Contest #196 winner 🏆

210 comments

Crime Drama American

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I

I shot papa square in the heart but he didn’t die. That damn bible he carried with him saved his life. I was considerable lucky that papa had his axe at hand, and that he kept it sharp. I picked it up. It was a heavy thing, so I swung with all my might and put it right through his head. Seein’ his brains made me throw up. I moved away so it wouldn’t get on papa. That would be disrespectful.

Papa was a big man. I couldn’t bury him like that, so I started choppin’ off his arms and legs with the axe. I was down to the right leg when Sheriff Culverson showed up. Wouldn’t you know it, he came to arrest papa for stealin’ a couple of old lady Renner’s chickens. Papa didn’t have to worry about that now. Hell, he didn’t have to worry about the drought or where his next bottle’d come from, either. I reckon I did him a favor, savin’ him from all that worry.

Sheriff Culverson looked at me and looked at papa. I done threw up again, so the smell was somethin’ turrible in the vicinity. I looked at the sheriff. He was a shakin’ his head and had a sad look on his face. I reckon he didn’t want to take a nineteen-year-old girl to jail. ‘specially me, seein’ as how I was his daughter’s best friend. Maybe he’ll let Cassie visit me in jail.

The jailhouse only had the one cell. That door a clankin’ behind me sounded like what mama would call omnus. I kinda know what that means by the words around it. Corntex, I think they call it. I would know a lot more if papa would’ve let me go to school. He said girls don’t need school. They need to learn how to cook and to clean and to please their man. I’m damn good at cookin’ and cleanin’, but I don’t think I know how to please a man. Papa was a man and he was never pleased.

Oh Lord! Here comes the sheriff and another man. I seen him around. Mr. King. He’s always all duded up and talkin’ fancy and smilin’ and a swingin’ his walkin’ stick around. I sure would like to catch me a man like that. I bet he don’t beat his women. Not much, anyway.

He ain’t smilin’ now. I reckon I’m in a heap of trouble. Welp, papa won’t be slappin’ the tar outta me for my sins this time.

**************

Both men sat across the table from Esther. The sheriff had placed the gun that Esther had shot her dad with, next to the bible that had thwarted Esther’s original plan. The metal gleamed in the harsh light of the room, sitting as silently as the three occupants. The ceiling fan squeaked quietly, not doing a very good job of cooling off the room. The open window allowed the sunlight to stream through, and a soft breeze brought a little relief from the heat, along with the scent of jasmine and dust. The harsh, unforgiving angles that the sun cast in the room matched Esther’s mood.

Esther reached for the wounded bible. She wanted to feel the torn cover and open it up to inspect the damage. The sheriff pulled it towards him and opened it up before sliding it to Esther. The soft sigh of the bible moving across the table sounded like the whisper of broken dreams.

“Notice anything?” The sheriff leaned back and watched Esther closely.

Esther inspected the bible. The bullet had torn through a significant portion of the Old Testament. It had stopped at the Book of Esther.

“Yessir. Esther stopped the bullet, I reckon.”

Mr. King smiled, though he didn’t want to. The sheriff nodded his head and leaned forward.

“Don’t you find that a little odd?”

Esther shook her head.

“That’s your name, young lady,” Mr. King spoke. His rich, resonant voice filled the room. Dust motes danced and the breeze quickened.

“Yessir.”

The men looked at each other impassively, but both were thinking the same thing. The girl was thickheaded.

Mr. King pointed to Esther’s face.

“Your dad do that?”

Her black eye and a swollen nose did all the testifying for her.

“Yessir. Told me I shoulda caught a man by now, and he warn’t gonna feed no old maid much longer.”

“He been drinkin’?” Sheriff Culverson leaned back, crossing his arms. He already knew the answer.

“Yessir. Mama always says that papa only drinks on days endin’ with a ‘y.’ I reckon that’s true.” Esther played with her hair, twirling it between two fingers. She looked away from the men and gazed outside, lost in her own thoughts.

