Poetry: First Place

From Out of the Clear Blue Western Sky Comes              

by Jo Middlebrooks
I listened on the radio in 1954.
The soft, mellow tone of his voice soothed my fears.
My twelve-year-old mind conjured up pictures
More vivid than those on TV of Penny and her Uncle Sky
His plane (the Songbird), and the dastardly crooks
He caught but never shot.

Who would think, in 2010,
I would hear that sound from way back then?
Here he comes again, off to save some troubled soul.
Mama's words instruct deep within my memory.
"Sky King is on. Wash your feet when you come in.
Leave that jar of lightning bugs on the back step."

From out of the clear blue western sky, he buzzes my patio.
The hum of the Songbird's engines tells me all is well.
Sky is on the way to save the day.

Well, actually, from out of the clear blue western sky,
Above the short runway (whose glide path crosses my yard)                                        
Comes some old guy doing a touch and go
In his Cessna 310 every Thursday afternoon.
He flies into sight and banks to the left.
The smooth hum of his Songbird growls down with the turn.

I feel safe on Thursday afternoons
To work in my garden or rest in the shade.
SKY-Y-Y KING-G-G flies just overhead.
He will see if I fall or faint in the heat.
Or, as I am prone to do these days,
Disappear, drifting back to another time.

Short Stories: First Place

Devil's Night
By Barbara Brockway
The last person I expected to see being marched into the Summerville, Georgia jailhouse in a bunny costume was my old babysitter, Genevieve.

            Not the Bugs or Harvey type of bunny, but the cleavage plunging, thigh flashing, high heel strutting Playboy kind, her curvy bottom barely covered by the plush pink fabric. One ear cocked suggestively, a wink at half-mast over her auburn curls. The bunny of many a male fantasy, my own included.

            She locked eyes with me.

            “Trick or treat,” she said, a wicked smile curved the corners of her lips upwards.

            “Jefferson,” she breathed boozily, in that Genevieve way that made my toes curl inside my steel-toed boots.  

            I was instantly transported back fifteen years to that October when I was thirteen, and the two-years-older Genevieve was enlisted by my mother to keep my younger brother and me from giving each other black eyes and knots on our skulls while she and her friend Wendy went dancing.

            “I’m too old for a babysitter,” I had protested, watching my mom apply lipstick in the foyer mirror.

 “Prove it,” my mom shot back, giving her breasts a two handed, upward push as the doorbell rang. Her heels clacked on the hardwoods as she reached for the knob.

            The door swung open to reveal a pair of long legs in short cut-offs with a riot of red curls fighting a thin headband. An REM t-shirt stretched almost out of recognition across the chest.

            My mom’s eyes dropped to the sandaled feet and back up.

            “Hi, I’m Genevieve.”

            A car horn tooted from the street. My mom sighed.

            “There’s fried chicken and potato salad in the fridge. I’ll be back by midnight,” she said, swooshing past the vision on the porch.

            Genevieve shut the door behind her and leaned against it.

            “What’s your name,” she said, her mascara-laden eyes surveying me. Eye level, I thought proudly; I had grown six inches over the summer.


            My brother popped his squirrely head around the corner from the dining room, then retreated.

            “What’s his name?”


            “His name is Harrison and yours is Jeff?” she asked, sounding indignant, like I had been shortchanged.

            “Really it’s Jefferson, but no one but my Memaw calls me that.”

            “Jefferson,” she breathed. “I like it, sounds classy. Smart Memaw.”

            “You got anything to drink around here?” she demanded. “I mean, drink, drink.”

            My thirteen year old brain registered that my babysitter shouldn’t be nosing around for liquor thirty seconds into her shift, but my thirteen year old groin made my mouth direct her toward the kitchen.

            “My mom keeps a bottle above the fridge.”

            The corners of her lips curved into a small smile and she floated past me. I trailed behind, drinking in the wake of Love’s Baby Soft she cast off.

            As she pulled the dark bottle down from the cupboard a peep of skin showed between her t-shirt and shorts.

            “People always keep booze above the ‘fridgerater or under the sink,” she said, holding the bottle up to the light to see how much liquid it contained.

            “The ones who keep it under the sink, they hardly ever drink at all,” she continued.  

            “But the ones who keep it up top, they tend to-” she glanced at me, then away.

            “Keep a closer eye on things,” she finished.

