Your Story #99: Winner

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.
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  • Prompt: Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt above. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Unfortunately, we cannot respond to every entry we receive, due to volume. No confirmation emails will be sent out to confirm receipt of submission. But be assured all submissions received before entry deadline are considered carefully. Official Rules

Entry Deadline: July 08, 2019

Out of nearly 200 entries, WD editors and readers chose this winning entry by Lori Straub of Cincinnati.

Across the Grass

The two events were fused forever after in Florida’s seductive heat, sewn together like the felt scales racing up her back. She didn’t have to wear the costume until school on Monday, but for the rest of her life it would be impossible to remember that Saturday night without feeling the wind rifling up against the green fabric, her skin hot and tingling underneath in the welcome darkness of the alligator’s body. All day Sunday there was an unnatural flush to her face, and she was almost relieved when the weekend was over to tuck herself inside the scratchy folds of her brother’s old Halloween costume. Grass clippings had settled in the front legs, tickling her knees, and it had a familiar car smell from their garage that made her feel safe.

She was 16 years old, and it felt like a dangerous secret even then. It was a tantalizing danger though, knowing that a word could set you free. It could turn a girl into a gator, your life and its boundaries into something you slipped through like water. It was a kids’ game—Truth or Dare—but the five of them played in her backyard that night after drinking wine coolers in the park. Logan spotted the costume when it was his turn to dare her.

“Alligator for a day,” he announced. “School, soccer practice, all day Monday until you go to bed.”

The rest of them said she’d never do it, but he knew better. They grinned at each other across the deck in their T-shirts and flip flops, the smell of bug spray and jasmine everywhere, a sprinkler clicking in the distance. He’d been her neighbor since her family moved from Indiana two years before. People always thought they liked each other, but she had a boyfriend who went to Plantation High School across town.

No one warns you about Florida in the springtime though—how the air is already humid, but it hesitates in the dark. There’s a heaviness to it that’s so sensual and slow it’s almost unbearable. It steadies you and sets your heart racing all at once.

That April night tasted like cherries. It fizzed on her tongue, and when Jason dared Logan to kiss her, she already felt her world shifting. It’s funny how afterward—her body coiled tight in a green cocoon, the wind whipping through the gator’s white teeth on the ride to soccer—it wasn’t the kiss that she remembered. Instead she saw herself walking across the yard with him, the thick blades of grass coming up like velvet around her feet. It’s that walk that stayed with her—all that possibility and wonder and freedom. He led her away to kiss her, but for the rest of her life she’ll always be the one walking ahead, leading someone else or wandering on her own to a place she’s never been.

It’s too soon today to know the real danger, how much is at stake. It’s such an exhilarating secret that she burrows down deep into the costume where no one can see her. She’s Spiderman burning with fever, radioactive from the power of a dare. It’s a loophole, a time machine, a one-way ticket from the life that she knows. Maybe more than anything it’s a drug, and she’ll search for that high the rest of her life. Sometimes she finds it on hot Florida nights, but sometimes she loses everything. It’s a restlessness—a school kid’s whisper in the dark—but it’s too bright out and an alligator’s eyes are too far apart to see anything but sunlight racing toward her.

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