Short and bittersweet New Times presents the winners of its 24th annual 55 Fiction competition ART BY NEAL BREToN Dark collegiate creatures. Penguin hierarchies. Regret. Pasties. Murder, of course. A giant waterslide. 55 Fiction, our brave and long-suffering judges have learned, can take you a lot of places. So lean back, take a sip of strawberry lemonade, or possibly an iced chai, and let this year’s winners take you on a journey. Just don’t blink, or you might find they’ve passed you by.
What Year is it?
At the Bar “Afternoon, Detective. What’ll it be?” “Anything, George, provided it’s strong.” “I judge that cryogenics lab break-in didn’t turn up any leads?” “Not this time, George. … God, this drink’s good.” “Glad you like it, Detective. That drink’s new. Boss says it’s from concentrate.” Horatio Bartle San Luis Obispo
My office is just covered with out of date calendars and old coffee. It seems as if I need to clean it, but I am too damned lazy. It’s 2011 and yet my office is in the year 2009. The Hooter’s girls don’t seem to mind. They tend to like lying in the sand. Zac Kimble Bridgeton, N.J.
These Questions Seem Kind of Specialized We told the kittens they couldn’t come to pub trivia. Then Question 1 was “How many times do they feed you at the pound?” We wrongly said twice daily. Question 2: “Is the squirrel in the back yard that barks at Snowflake an asshole?” We answered “no.” Then Question 3: “Is string cool?” Wrong again. Joel Page Dallas, Texas
Kinda Blue Chillin’ on the sofa. Text from Michelle. She’s comin’ over. Roll a doobie. Play Kind of Blue. She melts at this song. Thanks Messieurs Davis and Coltrane. She’s pregnant. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Working two jobs to pay child support. For sale on eBay: CD collection, played once. John Geraci Redondo Beach
Reflections In 1971, I met a guy and we killed someone, vowing no further contact. But in 1981, he sent me an incriminating letter. So in 1991, I sent him a photo of the letter burning. In 2001, he filmed the photo burning, and sent the film to me. And now I have to kill him. Joel Page Dallas, Texas
She whispered it. It was more vocalized breath than actualized utterance. And she meant it. Clearly. He may have heard, but never let on. Not that he had time to. “I only think of murder, with you around.”
Some years, one name stands out in the pile. As scores are tallied, we sometimes realize that high marks consistently go to a particular writer who, in addition to being prolific, consistently surprises, amuses, and impresses the year’s judges. This year, Dylan Rede from Atascadero did just that. The following are just a few of his entries.
Memory’s a Funny Thing What was his name anyway? She strained to recall. Robert, Roger? Something like that. Her 90-yearold brain seemed useless. Who was “Roger Rabbit?” What did the word “rarebit” mean? The man leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Mom,” he said. Oh, she remembered, it’s a kind of melted cheese. Served on dry toast. Dana Istre Lompoc
No Gold Watch
The smell of singed fur clung to trailer walls like cigarette smoke in a twelve step meeting. The ringmaster entered; his star’s take in one hand, one last thread of hope in the other. The tiger looked up, the answer already there in his tired eyes. “I’m done jumping through hoops, Bob.”
He remembers the moment he stopped caring. It was a sunny day, in a dell, the breeze keeping the heat down. The smell of apples was a pleasant surprise. If he forgets, there are always pictures. She said it first, all was well. He looked in her eyes, her hand in his. “I do.”
Where the College Things Are
Without fail, they come out after dark. The skirts get higher; the inhibitions, self-esteem get lower. They drink their terrible drinks, bat their terrible eyes, and lick their terrible lips. Oh, college things. Let the wild rumpus begin.
And Many More
Coronation One of the tallest Adelie penguins wanted to become village chief. One night before he was elected, a King penguin appeared. The villagers wanted this new, taller penguin to become their king. Just before the coronation ceremony, an Emperor penguin arrived. The King penguin promised to pay a tribute of tuna fish to him. YuSook Jung
He rode the same waterslide repeatedly, once for each of his thirty years. It was a long, frighteningly dark tunnel that spit you out into a sun-drenched and painful world. He always questioned the significance of cake and community, choosing, instead, to spend his birthday alone in the water park.
