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Winner of the WordSmitten2007 TenTen Award for Fiction
Our annual short story award winners are featured in the
Native Shore Fiction section of WordSmitten.com under the wings
of angels, perhaps, but most certainly under the watchful eye of the native curlew.

Same Thing, Only Different
By Andrew Davis

There were seventy-six people in my high school graduating class. There are no more than seventy-four left. More than two may have died by now; I don't know. I do know that Janet and Russ were the first to die.

Janet was a small girl. Our senior year in high school she weighed around ninety pounds. Her long, black hair hung straight down around her blue eyes. She always highlighted those blue eyes with too much blue make-up. Her skin was average in color, with just a few freckles here and there. She had a small button nose. She bounced when she walked. She
was cute; but didn't think she was cute.

I had a terrible crush on her.

Russ was the perfect example of Wisconsin farm country good looks. He was about six-one and well built, but not at all muscle bound. He had reddish blond hair with just a touch of natural curl. The hair matched his mustache and beard perfectly. Even in high school he had a mustache and a little beard. He was handsome, and had learned to carry it well.

I hated him.

Late in her sophomore year Janet began to keep a journal. It started in a spiral notebook, just something to keep her thoughts in. The bulk of the early material consisted of song lyrics transcribed from the radio.

There were poems written by other people. Now and again an original poem or comment would show up. As the summer and her junior year went by the outside material was less and less and the self-authored pieces increased. By Christmas of that year the notebooks were full of her poetry. I wrote a bit back then and out of a shared interest I got to
read that poetry. My crush quickly turned to infatuation.

Russ played football, and basketball, and baseball. He played them all very well. The two most successful plays our football team ran were "Run Russ Right" and "Run Russ Left." He was captain of the basketball squad. The year the baseball team went to the regional playoffs he was a key member of the squad.

He handled himself with a sportsman's grace when he played those games. He also had a true sportsman's attitude. He was a good winner and he was a good loser. He played fair, and he played hard, and he respected other people's efforts, even if that other person had very little natural talent, like me. He accepted my desire, even if I lacked ability. My
hatred slowly turned to respect.

During Janet's senior year I began to see references to love and pain and a broken heart in her work. I thought I began to see me in there. A particularly painful piece appeared in her journal one day. Someone wasn't returning her love. She felt rejected and alone. Ignorantly and egotistically I asked her if I had done something to hurt her. No, she said.

"Funny," she said, "How those that should worry don't, and those that shouldn't do."

Russ and I both went to the awards banquet during our senior year. We both got awards. Russ got a letter for each of the sports he played, recognition for his outstanding efforts, and a rousing ovation. I got certificates for forensics and drama and a ripple of applause.

During the reception, as we ate cookies and drank punch, Russ and I and a few others ended up off in a corner of the cafeteria.

Russ said he felt really out of place. "Nothing to worry about," I said.

"But Andy," Russ went on, "you're the only person here I really know."

Janet dated a little. I took her to a movie once, but was too nervous to ask her out again. She went out with a couple of other guys. She didn't seem to find what she was looking for. It seems she had a crush on Russ.

Russ dated whoever he wanted. Of course, he dated one of the cheerleaders; the best looking girl in the school. There were many different girls, some even came from other schools. He went out with Janet once.

Somewhere in all of this Janet told Russ how deep her feelings ran. Russ reacted like a lot of high school boys would have. He got very nervous and he avoided her.

Graduation came. Russ went off to a small college on a football scholarship. He found out that being a big shot at our high school didn't mean much, even at a little college. He didn't start on the football team, and he didn't make the basketball team. He lasted one
semester and ended up back on the farm.

Janet went to junior college in a nearby town. A few people from our class went there. It was a little bigger than the high school but the attitude was exactly the same size. It was high school relocated. She lasted a year, and then she quit.

Both took jobs here and there. Both met new people who were just like the people they already knew. Both went out to all the local bars and taverns. Both drank a little too much a little too often. They saw each other around and they went out now and again. They grew into small town life and it grew into them.

One spring night Janet was coming back from Sheboygan. She'd been to visit some friends. There was a light rain falling. Old Highway 23 used to cross a lot of little county trunk highways as it curved through the edge of the Kettle Moraine. At one of those curves the highway met a county road and Janet's car met a pick-up truck. Twenty-one years alive
and forever dead.

That fall they found Russ in his car. It was in a shed out behind the barn on the family farm. He had shut the doors, fired up his customized black Nova and let it idle. It idled until it ran out of gas, long after Russ ran out of breath.

~ * ~

:: Andrew Davis :: Fiction Award Winner for 2007 ::

Andrew Davis brings his Illinois and Minnesota talents to WordSmitten and we are delighted to present him with the award of $1,010.00 for
"Same Thing, Only Different"
--his winning short story.
A story of relationships pulling on a thin thread of time and chance.

- The Editors and Fiction Panel
WordSmitten's Annual TenTen Short Story Award

Author Janet Burroway, 2007 Fiction Judge




Native Shore Fiction

:: Native Shore Fiction ::


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