Fiction 101: The Winners 

GRAND PRIZE: Billows

click to enlarge ERIN CUNNINGHAM

If not a monster, then something close; our grandfather lumbers around the house like a B-movie Frankenstein, swearing up storms at misplaced Tonka trucks, his skeleton creaking and groaning like an antiquated arm chair.

You boys wear a coat or catch a fright, he says.

It's too goddamned cold, he says.

And stop pissing in the cat lady's yard. After sandpaper kisses, we see his frame by the fire, burnishing his belt buckle with a threadbare handkerchief. We whisper, our breath expanding then dying in the January air, leaving clouds like ghosts.

Through the window, we search his neck for bolts.

—Luke Felt

FIRST PLACE: The Cats

Me and my brother throw stray cats off our roof. They don't always land on their feet, but most come close.

We talk about it at breakfast. Daddy sometimes says to shut the hell up, usually though, he don't say anything at all. We pour milk and stare out windows. We drop fireball candies into ice water and take turns tasting it.

Come November, there ain't no more cats, just hoarfrost and exhaust. Daddy cranks the car heater and says that lady threw us for a loop. My brother grins and says the same, says mostly we land on our feet.

—Luke Felt

click to enlarge ERIN CUNNINGHAM

SECOND PLACE: The Bakery

I met you outside the bakery. Without thinking, you brushed crumbs from my lips as though we were already intimates. Two weeks later I slept with my forearm between your breasts, my hand clutching your shoulder.

click to enlarge ERIN CUNNINGHAM

I wish I could row again through that past, still hoping to greet you on the dark sea, still secure from the high tariffs we levied on affection.

You walk out to meet me from a house I have never entered. Your arms surround a box of forgotten objects, overtaxed. Now when we touch your body is strange. My arm falls slack in our embrace.

—John Wheeler

THIRD PLACE: Egg Beaters

"Your love is a septic tank," she says.

I'm fishing around my refrigerator. The milk has expired but smells like milk.

click to enlarge ERIN CUNNINGHAM

She says, "My taxes pay for public sewers."

Now I am making eggs. She likes hard yolks. I'm using egg substitute, passionately scrambling Yellow Number Five in the skillet. Flecks of Teflon will be masked by salsa.

"Wasn't last night great?"

I open my mouth to feign reply. She interrupts my nothing. I raise the dripping whisk to approximate protest.

"I faked it every time," she says.

She did not sleep here last night. She just came in wearing galoshes.

—JR Walsh

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