- Damaris Chanza
November Short Story Writing Challenge Finale
November is National Novel Writing Month. In celebration, there is a novel writing challenge where participants attempt to write a 50,000-word novel during November. I took this challenge as inspiration for my own November writing challenge. I definitely won't make it to 50,000 words, so it's more of a short story than a novel. A new part of the short story will come out every Tuesday this month until the story is complete.
If you still need to read parts 1, 2, and 3, please read that first.
Denise texts Jim as she sits in her parked car across the street from Mildred Besant's memorial, trying to find the nerve to enter.
When the autumn breeze makes the car a bit too chilly, she steps out and makes her way toward the entrance of the Besent Musical Museum. Upon entering the museum, a man takes her jacket and hands her a pamphlet. She maneuvers around people staring at music memorabilia collected throughout Mildred's life. She moved past the signed Beetles album, the collage of photos of Mildred with dozens of famous bands from her time as a groupie, and a guitar pick used and signed by Led Zepplin's guitarist while searching for Ingrid.
Denise turns around to see Margaret heading her way.
"Margaret, I didn't know you were going to be here."
"Of course, honey, we loved Mildred at the Senior Center. All of us are here. Come on; I'm sure everyone would love to see you again."
Margaret grabbed Denise's arm and guided her toward a large group of women. They instantly ambushed Denise asking about her writing career, her life, her lack of a relationship, and Jim's presence in her life.
"Has anyone seen Ingrid?"
Denise interrupted awkwardly, trying to dodge all of their questions and focus on her mission.
"Ugh, you know her?"
"I bet it wasn't even her who organized this."
"I can't believe she gets to take Mildred's fortune!"
Before Denise even acknowledges the plethora of responses, Jim taps her on the shoulder.
"Denise, I've been looking for you everywhere! Why don't you show me around?"
After a few groans and begs for her to stay, Denise squirms away from the group.
"Thank god! I was drowning. I don't know how I'm going to tell them I quit then accomplished nothing as a writer."
"Don't worry about them. Have you found Ingrid?"
Denise shook her head. They walked around looking for Ingrid but paused to take in all of the interesting artifacts of Mildred's life.
"These displays are kind of funny. Mildred really drunkenly jumped on stage at an ACDC concert and was escorted out." Denise holding back a chuckle.
"Pfft, I'm more impressed that she got matching tattoos with the lead singer of Pink Floyd."
Jim and Denise laugh, thinking about all of the absurd and badass things Mildred's done throughout her life. Suddenly, the large doors blocking off the museum's paid portion open, drummers walk out, and Ingrid follows.
"A grand entrance for her grandmother's memorial?" Denise whispers to Jim. He shrugs his shoulders.
The same man who took Denise's jacket sets up a podium with a microphone for Ingrid. She walks up and sniffles, using a tissue to wipe away a nonexistent tear.
"I want to thank you all for coming to my grandmother's memorial. Mildred A. Besent was a powerhouse. She made being a trashy band following groupie into a successful historian and memorabilia business. I'm glad that her business has documented music history and her life. Thank you."
Coughs, random shuffling, and whispers of disapproval overshadowed the eulogy. Without a second thought, Denise called out for Ingrid before she could disappear behind the doors again.
Stumbling and awkwardly excusing herself past strangers, and bumps right into Ingrid.
"What are you. . . YOU!" Pushing away from Denise, Ingrid keeps walking toward the doors, but Denise follows.
"Stop; who do you think you are? Get away from me!"
"I need to talk to you."
The two of them crash into the large doors and burst through.
Denise's voice echoed through the empty room.
Jim and Margaret ran through the doors together, shooting a disappointing look at Ingrid.
"You were supposed to avoid her for longer," Jim tells Ingrid.
"You were supposed to stop her from following me."
"She just ran. I couldn't catch up."
"Well, Margaret was supposed to body block her if she did follow me."
"I was in the bathroom!"
"Oh crap, am I early?" an old woman says as she walks out from a distant hallway.
Everyone shouts in unison. Mildred, Jim, Margaret, and Ingrid start talking over each other, making their entire conversation incomprehensible.
"I know you guys aren't about to ignore me like some crazy shit didn't just happen. What is going on? How do you all know each other? Someone better start talking."
Ingrid, Margaret, and Mildred look over at Jim, waiting for him to speak. He takes a deep breath.
"I did this. Ingrid is a friend of mine from work, and she does a lot of graphic design and made all the web articles, the newspaper, and most of the fake memorabilia outside."
"And Mildred visits the Senior Center for Bingo every week." Magaret interrupts.
Denise, still not understanding, gestures for them to continue.
"I was worried about you. You were getting all in your head about the book, and you wouldn't stop complaining about your writer's block. I thought you needed something else to focus on."
"So you orchestrated a fake death?" Denise shouts.
"It had to be real; it was Ingrid's idea, actually. She needed something for her art school portfolio."
Denise starts yelling so fast her word jumble together, and she quickly runs out of breath.
"Jim, you told me I was crazy. Margaret, you bombarded me in the parking lot. Ingrid, you embarrassed me at Starbucks."
Guilty expressions briefly cross their faces.
"We know how suspicious you get. If it didn't feel real, you wouldn't have believed it." Jim places his hand on Denise's shoulder to comfort her.
"I thought Mildred was murdered! I was going to pretend to be a reporter from Rolling Stone to interview Ingrid and get her to admit she did something shady."
They all burst out laughing as Denise pulls an obviously fake press pass out of her purse. Mildred goes on to explain she really was a groupie but never made a fortune from it. They all started to reveal the silly things they did not to get caught and make sure the plan worked.
"Wait, who are all those people outside and the people at Starbucks?"
"Oh, they're from my improv group." Mildred answers.
They all kept talking until an alarm set on Jim's phone went off.
"We have to start cleaning up. My mom has to do an open house here tomorrow, and I promised I'd give her the keys back by 8."
Everyone starts going through the double doors, but Denise stops Jim, the two of them staying behind.
"This was absolutely crazy, and there was no reason for something so elaborate, but thank you. It's the thought that counts, I guess."