            I thought about how I sometimes crept down the stairs at night, silently catching my mom at the kitchen table, staring at a bottle, her hand wrapped around a glass. No music, no companion, just the hum of the air conditioner and her thoughts, whatever they were.

            Genevieve set the bottle down.  

            “Glasses?” she asked.

            I pulled two glasses out of the cupboard.

            Genevieve was rooting around in the refrigerator. I surveyed her denim-covered bottom.

            She popped the top on a can of coke and took a loud slurp, letting the door slam shut.

            I scooped one glass into the ice bin. I then poured half the ice into the other glass in what I hoped was a sophisticated manner.

            Genevieve poured about an inch of booze in each glass, and then returned the liquor to its hiding place. She topped up the glasses with the coke and stirred each one with her index finger, licking it noisily afterward. She grabbed one glass and headed out the back door.

            I followed suit and found her sitting on the top step. I sat down next to her.

            She held up her glass to me and we clinked.

            “Cheers, Jefferson,” she purred, taking a long sip.

            I hardly tasted the liquor at all; just felt a warmth spread down into my torso after I swallowed.

            “What grade are you in?” she asked.


            “You got a girlfriend?”

            “No,” I answered, in what I hoped conveyed disdain. Like I could be interested in a scrawny seventh grader after connecting with this beauty before me.

            “Your parents divorced?” she asked. 

            “Not yet,” I grunted, taking a sip.

            “Where’s your dad?” she asked.


            “What’re you dressing up as for Halloween?” she continued.

            I thought about how I had argued with my mom over trick-or-treating.

            “No way, Jeff! You’re too big this year.”

            “But Allan and Dave and I are going to be ninjas,” I wailed. 

            “Jeff,” my mom said firmly, her hands on her hips. “Grown ups don’t like it when big boys with deep voices are standing on their front porch in the dark demanding chocolate. If Allan and Dave’s parents haven’t figured that out, that’s their problem.”

            “You can stay home and pass out candy while I walk Harrison around,” she reasoned.

            I weighed that big bag of candy I’d miss out on against all the times lately I’d begged to be treated like an adult. Besides, I could eat my mom’s candy. I bit my tongue.

            I took a long pull of my drink and turned toward Genevieve.

            “I’m not dressing up this year,” I said. “I’ll be here passing out candy.”

            “Shoot,” she said. Two red patches had appeared high on her cheeks. “Just because you’re not trick-or-treating doesn’t mean you can’t dress up.”

            She drained her glass.

            “Halloween is my favorite holiday,” she said, looking away. “Better ‘n Christmas, even. I always dress up.”

            “Hey, what’s for dinner?” Harrison’s annoying yammer filtered out the open back door.

            Genevieve sighed loudly and rose. I stayed seated, drinking in those long legs unfurling inches away from my face. She padded through the door.

            Dinner was peaceful; the booze had taken the edge off Harrison’s whiny voice and poor manners. I helped Genevieve clean up the kitchen and the three of us watched TV until my mom arrived home.

            As she counted out bills into Genevieve’s open palm, she said, “Jeff, would you walk Genevieve home?”

            “Sure,” I said, trying not to sound eager. I avoided looking at my mom.

            “It’s that one,” Genevieve pointed out a run down shotgun house about four blocks away from ours.

            I tried to think of something cool to say, fought the urge to grab her and press my lips to hers.

            “If I don’t see you before next week, have a Happy Halloween,” she said. I could see those luscious lips smiling in the glow from the porch light.

            “ ‘Night, Jefferson,” she cooed before streaking into the house.

            “Why are you dressed up?” Harrison demanded, snapping a pirate patch over his left eye.

            “Lots of people dress up to hand out candy,” I retorted. I felt my mom’s gaze burning the back of my neck.

            “I’m trying to be in the spirit of things,” I continued.

            “Well, Ninja,” she said. “We’ll be back when this guy’s bag is full.”

            I was doling out Snickers to the fourth group of little ghosts and goblins when I saw a tall, lone figure coming up our sidewalk. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with gingham dress, red shoes and unruly auburn hair somewhat tamed into two braids.

            “Hi,” I breathed. I didn’t think blood could rush to so many areas of my body simultaneously.

            “Nice costume, Jefferson,” Genevieve said as she climbed the steps. “I’ll pass on any candy, tonight, though.”

            I stepped back to let her into the house.

