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August 2018 Writing Challenge

  • 01 Aug 2018 6:52 AM
    Message # 6408067
    Jim Keen (Administrator)

    We all have those vacation stories or just a tale of being lost in the rain. Whether you are on a wrong road or searching for the perfect camp site, we challenge spin you to your story in a thousand words or less.


  • 02 Aug 2018 6:10 PM
    Reply # 6411036 on 6408067

    The Jolly Boy

    He just wanted to get away. He drove down the road and turned off at the first intersection. Then he just drove and drove, making random turns as the whim took him, getting farther and farther from the scene of the crime until he was lost.

    ***********

    In late 1960, the Lenoir County Sheriff sat in the public area of the courtroom in Kinston, NC to listen to the testimony of his deputy. But he had difficulty focusing on the questions and answers because the case bothered him. A few months earlier, a young housewife had been brutally stabbed to death in her own living room, and his mind kept going back to the question of motive because there was no sign of forced entry, nothing was stolen, and the woman had not been sexually molested. It had been a frenzied attack with numerous, deep stab wounds, so the coroner had concluded that the motive was an intense personal animosity.

    Her husband was an outside salesman who could document where he was for most of that day in question. But there was over an hour-long gap at lunchtime when his location could not be verified, so now he was on trial for murder. The case worried the sheriff because his investigation had found no indication of marital problems. Their friends had all described them as a happy, loving couple. And the husband had seemed completely bewildered by the murder and genuinely grief-stricken.

    The sheriff suddenly rose and made his way to his office. He called around to the sheriff offices of surrounding counties to ask for copies of their blotters for the day of the murder. The trial continued during the week while he spent hours poring over the reports. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but perhaps there was something out of place.

    His deputies had taken reports of a young man going door-to-door trying to sell something in the area near the murder scene, but they couldn’t identify the boy. Then something else piqued his interest. The Wayne County blotter reported that a student had stolen a car from a high school. Oddly though, there was no arrest, so he called the DA’s office about the case.

    “I remember the stolen car,” the DA said. “The kid had stolen a knife from a science lab and the teacher had threatened to tell his parents. He panicked, ran out of the building and stole the Driver Ed car. In the afternoon he returned to school and the principal didn’t want to press charges.”

    “Do you remember his name?” the sheriff asked.

    “Let me look,” the DA said. “Here it is. His name is Kenneth A. Jolly”

    “Thanks,” the sheriff said as he ended the phone call.

    When the sheriff questioned Jolly, he immediately broke down and confessed the complete story.

    ***********

    After I left school I just drove around, turning down first one road and then another until I was lost. Then I noticed that the gas was low and I didn’t have any money. The Booster Club was selling pecans that we had picked up on campus and there were some paper bags of unshelled pecans in the backseat. I started going up to houses trying to sell the pecans, but nobody was interested in buying anything. They just told me to leave without even listening to me.

    Then she came to her front door and was nice to me. She invited me inside and offered me some ice tea. I think she just wanted someone to talk to. But when I tried to hold her hand, she pulled away and told me to leave. I don’t know what happened to me, but I just snapped. I pulled the knife out of my pocket and started stabbing her. Blood soaked the front of her dress and she collapsed on the floor. I cleaned up best I could and drove away. I stopped at a country store to get directions and luckily had enough gas to make it back to school. Then I explained the spots of blood on my shirt by saying that I had accidently cut myself.

    ***********

    On July 28, 1961, Kenneth A. Jolly was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder. But he came up for parole in 1974 because he was truly a model prisoner; he didn’t have a single writeup for an infraction of the rules which was nearly unprecedented. During the last two years that he served on his sentence, the prison system had transferred him to a minimum-security facility near Winston-Salem where he had qualified for school-release to attend the nearby community college. He was on the honor roll, served on the college’s SGA, and earned a vocational degree.

    The case generated unprecedented public interest. The parole board was deluged with letters both opposing and supporting his case. The brutality and senselessness of his crime drew many letters from people who thought that 13 years was not long enough for him to serve for murder, and from others who feared that he would snap again. On the other hand, his interactions with faculty and students motivated many glowing letters of support.

    As a condition of his parole, he was ordered to never set foot in Wayne or Lenoir Counties. He had earned a degree in horticulture, so he first found a job as a landscaper and later started his own landscaping business in Winston-Salem. And he never committed another crime. But the mystery of why he murdered the woman is such a brutal fashion still lingers in the minds of the people who were affected by the case.

    Last modified: 10 Aug 2018 8:20 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 03 Aug 2018 8:26 AM
    Reply # 6411779 on 6408067
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    Michael, great story. The question is whether it’s fiction or nonfiction? If nonfiction, it’s a strange story. If fiction, it’s a cool use of the picture prompt! Either way, it’s a good story. 

  • 05 Aug 2018 8:02 AM
    Reply # 6414254 on 6408067

    It's 'creative nonfiction' in the spirit of books like "In Cold Blood."  Google "Jolly Landscaping Winston-Salem" although he would be in his eighties if still alive. I was only in elementary school at the time, but it was a topic of conversation and speculation for years.

    His aunt was my high school English teacher and she lived only a couple of miles from our farm so she was a neighbor in our view. Our farm was halfway between Greenville and Kingston, and the latter was the scene of the court trial. And I worked in Goldsboro (Jolly's hometown) for several years.

    The Lenoir County Sheriff is the hero, but actually I didn't do the story justice because it's truly a story of redemption -- Kenneth Jolly became a well-respected member of society in Winston-Salem.

