fat and greasy looking man. With his tongs still in his hand, the vendor walked away from his cart and looked  forlornly  into the wire mesh can: "what's da matta wid you? She's a good knish! My wife make dis dough in this mornink!" He looked back in the garbage and pouted his lower lip out while resting his hands on the shelf of his upper belly.
 "Yeah, Eddie, something must be wrong wit yer taster. I think this baby's primo." Franklin managed to get out between chews of his knish.

The vendor reached into the bulging pocket of his apron and pulled out a few bills and walked up to Eddie and threw them at the ground by his feet. "I don't needs a schmo like you gettink sour about my wife's knisch! I don't need your lousy money neider! Next time you pass by my cart, I will thank you." He spun on his heels with his head held high and strode triumphantly back to his realm.

 "Jees, what a hothead!" Eddie tilted his hat back and scratched his head. "Wonder what's eatin him." Franklin and Eddie turned towards the bay and walked to a bench by the bayside. People strolled idly past and took in the picturesque view of the bay and the magnificent span of the nearby suspension bridge. It was the first day of march that gave any real promise that the cruel joke of winter might be over. The sun shone overhead with no clouds to be seen and it was a balmy fifty degrees.

Eddie and Franklin plopped down on the metal bench. Franklin put his feet up on the large chain link that bordered the concrete walkway and the lightly lapping waves of the bay.  Eddie watched his friend wolf down the last of his knish and studied him: he had a pasty white complexion with a strange greenish hue, medium build, pretty fit and had receding red hair. The only things that set him apart from the other people Eddie knew were the fact that he always wore a thick scarf around his neck and gloves, no matter the weather. Those two things and the fact that he would only talk to Eddie.

When Eddie started at the loading docks 8 years ago, everyone told him about Franklin: “Yeah, that's Frankie. Hard worker, but don't try chattin wid ‘im, cause he's a mute or somethin. Oh yeah, he's a regular joe, but he had his tongue cut out by his ex-wife.” Such stories as that. Eddie was greatly shocked when one day at quitting time, Franklin shuffled up behind Eddie in the time clock line and said: “Hey, It’s my birthday! Wanna go to Lumley’s on the corner and let me buy you a birthday beer?”

“Um, don’t get me wrong buddy, but I think it’s me what’s s’posed to buy you a beer if it’s yer birthday” Eddie corrected.
“Okey doke! How gracious of you. I accept your invitation fer cocktails on this auspicious day which happens ta be the day of my generation. Thanks!” Franklin grinned a fishy grin and patted Eddie so hard on the back that he had to hold on to the wall to balance himself. Now Eddie thought he may know why Franklin didn’t talk to others: he had a piercingly high sort of warble in his speech. It was not loud, just tinny and tingly in his eardrums.

Despite the fact that Eddie could barely afford the drinks, he acquiesced and much to his surprise, he and Franklin hit it off quite well. The one birthday drink turned into one or two beers a week and slowly that matured into a solid friendship unlike like the ones he had so far developed at work or elsewhere with others. The two acquaintances soon became true friends. The weekends where spent in almost constant company of each other except on the rare occasion that either gentleman was entertaining a lady friend. Which happened more often in Eddie’s case than Franklin’s as Franklin had the strange trait of not talking to anybody but Eddie.

“How does he get these gorgeous dames to even talk to him, when he doesn’t say a word to nobody but me?” Eddie would muse. But in the long run it didn’t matter because Franklin had emerged as the one true friend Eddie had never had but always wanted. Ever since he was a small child, Eddie was a sort of loner. Not that he wanted it that way, it just sort of evolved that way. He grew up in the Bay Bridge Orphanage and even when he was old enough to leave, he still stayed on at the facility as a custodian and sort of unofficial mentor to some of the children as they came through. His parents weren’t deceased, he was told, they just couldn’t take care of him. He would often ask the counselors and other workers what his parents were like, but all he was told was that he was left on the doorstep in a basket and bedding which was soaked to the bone with sea water. The note attached, which was smeared where the water had made the ink run, simply said: “ We can no longer keep him safe.”

