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 HP Non-Fiction Contests

HP Fiction Contests



  We are happy to announce our winners of 2009 Human Potential Short Story Contest  

Sela Gaglia for Truth Be Told, has been awarded the First Prize (publication)  
  Ronda Hatton for Mother of Mine, a close second. As the second place was of high standard, we decided to extend the publication to second place also.  



Truth Be Told

by Sela Gaglia

Truth be told, the last words Avery spoke before delivering her commencement speech to the graduating class of her elite university were "I should have just failed Poly Sci."

She walked nervously towards the podium. The crowd rustled with paper and coughs. Avery began: "My fellow graduates, you are not your degree. You are brilliant, vibrant human beings, about to embark on a journey."

Her stomach churned but Avery went on, "I spent too much time trying to figure out what to say to you on this day. I didn't want to deliver another lifeless speech; the world is full of dead, forgettable, speeches. I wanted to engage and inspire you. I wanted you to know how fully I believe in you, how fully I believe in our generation-when we return to the power of truth."

"Today I speak to you with the truth of my life. My years in this university have taught me much. I have listen as many wise teachers shared their knowledge, but this is not where I have learned my biggest lessons. I do not stand in front of you as an intellect. I stand in front of you as Avery Longbranch, a young woman unwilling to perpetuate the lies of many generations. This is the truth: In my years at this fine university I have drank myself to near death on more than one occasion, as have the majority of my classmates. I have cheated on and stolen both tests and boyfriends. I have often lied, been vindictive and malicious. I have held a knife to my wrists and filled my mouth with pills." Avery's voice cracked; her hands shook. The audience was silent: no papers rustled, no one coughed. "My friends have been assaulted, raped and beaten down by force and circumstance. I have dealt with ridiculous, overworked and underpaid, rude and arrogant university staff. I have jumped through more bureaucratic hoops than I care to admit. I have been hopeless, disillusioned and fearful. These are not things you will find in the marketing material of this fine university, but these experiences have taught me more than any textbook."

Avery took a deep breath, "I have learned that none of our problems are contained: one person's isolation, brutality and rage, pain and sorrow affects us all. The dilemmas we face in our living rooms will be the collective fate of human kind. We do not exist in bubbles of isolation, though we have been programmed to believe so-we are intricately bound hand and heart."

"I have learned from a broken world that which I do not want."

"I learned in reaction."

"I learned in defense."

"I learned as a matter of survival; but I refuse to be swallowed by the monstrosity of this learning. Do not relinquish your brilliance to the suffocating oppression of that which already exists. Reach your arms towards your neighbors and offer them your strength."

"Bring honesty-even when you are afraid, even when it seems difficult, especially when it appears impossible. When you fall, rest a moment, but do not surrender, steady yourself and move on improved by your trials. Where there is hopelessness bring possibility. When they are embarrassed bring understanding. Learn to listen. Look into the eyes of those you fear most and seek to feel their pain: do this often with the person in the mirror. Treat yourself kindly and above all continually return to honesty. Dig deep for the truth under the truth. Keep digging and unearthing, be an archeologist of truth."

"Any of us could be the next Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King or Gandhi. And though I am confident one person can shift the course of a nation, as a generation our power is magnified to a degree beyond our comprehension. Together we can be exalted."

"If we can reach past the boundaries of our individual languages: the languages of science, art and religion, if we can reach past the boundaries created by our words into the truths on which they are built and we can taste the reality that math is another word for God and God is, in fact, another word for creativity and creativity is the idea that best describes science and science is as alive in the intricacies of music as it is in the intricacies of physics-then maybe we can transcend the barriers of a human history that teaches us we are innately divided, destructive and greedy."

"Today belongs to us. We will create all of our tomorrows. Steer our future with innate goodness towards a reality bent on liberation and we will serve both our grandfathers and our grandchildren. We will be worthy of the life given us, the breath in our lungs, the land under our feet."

"And yes, I know it sounds crazy; it sounds impossible-no generation has done it before. They have bought the lies of the generations that came before them: that the problem was too big, that they were too small and that they stood alone. So I ask you, my generation, as you embark on the journey that will be the rest of your life, who amongst you prefers the destiny where we pass into history another herd of cattle biting one another's backs while we starve on the lies of our ancestors?"

