Your Story 58 Winner: Commit This to Memory

Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, based on this prompt: You come home from a relaxing vacation and realize you have the wrong suitcase.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #58 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 400 entries, readers helped us pick “Commit This to Memory” by Mat Hritz as the winner. For winning, Hritz’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

Commit This to Memory
by Mat Hritz

This is really important. I have to tell you before I forget; my life depends on it. I have this condition. I can’t remember what it’s called, but I have a hard time remembering things. The doctor says it’s incurable so I figured I better live it up. I’ve been all around the world—at least that’s what my assistant Cucumber tells me. Cucumber is what I call him. I don’t remember why, but I can’t remember his real name. He’s a nice fellow and very helpful, but I don’t like being taken care of. You don’t get on the Forbes list by letting other people take care of you—you do the damn work yourself.

That’s why I leave myself little notes. Those little yellow guys are my lifelines. I’ll leave notes everywhere just to remind myself of the simplest things. Even vacationing can be hard because I sometimes mix up my memories and I need Cucumber to help me straighten things out. He remembers when I write myself a note, but I never do.

So when I saw one of my notes on the suitcase next to me on the bed, I was intrigued. I don’t know if I told you this but I have this condition where I don’t remember things and I didn’t remember writing any notes. So I slid the suitcase across the bed toward me and read the note. It said, Get rid of this. This wasn’t even my suitcase, so I couldn’t keep it. Maybe that’s what I meant by get rid of it. I wasn’t sure.

“Hey Cucumber! What is this?” He didn’t respond.

I carefully lifted the jaws of the strange suitcase to reveal a heap of bloody clothes and a wallet. The driver’s license inside was Cucumber’s. Confused, I started to panic and wished I hadn’t opened it.

“Cucumber, where the hell are you?” I couldn’t wait for him anymore. I stood up but I could hardly walk as my head throbbed in pain and my balance was thrown off by a sudden dizziness. “Cucumber!” I kept yelling. I slowly made my way to the bedroom door and opened it. “Cucumber, where are you? Something’s wrong!”

On the living room floor was Cucumber’s body covered in blood, his face twisted in a horrific expression that I couldn’t even bear to look at.

“Oh, God!” I cried. I scrambled for the phone on the end table but I had a hard time gripping it as if my fingers were buttered, and my heart, humming bird wings. I struggled to dial 9-1-1 as my head throbbed and my vision blurred.

“9-1-1, what’s the emergency?” The voice on the other end sounded like it was in a tunnel. I was on the verge of losing consciousness.

“Hurry, please help! I think someone has broken into my house. I’m bleeding! My assistant is on the floor. I think he’s dead! Please help!”

“OK, try to remain calm, sir. Where are you? What’s the address?”

I couldn’t remember. You see I have this condition where I don’t really remember things. “I … I’m not sure. I’m at home. My name’s Jonathan Sweeney. Please just hurry!” As gravity and exhaustion pulled me down, I blacked out on the floor next to Cucumber. That was the last thing I remembered before waking up in the hospital handcuffed to the bed.

“Mr. Sweeney, it’s very important you tell me everything you remember,” my lawyer said.

“I already did. Now get me the hell out of here!” I tried to break my left hand free from the handcuff.

“Soon enough. Our case is in good shape. The fact is that your assistant, Anthony ‘Cucumber’ McCumber, had embezzled both your personal and business funds and changed the beneficiary on your life insurance before trying to kill you. Thankfully you managed to overpower him in self defense.”

“What?” I asked. “That’s not what happened. There must have been a break-in. Cucumber would never do that!”

“John, you killed him in self defense. That, coupled with your Alzheimer’s, you’ll be off the hook.” He stood up and smiled before leaving. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Everything’s going to be all right.”