“So you decided to shoot ‘im.”

“Yessir.”

“But the bible stopped the bullet.”

“Yessir.”

Mr. Kind leaned forward and stared at Esther, causing her to blush.

“That was when you decided to take the axe to his head?”

Esther stopped playing with her hair and sat still for a moment before answering.

“I suppose so. Papa woulda kilt me if I didn’t kill him.”

“You feared for your life?” Mr. King continued to stare intently at Esther.

“Yessir.”

Mr. King abruptly stood up and shook the sheriff’s hand.

“I have all I need.”

He left quickly, so quickly that it startled Esther. She looked at the retreating back and worried that she had offended such a gentleman.

“Am I gonna get the Chair?”

The sheriff stood slowly, as if it hurt him to do so. He closed his eyes for a moment before answering. His voice, when he spoke, was softer than Esther had ever heard it.

“No. You’ll get twenty-five years in the women’s prison in San Antone. Minimum.”

Esther started counting on her fingers.

“You’ll be about forty-four, Esther.”

“Damn. I reckon I’ll be too old to catch a man by that time.”

The sheriff felt his chest tighten just a little at those words.

“And mama? How old’ll she be?”

“How old is she now?”

Esther paused, deep in thought.

“Says she was born in 1901.”

“Then she’ll be about sixty.”

Esther nodded, standing, and smoothing out her skirt.

“Reckon she’ll take me back when I get out?”

The sheriff scratched his forehead and looked at the floor.

“I don’t know, honey. I just don’t know.”

**************

II

They’re calling us heroes. The newspapers, that is. I suppose we are, but I don’t know that I feel heroic. I do, however, feel a difference in me now that papa’s dead. Liberation would be the word. Papa would have hit me if I had ever used that word in front of him.

Papa had been drinking, of course. And smacking mama around. Cassie and I were hiding out in my room, wondering when it would all stop. At one point, I heard mama scream. That’s when I went out to investigate.

Papa was pointing a gun at mama. I didn’t even think about what to do. I just did it. I stepped in front of mama just as papa shot. The bullet hit my bible. Yes, I carried a bible with me, right over my heart, but only when I was wearing overalls. It was fortunate that I was wearing them at this point.

I staggered backward and fell. The impact of the bullet stunned me. Mama fell as well, trying to hold me up. That’s when Cassie came charging out of the room and started to wrestle with papa, trying to get the gun out of his hand. We heard another shot. Papa took a bullet to the gut. He died two hours later, in a lot of pain.

Cassie stood and fairly sprinted out of the house. She came back a few minutes later with her dad. The sheriff. The look on his face was one that will not soon leave me. Pinched and drawn, with worry written clearly in the eyes.

Mama should have never been home. She was supposed to go to San Antonio to see her sister, but papa beat her so bad the night before that she refused to go. I believe that papa beat her so severely so she wouldn’t go. He was like that.

Cassie shouldn’t have been there either. Her father told her never to go to my house when my papa was around, but Cassie often defied her father. Her father was so relieved that Cassie wasn’t injured or killed that he never punished her. On the contrary, he hugged her tightly and kissed her on the cheek. I had never seen him do that before!

I’m supposed to write a story for the newspapers. The one in San Antonio wants to give me – and Cassie – fifty dollars each for our story. An astounding sum. Some rich people in San Antonio also want to give us full scholarships for college. Imagine! Going to college! It’s in Denton, but that’s even better. Cassie and I can get away from the blight of the Hill Country and experience a different kind of life.

A different kind of life. I’m filled with a substantial happiness, and I wonder when it will leave. Never, I hope.

The real hero is mama, and I’ll make sure the newspapers know that. All those years of insisting that I go to school, even when papa beat her for her sass. He called it that, anyway. It was grit and toughness and love. I’ll call it the stuff that heroism is made of. That has a nice ring to it. And it’s the truth.