This always puzzled Eddie and he often daydreamed about the various possibilities and circumstances that surrounded his parents decision to abandon him. “Maybe they where not married, or maybe they were spies, or maybe they...” He went on this way. None of his thoughts ever satisfied his feelings of loneliness or reconciled himself with his place in life.

But he now had a connection to the world in Franklin and he was somewhat satisfied with that.

As the two men sat on the bench and stared out at the water shimmering in the midday sun, Franklin said “hey! I’m gonna take a little nap till we hafta head back to work, ok?” He grabbed the hat from Eddie’s head and gently plopped it down on his own to shield his eyes while he slept.  Eddie himself felt a little drowsy and he leaned back on the bench and stretched out with his feet up. The sun was warm and it lulled him into a light nap. He assumed he must be drifting into a dream for the area around him started to become quite thick with fog and a slight chill crept into his bones. For some reason it reminded him of the stories of the day he was left at the orphanage.

Just then, a strange high pitched humming drifted in from the fog. It was coming from the direction of the bay. He stirred slightly and peered into the swirling mist that now engulfed his friend and himself. He thought he should be afraid or some other such emotion, but strangely, there was a calm over him until he saw a figure emerge through the haze. It seem to come up from the water and barely tread the surface. It appeared to be a woman. Not like any one he had seen before, however. Her beautiful face held an expression of concern with a mixture of distraction. Her long flowing brown hair seemed to flow slowly as if under water and the whole lower half of her body...was...a fish

What the heck! Did she get swallowed by a shark or a big tuna?” Eddie thought to himself.

“Hey lady! You OK? You Need help? There’s a fish where the rest of you oughtta be!” He thought he may have shouted a little loud, but given the current situation, he was somewhat justified.

Suddenly, the vision replied “What, have you never seen a mermaid before, buster? I ought to look real familiar to you anyway, cause I’m the one that dropped you off that night at the orphanage. You couldn’t have been more than two or three...”

Eddie’s heart skipped a beat as he let himself hope. He turned to his dormant friend and shook him violently trying to wake him, but for some strange reason, he would not wake. “Frankie! Frankie! Wake yerself up, you bum!” Nothing.

He turned his attention back to the fish-tailed woman and stared searchingly into this woman’s eyes.  She seemed to sense his thoughts and quickly responded: “No I’m not your mother. I’m a maiden in her court and I was sent here to bring you back home. I left you all those years ago on her bidding. A time of war between our people was beginning and your mother and father feared for your safety. They had no choice but to bring you outwater.” She seemed to Eddie to be a little anxious. “The war came and it rages still. Your father, a great man, has been killed in the fighting.” Eddie thought he saw Franklin flinch on the bench beside him. “He was our king. your mother can’t hold on to the crown by herself. I have come to beg you to forgive her and return to your true place.”

“Uhhhh. What?” was all the dumbfounded prince could muster. “I just need a minute to... um.”

The maiden began to recede into the mists and slowly sank into the murky water. “Please” she begged “come quickly or all will be lost.”

Just as quickly as it began, the fog and chill evaporated and the sunny waterside park became real again. All the people walked past as if nothing had happened. No one seemed to notice that a half woman half fish just came out of the bay and told Eddie that he was the new king of the sea. His friend didn’t even stir from his slumber when the dim atmosphere overtook them. Or did he....

Franklin stirred slowly and sat upright and stretched his arms wide out. He yawned. “Well, buddy. I thinks it’s time I got back to work. I think you need to think about whether you’re coming with me.” He rose from the bench and took a step toward the rope of chain. He put one foot up on one of the heavy cast iron columns that the chain was strung on. He took the hat off and tossed it back to Eddie “I came here a long time ago to help keep an eye on you, but now I think I really am needed more at home from the sound of things.”

