Write a story about Holly Wood and Win this original graphite drawing

Write a story about Holly Wood and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday March 7, 2011

Holly Wood
11"x14" oil and mixed 
media on masonite

(Click on the pics 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 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

Go to my website for more contests:

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!)

Mommy Knows Pest by Momo Approvesco
Dear Dale and Sandy, Hi, this is your neighbor Paula. This is going to be awkward no matter how it goes down, just I’m just gonna spit it out and you need to step back and let it flop down where it lay. Sorry, that didn't sound so great, but that’s how I’m feeling about this. I am writing this so you two will actually have to shut up and listen instead of arguing with yourselves or someone else. Unless, of course, you are the type of people who yell at letters. Strangely enough, I can see that.
          This letter is not about me. It is not even about you directly. It is about your lovely little 6 year old daughter. I just wanted you to see what she gave me today and hear what she said to me. The enclosed picture is a drawing she made at school. She was asked to draw a picture of her family. Now when you look at it, LOOK at it and ask yourselves what you see. It is not you Sandy or is it you Dale. No, that is me. She brought that home from school to show someone and she showed it to me. She told me she "wants me to be her mommy."  I can't blame her, the way you two go at it. You fight and bicker till all hours of the morning and never address your own daughter's role in your family dynamic.
          I don't need her to tell me any of the truly cruel and hateful things you say to each other (even though she has). A child should not have to live through such selfish emotional warfare as this.  You abuse her with the second-hand smoke of your family in flames. No wonder she wants to spend all of her free time with me. I do not mind her spending this time with me, in fact I cherish it. If I had ever had a child, I wish she could be just like your little girl. She is bright, loving and very creative. Hence, the little dream world she has created in which she and I are a family and you two do not exist. Similar to the reality which you two have created in which she doesn't exist. You would know these things about her if you didn't have your heads so far up your own asses. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Sometimes I think you don't deserve the gift you have been given!
          I can imagine the hatred this letter has inspired in you two. Dale, right about now, that large vein is probably throbbing in the middle of your forehead. Sandy, your teeth are probably clenched so tight that you are grinding your fillings down to a powder. Well, if you two can be united in anything, even your hatred for me, then that's a step in the right direction. I am not saying that you two should stay together for the sake of Holly - God no! You two as a dynamic are as safe as two children with an armload of balloons filled with gasoline and a box of matches. No, I recommend you two divorce and seek joint custody immediately. Two people like you are a poison to a child like this. You are killing the young lady she will become every day that you live like this. Join together in your hate for me if you can't snap out of it and come together for the love of Holly. If you have any love for her...

Sincerely, Paula.
Ps: Dale, you need to put the lid on the garbage tighter. The dogs are dragging your garbage down the street again.

This came in by e-mail:

By Gigi DeVault

You mustn’t ever cry.  Not ever.  If you don’t cry, they won’t notice you.  Not as soon and not as often, anyway.

My arm got broken on my birthday.  When they took the cast off, it felt so good.  Casts are heavy and they make you itch for the longest times.  When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I got a wire coat hanger—but first I bit off the sticky marshmallow.  I poke the wire in and make it go up and down.  Mother said not to scratch like that.  It would make my skin bleed and I’d have scars.

You find lots of good places to hide.  You have to know where to hide before you hear them come.  Because it will be too late then. 

My arm looked funny when the cast came off.  It was puny, my mother said.  One time, my ribs got broken when the car crashed.  The doctor put tape all around me, here.  I could hardly breathe.  Another time, I had a cast on my leg.  That was worser because I couldn’t get out of the house. 

You use a cast, if you got one on your arm, to make them stop.  Sometimes, when they see you hold up the cast in front of your face, they won’t slap or hit you.

Mother was an actress when she was young.  She shows me her pictures sometimes and I can see she was pretty back then.  She smiles in those pictures and she had lipstick on her mouth.  It’s black, though, because the picture is black and white and gray—like they were yesterday.  But I know her lipstick was red because her lips were really black.

You listen for the words so you know what comes next.  You know, like when a dog hears “bone” or “walk,” good things are coming.  When he hears “Damn dog!” or “Who did that?” he knows to hide, fast.

