Your Story 56 Winner: Pa & Me at Sea

Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #56 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 800 entries, readers helped us pick “Pa & Me at Sea” by Pavi Chance as the winner. For winning, Chance’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

Pa & Me at Sea
by Pavi Chance

“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

Dawn gave the black water a pink blush. Stretched out, Pa’s head touched one end of the boat and his feet touched the other, fingers trailing in the water on either side.

“What is it?” I sat up, sending the boat rocking back and forth. My arms itched, rosy from yesterday’s sun.

A grin broke across his face, chapped lips stretching like elastic. “You get three guesses.”

I gazed out across the ocean. Since the storm stopped two days ago, the water had been polished smooth. Clouds floating across its surface as though the sky was below us as well as above.

“Is it food?”

A croaking laugh exploded from his mouth. “You know we don’t have any food.”

All we had was water, half a bottle of it, the label peeled from yesterday’s heat.

“Is it something useful, Pa?”

“If by useful you mean it’s gonna help our immediate situation, then no.”

I frowned, thinking of all the things it wasn’t that I wished it was. A radio, a mirror for signaling, sunburn cream. Waffles with butter and blueberry jam.

“What about sharks?”

“Is that your second guess?”

“No!” Sometimes Pa tries to be funny, but he’s really just annoying. “Move your damn legs.”

“That’s no way for a young lady to talk.”

“Well, you’re hogging the boat.”

“If I move to one side, we’ll tip right over.” He does move, though, just a little.


“So, what?”

“So what about sharks?” I’d completely forgotten to be worried about them.

“I can think of about a thousand things for you to worry about before you worry about sharks.”

“So there aren’t any, then?”

“No sharks.” Pa’s voice was firm.

I poked a cloud reflected in the water, watching as ripples spread from my fingertip, and I thought about the eternity of water between us and the ocean floor, dark and cold and silent. A dizzy feeling came over me and I flattened myself against the bottom of the boat.

“You still haven’t made your second guess.”

My heart was making sounds like someone running around on the skin of a giant drum. “Is it Dorothy?”

“Has the sun addled your brain? That dog’s been dead for years. She wouldn’t fit in my pocket, anyhow.”

Dorothy always liked to ocean. Sometimes I’d get up before Pa was awake and take her down to the beach. She was usually a loud dog, but she knew to be quiet on those mornings. The only sound was her nails clicking on the linoleum as she paced in front of the door, waiting for me to get my galoshes on.

“Have some water, Kitten.” Pa leaned forward, retrieving the water bottle from where it rested in the bottom on the boat. He brushed the sand off and uncapped it, holding it out to me.

The water was tepid and tasted like pennies, but it made my mind feel less fuzzy. I took another sip.

“You have one more guess, remember.”

I twisted the cap back on the water. “I don’t know. I don’t know, Pa.” And then I was crying, brackish water streaking from my face. I didn’t want to think about the things I wished Pa’s pocket contained. I didn’t want to think about sea stretching from horizon to horizon, our tiny boat just a speck drifting in the endlessness.

Instead, I leaned over the edge of the boat and watch my tears rejoin the ocean. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, saltwater to saltwater. Things always try to return to where they belong. If only Pa and I could do the same.

“Hey.” Pa’s hand, broad and calloused, touched my back. “You don’t have to guess again. Here, you can just have it.” He tucked a piece of paper in my hand.

I rubbed my eyes, looked down. A woman with dark hair and blue eyes smiled up at me, pretty in her white dress.

“Maybe your Mama will send us some luck.”

I kissed her glossy cheek, warm from Pa’s pocket. There was a faint thumping in my ears, growing louder. It could’ve been a helicopter. Or maybe it was just my heart.

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31 thoughts on “Your Story 56 Winner: Pa & Me at Sea

  1. moniquesmiscellany

    I am new to the site and would like to vote for one of the contestants in the story number 56 competition. I apologize if I overlooked where to vote but I just cannot figure it out. I believe I am registered as a member as I logged in. Can someone tell me the steps to vote please?