Franklin unwound the heavy scarf from his neck and tossed it on the ground next to the bench Eddie was still sitting on. It landed with a heavy, wet slap. Eddie saw what was unmistakably gills on either side of of Franklin’s neck. They quivered open and closed in a rippling pattern. Franklin saw Eddie staring and said by way of explanation: “I can’t make my gills disappear on land like you royals, but I can breathe out of water, I just need to keep my gills wet...”

With that Franklin an informal salute to his friend. He turned towards the water and stood with both feet on the chain. “Hope to see you down home and don’t take too long, OK?” With that, he jumped headfirst into the bay and disappeared.

Eddie walked up to the water’s edge and peered into its depths. He put his hat down on the iron column, bent down and rested his palms on the thick, black chain and drew a heavy breath.
 _____________________________________________



This came in by email:
EDDIE’S MERMAID by Dee Turbon

He was different somehow. His eyes all bright like the sun was in them and his smile not slipping. Even the way he moved said something had changed. It was was as though he was hearing music in his head and he tripped light steps to cross the street, like he was skipping or dancing.

I said what I thought. I said, ‘Eddie, you’re different.’

‘What can I tell you?’ he said.

‘Everything,’ I said. ‘Tell me the whole story. Cos I want a piece of what you’ve got.’

And I did. I wanted to be smiling at the day and my voice all sing-song and cheery and nothing getting in the way of my being happy. I wanted what Eddie had.

He shrugged and was evasive. ‘It’s a state of mind,’ was what he said.

I knew him. I thought I did. We went way back. To the beginning, or as near as the beginning can be. To as far back as memory. Eddie in shorts and with a crooked hair cut and his teeth too big for his mouth and his shoes scuffed. We grew up together. Friends mostly. Traded blows once, and compared black eyes afterwards when we had forgotten what our quarrel had been. Eddie smoking his first cigarette down at the pier, and I was there, and he shared it with me. And a shot of his pa’s bourbon, we shared that, too. And I remember his stories of first kisses and his hand under Debbie Ahern’s sweater, so that I think I remember the touch of her breasts under my fingers and the hardening of her nipples.

Then it hit me. I suddenly knew. The difference in him was love. I’d seen it before. Lost his heart to a girl called Lucy. Lived together for six months before it ended, and Eddie mad as sticks danced through all those days, just as he was dancing now.

I leaned in close, near enough I got the punch of his aftershave, and I could see the collar of his shirt was clean - then I knew for certain.

‘Who is she?’ I said, my voice dropped to a whisper.

A sudden gull screamed in the blue air above the street. Eddie was distracted for a moment. 

I pulled him into the warmth of Marley’s Bar and I paid for the drinks, doubles.

‘I want to know everything,’ I said. We sat at a table near the window. ‘The who, the where and the when. I want everything.’

Eddie drained his glass. Maybe he needed the courage that drink gave, that's what I afterwards thought. He drew the back of one hand across his mouth and looked over his shoulder as though someone might hear. 

‘Secret,’ he said, and he pressed one finger to his lips like we were kids again.

‘Secret,’ I said.

Eddie pulled a seashell from his pocket and held it to his ear. I watched him. He grinned at me and nodded and he made a small sound like he might be singing. Then he held the shell out to me.

‘Listen,’ he said.

Maybe it wasn’t love, I thought then. Maybe it was that he’d had a few drinks before meeting me. His cheeks were flushed and I thought  it could be that. He pressed me to take the shell and he lifted my hand to my ear, showing me like I didn‘t know what to do.

I could hear it, you know. Like when I was a child down at the beach, the hush and hush of the sea breaking against an unseen shore, a sea memory trapped in the dark of the shell and playing over and over just for me.

‘The sea,’ I said.

He pressed me to listen again.

‘Something else,’ he said. ‘Listen.’

And Eddie was right. There was something else. A sound. Small at first. Like a girl’s voice. Singing. I could hear it. Not the words, but the breathy music.

‘That’s her,’ Eddie said. ‘That’s Evelina.’

