Lyndsay Seeny is the teen winner of the Oakwood Centennial Short Story Contest co-sponsored by The Oakwood Register and Wright Memorial Public Library. Her story “Paws for a Moment to Ponder” is featured today. She is a junior at Oakwood High School who enjoys reading, traveling, and music. Centennial activities at Wright Library are sponsored by generous contributions from Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton. Following is Seeny’s winning entry…
It was a beautiful summer day in the city of Oakwood and I decided to take a walk through the community. The emerald trees radiated against the gorgeous blue sky as I strolled the shaded streets. My whiskers flowed in the breeze which whispered sounds of children laughing and playing. I leapt through the twinkling waters of Houk Stream. As I walked towards the Wright Memorial Library, my wet paws left footprints on the cobblestone streets. I passed the library where assiduous students were studying for the coming school year. The children were playing at the playground of Smith School, joyfully and carefree, accepting of anyone who wished to join in their games. I pranced down Shafor Boulevard and saw exhausted runners, their blue and gold uniforms radiated the spirit and determination they felt to represent their community well. I arrived at the high school, and watched teachers coming and going from meetings in preparation for the school year. The passion they felt for teaching such exquisite students was evident; it was clear that they would only settle for the best. I pounced on squirrels as I continued down the street towards the splashing and laughter of children and teenagers spending a sizzling summer day at the rejuvenating pool. I walked by extravagant houses, old and full of memories from countless generations. I meandered through the town and marveled at the paramount concern for a close-knit community in which everyone felt they belonged. I walked by Ashley’s Bakery, the sweet smell of pastries tickled my wet nose and I couldn’t help but purr. I approached the most enormous house I have ever seen. The white house stood at the top of a monstrous hill, a proud reminder of the two brothers who changed the world. I made my way back to my home and returned to my favorite chair. I peered out the window and reflected on my day in the greatest community a cat could ever ask for.
R. K. Mosser, an Oakwood resident who teaches at the University of Dayton, is the winner of the adult division of the Centennial Short Story Contest co-sponsored by The Oakwood Register and Wright Memorial Public Library. His story “Wisteria” is featured below. Contest judges were Dr. David Lee Garrison and Lucy Perez.
Grace firmly gripped the rail, and with a steady focus headed down the stairs. At 89, she moved less quickly but with no less resolve than in the past. After a long and dreary Winter, Spring had finally arrived, bringing with it warm days and dazzling azure skies. The brilliance of the day, with its promise of Flowering Plum, Pink Dogwood, and Sweetbay Magnolia in full glory persuaded Grace to leave the house, something she had become less and less willing to do. But what had really convinced her was the large black and white moving van next door. By the time Grace had gotten to the bottom of the stairs, she realized that standing in front of her was a small girl, dressed neatly in a green and plaid skirt, white blouse, and pigtails, neatly tied up with ribbons of green to match the skirt. She caught Grace by surprise.
“Hello. Did I scare you?,” the little girl asked.
Grace smiled and said “No, no, no; I’m fine. Are you moving in next door?
The little girl nodded. “I’m Phoebe.” She then curtsied, a gesture Grace hadn’t seen for years. Grace introduced herself, and discovered that Phoebe was five years old, had just moved here from Georgia, and had no brothers or sisters. Phoebe also admitted, a bit ruefully, that she had been a bit scared to move so far to a new town, where she had no friends.
Grace told her that she thought she could be Phoebe’s friend, and asked her if she would like a glass of lemonade, after checking with her parents. Phoebe skipped off to ask permission, and Grace headed back inside, to mix up a batch of lemonade and see if she might be able to find some cookies.
Soon there was a knock on the door; Phoebe had brought her parents with her, and introduced them to Grace. After small talk about Oakwood, the weather, the schools, and the neighborhood, Phoebe’s parents both left, evidently having given Grace their seal of approval. Phoebe sat on the porch, and Grace was laughing as she brought out the tray of lemonade and cookies she had managed to locate.
“Miss Grace, is something funny?”
“I was just laughing at your parents; I don’t think they were nearly as interested in my views on the weather as they were in seeing if I could be trusted. I guess they decided I could be. Just between you and me, Phoebe, I don’t find adults very interesting.” Phoebe nodded her head vigorously. “Me neither. I usually don’t understand what they’re talking about, and if I do, it’s really boring.”
