Writing and random posts

Honorable Mentions

I entered an expensive short story writing contest called NYC Midnight and got an honorable mention in my heat for the first round. The prompt was: Historical Fiction, Submarine Officer, Lie Detector Test - three things I would never normally write about. It was a fun exercise. I got feedback for my entry fee. I appreciated the objective analysis. 

I've pasted the story and the judge's comments below

The worst days yet

Ada let the tears fall down the sides of her face into her ears. The wetness pooled there and gave her the chills. She shook her head and pressed her back into the uneven pile of blankets on the floor of the empty kitchen. Eleanor sat behind her and ran her fingers through Ada’s hair with light fast strokes that tickled.

Ada pushed Eleanor’s hand away.

“I thought you liked that.”

“Don’t say anything El. You don’t understand. It’s not typing, my job. It’s hell.”

“Typing can be hell sometimes.”

“Don’t joke.”

“I’m not. I type the worst of news for these families. Even if it is something they half expect to hear, they don’t want to hear it and I’m the one who transcribes…”

“And I’m the one tending to these boys at the worst time of their lives.”

“I suppose that is worse.” Eleanor said.

“War is hell.”

“It is. More?” Eleanor leaned over to grab the bottle of clear rum that made their insides burn and their brains soften.

“This stuff is poison,” Ada said as she propped her head up just enough so that her lips met the tip of the cup. She leaned her head back and let the liquid flow down her throat. By doing this, she believed that she wasn’t participating in the act of drinking, as much as she was allowing the alcohol to flow into her body via gravity. The result of allowing the alcohol into her body was inebriation. These things happened naturally. Simple physics.

“Why do you make us sit here in this awful kitchen, Ada?”

“Is it that awful? I suppose I’m more comfortable in here.”

“Why’s that?”

“I guess I like the sterility of it.”

“The what?”

“Sterility. It’s sterile, like the hospital. I figure if those boys have to sleep there, then why should I be in a nice comfortable bed.”

“Your bed’s not comfortable, Ada.”

“Well, then I like it in here because my room is full of smoke from Turner’s cigarettes and your room is just plain hot.”

“It is hot. It’s Jackie’s fault. She doesn’t like the windows open.”

“Well, nevermind.” Ada finished her glass and winced at the burning feeling in her throat.

“Bad day then, Ada?”

“The worst day yet.”

“Was it that Michigan boy?”

“No, they shipped him out to the mainland. We couldn’t do anything for him.”

“What was it then?”

“Is it really necessary for me to tell you?”

“No, but I do worry about you.”

“Oh, El, shut up.”

“I’m only trying to help, Ada. It’s as if you don’t want me to be your friend.”

Both women stayed silent for a long minute.

“Nevermind then. Just lie there and cry your eyes out. I’ll keep pouring you your drink till you pass out, again.” Eleanor said.

“That’s a good girl.”


Even before she opened her eyes a few hours later, Ada felt the familiar feeling of being weighed down. It was as if she were under water and couldn’t get herself to the surface. The thought of the hospital and the suffering that lived there was like drowning. Yes, she had taken an oath to serve her country. Yes, she had volunteered, but maybe it was a mistake. If she had known it would be anything like this, she would have stayed in the apartment with her mother and her younger brother, Samuel and worked in the local hospital like the other girls in her nursing program. But she had a duty now beyond anything she wanted. They keep saying that in wartime sacrifices must be made if victory is to be achieved.

She pushed the covers off and stood up. Her head pounded so hard she swore there were drums playing in the distance.

“It will be OK,” Ada whispered to herself. “I will eat dinner tonight. It will be OK and I won’t drink as much.”

She closed her eyes and undressed. After a quick shower, she pulled on her uniform. It felt loose. She took her shirt off to read the tag, AParker. It was hers. She was sure there must have been a mix up in the laundry. She finished dressing, brushed her teeth and stole a piece of toast from one of the other girl’s plate on the way out of the kitchen.

She walked the half mile through base to the hospital.

When she first arrived, eight months ago, she used to walk to work with the other WAVEs in a big loud group. Now she leaves before the others have changed out of their pyjamas. They have become lazy while she’s become determined to work harder than any other nurse by getting to work early and staying late. The others go out to the beach after work most days. She hasn’t felt the sand in her toes for a while. She’s not sure how she feels about Hawaii anymore, anyway. Used to be that she dreamed of returning with a husband for a vacation. Now this tropical paradise is overshadowed by the memories of the men she’s cared for and the trauma they have endured.