**************

All three steps to the elevated porch squeaked under Mr. King’s tread, though the man was not heavy. Like the rest of the porch area, they needed paint; rusted nail heads poked out of the wood, loosened by years of neglect and Hill Country weather. The evening was soon to turn into dusk.

“Just spoke to the judge. Cassie ain’t to be charged. He said she did us all a favor by shootin’ that man.”

Sheriff Culverson didn’t show it, but a wave of relief flooded his body. He relaxed a little and felt his breath coming easier. Mr. King sat down and lit a cigar, offering one to the sheriff. Both men took some time to light their cigars, ensuring that they had a proper draw. This was not a task but a ritual, and it was not to be taken lightly.

The sheriff went inside his house and returned in a few moments, bearing a bottle of whiskey and two small tumblers. Each man filled their glass to the amount desired and sipped. Mr. King grimaced at the first sip, then took a second, larger sip.

“I reckon she did us all a favor, sure, but it was an accident. I’m damn happy the judge was of the same mind,” the sheriff said. He took another sip of whiskey and sat his glass down, concentrating on puffing his cigar and enjoying the news.

“You know, I’m surprised one of those women hadn’t killed the man before. He sure liked to beat his women,” Mr. King said.

“The mama,” the sheriff said. Mr. King turned his head slightly.

“Pardon?”

“The mama. She made that girl, Esther, get an education. I hear she took a beatin’ or two for her daughter. Damn fine woman, in my opinion.”

Mr. King nodded and smiled. He had already heard the news.

“You went to visit the widow, I hear.”

The sheriff glanced at Mr. King and then quickly glanced away.

“Offer my condolences, in an official capacity.”

The sun had disappeared behind the horizon, bestowing faint light and beautiful colors to the sky. Fireflies came out of hiding, their pinpricks of light giving the large front lawn a magical appearance. As if fairies were in attendance. As if a miracle had been bestowed.

“You were there for two hours, sheriff. That’s a lot of…uh…condoling.”

The sheriff turned and stared at Mr. King, his steely blue eyes narrowing a little. Mr. King laughed and hastened to explain.

“The old biddies in town. You know what they’re like. Most of ‘em had you and the widow makin’ a baby during your visit.”

“Vicious old cats,” the sheriff spat out the words.

“Makes sense, though. You and the widow. Esther and Cassie are best friends. They’d be tickled pink to become sisters, so to speak. And the widow’s a fine, strong woman.”

“You done have us at the altar.”

Mr. King tamped the ashes from his cigar onto the porch and scuffed them with his boots. He poured himself more whiskey and watched the fireflies perform their chaotic, beautiful dance.

“Your wife’s been gone for twelve years. I reckon you grieved enough, sheriff. I figure the widow’s grievin’ was nonexistent. Can’t really miss a man that beats you, can you?”

The sheriff poured himself another three fingers of whiskey and stood at the railing beside Mr. King. He sighed and turned to Mr. King, handing him a dollar bill.

“I’m hirin’ you for a two-minute consultation, Mr. King.”

Mr. King looked at the bill and put it in his breast pocket.

“What’s on your mind, sheriff?”

The sheriff paused for a moment, trying to get the words out of his mouth.

“I heard Esther ‘n Cassie talkin’ one day last year, just before Christmas. Esther was tellin’ her that she wanted to shoot her daddy dead so he’d stop beatin’ her mama. Well, that froze me.”

Mr. King looked at the sheriff, a thoughtful expression creasing his face and pursing his lips.

“I figure she would have done it one day, sheriff. I guess Cassie took care of that, though.”

The sheriff sighed.

“I reckon.”

“So, why the dollar?”

“We got attorney-client confidentiality now, right?”

Mr. King laughed, nodding his head.

“Yes. Very clever, sheriff. But I wasn’t gonna divulge that little piece of information anyway.”

“I expect a receipt when you get to the office tomorrah.”

“Yes. Of course. Come by after work, sheriff, and I’ll buy us a couple of beers. I seem to have an extra dollar in my pocket.”

