101-word Short Story Contest 2002 12/26/2002
Thursday, December 26, 2002
But you! It''s different for you. Every year the Weekly flings open the doors to the readers and invites you to submit your sweetest, shortest fiction: 101 words of genius and heart. It''s creative work borne of inspiration, not necessity. And it''s a pleasure to read.
This year we received 184 entries. Our dedicated team of readers went through all of them, arm-wrestled to see whose opinion would prevail, cut deals, and finally came up with four top winners. Alka Joshi of Pacific Grove takes the $101 prize for the elegant "Still Life," and runners-up Jed Peace Friedland of Carmel Valley, Jacob Martin of Monterey and David Dunaway of Dallas, Tex. get gift certificates to local restaurants. (Sorry, David--you''ll have to come here to collect.)
Unfortunately we could not print all the other stories, so we picked the ones that tickled our brains and made us wonder. Thanks to everyone who participated. Hopefully we''ll hear from you again next year.
Please don''t take them from me. Forgive me. Please. I need my children.
In real life my father is smiling but his eyes are not. Should I send her back, he asks, looking at me.
In my drawing he is not there. At all.
I had told her she couldn''t look at the drawing till I was done. That way, it would be a surprise.
Alka Joshi, Pacific Grove
Without warning, everything crumpled, the top tore off and the horizon shifted dramatically. A ghastly crunching ensued as comrades around him slipped helplessly away. This Cheeto wasn''t going down that easy. Not like the others. Now without a fight. Not without leaving orange powder all over lips and fingers. He''s a crunchy hot who had always curved in the opposite direction from the rest of the corn. Call it destiny or gusto, but in this bag where dreams are dead, since Frito-Lay, he''d never given up the cheese and wasn''t about to yet. He just needed a minute to think!
Jed Peace Friedland, Carmel Valley
Jacob Martin, Monterey
I still remember it like it was yesterday. Her mother and I went to Point Reyes on a sunny afternoon. We were happy then. We went wading in the surf even though the signs said not to. I saw a so-called sneaker wave coming at us and ran. I know, I should have grabbed her and pulled her out.
She went under. Her new Andresz Juliano sweater was ruined. Her Italian leather shoes would be thrown away. The two-hour drive back to San Francisco was silent. The fog rolled in and she wouldn''t let me play the radio.
David Dunaway, Dallas, Texas
A Healthy Appetite
Nathan worked in a salad bar buffet. He liked to stand in the back of the kitchen and watch women walk through the dinning room. They pay careful attention of balancing their glasses on their trays. He studied them, the form of their breasts, the scope of their hips, admire the texture and movements of their hair. The business women walked the best. They breathed dental plans and upward social mobility. Their clothing hints at candlelight, expensive wine, sex on the kitchen floor. But biting the bottom lips and folding their arms they feign virginity, ask where the silverware is or the bathroom.
Corby Sawyer, Big Sur
Grandma is Busy
Since my grandmother remarried, she''s always busy, but we arrange a visit. I get to her house and knock on the door. No answer. I ring the doorbell. Nothing. Grandma is a bit deaf so I go around back. Nothing still. I called her when I left, fifteen minutes ago. What could have happened? Worried, I knock harder, ring the doorbell, and shout her name.
Slowly, the curtain moves and the door opens. My grandmother is half-dressed in a robe with her hair disheveled.
"Grandma, what happened?"
"We thought we had time," she says with a blush and a snicker.
Rob Weisskirch, Marina
My First Time
As I walk into the room, heart thudding, a quiet man points out a chair. Nervously, I sit down. He gently rubs my forearm before tying on a rubber cord. I watch silently as he flicks at veins in the crook of my elbow, on the back of my hand. Holding the needle up to the light he pushes the plunger slightly. He asks if this is my first time. When I nod, he suggests I close my eyes, take some deep breaths. "Tell me when," he whispers. "Ready," I say quietly. And the chemo begins to course slowly through me.
Susan Crosson, Valley Springs
An Awkward Silence
The opened elevator door revealed a little girl hugging a beach ball covered with a map of the world. With her stood what must have been her mother and grandmother, large black women of just the right ages. The late fifties in Virginia, people were still strangers.
As my father and I stepped into the elevator, he looked down at the child, clapped his hands and sang, "She''s got the whole world in her hands."
