Contest #179 shortlist ⭐️

Resolutions for the Great Full

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: Write a story in the form of a list of New Year's resolutions.... view prompt

106 comments

American Sad Holiday

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: Mentions/themes of death and mental health issues


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Name: Timmy Calhoun


Grade: 1st


Date: Friday, Decimbur 15, 1995


Resolution #1: Be more great full


Please explain: That's what my aunt Lola tells me all the time. That I should be more great full. That means when some one does some thing nice for you, you should say Thank You.


I do say it some times. Like when Suzy Brown holded the door for me yesturday after lunch. And also last Krismus when Santa got me a new toy car. It was brite blue, like the one on the TV comershul, and it moved really fast across my living room floor! I don't have that car any more, but I asked Momma to say Thank You to Santa when I got it. Grownups talk to each other alot. I tryed to get my little brother Larry to say Thank You with me, but I think it's only grownups that like to speak alot, not babys, so he just drooled.


Any way, Thank You for teaching us about resolutions and for making us rite this list in class today, Ms. Newman. You did some thing nice for me, cause I hate homework but I don't hate classwork that much. And I like my desk by the window, and I like having quiet time. We never have quiet time at home. My aunt Lola is all ways talking on the phone. Even after bedtime. Some times, late at night, I can hear her wispering my name.


Resolution #2: Wash hands after useing the bathroom


Please explain: That's also some thing my aunt Lola likes to tell me. That if you don't wash your hands after useing the bathroom, you can pick up a lot of germs and get sick. Like how I got those chicken pocks all over my body in Septimbur, and I stayed home and itched myself and eated hot chicken soup for a week. My aunt says it's cause I didn't wash my hands real good.


One time she even told me that if you got too many germs in your body, you could "die." But that was a wile ago. She doesn't like to use that word any more.


But I just don't like the soap in aunt Lola's house. She makes her own soap and it smells sad, like wet butter. I like Momma's soap more, the kind that smells like her, milk and honey.


I think maybe my aunt Lola is rite tho, cause every Saturday we visit Momma at the Western State Hospital and there are alot of sick people there. The first time we visited, I asked the nurse how many people they had and she said there were over 800 beds! And one time I even saw a man with his arms tyed across the front of his jacket. He must have had some really bad chicken pocks and couldn't stop itching himself. I know how that feels. It must be hard to eat soup with no hands tho.


Some times when we're visiting Momma at the hospital, we hear some of the other people yelling. Some times it's just non-cents shouting, and some times they say words Momma asked me to never ever use. One time I even yelled back. I told some guy that he should just wash his hands. That if he did, maybe he would get better and then he could go home to his family.


Then I told Momma the same thing a few minutes later.


Resolution #3: Be nicer to Momma


Please explain: This isn't some thing aunt Lola says to me. It's some thing I came up with on my own, so I know I can do it.


The day Momma left our house to move into the 800 bed hospital and I moved in with my aunt Lola, she borrowed me her old Walkman. It looks like a brick and it only plays slow grownup music called jazz, but she lets me take it to the hospital so I don't hear all the people shouting. I still hear them, but I pretend not to.


On Saturdays when we go to see Momma, I sit in the chair by her bed and listen to my jazz. Her room smells like the swimming pool we use to go to on sunny days. My aunt Lola sits in the chair on the bed's other side and talks to Momma and touches her arm with her wet butter hands. I think that's also why she borrowed me her Walkman, so she could talk to Momma about me and not have me hear. I let her think that. I'm good at pretending.


Momma isn't like the other people in the hospital who shout. She doesn't talk, to me or my aunt Lola or the nice ladys in the blue pajamas who all ways come in and see if we're doing OK. Her eyes are all ways open, but her mouth never is. And cause she all ways use to tell me it was good manners to speak when spoken to, I also don't say much to her besides hello and goodby. And the one time I told her to wash her hands.


But next year I can try to be nicer to her.


I can talk to her about school and let her use the Walkman when all the songs are done and I have to go back to the start.


I can let her know how much I love her.


I can let her know I'm sorry.


Maybe she would be great full if I did that. Maybe she would say Thank You.


Resolution #4: Pick up my toys 


Please explain: This won't be hard. I don't have that much toys any more. I still have my Etch-a-Sketch. I use to be bad at it, but now if I turn the buttons real good, I can all most draw a cat or the sun or Momma's house. I also have my Woody doll, the one that I brung to show and tell last month. He doesn't say Thank You but he can say other stuff if you pull his string, like Reach For the Sky.


