Opium Magazine's Shya Scanlon 7-Line Story Contest Winner & Finalists

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Our Babies are Going to Get Married BY ADAM PETERSON At the park, we meet a couple with a boy born the same day as our daughter, and when we discover this, the couple cries, Our babies are going to get married! Laughing, we shake their son’s tiny fist and tease, Can this little guy afford a ring? The other couple is not laughing. He doesn’t need a ring when he’s giving her his heart, they protest. When we say nothing, the husband calls a justice of the peace and the wife tears a veil from her stockings. We should leave, but even through black fishnet, we can read our daughter’s eyes, still uncertain in color, and know it would be nice to settle this.

The Sea that Drowned the Men BY BENJAMIN BUSCH She wondered if her boat had ever been in the ocean before now. It had been hanging from the side of the ship for years, no barnacles on its hull. No brine lines or chipped paint from wearing against a mooring or a dock. It had spent its history suspended above the water, more qualified now for flight than resisting the pressures of the sea. She could see nothing else floating, no men, and took that to mean that everything else had sunk. Everything that had ever floated. She wanted to reach into the water but she didn’t. “Offer nothing to predators,” her father told her once when she was little. But she had. She had offered them everything.

The House at the End of the World BY CARMEN MACHADO After our parents disappeared, the house was ours. We wrestled in the garden, writhing in the ivy and creeping jenny; we dropped rocks into the ocean and listened to them glug in the glassy deep; and when the late-­afternoon wall of milky fog rolled in off the water, we stood at the edge of the cliff and lifted our arms to welcome it. Mary said that we were destined to become savages, so when we found the first dead bird we laughed and strung the sun-­bleached bones over the doorway to ward off intruders. It was only when the second one was found, wingless— and then another, and then the horse—that we began to worry.


Why I Don’t See Her Anymore BY SEAN TONER This weekend Dory wants to know, so we shuffle around her place in the dark, our bodies rarely more than a few feet apart. We listen to Children of a Lesser God, we discern popcorn from Pop-Tarts by shaking boxes, she learns peeling russets for pan fries can sting. Bedtime, I expect to be made visible by lingering touch. No luck. It’s a quickie instead. Morning, Monday, I free her from the blindfold, and she flits off to survey the damage and gather her mail. I edge off bed, grope to the toilet. She returns, pines, “This weekend—I touched more. I heard more. There’s so much you miss when you can see.”

Take What You Want, Leave What You Don’t BY JEFF PRICE At the ale house, we match eyes over a table for two. She, a few years younger, is in love with her ex-, a bisexual man with screen credits to his name for the funny movies he helps to write. Freckled irises zealous with command, she is mussing her hair when, at the bar, a guy on a stool barks out emphatically enough to stoke a second of perfect silence for a helmeted kid on the far TV screen about to make the end zone. My eyes return to hers first. She continues: someday, of course, she’ll have kids, will do it herself if she has to. And the father? I ask. Oh you know, she says, there are always options, aren’t there?

Making Money In Tulsa BY GUINOTTE WISE There were ways to make money in Tulsa in 1951, even if you were just a kid. Pinsetting at the bowling alley at Utica Square. Dangerous, but it paid. Likewise, shagging golf balls at the driving range. Collecting hangers and selling them to the cleaners at a half cent apiece. Shining shoes. But when we discovered the Gypsy Rose Lee tent at the Oil Exposition, Pete and I hit the jackpot. 10¢ a minute through a cardboard periscope under a corner of the tent, with a long line of horny kids waiting. And, finally, Gypsy herself with a buggy whip.


Do this in remembrance of me BY JR WALSH The townspeople set out to kill each other. It was that kind of town, those kind of times. The knife shop closed and got looted clean. Unemployment was 99%. A charity fight was scheduled. The mayor called the “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” guy who sometimes did pro bono work. He joked, “I’m pro-boner.” The town preferred him boneless. How quickly a seasoned performer turns rotisserie crispy. They feasted. The air smelled of cooperation and can-do. Banners of thanksgiving were made from his tuxedo. “USA! USA!” rang to the hills. One girl knitted a new tuxedo. Hunger would come again to town and rituals keep us civilized.

A Family Tradition BY CHARLENE CLARKE They learned it well, the five children, watching the adults. Hurtful words, tantrums over insignificance, eternal grudges. Celebrations are battlegrounds. No apologies, it’s a matter of family pride. Negotiations are outlawed. Righteousness is more precious than peace. Without knowing they were teachers, they taught their own. An ugly legacy that contaminates the innocent. Can they unlearn it? They don’t know how. They inherited the treasure from their ancestors and they’ll pass it to the next generations. A birthright, you might say.

Fifty Years Later BY JAIME KARNES They were on their 4th yellow lab and their 50th year of marriage. Eileen’s bathrobe looked as old: pink polyester, threadbare in all the wrong places. Frank didn’t mind that his wife refused to wear the nice 50/50 poly-blend robe he’d purchased for her 70th birthday. He didn’t mind that she still walked Kinger the IV mornings wearing her tattered robe, oversized brassiere, and flesh-colored underpants on display. And when Eileen asked Frank why he’d stopped holding her hand, walking instead behind her, he said, “I like the view better from back here,” Eileen smiled, bent, and with one hand thinly veiled by a Shop-Rite bag, she scooped Kinger’s morning mess.


Cobweb Farming BY LAUREN HALDEMAN We had a bumper crop of cobwebs in the basement that year, making an entire annual profit in two months of harvesting and knitting. Wearing cobweb sweaters could take you a sixteenth of an inch higher into the sky, reducing tread on your soles & balming the downtrodden spirit—we sold them through a reseller in Charlotte. I whistled as I forked the long threads from the airy rafters like grey spaghetti—I had finally come into my own. At night I picked cob-boogers out of my nose with an overwhelming sense of completeness. In my dreams, I was gowned in filament, floating through a deeply hidden forest of kudzu.