    1. KristenPeterson

      I, too, am having difficulty finding the stories to vote on. I have submitted, but not sure my entries were ever received. Has this question been answered? Thank you!

  2. Shelby

    Hi Tiffany,

    I also realized the story I submitted did not carry over my italicized text. Is it too late to send it to the email address provided? It’s the same story but missing the italicized words that are in the original. Thanks for your time.

  3. james.ticknor

    Question, Tiffany:

    My story is really dark and vulgar with a scene of a woman being raped. Do violent depictions and obscenities affect my chances at all? I was hoping not because it said we can have it be anything we want, but I also know that the Writer’s Digest Magazine is a lucrative business. Thanks

    1. musstang62

      Hi LJBurke315,

      I asked the same exact question and got an email response awhile back. Word count does not include the title, so the overall story text, excluding the title, can be exactly at 750 words but no longer

  4. The Captain

    I have a question to do with the contest. I have an entry, and I’d like to submit. But I have a preference for use of a penname and was wondering if that was okay/against the rules/whatever. And if it wasn’t, how I should use my penname in submitting my entry. Do I just stick it in the First/Last Name fields, or would I have to send an email with the information included somewhere along with (true) First/Last Name?

  5. codyanewell

    What is the human story? Everyone has theories from Biblical, to Darwin’s Evolution, to the Ancient Astronaut, and to down right luck. What we must not ignore though is the fact why we as humans are able to ask such bold questions when our feline and our k9s companions can not. We can’t possibly ignore the fact that our brains function different from our animal loves. Either way all theories and more than halve of religions can agree we were specificity chosen. What doesn’t go together are the origins of the stories or theories that we are taught though our icons, through our family’s religion, and to our school books.
    Maybe these questions are a little weird for a sixteen year old boy, for a “wild child” as my previous therapist would say. Why on earth am I thinking of my therapists in science class? Mr. Thornburry was one of my favorite teachers. Some might think he is a little out there but in my eyes he is pretty alright.
    “Mr. Dokata do you plan to be in lala forever? Earth to Kingston.” barked Mr. Thornburry.
    You would think he would have just left out the last part, but science to earth, clique.
    “Yes, Mr. Thornburry. Just a little tired.” I replied.
    “Well Mr.Dakota welcome back. Are you tired? Your eyes are a tad red and I am loving that new Cologne.”
    I take that back, this teacher is like the rest here, including majority of the preps as I would call it or socials as my mom would say.
    “Yes, its the new Herbal kind.”
    “Well anyways class. Darwin’s theory of evolution is a pretty simple, but yet complex theoretical system of power to the fittest. We started as small single living organism’s that grew after thousands upon thousands of years. According to popular science belief the theory, which is the best guess of someone’s personal acknowledgement, in which case Darwin proclaimed we are distant cousins to primates…”
    Well I can agree to that one. Marcus Azazel who is in my gym class is like a Wilder beast. Full beard at the age of sixteen, plus they way he acts I classify. He is the head football player on our good Christian school my Nana wanted me to join. Good school I guess, but I do not know anyone and let’s just say I have anxiety issues in social events.
    Mr. Thornburry cuts into my thoughts, I hate taking notes. Give me a laptop and I will type a lot faster. Electronics are not this private schools policy.
    “We use monkeys all the time in our medical experiments, why? They are closest to us of course. Majority of today’s medicine’s, cosmology products, and even some of NASA’s shuttle discoveries owe a thanks to our furry friends. We can’t excuse the physical characteristics of their thumb use, to sign language, and pre grade intellect…”
    So if toothpaste and shampoo was tested on animals why couldn’t I use it on my dog back home?
