The Dream Quest One Second Writing Prize Winner -
Winter 2010-2011 Contest
By: Dee Robinson
Diane Conner walked slowly down the residential street of the tiny coastal town. The winter’s
rainstorms had arrived. Evenings came early, accompanied by the marine layer fog, which gave a misty glow
to the sparsely distributed streetlights. The wind was steady, but not as strong as it was soon to be.
The light rain that preceded the big blow was already falling horizontally. When she reached
the abandoned, beach side overlook, she walked past the park bench and to the waist high fence. The ocean
was roaring, waves crashing to the jagged, dark rocks forty feet below. The ocean mist swept over her face
as her dark hair blew frantically in all directions. She had come here many times before. It
was the closest beach access to her small rental home. She would sit on the bench behind her, reflecting
on life’s meaning and her place in it. She loved watching the seagulls. Most people
thought of them as obnoxious “sea pigeons.” She thought they were graceful, beautiful survivors
living among the dangerous, powerful ocean waves. But tonight she did not come to reflect or look
at the gulls. Tonight would be different.
She had spent too many years trying to make sense of all the things she did right in her career and life only to have
them turned against her. She had time and time again tried to resolve within herself the unfairness of
her destiny and the release the bitterness in her heart. She was particularly insulted that a few small
town bullies who led the rest of the sheep in constructing her persecution had so easily destroyed her twenty-year career.
Small town politics had done her in. If she had been foiled by greater minds, she could at least maintain her self-esteem.
Her adversaries had successfully blackballed her career. Determined to survive for her children’s
sake, Diane had tried unsuccessfully for ten years to re-invent herself in the job market. She had even sunk low enough to
attend beauty school. Ultimately, she was reduced to working minimum wage jobs in the same town where everyone knew her. She
endured the humiliation of going from a high profile, successful city administrator to a store clerk. Now,
she couldn’t even find that. The economy had taken its toll. She was unemployed.
Her husband died of cancer shortly before
she lost her career. He was the love of her life, her best friend, and her foundation. He
left her with three children to raise. Ten years later, they all had grown and moved away. She was alone. The nights of praying
to God for guidance had been replaced by pleas for him to take her and give what remaining years she had to someone who wanted
them. She was whipped. She longed to be with her husband again.
Two attempts of overdosing on sleeping
pills and her husband’s leftover Oxycontin had failed. Unfortunately, she was allergic to opiates.
All she did was puke. This time she was determined that the third time would be the charm. She wouldn’t
gamble with pills again. She concluded that there could be no painless way, as she had hoped when she took the pills.
She would have to do it the hard way. Of all human conditions, she hated being cold and wet the
most. Maybe that even made her choice more apropos. She climbed over the short fence
and walked the few feet to the edge of the cliff. Taking one last, deep breath of life, she prayed that
it wouldn’t hurt for long and that God would forgive her.
Damian Harper did not fit the profile
of a normal city manager. Everyone said he had the “personality of a rock”…not a favorable
quality for someone in such a position. But, since Damian did as Damian was told to do by the movers and
shakers in Lancaster City, he didn’t need social graces.
He looked through his thick, Coke bottle, wire-rimmed glasses at the half-burned cigarette that he had briefly placed
on the ashtray. He placed the cigarette between his lips; sucking in a deep, long draw into his damaged
lungs. He had been smoking forever. It should have killed him long ago. He had that deep, rattling cough
and husky rasp that was so characteristic of a lifetime smoker. Indeed, it had become part of his persona.
People could hear him coming down the hallway long before he arrived. It seemed that he was invincible to any lung
Indeed, his life had been the antithesis of what people expected. He was practically born wearing
glasses. He would have been blind without them. He was short, spidery and altogether
unattractive. As a kid, he was easy prey for bullies. As a man, he looked like he would
be lucky to ever get laid, nonetheless get married. Yet, somehow he had done well for himself.
He had been married for twenty-five years - even if she was a homely, pathetic thing. He had a long
career of being in charge of one city or another. Clammy handshake and all, he was always the boss.
The big man at city hall. People kissed his ass and he loved it. In fact, he
deserved it! The beauty about Lancaster City was that he didn’t even have to try to people please.