I asked a nurse for some paper and a pen and started writing it all down. I’m no killer, he’s wrong. That’s why I had to write the truth down. Commit it to memory before I forget. You see I have this condition …



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16 thoughts on “Your Story 58 Winner: Commit This to Memory

  1. Amyithist

    I’m pretty upset right now. I thought I’d submitted my story, but I can’t seem to find it. I know it won’t be judged and I realize that it’s over and in the process of voting, but here is my prompt. AND since it won’t be considered for judging anyways, I added some details. LOL Now I’m going to go cry.

    Close Call

    Finally! I’m home.
    I dropped my suitcase in the foyer, propping it up against the wall. My house, in all of its quaint glory, welcomed me back with scents of lemon cleaner and fresh laundry. Thank God for maid service, I thought, shrugging out of my blazer. I threw the jacket to the floor, too exhausted to worry about putting it in its rightful place. Besides, Rosa would be by tomorrow and she could put it away. That’s what I pay her for.
    Satisfied with my bigot-driven reasoning, I trudged into the living room and plopped down into the sofa. How could I be this drained after a week in Cancun? Probably because you partied like you were twenty-one, a voice inside my head answered back. Well, there was that…
    I glanced over at the suitcase leaning against the foyer wall; mocking me with a task I had no intention of performing until tomorrow morning. And so began the inner war of whether or not I should just do it now and get it out of the way or wait until tomorrow and…screw it. I groaned as I stood back up and walked back into the foyer.
    I grabbed the suitcase, huffing under its weight. I walked up the stairs and down the short hallway to my bedroom. As I opened the door, the setting sun cast gentle amber shards of light through the slats of my blinds. The room was neat and tidy; just the way I preferred it. Maybe Rosa deserves a raise, I thought, smirking as I crossed the threshold into my room. A feeling of great relief and appreciation washed over me as I swung my luggage onto the bed.
    I begrudgingly set to task, yanking the zippers apart. Even as my fingers slipped between the lips of the flap, I knew something was off. I looked down into the mouth of suitcase, my mind beginning to whir as I stared at it for a long moment, seemingly frozen. Once my body was capable of movement, I bent and began to flip through the unfamiliar clothing. My heart beat against my chest as the reality became more and more clear: This wasn’t my luggage!
    Just as my nerves were about to spiral out of control, my cell phone jangled to life, startling me. My stomach lurched as I pulled the phone out. It was a number I didn’t recognize.
    “Hello?” I asked, breathless.
    “Is this George Howard of Tacoma, Washington?” An unfamiliar voice sounded on the other end. At first, I couldn’t gage his emotion. Proceed with caution.
    I swallowed. “Yes,” I replied, my fingers begin to tingle as anxiety coursed through me. I closed my eyes, willing myself to settle down.
    “Oh good,” the man on the end sounded elated. “I think you have my suitcase. I have yours, but I didn’t open it yet. I got your number from the card.”
    An edge of relief slid into my gut; but the anticipation quickly stomped it out. “Thank goodness,” I said, forcing a chuckle.
    “Great minds think alike, huh?” The comment caught me off guard.
    “What do you mean,” I asked.
    “We bought the same suitcase,” he said, chuckling. “Where can we meet so that I can give this back to you?”
    I began to tremble as I closed the stranger’s suitcase back up. “Where are you now?”
    “I’m in Everett. We can meet halfway tomorrow…”
    “No,” I blurted, cutting him off. “I have some presentation notes in there I need to get tonight,” I lied.
    The man sighed. I imagined driving to a neutral local was the last thing he wanted to do after a long flight, but he reluctantly agreed. “All right, man. I understand. How about we meet at the South Center Mall? Let’s say 10 pm? I need to grab a quick shower and something to eat.”
    I rolled my eyes at the banter and nodded. I didn’t care what he needed to do; just that I got my suitcase back. “Fine, fine, that’ll work. 10 pm, South Center Mall…”
    Before he could say another word, I flipped my phone shut. If anyone found out what was in that suitcase… My stomach roiled up into my throat as I made my way to my car. Don’t think about that, I thought. Why not, the other voice pushed through. It’s a perfectly logical worry to have. You fucked up. You’re done. Groaning at myself, I threw the stranger’s case into the back seat and quickly slammed the door shut.
