Prompt: You’re stranded on a desert island with three items: a coconut, a mask and a dictionary. Write a story of 750 words or fewer that explains how you use these items to help you get off the island.
Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #49 (either by entering, reading or voting).
Out of more than 400 entries, readers helped us pick “Defining Home” by Jamie-Lee Denton as the winner. For winning, Denton’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.
by Jamie-Lee Denton
I fought with the light. I wanted so badly to believe that the tint that penetrated my eyelids was my little brother’s flashlight he had startled me with every Sunday before mom’s mandatory family breakfast. But I knew routine would not bring me comfort. I got up, looked out into the abyss and convinced myself that this was not real, but the hot sand below my feet usurped my imagination. “What if I am stuck here forever?”
I zipped open my backpack and looked at the coconut key ring my father gave me when I told him I was going on my eat, pray, love mission—just me and my boat. I remember the fear he had in his eyes when I told him I would go, but he knew better than to stop me when I had made up my mind about something so outrageous. “You were always a daredevil like your mama,” he had said as he squeezed the coconut into my hand.
Beside the key ring was my World Language Dictionary; I couldn’t wait to travel to France and chat with passers-by, defining and redefining words. I scavenged the rest of my bag for the mid-bit Oh Henry! chocolate bar I had abandoned when my boat hit the Maison Rock and began sinking. Nothing. No food, no fresh water, no company. Stranded.
By midday, I was ready to give up. I walked and cried but nature failed to feed me; she offered no breast. The trees bore no fruits; the ground, no starch; and the sea, no fish. I grabbed my backpack, sat under the tree and thought of the time mom had lost me in the grocery store, only to find me in the stationary isle covered in baby powder. I missed her laugh and suddenly reflection grew painful.
I took out my dictionary and began looking up words and reciting their definitions to distract my disposition. “Quell: to suppress. Imprest: an advance of money. Lilt: a little song or tune.” As I recited my fourth word, a wild boar began approaching me. Frantic, I reached for my backpack, pulled out the red Power Ranger mask I had kept from the Eighties Babies TV Show Convention while I was on a stop in Chile four days prior and disguised myself. Nervously, I read some more words: “Ingress: t-h-e-e the r-r-ight to e-n-t-er. Machinate: to con-con-contrive,” and the wild boar came closer. His predatory nature terrified me, so I stopped, but my lack of recital made the animal furious, so I began again: “Plethoric: overfull. Idiolect: a person’s individual speech pattern.”
This whole fiasco had me sweating uncontrollably, so I slowly took my mask off. Bad idea. The wild boar became increasingly rowdy, so I maintained my Power Ranger and my definitions. The animal confronted me and licked my face—how odd for a wild animal.
Curious to learn who or what I was, the boar interrogated me with its snout and searched my bag. Frightened, but unusually comforted, I watched as it ingested my coconut key ring. The boar ran and I followed behind it repeating words and definitions. Suddenly, the wild boar halted and spat out my key ring right beside a pile of coconuts. I could not believe it.
I carried the coconuts one by one to the seashore until it produced a mountain. The boar stayed close, celebrating as I recited a new word each time. While I sat on the coconut hill, a ship with some fishermen and farmers approached the shores. A bearded man with cinnamon-brown hair got out first. “Say, I bet you want off this island. How ’bout you give us those coconuts and we get you home?”
Things were moving so quickly that my response escaped from my mouth handicapped. “Uuhh…mm…Uhhhh. Ummm, OK.” The men wasted no time stocking the ship.
As I boarded, the wild boar followed behind me. I stopped reciting words, but it remained. I took my Power Ranger mask off, and still the boar was stagnant. The animal had become so accustomed to me that the very things that made him furious at first gave him comfort. He followed me on to the ship.
For me, home wouldn’t be too far now, but for the wild boar, he would be far away from home. I felt it only necessary to pick up my dictionary and appease him with another definition. “Home: any place of residence or refuge.”