    Last modified: 11 Aug 2018 8:14 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 18 Aug 2018 8:29 AM
    Reply # 6581020 on 6408067
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    “Casey, Mom’s gone.”

    Lizzie’s words startle me awake and I return to the task of stirring the eggs scrambling on the stove. They were starting to brown. I move the spatula around scraping up the stuck-on stuff from the bottom of the frying pan. A look at my little sister and her words penetrate my sleep-deprived brain. “Gone, where?”

    Lizzie shrugs her thin narrow shoulders, her dark eyes haunted. Mama hasn’t been acting right since bringing baby Charlie home from the hospital. She lifts her chin to the window, rain streaks the dirty panes making gray rivulets. “Down the road.”

    A fearful glance at the ancient bassinet in the corner, and I sigh in relief seeing baby Charlie, still sound asleep in the corner. She hasn’t taken the baby this time. I turn off the burner and set the frying pan on the cold side of the stove. The eggs are already overcooked. My stomach growls and for a minute I consider eating first but I know Joe wouldn’t be happy if I let something bad happen to Mama. The smell of burnt toast and brown eggs isn’t enough to turn my stomach but the threat of the beating I’d get if Joe came home and Mama was still gone, was enough to get me moving.

    “Is she dressed?” I ask as I lift Charlie from his bed. He’s wet.

    Lizzie looks down at her tennis shoes, dragging her toes through the dirt on the worn linoleum. “Sort of.”

    “Elizabeth, is Mama dressed or ain’t she?” I demand, taking Charlie to the eating table to change him. Joe would have a fit but I didn’t care. I didn’t have time to worry about Joe’s sensitive stomach.

    Swallowing so hard I can hear her, Lizzie whispers, “She’s wearing my Halloween costume.”

    Mama hasn’t lost her weight from birthing Charlie, and she’s never been a tiny woman. I frown. “Is Marta here yet?”

    Lizzie’s pig-tails swish from side to side. “It’s Saturday.”

    “Go get Joe,” I order and begin gathering up Charlie’s stuff.

    “What are you going to do?” Lizzie whined.
    “Go get Mama.” I give a nod to the door and Lizzie takes off running to the saw mill.

     I get Charlie and all of his paraphernalia into the old van and fasten him into his car seat. The drizzle is becoming a sprinkle with threat of real rain as I climb into the driver’s seat. I pull the seat as far forward as it will go and I can almost touch the gas pedal. Backing out of the drive, I scrape the mailbox with bumper. I scoot to the edge of the seat trying to see over the steering wheel.

    The dirt road is mushy from all the rain. I drive slow, afraid of sliding into the ditch. Joe pulled some guy out of the ravine last night. He cursed the young man for driving too fast. He’d be real upset if he had to pull his own van from a ditch.

    The mud sucks at my tires, pulling the old van towards the deep farm ditch on the side of the road. I ease to the middle of the road and pray no other vehicles come this way. My hands ache from gripping the steering wheel. I could run faster. The rain and lack of sleep blur my vision.

    I see Mama up ahead, staggering through the thickening mud in her three-inch Sunday heels. The red leather is barely visible through the accumulation of mud. Lizzie’s purple tutu has wilted in the rain. Mom’s wet white panties are nearly translucent. I want to close my eyes but I’m afraid to look away from the road. I roll down my window and call, “Mama!” 

    She ignores me or maybe, she doesn’t hear me as the rain comes down harder.

    Her dark hair is plastered to her head. She is wearing all the costume jewelry from mine and Lizzie’s jewelry boxes. Bright colored beads cover her chest. Her night shirt slaps wetly against her skin as the wind whips the rain in her face.

    I pull beside her and blow the horn. The windows are manual and I cannot reach across and roll down the passenger window.

    The rattle of a truck coming down the road too fast, the thickening mud, the heavy rain, the lack of sleep, the baby crying in the backseat. I panic and whip the van to the side of the road. The van careens into the ditch, sliding in the mud. The rear bumper hits Mama and drags her down with us. My rescue attempt has turned to murder. I’ve killed my Mama. Everything goes black.

    “Casey, wake up, we’re going to be late for school.”

    Opening my eyes, I blink the sleep away and stare at the familiar ceiling. With a groan, I reach for the wheelchair as Charlie comes toddling into our room showing off his new tooth.

     A weary Joe glances in, calling, “It finally broke through.”

    I smile and give Charlie a quick hug. He doesn’t stay put for long. “He’ll be eating steak before long.”

    Joe groans. “He’s already trying to eat me out of house and home.”

    “Just wait until he’s a teenager,” I tease, shaking off the lingering shadows of the nightmare I roll down the hall to the bathroom Joe converted to compensate for my chair.

    “Hump, you and your sister are nearly as bad as a couple of boys,” he grumbles.

    I glance at the empty room as I roll past. The unmade bed evidence of another sleepless night. This one, Charlie’s fault. I look away, as memories flood my thoughts. No time, I need to get ready for school.

     


  • 18 Aug 2018 9:58 AM
    Reply # 6581086 on 6408067

    Sherri,

    Gripping plot with great pacing. The foreshadowing of the accident was well done. But the representation of “Joe” is discordant: as a violent tyrant in the beginning and then as a kindly father at the end. Perhaps a longer version of this story will provide a reason or explanation. Charlie's tooth is a wonderful indication of the passage of time. While present tense works in flash fiction, the first paragraph could have been written in the past perfect tense to indicate that the first part was a flashback dream. I enjoyed reading the story.


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