"Assurance is peace. Assurance is resolve. And it starts at an affordable $600. If your loved one is suffering from a life-threatening illness or facing a major decision, give them the gift of a definitive future. A qualified researcher will create a custom forecast using the latest time-bending technology, giving you the peace of mind to enjoy your life. Because a life Assured is a life lived.”
The commercial, coming through fuzzy on the hospital TV, switched to testimonials by terminally-ill children, depressed teens, and jittery brides. Sandy pressed the button that administered another dose of pain-killer, desperate to escape the sappiness of the ad, as well as the embarrassing reality that, despite its gags, it worked. She needed Assurance if she wanted to keep herself alive.
Kay continued to hum the maddening theme song, even after Sandy muted the TV and buried her head under the covers to block the noise. Her arms gave up halfway through the action, too weak to compress the stiff pillow.
“884-303-NOW,” Kay sang, probably unaware of her own voice. The illness didn’t drive you crazy, Sandy decided. The boredom of the hospital room did. Glancing at the peeling paint on the walls, she tried to forget about the phone with the curlicue phone next to her. She could pick it up and call the number, going against every unspoken protocol of Assurance Agencies. You couldn’t buy Assurance, at least not for yourself. Because no matter the price, you could never be sure the answer would come back the way you wanted. Even after future forecasting had been perfected as a science, the custom arose that no one bought it for themselves. No, your loved one had to buy it for you. Then, whatever the outcome, you could rest assured that someone at least cared what happened to you.
Kay sobered right up when the nurse announced a visitor. Patrick, her boyfriend, or maybe a young, commitment-challenged husband, entered with a dominating bouquet of roses, their perfume-laced fragrance stuffing Sandy’s already itchy nose. He offered them to Kay, and the gift gave her the miraculous strength to sit up and bury her face in the blossoms.
“Well,” Patrick said, hovering over her as she lay in the bed. She met his eyes, smiling.
“A bouquet of flowers won’t get you off the hook, mister,” She said.
He didn’t answer, but nodded his head at the blooms. Glancing down, she pried an envelope out from among the thorns, its familiar telescope emblem glinting.
“Oh, Patrick,” she gasped, stopped up by tears.
“I had to know,” he said, cradling her head. “I couldn’t live with this fear anymore.”
“And?” she twisted in his arms.
“Yes,” he said, “You’re going to live, baby. We’re gonna get married.”
Patrick pulled the card out of the envelope and read the official letter within.
“This letter is to assure that Michaela Alexandria will recover from her cancer in the year 2210.”
The judge says: This is…wow! What a Pandora’s box you’ve opened up here. A really nice beginning to what should prove to be an intriguing story.
By Clare Kolenda, second place
When you’re the pastor’s daughter, there are some assumptions that people naturally
draw. One is that I always carry my Bible around. The second one is I have a great relationship
with my family and God. And thirdly, that I’d never do anything that would land me in the police station.
Unfortunately, none of those are true.
I sat in the lobby at the police officers station, swinging my feet. I’m wondering how old
she is or how short she is. If she’s sitting on a chair or bench, wouldn’t her feet touch the ground?
I stared at the clock, watching the clock slowly tick by the minutes until my mother picked me
up. After my father had died our relationship had been strained at best. And my recent trips
downtown hadn’t helped.
What would my father have said? I swallowed past the lump in my throat and ignored
the sudden burning in my eyes. Now was not the time to think about my dad. I folded my arms
across my chest, weariness crashing against me so hard I had to close my eyes. Dread covered
me like a heavy wool blanket, slowly suffocating me.
The whir of activity in the room distracted me for a moment. Frazzled interns scurried
around while they pulled different files out of the dozens of file cabinets that stood in the room.
The fluorescent lights hummed in the background, while a fly buzzed near my face. I swished it
away, almost hitting myself in the process.
“Hey, Trouble, long time no-see,”
Devon, one of the newest recruits to the force walked toward me with a little too much
bounce to his step for my liking. For some reason he decided to befriend me after the—ahem—third time I’d landed at the station. Not that I minded. He always snuck me coffee when I needed it, and made me laugh when I craved it most.
“I came here just to see you, Dev,”
He plopped down next to me. “Now, Darlin’, I can think of a few better ways to meet up
than like this.”
I chuckled softly, studying the crinkles that appeared around his eyes when he grinned.
Devon looked like a gangster with his large muscles, square forehead and strong jaw. His nose
had been broken too many times to be straight again, and the scar by his temple made him look
even scarier. Yet once he smiled it contradicted the tough guy façade that he exuded.
His dark brown eyes, the ones that intimidated thugs and drunks, now warmed with
amusement as they swept up and down me. “You going for a new look?”
I looked down at myself and knew I must have looked like a mess, covered in spray paint
and smelling like my friend’s old musty car. I grimaced.
Devon laughed, “You always were a trendsetter, Trouble.” He nudged me. “And you’re
too smart to keep playing this same sad song over and over.”
I looked down. Dev wouldn’t understand. What else would help fill the hole that had
been gnawing at me since my father died?
The judge says: Love this beginning! This is a character I would want to read about.
The other three winners will be posted tomorrow!