That's all my toys now.


My aunt Lola won't let me have cars any more. I don't get why, cause she wasn't there when it happuned. It was just me and Momma.


We were the ones in the kichen making dinner when my little brother Larry scooted himself across the living room, picked up my brite blue Santa car, and put it in his mouth. It was me who went to grab him for dinner and found him like that, with his face the same color as my car. It was me who called 911 when Momma was crying and screaming and looping her arms around Larry's tummy and pushing until the amburlamps showed up.


My aunt Lola wasn't there at all and she still won't let me have another toy car.


I miss Momma.


Resolution #5: Stop asking my aunt Lola when I can go home


Please explain: Do I have to?

January 07, 2023 04:05

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106 comments

14:09 Feb 24, 2023

Nice story. I love the child's description of the hospital.

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Zack Powell
14:41 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you, Faith! That was the most challenging part to write, so I'm glad to hear you loved it.

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Justin Hyatt
16:18 Jan 31, 2023

As a father of two (a 5yo and a 1yo), this one hit hard, and honestly, f**ked me up a bit (while also blowing me away with how incredibly realistic and spot-on it is). Bravo! Also, bold move on going full child-perspective, but it totally paid off, and you nailed the headspace and worldview of a first grader. New to the site, but now I know that you're one to be on the lookout for!

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Zack Powell
17:57 Jan 31, 2023

Thank you very much for the kindness, Justin, and welcome to Reedsy! I haven't been a first grader in a loooong while, so I'm glad the voice/perspective came across more realistic than it did gimmicky. Thanks again, I appreciate it.

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Diamond Star
20:23 Jan 18, 2023

Loved this story! The misspelled words were a great tool in capturing Timmy's voice.

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Matthew Thomas
19:18 Jan 17, 2023

I like how you tackled the grim subject matter with the narrator's juvenile vocabulary and spelling. It's a funky contrast and it conveys well that the narrator has no concept of the seriousness of what he's writing about. I'd love to see the look on the teacher's face!

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Zack Powell
20:15 Jan 17, 2023

Thank you, Matthew! The contrast was the most fun part for me, so I'm glad to hear you liked it too. I'd also love to see the look on the teacher's face - that might make for an interesting story of its own.

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Story Time
17:35 Jan 16, 2023

I'm so glad to see you back on the shortlist, Zack! I love the time and effort spent on this character's language. It reminded me of Faulkner and how his characters would be expressed through their speech and spelling. Great job.

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Zack Powell
19:22 Jan 16, 2023

Thanks, Kevin! The language in this one was definitely fun to tinker with. Faulkner is quite the comparison - I was trying to channel Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon," but I'll absolutely take Faulkner. Good luck this week - I see your story is recommended, and now I'm off to read it.

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Mila Van Niekerk
09:35 Jan 15, 2023

Well done on getting shortlisted! I really like this story: the spelling errors (comershul and amburlamps are my new favorite words) AND THE STRAITJACKET LINE. I often find writing from a small child's perspective annoying, because... I dunno. Little kids are adorable but somehow most authors manage to write the most annoying little kids EVER. I really like this child, though. I want to hug him :( Would you mind checking out my latest story, ''My New Year Resolutions 2023 : A (mostly coherent) letter to future me from current me'' and let...

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Zack Powell
07:37 Jan 16, 2023

Thanks, Mila! Amburlamps is also my new favorite word - let's get it into the lexicon. 😎 And you're right about kids in fiction - 9/10 times I find them obnoxious, so I was trying not to fall into the majority. 🤐 Thanks again for the read, and I enjoyed your latest story very much!

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:25 Jan 14, 2023

Fine work Zack. Well delivered. Congrats.

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Zack Powell
19:44 Jan 14, 2023

Thank you, Philip!

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:13 Jan 15, 2023

Welcome.

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Edward Latham
10:38 Jan 14, 2023

Amazingly sad story, poor little Timmy! Even though we knew what had happened by that point, the last line was still a punch in the gut. It must've been hard to keep up the consistency of the 1st grader voice, but you did a great job of it! Congrats on the shortlist!

