After 74 votes over the space of a week, some pretty intense campaigning, and allegations of voter fraud, I'm proud to announce a winner of my Groundhog Haiku contest. Ready?
CONGRATULATIONS, CANDIDATE 1--Debbie Kinney-Dearden
Her winning haiku, in its entirety:
A groundhog I am
Call me Punxsutawney Phil
I'll eat your garden
Debbie gets to have a character named after her in my current book, TARNHELM. In fact, I've already picked out the spot for her to reside, and I'm presenting you with her scene in its entirety, right now. (Debbie, your name can appear however you'd like--just let me know.) To give you all some context, the main character (Vee--a new kid in the school) is going up to talk to a girl (Victoria--Miss Popularity). The book's told from Vee's point of view, and he's patterned his life after film noir. So it's supposed to have a sort of Sam Spade flair to the text.
Victoria was surrounded by a court of cheerleaders, with a select few jocks peppered around the table to make things cordial. I stood in the doorway behind her, observing for a spell before I spoke to her.
She was clearly the alpha cheer. Every detail at the table screamed it. The way the other girls’ eyes would flick to her for approval or cues about what to do, the way she managed the emotions of the group with a flirting smile in one direction, a well-placed hand on a shoulder, a tiny frown of confusion. No one at the table was allowed to forget her for a moment. If she could have it her way, the whole room would be devoted to her.
Their table sat right in the middle of the cafeteria. Lines for hoagies on one side and pizza on the other. You couldn’t eat a school lunch and not pass by her coterie. It was almost enough to make a man want to start brown bagging it.
I left my post by the door and strode over to the table, tapping the doll to Victoria’s right on the shoulder. “You’re wanted in the guidance counselor’s office,” I said.
The girl turned and frowned at me. “Excuse me?”
“Guidance counselor sent me to get you.”
“I’m pretty sure,” I said. “What’s your name?”
I snapped my fingers and pointed at her. “That’s the one. They’re expecting you.”
I shrugged. “Didn’t ask. Not my business.”
Debbie got up and grabbed a few books and her purse and then hustled out of the room. I sat down in her now empty seat. “What are we talking about?” I asked loudly, smiling at the rest of them.
I got a sea of disapproval in return, a wall of disgruntled fake noses and perfect teeth. Victoria defused the situation by laughing. “Everyone, this is Vee. Vee, this is everyone. He’s doing an article about me for the school newspaper. Weren’t we going to do the interview after school today, Vee?”
“Sorry,” I said. “Must have slipped my mind.”
One of the cheer squad must have taken that as a sign of weakness—a chance to pounce. “You’re not in seventh period lunch,” she said, her lip curled up in revulsion for who knew what reason.
“Beautiful and observant,” I said. “What a winning combination.” I turned to Victoria. “Now if you don’t mind, Princess, you and I need to have that interview.”
“Now?” She was still smiling, but there was an edge around her eyes—I didn’t know her well enough to know if it was panic or fear or something else.
“No time like the present. Would you like to do it here, or is there some place more . . . comfortable?”
“I know just the place.” She pushed back from the table and stood up. As we left the room, I heard conversation start back up in her court. No doubt the rumor mill about us would be churning away happily by now. To the best of my knowledge, our school didn’t even have a paper.
So there you have it. I won't tell you what the rest of the book's about, but that's a nice sneak peek there as a thank you to all who voted. I'll make sure to keep everybody updated if the book gets picked up for publication. In the meantime, remember: less than a month until Vodnik comes out!