Dandelion Press’s second micro-fiction contest of 2018 prompted a brilliant wave of creative explorations from our global community of writers. Once again we had the pleasure of reading inspired tales from storytellers of all ages, from coast to coast and beyond. Kathryn’s Drift spoke to our writers of the longing for home as well as adventure and the love of family—both human and canine!
But what we loved best was Marion Canning’s invocation of a long-ago watery adventure from the dogs’ perspective: a memory that sets her story roundly in the subtle domain of mystery, emotions, and visionary daring. In this reversed viewpoint, Kathryn is simply a backdrop to her canines’ canniness. An enchanting literary leap—Congratulations to our Spring 2018 winner!
We also had our hearts stolen by a young writer from Malaysia, thirteen-year old Alisya Amran. Her story, “Of Open Seas and Home,” earns Honorable Mention among the many submissions we received. With beautifully crafted imagery and wisdom perhaps beyond her years, she takes her readers on a journey of independence, heart-centered courage, and inspirational love of life. Tahniah Alisya!
Our next MicroFiction contest will be posted late June, so please keep those pencils sharpened and imaginations whirring. We look forward to new and returning writers! Even if you have submitted stories in the past, please be sure to re-read the Contest Guidelines (link) as we have updated some important information there.
Happy Summer to All!
The Winning Story
By Marion Canning - South Hadley, Massachusetts
The view down the slope from the terrace to the lake was overgrown with brambles and rangy gorse from many years of inattention. A faint summer breeze wafted over Buster's grizzled black and white muzzle as he lay quietly on the moss covered terrace. He gazed at the soft molded mountains on the far side of the lake. The hills reflected the afternoon glow from the west and the sun felt good on his back. The lazy day brought back memories when he was a young captain. Then the sloping lawn had been manicured like expensive velvet where he and the rest of the crew romped and tumbled over each other as they were let out of the kennels by O.B. They would chase exuberantly down to the pier skidding to a stop before jumping into the water or wait expectantly for Miss Kathryn to return from an outing aboard the Kathryn's Drift. The raft, now a forgotten childhood summer plaything, built for the children's amusement when they were home on holiday, had long ago settled itself in the mud. Reeds engulfed its raggedy sail. Pollywogs grew into frogs year after year in the folds and creases of the yellow sail cloth. Turtles basked, in the heat, on the decaying logs.
Buster yawned and, in dog, said, "McDuff, do you remember the time Miss Kathryn, you, the crew, and I were on an excursion to the Longwood picnic and that big thunder storm came up?" From under a worn wicker chaise came a testy reply in sharp, dog brogue. "Of course I remember!" McDuff was showing his age, like Buster, and he didn't like his naps disturbed. He struggled to get his pudgy body out from under the piece of lawn furniture. His short little legs were stiff from years of chasing rabbits and croquet balls and jumping on and off Kathryn's Drift. Buster continued, "The lake was roiling and Tassie fell off the stern. I had to grab her and pull her back on board all while holding the flapping lines for the sail. Sam and Cricket scurried under the picnic blanket for safety. I posted Jasper and Jasmin as lookouts for a place to go ashore if Miss Kathryn was frightened. But she wasn't. No. She was a ragamuffin that summer. Remember how she held you in her lap to comfort you because you were afraid of the thunder and lightning? I gave orders to keep on course even in the worst of the torrent and when we arrived at the lodge everyone rushed to greet her and us- her intrepid crew. I remember every small detail of that day."
McDuff had shuffled over to his old chum and was sitting on his haunches staring at him with disbelief. He sniffed, "I beg to differ! What do you mean I was scared of the thunder and lightning? I was justifiably employed on Miss Kathryn's lap. She picked me up because she was cold. I kept her warm. I remember I was the Captain that day. I ordered Jasper to take care of Jasmin because she was too close to the edge. We would have made it to the lodge in great form if Tassie hadn't let the tiller fall into the water and then, like the bloomin' pup she was, she fell in. I did my duty and jumped in after her. I kept the sail full of wind even though the lines were in knots and I couldn't steer. I could hardly see the shore the rain was so heavy. I remember that day perfectly. Your memory is fading old man and I don't recall weather ever hampering me!” "Surely you jest McDuff," yawned Buster.
From the depths of the old brick manor came a pleasant, familiar whistling. Buster and McDuff waited expectantly for Miss Kathryn to finish feeding the chickens and to appear on the terrace. She was now their grown up companion and mistress. "There you are. It's time for our walk," said Kathryn. Buster's tail thumped pleasantly and McDuff's stubby tail wagged like a crazy metronome. They jostled each other for her caresses then started off down the grassy alleyway. Buster trotted out ahead sniffing the air showing McDuff he was at the helm. Then he ambled back and walked alongside his friends.
They passed the now abandoned kennels and followed the long drive towards the front of the main entrance. Weeds and wild daisies flourished in the lane. But this was not true when they came to a small grove; a place, cool, shadowy and serene. One could not detect a stray blade of grass or nasty weed anywhere. Here, overlooking the lake was laid to rest High Hill's many canine friends and other animals. Though Miss Kathryn walked on, the two dogs stopped and lay down in the shade near their departed playmates. McDuff mused, "I loved the luxurious life we lived those long summers together." The little dog's reverie was broken when Buster's still sharp hearing caught a familiar sound. Up at the house he could hear O.B. setting out their dinner pans in the kitchen yard. "Up old man," coaxed Buster. It's suppertime." The two had some work catching up to Kathryn as she was almost home. Buster held back and let McDuff reach her skirts first.
