Nov 11, 2009 by

Round 10 Challenge – Kill off one of your characters (Word limit – 1200 words)

Read UTAH 9 here (see “Similar Posts” at the bottom of this post for any earlier entries)

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Janet Garver, the wife of the Super 8 front desk clerk, had lost her daughter in a car accident, so when her husband told her one of the motel guests was looking for her missing daughter, she took it upon herself to assist. Delia needed the help. For starters, she was desperate for income. In her wanderings over the past three years she had blazed through all her savings. If she continued this way she would have to sell her farm over the next year.

Due to the recession and all-time high unemployment, jobs were scarce for out-of-staters. But Janet was close friends with the owners of the Halfway House restaurant on 22A, and after a brief phone call told Delia there was a position for her there as a waitress if she wanted it. Janet assumed Delia would turn it down. The diner was forty miles south of the motel, about an hour commute each way, and the salary was lower than average for the Burlington area.

To Janet’s surprise, Delia jumped at the offer. It was ideal for her, though she didn’t elaborate why. There was no point in explaining to Janet that she had come to Vermont to scour the shores of Lake Champlain because of a dream. The Halfway House was a straight shot from Burlington down US7 and 22A, the major north/south route running parallel to Lake Champlain. Delia could combine her work commute with explorations of the lake’s perimeter.

On Monday, November 9th, Delia began her first shift. Her job had always been to put food on other people’s tables, although not quite so explicitly. In another strange inversion of circumstances, most of her customers were farmhands.

At first Delia kept a low profile about Corey but she soon recognized that not only was it impossible to maintain anonymity as a small town diner waitress but also that she was in a unique position to gather information about her possible whereabouts. She no longer avoided talking about her search for Corey. Naturally there were a number of customers who thought she had lost her wits. The standard explanation Delia gave for why she was in Vermont was that a Greyhound bus driver three years ago claimed he saw a girl who resembled Corey board a bus to Burlington. It wasn’t the most compelling lead. But then again, as many of them muttered quietly over their coffees while Delia tended the counter, they too would probably grasp at anything in her situation.

Delia had been working at the Halfway House for two months when Jacob’s station wagon pulled into the parking lot. Since meeting Corey there three years ago Jacob had only come one other time. He rarely drove along that stretch of 22A and he even more rarely stopped along the way.

Once Jacob took his seat, Delia came out from behind the counter with a menu. “Something to drink?”

“I’ll just have a club sandwich and onion rings.”

He stared out the window while waiting for his order. Delia brought him a glass of ice water with the sandwich and rings. “You from these parts or heading somewhere?”

The skin under Jacob’s eye twitched. “Just traveling. Heading south.” It was obvious he wasn’t interested in small talk.

The only other customers, an elderly couple, paid up and left. He noticed Delia pushed the cash register shut with her hip the same way Corey did with the kitchen drawers. Jacob ordered two slices of cherry pie to go.

“Keep the change,” he mumbled as he headed to the door. He grabbed the door handle but then froze in his tracks. Pinned up on the corkboard was a Missing Person flyer with Corey’s photo. Delia was chopping walnuts at the counter for the maple walnut pies. She looked up and saw Jacob looking at the flyer. The sound of walnuts crunching under the chopping knife stopped.

“Do you recognize her?” It was silent.

Jacob glanced over at Delia and shook his head. Then he put his hood up and walked outside. Delia returned to her duties. The engine of Jacob’s station wagon roared to life. The sound of the motor climbed in pitch and then faded away into silence.

She stopped chopping the nuts and looked up slowly at the door. She again saw the image of the man looking over at her, putting his hood on, and then looking away. It was the same face. The same face from the computer screen three years ago. The same face except with a goatee. The chopping knife fell with a clatter from her hand as her throat constricted. Two slices of cherry pie to go… She rushed outside, a cry lodged in her throat. The station wagon, which she had never seen, was gone.

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While her mother was serving Jacob, Corey was standing naked in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at herself in side profile. Her ribs were visible and her shoulder blades jutted out sharply. She ran her hands over her stomach. The nightmare she had awoken to that morning was playing out in her head again. She was in a sunny cornfield, with birds whistling about her. The corn was almost ready for harvest. Hungry, she reached for the closest ear and shucked it. But no matter how much husk she peeled away, she couldn’t find the cob underneath. She tried another ear and then another, but there were no kernels in any of them.

