Contest #47 winner 🏆

245 comments

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.

June 27, 2020 03:56

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245 comments

Palak M.
18:38 Jul 03, 2020

Despite the length of this, it tugged so heartily, I can't even describe my feelings right now. You have an impeccable way with words and a great sense of direction, I must say that much. Loved it! And congrats a 100 :)

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Miranda Carter
03:28 Jul 04, 2020

To hear it affected you in such a deep way makes my heart so full. Thank you so much for actively engaging with the story and for sharing your thoughts with me.

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Courtney Stuart
17:28 Jul 03, 2020

this story was so beautifully written! you did an amazing job with all of the descriptions, as well as establishing the character's relationship with their mother in such a short span of a story! great job and congrats on the win! :)

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Miranda Carter
03:48 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much! I definitely wanted that familial tie to be intensely pertinent throughout, so I am so glad that it resonated as such. Thank you for taking the time to immerse yourself in the story and for sharing your thoughts with me!

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OPHOKE LEONARD
15:56 Jul 03, 2020

Congrats, my dear, u deserve this.

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Miranda Carter
03:59 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you so much. Glory be to God!

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Jen Park
14:24 Jul 03, 2020

Congratulations! You deserved the win! The ending gave me a heartache-this story sort of played around with my emotions! Also, I noticed that you speak fluent Spanish. Felicitaciones y Dios te bendiga. :D

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Miranda Carter
04:23 Jul 04, 2020

Wow, I am so grateful to hear that it touched you in a variety of ways! I actually consulted my friend MJ, who speaks fluent Spanish, to ensure the Spanish was spot-on, so I give him major credit!m for his assistance! However, to your message below I respond, Thank you SO much, and God bless you as well! To Him be the glory.

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Colleen Preston
18:12 Aug 19, 2021

Miranda, I just read your article "The Long Road Back" in Idaho magazine. I was so impressed by your story that I had to search for other things you've written. And here I am, again, to tell you that I loved this story as well. You do include so much imagery that I actually felt my throat getting sore and visualized walking in Seattle. My favorite part was the Amen at the end as she is waiting for her mother.

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Benni Kakuta
00:18 Dec 22, 2020

Funny how you can make being ill sound so relaxing. Why did I feel in the mood for it? This was great though, you are so good at describing that it almost felt actual. I loved it!

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16:15 Dec 07, 2020

Very goodMiranda! Keep this up! Love your writing!

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Claudia Morgan
10:26 Dec 03, 2020

Wow. I love this! Congrats on the (100000% deserved) win! I love the honey tea and the fact the dog knows how to pray (my heart was melting) (Also can I count this as my Spanish revision? I'd rather write and read...)

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Georgia Roberts
20:49 Nov 17, 2020

Loved your story. I really like the pace of it you are clever how you move the syory along Keep writing for sure!!

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12:02 Nov 15, 2020

Great story loved it

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12:02 Nov 15, 2020

Hii, Miranda Sorry to intervene, in this brutal manner, I have a request for you would be kind to give a single glance over the vehicle which my team had been working over months. https://www.instagram.com/p/CHX5VUPBJOp/?igshid=5f72nb3cgg30 Sorry to take your time and If possible like the post.Because this would help team to win

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K.D. Garcia
23:48 Nov 13, 2020

I love the point of view this is written in that is NOT an easy thing to do! Brava! Love your descriptions as well. Your writing flows.

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Rahul Harish
14:42 Nov 13, 2020

Amazing. I like how the little detail on the dog ties in with the ending.

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Tara Ramdhan
22:10 Oct 29, 2020

Congratulations it's a beautiful story I wish I could train my dog like that 😆

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Ayub Mbugua
13:43 Oct 24, 2020

There's something universally true about your story, Miranda. You got me rolling on the floor as you said the Grace!

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Porcu Pine
12:47 Oct 14, 2020

This was so honest, I loved the part where you spoke about the cruel notes in your laughter at your pup, it was soooo human. And I love the way you wrote the whole story, you showed the excitement without saying the word excitement, you conveyed how the character wasn't well- off without saying it. And I loved the character's thoughts, I don't know how you captured that whole thread of thoughts she has on seeing the letter but it was great.

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Kristy Reynolds
17:56 Sep 24, 2020

This story was interesting to read. Your descriptive voice is done very well and I like how you show and not tell what is happening at times. It's a nice balance.

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22:25 Sep 22, 2020

Your use of description is very moving. The character came off the page for me. I also felt very connected to the character because I am class of 2011 and lives in WA state and is a student of Seattle U. I loved this story!

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Ariadne .
22:05 Sep 21, 2020

Love the bilingual content! Beautiful descriptions - I was so immersed in the story. The "show not tell" elements added depth to the story. Excellent work! You deserved this win! I'm waiting for more of your work!!! ~Adrienne

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Lee Doe
02:45 Sep 05, 2020

I love the point of view you wrote the story in! Not many people write it in the second person, it come out beautifully, great job!

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