I looked at the shell, as though there might be some trick or some madness attached.

‘Hair like summer grass on the dunes,’ said Eddie. ‘But soft as water running between my fingers. And eyes like grey pools, deep and sunlight dancing on the surface, and her kisses taste of salt. They really do. And she says she loves me.’

I could see the love and like I said, I wanted a piece of what Eddie had. 

‘Evelina?’ I said. She must be new. There was no one in the town by that name. I’d know if there was, and visitors were few at this time of the year. ‘I don’t know this Evelina.’

Eddie looked over his shoulder again. Then he pulled me close and his voice shrank to almost nothing.

‘She’s a mermaid,’ said Eddie.

‘Fuck, no,’ I said.

‘I swear. On the memory of Debbie Ahern I swear it.’

I looked at the shell still in my hand. Eddie suddenly snatched it back and dropped it into his pocket.

‘I swear,’ he said again.

I didn’t know what to say. 
_____________________________________________________________________


This came in by e-mail:

By Lana Nieves
Door to door, he dreamed of Hawaii.

Eddie Currents smoothed out his white, cotton shirt and straightened his tie. With his left hand he gripped the handle of his briefcase, with his right he rang the bell. Ding dong, and a few moments later the door opened. A woman, her hair in curlers, her curlers covered by a hairnet. She took the Tipparillo out of her mouth, and let out a fine trail of smoke.
“Brushes?”
Eddie had the pitch down pat. Her question was not part of the script. It caught him off guard. He hadn’t even had time to introduce himself and tell her what a lovely home she had. He fumbled for his lines.
“I. Um. Good morning, ma’am. My name is Eddie Currents, and I’m here to -”

The woman interrupted, “To sell me sumthin’. What I wanna know is, what is it? Brushes? I don’t need brushes.” 
She took another drag of her cigarette and deliberately aimed at Eddie’s face when she exhaled. Then, looking at the briefcase she said, “I know it’s not encyclopedias.”

“Ma’am, I’m here with a special offer for you. If you’d be kind enough to let me come into your lovely home, I’d like to show you a product that will change your life. ” Eddie continued, trying to stick to the pitch. Sticking to the pitch was the most important of the ten rules. The rules, which had been written by Eddie’s father, years before, were:

1.The pitch is everything - stick to the pitch
2. Always wear a tie and a clean shirt
3. Shine your shoes every morning - the ladies notice this detail
4. Be polite
5. Always smile
6. Remember: every lady who answers the door is the most beautiful woman in the world
7. Never reveal what you’re selling until you’ve gained entry to the house
8. Ladies take pride in their tidiness: upon entry to the house, remark on how lovely it is
9. Place an emphasis on how special and limited this offer is
10. Refuse to take NO for an answer

“Huh,” the woman remarked, “who says my life needs changin’?”
Eddie looked down at his shiny wingtips. The script was useless, now. The script was what he trusted. 
Without it, he was lost.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said, “I just wanted...”
“Don’t take it so hard, hon. I didn’t say no yet. I don’t even know what you’re hawkin’.” the woman said, almost kindly. Stepping to the side, she opened the door wider, “Come on in. Lets hear your pitch.”

Eddie remembered rules #5 and 6. He looked up at the woman, smiled, and convinced himself the stained teeth and bad skin belonged to the most beautiful woman in the world. He stepped inside the front door and looked around. The carpet  on the hallway floor needed a good cleaning. There was a pile of old, yellowed newspapers at the foot of the stairs. The woman led him to the living room, where a giant calico was sprawled out on the couch, which was covered in cat hair. The woman spooked the cat away with a hand motion, and took a seat on the couch, leaving Eddie standing.
She gestured towards the coffee table. “So, let’s see watcha got.”

