Our small town newspaper recently held a short story contest in conjunction with a visiting writer’s speaking engagement at our Fine Art’s Center. The theme of said contest was “Laughter as Medicine” and the story had to be between 500-700 words. I thought it would be a good writing exercise so I wrote two stories and submitted them. I never heard anything back so I assumed the competition was fierce. The third place winner was published in the newspaper today and I found myself flabbergasted by their choice. Not only was the story not humorous, it did not seem to have any connection to their theme of laughter as medicine. I hate to be critical of other writers so I will not go into detail here, suffice it to say – I found myself wondering exactly who was judging and what they used to base their decisions on. Whatever. I have my own Blog so I’ll publish my own stinking short stories. Ha! Take that Advocate!
The following is my submission that I thought was an appropriate example of “Laughter as Medicine”. Please share your thoughts and/or critiques at the end. (P.S. It it extremely hard to write a story in 500-700 words and I found this a hard, challenging task.)
Of Cherubs and Children
Awakening to morning light creeping through the window, I climbed from underneath the warm covers with reluctance. I splashed cold water onto my face to help me wake up but it didn’t wash away the feeling of dread inside me. Coffee next and while pouring my first cup I began that day’s ‘to do’ list inside my mind. I stirred in the sugar and creamer, then took a large gulp. “Ugh! That’s awful!” I looked at the counter-top and instead of creamer I saw orange juice. I shook my head at my goofiness. This was going to be a bad day.
The phone rang confirming those suspicions. Dad had to be rushed to the hospital. He had a heart attack in his sleep. Instead of getting my young kids ready for school, I prepared them for a hospital visit. We needed to comfort my mother in the waiting room. After surgery, the doctors came out and spoke in a medical language using terms foreign to me. My mother translated, “He’s going to be in recovery for awhile. We’ll know more when he wakes up.”
“Since we can’t do anything, maybe we should take the kids for a late breakfast,” I suggested, thinking that my mother needed to do something besides worry. She agreed.
We found an elevator. Before the doors closed, my five year old son Chris began to whine that his year older sister always pushed the buttons first. We were on the top floor and I didn’t want the long ride down to be full of arguing so I attempted to change the subject by pointing at the mural painting on the elevator wall. It was an elegant design full of cherubs floating around gardens of trees and colorful flowers. Christ pointed and laughed, “Look at all the butt-naked babies!” We were all giggling as we left the elevator.
My mother thought this was a good time to start talking religion. Even though I attended a different church now she still had ideals of turning my kids into good little Catholics. I had allowed her to take my daughter to church with her a few weeks ago. “Cecilia, tell your brother what you thought about my church.”
Cecilia said, “Oh, it was okay. I learned ‘the Rosemary.'”
“What’s that,” asked Chris.
“That’s where you play with these beads and say the same thing over and over again.”
I laughed and glanced at my mother. Her eyes twinkled, “I guess I still have some more teaching to do.”
We cut across an empty lot next to the hospital to get to the restaurant. It was full of loose gravel with some weeds sprouting through. As we trudged across Cecilia said, “This gravel is loud. We sound like a monster crunching on croutons!”
Mom laughed, “Oh girl, I do love how your mind works.”
Angel’s Cafe was crowded. The sounds of voices and dishes clanging and the smells of breakfast permeated the air. The kids filled their tummies with pancakes while Mom and I continually poured coffee down our throats. Mom sat down her mug and looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I just don’t know what I’ll do if your father doesn’t survive!”
Marie, my little three year old, stood up on the booth seat and hugged her arms around Mom’s neck saying, “It’s okay Granny. Pa-Pa will be okay.”
Chris cut in, “Yeah Granny! Pa-Pa always says he’s lucky he married a damn stubborn mule because it makes him have to be tougher and there ain’t nothing that can keep him down!”
Mom bust out laughing while I scolded, “No what have I told you about repeating bad language?” I heard a noise from my Mom and glanced her way. Now tears of laughter were streaming down her face and she said, “Leave the boy alone, he’s right. That mean old coot still has a lot of life left in him, if for no other reason than to frustrate me!” She started to rise from the booth. “Come on, let’s go wake up that old man and tell him it’s time to go home.” She smiled the entire walk back.