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  • Thea Foundation

2018 Creative Writing Scholarship Winners

Thea Foundation is excited to announce the winners of our 2018 Creative Writing Scholarship competition. More than 110 students from across the state of Arkansas entered this year’s competition, making it one of our biggest years to date. Our 2018 scholarship recipients are:

1st Place, $4,000 scholarship: Cora Saddler (pictured left)

Cabot High School

Short Story, “A House Full of Flies”

2nd Place, $2,500 scholarship: Emilee Rotter (pictured right)

Poem, “Dear Brother”

Van Buren High School

Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to everyone who entered this year’s competition! You can read the winning entries below:

“A House Full of Flies”

By Cora Saddler

They told her that it was a good thing, miraculous even. What spectacularly good luck she must have had. Marie didn’t feel lucky though. She felt cursed every time she walked through her cedar trimmed door, cursed every time she wiped her mud-smeared rain boots on the dingy and worn welcome mat, and especially cursed every time a tiny black fly landed on her nose as if she were some kind of landing strip.

Her friends assuaged her anxieties. It was only flies after all. It could have been much worse. For instance, her friend Selene had a house full of fishy fumes, and her cellar was flooded with the murky, sea-salted water of the ocean. Infant sized fish slapped the surface haphazardly.

“The water was three steps from the top, three steps!” In truth, it was seven steps from the top of the staircase, but no one was counting.

“What did you do about it?” Johanna asked, gripping her favorite porcelain teacup, the one painted like some ethereal botanical garden.

“What didn’t I do,” Selene set down her own cup, exasperated, and continued. On the recommendation of a distant cousin, she bought a fishing pole, a lawn chair and a bucket.

The fish bit, she reeled, and soon the bucket was filled to the brim with slick, tin colored, fish with wing like fins. FISH FOR SALE was written on a cheap, plastic sign outside her door, and the hungry flocked to her house, showering her with precious paper and silver coins.

All was well until Selene’s next door neighbor found his house filled with cows, and the hungry soon flocked to his house instead, forgetting all about the fish that once sustained them.

“Oh, how awful!” Johanna remarked, pouring herself more sugar with a side of tea.

“But that’s not even the worst part,” Selene went on.

Taking what meager money she had earned from her fish sales, she returned to her pond and contemplated what she would do with so many fish. It seemed that for every fish she took out three more had come to replace it. In her distress, Selene called her grandmother and asked for her advice; Selene’s grandmother had experienced a problem similar to this when she was younger.

“There should be a drain somewhere. I suggest you pull the plug before more arrive.”

Throwing on her bright yellow bathing suit, she adjusted her matching goggles, snapped on her swim cap, gripped her flashlight, and stepped into the chill water.

Her cellar had been transformed into an underwater cavern. Her retired couch was soaked to the core, her wooden boxes were barnacle ridden, and her beloved keepsakes made a wonderful coral reef. As she swam through the school of fish, she spotted the drain, and with a simple tug, the plug came undone.

As the water receded, so did the fish. In a frenzy, they swarmed Selene and pushed her farther and farther away from the staircase. When the last drop went down the drain, Selene found herself compressed under a mound of fish. Three days later her husband noticed she was missing and finally helped pull her out.

“But what happened to all the fish?” Johanna asked, eyelashes fluttering in confusion.

“Oh, they’re still there. I can’t do anything about them,” Selene fanned her ruddy cheeks with her hand and stuffed another pastry into her mouth.

“Maybe I can get John to help, he’s really rather good at these kinds of things,” Johanna blushed as she straightened out her white frilled frock.

“Oh no, I couldn’t let you do that for me. You have your own problems to take care of. I mean, just look at this place,” Selene gestured to the parlor room around them.

