2010 Writing Contest
November 1-30, 2009
Wells Branch Community Library
15001 Wells Port Drive, Austin, TX, 78728
by Ashley S. Burell
Winning Adult Poem
I remember a day when they played in my lawns,
With their toy cars and their little wooden blocks.
I remember their laughter and singing and skipping,
Little girls twirling in circles and giggling.
I remember lavish parties with fancy dresses,
Lovely ladies dancing under my chandeliers.
I remember the smell of the men with their cigars,
Clinking glasses and hearty chuckles.
I miss them.
I wait for them.
But they only rush past now.
I hear the clack, clack, clack on the tracks,
And the blast of the horn.
And then they are gone again.
And I remember.
Dancing In Time
by Anelia Gomez-Cordova
Winning Teen Entry (Short Story)
The sound of tires against the pavement, a car stopping too abruptly, and suddenly my face was
smashed against a box. Then I heard the frantic voice of my mother: “Stacy? Mike? Mike!? Explain what
just happened… now! I thought you were being careful and yet, look what happened!” Immediately my
dad answered with the same tone my mom used. “I was being extremely careful! But oh no, Mrs. Ember
has to be right!” Throwing his hands up, he got out of the car to escape my mom’s shouting. I looked up to
see what the big fuss was about just to find my mother shouting at the mirror and my dad; well he was
pretty much just walking in circles around the car. But in front of me, there it was -- the house of my
dreams. I don’t mean that I’ve always wanted a house this; I mean I literally had dreamed about this
house by this railroad. At first, I was unable to move or talk, I couldn’t even think straight; my dream, that
house, it was real! The same feelings of insecurity, loneliness and sadness, had been present in my
nightmare. The house hypnotized me; I was still aware of my parents’ discussion, but I was unable to
really comprehend what they were saying. All I knew was that the house was calling me, softly whispering
my name: “Stacy? Stacy? Stacy!” my mom’s voice suddenly broke the spell, so I turned around and faced
her, knowing that she had ruined a magic moment. The rest of the afternoon went by slowly; when we
asked my dad to explain to us what had happened, he just say he saw something … or maybe he didn’t,
which left us quite confused. But I knew that wasn´t it, because he looked really tense, and he would start
walking up and down from room to room, talking to himself nervously.
“Umm dad?” I asked, unsure if he would be able to hear me in the middle of all his mumbling.
“Yes!” his eyes suddenly looked in my direction and for a second they frightened me. “Yes Stacy? What
do you need?” This brought me back. “Oh just wanting to know why there is no train.” His face turned
white as I finished my question, “Train? What train?” I rolled my eyes and answered slowly, “Well, there is
a railroad outside after all…” We stayed quiet for a moment while the color on his face went back to
normal. “Oh, well, there was a train, but that was a long time ago. It used to transport merchandise from
one town to another, but the company that owned the train had some troubles and had to close it down.”
After saying this, he left and I was alone…. After a while of thinking, I drifted off to sleep.