Her wing of the hospital looks after the sailors who have been injured in ways you can’t easily see. Spend time with them, like Ada does every day and you will soon understand the reasons for their hospitalization. Emotional troubles, mostly caused by the horrors of battle. She administers sedatives and listens to the boys recall their worst experiences.


“Parker, good, you’re here,” Commander Gentry was standing at the nurse’s station looking flustered, which was unlike him. He was often called Captain America by the other girls, tough as nails and calm as anything.

No matter what time Ada got to work, Gentry always seemed to be there. Maybe his sleeping quarters were in a back room somewhere. He never seemed to go off duty.

“Yes, sir.” Ada stood up straight and looked at the collar of the commander’s shirt. She could see some small hairs poking out. It looked as though the commander had a rather hairy chest. She wondered what kind of chest he had. A hard one or a soft one. She wanted to touch his chest. She inhaled sharply at the thought and looked at the commander’s eyebrows instead. They were bushy and thick and less appealing.

“We have a sailor here and, well, he’s... It’s a special circumstance. Come over here, Parker.”

Ada followed the commander to the end of the hallway where they could talk more privately than the exposed nurse’s station.

“His name’s Stevens and he’s been brought in on charges, well, I won’t say any more about that. Have you ever heard of a polygraph test, Parker?”

“No, sir.” Ada had heard of a polygraph test because she loved spy novels, but she wasn’t going to tell the commander this. She wanted him to have the satisfaction of teaching her. She wanted to make him feel smart about this test that was meant to detect if someone was lying or not. She didn’t know either way if the tests worked. She was more thinking that, maybe someday if they met outside of this place, the commander would want to spend time with her. She breathed in deep again to stop the thought and nodded as he explained that this Stevens boy was going to be undergoing a polygraph test and she was to look after him before the test.

“These boys seem to trust you. I’m under strict orders on this one. Utmost discretion,” he said and he brought his finger to his lips. “Shhh.”

“Yes, sir.”

He winked at her and walked away.

She fetched the drinks cart and rolled it to the room where Stevens was being held. It was the double locked room. She hated this room because only the lunatics and the prisoners are kept in this room. Commander assured her that Stevens was harmless, but Ada kept the knife tool partially extended in her Swiss Army knife in her pocket, just in case.


Stevens was young, 19 years old, according to his chart. He was a submarine officer and had been at sea for the same amount of time Ada had been working in the hospital.

Ada listened to his rapid fire monologue about the food in the sub, the cramped quarters, the heat and the stink of the 80 men working, smoking and sweating together.

“They hate me in that sub,” he said.

“Why do you say that?” Ada asked. She didn’t understand what this sweet boy could do to make his unit go against him.

“Because of who I am. Who I got close to. Same reason I’m here. Do you have a cigarette in that cart?”

Ada pulled a pack from the bottom of the drink cart and handed one to Stevens. She lit it with a match.

“I suppose you want to know what I mean, huh? I see the question in your face. You’re a nice person, Ada. I can tell. You remind me of my little sister.”

Ada laughed quietly. She was 26 and Stevens reminded her of her brother Samuel. They shared the gift of the gab.

“You ever been in love, Ada? You’re a pretty girl, you must have had boys after you. Especially in this godforsaken place.”

She blushed. Most days Ada felt desire for someone in here. She never acted on it, because engaging in relations with patients or doctors would be against her oath.

“Well, I had the misfortune of falling for someone and he for me, and look where it got me. I’m in a double locked room in the loony bin.”

Ada looked at Stevens. Her cheeks heated up. She stood up and smoothed out her uniform.

“You didn’t know? I buggered the boss and now I’m on the fast track to get the blue ticket, no doubt about it. I’m gone. Back to the farm or prison. I don’t really know which.”

Ada moved items around on the drinks cart unnecessarily.

“Maybe I will have a coffee after all,” he said

“Do you take milk and sugar?”


Ada made the drink and handed it to him. She watched him lift his cup to his mouth. He was a handsome young man with a calm face. He hadn’t shaved in a few days. His skin was not a natural color. The sub boys always look sickly for lack of sunlight.

“You had relations, then, with your commanding officer?”

Stevens looked Ada in the eyes and nodded. Ada felt a rush of excitement through her body and a tingle she recognized as lust. She had read about homosexuals in the medical books, but she had never met one in real life.

“How did? I mean a submarine is so small, cramped.”

