Contrast contest winner: ‘Among the Falling Leaves’

(Atticus Rice / McDaniel Free Press).

Congratulations to Cara Woolston, winner of last month’s Contrast contest. Below is her submission, in which she responded to the prompt “everything changes in autumn.”

Mila softly hummed along to the song playing on her car’s radio while unconsciously pulling into the parking spot closest to the tree that stood in front of her bland office building. Another work day was beginning and Mila, overtaxed and tired, was less than excited to start it. She hated her job. Of course, some days were better than others; however, all seemed to be insufferable. She had only planned to do this job for a short amount of time to get a taste for a life in business before going off to a big city and finding more serious work. However, her five month plan quickly became a year, and a year somehow became five. Mila often laughed at herself for ever believing that she would become a hotshot for some major company in a place much bigger than the second floor of The Redwood Professional Center. How naive could she be?

With the engine gently whirring and the song finishing, Mila gathered her thoughts about the day in front of her. She had an eleven o’clock meeting following a nine o’clock consultation with another four o’clock meeting to conclude the day. Then once she was done work she would finally be able to run her clothes to the dry cleaners and finish cleaning her apartment. Maybe she could even squeeze in a workout before dinner. Or maybe she could get her car’s oil changed as she had been putting that off for too long. But she still had a big report and presentation to finalize which seemed to be painfully gnawing on her, so she had to do that before anything else.

Quickly becoming panicked, Mila turned the ignition off along with her pestering thoughts about her busy and draining schedule. She opened her car door with a heavy reluctance; however, as she did so, a strong gust of wind blew in her direction which promptly shut the door. The gust was chillier than she expected and Mila thought about her lack of jacket. Had autumn already begun? It felt as though summer had just arrived. Mila looked in her car mirror and fixed her hair that had become messy due to the wind and noticed that a few leaves seemed to make their way into her hair and car. Annoyed, she picked the small pieces out of her hair.

She was about to leave again when she noticed a big leaf wedged under her windshield wipers. It was strangely sad. The colors, similar to a flame, blended perfectly together and made it easy to see the dark holes that had been bored into it from hungry insects. Mila wondered if it were the insects or the arrival of autumn that made the leaf fall from the tree. Maybe it was just tired of hanging on. The leaf suddenly blew out of her sight. So, Mila, among the falling leaves, started her car and drove away.

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

This month’s prompt: In up to 500 words of prose or up to 50 lines of poetry, respond to the following phrase: the snow makes everything so quiet. Email submissions to by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 26.