Just 101 words, that's it, to tell a story that captures the imagination and impresses a distinguished panel of judges. Whether it's delving into the depths of human emotion or tickling our communal funny bones, writers from across the valley do it every year as part of the annual Boise Weekly Fiction 101 contest.
In its eighth year, the contest has again produced a remarkable collection of prose—one that thoroughly astonished our judges with its creativity, talent and vision. Winnowing down the 149 entries into this winning group was no small feat. To our readers: Enjoy. To our winners: Congratulations.2009 Judges: Laura DeLaney, owner of Rediscovered Bookshop Michael Faison, executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts Tom Peele, associate professor of English at Boise State Brady Udall, author and assistant professor of English at Boise State Mitch Wieland, editor of : The Idaho Review: and professor of English at Boise State
The beach was biting cold, but our mom wore a two-piece and swore it was a vacation. I wrestled Andy into the ocean. We toppled in waves, nostrils stinging with salt.
Mom lit cigarettes, hugged her arms.
"Looks like rain," she said. Clouds smeared like charcoal behind her, Mom's bikini bright neon against them.
A man noticed, too. He waved, flashing his tan-line wedding ring.
Mom blew smoke and smiled.
Andy and I gasped on the sand. We watched the swells heave like our chests, like the ocean catching its breath. We locked hands, determined to wait out the coming storm.
The horses bucked and farted in the early morning. They trotted the fence line as guardians to their own blood. When I pulled up the barbed wire to squeeze in amongst them, I was scared. Their mad, incomprehensible whinnies. My coffee can of oats called—Come to me. Let me pet your muzzle, touch your wildness and believe that this field, this morning is Kingdom Come.
But the grass rolled away and they scattered. Suddenly, a man shouted from the barn, "Get the hell off my property."
I forgot to mention that—the barn and the little house surrounded by cottonwoods.
I'm boiling noodles when Christa calls. In the background I hear metal clanking, men huffing and grunting. "I'm staying late at the gym," Christa says. "Eat without me."
I tried the gym; we used to meet after work and discuss our days, lounging side by side on recumbent bikes. But Christa needed something more exhilarating—she straddled the elliptical trainer one night, pumped dumbbells the next. I couldn't keep up. At home now, an apron cinches my gut.
"Lasagna tonight," I say. "I was hoping ..."
"Listen, Kyle. I'm spotting my new partner. I've gotta run."
"Partner?" I ask the dead connection.Honorable Mention, $75: Dene Breakfield, Boise Cat Fancy
When Mom pulled something big and white out of the gold foil gift bag, we knew she hadn't scattered Malcolm's ashes in the woods behind the veterinary clinic like she promised.
"You stuffed him?"
Unconcerned with family opinion, she planted kisses between the cat's stiff ears and looked for just the right place to display him.
"Purrrrfect," she giggled, pushing aside our photos to make room for Malcolm atop the TV stand.
"Malcolm says it's time to see what Santa brought you," Beaming, she turned to face her audience, oblivious to the tuffs of white fur stuck to her lip.Honorable Mention, $75 | Anna Rosa, Boise Solve: f(life) in terms of x
I'm working hard in Calculus this year because the formulas are rigid and permanent, because defining my life with X's and Y's is easier than filling up journals with my varying emotions. The formula to fix this love-tag--we're loving each other at the wrong times--is hyperbolas. We need symmetry, mirroring each other. We're sin(x) and cos(x) graphs, just -∏ off.
We can go to the Math Assistance Center. It's on Mondays and Thursdays, and on Tuesdays Mrs. Totorica comes. She can make us parallel, similar, proportional or rational. No asymptotes to limit us, we grow for ever: positive infinity.Judges' Picks Judge: Laura DeLaney, $50: Rick Just, Boise The Ban
He didn't speak up when it was just rap. Who would? When they outlawed jingles a part of him wished them more power. He ignored protest placards with carefully counted syllables in fussy iambic pentameter. It had nothing to do with him. The war on words expanded to metaphor and simile. Alliteration was next to go, though a chance repetition of initial sounds was a mere misdemeanor at first. Scofflaws wrote limericks, begging for capital punishment. His transgression was an accidentally acrostic grocery list. When they dragged him away he was yelling, "There is no crime if it does not rhyme!"Judge: Michael Faison, $50: Ellen Crosby, Boise Untitled
It was a cold hand that squeezed my nose. A large hand, it smelled of recently cut garlic, cilantro and raw chicken. The other hand pressed firmly on my shoulders. To show my acquiescence, I stood very still, then sat straight and true. The hands released me. Looking up into a red face, I allowed my tail to thump three times on the pavement with nary a glance at the bones I'd just liberated from their plastic shroud. "Them'll kill ya, boy." A boot larger than the hand swung at my ribs. I dodged and trotted away without a backward glance.Judge: Tom Peele, $50: Sarah Barber, Boise Metaphors
Uncertain of my own prospects, it seemed ironic that my 64-year-old father was dead-bolting his future by remarrying tomorrow.
Retail therapy with my mom added to my special brand of interpersonal chaos. Standing under deceptive fluorescent lighting in Macy's, I fingered a sheer frock, wondering whether it was too risque for Dad's wedding.
"Great piece!" opined a gum-chewing saleswoman unconvincingly.
"Think about where you're going," Mom warned, eyebrows raised.
"Where ARE you going?" Gum-chewer, now interested.
I hesitated. Then, with startling honesty, "I don't know." For the first time, it felt profound, freeing.
Gum-chewer's face alit, "Like a surprise vacation?"Judge: Brady Udall, $50: Mark Perison, Boise Trial
"How is it that a Toad can speak?" demanded the Judge.
The courtroom became silent, the witnesses straining to hear the Toad.
"It is the Will of God," he croaked.
"And what does a Toad know of the Will of God?"
"Only this: It was the Will of God that little boys should kill my beloved with a firecracker jammed down her throat and that I should speak of the boundless cruelty of humans."
For heresy the Toad was executed by a firing squad of B-B guns, his body tossed into the creek as the dinner bell rang in the distance.Judge: Mitch Wieland, $50: Matt Larkin, Eagle Breakdowns
"Well ... what do ya think? Can we fix it?" Jack asked, hands in his pockets, awkwardly pawing the dirt with his clumsy work boot.
"Damn belt ..." his father grumbled to himself, pulling his head out of under the hood.
Without the rumble of the engine and the scenery in constant motion, the old truck was useless. It was words or silence. Eventually his father spoke up.
"Better start walkin'," he said as he turned south, his heavy boots filling the dead air with the sound of crunching gravel.
"I'll stay with the truck," Jack offered, but his father was already gone.