Each year the SCWC*LA holds a writing contest in which all conferees are invited to participate. The rules are simple: Write a piece in any form you wish of no more than 250 words based on the topic announced Friday night. The topic for the 9th annual L.A. conference was “License.” Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman of San Diego, CA is the writer of one of this year’s winners.
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
Alexander didn’t open his eyes. He wasn’t ready. He felt a trickle of moist breeze coming through the shutters instead of the hot gushes that had blasted Mama and him yesterday and the day before. Or was it the day before that? How long had they been in bed? She slept now.
The breeze stirred again and Alexander smiled. With his eyes closed, the sweet wind felt like Ajax wiping his face with a cool towel. He had been there with a basin all through that first night.
Alexander touched his forehead, where the first pustule had appeared. It still itched and he carefully scratched the skin on either side of the drying sore, circling the spot as Mama taught him.
“What’s that?” Ajax had asked, holding the barrelhoop that Alexander had tried to roll past him. Ajax always won at that game; almost always, anyway.
“That thing on yo’ face?”
Alexander could hardly remember what came next. Within the hour he had been lying in bed, the fever stoking itself, climbing, falling, climbing, falling, Mama washing his face until dark and he suddenly realized she was beside him, moaning in her turn.
That was when Mrs. Lindstrom took over. Even in his delirium, Alexander knew that this fever must be a bad one, if Anna Marie Lindstrom would lift a hand to help that harlot, Rachel Hamilton. “She ought to take out a license,” he had heard her whisper to Mrs. Helmutson when they walked into the chapel just before the service. Rachel Hamilton kept walking, head high.
Alexander reached his hand behind his back to touch her, his beautiful mother. “Mama? Mama?” She didn’t answer. Alexander closed his eyes more tightly. “Mama?” he asked again.