Writers Digest Contest #79

I’ve decided to share my contest entries from now on.  I put my heart and soul into these entries that get passed over by an even greater story.  I realize the odds of winning are comparable to winning, say, the lottery—which I don’t play because of the ridiculous odds.  Sigh.  Nonetheless, I can’t stop trying; plus it is good exercise, right?

I asked permission to post the picture, which you will see below.  The photo is the writing prompt.  We were to write a story about the photo in 700 words or less…my story follows:

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“Don’t worry girl, he’ll be back soon.” I looped my arm around her neck as we watched the guys loading the stretcher into the ambulance.

It was the first time I’d ever lied to Moxie. Although she was Johnny’s dog—his seizure response dog—she loved me too. Sometimes we hung out when he was in the hospital. Aside from Johnny, she was probably my best friend. I could really talk to her about things that scared me, like Johnny’s seizures, and my parents divorce. [Yeah, Dad just wasn’t into having a son whose body did crazy, unpredictable things. He wanted a son who would be able to play football, like he did.] She really listened to me and licked my tears to let me know she understood.

I wondered if Moxie could sense that something was different this time…if she knew I was lying to her. That thought made me feel sick. I didn’t want to lie to someone I loved. But I heard the first responder guys say the word SUDEP. I think they used that word hoping I wouldn’t know what they were talking about, since Moxie and I were in Johnny’s bedroom when they arrived.

But Dr. Ben had talked to me and mom about how bad Johnny’s epilepsy was a long time ago. Johnny was almost four when he started having these terrible times when his whole body just kind of went crazy. Dr. Ben diagnosed him with epilepsy and even though Johnny took all kinds of medication, Dr. Ben said that ‘sudden unexpected death in epilepsy,’ SUDEP, was something we should be prepared for—that Johnny’s epilepsy was very aggressive.

As a matter of fact, he was the one who recommended getting a seizure dog just so my mom could do normal things like go to the bathroom or sleep at night. Since dad left pretty quick after Johnny’s seizures started, I had to be the other ‘responsible person’ at our house and Dr. Ben thought a seizure dog would help a little—“still allow Ellie a childhood.” But I thought, who could possibly help Johnny better than me? I was his big sister and I loved him.

I still remember the day Moxie came to live with us. She was trained to bark if she saw a seizure beginning, to alert someone (me or mom) to come running to help. We still had to do the work: sit by him and make sure he didn’t hurt himself, watch the clock (longer than 4 minutes meant call an ambulance), and then position him in the recovery position until he regained consciousness. Moxie always lay close by his side during all of these things…always trying to protect him from hitting anything while he seized. And while he was in the recovery position, Moxie laid her head right between his hands so the first thing Johnny did was embrace her and thank her. I realized Dr. Ben was right. Johnny did need a seizure dog too.

Mom had to homeschool us to keep Johnny close by, so between the three of us [me, mom, and Moxie], we took good care of him these past three years. And in between the caring, we had a lot of fun too. I think mom tried hard to give Johnny the whole rest of his life in just a couple of years. She did a really good job.

Although the ambulance still flashed its lights, it backed out of the driveway slowly. So we sat there for a while, just waiting, while I tried to think of a way to tell Moxie Johnny wasn’t coming home this time. That while life would be easier for her; heck, for all of us, we could never again talk to or play with the boy we loved.

A tear rolled down my cheek. Moxie licked it off and whined. Then, I swear she looked me right in the eyes…and I knew. I knew that she knew, and she was telling me that I still had her and she still had me. Now it would be just Moxie and me: best friends, who loved Johnny with our whole hearts.

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I would love to know what anyone thinks of it…maybe it is lame.  It is hard to know whether or not a story is good when it just flows out of you.  It feels right to me.  

Opinions?

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6 thoughts on “Writers Digest Contest #79

  1. I liked the contest story and you had great ideas about the characters, their struggles… I do think it took off too slow… It hit home at the end, but I almost think you could have started with end scene and worked back to the beginning…

    I always enjoy reading what you write!

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to offer me constructive criticism! I need it! :). I plan to include the bones of this story in my collection of short stories about siblings of sick or disabled kids

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  2. I really enjoyed this story. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was there with the little girl and the dog….I could feel their pain and feel their bond and envision them. You mentioned it just flowed out of you. It then flowed from the page right into my heart. If there were an entire book written in this same way….with this same quality…I would not be able to put it down.

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    1. Thank you so much for your words of inspiration! I’ve been thinking of writing a book like this for some time, especially since I’ve witnessed first hand how difficult life can be for siblings of kids with terminal illnesses or even (mental) disabilities. I was afraid to present such a book at my upcoming writer’s cruise, but your kind words have inspired me to go for it! You are an angel!

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