Helen of des Troy…a sad submission for a finalist in our contest


Good evening from the towers, indeed, the spires that are A Word with You Press in downtown Moscow.

We have the stories of sic–oops!– SIX  finalists to post in our First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest.

I have received all entries, and will post two tonight, two tomorrow, and two on Friday.  Please do your best to influence the judge by posting comments about each story, revealing your favorite.

I have opted to post these stories without the author’s name attributed, but why not indicate who you think the author is in the comment box?

Still negotiating with an impartial judge to see who the winner will be, and the winner of course gets $500.

Will the winner be contestant # 2?

Lemme know what you think?  Each finalist is required to write, in 250 words or less, using the prompt: “…but by then, it was too late.”


by Contestant # 2


Over the course of several years working at a nutrition store, I have met many people and learned a tremendous amount. It was easy to form bonds with the locals, — as when one shares health issues, there is often a degree of intimacy which can naturally form. There was a small deli within the store that created a home-ie atmosphere, and filled up each afternoon with familiar chatter over bowls of steaming organic soup and pudding-like harvest muffins.

Helen was a frequent visitor. She was in her late 20’s and stunningly beautiful. Tragically, her health had been compromised by a violent car accident, leaving her in continuous pain and chronically sleep-deprived. Several surgeries, cortisone shots, and an endless string of pharmaceuticals had all been unsuccessful. She was desperate for relief. On many occasions, tears would stream down her face as she sobbed uncontrollably. My arms instinctively reached out, holding her until she could breath again, my heart aching along with hers.

Helen’s mother found her hanging body in the farmhouse where she had grown up. The medics arrived, but by then it was too late. The shocking news quickly spread to the store. We had become used to happy endings; nothing so heart-rending had ever visited us before. There was a sinking feeling of death gone awry, leaving behind a vaporous abyss of loss, that only God can heal.

To take one’s life.

To end the fight.

To sleep into the endless night…


18 thoughts on “Helen of des Troy…a sad submission for a finalist in our contest

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Here is a very sad story, I presume based in realtiy with personal connection, sympathy and shock of the loss of life in what must have been for the character’s mother her own spiritual death. We are fragile as humans, our bodies break and we are able to cope with tragedies by sharing our burdens of memories with others of also tender hearts. This is a very moving story told in very understated tones. Because of this I am guessing that Stephanie wrote this. Again I have only a 6:1 chance of being right with this guess.

  2. Chuck Chuckerson says:

    As someone who has been plagued by the idea of suicide, my heart breaks for anyone who takes their own life. How bad does it have to be for someone to stop thinking and start doing? Generally we think about suicide in terms of emotional pain, but physical pain can be just as overwhelming and difficult to live with. What comes to mind is a certain chronic migraine that’s also known as a suicide headache. How terrible to have no hope for relief. Very moving story.

  3. Kristy Webster says:

    You tackled a very difficult subject matter and did such a fine, powerful job of it in such few words. Thank you for sharing something so heartfelt.

  4. Mike Casper says:

    left me hanging…no pun intended. front heavy story, skinny towards the end. it’s a pity the prompt didn’t allow 500 words instead of 250.

  5. Michael Stang says:

    There is a shock factor very well played that kicks this story into high gear. Suicide is always a show stopper. If I had to write this over again, I would probably give whoever is telling the story a gender. We are only human.

  6. KYLE Katz says:

    Subject is hard to tackle. First paragraph was a little luke warm for me to be pulled into the story. But I did like the idea of contrast between the health food store and Helen’s plight. A lot of adjectives with the ending ly. ‘Stunningly beautiful’. Show me by saying it differently. “She was desperate for relief.” This line gives you an opportunity to make me feel the desperation. Not tell me about it. I like the way you proposed the ending very much.”To sleep into the endless night.”

    • Mac Eagan says:

      Kyle, I didn’t notice the abundance of adverbs until I read your comment. As a result I went back and read the story again, skipping over them. I agree with you that taking them out does not hurt the story in any way but, in my opinion, made it even stronger.
      I would also suggest reversing the words “hanging” and “body.”
      It’s still an excellent story, and I have other comments posted separately.

  7. Diane Cresswell says:

    Interesting subject told almost too matter of factly – as if one is hesitant to connect to the emotions of hopelessness. It has its punch though – the despair that hangs within from a situation that becomes so heavy that the only release from it is to leave. Good take on a very heavy subject.

  8. Kenneth Weene says:

    I wonder about the reportorial quality of this piece. It sounds very real, but at the same time without real emotion. For example, she was gorgeous, but was the writer attracted (if a man) or perhaps envious (if a woman). Loss, but how do the people at the store commemorate or perhaps they cannot because they are too afraid of death. We voyeurs need to know the emotion.

  9. Derek says:

    I felt like the story as told only scratched the surface. The narrator in the story is as intriguing as the departed, more at home with details then the delicacy of the human heart.

  10. Mac Eagan says:

    Three simple paragraphs that each serve a purpose – beginning, middle and end. But the story is not functional; it moves quickly and fluidly from one paragraph to the next. I do agree with some of the other comments that the story is more “reported” than “shared” but the last three, poetic lines do much to bring heart into the story. Especially the second line – “to end the fight.”
    Not all suicide victims wanted to die, some were just tired of living. The ending reveals an empathy for those people.
    I deliberated on this one for a while, but in the end decided it had to be written by Stefanie. I am not 100% confident with that choice, but it’s what I am going with.

    • KYLE Katz says:

      I agree with the last three lines. Blaring reality from the knowingness of a young girl of 15. Not all suicide victims want to die, some were just tired of living. “What a great opening line!” I’d love to see this rewritten for another contest. It’s got meat. I’m thinking Elizabeth.

  11. Sheri Strobaugh says:

    This is a sad but moving story. She gave up hope like so many do. The last three lines, really do make you understand that some just want to go into an endless slumber. Very well written.

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