Against Nostalgia BY WILLIAM BRADLEY “There was just something really nice about our old neighborhood,” I once told my mother long after we had discovered that we get along better when we live in different towns. “In the summer, people would let their kids play outside late into the night, never fearing for our safety. You couldn’t do that now.” She chuckled. “You do realize,” she said, “that that neighborhood was a swinger community, and that those kids were outside at all hours because their parents were inside fucking?” I must have gasped, because she quickly added, “Not your father and I, of course. Nobody wants to have sex with him.”

Subject BY NATHANIEL MISSILDINE “I can’t stay,” she sighed, always leaving or gone. That first year she’d gone ahead with a marriage, though we were too young and too childless for proper adultery. Our crises couldn’t have been midlife. So I said, “I can’t do this,” knowing I would nonetheless the moment I spat out the cliché. That second year I wrote to her each Sunday night with a subject of our afternoon’s hangover or i never listen. That third year, voiding friendly advice and plausible story arcs, she went and let him. “I don’t believe it,” I uttered at last years later. I watched her pick one leg out of the bathtub and asked what more we miscalculate of our own strength and why we tell ourselves we shouldn’t cling.


Abigail’s Walk BY MARINA GEORGE By night Abigail would ascend the stairs to the widow’s walk in search of her love’s vessel at sea. By day she’d stand before the mirror and painstakingly measure her girth. As she climbed the steps, one, two, three, she placed her hands on her middle to cradle the life she felt within. But tonight amidst the fog and rain, she placed her feet beyond the railing a bit. Like the bars of the crib they never filled, another tragedy at sea. For there never was a baby, and Lee had been dead for years.

We Are All Damaged BY AUTUMN HUMPHREY The plastic surgeon at Changsu was allowed much leeway in performing his operations, often making a tangled mess of his patients. When Sharon arrived, damaged in a fall, disfigured of her beauty, he fell in love, determined to complete her. With one new arm facing backwards and the other arm shorter than the first, Sharon did not complain, content simply to be whole again. Throughout her years with the surgeon, Sharon never complained about anything, even when he traded her in for another, younger mannequin, who needed new feet.


William Bradley enjoys his quiet, normal life with his wife, Emily, and two cats—Leroy and Tom Selleck—in his old house with a porch swing. His work has appeared in several magazines and journals including Brevity, the Normal School, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Missouri Review.

Benjamin Busch is an actor, writer, and director. He is the author of a memoir, Dust to Dust (Ecco Press/ HarperCollins) and has published in Harper’s, North American Review, Newsweek, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. He is a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and The Daily Beast. He lives in Reed City, Michigan.

Charlene Clark lives on Grand Island, NY. As a Cosmetology instructor, she was drawn toward writing innovative curriculum. She served on state committees and wrote individualized student modules and an illustrated manual for licensing. Now retired, she’s had several publications in the local paper and a magazine short story.

Marina George lives in Central Oregon with her son. A longtime resident of the East Coast, she loves exploring the wonders of the West. She enjoys travel and books. Marina writes every day. She is currently working on a YA manuscript.


Lauren Haldeman lives in Iowa City and works for the Writing University website at the University of Iowa. She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award and the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Also: she’s a mom and makes paintings.


Autumn Humphrey’s stories can be found at Every Day Fiction, kill author, The Legendary, Aurora Wolf and other sites. She lives in Long Beach, California, where she is an active member of the Long Beach Writer’s Group.

Jaime Karnes, originally from Burlington, VT, lives and writes in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in GRANTA, Adirondack Review, Etude Magazine, Storyglossia, Staccato Fiction, Luna Park Review, as well as others. She teaches fiction writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in NYC and English Literature in New Jersey. She’s received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer and essayist whose writing has appeared in Strange Horizons, Unstuck, Indiana Review, Five Chapters, Best Women’s Erotica 2012, The Paris Review Daily, The Hairpin, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Dean’s Graduate Fellow, and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Iowa City.

Nathaniel Missildine is a writer and father living in Dijon, France. He’s been published in print and online but currently expends his writerly energy at The Nervous Breakdown. For more about how important it is that you understand his mojo, visit nathanielmissildine. com

Opium Magazine is edited by Adrian Todd Zuniga and designed by David Barringer. Please visit Opiummagazine. com for more information.

Adam Peterson lives in Houston where he is the co-editor of The Cupboard. You can find him in print in Denver Quarterly, Camera Obscura, and The Southern Review and online at a-peterson. blogspot.com and on twitter at @ adamwpeterson.

Jeff Price’s fiction has appeared in Floodwall, The Potomac, and Electric Literature. More here: www. alwaysisalwaysnow. blogspot.com.


Snippets of Sean Finucane Toner’s life appear at/in Opium, Perigee, “Writers on the Job,” Philadelphia Stories, Concisely and (soon) Brevity magazine, as well as “The Book of Worst Meals.” He has an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson and lives with writer Robin Parks in Bryn Mawr, PA. Www. seantoner.com


JR Walsh was born in Syracuse, NY, and lives in Boise, Idaho. He has studied at both SUNY Oswego and Boise State. His written work is found in Alba, Juked, Glass, Caffeine Destiny, The Anemone Sidecar, Alice Blue and Esquire. His story “The Idiopathic” is forthcoming from Peninsulas Now Press.

Guinotte Wise is a Creative Director at VML, KC. Previously a CD at Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles. Contact: gman@ vml.com. He is a sculptor, sometimes in welded steel, sometimes in words. Educated at Westminster College, University of Arkansas, Kansas City Art Institute. Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com/