    I say back home is because I got into a few problems at my folks and people in school. My preference doesn’t mix well with some biblical airheads back home. Even though they want to ignore the fact God mixed the races during their building of the Tower of Babble and the white fold of the sixties got mad at the question of their marriage laws or the fact that women were not allowed to work like men, but we all do these and accepted them today. History does seem to repeat itself but with hate apparently. Yes, a gay guy in a foster care place called Eden Gardens A home for youth. Straight out of Genesis.
    Blah blah blah from Thornburry.
    “If Darwin’s theory is correct though, why can’t they speak and hold intelligent conversations like humans? Why can’t they build marvels like the pyramids, mine for precious minerals and fossil fuels to power their life more comfortable as seen on Planet of the Apes? What is it that makes humans human and not just an intellect deprived shell? Darwin just concluded in a simple explanation we just evolved better with a tad push luck in natural selection process…”
    To me that doesn’t answer my questions, just partial. I personally do not believe in luck, to believe in it involves a high thinking. Is it luck a patient at St. Jude is not even old enough to know right and wrong, but yet cursed with cancer? Is it luck kids across the world are used as pawns in our adult conflicts, as heard about on the War Child page? Is it luck that we are the only beings to feel such pain of our worlds woes across the globe. Even as fast To be able to grasp the idea that their are people suffering on our planet across the globe.
    “The trick is: how do you talk about natural selection without implying the rigidity of law? We use it as almost an active participant, almost like a god. In fact, you could substitute the word ‘god’ for ‘natural selection’ in a lot of evolutionary writings and you’d think you were listening to a theologian’ As quoted by Greg Griffen” said Thornburry.
    “God has played a key character in mans magical theory of natural selection. If considered accurate the Book of Genesis is in fact not a story but a theory or and an experiment on what we are today. Adam, which sounds very close to the small molecule which science calls an atom. Eve obviously plays on the sound eve- lution. Darwin’s natural selection is true, in terms of favoring humans. We shall create man in our image, in our likeness..”
    so that fully answers that question, we were hand selected, the lucky ones.
    “God wanted man kind to bloom and grow. Without acknowledgement of the serpents’ help of course from the forbidden fruit. The true of acknowledgement, as some call today, was banned from man. Not from the “devil” though, but why? Why as Gods best creations were we not allowed to eat or consume the tree? If we hadn’t will we be as ahead as we are today? We’ve created wonderful inventions such as the telephone to cellular, the fire alarms to finger print devices, even to airplanes to travel to and fro to help expand us to one and another to space tourism. We create and upgrade constantly. It what is in our nature..
    Finally class is over. Some times I don’t understand Mr.Thornburry’s idea of the world. He either believes in Science and then he believes in The Bible. I don’t know.
    As I walk into the hallway, I guess you could call it that. Their is four rooms, each with a class in front of each other. Kinda of makes a box with two hallways. One hallway leads to bathrooms and computer lab across the cafeteria. The other hallway runs to the entrance across the teachers room and principle office. I am horrible at explaining where everything is located at.
    “Hey Kingston you want to come and eat with me? My name is Dimitri Saraqael.”
    “That’s an odd last name!”
    “I know my family is an odd family too…”
    “Right!? Isn’t all of our family’s a bit odd, hence why we are all here?”
    Dimitri laughed a little bit and replied
    “Agreed, watch out here comes Marcus and his Brut pack of snobs.”
    Dimitri whispering hastily to me.
    “Wow if it isn’t fag boy and book troll. What’s going on ya’ll finding the good lord yet?”
    One of them who I think is named Mariah Semjaza laughed saying,
    “No just like their parents before them they are reckless heretics.”
    They all laughed and strides away, all seven of them.
    One thought ran into my ADHD mind was who the funk where they?
    Dimitri broke thought or I thought it was thought and said
    “Ignore them Kingston they are the wealthy ones of the schools. So the think just because their parents are big and bad they are good right entitled to be pompous jerks.”
    “Alright, makes since.”
