Midweek Writing Prompt: An Unexpected Prize

Zac is currently in New York with the winner of last year’s Annual WD Writing Competition, escorting him on his grand-prize trip to meet with three editors of his choice. (If that sounds like a great prize, it’s because it is! And for the first time this year, WD competitions for short stories and poems are awarding trips to the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC. Why not throw your hat in the ring? Learn more about them here.)

Stay tuned until his return to hear all about it! In the meantime, try this appropriately themed prompt:

An Unexpected Prize
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. (If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, please feel free to e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.)

You’ve won a prize—just a small one, but hey, it still sounds pretty good! After all, you’ve never won anything before. But when you arrive to claim your winnings, you find an unexpected twist of luck or fate has made it even better than you thought.


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3 thoughts on “Midweek Writing Prompt: An Unexpected Prize

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  2. Dare Gaither

    The little brass bell jingled merrily as I opened the door
    of Charlie’s Weather House. A stout man with a neatly
    trimmed grey beard peered at me from behind his computer.

    “You Peterson?” He growled as he slowly walked toward me.

    “Yes,” I said cheerfully.
    ”Kim Peterson.”

    “Here’s your prize.You were the only person who entered.”

    He handed me a large wall calendar with a spectacular photo
    of a hurricane on the cover. The blue price sticker still graced
    the plastic cover. It was my reward for guessing what the high
    temperature would be on the last day of summer. I was shocked
    when I got the call informing me of my win. I was off by 15 degrees.
    Now I understood.

    He turned and went back to his computer.
    The jingling bell was the only acknowedgement of my departure.
    I was happy with my calendar. It would save me having to buy one.
    I had always been chea…uh, frugal.

    I stood at the stoplight waiting to cross when a loud shriek
    rang out from behind me. I turned to see a tiny Boston Terrier
    racing toward me with his leash trailing behind him.
    A woman in high heels tottered breathlessly after him.

    “Sin!” she shrieked with what breath she had left.
    “Sin! Here!”

    Well, you don’t see that everyday.

    The dog approached the corner where I waited.
    As he dashed past me I stomped hard on the leash.
    He stopped short as the leash pulled taut.
    A car slammed on its brakes barely missing the
    fortunate canine. I bent down and picked up the
    leash, holding it firmly as I reeled in my catch.
    The little dog wiggled all over and licked my
    hand as I petted him.

    The woman clattered up to us grabbing at her chest.
    “Sin!” she said firmly.
    What is the proper response to that?

    “Bad dog!” She added shaking her finger at the wiggling creature.

    “Sin?” I asked, handing her the leash.

    “His name is Sin. He earned it.”

    I laughed. It did seem to fit.

    The lady thanked me profusely and fumbled with her purse.
    She pulled out 2 bills and thrust them at me.
    I pushed them aside, saying it wasn’t necessary.
    “He’s my granddaughter’s dog,” she said.
    “I couldn’t bear having to tell her the dog was….gone.”
    She was determined that I should have the money.
    It seemed to ease her guilt at being careless with
    her granddaughter’s dog. I stuffed the money
    in my pocket and wished her the best.

    She wrapped the leash twice around her wrist and headed for her car.
    Sin pranced gleefully down the street drawing stares from passing pedestrians.

    When I got home I pulled my keys and the money from my pocket.
    I gasped in disbelief.
    I had assumed it was two 20’s,
    but she had given me $200 dollars!

    Maybe a little Sin is a good thing.

  3. Mark James

    Zac. . hope you’re having fun in New York. Eat a hot dog for me, would you? And. . .don’t go in any old buildings. .

    Who doesn’t need a lighter shaped like a beer bottle? I wouldn’t have gone to pick up the prize except I was in the city. When "Franklin Lantana, winner of the Pop the Top contest" came out of the little radio I always carried around, I was just two blocks away from the address they announced.

    In Manhattan, you have two kinds of buildings: old and fixed up, or old and forgotten. No one had remembered WKLM’s five story building for years. The glass in the double doors was so grimy, some smart guy had written, ‘I wish my wife was this dirty’. The letters had been there long enough to be filled in with their own shade of city grey. It was my kind of place. I don’t trust a man in a brand new suit, and I avoid buildings that don’t have a worn in look.

    The guard at the front desk was in a faded uniform that might have been white a couple decades ago. Over the low black counter, I could see the pages of the magazine he was reading. No. Wait. I don’t think that kind comes with words in them, just pictures. He was roped with muscle, one of those men who could smash your face before you saw his fist coming. I showed him my Driver’s License, told him about the contest.

    “Third floor.” He went back to thumbing through pictures. “Don’t wander. If I have to get up, I won’t like it.”

    I was willing to bet not much happened in his life that he didn’t like, except maybe his wife wasn’t dirty enough. The elevator was the old fashioned kind, with a cage inside. It crept between floors like its cables had arthritis; felt like it took me five minutes to go two floors. I stepped off into an empty hallway.

    It was dark, just one window at the far end. I moved through the darkness the way I stalked targets, slow, no noise, eyes open. What kind of building had a hallway with no doors? Alone in all those shadows, the guard downstairs was starting to look like good company.

    Something felt wrong, like I was one of those three blind mice, and the farmer was about to hack into me with his cleaver. I was about to bolt for the elevator, because I’d realized I was only three floors up and it was quiet as a Bingo Hall at Sunday noon Mass. I should have heard cars honking, brakes squealing, crazy men telling Uptown executives to repent because time was short. But there was only me breathing into too much silence.

    My wife’s voice came from around the corner. “Come on, Frankie. Your prize is waiting.”

    Our anniversary. I’d forgotten. Again.

    I went around the corner, and just stared. Only Jessica would rent out a whole floor of a building like this and fix it up like a night club.

    She was holding my beer can shaped lighter, and wearing the gold leaf necklace I’d given her four years ago on our first anniversary. And nothing else.


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