101 Word Short Story Contest 2001
Congratulations to everyone who entered this year's contest.
Thursday, December 27, 2001
By the time deadline closed, we had received nearly 150 entries, and by the time we got done reading, Clark Coleman's gem had taken first place, just a couple points away from runners-up Michael Benson and Scott Dick.
This year''s judges were Erik Cushman, Traci Hukill, Eric Johnson, Jessica Lyons and Chuck Thurman, with help from Linda Maceira, Susanne Teichmann and Bradley Zeve.
Our only question: What''s with ants this year? We could have come up with a whole section dedicated to the little six-legged, antenna-waggers--there must have been something in the air.
See for yourself...
I trimmed the hedge, enjoying its symmetrical moment. I pulled the clinging, smothering weeds, admiring the rich, dark soil in their wake.
If things had worked out, I might have had my own garden to tend on my terms and time.
Some kids drove by and yelled something at me. They don''t know what I have done. I am one of many here today. This wouldn''t happen in my garden. I would be at peace.
I stood up to get a closer look at my median masterpiece. "Okay," the sheriff said, "we''re done at this intersection. Back in the van."
Clark Coleman, Pacific Grove
Nature called at 3am, that''s when I heard them. When they party, it''s loud. I yelled for them to shut up. Dang yard gnomes know how to keep it down.
I never wanted their kind but they found my yard and started building by themselves. In months, there were windmills, carts and little houses. Neighbors laughed, thought I was nuts. I said it wasn''t me, it was them. The gnomes did the work. The police came by and I stopped saying that.
Eventually, I learned to tolerate them but their late-night partying irks me. Tomorrow night, I''ll see the mayor.
Scott Dick, Carmel Valley
Once there was a boy who sat in California dirt, feeding ants to ant lions while sweat poured off him from summer''s heat. Sometimes he slipped with the monstrous black ants he gripped bet-ween his fingers and crippled to die in dusty funnels, and the piercing venom made his thumb throb. This was right; ants were his enemies and he theirs. Still he hated them for it to the deepest reaches of his angry heart. Who started the war between ants and boy. They never asked. They had been warring as long as memory recalled, their hatred inevitable, like sun bleaching bones.
Michael Benson, Marina
outlaws & outcasts
William sat at the back of the Japanese restaurant glowering at the loud-mouthed couple at the sushi bar. A quiet dinner was all he had wanted, but oh, no! Mr. and Mrs. Fathead perched on stools like crows cawing their inanities to each innocent customer who entered the door.
Pouring more beer, Mr. Fathead squawked, "Hey! Come on in! Best damn food you ever ate! I was a chef in LA once." It had gone on like that for half an hour. They took turns shouting out what they had done, where they had been important.
William sharpened his chopsticks.
Cynthia L. Fowler, Salinas
Table For One
Six-year-old Amy knows that when the yelling starts, there won''t be any dinner. As the yelling intensifies, she grabs a piece of bread and sits in her window seat. She stares into nothing. A blue jay comes and sits on the windowsill.
"Will you take me with you?" Amy asks.
Amy throws crumbs for the bird to eat, startling the bird.
As she watches the jay fly away, she also watches her dad''s truck pull out of the driveway. If both stay away, she will get to eat. The loneliness sets in. She would rather not eat.
Vanessa Bogenholm, Aromas
Return to Normal
The psychiatrist led me into the public library and slowly removed my straitjacket.
The librarian regarded me with a sympathetic smile. "Is this the one?" She asked. The psychiatrist nodded.
The librarian escorted me to a dusty room. She switched on the lights. There against the wall was my long lost friend; the card catalog. I pulled drawer "M" out, the brass handle caressing my finger perfectly. The weight of the wood drawer and the tactile thumbing of cards soothed me so. I felt the fingers of sanity seep back into my soul.
The psychiatrist patted my shoulder. "Welcome back."
Clark Coleman, Pacific Grove
When Pete, the scruffy hitchhiker I had picked up, said that he was a professional pickpocket, I nervously relocated my wallet and began watching him closely.
Minutes later, with a flashing blue light behind me, I realized that I should have watched my speedometer instead. A surly policeman, stuffing his copy of my speeding ticket into his boot, ordered Pete out of the car for questioning. Finding nothing, he drove away.
"You did me a favor; now it''s my turn," said Pete when I dropped him off later. Winking, he handed me the patrolman''s copy of the ticket.