    In reality I am still shockingly clueless. Nothing new in that department. My grandparents had a huge lovely home and my parents home was nothing to complain about, but I wasn’t rich as they are implying. I wasn’t poor either I guess.
    “Well that my cue, later man.” I said to Dimitri.
    “Alright, have fun.” He replied.
    Loads I thought.
    So as I got up and walked down to the principles/counselors office, I couldn’t help but to hear Mr.Thornburry talking to someone. I don’t recall remembering her. Oh, well I am noisy so I have to figure it out.
    I had less than five minutes to ease drop on them and that I did.
    “So Mr. Armos informed us we have all the pieces. We are ready. Hold on a second..”
    I was peering into the crack of the door into his room then I can to the relaxation in Ms.Sareil. which I think is messed up because she is the mom of Ashton, Marcus girlfriend. Head cheer leader of our little private institution.
    “EXCUSE ME, what are you doing out of the cafeteria Mr. Dakota?”
    ” Ummm..”
    I will admit she actually put a chill down my spine. It wasn’t that she was ugly mean, but in fact she was gorgeous. The Colorado sun is doing wonders for her olive skin on her short jet black hair. Pin thin skirt and blouse she was to pretty to bark like a dictator. It was scary, plus an instant buzz kill.
    “I was heading to the councilors office, upon request Ms, Sareil.”
    “Well you need to get where your going and don’t worry about stuff that doesn’t involve you, Mr. Dakota. Head to Mr. Saraqael office immediately.”
    “Is Mr. Saraqael Dimitri’s dad?”
    “No, his uncle Mr.Dakota.”
    Wow, as I headed to his office I am stunned how some of these kids get their parents to work with them, no favorite their. Oh well get the treatment over with then I am out of the wreck place. How I miss hanging with my friends back in the hills, by hills I mean West Virginia. Here we go to his office.
    “Hello Mr. Dakota, welcome to Eden Gardens. I know you are lost and confused, but u can assure you those are normal feelings. For years we’ve been helping youths your age and around to help them better in society. The difference between us then the outside is we work on levels, which you can find in this information pack. I want to tell you we are all the same, we are all sinners, even your condition of Sodom try, trying to be complete in this wonderful life God created for us…”
    Those place gets better and better as I go on, I know. I wanted to tell him its not a condition its just who I love and stuff. I can’t help it, its the way. Was made.
    “Jesus said once to John, if you love and accept God then you will be saved..”
    Well before God even judges anybody he needs to advocate on more bigger problems, such as world hunger or the North Koreans Concentration Camps, sect.
    “I know you are good Kingston I can see it in you and i have a feeling you will see it two. Not today, but one day. Everybody just needs to find their light in themselves.”
    Well if he trully know me and seen my past record he beg to differ.
    Its not that I am bad, but i had a few drug problems back home, which was only God green green, but still illegal in wv, but legal here if 18+. Well the workers here just turn a blind eye on it’s they are well aware though. As lon as try font go over board and use it in widely, I reckon they are okay with it.
    Speaking which I am ready for a small little session myself.
    “Do you understand Kingston, its alright. God has a reason for everything.”
    Something like that, “may I go outside ad smoke.”
    “You can go step out for a five minute reflection time, don’t harm you temple though. You body is Gods vessel, a shielded shell he gave you.”
    Don’t harm my temple, “the sun causes cancer!”
    “Well got a point their Mr,Kingston, I think you will enjoy this place. Have a good day.”
    As I think him, I start to turn around and head to the entrance which is also the exit Anne I head to the trail where the benches are located at. I light my a rolled green CIG., and actually sit back and reflect. I am level five I need to be at least level three to be able to leave by myself for a few hours off campus, yes I am aiming to reach that level.
    Well back to class, almost finished for the day and I have a feeling its going to get better, ignore the sarcasm. Off to English.
    As I was sitting in English class going over Romeo and Juliet, what a waste I thought. The story is sweet, but love is rubbish in my opinion. It doesn’t exist and I’ve seen numerous of my girlfriends back home fall in and quickly fall out. Even after claiming they are in love, love that God says he has been after flooding us and then planning/plotting to destroy us upon his along awaited arrival.