Well…at least not the little people. The only people he had to worry about pleasing were
the three or four good old boys who ran the political culture. And, after ten years, he had done enough
dirty work to feel pretty secure in where he was. He was particularly proud of the job he did in ridding
the city of that uppity bitch that ran the police department. The mayor didn’t like how she took
over his old job. She went too far in meddling with the traditions of the way things have always been done. It
was Damian who took care of the problem. He didn’t just fire her; he made damned sure she wouldn’t
be a problem for any other agency, ever. It was the crown jewel of his tenure. Yes, the city fathers loved
Damian looked out
from the window of his third floor, corner office that overlooked downtown Lancaster City. From here he
had an unobstructed view of the Burger King parking lot and the main (and only) highway that ran through town.
That stupid seagull that had been perched on the top of the light post outside his window was still there!
He had never seen one sit in the same place for hours, yet there is still sat. Strange.
The phone rang. It was the mayor. He couldn’t believe his ears.
The mayor finally wanted to sell him that, to-die-for, electric blue 1964 Ford Mustang rag top convertible!
While on smoking breaks with the mayor over the years, Damian had made it known how much he wanted to buy it.
Today he told Damian that he simply woke up that morning and suddenly decided that it was time to sell it.
Imagine that, after all this time, the mayor was going to let it go!
That Mustang reminded Damian the biggest, baddest, football coach at his high school, Mr. Brachsman. He
had a candy apple red one just like it. “Brachsman the cocksman,” they used to call him.
Rumor had it that Brachsman was doing the married, hot piece-of-ass French teacher and just about every varsity cheerleader
before their senior graduation. That Mustang probably got as much mileage in the backseat as it did on
the road. God, that man was every guy’s idol. He was everything that Damian couldn’t be.
If he just could have a car like Mr. Brachsman! He had always wanted a convertible, but his wife
would never let him buy one because she didn’t think it was safe. But, if he could ever get his hands
on that Mustang, his wife could go to Hell.
Damian left the office without saying a word to his secretary. Of course, he rarely did anyway.
City employees smiled and said hello to him as he passed, but he paid them no mind. He didn’t
have to and they had come to not expect it. As he left the third floor outside parking area, he looked
over the retaining wall at that light post. The seagull had finally gone.
When Damian pulled
into the mayor’s driveway, the mayor was already outside vacuuming the interior. Damian walked over
to the car and fondled the rear quarter panel. He was in love. They mayor suggested
that they take a short test drive through town down to the bay overlook. Damian jumped into the driver’s
seat. As they drove through town, the mayor explained every detail about the car. It
had been fully restored to original factory specs and a new engine had been installed two years before. It
had a Bose sound system, new leather seats…. Damian tried to listen to all of it, but he found himself too enthralled
with the experience to pay much attention. As they pulled away from the south city limit, Damian hit the
accelerator. The engine purred as the speedometer approached 55 mph. It felt good.
It felt powerful. It felt to Damian like he was finally in his element. He never felt so alive, so fulfilled, and so
He looked down the two-lane highway and saw something ahead in his lane. Oh, it was just a bird…a
seagull. They got closer, but the gull remained in the road. Strange, he thought. They normally get out
of the way by now. The Mustang got closer and closer. They were doing 65 mph.
The mayor was still detached, extolling the magnificence of the car. Damian remained unconcerned,
even though the bay was on the right and a car was coming in the opposite approaching lane. He couldn’t steer around
the bird, so he would just hit the stupid thing if it didn’t get out of the way. It wouldn’t
do any damage to the car. Just then, it flew off of the pavement, banking toward the bay. Good.
The mayor was still talking away, absorbed
in his description of the car. Damian saw the seagull circle back around. As the oncoming
car approached them on the left, the seagull suddenly dipped down, taking direct aim at the Mustang’s windshield.
In an instant, the bird smashed into the glass. Damian swerved to avoid the oncoming car and instinctively
threw his arms up to cover his face. The Mustang careened towards the bay, crashing through the temporary
wooden guardrail the road department had placed at the lookout area. The car flew off of the cliff and
slammed into the ocean, nose down. Damian and the mayor saw everything happen in slow motion.
They saw the green water crashing in front of them. They felt themselves tumble upside down as the
Mustang flipped over. The icy, water took their breath away. They gasped for air, but instead gulped seawater
into their lungs. They felt the Mustang sink and tide smash them against the rocks. It seemed forever until,
perhaps instinctively, they groped for the buckles of their seatbelts. They were not able to breathe. The
ocean continued to mercilessly tumble the Mustang deeper in the water. They felt no pain. They
were too paralyzed by the fear of not being able to breathe. They were still conscious as the Mustang took one final heave
into the depths and they saw something tumble in front of their faces. It lodged itself behind the broken windshield and directly
onto them. It was a body! As they surrendered, the last thing they saw was the peaceful face of Diane Conner.
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By Dee Robinson