“Oh, well, commanding officers have the power to clear a room, don’t they?”

Ada smiled. She would like someone to clear a room so they could be alone with her.

“Some nimwit walked in on us and screamed bloody murder. It was chaos from there on out. The sub surfaced that night and we were arrested. I was brought here. I don’t know where they took him. I can still smell him on my shirt. I hope he’s alright.”

“It’s going to be OK.”

“No, it’s not. Everyone hates me. Even my friends wouldn’t look at me after. Like I was diseased.”

“You’re not diseased. You just got into a difficult situation.”

“Why did he lie? He denied we were doing what that guy caught us doing. I kept my mouth shut, but I just wanted to tell the truth. I’m not ashamed of what I am. But stating it under oath, on the record. I’m not happy about that. And him, he’s married. Has three kids. He might lose everything. I just don’t know what to do.”

Stevens pressed his clenched fists into his eyes. He cried hard for a half a minute then straightened up.

“You have to tell the truth. The machine just wants the truth. You can’t save him.”

Ada squeezed his shoulder hard.

They sit together and talk about their hometowns and films. After a while, Gentry comes to collect Stevens. Ada cleaned the dishes and rolled the drinks cart out of the room.

For the rest of the day, she tended to other patients as normal, but she was distracted by the thought of the submarine and Stevens and a love affair at such a depth.

Late in the day, she saw Stevens come down the corridor in handcuffs and ankle chains. He was flanked by two thick necked officers and he looked tired. “Ada,” he said with a wide smile. “I’m so glad to see you again. Thank you for your kindness. I wouldn’t have made it through today without you.”

She nodded at him then watched him walk away slowly chained up like King Kong. Such strong punishment for earthly desires that any of us would take part in if we were in his place, she thought. But, it is illegal. He shouldn’t have done it. No matter, he’s only young and older men can be very persuasive.


She left the hospital soon after and went to the beach. She let the water cover her feet and felt the foam bubbles pop at her ankles. She is kind to those boys. They trust her. If she can dish out so much kindness to these men, maybe she could spare a bit more for herself.


“I’ve been looking all over for you,” Eleanor is standing at the door of the kitchen. “Hey, what are you doing?”

Ada was pouring the remaining rum into the sink.

“It’s for our own good, El.”

“I don’t know how that’s possible. Is that sand on your leg?”


“Did you go to the beach?”


“You hate the beach.”

“I don’t.”

“You do. Everytime I invite you to come with us for a swim, you say ‘No, I hate the beach.’”

“Well, I don’t anymore.”

Eleanor pointed to the dishes on the counter next to Ada. “Are those yours? Have you eaten something?”

“I had Turner’s leftovers. She’s a good cook.”

“I know. I’ve told you that a hundred times.”

“Have you?” Ada said with a smile.

“Something’s gotten into you, Ada. The beach. Eating solid food? Are you pregnant?”

“What? Eleanor. Don’t be stupid.”

“What then?”

“Nothing, really.”

“Something. What happened at work today?”

“I helped someone.”

“You’re famous for that.”

“He was a sweet young boy. Tragic. I don’t know. I guess it was the best of the worst days yet.”


''The worst days yet'' by Marolyn Krasner -   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY - {437}  I think Stevens’ story is very compelling, and the idea of gayness being a mental illness realistic for the time period. I think Ada’s unhappiness comes through clearly - I like the conversations she has with Eleanor. I like the lines about her being kinder to herself, and the “best of the worst days yet.”  {1761} Ada is a very relatable character and making her a WAVE was a refreshing choice. It was especially nice to see that Ada did not judge Stevens harshly. {1739} The awakening Ada has for herself and her well being after talking to Stevens is nicely written. WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - {437} Watch your verb tenses - it seems to go from “stands” to “stood” to “is standing” a bit inconsistently. We never see the “worst” that Ada is so upset over - perhaps as she goes to Stevens you could show us some of the soldiers wailing, tortured, etc. so we *really* get a sense of what her day-to-day is like.  {1761} There needed to be a payoff of the romantic tension between Commander Gentry and Ada. The story seems incomplete without that romantic payoff. {1739} It's a bit difficult to tuck into Ada and her depression. That they are in Hawaii suggests Pearl Harbor, yet they already seem to be deep in the throws of war. Consider delving a bit deeper into what has traumatized Ada. As it is, she seems removed from the darkness, which makes it hard to understand why it's affecting her so much.