    Just then something landed on my desk, it appeared to be a note, but no name or even clue who passed it. Everyone else is peered into their books, consumed by Shakespeare’s creative writing. Write never has been my top subject. In fact story telling was dead for me, even though this note was very graphic units detail and I fact is more weirder ( if that is a word) then this place.
    It read.
    “You dream t of the dream your ancestors ignored, you will be faced with all the grand secrets. You and you alone are chosen from the Divine to spread this story. Your eyes are no longer your own my child. You’ve grown as expected written at your birth. A friend will be guiding you to your destiny, watch out for their are watchers at every angle in this plan.
    Your Father.”
    What the hell my father? Who the freak here would know him. Oh my goodness this day couldn’t get any weirder.
    Yet my words soon follow my thoughts.
    A loud audible shaken occurred, books feel from Ms. Hollow ways bookshelf. It all happened so fast. The lights flicker on and off the class grew.
    Poor Ms. Hollow as old and frail she is actually to command of the class and hush everyone. Now that was faster then the mini earthquake we just experienced.
    Well class adjourned and off to the semi freedom. Now this is the time everyone splits into their social groups. Some go to the field and play sports, others are in the middle court, some can be found insider their own cottages, the lucky or higher level ones are allowed to leave campus.
    Well I was walking on the main path way to the cottages, as you can probably tell I really don’t have a lot of interests. I dislike sports, still I am fit though. I am not a deep book worm, still a curious learner. I am not really a crafts kinda gay, as most like to believe through a stereo type. I guess I will go find something to get into.
    I walked to the fields, not to play sports but to go and explore the trails n the mountain. It was a nice and sunny day.
    I was walking to the trail when this girl ran up to me and called my name out. I was shocked, sexes are usually split, but every now and again we get to mingle. It was wonderful being able to see a girl. You see I am more used to females then mwles, they are a little more understanding to my condition.
    “Hi, have we meet?”
    “Of course not, but no one new comes here without me hearing about it,”
    “I reckon everyone in this place talks, lovely.”
    Gossip must rave here, drama drama drama.
    “No, just know. Goodbye Cody have fun on the nature walk.”
    “Okay thank you” I say in confusion.
    This place is by definition is wrecked in weird.
    Enjoying the suns rays I hear the bell rings warning for dinner.
    Heading back with heists. Tardiness isn’t acceptable here. So many rules after rules they shove down our throats.
    After dinner we are excused to do chores and the homework. After is cottage lockdown for school studies. It was a repetitive thing around here.
    First night sleep in this personal hell in Earth. It was a tad hot in my room.
    I quickly feel in a deep sleep of consciousness.
    As I was walking Dow. The hallway, I became aware of many voices, screaming more or less wailing at top of their many voices. It was so dark, I can only see a little glimmer of candle lights. It was so cold that my arm hair was standing up, I was yelling for the staff that was supposed to be stationed in our presence at all times for our so called safety. As I continued to the main room, the screams became more audible. It was depressing and scared at the same time because I think I recognized the voices, but not knowing from where. They were yelling terrible things such as..
    As I come to the main room as I should have already explained, the room wasn’t as it seemed. It was made of stone walls instead of the regular wood and not fancy furniture. In its places was magnificent jewels, gold, silver, diamonds. All the wealth I have never seen before but that wasn’t the biggest shock. In the middle of the room where the foo stable since was was now a big dark hole where the screams where coming out loudly. In an instant the room became well lit the gold melted along with the rest of the richer. Snakes appeared and started to take space, while the hole started crumbling and getting bigger. The screams silented and out came a shadow pushing my hard into the hole. I stumbled and fell into what I know awakened knew was Tartarus. God creation that is said to be worse than hell. Falling into the hole, it was frighten. Only hearing myself, not seeing nothing but my own memory images, just to block out the darkest of darkness if possible.
