We’re counting down the days to the RT Convention, and we’re super excited that one particular aspiring author will be joining us. Jennifer L. Armentrout has crowned a winner of her “Write Your Way to RT” contest — Katherine Kendall. Jennifer believes in paying it forward, and in the power of publishing conferences as a great way to jumpstart your writing career. Katherine’s winning entry gets her a trip to the RT Convention in Vegas this April, courtesy of Jennifer!
Here’s what Jennifer had to say about Katherine’s winning entry. “It wasn’t easy to pick one winner who’d receive an all-expense paid trip to RT. There were so many amazing submissions. Katherine’s story was original, witty and extremely well written. I found myself laughing out loud while reading it. I genuinely wanted the story to continue. When I got to the end, I wanted more and that’s key to a good story.”
We realize now that you must read Katherine’s story, so we’ve printed it below. Congrats, Katherine, we’ll see ya in Vegas!
Chunky Monkey or Fudge Curls—that’s what my Friday night looks like and even I don’t look like a fitting date for the 32 oz. ice cream tubs. Wearing sweats that I haven’t washed and a white tee with spaghetti on it, I suppose it isn’t surprising that I’ve found myself single again. Dropping the tub of Chunky Monkey into the pushcart next to the grisly horror film I’d picked earlier, I apologize profusely to the Fudge Curls as they go back to their lonely place on the shelf (it’s not you, Fudge Curls; it’s me), and remind myself that the ice cream doesn’t care if I haven’t washed my hair or that my eyes are puffy or that my skin is blotchy.
Not at all.
Ice cream and I don’t have issues like that. We have mutual respect in our relationship and if a tub of frozen dairy could understand me, why couldn’t a 6-foot-2-inch blond-haired guy? You’d think with all the time we invest in another person’s life that it would mean something more than my weekly ice-cream dates. You’d think.
I roll into the checkout and avoid a near-collision with the Bird-Lady who lives in aisle three: the bread aisle. She glowers at me and looks at the contents of my cart (seriously, people do that?) as if my choice of frozen dessert can justify her glare. At least my cart isn’t filled with bread stacks (okay, her cart isn’t filled with bread; it’s with bird seed though, which is pretty much the same thing).
I start to mumble something that comes out like “whoop-pi-doo” and I think she hears me because her lips pucker and she hisses through her nostrils.
“Teenagers,” she mutters. She looks around as if an echoing cry will follow, justifying her remark, but we’re alone in the checkout line with the store’s one cashier (he’s a teenager too, imagine that) biting the inside of his cheek as the bird seed glides down the conveyor belt toward him. So no such luck. Sorry to ruffle your feathers, now, please let me return to my night with a new serving of self-pity and chocolate banana ice cream on the side.
I mean, who else would find themselves at the grocery store on a Friday? The Bird-Lady and I. It could be a movie, though I’m sure even she has a better love life. With the birds, of course.
I smile amiably at my cart, at least I have ice cream and horror. Who needs a boy? Or birds? I have a man with a chainsaw fetish and a thing against blondes. We’ll get along swimmingly.
But when I look up my renewed spirit crumbles. The cashier rubs his neck awkwardly as a ripped sack of bird seed leaks its innards out onto the linoleum floor.
He stands there. Bird seed bleeding out. Everywhere. No big deal.
Ice cream and gore, I chant to myself. My patience will be rewarded—
“I’m not paying for this. Where’s your manager? Your supervisor? Do you even have a supervisor?” On and on, the Bird-Lady squawks (pun most definitely intended) at the man.
In response, his Adam’s apple bobs and the boy-man’s constellation of acne scrunches into a pained expression. Silence ensues.
I look at my two items. The Chunky Monkey logo, a precocious chubby monkey sitting in a bowl of ice cream like it’s his damn throne (I envy thee, Chunky Monkey) cheerfully watches me. Even its encouraging cartoon face cannot relax me as the Bird-Lady continues hawking down the boy.
I glance over my shoulder, but there’s no one to share my grievances with. I’m the only person waiting in line as if the Bird-Lady targeted me specifically for this moment.
I clear my throat. No reaction. Not even a glance. Meaning, no offer to ring me and my measly two items up first.
I exhale through my teeth. Behind me the comforting cold of the frozen aisle beckons.