Dad got another new car this week.  It is real nice and has big fins.  He can make the top come down.  Dad likes to drive fast, and he yells, “Isn’t this the finest car?”  I put my arm where the window rolls down, where the sun makes it hot.  The wind tickles the hairs on my arm.  I like to make my hand go up and down in the strong air when we get up to speed.

You know when they’re not going to stop until things get broken.  Sooner or later, they will break things. They don’t mean to break their little girl. 

Mother says I’m getting freckles from riding in the car without a hat.  The wind would blow it right off?  Mother doesn’t like that I get to ride in the car with Dad.  We go get ice cream and we don’t take her with us.  She says she doesn’t want ice cream because it makes people fat.  She says ice cream will make me fat.  I stick my tongue out at her before I take even one lick.  She’s not there to see, but I do it anyway.  My mother’s not fat at all—she’s skinny.

You watch everything when you come into the house.  They might be mad if you have been outside.  They will even be mad if you have been at Kindergarten.  You won’t know what happened while you were gone from the house.

I got two nickels for my tooth last night.  Like when the tooth fairy left money under my pillow.  ‘Cept this tooth did not fall out because it was old.  I tripped and hit the coffee table.  I felt my tooth was loose and that’s when it came out.  I had to change my blouse before Dad took me to the hospital.  I got four stitches in my lip.  See.  I bought a watercolors set at the Five & Dime with my nickels.

You don’t tell your teacher why you are hurt.  Not ever.  It will only make things worse.  Next time, they will remember you told, and say they can teach you something better than that teacher can.   You shouldn’t—mustn’t—tell.

I like painting pictures with my new paints.  See, there are the flowers, lots of flowers.  And grass and it’s a sunny day.  This pretty girl is me.  My mother has a flower garden.  She wears a hat so she won’t get freckles.  She’s all the time getting thirsty and going into the house to get something to drink.  She doesn’t bring lemonade like the other mothers do.  Sometimes she doesn’t come back outside.  But then I can play in the garden all by myself.  I’m just waiting, then.

You want to go for rides in the car.  You see people all around and you think, “I will be all right.”  If you stand on the seat and climb over the side, you can get out.  Not like in the house.  Cars don’t have corners.  But streets have corners and that is where you will crash.  Or the car will go off the highway, very fast.

I painted a picture of me when I’m all grown up.  I am tall with a waist like my mother and I have glossy hair from brushing it 100 times every night.  My mother has a vanity—that’s a table with three mirrors and a little bench that has a soft top.  She keeps her lipstick and bobby pins and perfume on a tray that’s made of a mirror.  Her lipstick comes off on her glass—it’s like a little mouth on the part you drink from—so she puts it on again, after every drink.  Her lipstick gets all smeary.  Some gets on her skin where it’s not her mouth.  All around her mouth, like paint.

You try to hide the bottles, but they will find them.  And then they’ll be madder than ever.  You shouldn’t act like you don’t want them to have the bottles.  You’re just a kid.  What do you know about anything? _______________________________________________________________________________