    Hurry and write this down Zachariah, this is important. They are coming to slaughter us my child, this is of urgency you send this to Lord Winston, for his land was chosen for The Divine. The Elect and Holy Children will be back after skipping a couple generations. As God himself deemed them to walk the earth and never be able to read the heavens again. He deemed their punishment. An eternity of roaming this world. Until one day when all houses unit under one, under the fallen ones. They will be deemed to usher in my return. Mankind as it has been since the garden will sin, they don’t know nothing new is under the sun..
    RUN MY CHILD said the old follower of God.
    Satan’s building his army and we must warn for the next age.
    The teen ran out his back door and ran to his horse in haeste to deliver his message.
    Raise and shine everyone, five minutes till breakfast.
    as I was sitting in front of my eggs and turkey bacon i couldn’t help puzzle over my two bizarre dreams. It was puzzling.
    School passes, then off to my favorite class science.
    The great contradiction to this christian school.
    Today was extra wonderful after learning about monkeys yesterday we gt to talk about the creation story some more. Time to take me message in notes.
    Mr. Thornburry gave a gist of yesterdays lesson then started on today’s.
    “Adam and Eve were the first humans, which as we know come from monkeys. Now in Genesis we have the discussion on a particular guy named Enoch. As we know Death is something everyone can agree one, minus one being in the bible that is answered as never has died.”
    Wouldn’t that be something to never be able to die.
    it’s possible
    I was startled I looked around and everyone was intuited on Thornburrys lesson.
    “According to Enoch, the fallen ones, Lucifer seen Adam and Eve what we seen as caveman. Saw these are simple beings, let’s advance them, let us mingle and create better.”
    What was he going on about?
    Pay attention
    I couldn’t tell if I said it or if I lost it completely at this point.
    “He had to figure out how to attract the fruit to their hands, so he tricked Eve. We all know how that went. Later Enoch said that the fallen angels, the bad gang mingled, with the humans. Upon that the primate DNA and the Angel DNA mixed. God was pissed at the ungodly sin. Now my question is what benefits did we gain. Here is your assignment, figure out all traits humans differ from other animals. You have until the end of class.”
    With that everyone started to write. Its obvious isn’t it? We archived self awareness, self conscious. Why is it a sin?
    He said such a mix is a sin, but he didn’t destroy them completely.
    He had a plan for everything, just get ready all will be answered..
    Boom boom boom as somehow not surprising another earthquake. The room shook a little the all of a sudden it became more violent, the room is filled with smoke. Everyone is screaming and there I was knock out..
    To Be Continue..
    Cont. Preview
    It was weird I knew all, but nothing at all. I knew what all our fate was, but I am not able to stop it. I can see the path we are taken and I am not able to fix it. Three points we missed in history, in our history. I doesn’t really matter how good everyrhing works, nothing is perfect. Odd kind of reminds me what Mr.Thornburry would say about Stephan Hawking, nothing in the galaxy is perfect, not even the big bang itself. Weird how we think science is our answer, when in fact it is us, mankind that will decide our fate. Some of us can see through the mist that has been casted or realesed after the flood, for our protection or theirs?
    I got to wake up and tell Dimitri the trap is set, the pyramid is going to light up like the sun. Have five days to await, odd he will arrive on the last day of the week, the seventh day, Sunday and not Sonday. Oh well he promises to direct us and lead us to greater glory for mankind.

    (= tell me what you think at =)

  6. snuzcook

    Hi Tiffany,
    I just realized that entries in the Your Story contests are limited to one entry per person.
    I have already submitted multiple entries in #55 and #56.

    Is there anything I can do, or just chalk it up to experience and limit myself going forward?


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