The Sidewalk and the Gutter
It surprised me when I started crying—big tears, a couple of shoulder heaves. They’re so alike. One dead to the world, curled around an empty bottle; the other truly dead, thrown in the gutter, leash still on. One on the sidewalk, one in the gutter, not ten feet apart and I just walked on.
55 Fiction continued on page 24
55 Fiction from page 23
Logan, the SelfProclaimed Giraffe “I am a giraffe!” Logan shrieked to his mom from outside. “No, you’re not,” his mom yelled back. But, in fact, Logan was a giraffe. He ate leaves every day for every meal. He hadn’t eaten anything else since spring. Yet Logan’s mother was concerned. Winter was coming, and the leaves were falling and dying. Gabe Birkley
To you, from us We can’t help ourselves. Yes, we write every week, but this contest is so intriguing, we sometimes just have to join in. Enjoy these bonus stories, written by New Times staff.
The Little Stripper that Could Patrick was, as a rule, disinterested in strippers. It wasn’t that he objected to paying to watch someone dance; he was a season subscriber to the San Francisco Ballet. His apathy was more an aesthetic rejection of gold lamé and neon pasties. Then he met Mallory who wore cardigans and read Proust.
The Millipede and the Shoe Makers
“I think she finally stopped crying,” he says, relieved. “Leave those dishes until the morning. The noise will wake her.” They painstakingly sit down on the sofa, aimlessly flip through the channels, and she resolutely turns off the TV. “Can you get the bottle ready for later?” she asks. “Vodka or scotch?” he sighs. David Sharp Morro Bay
A Waste of Cheese
The millipede achieved political power after being ignored by the shoe makers. He needed lots of cheap shoes made in one size. The millipede saw his duty to simplify shoes for the shoe makers. Shoes were made in fewer sizes and were cheaper, and they could be consumed more easily. Often, the shoes were uncomfortable. Jim McKrell Atascadero
Wes hated eggs. To him, a sunny yolk was the height of obscenity. An omelet, a waste of perfectly good cheese. But falling in love with a chicken farmer changes things. Not his stance on eggs—a man has to take a stand somewhere. But choking them down lovingly somehow didn’t incite his gag reflex.
Sons of Devils Storm clouds are stacked on the mountain. Soldiers lie dead in the grass. The ribbons she bought for her wedding have faded. But no one forgets the widow. Her man is watching from his place in the sky. She won’t notice him touching her soldier. And we are nothing but sons of devils again. Youssef Alaoui Morro Bay
Fish and chips Lin was halfway through her master’s thesis—130 pages deconstructing “when the chips are down”—when she was struck by an extraordinary and awful thought. What if there was no deeper meaning? She could live without god. But if language lost the luster of metaphor and symbolism, she’d have to cash in her chips.
The Police Have Been Here The pedestrian overpass is peaceful now. No crackling fires or piercing shouts pollute the silence. I hear only my footsteps and passing traffic. Where are the young men who want to re-skin my cell phone? Where are the old men who want to feed me skewers of meat? They’re somewhere else. Unhurt, I hope. Michael Gsovski Brooklyn, N.Y.
Errands I buy the food. The cashier smiles. I wash it in my metal sink and chop it on the plastic board. I put the food in the pan and sauce it a little. Onto the good plates it goes, right as she walks in. I can’t say if her smile means more than the cashier’s. Michael Gsovski Brooklyn, N.Y.
Big House Hobbies “Can’t drink. Can’t smoke. Drugs? Out of the question. No women. No sex. Generally, big house hobbies boil down to extremely cheap entertainment.” Nineteen-year-old Johnny asked, “What the hell’s that mean?” Vinny looked at Big George and said, “Explain.” George said, “If you drop your soap in the shower, I’m sellin’ tickets. Cheap.” Larry A. Thompson Sterling, Colo. ∆
Globe-trotting on a budget It had taken the entire summer, but Violet had finally amassed 986,432 red balloons, two more than she needed, according to her calculations. Red for buoyancy and whimsy. All September, while classmates compared tans, she would see the pyramids, dip her smallest toe in the Amazon. And, time permitting, frolic with penguins in Antarctica.
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