I am very excited to present the winning entries to our Lisa Schroeder Writing Contest. For this contest, we asked you to write a poem or short story about loss. We were inspired, of course, by the beautiful verse novels of our April Book of the Month author, Lisa Schroeder.
The winners are:
They’ve each won a copy of one of Lisa’s books (winner’s choice), courtesy of Lisa herself. Ladies — check your email for a message from me about how to claim your prize!
Their entries were each beautifully written and fit the contest theme perfectly, though in vastly different ways. You can read their winning entries after the break!
Little Girl, Red Bike by Nicole
Dusty brown hair
And deep set dark eyes
That shine with excitement
Because the bicycle is brand new
And it’s happy birthday time
In this little German town
Six months pass
The bicycle is worn
And mud splattered
Each dirt stain easily attributed
To a fantastic adventure
With friends in the neighborhood
But there is no bike riding
The notice on the tree said so
And no going out after dark
What is happening?
This birthday is not a happy one
The only gift this year
Is a yellow felt star
Made of itchy material
And screaming “dirty Jew”
Louder than the kids
Who live down the road
Papa can’t own a home anymore
And Mama’s job at the schoolhouse is gone
Suddenly, for no reason that can be understood
By the still sane and the scared
They come home dejected, forcing positive talk
But after they think the children are asleep
They cry together in the parlor
Where the radio used to be
Goodbye to the dog
To the neighbors
And the home
Goodbye to the dollhouse
And the bike
Maybe someone will wash you
Shiny and new again
Hungry and alone
Waiting in line for the showers
No shoes, no friends, no dignity
There are no bicycles
Untitled by Misty
Nobody stops moving, but me.
I’m standing beside the bed, listening for her last breath and when it comes, I’m still waiting for the next. I wait a long time, sure that she’ll catch another breath, the same way she would when she blew wishes away on dandelions. Or when she cooled soup for me. Or when she had hiccups.
The nurse comes in while I’m waiting and says she’s sorry. My mother is gone. The nurse leaves. I’m still holding my mother’s hand. The nurse comes back a while later and asks if there is anything she can do for me.
“I’m lost,” I tell her.
“We all feel that way.” She puts a hand on my back. “It’ll pass.”
“I don’t know how to get home.”
“Oh,” the nurse whispers. She takes a step away from me and removes her hand. “The elevators are down the hall, past the nurse’s station.”
“Okay,” I tell her. The nurse leaves and I hold my mother’s hand until I realize she is not coming back for me. Ever.
The elevator music is dull, classical and fitting although the ding that announces the floors we pass, is not. Two floors from the ground level, the elevator dings and lurches and the doors slide open. A couple steps on with balloons.
“Are you going up?” the man asks with a smile. He has white hair.
“No. Down,” I say. The man looks back to the woman and she smiles at him, shrugs.
“It’s only a few floors,” she says. “We can wait.”
The balloons thump on the ceiling like it wants to go up. The man and the woman huddle together and whisper, happy secrets it seems. Every thump, every whisper, every time they shift their feet beside me, I want to shriek at them, Don’t you know what just happened on the top floor? She’s gone and she’s not coming back! We have ALL lost my mother! Even the elevator music can not mute their ignorance.
When we reach the ground floor I get out, grateful to escape, but the lobby is full of people. People asking directions and debating floor numbers; people talking on cell phones and coming out of the gift shop with crinkly bags.
I move through the lobby, my eyes focused on the glass door leading to the snow covered parking lot outside. A man with a solid shoulder complains after I run into him, “Hey! Watch where you’re going, wouldya?”
I don’t watch, but I keep going.
Outside, there are two women smoking, huddled around a cylinder ashtray. They pull their coats close around them.
“So what is she going to do, then?” one asks the other.
“I don’t know. Get another dog, I guess.” The other pokes her filter into the gray sand.
“She’s the most irresponsible person on the planet.”
“She’s spoiled, that’s why.” The woman blows into her hands and stomps her feet. “My aunt is wrapped so tight around her pinky finger, it’s ridiculous.”
The smell of their smoke chokes the cold air around me. I hold my breath. If I could breathe, I would stop and tell them none of this matters. The world is a prism, with all the reasons for the dog and the girl and the aunt caught in it. My mother’s spot in the prism is empty. If she were here, I would never complain again about how she interrupts. I would never point out her bad breath or how I can’t stand her dumpy sweatshirts.
The women stub their cigarettes and go into the hospital, complaining of the cold.
The wind cuts through my hair as I go to my car. I think of the wind as my mother, blowing her wishes on me. I wonder if she is around me, if she is standing at some gate waiting for her turn to go in or if she is only back there, in the hospital room, a silent shell in a mechanical bed.
My eyes go blurry thinking of her like that. I wrestle my key into the lock on the car door and get behind the wheel that steered me here, hours ago.
“Where are you?” I lean my forehead on the wheel and sob in my empty car. I don’t care who sees me, who passes my car and thinks I’m nuts. I don’t care, as long as my mother answers me. I repeat my question in a dozen broken whispers until my nose runs on my lip.
My mother is nowhere. A car passes behind mine, I hear some honking in the parking structure. The world is still moving without me, without her.
I turn the key in the ignition, even though I have no idea where to go. Among people is too harsh and the silence of my apartment will be too overwhelming. The engine idles and I turn on the radio, hoping my mother’s voice will be there, telling me which direction to go.
The music starts the minute I turn the knob, as if it was waiting for me. It is an old song, one they don’t play so much anymore.
I will remember you…will you remember me?
Don’t let your life…pass you by…weep not for the memories…
My cell phone hums in my pocket and I dig it out. The screen shows my mother’s phone number at the room she had in McCleary’s nursing home. I flip open the phone.
“Hello?” I say.
“Marina Lowenstein?” It’s a man’s voice.
“Ms. Lowenstein, your mother has collapsed and we are sending her to Mt. Morrison Hospital. We recommend you go to the hospital right away.”
“My mother?” I ask. “I was just…”
“Yes, as soon as you can,” the man says and the line goes dead. This is not a dream. It has happened before. I scramble out of my car and trudge back to the hospital, the sun glowing and the fuzz of spring dandelions blowing across my path.