It’s contest winner time! Time to announce the winners of last month’s Thanksgiving contest in which we asked writers to create a story or poem (real or imagined) about gratitude. We often celebrate a holiday dedicated to giving thanks but do we really stop to think about what we’re thankful for?
Well, we asked and you delivered! We received many amazing entries and while we wish we could give credit to them all, we do have to pick the winners. We loved the creativity and construction of our top three picks! Check out our first place winner and the two entries that tied for second place below!
First Place Winner!
By Parastoo Tahmasbi
When I was just 15, I had this aggressive rage brewing in me all the time. Dissatisfied and disappointed, I dragged myself through. Day by day I wished to die. This thought uncoiled in my head like the loose threads of a ball of yarn and one day I found myself tied and trapped by those thorny strings. Death hung over me like a coat too big for my figure, I carried it with me to school and to bed, I was drowning more and more each day in its darkest fabric.
One of those days, I got a really bad mark on my paper at school and I could hear my dad’s violent voice ringing in my head even before I got home. His voice was the electric drill of the dentist, digging, digging, digging into my skull and scorching my brain. My dad was a frightening person and although I loved him as a father, I feared him as an authority. I didn’t want to be at the receiving end of his verbal bullets, and I so wanted to make him proud. This, along with him limiting my freedom and his obsessive controls, created a tension that my teenage brain couldn’t handle. I looked at him and saw a warden.
That day when I got home, I washed my face but the alluring tendrils of death were slipping into my ear, its dark shadowy figure was perched on my shoulder. I drank a cup of tea but couldn’t feel it as my mouth was constantly being filled and emptied by the sleeping pills I was taking, two at a time. My hands were shaking and my face wet from my tears. I was crying. I was ending my life. I was sad I had to end it but also determined to do so, calculating in my mind the expenses of my funeral and how much I’d burden my family financially but save them from a lot trouble along the road. I cried and cried for half an hour as I moved from one side to another in my bed, soaking my pillow with my salty tears.
So I lay in bed, waiting for my life to drain, waiting to see it seep out of me. And there I lay, slowly drifting to sleep.
I don’t remember much afterwards, I only remember fragments of that day, that night and the next day. I remember fainting while walking to bathroom, I remember my mom beside my bed in hospital, and remember that hideous ache I had in my side which I later found out was caused by that fainting.
It’s been 8 years since that event and there’s not a single day that I’m not grateful for my life. I have seen things in these years that both hurt me and made me jump-out-of-your-skin happy. I got the chance to love, to be loved, to lose, to grieve, and feel things I never thought myself capable of. But more than anything I had the chance to get to know myself. It’s not like I was an anonymous being lost in the identity given to me by my family and school and other such communities, but I didn’t know myself as a I know now, I only knew little bits, here and there, like when you see a local girl on the bus and randomly in a bookstore and maybe see her pass by, you see pieces of her but never see her wholly.
I discovered myself as an adventurer explores new lands. I got to find the peak of my desire and ambitions and visit the darkest caves of guilt. I was the land and the explorer; the deeper I went the more I was amazed.
Today, I may not be the person I ultimately want to be, but I am moving, I am taking steps, even if they are little tiny baby steps, towards that shiny peak. I tumble and fall but I am not giving up.
I was given another chance, to live, so I am not going to throw it away and I will show the universe, the cosmos, the celestial being above, and to myself that this chance is well appreciated.
I’m Parastoo Tahmasbi and I’m a novice writer. I live in Tehran and I’m currently a student of English Literature in one the finest universities of Tehran. Early in life I discovered that nothing would make me more exhilarated than being famous for what I write, so since then I had this burning ambition within me to become a world-famous writer. I have an unfinished, unpublished fantasy novel that I’ve written in high school and a ton of unpublished short stories. A couple months back, a friend pushed me to publish my stuff on my blog and on social media, so I took his advice and took the 1st step towards getting known.
I mostly write fantasy and science fiction and maybe sometimes romance, but since I have a vast knowledge of mythology, my stories tend to have a medieval air and fantastic creatures in them.
Writing is like a craving for me, and no matter how much I write, I’ll wake up the next day and crave more, so I’ll keep on writing.
Second Place Winner!
By Jonathon Jones
“We gather on this day to thank Her for the Dirt. Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah!” the crowd shouted.
The Speaker looked down at the green plant. This plant was the first he had seen in years. He was the last man left from the Black Time, when the soil was full of vitality, promise, potential life. That was a long time ago.
“We gather on this day to thank Her for the Life. Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah!” the crowd shouted.