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Zack Powell
18:45 Jan 14, 2023

Thank you, Edward! I personally am not a fan of this story's ending, so it's nice to hear it was considered a gut punch. And keeping up the consistency of the voice was the hardest part of writing this. A fun challenge, to be sure, but I wouldn't in good faith recommend anyone else try it. Thanks again!

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Tara Leigh Parks
05:49 Jan 14, 2023

xxx ! Yah! Shortstory.

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Zack Powell
18:41 Jan 14, 2023

Thanks, Tara, and congrats on your shortlist too! xxx

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Tara Leigh Parks
17:50 Jan 15, 2023

:) Thank you.

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N.M. Stech
05:31 Jan 14, 2023

Sweet Jesus, this is so beautiful and so brutal!! I have three kids, one currently in first grade, and you nailed the voice without sacrificing the story, which is a Herculean task. A very well deserved shortlist, sir. I don't know if I commented or not, but your story from the previous week, the holiday paintball match, is one that has really stuck with me, and then this one... I'll be looking forward to reading your future stories as well as digging into the past submissions.

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Zack Powell
19:24 Jan 14, 2023

Hey thanks! You have no idea how relieving it is to have someone who's raising an actual first-grader tell you that the voice of your child character is authentic. Like the highest praise, truly. Do me a favor and don't dig too far into my past submissions; you'll only be disappointed by how bad they were. 🤐 Also looking forward to seeing your future work!

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Susan Catucci
22:21 Jan 13, 2023

Well, well, Zack. So, still claim you're not a beacon? Nor multi-layered? Ha ha, I told you so! (Congratulations - I'm thrilled for you) :)

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Zack Powell
23:04 Jan 13, 2023

Ha ha, you did tell me so, and you knew what you were talking about. Thanks, Susan! Looking forward to reading your newest story sometime this weekend.

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Aeris Walker
21:09 Jan 13, 2023

Oh my heart!! I want to hug this poor fictitious child. I can absolutely see why this one was shortlisted. Love the creativity and the juxtaposition between the juvenile childish language and the extreme heaviness of the events of this boy’s story. Taking notes on how you told us so much without telling us anything at all…so well done. Congrats Zack! How is your neck?? Hurting yet from the weight of your crown? 😉

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Zack Powell
22:07 Jan 13, 2023

I felt so bad for this boy while I was writing this. Wanted to give him a break so badly, but plot said no. 😔 Glad the juxtaposition came through okay, and that people were able to fill in and interpret the "silence" in the story. Makes my job easier when I'm not asked to explain my stray plot holes, LOL. I dunno about a crown - feels more like a jester's hat most days. But whatever it is, at least it keeps my head warm. Side note: More often than I'd like to admit, I refresh my Activity Feed on Fridays hoping you're going to sneak in a con...

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Aeris Walker
22:29 Jan 13, 2023

Wait, is it striped with a little bell on top? I believe that’s my hat, sir. Save your battery, nothing from me this Friday! Still recovering from a whirlwind family vacation with my in-laws where I tired (unsuccessfully) to write each day…and now my classes start back up next week. BUT I am determined not to let another week pass without finishing a story. Just have to keep reminding myself that it’s OK for first drafts to be garbage lol.

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AnneMarie Miles
20:41 Jan 13, 2023

Woohoo! You did it! Congratulations, Zack!! 🎉🎉🎉

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Zack Powell
21:04 Jan 13, 2023

Thank you, Anne Marie! I'm sitting out of the contest tonight, but I'm secretly hoping to see an eleventh hour entry from you.

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AnneMarie Miles
21:57 Jan 13, 2023

I don't know if I'll make it tonight either. Everything I've written this week feels like trash 😂 but we'll see! 🤞

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Zack Powell
22:16 Jan 13, 2023

😅 Now you sound like me. I've gone through a gambling addict, a couple on the verge of being the victims of a nuclear explosion, and a dad having to give his son the birds-and-the-bees talk. All terrible. Horribly, irredeemably terrible. (And that ones posted today don't look much easier, LOL.) Welp, wishing you good luck with your writing tonight and in the upcoming week! I can count on you to conjure up something good.

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
19:36 Jan 13, 2023

Congratulations on the shortlist Zack!🥳 More (and wins!) to come!

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Zack Powell
19:48 Jan 13, 2023

Thank you, Naomi! As always, your support is amazing.