This came in by e-mail:
Holly Wood by Debbie Weiss
          Holly had to go out to the garden once again.  She gathered her paints, brushes, and the rolled paper that mama had bought her from the local five and dime store up the street. 
          Mama had many men friends.  There was Uncle Bill, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Frank to name but just a few.  When Holly would see Franks old Chevrolet with the peeling red paint, she knew to take all of her art supplies outside to the garden because this Uncle stayed a real long time.  Mama would open the windows to her bedroom and put the freshly cut flowers in the cracked purple vase that sat on her antique looking brown night table.  She would make the bed and fluff up the fancy satin red pillows.  Then she would spray the lilac toilet water from the drug store all over the room.  The scent so strong, it felt as if Holly could taste it in her mouth.  Holly and her mama heard the truck coming up the driveway and when Holly got the look, she knew it was time to head out.  As she walked out through the torn up screen door, the man would touch her cheek and say, "Hey Holly Wood, you going to be a movie star in Hollywood?"  Then he would laugh and his belly shook like Santas.  Mama would come to greet him and she would laugh too.  Holly did not understand what they were laughing about; she just smiled at them, grabbed her stuff and ran out to the back of the house.
          This was Holly's secret garden full of beautiful roses and iris and sunflowers growing tall.  Manuel and his wife Marie lived next door.  He would take care of the back garden for Holly.  "Flores bonita." Manuel would say to Holly which meant beautiful flowers.  Manuel had built Holly her own playhouse.  It had real wood furniture inside.  Holly had her own kitchen table and two stools painted bright yellow.  Holly loved the color yellow.  The warm sun shining on her face was yellow.  The garden was full of yellow roses, and her favorite sunflowers.  They look like happy faces smiling down at me, she would say to Manuel and Marie.  Everything was good in the garden.  Holly could paint the sun and pretty flowers and smile.  She would dip her brushes into the different colors and make a happy picture.  Sometimes she could hear her mama screaming, it sounded like she might be in trouble.  One time Holly ran into the house into her mama's bedroom and mama yelled at her to get out and not come in again.  When she hears the screaming now, she pushes her brush harder on the paper and starts to hum.  She hums very loud.  When Holly hears the screen door slam, she knows it is time to clean up.  She takes her pictures off the ground and carefully puts them inside her playhouse to dry overnight.  She thinks to herself, one day she will take all of her paintings and scotch tape them to the wall like an art mural.  Marie had given Holly a plastic jar to use as a vase for her own freshly cut flowers.  Holly liked to find them on her table.
          Holly turns on the old leaky green hose and washes off her brushes and herself and then heads back towards the house.  She looks over at her mama standing by the stove.  Mama is cooking dinner and Holly starts to set the table.  When Holly is seated, her mama repeats the story she tells her every night at suppertime.  "Pretty soon baby, we will have enough money to get a trailer and take that long drive."  "Where will we go, mama?" Asked Holly as she did every night.  "We are going to Hollywood, my little Holly Wood."  Mama would laugh as she served the mashed potatoes, Holly would laugh too.

This came in by e-mail:

Train of Thought by Patrick Nelson

She read the inscription on the battered bracelet for the hundredth time: "I will be there for you always. -D. W." The silver links had been savagely crushed and the words I will were smashed and lengthened out to resemble one word: hell. She of course knew what it originally was inscribed to read, she was the one who had it made. She remembers the day in the garden when she gave it to her little angel on her seventh birthday. The flowers in the beds were all full bloom and the sun blinded them it shone so bright that spring day. The other children at Holly's party were running and screaming and being children, but she  stood a little apart from them. As she approached, Dolly saw her daughter Holly pulling the petals of a flower out one by one as she mumbled something quietly.
"Honey? What's that you're doing? Playing a little game of he-loves-me, he-loves-me not?" Dolly said.
She said nothing for a moment, but just continued to pluck and mumble. She finally pulled the last petal and looked up sadly and said: "I was playing 'does daddy love me or not'. This flower says he loves me not. Just like the last one. Why doesn’t daddy love me? Why doesn’t daddy come see me anymore? Why doesn’t he come to my birthday party? Did I do something wrong?"
          The stab of guilt shot deep into Dolly's heart and twisted when it pierced into her soul.
          “No, sweetie! You didn’t do anything wrong! I was even telling daddy the other day what a good girl you’ve been. How you’ve been trying to not fight with your sisters and be better for the teachers at school.” She bent down and held her daughter’s face in her hands. She looked into her face until Holly finally looked into her eyes. “Daddy is going to be here one day soon” the mother lied.
          She hadn’t the heart in the year since the “accident” to explain that her father did love her, but not enough to keep him from committing suicide. Not enough to stay in their lives, but instead scuttled out of their lives by taking a bottle of pills and never once thinking about the other lives he was ruining. That was not true, she knew. She felt guily for even thinking that. For thinking that they all may have ended up better off since he NO! That was awful to think that way.
          It wasn’t his fault, she often tried to convince herself. He had an illness. He struggled his whole life with a chemical imbalance, paranoia and depression. But with the help of an alternating chain of medications, he was still able to build a normal life. As normal as could be expected. A wife, a job as the midwestern sales manager for a thriving pharmaceutical company and then finally a father to three wonderful children.
          The man he started out as and the man he finally ended up as where so different, yet she could not realize until he was gone. He was not the man she met and fallen in love with. But she still tried to love the man he had become.
          He lied to himself about the help she said he needed. He would become defensive and angry and reclusive if she pursued it so she began to lie to herself too. It was not a downward spiral so much as a slow meandering into the woods deeper and deeper with a trusted companion who changed slowly with every step until you were not only lost yourself, but you were with someone who you no longer recognized. Then he was gone altogether. Bastard. No, He couldn’t help it! It wasn’t his fault. He tried so hard to hold on...
          There was only one faint path back for her: her children. Not his anymore. Just hers. She had had to follow the path back to where it grew lighter. It was so much harder alone. Back with them she pressed on.
          Dolly pulled the box from the pocket of her sun dress and handed it to her daughter. The child took it and brightened up immediately. The silver wrapper and fiery ribbon had the desired effect; she seemed to forget her unhappiness and looked searchingly into her mother’s eyes.
          “Go ahead, dear. Open it.” Dolly whispered. She wanted the child to open it before the other presents. She wanted it to make and impression before the rush of forgettable toys and dolls that were sure to come later.
          Holly tore into the paper and opened the rectangular jewelry box and froze immediately. It was just like the silver bracelet that Dolly always wore with the flat band in the middle of a sturdy but elegant silver chain. It had one small rose worked in silver welded onto each end of the flat band.
          As she pulled it out of the box and turned it over, she flushed with excitement. Her mother explained the inscription for Holly couldn’t read well yet. “It means that I will always take care of and love you no matter what.” The words echoed through the years back to her today.
          She really had done what she could to protect and steer her youngest, liveliest and, sadly most troubled child. This one, too, had problems that Dolly both feared and somehow predicted. As Holly reached her teen years, the traits she shared with her father began to surface. The intense emotions, the bouts of depression and sometimes rage. Holly’s mother sought help from several sources, but eventually, after a failed drug overdose, three severe car accidents and an incident in which she had drank drano, her mother realized she needed constant supervision and help that she herself could no longer give. Holly told her she had poisoned her insides because the then twenty-two year old Holly felt like she needed to “burn” out something she said she felt was wrong inside her. She had failed to protect her. It was the same thing all over. Her daughter was slipping away and being replaced by a dark stranger. There was nothing she could do to stop it. Again.
          The  following week, due to an oversight at the hospital concerning a missed psychiatric consultation, Holly was asked to leave the hospital even though she had not received the operations yet to open up the cauterized pyloric sphincter valve. - Her stomach could not get rid of digested food because the exit was burned shut from the drain cleaner. Dolly brought the girl home and they waited for the neighbor from down the street to come sit with Holly while her mother went to work. The neighbor finally called and said that Dolly should go to work and she would be there in five minutes. Dolly thought it over and decided that Holly would not get into that much trouble in such a short amount of time.
          Dolly now examined the bracelet as she sat by the hospital bed which held her scarred and mutilated daughter Holly. She faintly remembered the rush of events: the shocking phone call, the way she stopped at all the railroad tracks on the way to the hospital and looked both ways, the incredible story told by the doctors and nurses. Things they had said echoed in her skull and bounced around.
          “The conductor said he tried to stop, but she jumped out of nowhere” one nurse whispered to another.
          “She actually jumped up at the train, but bounced off and managed to get up and jump in between the cars” Dolly heard a doctor mumble in the hall.
          Dolly was still in shock when the doctors told her what the situation was. “Your daughter is lucky to be alive, as I’m sure you know by looking at her” one said solemnly. “The way her body landed on the tracks, the wheels cut off her right arm and her left leg just below the joints therefore crushing her bones but also sealing off all arteries and veins so she lost very little blood. She's going to be in this coma for a while while her body tries heal itself. She is strong, though. Truly lucky.”
          Dolly laughed and got mild looks of disgust and horror from the staff in the room. Well. Lucky, he says! He has no idea how wrong he is. It also reminded her how stubborn and pig-headed Holly could become, even in such a desperate and delusional state. That crazy will to not let even death cheat her. But it appeared death was just as stubborn to not take her yet.
          The doctor continued: “The down side is that she has severe brain trauma and we will not know the extent of damage until much, much later. Her coma will probably last a couple of weeks. She will probably not be the girl you remember for a long time, though, if ever.”
          Dolly’s heart actually skipped a beat. What would that mean? She felt pangs of guilt but allowed herself a glimmer of hope for her daughter. Maybe this accident and the brain damage will do something to her brain and she won’t be like she was. Maybe she’ll want to live. She felt somewhat horrible, almost hopeful and totally selfish at the hope that she could have even a pale version of her daughter back.
          As she looked at the bloody gauze covering the stumps of her daughter’s appendages, she prayed to God that he would forgive her for hoping that the Holly she knew was dead and gone, like her own husband, and that this time she could truly protect the one he had given her in return. She knew she was being selfish and self-pitying, but damn. Life for all of them had been so hard. It always seemed unfair what they all had to go through. But it wasn't over yet...
          Dolly took her own silver bracelet from her wrist, leaned over Holly and placed it carefully on her daughter’s uninjured wrist. She sat in the chair next to the bed and waited.

