If you’ve ever thought the judges have an easy job choosing these winning stories, you’re very wrong. Three of us debated for a very long time this month–so many of the stories were incredible! We finally decided on Amy Seaholt‘s story, and it was thrilling to watch her reaction. It was as if she’d won a game show!
Thanks so much to everyone for coming out. We hope to see you next month, and the month after, and of course at the main event in September.
Character: A water park attendant
Action: Adjusting a telescope
Setting: An eerily empty freeway
Phrase: “You’re never going to believe this.”
By Amy Seaholt
Justin’s shift ended at 7 p.m., though Raging Waters stayed open until 9. His dad said it was called that because the waters were raging with bacteria. Justin always chuckled at this, not because it was funny, as his Pop thought, but because it came from a man who only cared to shower once every few days and who Justin knew didn’t properly wash his hands after using the toilet.
Justin was far too old to be attracted to any of the high school kids who would flip their ponytails or snap their gum at him in an unpracticed attempt at flirting. They seemed to think that the job held some glamour. Or maybe they were just looking for free admission to the park.
Anyone his own age thought that it was a menial position and that he was incapable of impressing any girls with it. He knew this was true, so he didn’t tell anyone he knew at the State college about it. He even took pains to wash the chlorine smell from him as completely as he could before going to classes.
When Susan, his biology lab partner during summer term, got close to him to do a fetal pig dissection, he felt sure that she wouldn’t smell the chlorine over the formaldehyde. She had a good nose.
“Do you lifeguard?” She had asked.
“Yes, part time,” he replied, not wanting to go into more detail.
He pretended not to hear, he was so focused on the pig.
“Where do you lifeguard?” she asked again.
“Oh, just a place.” He was trying to be vague.
She narrowed his eyes at him. “Why are you avoiding the question. Do you work at Raging waters or something?”
He gave a slight nod.
“I used to love that place! I went about ten times every summer as soon as my parents would let me go by myself.”
Shhh! We’re going to get behind what everyone else is doing. He said. It was the first time he really noticed her long, smooth brown hair, wide eyes, her long neck. She was cute.
“I think it’s cute.” She said. “I just work at Starbucks. Boring.”
It was the cute comment, and that he was thinking the same of her at the same time, that gave him the courage to ask her out.
“You’re never going to believe this, me being a professional water park attendant slash biologist, but I know a cool place where you can see billions of stars. You have to get out of the city, though. You want to come with me sometime?”
Her eyes crinkled up when she smiled.
So after Justin’s shift ended at 7 he took a long shower to get rid of the chlorine smell and the stray bacteria that his father would suspect was there, and he picked up Susan for the drive up 99, then 70.
They spoke about high school for a while, and he explained that he had taken Dr. Greene’s astronomy class during the previous semester and had really gotten into it. Now he liked to take time-lapse photos of the stars. He was a little worried, revealing this to her, but she listened intently and the conversation was so easy that time passed quickly. Before he knew it he was pulling over.
“You can’t stop here, it’s the middle of the highway!” She had another one of her grins that pinched the edges of her brown eyes.
“Don’t worry. Nobody comes this way this time of night.”
He got out the tripod and telescope and began to set it up. “What do you want to see first. Saturn? The Orion nebula?”
“Yes. Any of that.” She said genially.
The more time he spent with her the more relaxed he felt. It was going really well.
“Okay, he said. Come down here and take a look.” He indicated to the telescope.
She bent her head to the eyepiece. Can you see it ok? He asked. She said it was a bit blurry. As he adjusted the focus he inhaled the fragrance of her curtain of hair. His heart beat a little faster and he wondered if he should kiss her. His palms began to sweat and he could feel himself getting red.
At that moment, headlights, coming fast, swept around the bend. His nerves already on edge, he failed to warn her, verbally, to move out of the way. Instead, he yanked the telescope up and pulled her arm to direct her to the edge of the road. Except that he did it too quickly, out of order, and slammed the telescope sight into her beautiful brown eye, tumbling her to the side of the road.
She was holding her eye, lying on the side of the highway, he was hovering over her, as the intruding car came to a stop to see if all was all right.
© 2011 Amy Seaholt
Amy Seaholt is a realtor by day and a writer by night. She is learning that if you actually want to get published, you have to let people read your work. You can read a little of hers here: http://brandofcrazy.blogspot.com/. She lives in Northeast Portland with her husband and two young children.