Eddie stood up straight, cleared his throat and looked around the shabby room. “You have a lovely home, ma’am,” he said, “I can tell you are a lady who takes pride in all you do for your family.
What I have to show you today will make your life easier and save you time in the kitchen.” He opened his briefcase and pulled out a the four pieces of white plastic and the round, metal blade. This was where Eddie felt most confident. With the precision of a watchmaker, he quickly snapped together the pieces to assemble what looked like a miniature windmill. Reaching into his briefcase, again, he pulled out an onion, which he proceeded to feed into the windmill. Turning a crank, Eddie flashed his whitest smile and as he glanced up to see if the woman was taking note of the thing onion rings sliding out of the slot with every revolution.


When the demonstration was over, Eddie took advantage of the opportunity to show how easily the dicer cleaned up. He took it apart, placed it back in his briefcase, put all the onion slices in a clear, plastic bag, placing that, too, in his briefcase.

“Nice,” the woman said, “Is that all ya got?”

“I’m offering it to you today, and today only for the low price of $10.99: a bargain when you consider the time  and tears it will save you.”
The woman put out her Tiparillo in a kidney-shaped ashtray.
“You’re cute,” she said, “That dicer thing - it’s cute, too. But I don’t think so. Nope.”

Eddie nodded, looked down at his shiny shoes, picked up his briefcase, and followed the woman to the front door. As he walked away, she called out to him, “You should try brushes. Everybody needs brushes.”

He walked away, dreaming of Hawaii.
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This came in by e-mail:
Focus -by Matt O'Malley

Eddie and Myriad sat on an outcropping of crumbling sandstone overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They had been hiking for a couple of hours when they found a small path that led to this secluded spot on a picture perfect day. Here they sat, legs dangling over the edge of the deteriorating cliff, Eddie with his elbows on his thighs, his head cradled in his hands as he looked at the water below. Myriad meanwhile, continued a twenty minute diatribe, chest puffed out as a pheasant, the backs of her animated hands constantly slapping the front of her thighs in apparent exasperation.

“All you do is daydream.” Myriad continued, “When are you going to get your head out of the clouds? I mean really. I need you to be somewhat grounded Eddie.”

No matter how he tried, Eddie couldn’t participate or defend himself in such conversational battles. His brain would short circuit. Myriad’s words washed into Eddie’s ears and cleared his mind of any coherent thoughts, leaving just the rubble of his unfinished sentences in their wake. Eddie struggled to construct a decent response from the debris of his thoughts as Myriad’s monologue continued, but his mind drifted to pleasanter pursuits to recharge itself; his eyes slipped away to the pounding surf below.

Eddie watched as the waves revealed then concealed the dark serpentine boulders that were covered with bright orange and red starfish, black muscles, blue-green sea anemones, kelp and seaweed; all clinging to the rocks to survive. The constant nervous tapping of Eddie’s heels knocked loose a boulder from the cliff and caused him to check in on their one-sided conversation.

“You talk about colors. You can talk about colors all day, ‘Remember that orange house we saw?’ And maybe that’s partly my issue Eddie. The only color of a house I care about is the one I’m going to live in.”

Eddie’s focus drifted back to the sea and that was when he saw her. At first Eddie mistook her pink hand as another starfish as it clung to a rock’s surface but then he noticed that this starfish was attached to something larger, an arm. He then caught a glimpse of her face, pale white with red lips, all framed by long black hair. She was absolutely gorgeous, even if her hair was intertwined with seaweed and small crabs.

Eddie was about to say something to Myriad when an incoming surge swept the woman’s grasp from the rock and he caught a glimpse of her tail. A mermaid! Eddie’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He turned to confirm with Myriad what he was witnessing but she seemed so content in prophesying as she stared out to the distant horizon that he kept his mouth shut.

“You point out houses and remark how this one looks like a castle, or this one looks like a tower. Eddie, I want my own place to live in.”

Eddie returned his attention to the mermaid below. The mermaid was now playing in the surf, diving, waving at Eddie with her tailfin. When she surfaced, she smiled coyly at Eddie and he smiled back.

“You’ve shut down again.” Myriad broke Eddie’s trance.

“No I haven’t.” Eddie shook his head and took his sight from the ocean.