The night darkened and the breeze stilled; even the fireflies slowed down. Soon, they were gone, letting the darkness of the night have its way. Both men remained silent. Cigar smoke curled and drifted upwards past the porch lights, disappearing into the blackness.

Mr. King left after finishing his whiskey.

“See you tomorrow, sheriff. And I’ll expect a wedding invitation.”

“I want that receipt, young man.”

The rest of the night passed as it should have. Frogs croaked lazily, crickets chirped, and lights winked out one by one across the countryside. Two young ladies were dreaming of adventures at college, one sheriff was thinking of matrimony, and one widow was contemplating the mysteries of fate and providence.

The bible with a bullet hole in it was, in due time, returned to its rightful owner. The whereabouts of the mangled word of God is currently unknown.


May 05, 2023 19:03

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210 comments

Russell Mickler
15:22 May 12, 2023

Hey! Congrats man! R

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Delbert Griffith
10:01 May 14, 2023

Thank you very much, Russell. Coming from a quality author like you, that means a lot. Cheers!

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15:14 May 12, 2023

CONGRATULATIONS DEL !!! Long overdue. So pleased that you are getting the recognition that you deserve. I'm wrapping up the school year (you know how that goes) and I'm over the moon to see your name at the top this week. Reading the story on my lunch hour. YAY YAY YAY

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Delbert Griffith
10:29 May 14, 2023

Thank you so very much, Deidra. Coming from one of the best authors I know, this means a lot. I have you - and others - to thank for my writing progress. I'm blessed to have mentors like you to help me along as I struggle to improve. Winning one of these contests feels terrific because the competition is so stiff. Again, thank you, my friend. Praise from Deidra is worth noting. Cheers!

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Kelsey H
10:36 May 11, 2023

Great read, you have a talent for crime fic! I agree with Michal, I like how you take two different outcomes long after the life changing event and shows the trajectory things took. I also like how both sections begin with Papa being dead, but then show the different lead up to and outcome through each 'door'. Also love the role the bible played in each one. I like how you show the different attitudes people have toward Esther, after she is able to go to school and be viewed as intelligent, well spoken, etc. In the first she is seen as a...

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Delbert Griffith
11:54 May 11, 2023

Thank you very much for the praise and the analysis, Kelsey. I truly appreciate it. Yes, the Bible played a central role, but the meaning of the bullet stopping at Esther goes a little deeper. It's two-fold: secular and religious. Bullets only have the power we give them, in a figurative sense. Esther showed that. I see from your bio that you live in NZ. Fascinating country. In fact, one of my tales had its initial scene in the back of a NZ brothel. I wanted to imbue the setting with a sense of the unfamiliar, at least to an American reade...

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Kelsey H
04:03 May 12, 2023

Funnily enough in my stories on here I am usually trying to do the opposite and not make the setting seem too 'unfamiliar'. Off to check out your story now, I don't see much on here set in NZ!

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05:17 May 13, 2023

LOL. Didn't pick New Zealand here, though one of my stories was recognized as a story set in NZ, without stating it. In fact, my stories based loosely on real life are set in New Zealand. Had to mention.

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Michał Przywara
20:46 May 09, 2023

What I really like about this is, the "sliding doors" event is completely off-screen and happened long ago. Indeed, the character who made the choice barely even features directly in the story - but of course, the effects of that choice are massive. Education. In the first case, the mother yields on education, and her daughter is sabotaged - but she does enact her own justice. In the second case, the daughter has a chance at a future. There's other parallels and contrasts too. In the first, she attacks, in the second she is attacked. Curio...

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Delbert Griffith
21:08 May 09, 2023

Thank you very much for the praise and the excellent analysis, Michal. As usual, you got things that others didn't see. Education. A major theme. Education is salvation. Short and simple. Without it, generational poverty continues. You are the only one, so far, that saw the "everyone can be saved" symbolism. The father, like many hypocrites, uses the Bible for his own ends. The 'mangled word of God' part was a direct reference to those who use religion for less-than-pure motives. The father is a prime example of this. The indirect approac...