This came in by e-mail:

She’s not as young as she looks. Not nearly as young. Thirteen if she’s a day. But her hair is cut like she’s seven or eight, and she wears ribbons in bows sometimes, and she pouts like a smaller child and dips her head as though she’s shy. And when she smiles, she does it like they practised – Holly and her mammy, in front of the hotel mirror for a whole week. She calls her ‘mammy’ instead of mother and that’s part of being younger than she is, too.
Not showing her years, but playing at her younger self, that’s what she has to do. Even her papers have been doctored so she has lost some years along the way. It’s what the studios want, another squeak-speak child to win the hearts of film-goers. Something shiny bright and bouncy, that’s what they want. So Holly dances and sings and knows all the words to ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’, and close your eyes and there’s no difference between Shirley and Holly, I swear there isn’t. Open them and she is a dark haired doll in a gingham frock that is just a little on the tight fit and a little too short so you can see the lacy froth of her girl’s pants.
The screen test producer pats her head and calls her Lil Missy because he can’t recall her name, not any of their names, and he says she has the cutest smile. She’s heard that before. They all say that, about her smile, and she thinks that week practising in front of the mirror, just maybe this time, it might be worth it. And having her teeth fixed and her mammy doing without to pay the dentist his bill, maybe it was worth that, too.
Holly tip-taps her way to the centre of the floor. She curtsies, playing it cute, then she waits for the man at the piano to roll out the short introduction to her song. Then Holly sings and dances her five minutes away, her tap shoes clicking and clacking in time to the music. The shoes are too small now she’s grown. They pinch her toes and give her blisters if she dances for too long. She hasn’t told her mammy. They can’t afford another pair, not unless their luck changes and there’s work at the end of this audition.
‘Smile, Lil Missy.’
And she shuts her mind to the glass cutting her toes, and she puts on the smile she found in that hotel room, the one her mother encouraged with the reward of one oreo biscuit, the smile she produced again and again, even when all she wanted was to sleep, and her face hurt and her mammy said ‘just one more’. And she puts on the only smile she has even though the shoes pinch and sting.
‘She’s mighty talented,’ says the producer. ‘She’ll get a second call for sure.’ And when she's done he pats Holly’s head again and pulls a lollipop from a white paper poke in his jacket pocket.
Holly’s mammy frowns at the lollipop. Holly pretends that she's maybe eight and she says a chirpy ‘Thank you Mr Glenny,’ and she curtsies again, knowing just how far to play being charming. Mr Glenny laughs and nods towards his assistant who ushers Holly and her mammy out before the next test ‘shirley’ breaks into song and dance.
And Holly does get a call back. Within the week she does. They’ve been waiting. Only, there’s no money for the cab fare on the day so they take the bus and it runs late. Just ten minutes, so they still see her, though the man behind the piano scowls at Holly over the music and keeps looking at his watch like there's someplace else he ought to be.
Mammy whispers ‘Smile, Holly,’ the pantomime words all breath and no sound and her fingers pushing her own face into a too-broad grimace.
In her head Holly hears screaming, over the music, and she stumbles, just one step out of place, and she tries not think of blood and broken toes. Thinks, instead, of running barefoot through a summer field and grass under her feet or flowers soft as feathers or clouds. And maybe that’s what brings the smile, or maybe it’s the packet of oreo biscuits her mother holds up just so she can see.
Mr Glenny is in a rush. At the end of the routine he pats Holly's head again, like before, and he says 'great' when he doesn’t mean great, and he calls her Lil Missy again, like he calls all the girls. Holly notices he doesn’t produce a lollipop today though his pocket bulges. Holly's mammy blames the lateness of the bus and she’s cross with herself and her mammy says ‘fuck’ under her breath and Holly thinks it is not the first time that day that she’s said it.
‘We’ll call you,’ says Mr Glenny’s assistant, and she wears a practised smile, too, like she's spent a week in a hotel room somewhere just smiling at the mirror. And as Holly is changing out of her gingham dress and her too tight tap shoes, her mammy overhears the cameraman saying, ‘There’s something about her. Something not right. A too-old head on such young shoulders. I don’t know exactly.’
Holly’s mammy steals the Variety pages of the newspaper in the waiting room, and the paper sachets of sugar and coffee, and the small foil-sealed milk packets, packs them in her handbag. Then they walk back to the house, in no hurry, and Holly feels like running now she’s out of her tap shoes, and the smile she wears comes easier than before and she's allowed two oreo biscuits.