Clare Connors, Pacific Grove
Rudy was glad today was over; it''d been a tough one. Hell, they all were. He watched the water flow by against the curb and wondered where the floating leaves and other stuff would end up. He wondered where he would end up. He waited. Other kids passed and they laughed at the holes in his worn out jeans. His mom was late, again. A leaf drifted by in the gutter. There was an ant riding on the leaf and it looked to Rudy as lost and alone as he felt. He''s running away! Rudy thought. Rudy turned and ran too.
Ken Jones, Pacific Grove
working for a living
She worked nights. A strong woman with family and responsibilities. When she gets home, her two children are asleep.
A quiet house and she reflects--on the dreams of her youth, the realities of her life. She had wanted to be a teacher of dance. Studying in Europe, she returned to a marriage and a different path.
Next morning a kiss, a few words and her husband is gone. Then the children to school, the housework. She waits tables again tonight, the money is good.
But she works nights. She missed putting her children to bed, she misses the bedtime stories.
Will Gibson, Pacific Grove
There are very few Shadowsmiths left. Theirs is an arcane craft, the mastery of our only two-dimensional entity, soundless, weightless, intangible, eerily supple, capricious, and willful, able to bend smoothly over a curb or scale a high wall. Cast by sun, moon, candle, oil-lamp, or light-bulb on black loam, blue water, purple snow, or yellow sand, fixed or wildly-dancing, each shadow is unique.
With his long, prehensile fingers, oddly adhesive at their tips, a Master Shadowsmith, by tugging cunningly at its edges, will make you an elegant new shadow, your own Dark Other.
Arthur Porges, Pacific Grove
I jaywalked the avenue after dinner, dodging cars and flying branches. A wet breeze made me weightless for a moment. I ran the hundred yards to Safeway.
''Everything happens when I leave,'' seeing our new clerk with tears streaming, facing a menacing threat in shades and M-40 field jacket. "What''s up, Mister?"
He answered by opening the jacket, a polished chrome .45 resting, cocked and locked.
"I don''t want no heroes," he was eloquent enough. The rest of the day was all right.
Mark Diaz, Monterey
A Day Off
Bye. Have a nice day. Don''t tell him I''m not going to work. Don''t want to. I have eight hours to me. Driving the coast, there''s San Francisco. Good place to stop. Always liked it here. Saw a "for rent" sign up the block. I''ll turn around. I like it. Little small, but great view. I can''t afford it. Write the check. Two weeks till move in. Where to work? Stripper. Loan me a costume to audition. Eighty bucks for one song. Not bad. Start next week. Getting late. Have to pick up the kids. Better go home. Must cancel check.
Rebecca Montes, Seaside
Gently he moves his callused farmer''s fingertips toward her silent sleeping face, trembling as he always did whenever he touched her, exhilarated by the sheer pureness of her beauty. Slowly he glided his touch from her forehead down her nose, across her cheek, over to her lips. Shhh now, he whispered, putting his forefinger up to her lips. Go on ahead and find a place to rest. I''ll be with you shortly.
He rose, then turned and nodded to the expressionless man in the black suit in the back of the room. Okay, he said, you can close the lid now.
William Novim, Pacific Grove
I stood on the other side of the raging river, gasping, out of breath--all the blood run out of my head, my face, my chest, my hands, my feet--soaked completely to the bone from the enormous struggle I had only just barely survived.
Downstream, disappeared, drowned, the final traces of horse, wagon, wife, children. Life, hopes, dreams. All disappeared beneath the surging. All drowned into memory.
"So I lied," said the Devil with a devilish wink and smile, pontifical in his dry three-piece red suit, right foot propped up on a small boulder, tying his shoelace. "Sue me."
Greg Moleski, Pacific Grove
The Birthday Party
Mrs. Bonaffacio silently stared, with vacant eyes, at the 92 candles slowly melting, spreading like gnarled fingers on the surface of a frosted cake. The small gathering of elderly friends waited in fidgeting silence.
A hoarse whisper broke the stillness, "When will she blow them out?"
"Hush!" was an embarrassed reply.
The candles started to sputter then die, releasing a delicate tracery of thing smoke curling upwards, eventually vanishing into oblivion, announcing the passing of Mrs. Bonaffacio.
