Winner of the March 2019 Writing Contest!

Written by Maria Manevich

Our prompt for March 2019 has been:

Pick a song that you really like (or really hate, if you want to challenge yourself a bit more).

Your character is receiving a lifetime-achievement award, and if they had to sum up their life in a single sentence, it would be the first line of the song you just chose.

Write your character’s thank-you speech.

  • You can use any of your own existing characters or come up with a new one for the occasion.
  • Entries up to 1,000 words, please.

And the winner of our music-inspired contest is… Marty Weiss!

Marty’s entry really manages to fold an entire lifetime into a short story. We also loved how he intertwined the two storylines through point-of-view changes.

Well done, Marty!

Secret Love *

By Marty Weiss

Jack Rogers adjusted the podium’s microphone.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to thank you for honoring me. My years as a field agent with the Organization were filled with a wide range of emotions, including sheer panic, but fortunately, not tonight.”

Jack let his eyes scan the small audience until he saw her.

“I clearly remember my first day with the Organization. Young, naive, and oh so eager, I stepped into one of the elevators at the old Headquarters building. I was..…”

Jack’s continued to deliver his prepared remarks while part of his mind went back to that first moment he saw her, the events that followed, and the self-recriminations he struggled with for years.

You fell in love with Sharon Landis at first sight. She operated one
of the building’s elevators. Every morning, noon and when you left
for the day, you would choose her elevator. That was what you did
during the three years you spent as a trainee in the Organization’s
Covert Administration Section. Despite your deep feelings and
desire, the most conversations you dared to start were
“Good morning” and “Good evening,” with an occasional, “How are
you today?” or “Terrible (or Fine) weather outside, isn’t it?”

“As you all know, field operations can be a lonely and dangerous place. Perhaps more importantly, there are personal sacrifices many field agents choose to make. I can honestly say I made some painful ones.”

You have no one to blame but yourself, Jack. When you chose your
career you thought if you allowed yourself to have a wife, children
or even a mistress, they could become targets of the many
enemies you probably would encounter while in actual Covert
Operations. A loved one put in potential danger by an enemy
might not only make you vulnerable to coercion or mission failure,
it could cost the life of that loved one. You could not and would
not permit that to happen. That high-minded and stupid principle
cost you happiness because it made beautiful Sharon painfully

“Through it all, I always knew I could count on the assistance and expertise of you, my home team, and you never failed me.”

But, being human. you could not fully control my feelings. You
were in love with Sharon, but it was a love you managed to
keep hidden from everyone but yourself. It was torture.
Remember, in the elevator, you tried to stand as close to
her as possible, studying her face, her body, her hair, and the small
mole exactly three inches below her right ear. You once spent an
hour in the Bloomingdale cosmetics department smelling sample
perfume bottles until you found the one she wore. Shalimar. You
still have a little left in the bottle you bought that day.

“I can’t tell you exactly how many countries I’ve been in, but it has been many, as has the variety of unusual foods I have eaten or tried to eat. Let me say, friends, if you would like to lose some weight, there are a few countries I can suggest you visit.”

It was the morning of your one-year anniversary with the
Organization when you noticed a fraternity pin on the left breast
of Sharon’s uniform jacket. A small black onyx heptagon with
three gold Greek Taus on its face. Sharon had become pinned, a
symbol of a serious courtship in progress. Remember how upset
you were until you convinced yourself that pinning was a
frivolous, sophomoric gesture of no lasting import. Sharon was
still yours, in your heart.

“For all its dangers and challenges, there are days when field work has its own inner rewards, although you can’t really talk about them.”

Then there came the day when Sharon was no longer wearing the
fraternity pin on her jacket. You were sure she was free again, and
searched her lovely face for any trace of sadness or heartbreak.
She looked anything but, a clue you misread. Maybe you would
really talk to her that evening, and thought all day what you would
finally say to her on your way home. That evening, when you
noticed the small diamond engagement ring on her left hand, you
just stood there, silent and frozen until the elevator arrived at the
ground floor and the doors. You felt like you had been hit by a
baseball bat. You left without saying a word.

“I am a lucky man. We all know of those brave men and women, our former co-workers who were not as fortunate as I, and who made the supreme sacrifice. That was a risk of which I was fully aware when I opted for covert assignments.”

Remember the day you saw a gold wedding band on Sharon’s left
hand. Within the hour, you asked to be immediately transferred
into the Covert Field Action Group. Returning after six-months
intensive field training given prior to going on your first field
assignment, you saw Sharon, radiant and visibly pregnant. She was
walking arm-in-arm with her husband, a member of the
Organization’s cryptography staff.

“In conclusion, I would again like to thank you for this plaque and gold watch. It has been my great honor to serve our country. I would also like to openly share something with a former elevator operator for the Organization, Sharon Landis Curtain. She is now a still beautiful, gray-haired grandmother, the widow of our late Director of Cryptography Department. Unknowingly until this minute, she has always been that very special person to me for the last thirty years, my love. Sharon, these first and last lines of a song are for you.

Once I had a secret love that lived within the heart of me

At last my heart’s an open door and my secret love’s no secret anymore”


* (music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, 1953)