The little girl giggled. We smiled, comfortable with each other for a moment. I was nine years old and until then had never realized the discomfort.
Harvey Schrier, Monterey
She had ruby lips, pretended to read the newspaper, but eyed his painting, listened to him talk of tomorrow''s show while he dabbed--a stroke of hot pink here, a dash of cinnamon red there--then he talked of his next subject: a cat on a pillow.
Returning from the gallery the following day, he asked, "What did you think?" and she said "It went very well," which, in fact, she did think--but later that evening, when he slept, she sat by the window, looking out at the moon he missed.
Nash Legra, Seaside
I am eight years old. My legs itch under bright pink tights. My Mary Janes pinch my toes.
My grandmother serves my grandfather and I pastrami.
He dies in October.
We sit shiva for three days. We eat cold-cuts and macaroons.
During the next three years, my grandmother writes me a letter a week on Monet note cards. She tells me about the ducks wading in the pond behind her house. She refers to one of the ducks as my grandfather incarnate.
I don''t know any of this right now. As I quietly eat pastrami, my Mary Janes pinch my toes.
Susannah Wexler, Seaside
Otto Laval was a civic-minded citizen; proud dad to Anna, Bob, Asa and the twins, Ada and Eve; and devoted husband to their mom, Hannah. One night, however, he went off on a toot and didn''t come home until the following noon, wearing only a strategically placed bib.
Outraged, Hannah gave him tit-for-tat: "Aha! Look at you, you boob! I suppose you did the deed with that floozy madam Lil, you old poop!"
"Tut-tut m''dear," Otto admonished woozily, his mind spinning like a rotor. "Lil? No, Ma''am! ''Twas her sis, Ava--and wow, was she a dud!"
Penny Ellsworth, Salinas
The Only Way
I stand here thinking thoughts my father must have thought. And his father. Will my son someday stand in such a place and think such thoughts? Thoughts of self and family, of right and wrong, good and bad, life and death? We need to do this, they say. It''s the only way. I wonder. Still...I''m here. We''re all here; all inside our own heads. "Move," he says. We move forward. "Ready," he says. Not one of us is ready. The door opens. "Jump," he says, and we file out. One after the other into the black night and down.
Ken Jones, Pacific Grove
"What happened?" asked the paramedic as he knelt down. The boy only looked at the shoulder patches on his uniform.
"Que te paso?" Said the paramedic. "We''re not the police."
"Can anyone tell us what happened?" said the EMT loudly. Some of them shifted uneasily or looked away.
"Of course not," muttered the EMT. In the distance other sirens wailed, and several onlookers quietly left.
Sam Davidson, Salinas
A Theory of Devolution
"Born in the wrong century," he thinks.
He hears conversation at a table nearby. A lawyer and developer are discussing how to circumnavigate the Environmental Impact Report on a project. One looks like Ken Starr, the other like Peewee Herman.
"Could Darwin have been wrong?" He gazes back at his soup. The yummy chunks are eaten, a bland gruel remains.
"Aha! Earth is God''s soup bowl. Only the good stuff disappears."
Michael Baer, Monterey
On The Phone
It was my new best friend on the phone. It had been a few days, but I wasn''t worried. She was a tough girl, just the way I like ''em. Her voice was fragile, cotton ball soft, scratchy and squishy. I hardly recognized her meow. "He doesn''t love me. My little heart is broken and I knew better. I''m crying, all numb and stupid." Her desperation was distant, unfamiliar. I listened. Before she hung up I told her "it''s okay to be broken and sad, it''s those who don''t cry, don''t feel love, it''s them we worry about."
Rosalia Byrne, Big Sur
The late morning heat was oppressive. Jerry finished a beer as his clients straggled out of the surf. He got three more Modelos out of the cooler.
"That kook local really clogged the lineup," said one of the gringo surfers, "until you taught him some etiquette." His face was peeling.
The other said, "We come down here, spend all this money, and get no respect. Fuck that."
Jerry looked up the beach to where the enrramadas of San Juan de Alima promised a lazy lunch. "Third world, dude," he said. "They don''t know how it is until you teach ''em."
Sam Davidson, Salinas
At DEFCON 3 the tension is palpable, the reaction time swift, precise. But how would they explain this one?
