The contest rules were simple, write a complete story about the photo pictured above. The twist? Each story must be written using exactly 200 words. No more, no less. “Don’t” is two words. “OMG” is three words. “Smith-Jones” is two words. And so on.
In the contest judge’s chambers, after the dust settled and with words counted, over and over again, the stack of well-written tales parted to allow the top four stories to rise to the top of the pile.
And now, without further ado …
Congratulations to the following talented writers! We’ll contact you shortly.
First Place, Winner of the 2021 Golden Donut Award is ….
“Laddy! Are ya home, mate?”
Blinker stepped close to the open door, rapping on the flimsy wood. He had to observe the niceties, even in Tent City. This wasn’t a tent. It was a shed, but many considered it a palace and had painted Laddy’s House on the side in big blue letters.
“The shelter has an opening for ya.”
“Nope. Not leavin’.”
“Aw, come on, Lad.” Blinker stepped across the threshold into the trash-strewn shack. “Don’t be like that.”
“I ain’t going!” The old man sat on a bucket, eating cold beans out of a can.
“That looks good, mate.” Blinker glanced around. Laddy had more stuff than anyone else because he didn’t have to lug everything around on his back or in a shopping cart. A bit of twine lay among the debris. He picked it up.
“Leave my things alone!”
“Shouldn’t leave it lying around.” He ambled behind the bucket, taking his time.
Thirty minutes later, the old man’s body lay behind the shed, beside the other Laddys, and Blinker sat on the bucket.
“Hey, Laddy! You home?”
“Go away!” Blinker growled, taking a bite of beans.
“Go find Laddy’s House.”
It had been a year since mom passed, but her dying words still haunted me.
She was all the family I had. Now I was alone in the world.
I never knew my dad. Mom said he ran off when I was just a baby, but I heard the whispers. I saw the looks.
We moved often, mom and me. From city to city, coast to coast. We never stayed in one place long enough to call it home.
I often wondered why. Why were we running, mom? Why did dad leave?
I found it by chance back in our hometown. Off the beaten path, the homeless camp was hidden well.
The stench of rot and decay made me gag, but the newspaper clippings scattered across the floor of Laddy’s House drew me in.
Dozens of articles covering three decades told the tale, but the largest headline said it all: “Search Continues for Baby Allegedly Abducted by Mother.”
As I read on, a shadow darkened the room.
Slowly I turned and was greeted by an older version of myself. “Dad?” I whispered.
The old man nodded and held out his arms. “Son, welcome home.”
Wynn Daugherty paced alongside the weather-beaten shed. He should have moved them when he received the Condemnation Order. But despite dozens of moonless nights, conditions were never optimal. Adding to his angst, Charles Johnson Construction’s bulldozer belched diesel-laden, headache-inducing exhaust.
He turned to the company’s owner. “Chuck, how about shutting that thing down?”
“Sorry, Wynn. Want to be ready right when we get word.”
“What, got a hot date?”
“Listen, your so-called building will be splinters in minutes. Got another job scheduled. Time’s money.”
“But the Writ—”
Chuck rolled his eyes. “You really expect Judge Myrick will stop the demolition?”
Wynn’s temples throbbed. God help him if the Judge didn’t.
“What the hell is Laddy’s House anyway?” Chuck asked.
“My lawyer says it’s a protected historical site. Connected to Prohibition and bootlegging.”
Their phones buzzed.
Chuck read the message, made a chopping motion across his neck, and the bulldozer sputtered, then fell silent.
Wynn concentrated on four words in the Court’s missive: “Temporary Restraining Order Granted.” His headache evaporated. Ninety days—over twelve weeks—before the next hearing. What a relief. One body every two weeks, with time to spare. Excellent.
What I call the lettering splashed across my childhood refuge.
Most see only black bags of fetid trash, fragments of shattered boards, a dismembered mattress.
I see my first sanctuary.
Luella Beaufort blew in like a Category Five cyclone when I was twelve. She swooped in on Daddy and Avondale Farms right after Mama passed. A petite bundle of faux Southern charm. Sugar in her voice, greed in her heart. Together they proved the adage: Marry in haste, repent at leisure.
So the farm’s old equipment shed became my retreat. First came the Sealy. Then a lantern. Extra batteries. Lastly, the books, my true escape from their frequent battles. I ventured to Sweetwater High with the Wakefield twins. To Hogwarts with Harry Potter and Hermione. To Maycomb, Alabama, with Scout and Jeb.
Pure heaven until Luella decided to paint my hideout. Decorate it, she exclaimed, with Daddy’s pet name for me: Little Lady.
A bulldozer rumbles to life behind me, drawing me back to the present. The shack is minutes away from coming down. Farewell, old friend.
It’s taken twenty years but I can finally laugh at the turquoise wording: Laddy’s House.
Bitch never could spell.
2022 Golden Donut 200-Word Short Story Contest
The 2022 Golden Donut Short Story Contest is OPEN!
The rules are simple. Write a story about the above photograph using exactly 200 words — including the title. Each story needs an original title, and the image must be the main subject of the story. No clues as to the subject matter of the image or where it was taken. You decide. Let your imagination run wild. Remember though, what you see in the image absolutely must be the main subject of your tale.
Click the link below for full details.