Thomas L. Bettencourt, Carmel
The sunlight filtered through the lace cut curtains. The patterns fell across still socks, gray, worn at the heels, mended with grandma''s precise even stitches. She looked for the joke, the fake blood, the knife tucked in his armpit, the dramatic drooling and gagging. None of them, no, none of them this time. The afternoon breeze blew his wisps of gray hair across his gray face. Something still moved, something in the humid stillness of the afternoon naps by the too-still elderly. How many times had she screamed, jumped back, played along. Now the mirror she held to his mouth stayed clear.
Anne Heerdt-Wingfield, Hollister
The night split with the glare of spotlights aimed at the terrified, nearly naked woman clinging desperately to the 12th floor ledge. Far below, a net was ready to accept her falling body.
"All you need to do is let go!" yelled the officer from the window.
"I can''t," she wailed. "I''m dreaming! If I dream I''m falling, I''ll die before I hit the ground!"
The officer looked incredulous. "You''re not dreaming! Just release the..."
With an anguished cry, she slipped. Scratching grotesquely at the air, she hit the net with silent finality.
The officer woke in his bed, sweating.
Michael Fink, Marina
Slowly, the leaf fluttered to the ground. Bonk! Right on the head of an ant, knocking it senseless onto its back. Its legs twitched. Ahead and behind, the column marched on. But one ant paused, and stopped. "What are you doing?" shouted the others. "Come on, we''ve got work to do!"
It was a mutant, that ant. Its proper focus was diverted. It harbored a spark of concern. Dangerous, that ant. Quickly, the others attacked, and dispatched the offender, ending a threat to ant civilization. Ending a possibility of ant evolution.
Ron Pierce, Carmel Valley
Leaving the Neighborhood
What was she doing out in a storm like that? Fifty mile an hour winds, rain blowing sideways. No place for an old lady, but she loved the remaining greenbelt above the creek and had years of memories, hawks circling above, the loud chorus of summer frogs. She knew it was her last winter here; they talked about removing her from home. This was too sudden, roots pulling up, falling through a fence. No one even heard it. They saw the old oak tree later, called insurance, glad it did not fall on their houses, more houses than trees now anyway.
Susan Hoffman, Del Rey Oaks
love & lust
Every six months the slaves were marched from the tall ships in the bay to the holding cells to be cleaned and auctioned. This was the last one. It was a spectacle that only men enjoyed, before the war. Now some women owners who lost husbands and sons came to make purchases. He stood before her naked and cold. As a proper lady she was not expected to look, nor was he. From the crowd, she traveled from his large feet past, his buttocks, to his bulging arms, and when their eyes met, her heart raced...she quietly placed her bid...
Charles Ivan King, Monterey
She awoke earlier than usual, luxuriating in bed, her hand slowly caressing her full breast. Her fingers tweaked the nipple, which immediately hardened. Her other hand ran low across her smooth belly gently brushing the hair. She squirmed as her excitement grew. Surprised, she realized something else was growing, too. She threw back the covers and stared in shock and amazement at the part of her own body that had been tenting her sheet. Mesmerized, she reached to grasp it...
The alarm rang. Jessie started awake and sweating. His favorite dream again...He smiled, finished the job, and headed for the shower.
SuSpence, Carmel Valley
It happened one night that he stumbled upon her in an obscure cafe, not too crowded, hunched over a book and an American cup of coffee. He felt awkward making small talk all the while knowing what her bellybutton looked like and just the way she liked to be kissed, yet not knowing what she dreams about or mumbles in her sleep or what she thinks of children in their most charming, red winter coats.
Corby Sawyer, Big Sur
The Unenlightened Path
I was desperate, she was horny; like oil and vinegar on a bed of lettuce. I couldn''t even say it was gentle persuasion, more a loss of control that got me to pack my bags. We were living together in a new city. Great fun at first until she left. I didn''t love her but, like a boxer with a glass chin, went down for the count. When I came up for air the wind had blown the clouds away, I made amends and felt the sun. Took baby steps at first, broke into a gallop, looking for truths this time.
Joe Lieberman, Monterey
art & visions
Alberto watched through half-closed eyes as his love, with almost infinite patience, dipped her toes into the languid stream. She made him smile as a smooth wash of relief slowly flowed across her sunlit face. The fresh light above ran down the branches to spread over her flesh like liquid brass. She was so still he had to rely on the colors of cloth and skin to supply the sense of living vibration...