This came in by e-mail:
Radio Daze
By Royce A. Ratterman

“Mirabelle … are you hiding again?” cried the little girl as she played with her favorite doll in the garden flowerbed. “I know where you are. Holly Wood always knows where her children are.”

Holly crawled through the myriad of beautiful flowers and heavenly aromas arriving where Mirabelle was hiding, or rather, where she had hid her only moments before, “There you are!”

She picked up and hugged Mirabelle reassuring her that, “Nobody will ever get you while I’m around. You are safe with me.”

“Holly, Holly,” a call came from the back kitchen door, “Lunch in five minutes, dear.”

“Ok,” she replied to her mother. “Mirabelle is famished.”

“Yes, I imagine she is, dear.”

“Mommy has lunch almost ready, Mirabelle,” whispered Holly. “After lunch we can play some more in the garden if you like?”

The luncheon table looked especially inviting to Holly as she and Mirabelle sat down. Cheese sandwich wedges, milk, cherry tomatoes, chips and what looked and smelled like a chocolate cake under the covered cake pan, all begged to be eaten and enjoyed.

Their 1920s era Magneto Parlor Tube Radio played softly in the background.

“Did the police find that missing little girl we heard about on the news, mommy?” questioned Holly.

Avoidingly, Holly’s mother replied, “Oh, that’s nothing to worry yourself over, dear.”

“Is there going to be another World War?” continued Holly.

“Dear!” her mother said sharply, “The world is at peace now, so never you mind about grownup things.”

All truth being said, Holly does think of those moments of horror she is so continually exposed to through the plethora of media newspaper and radio outlets and inlets. Her childlike mind often creates a type of psychological ‘Fata Morgana’ of angst upon the foreseen, but unknown, horizon of her life.

“Ding dong,” sounded the doorbell abruptly.

“Somebody’s here!” exclaimed Holly.

As Holly’s mother stood up she said, “I’ll get it. You finish your lunch, dear.”

Through the white-windowed entry door Holly’s mother, Rose, clearly saw her daughter’s friend. As she opened the door she politely welcomed the girl, “Hello, miss Port. How are you today?”

Replying in like politeness, Sally said, “Just fine, thank you. Is Holly home?”

“Yes, she is in the kitchen,” Mrs. Wood affirmed, “Perhaps you would like to join her for a piece of chocolate cake?”

“Oh, that would be delightful. Thank you for asking, ma’am.”

With their satisfyingly large pieces of cake finished, the two young girls made their way out to the garden’s large flower bed to pick some flowers.

“Holly,” questioned Sally, “did you see the news about that missing girl last night?”

The two girls discussed everything they could remember from the broadcast. They also pondered why parents avoid conversations like this so often.

Holly informed her friend, “My mom seems to ignore this stuff, but my dad always explains things to me. He makes a lot of sense. He even tells me what things I might do if someone actually tried to take me.”

“You mean ‘kidnap’ you?” questioned Sally.

“Yes! My dad told me to never even go with, or get into a car with, anyone that looks like a police officer. They may be pretending. He said to just run to a house or store where more people are visible and tell someone in charge what is happening.”

“My mom and dad said the same thing to me,” responded Sally, “and my dad said he would sort it all out with the police later. ‘Kids don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff.’”

