Every year, Geist Magazine (which is awesome, and you should order it immediately) runs a postcard contest. You have 500 words to write a story about a postcard you find (images of just about anything you find online are fine, too). This year’s contest is now open, with a due date of February 1. 500 words isn’t too much. You should enter.
I entered last year with a little story I’d written called Grand Falls. It didn’t win. But I was happy with it, so thought I’d share it here.
The summer Uncle Jack took us camping at Grand Falls, I got a wicked craving for blueberries.
Uncle Jack was setting up the tent and I was trying politely to focus my ears on something a little more kid-appropriate. I think it was the bubbly sound the kids made at the beach on the other side of the trees that reminded me of that scene in The Sound of Music when Maria is rowing down the greenish river with the Von Trapp kids and they’re all squealing and shouting and splashing around when the boat goes over. Mom had started this weird weekly ritual where she’d put on The Sound of Music and tell us to watch it because it was the happiest movie ever, which I totally didn’t get because she just cried all the way through it anyway. I guess I found it happy enough, I mean, except for the Nazis and everything.
And so that got me thinking about the part where they tell their dad that they were picking blueberries all afternoon, but don’t have them anymore because they ate them, which is not a bad excuse but those Von Trapp kids really don’t know how to sell a fake alibi like I do, so they got caught. And then suddenly I really, really wanted some blueberries, only real ones, not lie-to-your-dad kind of ones.
I don’t think Uncle Jack had realized what he was up for on this trip. I’d seen his face during the drive up, when my brothers were making an Olympic sport of who could kick who the hardest, and his mouth was making that thin line kind of thing that my dad’s used to make when he was still coming around from time to time. I’d already accidentally learned at least three new swear words through the tent process so I figured asking to go on a blueberry picking hike was going to be a little much. But I mean, how hard could it be, right? This wasn’t World War Two Austria or anything but I figured I probably couldn’t go ten feet in a nice woods like this without hitting on some blueberries.
So I left my brothers, now having a shoving match at the fire pit, and got down on my hands and knees and crawled into the bush towards the beach. I was still there a couple of hours later when my uncle started calling me for dinner over and over, dirt under my fingernails and tears stinging my eyes. Because blueberries are bound to be nearby when you want them, you just have to look hard enough, and The Sound of Music really is a very happy movie if you know how to look at it in the right way.