Fiction 101 



<First Place - $500

Cold Hard Facts

"I feel that I have shed no dishonor on the Astronaut Corp your Honor. Given the time involved with suiting up, the Doctor having already been consumed by the alien, and the good chance, at the time, which turned out to be true, that we might miss the window of opportunity of shooting the wormhole to Alpha Centauri, I had no other choice than to leave the unconscious Captain Blake outside the airlock and setting the ship in the proper placement for warp jump. Captain Blake did not suffer. The positioning rockets cut him in half if he had regained consciousness."
--Robert E. Riddle



<Second Place - $300

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY ERIN RUIZ
Taking the cow back from the Fairgrounds

We walk in darkness. The idiot removes the flashlight batteries. He licks them. I lick them. Mother calls from somewhere deep in the cow's second stomach.
"Where is home?" I ask.
He chews his tongue.
"I'm not kidding."
He pets my wrist.
The cow bell rings out into the night. We eat the last cold footlong.
"We could have won," I say, "the motorcycle gang and their llamas, the 4-H club, amateurs."
The Idiot fingers the cow's snout. I know he's looking for her. I know too that we are lost. Yet Mother still calls out for us like the dawn.
--Adrian Kein

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY ERIN RUIZ


<Third Place - $100

Life With You Ain't Worth the Money

Charlie phoned his insurance agent from the hospital. "Pay up, sucker," he growled. "You owe Bernice a hunnerd grand." Bernice, his wife, straightened the tubes and wires snaking along his chest, until Charlie smacked her hands. "Them papers said 'pay upon death,' and I was dead almost three minutes. Wasn't nothin about 'dead and stays dead.'" He grumbled at Bernice to go find him some coffee.

Bernice wandered the hospital instead, replaying that horrible night. Charlie's collapse. The ambulance. The medics pounding Charlie's chest. And that terrible voice--had it come from her own throat?--shrieking: "God, just let him die!"
--Greg Likins

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY ERIN RUIZ


<Fourth Place - $50

Unlocked in Lovelock

Lovelock, Nevada. Carny sideshow magician Carlos asked his volunteer why they named it Lovelock. She showed him, the handcuffs snug, the key frozen in one of those round highball ice cubes. Cold water on hot skin. "Where did you get those cuffs?" He asked.

"The chief," she said. "My husband."

Later Carlos made her disappear, a desert thief, a coyote, a trickster. They travel now with the Monkey Lady, Lizard Man, wheels turning slow, fueled by magic, one town, one miracle at a time.

Carlos never done nothing wrong in his life. Now he's on the road with the policeman's wife.
--Michael Prenn



<Judges Picks - $25 ea.

Space and Time

She pointed into darkness, "Can you believe those stars are a billion miles away?"
Me, "And that's how they looked a billion years ago."
So it was for us, she obsessed with space, me with time. Later, I understood hers was the better obsession. Space might be arranged--pill bottles lined on the nightstand, water glass, hypodermic needle. Time marched inalterably: months, weeks, days, death.
Me, joking, "Can you believe those fireflies are three feet away?"
She, giggling, "And they'll die in a week."
"If they knew, they wouldn't shine so hard."
"I think if they knew, they'd shine even harder."
--Mark D. Perison

Target Practice

Jimmy and Ralph were taking turns shooting tin cans off the fencepost.
"You believe in flyin' saucers?" asked Ralph.
"Yeah," said Jimmy, "about as much as I believe in the Tooth Fairy. C'mon ... get real."
Just then, the sky turned bright orange and the earth cracked beneath their feet.
"What's happening?" cried Ralph.
"I don't know!" screamed Jimmy, but it was too late. The planet Earth and everything upon it were vaporized instantly.
Forty-seven light years away, a teenage alien patted his best friend on the back.
"Nice shooting, Zoltron," he said. "Now see if you can hit the red one."
--John Vinzant

Say, Cheese

Government cheese. It sat there taking up most of the counter. I stared at its bulk, afraid. The last time we had the cheese mom was gone for 13 1/2 days. I counted. This time I wanted it to stay in the wrapper. Maybe I could get rid of it and nobody would know. Maybe I could give it to the neighbors.
Mom spoke as she stepped past me, "Why are you sitting in the hall?'
I got up and walked to the kitchen, picked up the block of cheese and realized it was already expired. I heard mom flush the toilet.
--Joe Daniel Firmage

Over the River and Through the Woods

I was sleeping in the woods between the river and the highway when two bums tried to rob me. They played the homeless card right off, made a ruse of comparing sleeping bags. Here it comes, I thought.
They drew pistols. "Sorry bro, we're starving." They weren't even close.
Tourette's hit. A virulent stream of fiendish language spewed from me.
"Jesus Christ, Dub!" one guy said. A Tasmanian devil-like screech erupted from my lungs, curdled in the darkness like some aural phantasm. Such miracles!
Dub's lip quivered. He aimed his gun.
I wondered then if the universe was expanding or contracting.
--Michael Prenn

English, 3rd Period, Ms. Dailey, Assignment #2

I should be considered lucky to have my great-grandfather around. On the rare occasion he isn't talking with Dad about farming, we can get him talking about the old mules or the great snowfall of spring of 1938, or the first tractor. He'll talk about his first wife Emma, Dad's grandmother, and the terrible end she met with the thresher. Ann, his second wife, who died from a bad blow to the head from the cow which went on to produce more milk for the next three years than the county ever saw. Great Gramp turned one hundred last January 4th.
--Robert E. Riddle

Me And The Idiot Took The Cows Out To The Fairgrounds

The Idiot was already dressed.
Mother braided the hair on my back, gave me my Shepherd's staff, a kiss on the forehead. We were ready to go. I blew my cow rustler's horn, "Toodoooo."
The cows, the Idiot and I trotted toward the fairgrounds with all of us singing, "Love us. Love our cud spit. Love our open-range, calloused hands, our open singing sores!"
In town I bought the Idiot new shoes. While the cows grazed about the parking lot and the Idiot did wind sprints, I thought about that blue ribbon we'd win--Mother braiding it into my fur.
--Adrian Kein

Honeyville

The screen door slammed. Aunty lowered herself into the chair nearest the fan, eyeing the steaming teacup on the table in front of her. I sidled over to the sink. Mother poured the last batch of hot water in, set her wedding band on the window sill, eased her cracked hands into the dishwater.
"Ah, Eunice, I told you," Aunty's clipped, predictable chiding. "I told you if you married that farmer, you wouldn't have a pot to piss in.
I hugged against Mother's soft housedress, her ample hip, and stared out the window. Drop by drop, tears fell into the dishwater.
--Holly Mortimer

At Last, A Friend

A bird flies through an open window and perches atop my
television set. It's an odd sight, this black-winged omen, small and noble; of pure, unambiguous character. It squawks something that is of course foreign and unintelligible. Foolishly I lean closer (possibly sensing or wanting to sense some trans-species affinity) to decipher its clumsy language. This causes such a panic in the creature that, influenced by its overly excited survival instinct, it mistakes my gesture of good-willed companionship for an act of aggression and proceeds to frenziedly peck at my open eyes; in union we scream our respective nonsense, mutually misunderstood.
--Brennan Sheridan

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