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Short Story Contest WINNER!

And we have a winner!  Thank you to everyone who participated in out contest and keep an eye out for next time!  Zachary Dillon will be receiving his $50 Amazon Gift card shortly.

Here is the winning entry.

The scorching Tennessee sun glared down upon two young boys barely in their fifteenth  years on God’s green earth. They toiled under the sun to provide for their family as much they could ever since their mother passed away. The youngest by a few hours, Elijah, wiped at his brow even as he leaned on the hoe he used. Glancing at the canteen his brother Oliver chugged from greedily, he couldn’t help but gulp. Suddenly noticing his thirst. Oliver not missing a beat,  glanced at his brother and lazily tossed the canteen to Elijah.

“You’re thinking about Ms. Anna aren’t ya?” He teased, even as Elijah took a large swig from the nearly empty canteen before frowning.

“Now you don’t know nuttin, I was after that water you hogged like old man Smith and his bourbon.” He shot back, even though his already ruddy face grew a shade brighter under his brother’s teasing grin. He looked away even as he tried to change the topic. “Besides, her and her Pa are in town at that fancy meeting. Do you think what Pa says is true? We is gonna leave the union?” He asked, as he glanced at the sky, noting the position of the sun.

“I hopes we do then we can show them Yankee dogs what we are all about. If Pa says we should leave then we should. He be smart.”

“But the people in town says that means we might go to war. I…I really don’t wanna fight. The good book says it is a sin to kill your fellow man.” Elijah blurted out before thinking about it, while he fiddled with the hoe, rocking it back and forth within the dirt and soil “Besides…Ms. Anna doesn’t like fighting.” He said to himself, or so he thought.

“HA! You is soft on Ms. Anna. Can’t hide it from me Eli!” Oliver teased as he grinned from ear to ear “Tell you what. I’ll keep your secret though,” He adds even as he drops his own hoe and makes a beeline for town, “if you beat me there that is!”

Stunned into silence for a few seconds, Elijah had no time to react as his brother’s lead kept growing with each footfall he made. Shaking himself back into reality he darted after his brother and stayed hot on his heels, although just out of reach until they got to the outskirts of town.  Oliver stopped dead in his tracks. Eli, so focused on running, didn’t realize this until he collided with his brother, sending them both sprawling to the ground in a heap.

“Damn it Ollie, why’d ya go ‘n stop for no go…” His voice trailed off when he heard the wails of anguish flooding out from the center of town. Slowly the boys pick themselves up and shuffle into town. As they rounded the corner past the blacksmiths shop, which if they weren’t overtly focused on the sight before them, would have told them something was amiss.

Shouts and wails were the only thing in the air as several men rushed past them, Springfield’s in hand as they stormed out of town the way the two boys had come from. Blood soaked the dirt street. All around them were various town folk,  some they didn’t even recognize, in fancy suits, lay strewn about where they had fallen, shot dead where they had stood. From the looks of it, some of them had fought back, and many of those standing or wounded seemed to be armed as well. Eli looked towards a bench as a sob drew his attention away from the gory scene before him, and moved away from Ollie, as he started towards the man.

“Mr. Bradley, Are you alright sir yo…” He stopped again words stuck in his throat as he glances at the blood-soaked hands of his childhood friend’s father. Rushing to the sobbing man’s side he kneels, “Are you hurt, Do I need to fetch the doctor?!” Mr. Bradley gulped as he fought back the sobs he felt in his chest, and looked at Eli, shaking his head violently.

“Not mine. Not mine. Not mine.” Was all he could manage as he gazed back towards the carnage. Eli’s gaze followed until he saw it. The sight that left him on his knees besides the wailing man lost in his grief. From under a blood-soaked horse blanket were bright golden locks. Even as he felt tears welling in his eyes, he fought hard not to shout in frustration.

Oliver ran up excitedly yelling, “We got them yanks! People are saying it was them Louisawhatsits Tigers! We whipped them a good one!” Ignorant of his brother’s suffering, he keeps on and on, even as Mr. Bradley glared daggers at him. Before he could say anything, Elijah rose to his feet, eyes downcast as rage filled him, fists clenched tight as he slugs his brother clean across the jaw, sending him rolling to the ground from the sheer force of it.

“THEY KILLED HER! THEY KILLED ANNA!” He screams at his dumbstruck brother, even as he finally takes notice of what was going on around him. A slow dawning look of shock and surprise spreads across his face, but Elijah didn’t notice as he pounced on his brother, fists swinging as he unloaded his frustration and grief. Oliver fought back until their father suddenly appeared and pulled them apart.

“Why you boys be fightin’? We should be preppin for war! We whipped them coward’s good.” Shocked by his fathers words, Elijah slowly comes back to himself and sobs as his legs give out once more. His father, thinking all is good turns to Oliver and checks his injuries “He gave you a proper whoppin’ mmmhm, Lets get a looksee. Ya’lright?”

“Yes Pa, I be fine but Eli.” Oliver’s voice drifts off as he notices Elijah’s stoney gaze. A look he had never seen in his brother stunning him and their father both.

“What good came of this Pa? She’s gone.”

Shocked by his sons words he goes to raise his hand and discipline his son before the click of a revolver drawn his gaze towards Mr. Bradley.

“Touch the boy and ya’ll regret it Samuel.” Both boys turned to look at Mr. Bradley, suddenly very calm and very serious. “I be going north to volunteer for the yanks, Eli you can come with me if you want.” Eli gulped as he still fought to maintain his composure

“Anna…She didn’t want this. None of this.”

“Boy,” Samuel said “If you go with Thomas there, you done for. I’ll shoot ya yellowbellied Go-Alongin self myself, ya hear? We stand up for ourselves against them Yankee gold droppers! Turn your back on us now and I’ll shoot ya meself” There was no remorse in the drunken words of his father and he went to turn to join Mr. Bradley. When he did a shot rang out and Eli turned to see his father stopped as if frozen solid, a small hole in the ground splattering mud against his britches

“They boy has decided Samuel. Turn and leave.” The boys looked at each other, and then at the two adults who stared each other down. Both pairs turned and headed their separate ways into the chilly sunset. Not a word was said as a family split and they too prepared for war. Brothers fighting brothers in a war that would tear the nation apart.

Zachary Dillon
July 2017