The 2012 Central PA Writing Contest announced its winners March 29 at York College with two award winners selected from 220 qualifying entries consisting of original, unpublished work.
The first-place winner was Pennsylvania-born Laura Hirneisen Fast for her work titled “Deal.”
She is an author of short fiction, poetry and genre fiction, and her literary work has appeared in the journals and anthologies Blueline, Caduceus, Word Riot and Wigleaf. Fast now lives in Lancaster County where she works as a jack-of-all-trades for her family’s contracting company and pursues writing in her spare time.
The second-place prize went to Jo Landis for her work titled “Salt.” Landis grew up in Manhattan; her writing career began when Seventeen magazine published her poems. Now a resident of Troxelville, Landis writes and paints.
Each piece was reviewed by preliminary judges — York College professors Travis Kurowski, David Walters and Vito Grippi, and by final judges — Ted Sickler, editor of Central PA; regional author Marion Winik; Dr. Travis Kurowski of York College; and witf President Kathleen Pavelko.
DEAL by LAURA HIRNEISEN FAST
In the bathroom at my friend Eloisia's house, I take the pink Bic from the bathtub. I've been locked inside for a long time, sitting in the toilet seat with my jeans still on, because she's a little afraid of me, she doesn't say anything at first. which is fine with me because i need a break from her and i just need a break from everything for a while - some, like, time to not be bugged. I'm not looking at the Bic because I don't want to think yet, I'm not sure what I'll do with it.
Eloisa’s bathroom is cleaner than any I’ve ever seen. Her mom painted a goldfish mural on the wall and the counters are all marble. Anyway, I think it’s real marble, but I’m not sure. The air smells like a mint-dipped gardenia, exotic fresh. The toilet seat is soft and filled with air. I like it here. I like the unsound.
Eloisa is my friend just for this room where I pretend I belong in her house, that I’m the sister she never had or her mother or maybe even Eloisa. I’m in love with her dad. He’s half-Italian and half- English, with buttery hair and chocolate eyes, and I want to kiss him or at least hug him and once I did when I slept over but he just got a weird look on his face like I hugged him too long or something. He’s an engineer, and his company sends him to Europe for weeks to design banks and office buildings and malls.
My mother spins his trips into mafia stories. “We’re all gonna get whacked,” she tells me before I go to Eloisa’s. Usually, she’s doing Jim Beam and Pabst, her blend. “You hang out with that rich mob family, you’re gonna get us all whacked.”
There’s one thing Eloisa and I have in common: We hate our moms. I think Eloisa is friends with me because I make her mother so nervous she floats around for the first 45 minutes after I get here, making sure I don’t put the Waterford bookends into my backpack or get my lipstick on her hand towels. She says she likes au naturale for girls our age, and she looks at me when she says this, like 13 isn’t old enough for makeup. Her hair is blonde and it smells like flowers and once when she was making us pancakes in her giant kitchen I touched it to see if it was as soft as it looks. It is.
After a few minutes of staring at the Bic, I begin dissecting it. Wholes don’t appeal to me anyway. As a kid, I took everything apart: my mom’s alarm clock, the remote control, heads of lettuce, note pads, anything I could find. I had to poke everything into tiny pieces with my fork before I ate it. My mom used to tell me it made sense that I liked to ruin things, that I got it from my old man. But she doesn’t talk about my dad much anymore.
The seashell-colored tile pricks my feet with cold as I pick out the razor. In the aquatic-themed bathroom, the sharp edge shines like a silver fin. When I drag the razor across my arm, blood appears in a thin, strawberry-colored line.
I’m bummed. I expected more. Darker. A puddle on the floor. In the movies, there’s always oozing rivulets, stains and gore. Maybe I should have cut deeper, but this tiny score stings. I blink but I won’t cry because I’m not some stupid baby.
I’m trying not to think about how after I leave Eloisa’s house, I’ll go home to my mother’s new boyfriend, Don. Last night he pushed his hand up my skirt before she got home from her waitressing gig. That’s what she calls it, a gig, like she’s Joan Baez flitting through town to sing. Like it’s temporary.