Holly continued, “My dad said when he was a kid parents didn’t tell their kids much about things like this. He said maybe they wanted to protect their kids and not scare them. But, he told me it was better for him to know more about these sorts of things once he had heard about them rather than hear nothing at all again.”

“I prayed for that girl,” interrupted Sally abruptly, waiting for a response.

“I made wishes,” replied Holly.


“Yes, see these fairy puffs?” Holly pointed and continued, “They are really called dandelions, but I pretend they are fairy puffs.”

“By the dogwood flowers?” asked Sally.

“That’s them,” Holly answered. “We can pick one each. While you say a prayer I’ll make a wish, then we will blow the white seed puffs until all of them float away like hundreds of wishes and hundreds of prayers.”


“We can also blow one so there will not be any more wars,” suggested Holly to her friend.

“Great idea,” replied Sally.

With their prayers and well wishes blown off into the wind, the girls returned to their not-so-simple play world in a not-so-simple life.


This came by e-mail:
Rink a-dink a bottle of ink. . . by Helen Chapman

    Anna Heim hated Holly Wood. She hated Holly’s freckles. She hated Holly’s round, pink cheeks. She hated Holly’s clothes. Mostly, though, Anna Heim loathed Holly Wood’s long red hair.
    Anna’s hair was short and blond and curly and Anna hated it. She wanted hair that was long and silky and straight. She particularly wanted hair that was very red.
    Sister John Anthony had assigned Anna the seat behind Holly the first day of second grade. It just wasn’t fair! Why did she have to spend all day staring at that gorgeous hair? It WAS NOT FAIR!
    It was because of that red hair that Anna was standing in the hallway with her nose in a circle Sister had drawn on the wall. It wasn’t like had Anna really hurt Holly. All it had been was a little ink.
    They had been learning to write script since Christmas. That Thursday morning, Sister John Anthony had come around and put ink bottles into the holes at the tops of everyone’s desks, and handed out pens so they practice making circles. Anna was doing the best she could. But it was hard being left handed, trying to dip her pen in the bottle all the way over on the right hand side of the desk, keep it from dripping on the paper then make circles while not smearing the ink. So far she hadn’t managed to do anything but dip her pen successfully. When Holly dropped her paper and bent down to pick it up, Anna gave in to temptation and dumped her ink bottle on top of Holly’s head.
    Anna shifted from one foot to the other. She wished she could sit down. No, maybe she didn’t. Sister had sent her to the office in the middle of penmanship. The principal, Sister Martin deSalles, had given her three licks with her pointer then marched her back to class. Anna didn’t think she could sit down.
    Finally, the bell rang. Anna knew better than to take her nose out of the circle yet, even though kids were beginning to pour from other rooms. Finally, the door to Sister John Anthony’s class opened. Sister’s voice seem unnaturally loud in the corridor filled with youngsters. ‘Anna.’ That was all, just her name.
    Anna swallowed, hard. She looked at the imposing nun clad in her long black habit, the large wooden rosary hanging from her cincture and looking more like a weapon to the seven year old than a religious symbol. Holly was standing beside the woman, looking just as afraid as Anna felt. Anna knew what to do. If she didn’t sound sincere, Sister would send her up for another whipping. ‘I’m sorry, Holly. I shouldn’t’a poured ink in your hair.’
    Sister gave Holly’s shoulder a shake. ‘That’s okay, Anna.’
    Sister John Anthony smiled, pleased with a job well done. She turned with military precision, her rosary almost clipping Anna and Holly and quick-stepped back to the classroom.
    The two little girls looked at each other, neither knowing what to say. Holly opened her mouth, then closed it. Instead, she ran out. Anna didn’t see Holly until Monday morning.
    The classes were lining up outside before the first bell. Anna saw a new kid come into the school yard. She had on the same uniform as everyone else, and she had short curly hair, like Anna’s. In a school filled with pigtails and ponytails, another short bob was more than welcome to Anna. She broke formation and ran to great the newcomer.
    She skidded to a stop in front of the new girl, trying to catch her breath. ‘Hi. I’m Anna Heim.’
    The new girl laughed. She sounded vaguely familiar. ‘I know who you are, silly. You sat behind me since September. I’m Holly.’
    Anna couldn’t get over the difference. She smiled shyly at Holly.
    Holly didn’t smile. She pulled a yellow and blue box from her book bag and set it on Anna’s desk. Anna didn’t understand. Why was Holly giving her a bottle of Skrip?
    Holly looked at the ink, then fluffed her short curly hair. ‘Save that for when my hair grows back, ‘kay?’