Johanna had been gracious enough to invite both Marie and Selene over for an indulgent afternoon of tea and confections, baked by Johanna herself. All three women sat on decorous, floral chairs rimmed with rich mahogany and leaned against daintily crocheted pillows, also made by Johanna. It contained no fishy smell either. There were no cows grazing about, and there were certainly no flies to be seen. Instead, a mural of pixie-like butterflies congregated on her ceiling, perfectly picturesque, perfectly at peace.

A fairy blue butterfly with long, trailing wings landed on Johanna shoulder and nestled into her puffed sleeve. It was a beautiful brooch on her dress.

“Butterflies everywhere. Last time we talked, you told me John was going to spray them with poison, or something of that sort,” Selene held her chin out indignantly and flicked an oncoming butterfly away.

“Yes. I did say that didn’t I. It’s just that John and I really enjoy watching them migrate from one room to another. They’re rather lovely, don’t you think?” Johanna sheepishly held the rejected butterfly in her palms.

“Rather lovely, but practically useless. You can’t eat butterflies when you’re hungry,” Selene grabbed the biscuits and jam. Johanna turned to Marie.

“You’re lucky Marie. I bet flies are very useful,” Johanna passed Selene a butter knife.

“And they don’t take up much room,” Selene echoed through stuffed cheeks.

“I’d trade butterflies for houseflies anyday,”

“Or fish, you can have all of mine,”

That night, Marie laid in bed and made a list of everything she hated about the flies. She hated how they landed on her toes and cheeks, stole her food, buzzed all night, and whispered in her ears. She hated the way the fat ones would ram themselves into her mirror, or how the small ones would leave their dirty footprints on her glass, and how none of them helped her pay the rent. She especially hated how they were not cows, or fish, or butterflies. Even so, she repeated her nightly mantra over and over until her eyelids sealed shut, and all the flies seemed to fly far, far away. A house full of flies is a lucky thing indeed. Maybe one day it would sink in.

“Dear Brother”

By Emilee Rotter

Dear Nick, How did we get here? I used to namedrop you to all of my new teachers because even though you weren't the best student for some of them I saw you as the best brother Now when people ask about you I feel like I'm covering furniture with blank sheets in a house that has one last

moving box

to go

If only we had a blank sheet A do-over button A restart option like in a video game It's fitting because this does not feel real anymore Nick, I jokingly called you a cryptid the other day because like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster I rarely see you anymore But the ache in my chest at the thought of it made it feel less like a joke and more like a memory I wish I could repress If only I could repress memories But I seem to remember the smallest things Including a dream I had as a child when you were still in high school It was about you going to an art school in Texas and me, heartbroken, sitting on the corner of our street, begging you to stay But sometimes the good dreams are worse because if you hadn't stayed I think you would be happy Nick, I hear whispered conversations about what you've been up to I can't differentiate between the voices of mom and dad and the ghosts in the halls about working and children If only I could find some substance in these muffled screams some substance that would make things okay without needing to abuse it Nick, I know that carrying your daughter on your shoulders can get heavy quickly and can wear down your muscles and your will I know you want to be better for her and us But when, Nick, when will you want to be better for yourself You cannot be better until you want to be better for yourself not just your shadow If only you would realize that you do not have to convince your shadow to follow you It does so willingly and no matter what because it already knows that you are deserving of its attention Nick, you provide more stress to my life than anyone ever has because I am constantly terrified that we will get the call that you wrapped yourself around a telephone pole or tried too hard to numb your pain with needles and forgetfulness If only, you could hear the fake conversations I have with you in my head where I can convince you to stay right here with me Nick, How did we get here? We used to play video games and nickname each other and eat pizza in driveways and you would introduce me to music that I couldn't recognize the words in and you would hold me while I cried about bullies or mom's health and the one time that I held you while you cried and when I said I was sorry you said you were too If only we could get back to this place we used to be I think that we got off on different exits awhile back because I can't find any signs pointing in the right direction anymore Dear Nick, aka Nicholas James aka Nickle Pickle aka Nick nick nick nuh nick nick nick nickelodeon aka Bubba I forgive you

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