Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 2013: Second-Place Winner: Beto Ordonez: by Bryan Allen Fierro



Beto sat in the convent basement and watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode over the Atlantic Ocean and rain down million-dollar space trash. He watched the CNN live feed with his class on a black-and-white Magnavox that he had helped wheel from the rectory across the playground for Sister Viramona. Thinh Nyguen and Chris Chavez pressed their fingers to the screen, announcing solid rocket boosters here and fuselage there until seventy-three seconds into it when everything space-aged burst into a pitched-fork column of smoke and indistinguishable super-plastic parts. While the other kids huddled together in front of the television, Beto sat in the back of the room, his feet propped up on the desk. He held the remote control out in front of his body in a way that suggested he might’ve masterminded the whole thing, right there from Continuation Catholic Development camp. 

 “Say something,” he commanded the television with escalating ticks of volume as the telecast fell silent. “Man oh man, did you see that? That was something else. There are special effects and then there are special effects.”

 Sister Viramona pushed Beto’s feet off the desk and took the controller. “I expect more from you. Especially you.”

 “I’m sorry, Sister, but did you see that thing all blown apart to smithereens?” 

 Sister Viramona grabbed Beto’s arm and directed him to stand with the other children who had all come together to make a circle in the prayer room, under the large crucifix that filled the space on the far wall from floor to ceiling. 

 “That’s a giant-ass Jesus,” exclaimed Beto.

 Thinh Nyguen nodded in agreement.

 Sister Viramona passed out a prayer book to each child with very specific instructions on how to pray at a time like this. She said it was a sad time in history and that all of the children would remember this day forever. “We need to say a prayer for the families that suffered a great loss today.”

 Beto leaned back on his legs to get a look at the television. He tapped on Chris Chavez’s shoulder to get his attention, “Check it. Space trash takes a long time to fall.” He watched the looping footage of the shuttle breaking apart into a fireball that seemed to eat up everything inside itself before spreading outward across the sky. He was surprised every time the shuttle took flight, that it did the same thing over and over again, anticipating its destruction, each time with a great Whoa! “I bet it’s ten-thousand degrees in that cockpit.”

 Some of the kids continued to sniffle and cry softly. Giant-ass Jesus has that effect on the little ones, Beto thought. “What are you crying about?” He addressed two girls holding hands. “You didn’t know no one on that rocket ship.”

 “That’s enough, young man. And when we’re done here, we are gonna have a little talk.”

 He inhaled deeply Sister Viramona’s lavender scent as she walked back to change the channel. Little bolts of blue static shot from under her polyester robe as it dragged along the carpet. “You don’t smell like a nun,” said Beto. “You smell like the perfume my mom used to wear when she she’d go out dancing.”

 “I don’t wear perfume. And I don’t appreciate…”

 “You wear makeup, too. I can see it, right there. It’s not as much as my mom used to wear. It would take her almost an hour sometimes to get her eyebrows just right.” Beto clasped his hands in prayer and bowed his head. “It looks tight on you, though.” Beto concentrated on the last image he had of his mother. Her hair arched high in a great wave. He had buried his face in her chest to say goodbye, and the glitter from her lotion stayed on his cheeks the entire weekend. Beto thought she resembled the caged naked woman in the oil lamp that hung over the far end of the couch for most of his life. They both had wide hips and sparkled. The bars of the cage were set at an angle so droplets of hot oil could run down in a spiral, evenly spaced and lighted by a red bulb.

 Sister Viramona wore soft hints of makeup that he had never seen on a nun before. That’s the only reason he had mentioned it. Beto had never seen such a pretty, young looking nun. She looked as young as some of the high school girls who lived three doors down from his grandparents. Her habit cupped the edge of her face and forced the flesh around her lips into a pucker. She was attractive, much like the makeup counter girls at the Pico Rivera Towne Center. They were the same height. He noticed their hands were the same size, hers matching evenly over the top of his as she dragged him to the prayer room. They were soft baking hands, always in oil and corn flour, and unlike the other nuns’ hands, the old nuns who looked like the stocking dolls he had made for the craft fair, potato faces and pinto bean eyes. Their hands were callused stumps from spending so much time in the church garden pulling up crab grass and daffodils. No, Sister Viramona was the freshest nun he had ever seen and was someone he might consider inviting out for a game of bones with his boys. When the other kids Our Fathered, Beto repeated in his head, You are the prettiest, you are the prettiest, to Sister Viramona, then he prayed that she had somehow gotten the message.