Avery smiled at the silent crowd, "And who amongst you, though you know not the path or even the destination, though the journey may be long and treacherous and the temptation will be great, who amongst you will stand with me, hand in hand, to walk into a better future, a future of our own making; a future where our dreams take flight and we soar?"




Mother of Mine

 by Ronda Hatton

If I could have foreseen the chain of dark events that my sister's phone call would set in motion, maybe I wouldn't have answered it. I might have flung my cell phone out the car window and continued driving all alone, to anywhere, until I figured it was all over and it was safe to return. My family would have viewed it as a horrible twist of fate that after years of cajoling, I would have chosen the exact day of their devastation to take some time off and go incommunicado. They could have remained forever ignorant of my cowardice.

I did answer my phone of course, while I happened to be in the grocery store, and immediately began to reject what my sister was saying even before she said it. "Oh, there has to be a mistake," I insisted, as I indifferently looked over the nutrition label of an organic soup can. Even as my heartbeat walloped me, I plopped boxes of cereal and cake mix into my cart and insisted that it just couldn't be. There was no way my mother had cancer ­ not with just losing her sister to it, not with all the other health problems she had and, certainly not with people around me smiling, pushing carts, and weighing eggplants. No, the entire world has not just changed. No, no, no, no.

I don't know exactly when I allowed the notion that something was wrong. It might have been when I was typing on the computer keyboard making airline reservations to leave the next day or when I called my boss to inform her I would return when I could, but if things were really grim they'd seen the last of me. Maybe it was when I first saw my mother through lines and hoses and tubes lying on a gurney, her face more white and eyes more pleading than I had ever seen.


My mom wasn't just my mom ­ she was my dad too. She had me when she was barely fifteen, gave me my two dearly beloved sisters, worked as a welder in a filthy abuse-filled factory to keep us off welfare. She had held me when I cried, infuriated me when she was irresponsible, heaped me with too much responsibility and loved me every day of my life. She was just too much to lose.

I flew home to spend with her the weekend before her surgery. It was eerily familiar as I recalled doing the exact same thing for my aunt, only five months earlier. Same phone call, same dash to the airport, same foreboding, same disease. The doctors had given her a year to live, and she died ten days after my visit. My mother had felt bloated and nauseated the day of her sister's funeral, a perfectly normal reaction to such an event and no reason to suspect that her body was harboring the same brutal assassin.

The weekend was just like old times, with a few twisted death jokes thrown in by my sister and me. My mom would have expected nothing less, and it made her less anxious though I know many people would find that concept impossible to grasp. Sunday night was a night of profound gratitude and disclosure. Although my sisters had to work very early the next day, we stayed up into the wee hours of the night and I loved them for it. We marveled how Mom could have been so nurturing when she had had no mother herself, how she could have managed delivering newspapers in the snow with leaky shoes and cleaning motel rooms with no sleep. We asked how she endured the condescension of women in suits and high heels when they encountered her scent of iron, clothes covered in smote or the metal particles embedded in her pores from her welding job. We prepared her with unadulterated appreciation for refusing to give in to insurmountable odds and for being largely responsible for sending three children out into the world with good hearts, college degrees, and aspirations to bring relief into the lives of others.

Monday morning came too soon. Mom still appeared calm but for the life of me, I could not be sure how genuine that was. It bothered me that I couldn't read her. The corridor at the hospital was long and winding so she rested at intervals while I checked her in. We put her clothes in the big plastic bag and she pulled on the hospital gown all the while professing her peacefulness, though I simply could not purge the possibility that she was playing pretend with her children, as if they weren't grown adults now.

The nurse came in and said it was time to go and everyone said their See You Laters and I Love Yous. I followed the gurney to the end of the hall and held up the impatient orderlies as I kissed her tender forehead twice and gave my best big smile of sanguine faith. Then she was gone, and surrounded by family, I was all alone. It was in that solitude and my mother's unconsciousness that I felt her indomitable spirit stir in me, and a wash of reassurance. The grit that had taken her from timid farm girl to teen mom, short order cook, factory rebel, venerable woman, and savior mother still lived in her. Even more, it had been proliferated in her children and her grandchildren; we would be a formidable adversary against the disease trying to lay claim to her. She was strong, she was beautiful and she was ours. Almost two years later, six hundred days in defiance of the odds, through the dark days of sickness, the anguish of chemotherapy, and the tenacity of devotion, she still is. She always will be. We always will be.