“Consider your story as vapor imprisoned within a magic lantern, and the editor, once he gets his hands on it, rubs until the genie materializes from the haze.”
As promised. I will now begin posting the many entries into our first Literary Award of Excellence competition: A Thou$and Reasons to Write. The rules are simple: submit EXACTLY 1,000 words to your unpublished fiction manuscript, memoir, poetry or screenplay, and the entry that most inspires us to read further wins a thousand bucks (that’s USD!) Entry fee is $20, but reduced to $15 if you order Fire in the Belly: How to write your novel with Purpose and Passion for 2.99 on Amazon and post on the top in your submission a line from the book, as this author has done. buy here
We’ll post your 1,000 words, a synopsis and author bio. Full details are found here: https://awordwithyoupress.com/awwyp-literary-award/
Here is our first entry. I will tell you what I think in the comments below, and I hope you do the same. Here ya go.
by R.F. Marazas
Maggie’s voice echoes: Don’t come back here, don’t ever come back!
The Fifties are half gone and Brad Chance hurries after three years of self-imposed exile. He leaves the post and drives as if the Army’s chasing him because they changed their minds about his discharge; nonstop except for gas, coffee, and restroom breaks, due northwest through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York State. Radio on, volume up; dial twisting until he finds jazz, twisting when the station fades. Radio sounds clash with music in his head, culled from hours hunched over a piano. Notes on paper jammed into his Army duffel, title scrawled across the top sheet. First Movement: Blues For Someone. Jazz suite for orchestra.
Route 59 westbound begins. He crosses the Axton County line, shoulders and neck knotted, staring at the dusk-shrouded yellow line. The Painted Bridge sign looms. Brad fights the urge to turn right, as he pictures the sharp curve down Lambert Hill Road that flattens and narrows to one lane across the covered wooden bridge. Bridge Street will be grimy, empty storefronts and row houses showing years of neglect, the sign above the bar faded by dirt and bad weather. If he stopped he might glimpse Maggie Chance behind the bar through the wavy glass in the door. Worse, she might see him.
He cranks the window down, grateful for the wind roar muffling her scream. He accelerates, through Oak Falls, West Oak Falls, Bandireo, but slows in Setonsville. Buffalo lies an impossible ninety miles away. He can’t do this. He turns onto Alfalfa Avenue, drawn by restaurant and bar lights, and eases to the curb past a bus stop. A block away a hotel sign blazes five floors above the street. Forest Hotel. He slumps, engine idling, eyes closed, and waits for his chest to stop pounding.
What’s wrong with you? Isn’t there another way to Buffalo? Did you have to drive past Painted Bridge? Don’t worry, Maggie, I’m not home, just a ghost passing through.
He can’t remember ever feeling he was home.
Steve McClint nurses a beer in the Forest Hotel lounge while he waits for Helen Hornell. Steve feels down because the band still sounds off, the bandleader is moody, and Steve has conflicted thoughts about his relationship with Helen.
Steve sees the kid, framed in the doorway between the lounge and lobby. He wears slacks, a sharp sports jacket, a white shirt, a tie, mirror-polished shoes. His light brown hair is a military crew cut. He carries an Army duffel bag and a trumpet case. He moves to the front desk to check in.
Steve shakes his head. Fate? Talk about omens. Did somebody send us a trumpet player?
Helen replaces the kid and pauses to hold the railing as she steps down three stairs. Great smile, straw blonde hair, good legs, enough to chase the kid from Steve’s thoughts. They fall into the routine they’ve perfected since high school, a bantering how-was-your-day patter. Where are they having dinner? He needs to avoid the many faces they both know. He spent all afternoon with the band and they frustrate him. Helen doesn’t care as long as they’re alone. Steve wants her alone, no ritual laughter and grabassing, some serious talk about where they’re headed with each other.
Now, while he has courage. But he spots the kid back in the doorway. Helen follows his gaze and her lips part. Steve recognizes her something-about-him look. Did he look the same when he first saw the kid? He wonders if wherever Helen’s headed, she’s going alone.
The kid glances at Steve’s guitar case and picks a stool around the bar curve, close enough for conversation. He orders a beer, loosens his tie and undoes the top shirt button, drags fingers through his hair, takes a long swallow, and lights a cigarette. Fidgety, charged, reluctant to make eye contact. Steve thumbs his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and tries to get the kid’s attention. Helen stares. The kid looks up, wary, ready to bolt.
Steve can’t let it go. “Long day?”
The kid pauses and clears his throat. “Long drive. Tired.”
“Where you headed?”
Steve points at the kid’s cigarettes. The kid nods and slides the pack and lighter along the bar. Steve shakes one out and orders two more beers. “What’s in Buffalo?”
“Looking for a job. I’m a musician.”
“Yeah, I noticed the trumpet. Steve McClint.” He leans forward, his hand out. “Most people call me Mac. And this lovely thing is Helen Hornell.”
The kid shakes hands and nods at Helen. “Uh, Brad Chance.”
“So, you on to something in Buffalo?”
Brad’s expression darkens. “Nothing definite, guys in the Army told me Buffalo was wide open, lots of bands looking for people.”
“You in the Army band?”
“Three years stationed in Maryland and DC, but I sat in off duty every chance I got. I can play jazz.” Defensive. He finishes his beer and jams cigarettes and the lighter into his jacket pocket. Barstool scrapes the floor as he stands.
“Do I know you?” Helen asks.
Mac looks at her. “What kind of lame come-on is that? For shame!”
Brad freezes. “No.” He ducks his head and hurries away.
Helen is puzzled. “Was it something I said?”
Mac calls, “Hey Brad!”
Brad pauses in the doorway but doesn’t look back.
Mac breathes deep. What the hell am I doing? “You want a real job get on 59, that’s Main Street, head west through Axton toward Buffalo, you’ll see a college on the right. Club Cool’s left on a rise, you can see the sign from the highway. The owner is Andreas Pelleactis, I work for him. He happens to be looking for a trumpet. Imagine that. I’ll tell him you’ll be there about noon. A little break on your way to the big city, won’t cost you too much time.”
Brad stalks out. Mac’s irritated with himself for wanting the kid to stay. Something about him.
Synopsis of Legend Blues:
Discharged from the peacetime Army, Brad Chance wants fame as a jazz musician and an escape from his past. Despite the danger of discovery, he settles near his hometown and auditions for a local band. As his reputation grows, he’s torn between seeking success and having his past exposed. Just when his new friendships and a love interest relax his defenses, a revenge fire set by a rival at the club where he works, and a close encounter with his past change his life. He leaves for a large city to work with another band. Once again he builds a solid reputation, but because of his naivete and betrayal by those he trusts most, his life spirals downward into a haze of drugs and wasted talent.
Returning to the town where he started, he tries to rebuild his life but falls into his old habit of hurting the people who care for him. Still haunted by his past, he continues to probe it for answers. Relationships with three women and old enemies complicate his renewed dedication to his music. A death in a car crash, for which he shares the blame, devastates him and drives him from the town again. Years later, when he returns on a whim for the third time, he realizes he must face his past, his demons, and the friends and lovers he’s hurt, and try to salvage what’s left of his reputation and his life.
R.F. Marazas won first place and tied for first in two novel contests, for his unpublished novel titled Legend Blues, and published short fiction and flash fiction in ten anthologies and online and print venues.