The Speaker looked at the crowd. He saw sick, thin waifs. People who ate only algae, people who had never tasted a tomato, or a carrot, or piece of bread. But, the people had something more than algae. They had hope.
“We gather on this day to thank Her for a new chance! Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah!” the crowd shouted.
“Go in peace.”
The crowd began to disperse, to go back to their houses of concrete, of metal. The Speaker watched them, but did not see them. The walk to his hovel on the edge of the town went by in a blur of memories. He saw memories of the Black Time, before the White Sun destroyed Gaia and robbed her of her fertility. O, Man had been so arrogant, so stupid! He thought that he could control not just life and death, but the potential for life! His wonder weapon made Gaia barren and empty. Now, the people subsisted on ocean-grown algae.
The Speaker kept relics of the Black Time in his hut. There was the glass Coca-Cola bottle, the can of Progresso soup, the baseball cap for some long-forgotten football team. The greatest prize hung on the wall. It was a painting.
The painting was of a goat’s horn, filled with fruits and vegetables from the Black Time. The Speaker had lost hope that he would ever see them in person again. But, with the plant, he was suddenly unsure. He turned to the wall. He had marked every day on that wall. Keeping with the old calendar was one of the things that kept him sane.
He tallied the days. Yesterday had been a Wednesday, so today was a Thursday. The fourth Thursday of the month. The Speaker threw his head back and laughed. Yes, this year he had something to be grateful for. Everyone did.
I read the prompt and the suggestions, but none of them really resonated with me. I am a fan of several Twitterature accounts that focus on dystopian settings, particularly @kaijubushi, so I turned my mind to a question: what would a post-apocalyptic society, village, or person be thankful for? I had the central idea, but I needed an opening. Rango, which is one of my all-time favorite movies, has an epic scene involving characters worshiping a faucet in the desert, because water is that precious in such a society. From that, I had my Speaker. The use of names from mythology was purposeful. It showed that society had regressed back to mysticism, as a reaction to the technology that destroyed life. The world itself is loosely based on the movie Wall-E, as well as another piece of media which I cannot recall the name of. (That work had as its main conceit a weapon that wiped out life, without damaging inorganic materials. I wish I could remember the name, but alas.) The final idea that I borrowed came from a favorite book of mine: Earth Abides. The main character marks the year on a large boulder in a park of abandoned Berkeley. The calendar, besides being a convenient way to show that it is Thanksgiving, also shows that the Speaker is connect to the pre-apocalyptic times.
For more of Jonathon’s work, find him on twitter at @liljohnnyjones1!
Second Place Winner!
G to E
By Kayla Gonzalez
Time is ticking and it’s almost my turn.
G oing around a table listing off all of the things that I’m most grateful for.
R ationing off the pages of my life because I have half filled entries of ended roads and I have empty canvases filled with roads not yet traveled.
A nxiously waiting as Aunt Connie lists off her 7 cats and the fact that she can finally afford that perfect Christmas tree during Black Friday shopping.
T asting every last bit of my pumpkin pie contemplating whether or not to just offer up the suggestion that yes, grandma Tammy I am once again thankful for her culinary skills.
I can’t say that again, not this year. Not this time. But what AM I grateful for?
T racing the inner linings of my waistband of my favorite black jeans, unable to breathe partially from the extra slice of pie and partially because it’s my turn and everyone is looking at me.
U h oh.
D ancing around the looming question that I have yet to answer, feeling the button on my jeans about to break, feeling the sweat on my palms, until suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
E veryone went quiet, all eyes on me…but I knew my answer. My answer was: TIME.
I’m thankful for the amount of time I had to think about my answer, because some people have no more time left.
I’m thankful for how much time it takes grandma Tammy to make her pies to the utmost perfection, and how much time it took aunt Connie to save her money for the perfect tree.
I’m thankful for the time I have with my family, today, on Thanksgiving, and everyday.
I’m thankful for the time I have left to fill the empty pages of the long story that is my life.
Now my time has passed and everyone is smiling. The clock is ticking, now you’re up.
What are you thankful for?
Don’t worry, take your time.
While writing this piece I was inspired by many factors. My writing style usually is mostly inspired by love, loss and family. Since the holidays are my favorite time of the year, I wanted to step back and write about something that we are all lucky enough to have. Time is something that is fleeting yet lasting at the same time which is beautiful, and which is why I wanted to appreciate its significance in my writing. My structure was inspired by the word gratitude and I didn’t want to use the word directly in the piece which is why I just took every letter and put it at the beginning of each small paragraph.
Did you miss this contest? Don’t worry, there’s more! Check out our contest page every month to find a new prompt and new prizes!