Dipping his brush into the yellow ochre, he touched up a highlight on her narrow neck.
Michael Fink, Marina
Truth and beauty bounced off the back wall of the Crescent Moon Cabaret as four men reworked Coltrane. I ate a complex stew of saffron, ochre and salmon skies; dancing with the cool silver star, my heart wrapped in the love of a bristled cheek. The brittle, visible world softened into a reflection of new possibilities. He said he was funny, overly sarcastic and had all his original teeth. They called him Raider and his T-shirt read "look better naked." I awoke to an empty bed, with the sympathy of a weathered cat celebrating the life of a good dream.
MacLean Hanger, Monterey
My father and I walked together in Lower Manhattan, 1961. His hand touched my shoulder, stopping me. I was four. "Look," he said, staring down the street. No parade was going by, no movie star exited a limo. It was the light he pointed to, softening the colors of the buildings, late afternoon glow, last bit of musty brightness before dark comes. Elegantly dressed in a suit, narrow-brimmed hat, he was drawing me to notice more than the actual light. Day''s ending reminded him of other endings, how fleeting intense moments were, the importance of recognizing beauty before it fled.
Patrice Vecchione, Monterey
Last night was Tristan''s big gallery opening. She jokingly called it a success because she got to flirt and Simon and I got fed. But the best thing about her ascension through the ranks of art bookings is that the nicer the venue, the less the food gravitates towards Velveeta cubes and multi-colored toothpicks. No, High Art is indeed a study of fine cheese, thin crackers and those decorative hors d''oeuvre utensils Tristan always pockets, "In the name of irony," she says with a flourish of sarcasm, tucking a jewel tipped knife discreetly into my back pocket.
Chris Marland, Carmel
Meeting of the Minds
It is exactly noon in the little strip outside the bank and the bagel shop, a modestly chilly Tuesday in October. There are two writers writing about each other. One seated in front of a haphazard bagel and cup of coffee. Cigarette in one hand, pen in the other, young and beautifully out of step. The other, older, seated on a bench near the street. Pen poised in well-practiced thought and observation of his young contemporary. Traffic slows under the burden of lunch hour. Their gazes meet, mindful and embarrassed.
Corby Sawyer, Big Sur
Out of Balance
He took one step and he was in another world. His body tilted. He couldn''t stand up straight. He entered a small wooden building and reached for a pendulum hanging like a plumb bob at a 20 degree tilt. His stomach was churning sideways, gurgling in protest. He went down the stairway tilting uncontrollably. He took one step and the world sprang back to normalcy. Margie was waiting there for him and he threw his arms around her and kissed her. His world was once more OK and The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz was behind him.
Ned Brundage, Salinas
It was a Sturm und Drangy night, in spite of the Vanderszwaan Prophesy. My comely personal assistant, Meeha Leenda, who puts the funksh back in ''functional,'' reminded me that this was no time for fluffy little hippie-dip ditties.
Not so far away are the Obsidian Cliff Towers of the office buildings on Wall Street, with their razor-sharp sides, where the meat pickers gather at the base to harvest the fragments of financial ruin. When gleanings are slim, the poor are rumored to cook and sell their own children. I looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was 1:01.
Richard W. Brinton, Salinas
It took us through the lands of garlic, onions, eucalyptus and sunflowers. My mother often drove us to Pasadena, to visit Aunt Kay.
We always left early in the morning. Three sleepy little girls would stumble to the car, clutching their pillows, only to doze off again after a mile or two. The first stop was Salinas. After coffee for mom and hot chocolate for the girls, we headed into the valley.
I still get a special thrill, hitting 101 South at dawn, when all is quiet. I know what to expect from the hours ahead. It is my home.
Karin Sandberg, Pacific Grove
Every Saturday the two boys would meet at the corner of Alvarado and Bonifacio in the epicenter of three wishing wells. On a "good" Saturday, the boys would surface nearly three dollars of wishes avoiding on-lookers, and giant gold fish that swam the wishing pool in front of the old San Carlos Hotel. Bicycling away with drenched coins in their pockets they would lean their bicycles against the store window of Woolworth''s and proceed to survey the array of candy, baseball cards and chocolate displayed in aisle two. It''s amazing how wishes come true--at least on those Saturday afternoons.
Willie Beesley, Salinas