Rules? Yes I always listened to the rules; obeying them, now that’s a different story completely.” –Brad, reflecting on his many trips to the Dean’s office in college []


Twenty some odd years ago I entered a writing contest against my buddy, Mike. Neither one of us actually submitted an entry so the title of writing champion went unclaimed for for the past two decades. Since there the rules were unclear – actually their were no rules besides the story had to contain reference to the river – I thought I might be able to win by default if I submitted my story 23 years later and posted it here on my blog.

It felt good to be champ.

Mike, who I have seen face to face only twice in the past 20 years, surprised me when he found my blog and decided to submit his entry. I wanted to point out it was too late to enter, that I had won, but once again the rules were unclear. There was no rule saying he couldn’t submit his story 24 years later.

So in the spirit of good sportsmanship, fair play, and the fact I can post a blog that doesn’t require much effort on my part, I presents Mike’s entry into our two decades long head-to-head writing challenge.

     Sign for the Times

    A short story by Michael Witcher

I am a sign overtly stating what I want. Of course, almost every sign tells you what it wants. Its goal is to make you believe that what it wants and what you want are one in the same. Some other signs tell you what to do. These are good and useful signs but I decided against this route because people resent these signs. I simply lack the self confidence to be disliked. Some signs give you a healthy dose of reality by informing you of where you are. They can’t tell you where you’re going or exactly where being here is in the big picture. But, I feel that knowing where you are gives you a perspective on things. There are great signs, in my opinion, that inform you not only of your current position but how to get where you’re headed or let you know how long it will take to reach your objective. These signs have the solemn duty of revealing the future with utter passivity. They can not guide, prepare or offer advice. Only inasmuch as the person interprets the sign to be a guide. Each sign can be taken differently depending on the individual. Some of these signs say the end is near, but the same sign to another means that the journey has just begun. Myself? I also want to offer something. Offer hope. It’s always heartwarming to see the glint in people’s eyes as they walk past me full of expectations. I wish them the best. I feel for them when they return slouching, the gleam replaced by dejection. Did I lead them on? Tease maybe? I must not feel responsible for them or feel attached to their loss. I am necessary and these are the issues that I find necessary to deal with. I have a responsibility to my owners who are searching and to those searching my owners. I cannot become attached to my owners either. I serve my purpose and eventually separate myself from my current position and appear in a new form and setting.

  I truly think I’m a symbol for what everyone wants and needs. Unlike most people however, I know I’ll get what I want because I come with the promise of appreciation and money. But still, people can relate to me because I want exactly what everyone wants. Some want a shoulder on which to lean, some want money, some want love, some want an untangling of a mesmerizing string of past issues and disasters, some want an outlet for their hate and on and on it goes. But when it comes down to it, everyone wants what I want. I think everyone should have me tattooed on their forehead.

I proclaim: HELP WANTED.

(This help wanted sign was drawn on paper that was produced from trees grown by a river. Coincidentally, the wooden sign post was also from a  tree that had grown next to the same river. This is unimportant unless you find such things important.)


So now that both entries are in and the votes tabulated it appears we have a tie. I voted for my story, and Mike voted for his. So we have to share the title of writing champ.


The rules are unclear. They don’t say that I can’t vote twice!

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