Contest #47 winner 🏆

234 comments

Submitted on 06/27/2020

Categories: General

You sip on hot lemon and honey. The steam rolls out of the cup like a vertical carpet. It covers your nose and fogs your view of the peeling rosebud wallpaper over the sink. There are grocery store flowers on the scrubbed, scratched table, and a curling piece of paper with your mother's words scrawled across it in black pen, all caps. Her instructions, which include drinking this mugful, feeding the dog, and bringing in the mail are written in English. Anything that has to do with loving you is in Spanish.

Mi cielo, she calls you. My sky.

You cough violently into the crook of your elbow and sit at the edge of the table. It is morning and it is March in San Bernadino. Bright green tendrils of crawling leaves press against the kitchen window and the sky is the color of dust in light as you make neat folds in the edges of your mother's note. Your throat is a raw, tender patch of heat, as if the High Desert region has parasitically stitched itself inside you in hopes you will never go, never leave it. So you swallow again, tangy lemon and smooth honey. Heat joins heat. You fight fire with fire.

You stand. The dog finds you, its nails sounding on the linoleum in crisp, quick clacks. You bend at the waist and ruffle its ears. Its pink tongue lolls. You kiss her forehead and then rinse out your mug. You set the Dollar Store porcelain in the sink, resolving to wash it sometime between a few television shows and your mother's return.

The strip of carpet that runs to your bedroom does not send chills through the naked soles of your feet like the linoleum did, and for that, you are grateful. You pad to your room in the back of the house where the blankets on your bed remain mangled and waiting for you to cocoon beneath them again. Your Class of 2011 sweatshirt is crumpled on the floor. You tug open your closet door and select a pair of sandals. The dog follows you.

You flip flop to the concrete patio out back and tear open the lid on a can of wet dog food. You bang on the butt of the can until a soft, brown cylinder plops into the bowl. As per routine, your dog's eyes rest on the food with ravenous intent, but obeys when you nudge her with your knee, the one that still needs surgery, and say, "Oración." Prayer.

She drops to her belly and buries her head between her paws.

"Gracias, Señor, y bendícenos estos alimentos que vamos a recibir de tu generosidad por Cristo Nuestro Señor. Amén."

At "amen," your dog pounces the bowl.

As a child, you sometimes said the prayer and postponed the amén, fascinated by the sight of your pup struggling somewhere between obedience and desire. Her eyes would twitch upward at the pause, and you'd laugh. You are ashamed of this, but a part of you even enjoyed knowing you held the power to keep a creature smaller than you trapped by your silence until one day you realized you felt so much like her, shaking with anticipation for the right to seize all that waited for you. For the first time, you heard the notes of cruelty in your laughter. You lost heart in the joke.

You slip through the slapping screen door and walk through the kitchen, the living room, and out the front door. You cough again. You open the tin top of the mailbox attached to the side of the house, right below the address numbers.

Vaguely curious, you file through the mail. There are bills. A flier for the car dealership on the east end. A birthday card from Tía Alejandra. An envelope from Seattle University.

An envelope from Seattle University.

You begin to shake then. Your foot is poised over the threshold of the doorway, and the door smacks your shoulder. The dog barks at the back door, but she sounds as far away as memories of your father, as far away as the stars. You stare at the official insignia printed in the left-hand corner of the envelope and at your name in the center until it is blurry enough to be anyone else's.

Something sharp and alive drives through you until you are blinking at the ceiling and gasping for air, smiling and terribly afraid. You wring out your hands because you feel like you should and you pace for a moment before striding to the table that held your elbows just moments ago. You drop the rest of the mail by your mother's note and pace again because a chair cannot hold you. Your heart is a balloon round with whistling lightness, so full and fragile.

You hold the edge of the table and stare at the envelope there, rectangular and thick. You turn it over and stare at its sealed belly and press your fingernail beneath the fold. All the pictures you've seen of Seattle contain an ocean that is geographically the same, but quite unlike your own: brooding and grey, tracing the edge of the city in frothing white when the storms come through. There will be something comforting about a sick day in Seattle, you think; the sun will not always be in your eyes, the cobalt streets will cradle you, you will watch the world from a window up high. The fog will heal you, remind you of the steam of hot lemon and honey. And perhaps when you come home, you will be able to ask your mother whether she can see how new you are. You will build something there, something totally your own, and one day your mother will have a dishwasher.

Everything in you longs to rip the seam of the envelope because everything in you wants to know what tomorrow means. But your mother calls you mi cielo, and she is not there. So you wait for her return. You wait for her amén.

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234 comments

Zilla Babbitt
13:20 Jul 03, 2020

Oh, I love this so much. I like how you show how ill she is without ever blatantly saying "You are sick." I love the descriptions of the fire and the sky and the honey tea. Deserved win!

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Miranda Carter
03:21 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much for reading and the specific feedback! I definitely aim to show rather than tell as much as possible, so I am grateful my character's sick day translated well.

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Zilla Babbitt
14:40 Jul 06, 2020

You are a different Miranda Carter than the one who won. Why are you replying for her?

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Miranda Carter
17:53 Jul 06, 2020

Same one!

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Miranda Carter
18:13 Jul 06, 2020

I looked into it and I had accounts attached to different emails! So sorry for the confusion. I deleted the other for clarity! I was wondering why one story was always missing...

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Zilla Babbitt
00:11 Jul 07, 2020

Makes sense! Sorry, for a moment I was mad :)

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Miranda Carter
20:08 Jul 14, 2020

No, I appreciate you looking out for me!

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Avani Gupta
00:35 Oct 12, 2020

You deleted an account? How do you do that?

