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Odile Schmidt

Odile looks at Facebook. The writing contest shows no results. Nineteen minutes before she decides to go to the supermarket by bicycle. Miss Sulfur talks to a villager. Does she know more about the contest?




At the other side of the window there is a fig tree with large green fruit. In a few weeks I can eat the first fruit of the year. I think about a story to write. This is the most painful part of writing. What should my story be about? A neighbor walks his dog and it pees against the fence. My husband would get mad, but I’m more interested in an idea. When I walk to the kitchen and back to the living room, I see a woman. Not a real woman. She is writing behind my desk. I wonder what she is writing. Her hair is messy as if she never uses a comb. Her clothes are smelly. She leaves the desk to get cigarettes. She cannot find her lighter, searches for it in her jacket, grabs in her purse. No cigarettes. She goes outside on the terrace. The cigarettes lay there on the table. The paint on the table is wearing off. She lights the cigarette. I write this down and read it through. It is not poetic enough. I add words and delete sentences. Then I look up at the clock. 19:00 o’clock. In the Netherlands we don’t use PM of AM.


As I put the last red socks in the drawer, I allow myself to sit behind the display. Red means passion. Ik don’t feel the Mouse in my hand. My eyes glissade over the images, while the messages scroll down. I like glissade.



I move the arrow to the e-mailmessages. Nineteen new messages. My eyes move over the list of senders.



Back to Facebook. One new message.



I look up the name of the contest. There are no new updates. I push the refresh button.



How late is it? It is 19:19 o’clock. Maybe too early.


I decide to look on Twitter. #contest. Nothing else than nineteen minutes ago.


First poor myself a cup of coffee. The dog of the neighbors barks nineteen times.


I look through the windows. Do shopping. I get a piece of paper and write: bread, food for this evening, cheese, toothpicks, apples, rice, salt.


The sun shines in my eyes when I walk outside. My shoulders seem to hurt. Seem, well found. I get an idea for a story. I run inside to write it down on a pad. Just in time.


I walk outside with my shopping cart. There is a potential character, talking to another character. The clothes are not right. The hairdo is not what I want. The dialogue is not right. I should be standing there, and she says that she is nominated. The other starts to laugh. No, wait.


I’m standing still and turned my head. I turn around to the sidewalk. A car rides by and someone waves at me. Surprised I ask myself who that is. Will I encounter someone in the shop? My eyes dust over the area like a feather broom brushes a bookcase, a bit too forceful. Why don’t I win lately like a year ago? Why can’t I come up with anything that makes me enthousiastic? I notice my legs feel shaky and start to shiver. I have forgotten to wear something over my legs. No, not miss Sulfur. She is quite nice and interested in what I write, but she always asks if I already know if I have won. She follows me on Facebook and knows exactly what I sended in for which contest. It is the nineteenth time already since last year that I encounter her by chance on the day that the results are expected. I have to laugh, a bit obsessive of her. From an anecdote, I know that they have the habit in this village to snoop on neighbors with a binocular. That’s a funny exageration, of course.


‘Do you know if you won already?’ she asks.

‘No, there are no results yet,’ I answer, I scratch my left arm.

‘Exciting, isn’t it?’ she says.


Another villager walks towards us. ‘Congratulations with you winning, miss!’ she says to miss Sulfur. I feel my eyebrows pull up. I pull them down.

‘What a success you have this year with contest. How do you do that?’ says the man.

She liked to read my stories. She read my stories…


I finished my story completely this time before sending it to her to proofread. At the same time I pushed the button ‘send’ to the contestorganisation. The winner would receive a phonecall.


The counting of the days had started. The weeks seemd endless. Everyday I looked on her Facebookpage. I had never done that before. She participated to all contests just like me She didn’t win all competitions. Every day I first looked at her page. She counted the days with a picture. Het aftellen van de dagen was begonnen. De weken leken eindeloos. Ik keek iedere dag op haar Facebookpagina.


Six more days was a picture of six pens.

Five more days was a picture of five dolls.

Four more days was a clover with four leaves on a sheet of white paper.

Nog drie dagen was een drie in het zand op het strand vlakbij.

Two more days was a two on the wall of the town hall.

One more day was a one on her doorstep, a street further than here.


I lay on the Floor of my living with the curtains closed. It was three o’clock and nineteen minutes. The phone rang and I was afraid to pick it up.


I pushed my legs up. I put my feet on the ground and hobbled to the phone in the kitchen. I picked up. ‘Anna Bedzak. Who is on the line?’

‘I call you because we received your story twice with different names. But your story came in first.’ My hand clasped around the Phone. ‘You won, and the second one is disqualified.’


That afternoon in the supermarket, with red socks, I didn’t shiver. No miss Sulfur. I took my notebook out and wrote nineteen.





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