Palo Alto Weekly 17th Annual Short Story Contest
by Sonya Raymakers
"Something wrong?" asked Grace's father.
"I miss Starlight. She ... she was the best
horse I ever had. She was beautiful. I know she is gone, but I
went to the woods today to look for her," Grace said, sliding
into a chair.
"That horse was a mystery to me," her
father replied. "Her sire was a coal black stallion, her
dam a dark bay. Yet she was a white one. With blue eyes! The only
other horse I ever saw with blue eyes was my dapple gray. Weird
ones, both of them."
"I still can't believe she's gone." Grace
"We can get you another, if you like."
"Goodnight." Grace stepped up the stairs
to her loft and prepared for a troubled sleep.
Grace had a dream. She was running, calling for
Starlight. A blackness swirled around her, taking her away. She
whirled around, and fell on -- the floor.
Grace shook herself and stood up. Her clock read
4:00 AM. She slumped into her desk chair and picked up her journal.
Journal entry July 14
4:05. Grace sighed, and slowly pulled on a green
sweater and black slacks. She went down the stairs, and opened
A dog yipped happily as she came outside.
"Sh, Fulton," she whispered. Grace jumped
down the steps two at a time, the sheepdog at her heels. "Stay."
she said harshly.
Grace walked to the barn, making no sound on her
She did her chores early, to get them out of the
way. She was thinking about Starlight. They had such a good time
together, it seemed very quiet now without the white horse.
Grace ran to the forest when she was done milking
their cow, Clover.
She touched each tree as a friend, and patted each
bush like a loved pet. At night the forest was dark, but not menacing
Up ahead, a white shape raced in front of Grace.
"Starlight! she cried running toward it. But
it was gone. "Probably a hallucination." Grace tried
to make herself believe it, but she couldn't. What if Starlight
had survived the tornado? It was possible, yet ... she shook her
head and started towards the farmhouse.
Grace trudged up the steps, ignoring Fulton howling
at being left outside again. She buttered toast and took a bite.
Even though the bread was sweet, she put it down and gazed out
across the ranch.
The rising sun caressed the rolling hills, touched
the fence of the corral which contained beautiful horses and ponies.
But one was missing.
"I'm lonely. There is no one here, except dad.
And ... she sighed.
That evening a dark figure slipped out the door.
The sky was a deep blue, the forest silhouetted against the moon.
The blueness of the sky was disrupted by a silent white figure.
The shape alighted on a bough.
White, white with light blue eyes. A hawk.
Grace reached out, and touched its smooth feathers.
"You're beautiful," she breathed. "You
look like Starlight -- oh!" she gasped as it soared over
the barn. It squawked as though calling to her.
Grace walked inside. She ran her hands over the
carved stalls. Black Gold; Kate; Jag; Champion; Rio Grande; Snapples;
Duchess, Starlight's sister; Starlight. Her fingers recognized
the rough engraving.
Grace strode to the tack room. There lay Starlight's
saddle, on top of a faded blue saddle blanket.
She fiddled with a corner of the cloth, and a folded paper fell on the floor. Grace bent and opened it slowly. On it was sloppy handwriting:
INSERT NIGHTHAWK HERE
"Nighthawk?" Grace stood there, confused.
What was the circle for? A symbol? "Nighthawk ... ?"
Grace sprinted up the stairs so fast she nearly
threw her father off his feet on his way to bed.
"Where's the fire?" he asked playfully
with a yawn.
Grace tumbled on her bed, panting slightly from
her run. Again she unfolded the paper. "Nighthawk" could
In her head she turned over every piece of paper
she could remember seeing.
"A signature! But ... whose name is Nighthawk?
A strange name, a strange mystery!" she found herself singing
at the top of her lungs.
"Grace! It is 12 midnight, and why are you
looking through my papers at this hour and why aren't you in bed!"
Grace's father was screaming by now, his face pinker than a plum.
Cursing, Grace trudged off to her room. Tomorrow
she would see who Nighthawk might be.
The following morning she shoved her toast into
her mouth and ran off into the forest, her first place to search.
She saw a goldfinch, a field mouse, two squirrels
running around a tree, but nothing blue and white. She had a feeling,
deep down that "Nighthawk" was connected to the twister
and to Starlight. She fought this thought, but it hammered in
her mind like George Jones' drills.
Movement. Grace froze and her eyes popped out of
her head when she saw an image of a horse in front of her. It
was white with blue eyes!
"Not Starlight," she said firmly, "She is gone now."
Never mind now. The horse had disappeared
into thin air. Grace turned her back on the spot and marched back
to the farmhouse certain she had seen nothing.
Stomping up the steps in a hurry got her nowhere
after a stern order from her father to "muck out the stalls
and leave your daddy in quiet with his paperwork." Grace
flounced out again, her lower lip stuck out in impudence, and
strode off to the stable, Fulton in her wake.
Before entering the building at her left, she gazed
up at the sky, watching a jet plane leave a white trail behind.
She glanced at Fulton, who was tearing her shoelaces to shreds
but looked up again quickly. Had she seen ... ? Yes, there it
was, the word "Believe" written across the sky.
That evening she picked at her dinner, the word
"believe" scrolling across her mind. Believe, believe,
"Dad?" Grace asked.
"What?" returned her father.
"If someone told you to believe, what would
you think they meant?"
"Why do you ask?" he inquired suspiciously.
"Oh, nothing, I -- I read it in a book somewhere."
Grace lied quickly. What would he say if he thought she was seeing
omens in the sky?
"Well, then, they could be asking you to believe
what they were telling you, or telling you to believe in something,
or someone, for that mat-"
Grace cut him off with a "Thanks dad!"
as she flew up the stairs to her room.
"Didn't finish dinner again," he muttered
as he left the room to wash the dishes.
"What about Fulton? He'll make a din if I go
out there! I think I'll go put him in the stable ..." she
thought out loud as she put on her nightgown.
She slipped on a robe and glided outside without
an excuse for being out, which irritated her father greatly.
Grace dragged Fulton into the stable, where he would
only smell the horses not her, tonight.
Grace sat on a stump, the cool night air caressing
her cheeks, but she was not worried by the cold. She was waiting,
for what she did not know.
A silent white shadow alighted on a branch near
her. It was a bird, a hawk. It was adorned with snow-white feathers
and blue eyes that shone with the ocean's beauty.
Grace reached out and stroked its smooth feathers.
"This is the second time we've met," she
breathed, not wanting to disturb the quietude of the forest. "You
are so much like Starlight, in so many ways ... "
"Are you trying to talk to me?" she asked
in response to the bird's movement.
Suddenly the hawk's beak elongated into a nose,
on its head it grew long ears. The body grew bigger, feathers
turning into white hairs. Its scaly legs with talons reached down
into long hoofed feet.
"Starlight! I believe now. It's really you!" Grace was almost crying with joy. She settled herself on the mare's back and they rode off to tell the good news.
Short story writers wanted!
The 31st Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 13, 2017. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.