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Wisconsin Winner

"They want seals barking and trees ... creeks flowing into the ocean, mountains touching the sea ... and ... a couple of good people in there somewhere," I said. "Well if you want the thousand dollars you're going to have to write that stuff." she said. It was a good point. People were always telling me things that made sense. I fought it. "You're right," I said. I didn't fight it out loud, just on paper.

Sense was good for the exterior world, but didn't have a use in writing. It's why most people failed at writing: they overestimated the structure of their ideas. I thought to tell her that; then she left to run errands. I made a pot of coffee and thought about the contest. I read the flyer again. I said it out loud to myself, "How did you discover Trinidad?"

That was another problem ... I couldn't remember. That wasn't really a problem though. I knew most of the people were just going to make up their stories. The winner was going to mention wild purple irises and thick blanket fog, the view of the bay, the boats rocking with the swell, and her black Labrador running after the seagulls while the Salmon colored sunset smiled. I could already picture that person. I was getting negative. I knew the judges didn't want that.

I stopped and refilled the coffee. Then I looked out my big rented windows. Something clicked, a dog barked. It was a clear morning. I could see far, all the way to down the coast to the Eureka Pulp Mills. I was glad I wasn't there, but here in this trick, this Hollywood set that was too scenic. Too much beauty. That was it!

The phone rang.
"You figure out what you're going to write yet?" she asked.
"No," I said."
"You need anything from the store?" she asked.
"Fifty-pounds of fake crab," I said.
She asked again and hung up.

I went to the beach. There were smiles with bodies on them out for their morning walks. I liked living in a small town with people I saw everyday, but had never met. I liked living in a place far from any place U2 would do a concert.

There was a family that needed a photographer. They gathered in front of a big boulder and I snapped. No ocean, trees, whales, mountains, just dark gray in the background. It was a sweetness I understood.

The mother said thanks and that they were from Wisconsin and this was their first time in California. I mentioned the story contest. I don't know why. The woman said she was a writer. I let her know she needed a picture too. She looked at the ocean, smiled, and said that wouldn't be hard. Her kids went chasing seagulls and her husband was studying driftwood. I asked her if the story would be hard. She guessed that it wouldn't; said it shouldn't. I agreed.

by W. Drew Cleveland

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