They knew that it was a single inbound. They radioed "Ice Man" that he was "cleared in hot" meaning whatever armaments he carried were now authorized to be unleashed.
They knew that SCRAMJET technology was being tested by our finest and that could explain the Mach 5 speed signature plus the ability to circum-navigate the entire globe in mere hours.
Yet how would they explain this one? The crash site yielded nothing more than fractured metal rails, scattered hooves and reindeer pooh.
Glenn Choate, Seaside
She dusted his nightstand lightly. She heard the sounds of dinner being made. She scooped the loose change and gas receipts, opened the drawer. The magazine was awkwardly tucked away. A corner with a fleshy foot pointed in ecstasy showed. The lighter was next to the lamp. The stainless steel sink was clear of dishes. The magazine caught quickly, licking over the hands holding full breasts. Her expression never changed as the fire turned her face black and Sue watched her sister''s picture burn.
Anne Heerdt-Wingfield, Hollister
Hot needle neurons fired across Tim''s tortured synapses, avenging the abuse of the night before.
A gong reverberated through his skull, which felt pierced by an immense screw turning between his eyes. Tim''s tongue was swollen in his parched mouth, and bile was rising in his throat.
Tim prayed silently for a quick death. His bedmate stirred, freeing Tim''s leaden left arm. He squinted at her without recognition.
She slid close and murmured, "Good morning, lover. Can we do this again soon?"
"Sure," Tim replied, hobbling to the toilet. "That sounds like fun."
Jon Swift, Del Rey Oaks
He proposed on Thanksgiving. She didn''t know what to say so she said yes. They were young and vacationing in Cape Cod. She couldn''t remember exactly where. It hadn''t snowed which they had hoped for, both being from California. They rented a condo and brought their two big dogs. The dogs cuddled together on the bed the whole evening while they ate turkey, watched the game, became engaged. Later, they loaded the dishwasher. They used too much soap and bubbles came out through the paneled door. It was like an I Love Lucy episode. It was like their entire relationship.
Lisa Coscino, Pacific Grove
Last winter they found a faded note behind their armoire: "Treasure inside west wall."
Every night the poor couple chiseled, removed and marked each brick. Then, restless sleep. Back-wrenching pain. With more bricks removed, they dismantled furniture to use as wall-holding supports. The 14th night, a package and letter, inside the wall: "To future generations, if wallpaper becomes damaged, here are 12 fresh rolls that we''ve put where Yankees can''t find them. Ruthie Blackford. 1864."
Thinking it valuable, they asked an expert. "The paper? No value. However, you''ve demolished what would''ve brought a fortune. Your armoire."
Emilie Howe, Carmel
I heard a story once about a dog that got hit by a car driven by a man with a glass eye. It had popped out while the man was driving.
He couldn''t see well enough to read the fine print on the label stating this might occur along with itchiness or temporary blindness.
The guy had just finished a fight with his wife by telling her he wanted a divorce. What did he care? After all, he just lost his job and whatever savings he had just got sucked up into his ungrateful stepson''s bail...poor dog.
Matt Ragle, Pacific Grove
"Boring," she drawled, "Seen it once, seen it all."
Just then the satin black 1934 Bugatti slipped over the center line at Point Joe and drifted over the edge of 17-Mile Drive, bouncing from rock to rock to sea. The other drivers in the Concours d''Elegance, and those gathered to watch the most beautiful and expensive cars in the world parade by, watched with astonished passivity.
The front-runner for best-of-show lay mangled in criss-crossing waves. Preston Phillips III was still behind the wheel. Always a bore, now he''s a dead bore.
Patricia Matuszewski, Pacific Grove
She had expected the chandeliers, naturally, as well as the cranberry-colored wine and salmon pate'', the Little Black Dresses adorned with strings of pearls and French manicures, and even the organically grown wheat crackers spread thinly with caviar were conven-tional. There was nothing to catch her fancy in the variously patterned neckties or the constant babble of conversation, running along like a stream and sweeping up anything it came across. No, she had anticipated all that, but when the long-lashed caterer offered her a roasted prawn and she turned to face him, what happened next was a complete surprise.
