Winning…I am not. You may recall a month or so ago when I posted a 500 word short story that did not make the cut for a contest entry. I had written two completely different stories, chose the one I felt gave me the best chance for victory, and I posted the understudy right here for you to read. I received mostly uplifting feedback on that story, leading me to ponder whether I had made a mistake in choosing the other piece. Well, perhaps I did (or perhaps they both kind of sucked)…either way, I stand before you as the non-winner of the “Poor Bastard 500 word short story contest”.
I know, I know, it’s shocking. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves and pick your jaw up off the floor. Better? Ok.
So the contest ended in April and after about a month of anxiously waiting for the winner to be revealed, the roundhouse kick of rejection was delivered over Memorial Day weekend. Am I disappointed? Sure, but not because I felt that the winning entry didn’t deserve it; I’ve read it and it was really quite good. No, I’m more disappointed because I kind of already told people I had won the grand prize of an Amazon Kindle and now I have to go buy one myself in order to save face when those people ask if they can see it.
Anyway, I promised back in April that I would reveal the entry I submitted once the winner was announced. So here it is, for your reading pleasure, the other 500 words that weren’t good enough to win! I call it, “The Roommate”.
Note: For those who missed it the first time around, or don’t remember what the rules of the contest were, here you go. The story must begin with the line, “The poor bastard never saw it coming.” Also, the story had to be exactly 500 words, no more and no less.
“The poor bastard never saw it coming.” Billy Joe looked up from the barbecue stained napkin he had used to scribble down his eloquent eulogy. He expected some boisterous laughter, a “Hell Yeah!”, and maybe a round of applause. Instead, the congregation sat in awkward silence while his mud-stained boots echoed through the church as he stepped down from the altar. Bob, the deceased, came from a large family with deep southern roots. His wife Ellen, the Park Avenue type, blended in like a flamingo in a flock of pigeons. She had always clashed with his family and so, as is usually the case when a wife puts her foot down, they rarely saw the southern brood.
As a gesture of peace, an olive branch if you will, Ellen had asked Bob’s cousin to speak at the service. As Billy Joe sat back in the pew, the rivets of his overalls carving designs into the wooden bench, she began to re-think her decision.
“Who invited him?” Ellen’s sister whispered. “He looks like he just finished birthing a calf.”
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Ellen replied sheepishly. “I guess I just thought someone from his family should say something.”
She peered over her shoulder and watched as Billy Joe and his wife Emily shared bites of a Slim Jim. She shuttered in disgust and embarrassment. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” She repeated silently to herself.
A few days later, Ellen received a call from a lawyer in Kentucky. He requested her presence at his office the next day to go over the details of her late husband’s estate.
“What estate?” She asked with surprise.
The lawyer explained that Bob’s parents had left him a fortune when they passed and that it was important she be present tomorrow. Ellen ended the call and within minutes, had booked her flight to Louisville. She arrived the next morning in palpable anticipation of what she was about to learn. It seemed her husband had kept a secret from her; a secret that she believed was about to make her very wealthy.
As she entered the lawyer’s office, she was greeted by the familiar sounds of Billy Joe and several other members of her “family”. They sat together, like the human forms of night and day, listening to this stranger read their fates. As he concluded with the reading, he looked up to see Ellen’s face frozen in silence; a silence eerily similar to that of the church congregation just a few days ago. She stuttered and began to sweat as she asked the gentleman to repeat the last part one more time.
“In order for my wife to receive my entire estate, she must move to Kentucky and live with my family for no less than 10 years. On the anniversary of her tenth year, the estate will be released to her.” The lawyer barely got the words out as Ellen fainted into the arms of Billy Joe, her new roommate.