That night they followed their mistress up the worn, oak, staircase to bed. They found their places on the quilt at the bottom of the bed and fell asleep alongside each other. Just before midnight a howling summer thunder storm came roaring across the lake and hung over High Hill. Wind slashed at the windows and rain gushed down the spouts and lightning lit up the room. Buster raised his sleepy head off the cozy spread and watched McDuff, as befitting a loyal Captain, scoot under the covers to protect Kathryn from any real or imagined harm. Buster yawned and stretched and went back to sleep.
Of Open Seas and Home
by Alisya Amran - Age 13 Seremban, Malaysia
It’s always those little moments. Those few seemingly insignificant moments while she’s drifting along the water, rain in her boots and Ajax curled up at her feet. Those moments where she wonders what would have happened if she had never tried to escape. Would she still be forcefully groomed in the ways of an heiress? Would she still continue to travel the path paved with greed and power? Would she still be herself?
Ajax howls at her and she stops wondering.
On rare occasions, she meets people out on the open sea. Fishermen hoping to make a living, families out on a boat trip and, though seldom, drifters just like her.
At first, there’s surprise. Surprise at why such a young girl was out at sea all alone. They try to take her with them, thinking she’s lost or stranded with nowhere to go to, but she always declines, paddling a safe distance away from them so that they won’t start grabbing at her – it’s happened before, but Luna bit him in the hand and he left shortly after.
Some particularly persistent people try using persuasion, saying that they only want to help her and that she’ll find a nice family to settle into if she comes with them. They’re all lying, of course, even if they’re not aware of it yet. She’s seen posters of herself nailed onto trees and scattered on the ground. They all bear hefty rewards for those who bring her back to her mother.
If there’s one thing she’s learned from thirteen miserable years of living with her mother, it’s that greed overpowers all other emotions. People have fought, tortured and killed each other because of their own greed, how can she be sure if someone truly wants to help her or just wants the wealth that comes with it? Even the kindest of people can and will fall victim to the monster inside of them.
She much prefers the company of dogs over humans. Dogs have no need for things like money, they can’t lie or fake emotions unlike all the deceitful people she’s met and they’ll love you unconditionally, no matter what.
Every time she stumbles across a stray or wounded dog, she sees herself. She sees a lost soul wandering the earth in search of a home. She sees someone who’s been beaten to their breaking point by those who were supposed to love and care for them. She sees a drifter, just like her. And she takes them in. She gives them a home and, in return, they give her one.
Ajax, Luna, Snow, Max, King, Carnation and Crimson. They’re the ones that keep her going, they’re the ones that make cold, rainy days bearable. They’re her true family.
She loves the ocean. She loves the sound of waves crashing against stone, the droplets of water decorating her worn jeans, Max’s joyful face as he paddles through the water to catch fish for her. How her raft rocks and lurches with every ripple of water, how the blanket she had as a child sways and dances in the wind, acting as a make-shift sail, how the tiny flame in her oil lantern flickers weakly in an attempt to keep her warm during winter. Everything about being out in the open sea gave her a feeling of peace, of bliss, of utter euphoria.
There’s no denying the bond she shares with the sea. Her eyes constantly fluctuated between dark turquoise and cobalt blue, mirroring the colors of the water she loves so much. The smell of foam and sunlight clung to her like a second skin, indistinguishable from the ocean. Every breath of salty air, every splash of seawater against her bare feet, every stray fish nibbling at her toes, these little things are what keeps her alive.
She’s glad she chose to set sail all those years ago instead of keeping her head down and suppressing the wild ocean living inside of her. She’s glad she chose the uncertain, rocky path to freedom instead of the safe, carefully-paved road everyone else took, leading to nothing but regret. She’s glad because she’s strong now. She’s an independent young girl of fifteen who knew of things far more important than mathematics and science. She knew the secrets to happiness, to self-love, to life. Secrets whispered into her ear in the dead of night through gentle breezes and colorful seashells.
That’s the only word capable of even touching the subject of why she left home. Wanderlust is like a sickness, a disease that consumes the mind and urges you to move, to run, to fly. It stirs up long-buried thoughts and emotions that sends energy thrumming beneath your skin and wild, unimaginable ideas flying through your head. It tempts you and taunts you, choking you with an intense longing for something new, something more than the same, boring routine you follow day after day. It doesn’t matter where your feet take you, forwards, backwards or sideways. You can go anywhere, as long as you’re going somewhere.
Wanderlust drew her to piles of driftwood and gave her a raft. It showed her an old, tattered blanket and gave her a sail. It led her to the seashore and gave her a journey.
She’ll never be able to thank it enough.
She didn’t regret running away, she never did. She had traded a life of wealth and comfort, the respect of everyone around her, a billion-dollar estate, for a raft and seven dogs. And she would do it all again. You can say that she’s stupid, you can say that she’s crazy, but don’t you ever, even for a second, say that she isn’t happy.
Because all she needs is the serene song of the ocean beating in time with her own cheerful little tune, the yips and barks of her dogs as they play together and just a little bit of warmth. Just a little bit of home.