Winners of the Montecito Journal Thom Steinbeck Creative Writing Contest

By Montecito Journal   |   April 2, 2020

by Marc Cronin

1st Place contest winner, Marc Cronin

mea culpa… when we booked this trip i should have mentioned the tickets were one way (non-refundable of course) and the destination was astray. retracing the steps of so many who’ve journeyed before us, then retracing our own steps as well, we created a circle. it became vicious. all adventures begin with a single step, so navigation is key. when the directions failed we turned to the landscape; when the landscape failed we turned to our souls; when our souls failed we turned to each other; when we failed each other we turned to ourselves. despite the darkness there were times of transcendence: brimstone and fire, lightening and thunder, and the magical and mystical auroras. these experiences were shared but exclusive. no signpost, but our way suddenly changed to a way. getting back was no problem, the return we both recognized. conventional wisdom holds that risk tolerance dwindles with age. caution to the wind our mantra, somehow the learning curve bends and all in becomes the new normal. that unmatched exhilaration provides the drive and drive creates the dreams, and dreams supply the illusions. illusions (being unreliable) require insurance, and the underwriter is faith. our desires oh so common. our needs generic. but our odds were just too long. no one gets anywhere without beating them sometime. fortune’s smile is truly rare and random, quixotic, and our cost/benefit so positive. as luck would have it, i never knew i could be so wrong.

by David Figueras

2nd Place contest winner, David Figueras

“I never knew I could be so wrong…”
“Is this about Livi?”
“Of course it’s about that.”
“Oh, I think you knew.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Knew that you could be so wrong, I think you knew.”
“That’s ridiculous!”
“I love when you act surprised by your own behavior.”
“I don’t know anyone else who talks to their mother like this.”
“You did… but she left.”
“She was just sitting in her car…”
“For four hours.”
“Why does she do that?”
“You could have gone out and talked to her.”
“I just thought she was going to just sit out there like she does.”
“And… now, she’s gone.”
“I just want to know that she’s ok or coming back or somewhere good and safe.”
“She might. She has nowhere else to go.”
“It’s making me crazy.”
“That’s a new development?”
“Don’t be a smart ass.”
“I’m sorry Mom… everything is just off right now, all of it.”
“I just want her home.”
“Tell you what I’ll do… I’ll go down to the Friendly Market. She buys cigarettes there.  She might be there just sitting in her car.”
“I would be so happy if she is there. I can’t just sit and wait.”
“Keep your phone close.  I’ll call when I get there.”
“That would be great if she’s there… and Clyde, can you get a couple cans of peaches, if they have them.”
“I’ll see what they have left.”
“Thank you, Clyde.”
“She’ll be there Mom, don’t you worry anymore.”

by Richard Renaldo

3rd Place winner, Richard Rinaldo

I never knew I could be so wrong because I am a wise guy, you know the type – always right. I have a lifetime of anticipating worse case scenarios. It’s in my nature to keep well stocked – always has been. That’s why I shrugged off the tp panic. I knew that I had several months’ supply locked in a closet at a short-term rental we operate. So when my wife Dee remarked that we were low on tp, I felt like a certain ‘50s western television character riding to the rescue, getting into my black and white pickup to drive downtown. It was a different ‘50s television sitcom character that returned home with the news that someone had nicked our supply.

Dee put her hand to her mouth saying, “Oh, I left the closet door open because we were gone and I didn’t want the guests to run out.” No blame, no anger just a sick realization we were in trouble. Indeed, my first search was fruitless. Now, I have had a prejudice against big box stores and I never patronize them… never. So it was Dee who discovered when WalMart received shipments and showed up at 6 am so she could be one of the few to scarf a twenty roll package. She returned home triumphant… her victory, my loss. “How did you know?” I asked. She replied, “You have always said there is a difference between wisdom and intelligence.”


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