Hillary Smith, Soquel
You stop trying to kill each other when you hear Mamma''s call. You and your siblings gather ''round. Her teaching tool is a little stick, but it could be a mouse, a bird, or a lizard.
The lesson: Pounce on the prey; when it plays dead look away. Seizing its opportunity to escape, the prey animal runs, and you give chase. Catch it and you eat and live to play the game again.
By practicing and watching your siblings practice you sharpen your hunting skills. Then when Mamma''s milk dries up you can survive and thrive on your own.
Peggy Johnson, Marina
--Vodka, with a twist, on the rocks.--
I''ll come back later to get her order. Whatever book she''s reading, with watercolor trees, or dreams, has taken her.
She looks up.
--You know, he went so fast. Just like that he was gone.--
I nod. Her hand, laced with dark purple age, shakes ever so slightly as she moves her glass.
--Do you have a husband?--
--Well, when you do, tell him you love him. Every day.--
Kissing my boyfriend, I wonder if that will be me, with vodka, and a twist, on the rocks, always on the rocks.
Alexis Fisher, Seaside
I''m just a collector. I don''t actually gag, tie and whip. However I love a good spanking and sometimes do it with my eyes closed. I guess you call it a fetish, some sort of neurotic obsession. Some people arrange closets from blouse, sweater to jacket. Others have matching dishes and dining room set. I combine sensuality with all I do, make and wear. My poetry is vulgar, my clothes shocking, my illustrations provocative, when I look you in the eye you are trapped. My appearance in public is stimulating, but I don''t actually gag, tie or whip.
Rosalia Byrne, Big Sur
She''s sitting alone on a leather sofa in the sun reading the sports section. I''m watching her from behind a flower arrangement on the counter. She looks up and smiles at me! No...not at me. A man brushes past me; she rises to greet him. They kiss. Who is this guy? He holds up a room key. How could she do this to me? He takes her arm and they walk, whispering and giggling toward the elevators. I straighten from behind the flowers and sigh. Someday, I think. Right now, I have more pizza to deliver.
Ken Jones, Pacific Grove
The natural spring flows from deep within the earth, amid eucalyptus trees and mist-laden hills in a remote village in Asturias, in northern Spain. I imagine the washerwomen at the spring talked about Welo the day he left, in 1910, at age nineteen, and sailed to America.
From my cupped hands, I drank from the surface that quenched my great-grandfather''s thirst when he was my age. No longer a California teenager trying to navigate alone through the seas of independence and belonging, I became instead part of an ongoing story--of sources and flows, of roots and uprootedness.
Jose F. Fernandez, Monterey
The Road to Big Sur
I had a framed backpack, another backpack, a bag of books, sleeping bag, small pillow courtesy of Amtrak and a hanger full of shirts, ties and coats. I''d left New York for California. Millions had done it before me. Who the hell am I? I was at the mercy of tourists on Highway 1. Oh Christ! Why am I not in New Jersey at a Giants game, or in the old man''s recliner with a reheated plate of chicken parm? One point six miles. A ride, my God.
"Hello, I''m Abdul Shafeek."
"I''m Mike, thanks for stopping."
"Where are you from?"
T. Michael Hicky
That''s when the power went out.
Bryna Kan Lieberman, Santa Cruz
Ulla lived down from Fuengirolas. She painted pictures of dark forms colliding, sending out shrapnel blobs of pigments and spatters of debris across canvases. She controlled the chaos with a tempered brush.
Ulla let herself go during bouts of painting, then brushed her grey hair, penciled eyeliner, daubed rouge and painted on lipstick. She looked the gussied up tart who''s seen too much to think it might change.
Gin and wine kept her strong, clouding memories of suitors and promises. But even she stepped back, aghast, when she opened the back door to throw another empty on the pyramid of glass.
Gerald Fredericks, Salinas
Fool Me Once
The electric shock singed William''s hair and burnt his hand so that he needed his mother''s help out of the car seat. At home, he found all of the wall sockets corked with plastic covers rated child proof for ages five and under, and his father had carefully hidden the silverware in a tall kitchen cabinet.
It took three year old William less than five minutes to pull up a stool and retrieve another utensil. Then quickly pry off the cover to insert the fork. Later, he told the ER doctor that he "just wanted to see if it still worked."
Alexandra Ames, Monterey