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Delbert Griffith
12:47 Jan 10, 2023

This "assignment" was so well done and genuine that I could feel the confusion in the child's mind. And the heartbreak at the end. Yeah, that last bit was a killer. I swear, if this doesn't at least get shortlisted, I'm gonna be pissed! The straightjacket part was brilliant, as was the misspellings and the dodgy grammar. You managed to show us the MC's life before and after the accident so well! Using spare language, you showed us this kid's entire world. What an amazing piece, Zack. I'm so happy that I read this story; it shows me what ...

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Zack Powell
19:28 Jan 10, 2023

Thank you very much for this, Delbert! Too kind, too kind. Appreciate the love for the straightjacket, the misspellings, and the grammar (autocorrect and spellcheck were my worst enemies while writing this). This was a fun experiment in spare language, for sure. Thanks again!

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Susan Catucci
01:11 Jan 10, 2023

Dear Zack - this leveled me. As a writer/creator you are a beacon. This had everything surface level credible, but so multi-layered beneath (difficult to dig emotionally but so so worth it). You see a child in need? You'd be fortunate if they could express what your mc did; just try to understand there are things you don't and can't - but act kindly, just in case. Thanks for writing this one.

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Zack Powell
05:47 Jan 10, 2023

Thank you for the kindness, Susan! Being a "beacon" and the story being "multi-layered" is probably too much praise for someone like me, but the sentiment is absolutely lovely. Totally agree with you about understanding and kindness. How much better we'd all be if everyone practiced that a little more? Thanks again for the read and the comment.

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Michał Przywara
21:41 Jan 09, 2023

Great! Sad :( But well told. It gets that feeling across, that kids know more than we give them credit for, and this poor kid knows there's some deeper things going on, that he's being kept in the dark, but so it goes. But, there are still some things he fails to grasp, and nobody is helping him. He learns those same strategies, pretending he's not listening, deceiving - to keep the peace, perhaps? The fate of his brother is heartbreaking. I thought it might have been an oversight, that he was mentioned once near the start and then never...

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Zack Powell
22:28 Jan 09, 2023

Thanks as always for digging deep, Michał. You do critical analysis like no other. And I agree - children (and animals, for that matter) are more perceptive than we often think. Give them enough pieces and they'll put the puzzle together. Glad to hear the brother twist was effective. You never quite know how misdirection will be received by readers. And the "wet butter" line is my favorite of the piece, so thank you for the shout out. And double thank you for your comment about the ending. You knew exactly what I was going for there. Appre...

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Michał Przywara
21:43 Jan 13, 2023

Congratulations on the shortlist!

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Zack Powell
21:56 Jan 13, 2023

Thanks! Nice to share another winner's circle with you (third time now, I think it is).

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Amanda Lieser
13:43 Jan 09, 2023

Hi Zack! Wow! This one was amazing. I was a bit scared at first, hearing the child’s voice and bearing in mind the CWs. I thought that this child may be in the place with 800 beds. I thought you depicted this intense grief so absolutely beautifully. I also thought that this piece did justice to all of its characters. I recently was watching a video on Facebook of a woman commenting on how she, as a stranger, can petition for more government resources to care for a stranger’s child, than a family member of a child can which made me really sad...

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Zack Powell
14:35 Jan 09, 2023

Thank you, Amanda! Gosh, I don't know that I could've written this story with the child being in the 800 bed hospital - he's already been through so much. That Facebook video sounds absolutely wild to me. What an odd system we have. I agree with you about the aunt - bearing the responsibility of someone else's child out of the blue can't be easy. Thanks again for the great comment!

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11:04 Jan 09, 2023

Amazing, as usual :)

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Zack Powell
14:20 Jan 09, 2023

Thank you very much, friend!

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Mike Panasitti
07:36 Jan 09, 2023

If this didn't take the cake this week (and I had a gun), I'd shoot myself in the foot. (Irony: that reminds me of your story last week). Stories like this make my own pale in comparison, and it's one of the reasons I feel blessed to be in your august company here on Reedsy. The voice: brilliantly written. The plot: brilliantly conceived. Thunderous applause, and a toast to you.

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Zack Powell
15:02 Jan 09, 2023

A huge thank you for the vote of confidence, Mike! (And for offering your foot as a hypothetical bargaining chip.) I don't think this story eclipses your canon whatsoever - I could never write the way you do. Just two different styles at the end of the day, and I appreciate getting to read stories like yours as a reminder of how many ways you can write a piece (structure-wise and prose-wise).

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