            “How ‘bout a drink?” I asked, channeling my thirteen-year-old James Bond.

            We repeated the cocktail making ritual as before, with me dashing back and forth to answer the doorbell a couple of times. Instead of the back stoop we took our drinks to the front porch swing, the big bowl of candy at our feet.

            “I figured you’d be at Darcy Frommer’s party tonight,” I said.

            Genevieve looked down quickly, studying her ice cubes.

            “Darcy’s a bitch,” she said quietly. 

            A group of kids came up on the porch. I picked up the bowl and tossed candy bars into their bags.

            “I like your hair like that,” I said, as they retreated. I inserted my index figure into the curly end of her braid, gently pulling it straight. I released it and it popped back into a curl. 

            “What do Ninjas do exactly?” she breathed, her face a tantalizing few inches from mine. Love’s Baby Soft and the ginger smell of her breath made me positively dizzy.            

            “Sneak around and scare people,” I replied breathlessly.

            “I’m not scared at all,” Genevieve said, leaning in to kiss me. Her tongue slipped deliciously between mine.

            “Jeff!” My mom’s angry voice broke the spell. “What the hell is going on here?”

            She hauled open the front door and pushed Harrison inside.

            A group of kids mounted the front porch singing out “trick-or-treat!”

            I grabbed the bowl and rose from the porch swing, knocking over my drink.

            My mom glared at Genevieve as I passed her to distribute treats by the steps.

            The kids trickled away.  My feet were glued to the spot.

            “Have you been drinking?” my mom asked, incredulous.

            Genevieve’s eyes met mine, locked in like a laser, and the bag of turds that was my miserable life faded away. The absent father, the bratty brother, the jerks in school, the cruelty and awkwardness of being caught between childhood and adulthood, with all the downside and none of the perks, all of it, gone.

            “Jeff!” my mom snapped again, louder.

            I pulled my eyes from Genevieve and the spell was broken.

            “I asked you a question,” she spit out.

            “Yes, ma’am,” I answered, hanging my head.

            Genevieve rose from the swing and headed for the steps. My mom grabbed her arm roughly as she passed.

            “You leave my son alone, you piece of trash,” she snarled. She released Genevieve with a small push.  I couldn’t meet Genevieve’s eye, just let her pass, down the steps and out of my life.

            Now here it was fifteen years later, two towns over, and I had an older, little bit heavier, slightly worn out, still sexy-as-all-get-out Genevieve on my hands.       

            “Is that a costume or a real uniform?” she asked.

            “Little bit of both, I guess,” I answered.

            “This a friend of yours?” John Foley asked, as he undid her handcuffs.

            Genevieve’s eyes met mine evenly. She no longer wore Love’s Baby Soft, but something musky, familiar to me from one of the girlfriends in the string of them I’d had.

            “What’s the charge, John?” I asked, my eyes locked on hers.

            “Drunk and disorderly,” he replied.

            “You know Halloween is my favorite holiday, Jefferson,” Genevieve said, smiling that wicked smile.

            I recalled the scene on that long ago porch:  my mom standing between me and Genevieve, nostrils flaring, a mama bear trying to ward off the world’s evils.

            “Yeah, she’s an old friend of mine,” I said. “Mind if she’s let off with a warning?” 

            ‘Your call,” John said.

            “Thanks,” I replied, my gaze on my old crush unbroken. 

            “What if he’d have said ‘murder’?” Genevieve asked, never taking her eyes off mine.

            “Same answer,” I replied.


11/14/2015 2:30pm

You leave my son alone, you piece of trash,” she snarled. She released Genevieve with a small push. I couldn’t meet Genevieve’s eye, just let her pass, down the steps and out of my life.

11/19/2015 6:09am

The absent father, the bratty brother, the jerks in school, the cruelty and awkwardness of being caught between childhood and adulthood, with all the downside and none of the perks, all of it, gone.

11/24/2015 2:57am

It's an amazing one really; I have got some interesting factors from here. Barbara Brockway is one of the best writers as I have seen yet. The way she shared his thought about her school life is outstanding.

11/26/2015 2:29pm

These contests should be arranged more often to polish and motivate kids and other talented writers show their talent. The winning entries should be sent to top essay writing companies aiding writers to earn a living.

12/30/2015 7:10pm

The bunny of many a male fantasy, my own included.

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01/05/2016 9:42am

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