The sun was already up when I woke up, so I went downstairs and followed the delicious smell of
bacon and pancakes. “Mom? Dad? Someone?” I was surprised by the fact that nobody answered me. I
searched everywhere: in the study, the halls, the guest bedroom -- I even discovered a library that I didn´t
know we had! But there was no sign of them. When I went to the yard a strong wind started blowing, but
there was something also about that wind that made me feel all cold inside. I reached the front steps of
the house and screamed. There, standing, were my parents -- or what was left of them. Blowing along
with the wind were ashes; my parents were nothing but mere figures made of ashes that were
disappearing little by little. Then I saw it, a red envelope. Carefully I took it and opened it, inside there was
an invitation for a ball, a ball held in my house that claimed to be celebrated at least eighty years ago! It
also said that they expected me to wear the same dress I had worn last time. I was confused since I hadn
´t attended a ball ever in my life. I hadn´t even gone to a prom, much less a ball supposedly held by a
count whatever his name was. I sighed and resigned myself. I knew I would be going anyway because I
had to discover what had happened to my parents. And so I went to my room, where to my surprise I
found a red dress on my bed. I spent the rest of the day dressing up, I decided that there wasn´t much to
do with my hair so I just made my curls look as presentable as I could. I was ready too early so I laid
down on my bed and waited. I heard the clock ticking monotonously, and my eyes drifted closed. I started
I don’t know how much time passed since I fell asleep, but it was already dark outside when I
woke up. There was a certain smell in the air -- was it champagne? And something else, not a smell, but
a feeling that told me something was about to happen; it was anticipation, but at the same time
uneasiness because I didn’t knew what I was supposed to do. I could hear the music coming from
downstairs, the sweet melody, in perfect harmony, every note filled with emotion. Slowly, I walked to the
door and opened it, conscious of the thundering sound my heart made. In front of me the hall seem so big
and frightening; I knew that once I started my way through it, there would be no going back. I walked
across the hall, but just as I was about to open the door, a painting on the wall caught my attention. It was
a young girl, really pretty, with hazel eyes and dark curls. It was me! No, it was my great grandmother, but
as a teenager. I understood then, the invitation and dress weren’t for me but for her. I could feel my legs
shaking, but I knew this was something I had to do, so I opened the wooden doors in front of me. Just
then a strong wind entered the room. And a pale teenage boy appeared; he had silver hair and green
deep eyes. I tried to walk towards him but suddenly I found myself inside a train. I ran towards the nearest
window and looked outside. My house was now getting smaller as the train moved, and the young boy
too. When I turned around I almost screamed, the train was now a big living room and in the middle of it
were my parents dancing. My mom had a silver dress and my dad wore a tux. Then the boy came and
started dancing with me, what I didn’t realized was that we were really dancing in time, going back to the
accident we had. I could see then that we had all died, and yet here I was. Suddenly the boy disappeared
and darkness surrounded me. I heard my mother’s voice yelling, “Careful mike! The train!” The car
stopped and once again my head hit the box I held in my hands. But when I looked up we were in front of
a house, our new house which I could say was real this time.
The Silent Secret
by Suzanne Link
Winning Adult Chapter
When Walter hit the ground, the intensity of the landing was far greater than he had calculated.
Upon impact, his knees buckled and his legs instantly crumpled beneath him. Momentum rolled
him several yards before he came to an agonizing stop, belly-down in the dirt, arms and legs haphazardly
splayed. A dust cloud hung over him momentarily before settling around his motionless body.
The impact drove the air from his lungs and almost siphoned his life-force along with it. He found
himself unable to move; for a moment, he thought he was dead.
One boxcar after another roared by, indifferent to Walter’s plight. Hot sand and pebbles pelted his
unshaven check. His ginger hair flapped in the breeze. Finally, the train began shrinking into the distance
until it disappeared completely into the horizon of the yellowing blue sky.
After what seemed like an ocean of time, Walter’s eyes fluttered. Eventually, with every
movement an excruciating challenge, he struggled to his feet.
The house stood just across the rail tracks. It was exactly as he imagined it: A blue Second
Empire Victorian home crowned with a mansard-roof. The exterior color so closely matched the sky, it
was as if the house was trying to camouflage itself; a modest wallflower shying away into the void of the
An eerie, inescapable silence filled the landscape. No birds trilling. No cattle lowing. No trees or
crops rustling in the wind. Just a silent house amidst abandoned fields that stretched and yawned in all
directions as far as the eye could see. The house was an abandoned corpse; an antiquated victim of the
unstoppable progress of the modern age.
After reaching the porch, Walter observed his reflection in the window. Although shadow
shrouded the entryway, he could still make out his image. His face shone with perspiration and a red
blotch tattooed his cheek where it had slapped against the ground. Long loops of sweat stretched down
under the underarms of his rumpled and soiled shirt.
Walter leaned in closer and peered through the window. As expected, the house appeared
unoccupied. Nonetheless he gave a one-two-three rap on the door. He held his breath, straining to hear,
but no noise issued from the dwelling. He knocked again,
this time with more authority. He waited. Nothing.