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Michał Przywara
20:43 May 12, 2023

Woo Del! Congratulations! The Contest that Esther Won :)

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Delbert Griffith
21:26 May 12, 2023

Thank you, my friend. LOL Yes, Esther came through for me. Cheers!

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05:21 May 13, 2023

Loved reading about the hidden meanings. However, though I can imagine a Bible being carried near someone's heart, I cannot think of a reason to carry any other type of book. It had to be a Bible.

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Delbert Griffith
10:12 May 13, 2023

Truth. Good call, Kaitlyn.

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Tommy Goround
13:29 May 14, 2023

Huh. I missed this. (Kept thinking about the minutiae of Esther -- a unique book in many ways -- and missed the big picture). What a gorgeous analysis of theme. Bravo.

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Tommy Goround
11:39 May 08, 2023

....it did post. (So annoying when you spend an hour to type something using the UI and then it deleted)... Kk . -i had actually forgotten Esther shot him because of the ax. That's interesting. . “Yessir. Esther stopped the bullet, I reckon STANDS TO CLAP . He been drinkin’?” MINUS ONE POINT. . Option to avoid hillbilly drunk cliche: 1) he's possessed 2) his hand is mechanical 3) he has broken knees and slips and hits his daughter. Always saying he's sorry but she snapped anyways 4) they were actually playing the game PLATES where you knuck...

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Delbert Griffith
12:16 May 08, 2023

I'll take the 'clapping,' and accept the 'minus one point.' The drunk hillbilly cliché is valid, IMO. I was raised in such an environment, though we weren't, technically, hillbillies. Close enough, though: west Texas. Yes! Prison and the death penalty don't deter certain serious crimes. We've known that for quite a while, yet we still do it. Appease the voters and fuck the science. My favorite phrase was '...the mangled word of God...'. A little savagery directed at televangelists and the like. The ills that organized religion creates is ...

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Tommy Goround
14:09 May 11, 2023

:)

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Tommy Goround
11:21 May 08, 2023

Cool title. 4.8/5 -the intro girl is a tough sell (for me) but you win with the movement to avoid the puke. "Respect" -moral plotting on chickens. Nice timing. -choice of sheriff....laughing -shucks. He did take her in. Please consider a double paragraph space. (For timing) . . Sometimes I just put in dots... . . Better than <2> = full stop of segment. . -omnous, corntext? My theory is that comedians in the 1980s still believed that they were supposed to sing because the comedians of the 1970s and 1960s always sang during their comedy routi...

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Delbert Griffith
12:01 May 08, 2023

Thanks so much for the 'clapping,' Tommy. To me, this is high praise. You don't offer a clap unless it's something you find to be excellent. Probably means more to me than a shortlist. I agree with you about the drunk dad being a rapist as well. It seems that when many of the writers here want to go uber-dark, they go rapist daddy. I've probably been guilty of that myself. I am consciously avoid this trope because going dark shouldn't be daddy rapist. It's my belief that writing a dark tale comes from the ruining of a life. Esther is a case...

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Tommy Goround
13:33 May 14, 2023

What if you could get hookers on cocaine? Like a contact high.... Hmmm..

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Delbert Griffith
13:58 May 14, 2023

Hookers and "contact" are a given. Contact high from cocaine? Not so much. LOL Cheers, my friend!

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Susan Catucci
18:59 May 06, 2023

Excellent, Del! The I and II were subtle, yet important to understanding the shifting of the story into a new gear. And what a gear it was, especially coming on the heels of what could have been - yikes. People spend so much time and energy expecting things to go the way they plan, they don't stop to consider just how many variables there are that can make that seem . . . unrealistic. When things do go well, or according to plan, consider it a bonus. (Like II here was such a satisfying 'bonus '!) You're packing your stories with ...

