After an unavoidable delay, The Voice is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2005 Voice Writing Contest, Fiction Category, has been selected. Two honourable mentions have also been awarded by our panel which consisted of Anthropology tutor, Carole Benner, Health Studies tutor Lori Beresford and Communication Studies tutor Holly Dougal, who filled as an a last minute replacement. We’d like to send our heartfelt thanks to our panel who volunteered their time to make this contest possible.
Without further delay, our winners for the Fiction category for 2005 are:
WINNER: A Word to the Wise – Kimberley Sanders, of Woodlawn ON
HONOURABLE MENTION: Faerie – Sandra Livingston of Keswick, ON
HONOURABLE MENTION: Inheritance – Rhona MacInnis of Ottawa, ON
Yes, it’s a clean sweep for Ontario this year! Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner of the contest will receive a $500 scholarship prize, so don’t forget to enter again next year! For now, read our winning entry and get inspired! As a reminder, our non-fiction winning entry, Reinventing Who We Are: Human Beings and Our Place in the World, was printed in the March 24, 2006 issue of The Voice, and was written by Bill Pollett of British Columbia.
A Word To The Wise
by Kimberley Sanders
It was seven in the morning and a brilliant January sun was ascending to an unspoiled world. A nightlong snowfall had left the roads covered in white chaos. From the upstairs bathroom, Sophie saw that the southbound was ploughed. As she turned on the shower, she reminded herself that she came from strong Germanic roots and she would get through this day.
As she washed her hair she thought about her parents, Nitsa and Felix. Instead of a godmother, Nitsa’s best friend, Penelope, was asked to be Sophie’s “good-mother.” Over the years, Sophie developed a repertoire of pet names for Penelope – Aunt Poppy, Auntie P, Pop Tart, Popcorn, Alma Mater, and g-Mom. Sophie remembered how, at fifteen, her parents left her at Poppy’s while they were off exploring the Silk Road for a travel magazine article. When the yurt they were asleep in accidentally caught fire, it was Poppy who travelled to Karakol to collect their belongings. After the funeral, Poppy assumed the role of Sophie’s legal guardian.
Stepping from the shower, Sophie was thinking about life without her Alma Mater when the phone rang. She knew it was the hospital calling to confirm time and cause of death. Their connection, or “silver thread” as Poppy called it, was nothing short of magical. Regardless of the geography between them, the two were connected. Sophie remembered the summer she spent with Aunt Poppy when her parents were shooting in New Zealand. She awoke after midnight, strangely melancholic. Before the first tear hit the bed, Poppy waltzed into the room singing, “You Are My Sunshine,” in Latin. That was quintessentially Poppy.
“Poppy,” Sophie remembered asking. “Alma Mater means nurturing mother in Latin, right?”
“Yes, my sweet pixie that’s right. Do you remember what “?In loco parentis’ means?”
“In place of a parent?”
“Very good. Now, what do we say before we close our eyes and drift off to sleep?”
“Omnia vincit amor – love conquers all,” she questioned?
“Yes, that’s right little one. Love does conquer all.”
When Sophie was dried and dressed, she looked for the phone to call Tirion. Three years ago her two labs, Hypatia and Hegel, had broken out of their kennel and were wreaking havoc at the farmer’s market. Tirion had a way with animals and managed to bag both dogs in a matter of seconds. When he saw Sophie wildly waving from across the street, he understood what had happened.
“Ma’am,” he hollered. “These yours?”
His Welsh lilt melted her heart more than the shy glances he kept making toward the “help wanted” sign in the shop window. She had seen him walk by the house, look at the sign, hesitate, and continue past.
Before she could answer, Hegel and Hypatia laid down at her feet.
“Yep, they’re mine,” she replied.
“I’m Tirion and I :” His voice trailed off.
“Hello TEER-ee-on. I’m Sophie and this is my place – my shop and my home.”
“What does “?Sophisticake’ mean,” he asked?
“Oh, my Uncle who named me was a philosophy professor – philo-sophie. Philosophy literally means “love of wisdom.” Anyway, I sell books and over the years we’ve become known for the calorific cakes we make. My Aunt Penelope opened this shop when she retired from teaching. She calls it, “the thinking person’s bookshop, coffee bar and knick-knack shack.”
“C’mon in, Tirion. Men’s medium, right?”