    For a moment, I stood in my driveway, imploring myself to calm down. The breath of the night air was hot and heavy and smelled of lilacs and hydrangeas. I took in a mouthful of air and closed my eyes. Everything is going to be okay. Don’t bet on it, the voice sounded again. Why did it always have to be there? “Go to hell,” I muttered as I hurried to the driver’s side. I slid behind the wheel, sighing at the stifling cab.
    I rolled the window down. The remnants of a scorching day lingered in the encroaching night’s air, offering little reprieve from my vehicle’s stuffy disposition. In the distance, the last bit of sunlight singed the horizon with its hot orange glow. How many more of these are you really going to have, came the voice. You can’t run from what you did. I shook my head, forcing the reason from my thoughts. I had to focus on getting my suitcase back. There would be time for worry later; for now, I had to center myself. Don’t get caught.
    By the time I reached the South Center Mall, I was a wreck. I circled the parking lot for a moment before spotting a lone vehicle near the west entrance. He must have just arrived. He was probably rifling through your suitcase, the voice snickered. He knows everything now.
    The man waived at me from his parking stall and I quickly wheeled my car next to his. He was smiling; which meant he hadn’t opened the baggage. This time a torrent of relief flooded over me and I grinned. “Thanks for coming down,” I said, sticking my hand out to him.
    He nodded at me, shaking my hand. “Sure.” He opened the side door do his van and pulled my bag. My heart felt as if it were going to explode and I urged myself not to faint. Stay cool!
    We quickly exchanged luggage and, as the man boarded his Astro-minivan, I silently thanked whatever higher power was responsible for this bit of good luck. The minivan squealed away and I felt a gush of relief fill me. I threw my bag into the passenger seat and climbed into the car, reaching for the luggage. My fingers trembled as I tugged at the zippers; so much so that I had to pull away and take a moment to breath. But I had to see them. Now!
    Once the dizziness subsided to a manageable degree, I fumbled with the luggage, practically tearing the zippers. I dug into the center where I’d hidden the photos and pulled them out. I gaped down at the poloroids, shivers snaking down my spine. The pictures didn’t do what I’d done justice. The details were gory, but not nearly as bad as what it looked like when I was there…in person. I took a moment to revel in the details; the way the knife felt in my hand just before I plunged it into my victim’s chest.
    I remembered her the same way one would remember a sunny day; the way her hair glinted beneath the moonlight, the way her toes looked as they dipped beneath the surface of the water… She was fun; a conquest that I thoroughly enjoyed conquering. Now? She was a body drifting in the Florida Keys; probably consumed by the American Alligator at this point. Thank God for bayous, the voice sounded. “You again,” I muttered.
    You can’t get rid of me. I’m here and I’m telling you now…there’s always a way for these sort of sins to come back to you. I sucked in a sharp breath, taking one last glance at the mutilated body before I stuffed them back into the center of the luggage. “That isn’t going to happen,” I said aloud. “I made sure of that.” Question is, is it going to happen again? I couldn’t answer that question. I sighed.
    Thank God the man hadn’t looked inside the suitcase. Yeah, because then you’d have to kill him, too, the voice offered in a mocking tone. I looked in the mirror, smiling at my reflection. The man behind the cold, empty eyes stared back, unflinching. “If you aren’t careful, I’ll have to kill you, too.”

  2. David

    I can access all of the 58 stories in the forum, but I don’t appear to have the ability to vote on a winner. When I try and register it takes me to my profile page? Am I doing something wrong?

      1. cheri55422

        Sending it to that email gets you passed around to another email and no one answers the question about why you can’t vote. I have the same issue, and no one seems to give a good golldarn

  3. JoseCordova

    The prompt says “YOU come home…”, but can the story be written in the third person, with myself not necessarily being one of the characters?


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