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Delbert Griffith
20:02 May 06, 2023

Thank you very much, my friend. As usual, you pick up on the deeper meanings - and you enjoyed that last line. Little secret: it was a double entendre. I meant it literally, of course; the bullet mangled the Bible. It was also a dig at the hypocrites who claim to be Christians but continue to lead a life that God would disapprove of. "The whereabouts of the word of God is currently unknown" is saying that the hypocrites have lost sight of the true teachings of the Bible. Anyway...I'm pleased that you, of all people, liked the tale. You had ...

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Lily Finch
17:26 May 06, 2023

Ok Del, so major poverty during the Great Depression in a place near San Antonio, Texas. Esther takes matters into her hands when she confronts and kills her abuser and her mother's abuser - her father and her mother's husband. Feels no remorse for the killing yet does not want to throw up on him as it is disrespectful, all the while calling him papa. Such tragedy that all of the other townspeople knew about the manical ways of the demented father and his abuse. A tortured soul himself who struggles with addiction that when he drinks g...

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Delbert Griffith
19:51 May 06, 2023

Thanks so much for the praise, Lily. I'm so pleased that you liked it so much. Generational poverty during the Depression was real, and it spawned a whole set of new social ills. The patriarchal mindset back then didn't help matters any, either. People, especially young people, did desperate things to escape such a life. Esther is just one of many stories like this that are true. I'm glad the tale resonated with a deeper meaning, my friend. But you're a great analyzer of tales, so there's that. Cheers!

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Lily Finch
20:38 May 06, 2023

Aww, thanks Del. Sometimes much of what I read goes over my head. I am just glad when I get something correct. LOL. LF6

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Marty B
00:26 May 06, 2023

The book of Esther. A lot hinges on a good education. A good education for these two girls was knowing how to work the system to get rid of a terrible and dangerous man. This story is about ..'Corntex' too, growing up poor, Esther had no one to turn to to get out her situation except a shotgun and an axe. If she had more resources more awareness of her options maybe she could have chosen a -less violent solution. Good one!

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Delbert Griffith
10:08 May 06, 2023

Thank you for the comments, Marty. I really appreciate this. Yes, education was Esther's way out, and the lack of education drove her to desperate measures. That, I think, was the crux of the tale. And the Book of Esther. Again, thank you, my friend. Cheers!

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Laurel Hanson
09:52 May 13, 2023

Dang Delbert! This is a fantastic read. Love the narrative voice of the uneducated Esther.She completely engages, particularly with the first paragraph. It's so unexpected, I had to read it twice before moving on. The thing is, by pairing the two, with the different choices made by the mother regarding fighting for their education, you see two different people emerge, not just two different speech patterns. The first one is grimly pragmatic (understandably so) and seems emotionally disengaged. The educated one takes the higher ground, but al...

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Delbert Griffith
10:46 May 13, 2023

Thank you very much for the praise, Laurel. I appreciate it, truly. You really caught a very important part of the tale: Esther being emotionally disengaged in the first part and emotionally engaged in the second part. And. yes, education was responsible for it, all other matters being equal. And you saw the two different speech patterns. Well done, Laurel. The mother, though barely in the tale, drives the two different outcomes. Education, or the lack thereof, took center stage. As an ex-teacher of mathematics, I firmly believe in educati...

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Sally Jupe
06:46 May 13, 2023

Well done for winning Delbert! Well deserved. The story was for me so compelling right from the start, and kept me reading to the end through its simplicity and 'neat' descriptions of the the events and really effective dialogue that you used really bringing in the 'hillbilly' feel for me. Being English I only know about this from TV :) And in my ignorance had no clue what 'sliding doors' meant, which is terrible at 64! Wikipedia just helped me out and now your story has even more relevance for me! I never even knew there was even a film e...

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Delbert Griffith
10:37 May 13, 2023

Thank you, Sally, for the high praise for my little tale. I appreciate the kind words and the comments; they give me food for thought. You're the first one to posit that Esther's family is African-American. Well done! My intent was to make them be anyone, of any racial or cultural group. I tried so hard to make their race unknown, and you saw that. I'm 65, and from rural west Texas, so I understand the milieu of the tale. And, like you, I sometimes struggle with British terms. However, I have lessened that weakness in me by watching scads ...

