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Judge's Pick, Mitch Wieland, $25
Karla Miller, McCall
Sure as Wool
Iknit him a hat. Interwoven blues and greys—the colors before a snowstorm. Took 38 evenings, one stitch at a time, next to the wood stove. I knit his name—Ben—on the inside. I knew his mother would love it; his ex despise it. He'd wear it and think of me. Christmas morning, I wrapped it in glossy pages of SKI Magazine. He smiled, big as the future, when he saw it. But it didn't fit right. I'd miscalculated the stitches, or something. Unraveling was difficult. Shades of blue and grey on my living room floor, January into spring.
Judge's Pick, Laura Delaney, $25
Mary Moiso, Nampa
Three is a Crowd
Recently, I had a friend over to visit. When I returned with drinks I saw she has brought along another friend. I recognized the girl although she was slimmer and had a new jacket.
Each time I turned my back the two of them shared looks and giggled at inside jokes, chatting in code. The other girl kept chiming in with factoids and alerts, her face lighting up as she shared gossipy tidbits and meaningless comments. This girl was annoying and intrusive. I wish she hadn't come, but how do you tell your friend to leave her cell phone at home?
Judge's Pick, Rick Ardinger, $25
Michelle Burnham, Boise
A Man Goes Out For a Pack of Cigarettes
Iswooped up the dirty jeans and shirt before heading to the laundry room. Digging my hand into the pockets of the jeans, I pulled out a hand full of stuff and set it on the top of the washer, arranging the items in a line. A crumpled pack of cigarettes, three Canadian dimes, a day-glow domino, his wedding ring and a fortune from a cookie that read "Tell it like it's a secret and everyone will be dying to know it." I looked toward the bedroom where he slept for the first time in days. Love is a mystery.
Judge's Pick, Michael Faison, $25
Phil A. McClellin, Kuna
Suffer the Reaper
Ipalmed the buckling's chin, he nuzzled my cheek; his coat stank of oats, urine. I smiled, pulled frost from his beard.
The skeletal door clapped the house. Sister sobbed at the window; her breath frosted the glass and she wiped it with ragged white lace.
Dad held a hand inside his patched jacket; his eyes heavy, worn. "Stop it," he said. Then to me, "I'll be in the barn."
I nodded, slipped a knot around the buckling's neck. The goat shivered, bleated. I rubbed his nose, kissed his ear.
Dad slouched, sighed. "Don't tarry," he said, and entered the barn.
Judge's Pick, Alan Heathcock, $25
James McColly, Boise
The pig woke to a world askew. His pen had collapsed, so he explored the jumbled farm at will. He saw no other animals, no farmer, no fences.
Following the road into town, he found the city awash in rubble and pancaked buildings. The only sound was the soft click of his hooves on the broken road.
He wandered the remains for days before he finally caught the smell of rotting food, and ravenously ran to the scent. He found an overturned vegetable truck and two sows feeding.
Suddenly he understood; this was the dawning of the planet of the pigs.[ Video is no longer available. ]