 “I don’t know what you are up to, but you better take a moment young man to realize there is no room for your actions,” said Sister Viramona.

 “The Space Shuttle don’t blow up every day, Sister,” answered Beto, “I know peoples died, but peoples die.”

 “You scare the other kids, you know. They look up to you because you are older.”

 “Eleven years old ain’t old,” said Beto. “Someday they’ll be all baptized up like me.”

 “Who used that word, baptized?”

 Beto pointed to giant-ass Jesus across the room. “Baptized by fire,” said Beto, “Just like them, all burned up.” Beto tapped on the screen and counted down the seconds until the shuttle vaporized for the twentieth time that morning. “Right there, see that. It’s the metal box that holds all the astronauts. Falls any faster and there’ll be a mile of dead fish in the ocean before it slows down.”

 Sister Viramona shook her head at his response.

 “Torpedoes!”

 Beto turned his attention away from the television to a collection of crows outside the classroom window. Crow after crow dipped into the church garden, heads pecking at felled tomatoes like it was some kind of game. They were on the convent roof that stretched around the courtyard to the rectory. They flew out from the garden and landed on the telephone wires. They cawed and pecked at the plumage that rose from their backs in blue-black mohawks. It were as if they were taunting Beto, who could do nothing but watch their growing numbers from inside.

 Beto karate kicked the curtains and banged on the window before unplugging the television. He pushed it back across the playground, past Father Lynch, who smoked a cigar and played kickball with some of the children, ash swirling around and on them like some sort of blessing. He pushed the television up the back ramp into the living room of the rectory, and lined up the wheels with the divots already cut into the carpet. He plugged everything back into the outlets and turned it on. This time there was no footage of the Shuttle, only a picture of a woman he had seen on the news for the last few months. She was the teacher, Christa McAuliffe. Under her image it read, First female teacher in Space. Beto looked around to comment to someone that she never actually made it into space, but the rectory was silent. The entire Challenger crew had their picture on the television. One looked like Sulu from Star Trek. Another, Issac from the Love Boat. When CNN came back to McAuliffe’s picture, planned in parenthesis had been added to her title. He felt relieved knowing NASA wouldn’t be sending Carmelite nuns into the space program anytime soon. The newscast said that it was possible that the crew could still be alive, that the cabin of the shuttle was made of reinforced aluminum and could handle a significant amount of G-force. Beto thought about the time he had ripped a Coke can in half in one try then shut off the television.

 The morning’s excitement had driven a hunger stake through Beto’s stomach. “Gotta get me some eats.” He remembered the altar boys telling him after serving mass on Sundays, how they had to stock the Christ crackers. He knew what these were. Beto grew up going to mass with his grandparents. This was so his mom could get away for a while, take her trips to visit her cousins in Monterey Park, when she’d go dancing all night at Peppers. He’d go to mass those weekends and be amazed every time that Father Lynch reached into the chalice after the consecration, that there were enough pieces of Christ’s body for everyone to get their fill, like some kind of magic trick. Every time, he thought that Sunday would be the Sunday they’d run out of Christ. It never happened. The more people who came to the front, the more pieces the Father held in front of his face reciting, The body of Christ. But it made sense now, standing in the rectory storeroom, there on the shelf in a cardboard box, Jesus, wrapped all up in wax paper like a Ritz.

 He rubbed his sweaty palms against his jeans and opened the package’s seam at one end. The hosts appeared like a roll of gold coins, each with a cross on one side in relief. Beto pulled one cracker out and hesitated then put it deep into the back of his mouth, half-expecting his head to explode. Instead, he felt a slow dissolve on his tongue, and a wood-like taste that he surprisingly did not mind. Jesus dried Beto’s mouth all up, and when the good Lord started to stick to the roof of Beto’s mouth, wine did the trick to help pry Him out.

 He couldn’t wait to tell his boys. He would stand in baggy-pants on the corner and his boys would say, you did what? And Beto would respond, that’s right, putos. And when they called him “crazy-ass Beto,” he’d do his best to act as though the next thing didn’t happen. He wouldn’t mention how the scent of vanilla mixed with lavender from around the corner filled his head, or that he never expected act like a girl the way he did after spilling a box of red wine down the front of Sister Viramona’s robe. It froze the nun in place. He could tell that she was using all her divine interventions to stop the words coming from her mouth, a hundred different responses broken up into fractured syllables that floated and fell on Beto like scorched space-trash.

