The Drinking Fountain: Healing History


The Drinking Fountain

I found this cast-iron plaque in an antique store in Northern Idaho. How does this small monument make you feel?  What does it make you think, or remember? It is history, but it is not in the past, as history should be.

“The past isn’t dead.  It isn’t even past.”  

William Faulkner

I remember a road trip across America as a 19-year-old with my friend Brian, stopping to see a movie one humid evening in Mississippi. We found our seats in an empty theater, but then heard murmurings and chatter, even a little laughter, from above.  Then we realized that “coloreds” were restricted to the balcony, and we privileged California white boys could pick our seats down below. We walked out of that dark theater in impotent, tight-jawed protest.  I can’t remember what movie was playing; I can’t forget the shame and outrage.

It all came back when I saw this plaque that had somehow migrated from the Deep South to an innocuous shelf in an antique store.


In under 500 words, tell us a story about your own encounters growing up with racism, either as perpetrator, victim, or passive vessel accumulating poison a drop at a time. Alternatively, write an essay this small, cruel monument compels.  Or write a poem of healing or hurting. Or a conversation that takes place in 1931 between a parent and child who enter a diner in Alabama, the child asking what it means. Use you talents to write the best thing you have ever written.

Posting stories will begin when we have accumulated 15 stories, and end when we have accumulated 100, or March 7th( the anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge), whichever comes first. You will be able to help select the finalists, and the final entries will be judged by Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Freedman. We are offering a prize of $500 to our winner for the story that most inspires us.  We are waiving the entrance fee to be certain that everyone who wants to participate can do so, but request donations of between $10 and $100 to defray the cost of our prize and promotion. Send your submission as a word doc attachment to and Paypal sponsorship money to the same address.

“I can’t run no more

With that modest crowd

While the killers in high places

Say their prayers and vows.

But they’ve summoned,

they’ve summoned up a thunder cloud…

They’re gonna hear from me.”

(Leonard Cohen)

Let’s hear from you.

Thank you

Thorn Sully, Editor-in-Chief





20 thoughts on “The Drinking Fountain: Healing History

  1. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    Question: Wasn’t the original word limit 1000 not 500 words? Both of my entries which have already bee submitted are each 1000 words long. If I need to rewrite, please let me know.

    Best wishes on this most important sharing of word submissions,

      • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

        Thank you, Mr. Sully. I hope your contest will encourage many courageous and pointant stories to be sent in from personal experiences from around this interconnected world. Let the thunder and lightening of the truth roll across our screens, so that this nation and others may hear and see a day of true equality and respect that is thousands of years past due.


        • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

          I have resubmitted both of my entries, rewritten and edited down to 500 words each to honour the spirit of this contest. Please use the shorter versions if possible, but being welcomed into this amazing community of artist and creative people is reward enough.


  2. Jacquie Schmall says:

    Hi Thorn. I’m truly delighted to hear your daughter is sufficiently healed for you’se to initiate new beginnings including a contest with an edgy tale of perspective to tell. In keeping with the theme, I shall summon another 500 words as soon as I can. The following is a simple offering. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

    Celestial Smoothie

    The earth moves around the sun, still
    Stillness shattered by gunfire, someone hurt
    Paper carrying ideas and insight, wrinkled
    Engines making power from oil, pollution
    Civilization throbbing with action, labor
    Babies thrusting into the world, hope
    Somewhere the universe blossoms, stars
    Humans whirling on a mote in the galaxy, survival
    Forever, each day celebrated, joy

  3. Mo Bjornestad says:

    Thorn – wishing your daughter a full recovery –

    As you and many of your readers/writers know I am working on web and app services for helping people not only keep safe, but to raise their level of awareness and mindfulness in life. Mindfulness coupled with predefined actions supporting intentions, are designed to make it easier to do the right thing.

    I am seeking content that will help people raise their awareness and mindfulness to effectively deal with personal, family, business, and community concerns.

    I would be delighted to hear from anyone with ideas and time to help us get ready to publish,

      • Sunny J. Reed says:

        Sure! I’m working on an autoethnography detailing my experience as an Asian adoptee raised by well-meaning but disastrously racist White parents. While transracial adoption is the foundation for the project, I’m using it as a platform to tie the complex history of race relations in the US to a larger discussion on current racial attitudes and policies.

        This submission contest is a FANTASTIC chance to share what I’ve been working on for so long. I’ve been practicing creative non-fiction/memoir since it differs from my typical writing style, so these opportunities are valuable learning experiences (and really fun).

        Thanks again!


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