Don isn’t so bad, I guess, but his hands are hairy and that tickles. He’s better than Al, who always smelled like black licorice because he kept it in his jeans and would say things like “why don’t you see what’s in my pocket for you” in a creepy voice as if I were some pukey 6-year-old who still got excited about candy. And anyway, I never ate the licorice because of what he did with it.
Eloisa knocks on the door. “I have to pee. Are you coming out soon?”
Her voice is muffled and I bet she’s talking into her stuffed rabbit, Mr. O’Hare. She’s probably holding him to her face and twirling her hair the way she always does when she gets nervous. Like, doesn’t she realize girls our age don’t walk around with stuffed animals? Honestly, she embarrasses me.
“Go away, Eloisa. Are you being a baby and hugging that stuffed thing again?”
I am mean to her. Always. Eloisa is a toddler, a bedwetter. Eloisa is stupid. Even her name is stupid, reeking of stale paper in crusty old family photo albums and great- aunts who smell like cat pee. Eloisa can’t deal.
Deal is a word my mother uses. She says, “Kid, I gotta hand it to you, you can deal.” Usually, this is when I’m mopping the puke off her chin.
Blood is actually starting to form on my arm now, and I can’t put the Bic back together, so I wrap it in toilet paper and throw it in the trash can. After a while, I leave the bathroom, holding my arm against my side so Eloisa can’t see the mark.
Her cheeks are wet and she’s holding the stupid bunny and we just look at each other and I swear she knows what I was doing but is too afraid to say it. She goes into the bathroom with the rabbit and there’s no sound between us except for water running. When she comes back out, I see red on a crumpled tissue in her hand and I know she knows for sure.
“Don’t say anything,” I warn her, and then I pinch her arm until she starts crying again.
She hugs her rabbit and runs into her room, jumps inside her bed and pulls the covers way up to her chin like that’s going to keep her safe. I follow her because I don’t have anything better to do.
Eloisa’s bed is white and her quilt is pink in a bedroom with pink walls. I think her room would be cooler painted black, or maybe even gray, but she said her mom wouldn’t let her change it so it just looks like a baby’s room. It’s probably been this way since her mom and dad brought her home from the hospital in matching booties.
She’s still holding onto the rabbit and from between her small fingers, I see a hint of white tissue spotted with my strawberry- colored blood. I wonder why she’s clasping it so tight in her hand, why she didn’t just throw it away in the first place.
WHAT IS CUTTING?
A form of self-injury usually done with a razor or other metal object, cutting generally only involves superficial wounds on the arm. Most cutters do not intend to commit suicide, but use it as a way to cope with emotional pain, therapists say.
Signs of cutting include scars or fresh cuts; keeping sharp objects on hand; wearing a paper clip necklace; covering the arms or legs with long sleeves or pants even in hot weather; wearing multiple bracelets up the arm; and claiming to have frequent accidents.
How to get help: Consult your pediatrician or family doctor, who can provide an initial evaluation or a referral to a mental health specialist. If you’re a teenager and you think your friend is cutting or being abused at home, tell a teacher, guidance counselor or someone else you trust, even asked you not to tell.
For immediate assistance, call the Crisis Intervention Program or CONTACT Helpline.
• Carlisle: 717.249.6226
• Harrisburg: 717.652.4400
• Adams, Franklin, Perry, Upper-Dauphin: 800.932.4616
• Lancaster: 717.299.4855
CRISIS INTERVENTION PROGRAM
• Adams/York: 800.673.2496 or 717.851.5320
• Cumberland/Perry: 717.763.2222 (Camp Hill); 717.243.6005 (Carlisle); 866.350.HELP (other areas)
• Dauphin: 717.232.7511 or 888.596.4447
• Lancaster: 717.394.2631
• Lebanon: 717.274.3363
• Franklin: 717.264.2555 or 866.918.2555
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