 “Why in God’s name do you do these things, Beto?”

 He shrugged, “It just takes over sometimes.”

 “Beto, I think you are talking about the devil,” she corrected him while drying herself with Kleenex from her pockets. “What do you expect from life, acting the way you do?”

 His mom would ask him the same question when he’d get in trouble at home, usually for coming home late from Cabrillo Beach. He gave her the same answer he always gave his mother, “To take over the World.”

 “Great, we have ourselves a super-villain.”

 He liked the sound of that, and fist pumped.

 Sister Viramona shook her head and told him that he just needed a clean slate and that his next confession might very well be his longest. She told him that he would be spending a late afternoon at the convent cleaning the largest Jesus in the World as the first act of penance before a sit down with Father Lynch.

 “I have to get cleaned up. Come with me because I don’t want you out of my sight for too long.”

 Beto had already had his first and last confession. The confessional always smelled like old Mexican women, incense and bacon grease. And you know, that sour body odor. They were the ones who went to confession most often. He wondered what old women did to warrant going to confession once a week. Then he remembered Mrs. Mendoza. Mrs. Mendoza had taught first grade to three generations of his family. She was the oldest teacher in the school district when she retired at dinosaur. On Thursday nights, she chased Mr. Mendoza down the block with the family molcajete. Thursday night was the night he came home drunk and only spoke of pretty girls named Lola. Everyone knew this. Go ahead and ask. And after the couple attended mass and confession on Sunday, all was forgiven. Just like that. Beto watched them on those Sundays as they walked out after mass, hand in hand, laughing like the school children. He knew confession worked. So, as long as the confessional did not shift and fly like the Swirl-n-Whirl amusement park ride at the Santa Monica Pier, Beto felt okay about some small talk inside. He threw up two years in a row on the Swirl-n-Whirl. His mother had yelled at him for wasting good money on churros and hotdogs. She told him they would never come back to the pier because, after all she has done for him, including giving up streamlined hips to bring him into the World, that he was becoming the kind of boy who would have to make his own way into manhood. That was a week before she died in the rollover on the 60, driving home from Peppers with her girls, like some kind of stupid motherly lesson.

 Beto stood in the hall while Sister Viramona changed into new clothes.

 “You know, Beto, you’re lucky no one else is here.” She walked out from the bedroom and pulled her black straight hair into a plastic clip. “Because I’d get in trouble for not having another habit to wear.” She had on navy sweatpants and a 1972 Sacred Heart Volleyball sweatshirt. “I didn’t plan on you pouring wine on me.”

 Beto’s body felt like a firecracker, his spine the lit fuse to a head that was going to jettison at any moment. He swallowed hard. “Nuns play sports?”

 “They actually play four years on varsity.”

 Beto stepped closer to her. “My mom went to that school.”

 “I know she did, Beto. Stay here, and I’ll get the supplies you’ll need.” She walked into the kitchen.

 The crows were back, darting from the roof again into the remains of the garden. Beto pointed out the crows’ tactics to Sister Viramona as she reentered the room, tracing their flight patterns overhead with his index finger against the large bay window. “See how they look out for each other? It’s a damn stupid thing, those crows.”

 “You missed them this morning, Sister. It was just like that movie The Birds. You watch. I bet Father Lynch goes crazy and machetes those birds someday. That’ll be a day to remember for the parish, sister. Every year there will have a parade. I wouldn’t blame him. If they poked around in my trash, I’d do the same thing.”

 Half dozen crows danced in the middle of the street with a ripped apart, unripe tomato.

 She placed her hand on Beto’s shoulder. “You know that I didn’t know her.”

 Beto nodded as she handed him a bottle of lemon oil and two rags made from t-shirts from the last year the Dodgers made it to the post season, a cartoon version of catcher Steve Yeager leaning on a large-headed cartoon version of Fernando Valenzuela. Beto had the same shirt and was excited to mention it, but thought twice. He took the rags from her hands, again feeling the softness of her touch.

  You’re the prettiest, he tried one last time.

 She let go, and for the first time Beto could smell the real air in the convent, no vanilla or lavender. Only lemon oil and the musty convent rot of a building that had trapped moisture problems.

