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N O R T H E R N S A N TA B A RB A R A C O U N T Y ’ S N E W S A N D E N T E R TA I N M E N T W E E K LY > J U LY 4 - J U LY 11, 2 0 13 > V O L . 14 N O. 17 > W W W. S A N TA M A RI A S U N .C O M


Save the president! [53]


Tall tales, shortly

Read the mini-winners in our annual 55 Fiction contest! [12]

NEWS Celebrate the county fair with an SPORTS Cyclists zoom their speedy bikes ARTS Check out fresh art at the introduction [18] and a guide [25]

down Buellton streets [46]

Betteravia Government Center [48]


ore than a quarter of a century ago, Steve Moss launched a contest inviting writers to send 55-word stories to New Times. Selected entries made their way into print each year. When the Sun came along, that paper started publishing the winners, too. Staffers would pore over thousands of entries from around the world, making their way through stacks of miniscule fiction a page at a time. But after 26 years of reading thousands of teeny tiny stories, the writers revolted. “No more stories in which the protagonist is secretly an animal!” we said. And the powers that be, for the first time ever, tapped community members with strong literary backgrounds—and a healthy dose of patience—to step in. The judges each assigned a score—zero point the lowest, five points the highest—to each story. The highest-scoring tales made the final cut. Weighing in at two poetry collections and several chapbooks, Kevin Patrick Sullivan is a past Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo and the cofounder/curator for the annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival/Corners of the Mouth since 1984. Sallie Tonascia has worked for the San Luis Obispo County Library system for more than 25 years and is currently a children’s librarian at the San Luis Obispo Library. And New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach is a glutton for punishment. Without further ado, these are the winners:



in a teardrop This year’s 55 Fiction contest winners condense effectively to pack a mighty punch

Anniversary He prepares another glass in tribute. Tonight, they celebrate the magical evening they fell in love. A year ago, she began his metamorphosis. One year. A tortured butterfly. It’s a night for the strongest of wines. The finest cheese. Pepperoni and basic cable. “To them,” he groans, fifth glass in hand, himself in the other.

Benjamin Maltbie

Consumption She wallowed in the bottom of a bottle for years. Her beauty was replaced by crow’s feet, her skin became jaundiced, still she drank. He came back eventually, but by then, there were only stains on the bar left by years of drained and refilled glasses.

Sharaya Olmeda SLO, Calif.

The price of integrity She always speaks her mind. It gets her into trouble. I should have kept my damn mouth shut, she said. But, that’s not who you are, I said. Who I am just got fired. Who you are just got set free. Ya, I’m free, she said as she turned into the Food Bank parking lot.

Gunless in Missouri I kayaked down a Missouri Ozarks river in deer hunting season; I was the only one without a gun. I told them that I hadn’t touched a gun since Vietnam because Bambi shoots back. At night, when nature called, I yelled “I am not a deer, don’t shoot me.” Some guy answered back, “Prove it.”

Christine Ahern Los Osos, Calif.

Gary Canant Shell Beach, Calif.

Dashed Hope Kevin went on each pizza delivery with the hope of some babe opening the door and beckoning him in. He practically raced up the steps to apartment 14D. The door swung wide to reveal a hairy man wearing nothing but a coy look and a G-string, Kevin left the limp dollar where it was tucked.

Sharaya Olmeda SLO, Calif.

Medicine Doesn’t Fix Everything “How much time do I have left?” “10 days, maybe less.” He pats the machine. “We’re trying everything to keep you longer; amazing you’re here now.” “Oh, I know who to thank for that; my family and my church’s prayers.” “God’s doing this?” “Yes.” “Well, I guess you don’t need this.” He pulled the plug.

Michelle Baeg Plano, Texas

Rest in Peace “Mom, you always take wonderful care of me. Let me tuck you in this time,” exhales June. Releasing her hand, she adjusts the sheet until it’s perfect. “To say thanks, for everything. I love you.” June kisses her cheek, shuts the door and retreats. Slowly, but surely, her mom is lowered into the Earth forever.”

Shelle Buyer

Meow Don’t say that to me. I don’t understand what you mean. Are you telling me you want food, or to go outside? Are you telling me the story of the llamas, alpacas included, bellyflopping and causing a tsunami destroying Sea World, freeing Shamu? Don’t say that to me. I don’t know what you mean. Meow.

Jessica Mott SLO, Calif.