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Dust in the Shadow of the Sun by Elisa Bandy

          Holly looked down on the scrawl that had passed for art when she was a child with contempt.  A blocky 'painting' of a clown with physics-defying hair and matching garb smirked at her, mocking her for the lack of preternatural talent that she'd mistakenly thought she'd had.  The thought was ridiculous, but after years of being told that you were one in a million, only to finally realize that you were just like every little Jack and Jill in the neighbourhood... it was disheartening, to say the least.
          The portrait captured nothing of the woman that her mother had been, not one scrap of her charm, nor her wit.  There wasn't even a single shred of her beauty, but at the time, Holly'd thought that it had been even better than the photographs that had once lined the mantle in radiant sunlight.
          Now only an ancient photograph of Holly when she was five remained as the sole inhabitant of the room above the fireplace, on display as a testament of all the wonderful things that her father had expected her to live up to.  Unsurprisingly, she'd failed to become any of the things he'd hoped she'd be by now.  China tended to crack and break beneath immense pressures, leaving amidst the fragments only Daddy's Little Disappointment, as she liked to call herself.  A part of her suspected that he thought the very same thing; they were more alike than he cared to admit aloud.
          She went down to the fireplace and picked up the photo, a chronicle of the last time she'd felt truly happy.  Holly set the painting down on its rightful throne on the mantle.  A smirk crossed her mouth and mutated it.  She picked the beaten-down suitcase up from the floor, the measure of an entire life packed securely inside it with heavy, brass locks.  On the table, she abandoned a single wild-flower, long since withered, next to a simple note she knew that he'd be too furious to read.  It didn't matter to her; she was going to be a star, because being anything away from here was a success in her mind.

          After all, she had been born to be Holly Wood.

          The door clicked shut and her keys made a jingling sound as they hit the pavement of the drive.  The smirk on her face had by this time ballooned into a full-on, honest-to-God grin.  For the first time in a long, long time, the light at the end of the tunnel was fatefully warm, and death would be a glorious, true adventure.


  1. I would love to crawl inside of all your heads and figure out what is going on! I guess these stories gave me a little glimpse. I was struck by how a portrait of a little girl for the majority of the authors took a melancholic and sometimes a really sinister turn! Several dealt with the children’s anxieties and conflicts several others shared the common thread of how we all have fears for our little ones.

    Although I enjoyed reading them all (I don’t think there was a bad story in the group) I favored the most positive story “Dust in the Shadow of the Sun” by Elisa Bandy.

    “Mommy Knows Pest” by Momo Approvesco is the most sardonic. Ooof Momo. This sounds just a little too real to be made up. I think Momo been standing at the window too long and staring at the neighbors. I know that you all want to put the needs of Holly before your own so please read your neighbor Paula’s letter.

    Two really great stories had a realist anecdotal quality. “Radio Daze” by Royce A. Ratterman and “Rink a-dink a bottle of ink. . .” by Helen Chapman, were stories that had a universal quality. I remember experiencing some of the same things with my friends when I was small. I think these authors share in my own fears for my neighbor’s kids who I babysit for.

    Other stories were really powerful gut punches! Patrick Nelson went for the “Boxing Helena” angle. His story at first had the legs to go the distance but through a sinister turn of events the wheels of misfortune sometimes people just fall to pieces. . . (Sorry.)

    Some stories delighted in playing up the “Mommy Dearest” angle. Weiss and DeVault really made some clever allusions to both the characters of Holly Wood and The Hollywood. A little bit Christina Crawford and a little too close to my own biography. No, I didn’t live in a trailer but someone I know does. (Shhhh, mum’s the word.) Sharing some blood in the same vein is Dee Turbon’s “Shoes that Pinch.” Turbon’s story was less Joan Crawford’s then Shirley Temple but still made me wonder “what happened to Baby Jane?” Turbon’s character seemed to reference a “child actor” in Dicken’s “Nickolas Nickleby.”

    Read all the stories here:

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