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Fernando César
23:28 Aug 13, 2023

Interesting. Are they really African-American if there’s no textual base for that? Congratulations on the win!

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Delbert Griffith
00:42 Aug 14, 2023

Not necessarily. It was written without regard to race. Thanks for the congrats, my friend. Cheers!

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05:33 May 13, 2023

Definitely a winning story. I also wanted to write to the sliding doors prompt but after writing the story realized it wasn't in two parts. Oops. So then I changed the choice of prompt to 'Maybe in another life'. I liked that better than rewriting. Loved your story. We can truly change our children's lives by the decisions we make. Its not all nurture, though. As for the father being such a bully and alcoholic, Esther's predicament in the first part had all my sympathy. In the second the father hadn't changed at all. He didn't even have more...

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Delbert Griffith
10:15 May 13, 2023

Thanks so much, Kaitlyn, for the praise and the kind words. Yes, education is a way out of generational poverty and its attendant ills. Big message there, but not surprising, considering I'm an ex-teacher. We teachers tend to believe in the power of education. LOL As you say, it's not all nurture. I think Esther's mother, though hidden in the tale, is the real hero. She wanted more for her daughter than what she had, so she made sure Esther got an education. The power of love prevails in the second part. Again, thank you, my friend. Cheers!

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Tommy Goround
11:40 May 08, 2023

Hi. Prob ably should just clap and delete notes. Clap clap

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Delbert Griffith
12:17 May 08, 2023

Don't delete the notes! They're gold, my friend. We need more commenters like you to show us what resonates and what doesn't. Your comments are a prime example of what this site needs.

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Michelle Oliver
07:03 May 06, 2023

Generational poverty, it’s not just about material wealth but also education. Without access to education, choices may be limited. You have demonstrated this so beautifully with this story, well done.

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Delbert Griffith
10:20 May 06, 2023

Thank you so much, Michelle, for the comments and the insights. I know something about generational poverty, having been raised in the milieu. It strikes much deeper than many imagine, from the father hitting family members as a matter of course to the stultifying effects of feeling trapped in a life that is bleak and unforgiving. And, yes, education is the way out. Because of my upbringing, I'm a staunch advocate of education. The bible angle is also worth noting, especially where the bullet stopped. The Book of Esther never mentions God...

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Michelle Oliver
15:25 May 12, 2023

Congratulations on the win! Well done and well deserved!

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Delbert Griffith
16:52 May 12, 2023

Thank you, Michelle. I am truly humbled.

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Steve Uppendahl
18:17 Jun 14, 2023

Holy shit is this good! Damn. Telling the same story from different viewpoints, different tenses, diction, etc is no easy task. Doing all of them well is even harder. You took the reader on quite the emotional roller coaster - as well as the characters. Today's age being what it is, I felt like I was binging different episodes of the same show. (That may be a weird compliment, but a valid one, nonetheless.)

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Delbert Griffith
18:21 Jun 14, 2023

Thank you very much for the praise and the comments, Steve. I appreciate this. As a former teacher/golf coach, I can appreciate your limited time to write, and I applaud you for writing anything at all, especially with four daughters to raise. Only a teacher can handle such a daunting feat, my friend. Again, thank you for the review, my friend. Cheers from Texas!

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Jody S
20:38 May 26, 2023

This is wonderful! Congratulations on the win! What an amazing take on the prompt. My favorite phrase in this piece is Fireflies came out of hiding, their pinpricks of light giving the large front lawn a magical appearance. As if fairies were in attendance. As if a miracle had been bestowed. Just beautiful!

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Delbert Griffith
22:11 May 26, 2023

Thank you very much for the praise and the congrats, Jody. I truly appreciate them. You know, you're the only one who pointed out that particular paragraph as something beautiful. I also thought that it was the best descriptive paragraph I've written in quite some time. I grew up in the Texas panhandle, so we didn't have fireflies. My grandmother did, though, and those summer evenings at her house stayed with me. I owe all of that writing to her, I believe. Again, thank you, my friend. Cheers!