‘Usually I read a collection of kids’ essays on one topic with a strict judging rubric or I read novels with a critical eye or proofread articles on library topics. In a way this contest was more difficult because it was more open to interpretation. I ended up looking for something powerful that had a big effect on me in one way or another.’ Sallie Tonascia, 55 Fiction judge

Summertime The Water Buffalo The night was so dark you could bottle the darkness in a jar. All night on perimeter guard duty I kept seeing bushes move in my mind; random AK47 fire didn’t help. Someone else saw movement and wiped out a poor water buffalo with a machine gun burst. There wasn’t enough left to eat.

No work in walking down the street, enjoying the breeze. The cars sped by. Too fast. They didn’t realize what they were rushing to or what for. Then that smell. Something dead for a few days. I knew I’d be punished, but that wasn’t going to stop me from rolling in it.

Shea Kelly SLO, Calif.

Gary Canant Shell Beach, Calif.

Pride Genesis Ink-Stained Sleeves

The Lottery

Gary pulled down his ink-stained shirtsleeve and finished his history exam. Gary pulled down his ink-stained shirtsleeve and submitted his SAT. Gary pulled down his ink-stained shirtsleeve and completed his MCAT. Gary has a prestigious interview, and instinctively lifts and peeks under his clean shirtsleeve. He panics. Where’d all the answers go?

The truth is, most people squander it without even a modicum of delight. Excess only brings on more cravings, feeds the fire of greed. No one gains happiness through material wealth. He wasn’t just talk. He squandered it with spontaneous bliss: handfuls of twenties tossed out the window, hundred dollar tips.

Lynette To Barrington, Ill.

Alyssa Rose SLO, Calif.

The drag queen next to me in the paddy wagon said, “Your head bleeding bad, girl.” I didn’t care. “They’re beating shit outta the cops out there. You’re the one got ’em riled.” I’m not political. “You did good.” All I wanted was one night dancing slow with Eva. Why’d she choose this Stonewall Inn?

Margo Moon Crestwood, Ky.

‘He seemed so normal’ My neighbor died yesterday. Responding police encountered a strange smell and suddenly our quiet neighborhood was ablaze with police lights while they exhumed four shallow graves. A reporter asked if my neighbor seemed capable of such atrocities. “No! He seemed so normal … .” (I just thought burying the bodies in my own backyard was too damning … .)

Mike Wells Norcross, Ga. 55 FICTION

continued page 15

‘If they could make my body respond with a genuine response (laughter, sadness, maybe confusion not caused by poor writing skills), I gave them the highest marks.’ Kevin Patrick Sullivan, 55 Fiction judge


from page 13

Insanity It was a few trudging miles home from the vet. Fatigued, I fumed: at construction sites swallowing the land, at cars polluting the air, at militant joggers in neon spandex. “You’re all insane! It’s insane to destroy your only planet and pretend nothing is wrong!” I raged, kitty carrier balanced on top of my head.

Alyssa Rose SLO, Calif.

Trenches are cold at night Good Grief

It was too claustrophobic to sleep underground; I slept above ground on a cot. Incoming started in the middle of the night and I did not have time to grab anything before jumping into the trench. It gets pretty damned cold spending the night naked in a trench. I kept my pants on after that.

The moonlight shined across his bald head. After 30 minutes of squeaking bed springs, he placed his hands on her hips and drew them down to his side. “I can’t, I’m sorry. Nothing’s coming.” Another failed field goal, he thought. Her black hair sticky with perspiration, Lucy sighed, groaning in disapproval, “Good grief, Charlie Brown!”

Holly Cross Boone, Colo.

Gary Canant Shell Beach, Calif.

Occupy! It was a first for Jimmy, joining in a protest. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Or even where they were headed. “Maybe they’ll stop calling me a spineless jellyfish,” he hoped. “There it is!” someone shouted. “Occupy Diablo Canyon!” “No more nukes!” Jimmy and hundreds of other translucent wonders swarmed toward the intake valve.

Little Jim His nickname was Little Jim. He was valedictorian, football MVP, and was finishing his doctorate early. He also enjoyed running in his little wire wheel, cleaning his orange fur, and eating sunflower seeds. I’m starting to lose faith in humanity.

Tom Von Dohlen SLO, Calif.

Medusa Ward Los Osos, Calif. m Send comments to Executive Editor Ryan Miller at rmiller@newtimesslo. com.

Sun - 55 Fiction - Short Story collection  

Annual short story collection.

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