It's here! The first place story for the Columbus Day Writing Contest belongs to Elizabeth Wade of Fredericksburg, VA. Thank you and great job to everyone who submitted, and keep an eye open for the next writing prompt. Now please enjoy Elizabeth's wonderful short-short story!
It all started with the worst batch of peach preserves you can imagine and the first cigarette I ever tasted, though regrettably not the last. Mama had made the preserves but forgot to check the seal. When the first biscuit hit her tongue, she realized her error. I couldn’t save the canning jar, but I got the plates off the table before she shattered them. After she went back to bed, I headed to Roger’s. Even though it was Columbus Day and there was no school or mail, his parents wouldn’t be home. They worked retail.
I should say I had a good reason: that I knew it wasn’t okay, that I didn’t want to be knocked up like Roger’s brother’s girl, that I thought virginity was worth preserving. Really, I was bored. Roger and I had spent most of that year edging towards sex, and I was sure we’d get there someday. So that Monday, when he thumbed the zipper of my jeans, I reached for the pack of cigarettes on his nightstand instead. “Wanna teach me?”
The next day, Daddy gave Mama to the state and sent us to live with Aunt Jean “until things got straightened out.” At Christmas, we came back to see Mama in the hospital, where she sat with a black man who never spoke, just painted pictures of Jesus on broken cafeteria trays. I went by Roger’s, but his parents were home. When he kissed me, he didn’t put his hand up my shirt. The refrigerator held pictures of the Homecoming Dance, his arm around a girl from my old homeroom. She had big bangs, blue shoes.
I’ve had nineteen years and three cars since then. I can’t tell you how many men. But every time I tell a cashier “Add a pack of Camels, please,” I remember that Columbus Day, and the day much later when the state sent us Mama’s effects. She’d scrawled her will on a paper napkin, left me her cast iron skillet, warned me never to soak it in water. “Just wipe it clean with a cloth,” she wrote. “The flavors will sink right in.”