Cautiously, he opened the door. The rusty hinges moaned in protest. Walter cringed as a
protracted cr-e-e-e-eak cut through the solemn silence.
Walter stuck his head through the opening.
“Hello?” he called.
Excitement and fear bubbling within him caused his voice to quaver. He swallowed hard hoping to
steady the trepidation that rose thickly in his throat.
“Helloooo?” This time his voice possessed confidence. Or at least volume. It briefly rebounded off
the bare walls and rugless hardwood floors before evaporating into the unpeopled house.
He waited. Unsurprisingly, his calls remained unanswered.
He stepped into the foyer, closing the door behind him. A stale, mustiness scented the empty
room. This once elegantly furnished and lively home was now just a neglected, hollow shell of its former
Slowly, Walter advanced across the room. The dust, now blanketing the once-polished floor,
muffled his footfalls. He neared the stairs leaving ghostly bootprints in his wake.
He tested the first step for integrity, pushing it hard with the toe of his boot. Despite its age, the
wood seemed sturdy.
He ascended the stairs and with each step, a shot of anticipation tingled up his spine and tickled
his already jangled nerves.
Hooks and wire strewn the barren wood-paneled walls. Stripped clean of pictures and artwork, a
phantom packer had hastily expunged all evidence of the former residents.
All except a lone framed photograph at the top of the stairs.
A women cloaked in her best chiffon finery posed in front of the house. She stared back through
the decades at Walter. Her eyes danced with merriment and a thin-lipped “I know something you don’t
know” smile stretched across her face.
It seemed odd that the photo was left behind, Walter thought, but at the same time fitting. Despite
her body’s forcible eviction from the house, the woman’s spirit had stubbornly remained, unwilling to
Walter finally reached the third floor and entered the room at the west end of the house. Sunshine
beamed through the dormers. Previously undisturbed dust moats swirled in the light.
Walter counted the floorboards. When he reached the seventh from the window and third from
the adjacent wall, he stopped. Crouching down, he traced the edge of the plank with his finger and
nibbled his lower lip.
Walter removed the pry bar concealed under his shirt. Other than a long since consumed apple
and sandwich, the pry bar was the only item he had brought on the train. It was a bit on the short side, but
he felt confident that with the right amount
of elbow grease it could handle the job.
Pulling up the board was harder than he expected. After several fruitless attempts, he jammed
the pry bar deeper between the slats. He took a deep breath, strengthened his resolve, and pushed, this
time putting his whole body behind it. The board broke free with a crack. Splintered wood scraped across
Walter’s wrist. He sucked air through his teeth as beads of blood dotted across the flesh wound.
Walter leaned in and stared down into the floor space. His heart jerked and he felt the warmth
draining from his face. As his surprise ripened to panic, his breath quickened almost to the point of
The floor space was empty.
He raced furiously over the words that he had overheard, his mind swinging through the full arch
Had they arrived before him? Impossible. Had he gotten it wrong somehow? The wrong room?
The wrong house? Or perhaps Jasper and Buck knew he was eavesdropping and had concocted the
story just to toy with him.
He counted the planks again, his fingers wiggling in midair as if could physically adjust his mental
Relief washed over him and he took a full breath before blowing it over his lower lip.
He moved two feet closer to the window and knelt down above the new floorboard. This one
came loose without any hesitation, as if it had been chomping at the bit to reveal its secret. Walter
dropped the pry bar to the floor with a clatter and
looked into the aperture. This time his eyes were not disappointed.
There, stashed in the hole, was a cloth sack. Walter withdrew it, opened it, and reached within.
As he stirred the contents, jagged edges raked across his fingertips. A smile blossomed on his face. He,
took a deep breath, and removed his clenched fist.
He unfurled his fingers and looked down at his hand. Ribbons of sunlight infused the gemstones
and as they did they winked playfully up at Walter. His smile broadened.
Adrenaline mainlined into his bloodstream. His heart hammered in his chest. His body shook. His
imagination, now in full flower, fizzed with flashes of wealth, women, and happiness. His fantasies, he
knew, were about to be realized.
by George Koehler
Winning Adult Short Story