“Yes you have. I can see it in your posture. Your whole body language shows that you’ve closed down.”

“I’m listening!” Eddie heard himself whine.

Myriad returned to her subject but her voice collided then coalesced into the background roar of the surf. Down below, the mermaid clung to a rock, her black seashell shaped eyes seemed sad as she looked to Eddie.

Myriad pushed Eddie’s shoulder. “I’m talking!” She continued, “You talk about someday of winning the lottery. Don’t you realize that’s nearly impossible? What you need is a job, a real job instead of that nowhere internship. I need a strong foundation Eddie. I need you to be my rock. And I need some sort of security. What happens when we get married and I get sick? What if I get hit by a car? What if, heaven forbid, something happened to you and you died? Where would that leave me? You need to get a job with some life insurance so if something happens to you, I won’t be left out in the cold.”

“If I had a thousand sand dollars,” Eddie piped in, “I’d give them all to you.”

“If you had a thousand sand dollars? What would I do with a thousand sand dollars?” Myriad said mockingly “What does a thousand sand dollars have to do with the price of tea in China?”

Eddie’s sight returned to the surf and Myriad’s voice melted into the sea. The mermaid was motioning with her free arm, beckoning Eddie to join her. Eddie looked to Myriad.  She seemed oblivious to the scene below, her mouth moving by a soundless swell of words that broke again upon Eddie’s ears.

“When you talk about us, you talk about the future. You talk about us living together and you talk about when we get married, but that’s always down the road. How far down the road is it Eddie? If I keep standing on the side of the road by myself, someone is going to come by and pick me up.”

Eddie was fully checked in. Something she said had caught his attention but what he didn’t know.

“Look, I’m not saying I’ll ever leave you. I just need some sort of commitment from you.” Myriad rose and took a deep breath. “Come on. I’m done talking to a brick wall. Time to go.”

Myriad stretched and slapped the sand off the back of her jeans. She took a few steps towards the trail that had led them down to the overlook then called back to Eddie, “You coming?”

