Contrast contest winner: ‘It was a dark and stormy night’

(Atticus Rice / McDaniel Free Press).

Congratulations to Maddy Lee, winner of last month’s Contrast contest. Below is her submission, in which she describes a dark and stormy night.

It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder rumbled and lightning cracked outside. I wasn’t scared of the dark anymore, but he was. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when my son –only five years old–stood in the doorway. He was trembling, clutching his plush dinosaur in front of his mouth. He liked to suck on the tail. It barely had any fabric or stuffing left intact.

I pulled the duvet back and patted the mattress. He clamored up by my side. I rested my palm on the back of his head, petting his hair. He always loved that. It would put him to sleep in seconds. I was hoping it might have the same miracle effect tonight.

But the storm kept wailing. He trembled and jolted at the particularly loud snaps. I shushed him. I told him the thunder couldn’t hurt him. I told him I would never let anything happen to him. He stiffened at that.

He knew I was lying. He had been sick since the day he was born, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hadn’t known I was pregnant with him until it was too late. I had more than my share of liquor, dope, and worse. He came into the world frail and purple, eyes swollen shut. He didn’t cry. The first time I held him was in my palm.

The nurses in the NICU offered their condolences the next morning. I wanted so badly for him to pull through. His father packed it all in the next morning and drove home to Georgia. He left me alone with the responsibilities. How do you even find a–crib–for a baby that small?

He liked trains. He liked cats. He liked to cut his own bananas. He didn’t like loud movies. He didn’t like peaches. He didn’t like to be picked up, unless it was his idea. Above all, he’s scared of thunder.

The loudest crack yet came. It was so close that I could physically feel the floor beneath us shake. I found even myself knuckling the sheets, wondering if a tree was about to fall on the house. My son yelped and launched himself into my lap, crying. I kissed his temple. Caught his scent.

I immediately wretched, pushing him off me with the reckless abandon one uses for a mangy dog. He caught himself on the sheets, turning to look at me with those big, swollen-shut eyes. I screamed. These nights were the worst. I loved him; I missed him; I never wanted to see him again. He watched as I carried on. He always did, just like his father. He waited until I had tormented myself into silence and laid back on the pillows. I rested my hand on his head, hoping to put him to sleep. Hoping he would stay asleep.

My son is five years old. When he was born, he was small enough to fit in my hand. He never once cried. His father left us for Georgia and wrote me a blank check. I had to have his casket made special. I buried my son in the cemetery, next to his grandparents. But he’s scared of thunder.

On dark and stormy nights, he comes back to me.

The Free Press is partnering with Contrast to bring creative writing contests to both of our readerships.

Read this issue’s prompt below, and feel free to contact Contrast Co-Editors Marya Topina and Emma Driban at, or visit a Contrast weekly meeting, Thursdays at 9 p.m. in Hill 208 to workshop your writing and receive feedback from other creative minds on campus.

This issue’s prompt: You realize a shop you walk past each day is only visible to you and no one else. In up to 500 words of prose or up to 50 lines of poetry, write about what awaits you inside. Email submissions to by midnight on Nov. 11.