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Jody S
22:23 May 26, 2023

I have been fascinated by lightening bugs (as we western PA people call them) since I was a little girl. They are magical and it was just lovely to see them appreciated in print! That the rest of your story was awesome was the full deal!! That is so lovely that you owe your writing to your grandma!!

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21:05 May 21, 2023

Congrats on winning! It's been a while since I was on a regular here, so take all of my comments with a spoonful of salt! I like the deeper meanings scattered throughout the story--you strike the correct balance of message and subtlety. Being a Texas boy myself, I also appreciate the portrayal of hill country/hillbilly life. I have some critiques though: First off, I felt like the first section from Esther's standpoint was very chaotic and almost staccato in its pacing, making it difficult for me to get into the flow of the story. Secon...

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Delbert Griffith
22:44 May 21, 2023

Thank you for the congrats, Leo, and also for the critique. They are both appreciated. Esther, in the first part, is not a human being. She is an animal, and one that reacts to how she was raised: with violence and dispassion. As the first part moves forward, we feel a little more empathy for Esther. She worries about what her life will be like after she gets out of prison. mainly, she worries if her mom will still accept her. The "considerable' was intentional. A very common way for people to speak in post-Depression Hill Country. They al...

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Zack Powell
02:33 May 21, 2023

First, congratulations again, Del! This was such a well-deserved win, and I'm happy to see it do well. Second: Holy cow, you broke all the rules, and you did it so successfully! I'm super envious. First- and third-person POVs in the same story? Check. Accented speech and intentional misspellings in the narration? Check. Main plot of the story is the shooting, yet we never fully "see" it and are only told about it after the fact? Check. And yet, everything worked. The story kept its pacing and direction, it followed the prompt, it told the s...

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Delbert Griffith
09:02 May 21, 2023

Thank you so much, Zack, for the praise and the congrats. Truly. It means a lot coming from an excellent writer such as you. Also - welcome back! I noticed the Zack Powell absence, and I'm quite pleased that you have returned to Reedsy. You add a lot to this site, my friend. Yes, I broke a few rules, but it was intentional and, IMO, necessary. I felt the tale needed Eshter's POV so that it would stand in stark contrast to the adult conversations and ruminations. There were two lives that Esther led, but there was also the world of the adult...

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Aeris Walker
01:19 May 21, 2023

When I first saw this prompt, I scrolled right past it, feeling the concept was too complex to pull off, but I'm so impressed by how you crafted this--how you wrote these two completely different scenarios surrounding the same event. My favorite thing about this story is how Esther's voice, her personality, and even the sort of feral brutality in which she plans to dismember and bury her father's body is a stark contrast to the vision we have of Esther in the second part of this story-in the reality of how it all played out. It's interestin...

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Delbert Griffith
08:42 May 21, 2023

Thank you very much, Aeris, for the kind words and the congrats. I think I captured lightning in a bottle; everything fell into place in this tale. Oddly enough, I scrolled right past this prompt as well. I just didn't see a story in it, at least not from me. I decided to tackle this one after three days of mulling over all of the prompts. The stark contrast between Esther's lives was intentional, and it was because of her mother's actions. Specifically, her mother decides that her daughter needs and education. As an ex-teacher, I'm convi...

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Éan Bird
19:35 May 13, 2023

Quick, snappy dialogue and an engaging plot that clips along. As a reader, I felt immersed in the conflict and setting. The bullet stopping at the Book of Esther is so clever, and the fact that fate hinges upon education speaks to me as a teacher. Congratulations!

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Delbert Griffith
19:50 May 13, 2023

Thank you very much, Éan, for the praise. I really appreciate it. As a former teacher, I also appreciate the power of education. It's the answer to many of the world's ills, generational poverty among them. Fun fact: the Book of Esther never mentions God. Again, thank you, my friend. Cheers!

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