And Myriad would never know for sure, if Eddie’s portion of the cliff gave way, or if he left by his own volition.
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This came in by e-mail:
Lead in his Pencil
Helen Chapman
    ‘Tattoo Charley’s’. The red and green neon flashed on and off outside second story of the Baltimore Street building. ‘Tattoo Charley’s’: a nondescript shop above a strip joint in the 400 block of the infamous adults-only part of town. A barker stood outside, calling out to the passers-by, describing the feminine pulchritude they would encounter inside.
    It was the tattoo parlor that grabbed Eddie’s attention. He had seen the women before. He hadn’t seen the inside of Charley’s.
    Eddie Currents and his cousin Swifty Currents stood on the street looking up, trying to get up the nerve. They had been to the Merchant Marine hall today. Swifty got a promise of a ‘maybe’, because his mother’s brother had sailed on a Liberty Ships during the war. The Chief had taken one look at Eddie and laughed, told him to come back when he got some hair on his chest and some lead in his pencil.
    The tattoo had been Swifty’s idea. His uncle had tattoos. He told him all sailors had some ink. Swifty wanted one like his uncle had: an anchor on his calf. Uncle Roy said that a sailor with an anchor on his leg never drowned. It must be true. Uncle Roy got blown up when that German U-Boat blasted their ship. But he hadn’t drowned.
    ‘Charley got anybody upstairs?’ Swifty asked the barker. He was half hoping that the tattoo artist already had a couple of customers, and a long wait would have been a good excuse not to go up.
    The barker laughed. A low, dirty sound that gave Eddie the whim-whams. ‘Naw. You boys hurry up, you can be the first ones tonight.’ He gestured to a grungy door beside the strip joint’s entrance.
    Swifty took a deep breath and pulled the door open. Inside there was a steep flight of stairs. There was one bare lightbulb suspended from the ceiling, illuminating portions of the stairs, just enough to keep someone from hiding in the dark.
    The pair walked up the stairs shoulder to shoulder. Neither one wanted to be the first one inside, and neither wanted to be the first one to run.
    ‘You sure you want to do this, Swifty?’ Eddie’s voice broke.
    ‘Yeah. You want to, right?’ Swifty was just as nervous.
    ‘Sure. If you do.’
    Eddie was reaching for the doorknob at the top of the stairs when it opened in suddenly.
    ‘About time you boys got up here!’ Charley’s voice boomed in the small room. ‘I was starting to think I’d have to come down and get ya.’ He laughed at his own joke.
    Eddie was having more doubts. Charley, at least he thought he was Charley, was a big man. A big man covered in tattoos. Eddie would have bet there wasn’t a spare inch on his arms that hadn’t been inked. A cigarette dangled from the corner of Charley’s mouth, the ash ready to drop at any moment. The whole place reeked of stale smoke and some other scent that Eddie wasn’t sure about, and he was too afraid to ask. There was a table, a chair, and a cot covered in an old army blanket.
    ‘So you boys see anything you like?’ Charley didn’t waste any time. He was already getting out his gun, setting out pots of ink.
    Swifty swallowed hard. ‘I want an anchor. Right here.’ He pointed just above his ankle.
    ‘You got a ship yet, boy?’
    Swifty shook his head.
    ‘Then you don’t want an anchor. Bad luck. What you want right now is gulls. Filthy things. Rats with wings. But you get a gull on your right leg. Then when you get a ship, you get the anchor on your left.’ Charley turned to Eddie. ‘You want gulls too?’
    This time Eddie gulped. ‘No’, he squeaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. ‘No. I’m not sure what I want. Can you do a mermaid?’
    Charley was in his element. He pulled up his left sleeve, and flexed his arm. A mermaid danced across his skin. He lifted his shirt. Another mermaid sat on a rock sunning herself above his belt.
    ‘So, what kind you want? And who goes first?’
    The boys flipped for it. Eddie won. Or lost. He wasn’t sure. Either way, he got to go first, and got to part with $20, a week’s pay at Ameche’s, to get a mermaid inked on his arm. He decided to get it on his bicep though, so his mother didn’t have to see it. It would kill her.
    Eddie sat on the side of the cot. He almost yelled out loud when Charley touched his arm with a wet rag.
    ‘Calm down, boy. I’m just wiping it off. Wait till I get started before you start hollering.’
    Eddie clenched his teeth and waited. Finally, he heard the gun vibrating, then felt the needles piercing his flesh. He could have sworn he cracked a molar. But he didn’t yell. Every so often, he felt Charley wipe away blood and excess ink with the rag. After what seemed like forever, he was done.
    Eddie looked down at his arm where Charley was smearing Vaseline. ‘Keep it clean. Don’t scrub it. Don’t pick the scab, and put Vaseline on it a couple times a day.’
    That was it. Eddie almost laughed. It wasn’t all that bad. In fact, he’d go back to that Merchant Marine hall tomorrow and demand they give him a ship. He might go enlist tomorrow. Yeah. That’s what he’d do. He’d enlist. Join the Navy, see the world. Go fight the Red Menace.
    Swifty moved over to the cot. Charley pushed his pants leg up, and wiped his ankle, the way he had wiped Eddie’s arm. He turned on the gun. Swifty groaned and passed out.
    Eddie looked at Charley with knew eyes, now a man of the world. Eddie pulled Swifty to his feet and half carried him down the stairs. 
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I've decided to remove one of the stories (Ascumwat? by Dr.Dick) that was sent in.  I read it over and it really didn't seem like it related in a real way to the image that was the subject of the competition.  One of the commentators also pointed out that some kids may be coming to the blog and  it is just too much for that kind of audience.  I think another concern I had was that the story was really a well written "story" but may have been just designed to be shocking. I may not be the arbiter of taste so I have a question:

Should I post the story on a separate page on my site that if you want to read it you can OR should I just let it slip into the digital grave?