Before he could say anything, she handed him a black tee shirt with the “?Sophisticake’ logo.
“Can you start next week,” she asked?
“Sure. Uh, you mean you’re hiring me?”
“Yep. Welcome to Sophisticake. Aunt Poppy is out in the garden. Make sure you introduce yourself before you leave.”
“Tempus fugit,” she thought to herself. Time really does flee. As she headed down the stairs, she called Tirion.
“Tirion, it’s me. I have to pick up Alma’s things at the hospital and make arrangements for her memorial service. Are you okay to run the shop for a few days without me?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m sorry, Soph. I’ll let mom know.”
She placed the phone on the counter, filled her traveller with coffee and hollered for Hypatia and Hegel. “C’mon kids, out for a pee!” With the dogs consigned to their crates, Sophie scribbled a thank you note for Tirion, then locked up and left.
The drive to town was a welcome opportunity for quiet contemplation. “Om Shanti,” she repeated to herself. “Peace, Sophie. Peace.” Sophie tried to calm her mind, but all she could think about were the crazy book lists Poppy had assigned to her over the years. For as long as she could remember, Poppy’s instructions were always the same: one book per quarter and thirteen obscure questions to answer. The questions, always written on the most exquisite stationery, were tucked into a spectacularly embellished envelope and inserted between two specific pages – one of which had a highlighted phrase. Poppy, ever the educator, she thought to herself!
Indeed, Poppy was the quintessential teacher. As she drove along, Sophie thought about her mom and Aunt Poppy attending Carleton University in the 1960’s. Poppy, an English Literature major, had authored a play that starred Nitsa. After the closing night show Nitsa met Felix, a Journalism major who was covering the performance for the campus newspaper. When Poppy went on to teacher’s college, Nitsa moved in with Felix when he started working for MacLean’s magazine. His job took them all over the world and it was on a trip to Catal HÃ¼yÃ¼k that Sophie was conceived.
Her focus returned to driving when a police car blasted past her. As she headed down Bank Street, she passed a high school and was reminded that she was in high school when her parents died and she went to live with Poppy in Carp. The house, with all its interesting rooms, was a slice of heaven. Heaven : Sophie’s thoughts again turned toward the task at hand. Thoughts of death made Sophie think of All Hallows and the importance of a sabbat that allowed the living to honour loved ones who passed over. Every year at All Hallows, she and Poppy would set a place at the table for her parents. Now, she would be setting one for Poppy, too.
As she slid into a parking spot, the skies opened and soft flakes floated down. She thought about her last trip to the hospital and the crazy request Poppy made for flour, a mixing bowl, a wooden stirring spoon, a two-inch paintbrush, colourful non-toxic markers, scissors and several sheets of eco-friendly tree-free paper. She also asked for seeds, and not just any seeds. Poppy wanted gypsophila seeds. Baby’s breath?” Sophie questioned. “You really have to ask?” Poppy had said with a chuckle. They cut out flowers, and pasted the seeds on with edible glue. “Your task, should you accept it,” said Poppy, “Is to grow your garden.”
When Sophie arrived on the fourth floor, Poppy’s bed was empty. All the flowers they made and taped to the window were neatly placed on the pillow. “Poppy and her gardens,” she thought to herself. One by one, Sophie put the flowers in a lavishly decorated hatbox. On the bedside table, Poppy’s journal sat atop three books. Her final words were in Latin, “nascentes morimur.” From the moment we are born, we die. Sophie closed the journal and looked at the books – Penelope’s favourites: Silent Spring, A Gift from the Sea, and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Another book lay beside the pillow, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. Poppy had given it to Sophie for her twenty-seventh birthday. As she picked it up, a gold embossed letter slipped out. It read,
My dearest Sophie,
Don’t be so concerned with doing that you forget to be. Remember to live in the moment : to dive in and breathe deeply the oceans of air that await you. How we spend our days is how we spend our years. Make your years count, my beloved. And remember to set a place for me :
I will love you always, my little pixie.
Pax vobiscum. Peace be with you, my precious.
Lovingly, Your Alma Mater,
It was Beltane, May Day, when Sophie planted the paper flowers. On the back of an exceptionally exquisite bloom Poppy had scrawled a Joseph Campbell quote, “This is the place of the breakthrough into abundance.“ She ended with, “Pax. Verbum sapienti sat est.”
“Peace. A word is enough to the wise.”