Round 2 of the Play with the Prose playoffs — okay, I’ll admit it: I was a little peeved about advancing out of round 1. It’s not like I phoned it in or anything, but last week and this week have been busy, and I wouldn’t have been too heartbroken to have had my season end. Still, I’m still in it, so the new challenge was to write about someone knowing they have one month to live, in 500 words or fewer.
|Hal noticed the large foldout tucked into a family history book from the recently discovered cache of his late, great uncle’s memorabilia. All the intricate writing and curiously connecting lineages of the family tree drawn upon it absolutely fascinated him. Tracing various lines with his finger, he located his Uncle Ted, where Ted’s remarriage a month ago was duly recorded…and yet, this book had been in storage for at least four years. Hal noticed other recent family events were also noted with their dates as well. Looking closer, he began to identify dates in the future, some as far as 2080. How could that be? And then he froze at an item in his own small rectangle:
His own death, barely one month away! Hal quickly refolded the page like it was about to burst into flames, and put it back on the shelf.
For the next four weeks as Hal tried to go about his life as a HS sophomore, when he thought about the prophetic missive he found himself alternating between an icy chill down his back and uneasily trying to dismiss it. He never told anyone – how could he? He wasn’t sure he believed it himself.
On that fateful day, Hal thought about saying something on his Facebook page, but couldn’t see how he could and not have it look like a suicide note. Throughout the day he kept picturing himself in bus crashes, falling down stairs, ingesting spoiled cafeteria food (which it was most days), even seeing Ms. Tingle naked and subsequently having a heart attack. Still, he returned home from school just as alive as ever.
That night he gave his parents each a hug and went to bed. He lay awake a long time, wondering how it would feel dying in his sleep, which of course kept him awake. He put his headphones on and found a good station with some quiet music playing…and came suddenly awake at three in the morning. Hal threw off his headphones, got up, and walked over to the storage room and lifted down the box containing the family history book. He carried it back to his bedroom, where he carefully unfolded the large page under his desk lamp. There is was, just as he’d remembered it. This time, though, he scrutinized the area around his name closer.
There was a wife, kids, grand kids – his line continues! After spending over an hour tracing different lines and studying the foldout further, Hal came to a conclusion: he’d found more than one name misspelled and other minor discrepancies – his death date was a typo. Hal sat back in his chair, a heavy weight lifted off his chest. He refolded the page, flipped off the desk lap, and climbed back into bed. The last thought he had before falling back asleep was, “I need to check Facebook and find out who Carly Lynn Fassbender is!”
So…what happens now? RESULTS
The judges’ comments:
K: I rather enjoyed the fact that I finished with a happy ending this week. I always like that, actually, to cleanse my palate after the ball-kicking depression everyone else puts me through. The story is told in too unexciting a way – I think there was potential to show us some close calls with death before the narrator finds out he was all wrong – but I like where the story took me in the end. The theme was a bit of a cheat, but for me, it was fine. BRONZE
P: This sort of feels like cheating. It’s also a little weird to have Facebook be such an integral part of the story (being referenced often). I really like the idea of a person finding a family tree book with prophetic information in it, but the fact that it’s riddled with typos sort of ruins it for me. BRONZE
- My work with genealogy gave me my initial idea for this one. And my work with family tree documents riddled with typos (like my own, no doubt) led to the final direction.
- Not a whole lot of body to this one, but what do you want with 500 words?
to do some exploring now for some well-deserved rest!
Thanks again to spooky and Nibbish for your fine adjudicating, and to all the other participants, and best of luck in the finals!