It’s not like I forgot about the other ice cream—the Fudge Curls—but can I really justify two 32 oz. ice cream tubs? A millisecond passes. Is that even a question? I blow out a breath and back out of the checkout line and head back toward Chunky Monkey’s homeland. Any ice cream tub (or, in this case, tubs) is a personal size if you just believe in yourself enough and my waistline can forgive me later. It’s not my fault, the Bird-Lady targeted me. I’m a victim.
Gooseflesh rises across my arms as I ease my cart to a cheerful stop near the ice cream. A brown-haired—tall, male—considers the ice cream tank almost thoughtfully. I shuffle past him, familiar enough with the aisle to know exactly where my Fudge Curls are. Muttering an apology, I open the freezer door and reach blindly in…
A choice expletive slips off my tongue. I search the fridge furiously, my eyes narrowed into slits.
“Well, I can’t say I’ve heard of that flavor.”
“Excuse me?” I turn. The Fudge Curls were there. I remember returning it and muttering lovingly that I’d be back next week. That precious jewel of fat expected me. So what if I came back seven days earlier than I’d anticipated?
The brown-haired guy raises an eyebrow, looks at me, then at my cart (really, again?). “Just trying to help you find your … what was it? It was a curious flavor. Started with an F?” His green eyes gleam with mirth.
I roll my eyes, backing out of the fridge, and my fingers caress the empty shelf with remorse. “Nothing.”
He laughs. “That didn’t sound like nothing.”
I grimace, then look at his shopping basket (yeah, I know, guilty). But…
Tucked into his basket, is my beloved, once-lost, Fudge Curls. I raise my eyes to his. He meets my look.
I let loose a tight breath. “Okay, what do you want for the Fudge Curls? A kidney?”
I look at the tub of goodness held hostage in his basket once more. The offer had fallen freely from my lips, but I have two kidneys. I can spare one.
He doesn’t miss a beat. “I’d rather eat ice cream than kidney.”
I grit my teeth. “You’re interfering with my night.”
“Of self-pity and loneliness?”
I pause, then shrug. Why deny it? “Depends, do you feel bad about it now?”
He shakes his head. “Not particularly. Maybe I need it.”
I give him an up-down (not only am I a connoisseur of ice cream, but of men as well). Great smile, long lashes, not blond. He was a ten. What did he need Fudge Curls for?
I grunt, lady-like. “Was it a woman? Because I was dumped.” Two weeks ago, my mind reminds me unhelpfully.
He grimaces. “No, a theatre part.”
I roll my eyes. “That explains it. You’re an actor.”
“You’re dramatic and obviously self-centered. You don’t even help the needy.”
“’The needy’?” he repeated. “And you’re calling me dramatic? Who offered up their kidneys?”
I sniff. “One kidney; and definitely worth it.” I glower at him. “Or your plight is not nearly as bad as you claim.”
“My plight is that Jeremy Ruckerbucket has taken my part.”
“Something hideous like that. Jeremy can’t even fill the tights.”
I try not to imagine the man beside me in tights. I fail. “Tights? And your solution is ice cream?” I shake my head. “Well, no one with an X and Y chromosome will date me.”
He glances at my cart, “Shocking. The chainsaw fetish doesn’t lure the boys in?”
“Men,” I scowl derisively. “C’mon, just hand over the ice cream. Even you’re attacking me.”
He stares at me aghast. “Attacking you? I suppose going up to strangers and offering up your organs is typical behavior for you?” He tsked. “Imagine if my mother saw you.”
“Your mother?” Biting my lip, I appraise his cart, plotting. If the bird seed fiasco is cleaned up I could always rescue my Fudge Curls and make a run for it.
Though his long legs, damnably perfect for tights, would assuredly beat mine.
“Yes, I lost the part and had to escort my mother here for her bird food—“
I freeze. The image of me running joyously through the sliding doors with both tubs in hand fades. “Bird food? Oh.” A laugh bubbles out of me on its own accord.
He arches an eyebrow.
“You should have led with that,” I grin then add, “Didn’t you hear about the cleanup needed at checkout?”
“Cleanup?” he repeats as realization brightens his eyes. He swallows.
This time I do reach out and rub his shoulder. He doesn’t pull away. My voice is full of sympathy as I say, “Your need is greater.” I bow my head in silence and my cheeky monkey friend smiles at me from my cart. Sighing, I look away as my traitorous fingers hand over the Chunky Monkey to him.
“You’ll need both. See you next week.”