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Felicity Edwards
15:27 Jul 03, 2020

What a beautiful story, so many tiny details and so few words. Loved the Spanish words as well. You deserved to win Well done.

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Miranda Carter
04:08 Jul 04, 2020

My undergrad in journalism hammered home the value of aiming for concision without compromising impact, so I have many teachers to thank for your kind observation! Thank you so much for taking notice to the little details and for sharing your thoughts with me. God bless you.

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Niveeidha P
22:56 Jul 03, 2020

A totally perfect win! This description is extremely perfect! Congrats!!!

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Miranda Carter
03:40 Jul 04, 2020

This is an extremely kind post. Thank you so much for reading and touching base with me! It means so much.

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Niveeidha P
05:22 Jul 04, 2020

No problem Miranda :) Looking forward to more!

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05:21 Jul 30, 2020

This is awesome Miranda! Deserved win! Keep writing!

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Miranda Carter
17:32 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you so much!

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17:48 Sep 04, 2020

You’re welcome!

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22:06 Jul 03, 2020

Good job! great at immersing the reader into the story.

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Miranda Carter
03:23 Jul 04, 2020

That was my aim, so I am SO grateful it worked! Thank you for reading and commenting.

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20:34 Jul 03, 2020

Literal chills. I love how you brought the "amen" back at the end and with your previous description it's easy to understand her feelings and the anticipation she must have without having to say anything. The descriptions were also very lyrical and were easy to imagine. Great job!

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Miranda Carter
03:26 Jul 04, 2020

I am so excited to hear you had a physiological response to this story! And that you identify anticipation as a key theme. Your comment means so much. Thank you for reading.

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R l Brewer
19:50 Jul 03, 2020

Congratulations. Beautiful story.

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Miranda Carter
03:26 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Reena B.
14:34 Jul 03, 2020

This is such an amazing story! Congrats on the win!

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Miranda Carter
03:22 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much for reading it and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

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Evgeniia Makeeva
23:36 Jul 07, 2020

Completely flawless. Thank you for this amazing experience. I literally was transformed into your feelings and emotions!

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Miranda Carter
19:54 Jul 14, 2020

This is such an encouraging, heart-filling comment. Thank you!

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J. Ernst
19:57 Jul 07, 2020

Beautifully written. Well done! I also once held a similar life changing envelop in my hands. If you get a chance I'd appreciate it if you could read my 1st ever submission story on this website. It's titled "the gift'. Thank you

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Miranda Carter
19:55 Jul 14, 2020

I'd love to check it out! I will go read and comment.

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Miranda Carter
20:05 Jul 14, 2020

Thank you for inviting me to do that! I left a comment. I hope I encompassed the sense of thrill and fear you felt holding that envelope! Thanks for reading.

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Miranda Carter
18:33 Jul 06, 2020

Thank you for reading this story about anticipation, healing, and relationships based in honor and respect. It's so special that this story has reached so many. For any who commented and do not see my picture by "Miranda Carter," I looked into it and they are both mine; I had accidentally created two accounts, one of which I was logged into on my phone and the other of which I was logged into on my computer. I have deleted the other account but requested that my data remain so that the comments remain. I apologize for any confusion and as...

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Rhondalise Mitza
17:09 Jul 08, 2020

Thanks for clarifying, we were just looking out for you! :D

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Miranda Carter
19:22 Jul 08, 2020

I totally understand and very much appreciate it! 🥰

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Waverley Stark
08:30 Jul 06, 2020

Very cute story! I liked the Spanish words you used, and the simple, quiet descriptions that really helped the reader to visualize the story.

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Miranda Carter
20:08 Jul 14, 2020

I am so grateful you read it! I am glad the Spanish made it so much more grounded. Thank you so much!

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19:47 Jul 05, 2020

Beautiful story and excellent details. The reader feels the character, rather than just being told about her. Nicely done!

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Miranda Carter
18:16 Jul 06, 2020

Oooh, that is so wonderful. Exactly what I was pursuing! Thank you.

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Tina Laing
00:13 Jul 05, 2020

A very nice story. Congrats!

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Miranda Carter
18:17 Jul 06, 2020

Thank you for reading, Tina!

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Kathleen March
15:29 Jul 04, 2020

The details, the details. Lovely. Except the detail about the mother. Mi cielo is always so endearing.

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Syeda Fatima
01:57 Jul 04, 2020

Truly, it kept me all occupied in its mesmerizing world until the end. I am glad it won! wow, such deep and vivid imagery... mi cielo😍

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Miranda Carter
03:32 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so deeply for your support and feedback. I am so touched you took the time to read the piece and be a part of the world of "mi cielo." ☺

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Jason Dean
21:30 Jul 03, 2020

The cobalt streets will cradle you. Just lovely, well done!

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Miranda Carter
03:24 Jul 04, 2020

I love Seattle streets! 😊 Thank you for sharing a description that stood out to you!

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21:25 Jul 03, 2020

The description is amazing!!! Great job!!

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Miranda Carter
03:24 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Toni Baxter
20:57 Jul 03, 2020

I absolutely lost myself in this piece! Impressively immersive and so beautifully written. A very well deserved win. Congratulations!

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Miranda Carter
03:25 Jul 04, 2020

This feedback makes my heart warm. Thank you for reading and becoming a part of my character's world for a little while.

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Sally Collins
16:47 Jul 08, 2020

I was going to comment almost these exact words! All the little details were so relatable. I was fully in the moment. Thank you for taking me there.

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Deborah Angevin
20:15 Jul 03, 2020

A well-written story, congrats for the win!

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Miranda Carter
03:26 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much for this!

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