‘The Garden’s Gift’ – my entry for the 2023 Dark & Stormy Story Writing Contest

Recently I entered Stormcloud Brewing Company’s Dark & Stormy Story Writing Contest, and I came in 4th! I was one of four contestants who had the opportunity to read their story out loud at the public reading. I was a stress-mess, but I’m proud I did it! You can read the story below:

The Garden’s Gift

It was a dark and stormy night, but Tabitha barely noticed as she used her tiny fingernails to wiggle and pry the cork from the bottom of her yellow piggy bank. Much to her delight it only took a moment of finessing before it popped out, releasing a waterfall of coins cascading to the floor. The loud crashing of the coins must have made the storm envious, as it immediately responded with a clap of thunder so powerful that it shook the doorframe. Wide-eyed, Tabitha looked in the direction of the hallway beyond her open bedroom door, expecting to hear her mother investigating the situation in the exhausted tone she’d been carrying lately.

After a beat, Tabitha realized she was in the clear and scooped her loot towards her. She guessed that her mother had taken her “adult medicine”, which always made her sleepy. After analyzing the mess, Tabitha determined it still wasn’t enough to take the train to see her father in the city. Unfazed, she hopped up and grabbed the patchwork quilt from her bed and skipped into the living room.

Tabitha carefully constructed a fort that would block out the brilliant flashes of lightning and slightly muffle the raindrops pummeling the cracked stain glass window that peered into the garden. Tottering on an old rocking chair beside a towering oak bookshelf, she reached for her favorite volume of the ancient encyclopedia set that was kept there. Though she could barely read any of the words yet, she loved the detailed illustrations, the tactile effect of rubbing the yellowed pages between her fingers, and the aroma of dust and aged leather. She was only a few pages in before her head gently tilted back on her pillow, arms relaxing, releasing the book to the floor.

Tabitha was accustomed to waking up to the click of the gas stove and the grinding of coffee beans, but today it was the chatter of birds out in the garden. Rarely up before her mother, she thought it would be a good day to surprise her. With bright yellow rain boots and her flannel pajamas, Tabitha stepped out into the garden. She gathered up handfuls of blossoms—thick yellow daffodils, delicate blue forget-me-nots, brilliant purple crocuses. When she was satisfied with her yield, Tabitha climbed up the crumbling concrete steps to the backdoor.

Clomping down the hallway to her mother’s room, she pushed open the cracked door and saw that her mother was still in bed. Pulling herself up onto the mattress, she left streaks of mud across the floral comforter as she crawled over to her mother. Tabitha began weaving the flowers into her mother’s long black hair, certain her mother would feel like a faerie princess upon waking. For a few more minutes of blissful ignorance, she continued to braid the in the blossoms. It would only be a moment later that her innocence would be robbed, for she would discover that her mother would never be waking up.


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