Grace found Phoebe to be utterly charming, with her north Georgia accent, her very polite but matter of fact way of talking, and her engaging self-confidence. The two spent the rest of the morning talking about things they found considerably more fascinating than what adults discussed: kittens, knock-knock jokes, ice cream, swimming. They discovered that they shared a love of books, and it wasn’t until Phoebe’s mother called her home for lunch that Grace realized how quickly the time had passed. At Grace’s request, Phoebe promised to return the next day.
As good as her word, Phoebe knocked the next morning, and Grace realized she had looked forward to seeing her. After receiving her parents’ permission, the two set off for the Wright Library. While Grace didn’t move as quickly as she once had, she kept up a steady pace, and the two were soon engrossed in the library’s array of adventures, poring over book after book. Phoebe proved to be a good reader, and the hours sped by for them, accompanied by wizards, unicorns, princesses, and the occasional evil Stepmother.
Soon Phoebe and Grace were fast friends, sneaking off to Graeter’s for ice cream, Phoebe demonstrating her clumsy but earnest ballet technique, or simply chatting. Grace taught Phoebe how to play two-handed pinochle, and many an afternoon was spent on the porch, sipping a cold drink and playing cards. As the Summer progressed, Phoebe began to make a few new friends in the neighborhood, but she and Grace regarded as inviolable their schedule of lunch every Tuesday and Friday, always followed by an afternoon of reading at the Library. Grace discovered that Phoebe made her feel not just renewed, but gave her a rekindled optimism she feared she had lost. She no longer sat around her empty house, waiting for her prosperous but busy son to find time for her; rather, she could always count on Phoebe to drop by, for an hour or for the day, to liven things up. It had been a glorious Summer, a Summer of friendship, a Summer of Phoebe, when Grace learned again how to be young.
But as Summer turned to Fall, the sky that came with it brought gray clouds and a damp coolness Grace found disagreeable, and Kindergarten for Phoebe. Grace had made the long walk one morning to see Phoebe climb onto the bus that took her to Lange School, but it so exhausted her that she wasn’t able to come to the door when Phoebe stopped by afterwards. With Phoebe busy with school and the new friends she made there, Grace saw her less frequently, and as the Autumn chill asserted itself, Grace found herself missing her friend. But one special Friday night, Phoebe was allowed to stay up late, and she and Grace, snuggled under an old quilt, popped corn and watched Shirley Temple movies until they both fell asleep.
Not long after, Grace started to grow weaker, and rarely left the house. Her eyesight began to fail, she felt tired most of the day yet couldn’t sleep well at night, and she became much more easily confused than in the past. Her son now visited much more frequently, and had hired an efficient but taciturn live-in nurse to help. But nothing brightened up the day as much as a visit from Phoebe, who came by almost daily to sit with Grace. Phoebe was aware that something had changed, but resolutely continued to read to Grace, to tell her stories from Kindergarten, and to sing her some of the new songs she had been learning there. They rarely talked about the future, but occasionally discussed Phoebe’s new friends. It was during one of those visits that Phoebe admitted “Miss Grace, I have some new friends, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have a best friend like you.” Although she frequently had tears in her eyes when returning home, she found the strength to remain upbeat and cheerful when sitting with Grace.
One early November Saturday, the sky was remarkably clear and bright, the brilliant hues of the Fall foliage dazzling in the sunlight. Earlier the nurse had checked on her, and Grace heard her walk quickly to make a phone call. Grace managed with some effort to rise from her bed, and walked slowly over to the window. Looking out across the sun-dappled sugar maples and sweet gums, she saw Phoebe standing in her yard, dressed as she had been when they first met, the green ribbons in her hair reflecting the sunlight. Grace smiled, and raised her hand in a simple wave; Phoebe flashed her own smile and gave a much more vigorous wave. Grace then saw a large black and white vehicle come to a rapid stop in front of the house. She wasn’t sure, but thought it might be another moving van, just like the one that had brought her Phoebe. With a contented, quiet smile, Grace moved back to the bed. As she closed her eyes and took a last, silent breath, unaware of the ambulance attendants entering her room, she happily imagined a new best friend for Phoebe having arrived.