With her hands on her belly, Corey looked at her reflection as the tears ran down her face. Finally, scared but determined, she wiped her face dry. Then she walked out of the kitchen and ran as fast as she could into the corner of the table. Doubling over, she fell to the ground. She stood up and ran again. And again. When Jacob arrived he found her on the floor. She was unconscious and bleeding between her legs.

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  1. tetra


    What a disturbing, terrible…clinching ending.

    Should make it harder to get rid of you. hehe

    but I suppose thats the point.

    Id say you are all good this time round and that our choice is a matter of personal taste more than literary merit.

    maybe your follow up comments and interacitons until the poll closes should also be taken into account in our assessment of you.

    after all, this is like a reality show, so you gotta play a bit with the audience, right?

    now with no Nora to goad and having run out of fish jokes Im wondering…what next?

  2. Very good Utah, awaiting your next submission.

  3. Utah, that brutal but genial!
    I’m glad you didn’t go for the cliffhanger like Coco and Olaf, it was nice to get some semi-closure on one of the 3 passages this round.
    However, don’t take this as me wanting to bring your story to close just yet. I’m having a very hard time picking a favourite at this point. I think I will have to play ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ with this round’s poll!

  4. I remain a fan of your amazing dream sequences. They are one of my favourite literary devices and to see them so cleverly employed here is a delight. It brings a whole new dimension to your story.

    To bring Jacob and Delia so close, but then to also be so far. I thought she was going to embed her knife in him, thrown from where she stood behind the counter.

    As for Corey – there’s little chance Jacob is going to seek medical help for her is there. My heart breaks for Delia.

  5. Utah — the prompt was to kill off a character. You aren’t killing off Corey, are you? Not sure if your entry fits the criterion, but I still love it.

  6. Excellent submission and clever use of the challenge. Well played.

  7. I’ve stopped by the library for a quick check. I’m desperately hoping my Internet will be up and running again soon; it’s frustrating having such limited access at this point in the contest! They promise it will be taken care of this weekend.

    Kaylie, the death of a character in this section was of Corey’s unborn child. The challenge didn’t specify it had to be a main character, or even a born one. I did push the limits this time but I need Corey, Jacob and Delia all alive, at least for now…

    Many thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. I found Olaf and Coco’s posts to be their strongest yet. It’s hard even for me to pick a favorite 😉 I wish all three of us could advance!

  8. Utah, I am relieved that you aren’t killing off Corey. Since I didn’t know she was pregnant, that seemed to me to be slightly off the prompt… but I accept it! I think this was a very, very strong section from you. Congratulations!

  9. Eros

    Utah, I really like that you have managed to keep all your main cariactor alive and still completed the challenge. I like Jodi thought for sure you were going to have Delia kill Jacob right there in the restaurant. I truly feel bad for Corey that she had to take care of the baby in that way. I am pro-choice so I have no problem with her aborting a baby made by rape, it just too bad that she had to take her procreative future into her own hands. I do hope for her sake the baby passes without anymore trouble. It is because of the dangers of “home” abortion that i am pro-choice I feel that there is no reason that both mother and baby should die. I do have a great pain about this subject because even though i am pro-choice, I don’t believe abortion of any type or for any reason is the right way to handle an unwanted child, but it is not my body or my soul so the choice is not mine to make. Now with all that said I can’t wait to see where you take this story next round. It has been very hard for me to make my voting choice the last two rounds and this one is no different. I hope you do well again this round in the vote and that your internet gets fixed, that can be a major pain in the butt. Love, Eros

    • Eros

      Sorry that should be characters not cariactor. I really don’t like this spell checker of mine…lol

  10. Hi Utah – I hope they get your Internet up and going soon! It must be seriously frustrating for you…

    You dealt with this week’s challenge so well – again. That was the last thing I was expecting. I thought you’d have to kill off Jacob. This challenge was always going to be the most difficult for you – with only three characters who are all central to the story.

    I read this on the way to work on my phone and, when Corey stood up and fearlessly just ran into the corner of the table like that I nearly burst into tears for her. On a crowded train!

    I really hope you win this competition, Utah!

  11. Thanks Eros and littlestar. I’m back online at last!

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