Short Story Contest Winner November 2019
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Gestalt Media introduced its short story competition in November 2019. Contributors submitted short stories of 3,000 words or less on the theme FAMILY. Then, it was up to readers to vote on the winning submission.
The winner of $50 is Sarah Joy Green-Hart for her submission entitled Why Waste? (Dad's Dumpster-Noggin). Her story will also appear in the year-end anthology published by Gestalt Media of all short story contest winners.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy this endearing short story by Sarah Joy Green-Hart
Why Waste? (Dad’s Dumpster-Noggin)
If you were to tell my dad that you never buy anything second-hand, that you prefer new, and that you get what you pay for, he might march right up to you in his thrift-gained moccasins (paper towel stuffed in the toes for dramatic effect) and say, “Yeah, well, dats just you and yer stupid opinion, ya pot likker.”
No, really. He wouldn’t.
However, my dad is a serious second-hand warrior, because why waste good stuff? He lifts his nose to the air, scents a carved wooden box he knows I’d like, or the yellowed, vanilla-scented pages of an old, well-bound book, and his pupils dilate, claws unsheathe. When he catches sight of the sweet glossy goodness of five years’ worth of Bird Fancy or Ranger Rick from the 1990’s, he pounces and hauls his prey home, happy as a cat with a mouthful of chipmunk.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my mom is involved in this, too! But she’s the nurturer; the gentle hands that open a book and, despite the strong odor of cigarette smoke, loves the enchanting illustrations enough to take it home and “see what she can do.” She rubs baking soda across the smoked pages with a loving smile. It deserves a chance to be rescued, along with sniffly, frost-burnt cats, constipated guinea pigs, and our not-so-beloved barbie-and-electronic-Bible-eating rabbit. Good, old dogs about to be put down just for being dogs were a favorite, too. The gigantic wall-tapestry a lesser woman wouldn’t have the courage to hang hung on our wall with pride. And at least one batch of pink, wrinkly baby mice showed up in a 1960’s hairdryer under my sink when I was a teenager. Although the baby mice in the hairdryer were my find, she had the heart to let me care for them and had set the baby mice nursery precedent already.
Because, why waste?
As a result, I grew up with old, sweet-smelling books, many furry friends, and eccentric décor, like that enormous wall tapestry of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The size of that thing, and its attention-drawing power, made it almost humorous. But . . . when you’d run your fingers over the blue, it darkened and lightened with each line, and somehow the rich colors of that piece of hugeness on our wall stands out in retrospect as a bit of rare beauty that merely required a little guts to enjoy.
However, warrior and gentle hands agree on practicality. Both of my parents are practical. We had a pet cow, who had been a sickly calf they’d nursed to health on milk and blackstrap molasses, for example. He was ill, and the farm was just going to do away with him ‘til my dad said, “I’ll take ‘im” and brought him home in the car trunk. (Exciting things often came home in Dad’s trunk.) We called him Timmy. As he grew up, Dad played with him like a dog, wrestled, and chased, but once Timmy was healthy and grown, we called him Dinner.
Yep. Second-hand expertise has many virtues . . . and a few traumas.
Dumpster diving, on the other hand, is not for newbies. That practice, in my opinion, requires a seasoned veteran of rummage sales and second-hand stores, like my dad, the warrior. This was a common practice for him, though he did have a heart-stopping experience with it, which is probably the reason I get nervous looking into dumpsters or opening outdoor garbage cans.
One autumn day, picking his way through a dumpster, Dad had inspected a few trinkets, tossed many of them aside, and after tucking a number of items away in his jeans’ pocket, stopped in his tracks. On the other side of the dumpster was . . . a head.
If that were me, no matter how I was raised, or how intriguing a realistic dumpster-head might be, I’m not sure anyone could persuade me to investigate. Realistic heads are a rarity, to be sure, and I suppose I’d be interested in seeing one, but to touch it? Uhuwuhhuhwuh! (That’s a shudder.)
Dad, however, swept his fingers along his mustache, pulled his trapper’s hat back a bit as he rubbed his own realistic head with all its gears turning, and, second-hand warrior radars beep-beep-beeping, he crunched across the quality refuse and dove in for the prize trophy of a dumpster-noggin.
Because, why waste?
When Dad grabbed the head, its eyes popped open. Dad’s shout burst forth from the dumpster so long and loud, you couldn’t even hear the walls of the city as they fell down flat.
“Sorry,” said the head as he unburied his own body, stood, crawled to the edge and lowered himself to the asphalt. He walked away through the parking lot, without a word of explanation, leaving my dad, with his dumpster diving skills, to dig for a new pair of underwear.
But you know, don’t let that deter you from the noble art of thrift. I mean, what’s life without an occasional I-need-a-new-pair-of-pants experience? What’s a wall tapestry if it isn’t huge? What’s a hairdryer without mouselings? A dumpster without realistic heads?
It makes for a life that is functional, fashionable, and pristine, perhaps, but no one’s going to have the opportunity to tell the grandkids about the time Grandpa found a “realistic” head in the dumpster. Every warrior has their scars, but if you fight the good fight, you’re going to become a legend.
Oh, and don’t worry, Dad didn’t really need dumpster underwear. (He might read this. I’d better cover my tracks.) I’m sure he just toughed it out ‘til he got home so Mom could “see what she could do.” Because, what would be the sense in wasting a perfectly functional pair of underwear?
No, really. He didn’t do that.
Sarah Joy Green-Hart grew up in a restauranteur family in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, waiting tables in between reading, writing, acting, petting cows, and dancing with flocks of cats.
After earning an A.A. in Theology and cultivating an adequate taste for the artistic, the eclectic, and the odd, Sarah's family--with a proper advanced warning--released the Sarah-kraken on a gentleman with an affectionate interest in said kraken.
Sarah now homeschools four wee wolf cubs by day and howls at the bookish moon in her laptop by night with Earl Grey (and a few of his friends) at her side.