Your Story 68: Winner!

Beach swim shoes drying on wood fence on Florida BeachPrompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, based on the picture prompt on the left. You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #68 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 300 entries, readers helped us pick “Jasmine Candles” by Julia Mueller as the winner. For winning, Mueller’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

“Jasmine Candles”

by Julia Mueller

Our parents never talked about what happens when you leave home.

You’ll expect to leave crying but you won’t. You won’t cry until your unpacked traveling bags are folded in the wardrobe. In the morning, you’ll wake to someone cooking downstairs. You’ll get busy.

In a bakery you’ll find a man that looks like father. He’ll laugh with wrinkled eyelids shut and a smile pulled taut across his face. He’ll serve you a cup of peppermint tea and without knowing his name you’ll feel at home.

A mail-order novel will have a bookmark between its pages. Something about the generic lamination will strike you with a thirst for authenticity, and so you’ll bake cookies for the neighbor you’ve never met. She won’t be home when you take them over. Later, she’ll trip over the plate and throw it away.

A boy will kiss you in the streets, much to your surprise, so before he touches you, you’ll ask him why. He’ll say that it is because of your beauty, because of what you do to him. You know you never meant to do anything to him, and deep down he probably knows, too.

The first employee in the building one morning, you’ll have to wait for the guard to come unlock the front gate. The pair of you will walk inside together, making small talk. He’ll tell you about how his dog broke off the leash and you will laugh. The guard will laugh, too, ceasing for a moment to be a guard and becoming just a friend walking another friend inside from the cold.

The next morning, you’ll oversleep and get to work late. The first-shift guard will have gone home for the day, and you’ll never see him again.

It’ll seem for a time like the world is dripping with melancholy. An old friend will send a postcard from the coast and you’ll decide you never want to see the ocean; you never want to see something so big and endlessly lonesome. You’ll follow your friends to a party and watch them from the corner the way you’d watch the waves from the shore, a darkly colored sea that you are scared to understand. But a stranger will take you by the hand, and you’ll wade in.

The only market open past midnight will sell tangerines. Orange juice will trickle down your friends’ chins as they laugh, cheering for the vitality of togetherness. Your friends will scream with drunk, uproarious hysteria but it will not drown out the proud drumming in your heart.

When it thunders, you’ll light jasmine candles and imagine it is you up there, cracking whips at the sky. Everything will start feeling different. Better.

A new boy will bump into you in the park. His cheeks will be ruddy even though the cold front’s lifted. He’ll be gentler than the first boy, and move away instead of moving closer. He’ll look at you a little too long, a little too confusedly, and you’ll be polite, making a comment about the brand-new copy of Medea in his left hand. He’ll tell you he has never read it.

Like some cosmic order’s pulling strings, you’ll bump into each other again. He’ll say eagerly that he’s read the whole book, that Medea spoke to him of another world, another set of human emotions running deep down the stitching on the spine. He’ll talk about the book but he’ll be talking about you. When your hand first takes his trembling one, he’ll feel like a gladiator coming home.

You’ll go with him to the seaside, breaking your old promise, wearing reef-walkers over the rocks as you wade out. You’ll trip, falling into the biting cold summertime water, and decide you want to feel the sand underfoot. Taking your soggy shoes, laughing, you’ll hang them to dry, bright pink and awkward on the fence behind the sand dunes. The ocean is still big, endlessly lonesome, but you are not. The boy will catch you in his arms on the shoreline.

I’m no oracle, sister. I could write ‘goodbye,’ but that’s heartless. If instead I tell you about jasmine candles, you will buy some to light. If I tell you about the boy and the beach, you will find both of them soon enough.

I can give you little save the promise of a hearty, storied life. Take what you want of mine and then take the world as your own. I promise that will be enough.


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74 thoughts on “Your Story 68: Winner!

  1. Surlymama

    I vote for Entry B – Like an old memory, comprising scattered but vibrant bits and sensations, the connections between images not always clear, but the impression deep and lasting.

  2. tuileriesrose

    I vote for Entry B, Jasmine Candles. I agree with one of the comments – it’s a beautiful story told in a beautiful quiet voice. I have read plenty of short stories and they come in many forms. This one has the feel of epistolary fiction, but in the snapshot of a short story, moving and real. The prompt picture clearly did what it was suppsed to – it is not the focal point, but it somehow prompted some aspect, some emotion inside the writer that spurred the story. I thank the writer for sharing that emotion with me.

  3. Lifedancer

    While I will concede that it story B Jasmine Candles does not clearly show the influence of the picture prompt, and also that the style feels more like poetry than short story, I am still voting for it because it spoke to me the loudest but using a beautiful quiet voice. In just a few words, years of memories and feelings were unlocked in me and bittersweet tears stung my eyes.

  4. lordandladym

    OK. I have read them all and I am voting for Entry B. In my opinion, it is the best overall.
    I disagree with the comment below about the language being too poetic (is that possible? lol). I think that the writer somehow managed to weave beautiful language into a unique story. The imagery is real and the second-person style sets it apart. The other stories are clever, evoke emotion and and nicely written, but in my opinion, B is just shows a higher level of skill.

  5. CJ

    Entry A – Twin Sneakers is the best. The author got the feelings, descriptions, and dialogue of the children just right Also, the story unfolds slowly, keeping the reader’s interest; and the familial love is clearly and tenderly expressed.
    If we could choose a second place, it would be D- Delinquents. Nice, humorous twist to this story.
    My comments on B – Jasmine Candles: The use of second person POV is awkward in this piece. It read like a list with a few details thrown in. Perhaps it would be better executed as a poem. Lastly, the story seemed to revolve around the candles rather than the shoes in the prompt.

    1. cata

      Entry A reads as a deeply authentic and vivid account of a human experience. I could easily relate to the story line due to the excellent choice of words and the various moods that the author created with certain words. Moreover, the author’s choice of words were precise. While other entries were fine, some read as artificially prompted sentiments, accounts of an experience. I enjoyed Entry A’s wholesome approach to relationships and the flowing writing style that took me along for a wonderful and sad ride. Congrats to the author for a moving piece.

  6. booksbooksbooks

    I read them all and my vote is for Entry B, Jasmine Candles. I agree with the comments about the writing style, descriptive language and distinctive voice/story. They set it apart from the others.

    1. pagi

      Ahhh, but if someone writes fiction using the descriptive language style as well as the writer of Jasmine Candles, it is almost like poetry. It easily creates detail that allows the reader to envision the scenery and events in their minds. – a crucial measure of exciting writing.

      1. booksbooksbooks

        I agree. While the other has a twist at the ending, Entry B’s story, language and writing style is just better overall. They were all fun to read, but B really touched me, stylistically and emotionally.

  7. queenelizabethIII

    Entry B – Jasmine Candles. I’ve been reading ‘Your Story’ entries for a while now and this is one of the best essays I’ve read in a long time. Very moving.


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