 Sister Viramona bent at her waist to get a good look at Beto. He tightened his body like a statue, and through the slits in his eyelids, he watched as she ran her finger between the top of her head and the plastic band, pulling her hairline tight. She squeezed his arms to undo his spell. Her warm breath on his face pried his eyes open like oysters.

 “Beto, there is a time and place for everything,” she told him.

 These words, time and place, sounded like something he’d expect an adult to tell him. 

 “Time and place for what?” asked Beto.

 “Taking over the world.” She turned him around to face the prayer room, and whispered across the back of his neck. “And falling in love.”

 Beto balled up his fists and shadow boxed his image against the wall. “Man, oh man, watch out, watch out.”

 “The Lord won’t let you off so easy.” Sister Viramona lined up the cleaning supplies on the counter and walked to the back of the convent.

 Beto mumbled as she turned the corner out of the kitchen. “I’m gonna need me a good woman, you know.”

 The only thing left to do was clean that giant Jesus all up. He scrubbed between each toe, both calve muscles, the knees and behind each thigh. He cleaned the concave of the stomach and gently over the cut below the ribcage, looking to Jesus’ face to measure His pain. Beto moved to the chest and under each arm, where he spent a considerable amount of time measuring the biceps. “Boy, you all ripped up.” Down each arm to the nail in each palm. He used WD-40 on any part that looked metallic and moveable. He didn’t miss a finger, then under the chin and behind each ear. It looked as though it was the first time this Jesus had been cleaned. The water in the pail was black. With a life-sized crown, he was careful not to cut himself on the already bloodied thorns as he leaned in from the top step of the ladder.

 When he finished, Beto put the rags and oil under the sink in the kitchen. He didn’t know if it was where they belonged, but it was where his mother had kept such things. Sister Viramona was in her room at the end of the hall. She hadn’t told him to check with her before leaving. He could hear music coming from her far room, a popular song he knew from the radio. He wanted to go down to her, to let her know he was no mistake. The shadows in her room flickered and the music grew louder. The other nuns were off on retreat. Beto thought about the first time he was alone at home, back when his mother had to work two full-time jobs. He spent the evening practicing the dance moves she had shown him from the club. He ate ketchup and pickle sandwiches, turning the television volume to fifty and running around the empty house at full-speed, stopping for no one. 

__________________________________________________________________



Bryan Allen Fierro grew up in the environs of Los Angeles, California.  He received his B.A. in English-Writing from the University of Colorado at Denver, and his M.F.A. in fiction from Pacific University’s low-residency program in Oregon. He currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska where he serves his community as a firefighter/paramedic for the Anchorage Fire Department. He is the 2013 recipient of the Poet and Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in fiction. 
 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

De Nada: by Vicki Riley: 2011 Honorable Mention

Thoughts and dreams of Marissa have plagued me since I was nine. In elementary grades we took turns beating each other up in the coral rock playground with palm trees, and in middle school we continued the ritual. But for me, by then, it was a cover up. I didn’t want anyone to know I liked her. Sometimes someone else would beat her up, and I wanted to save her. That’s what I really longed to do, but Sam Walters just wasn’t brave enough back then.

Things changed in ninth grade when she showed up the first day of school in my all male auto-mechanics class.

At Key West High in 1964, girls studied Home Economics. Learned how to sew and cook. They didn’t enroll in shop class. She took the leers and jock jokes in stride, mostly ignoring them.

Then one day, one of the guys took apart and put back together a 1955 Chevy Bel Air engine, but couldn’t get it started. The teacher was in the hall talking to a coach as we witnessed Marissa lift up the hood, and make adjustments. She slammed the hood, and slid into the front seat behind the steering wheel. The engine backfired a billowing black exhaust, then roared to resurrection. United, we stood, awed.
After that, I started following her home after school. I just waited by the flagpole with other kids until I saw her heading home. We lived walking distance to school and across from each other on Staples Avenue so it was easy to lag behind, far enough she didn’t notice me, close enough to check her out. Black waves in a high pony tail swung shoulder to shoulder in rhythm with her hips. Occasionally, she paused and shifted the weight of her books and notebook to the opposite arm. With each pause, my heart throttled with fear she’d turn around. She never did though.
Watching her at night was easier. Our second-story bedrooms faced the street lamps and she never drew the curtains even to sleep. If her room was lighted, I shrouded my face in the heavy folds of drawn drapery to spy through an opening large enough only for my eyes. Hours passed. In the mornings, my body ached, stiff from standing in that position so long.

Mornings, days, months passed this way into December. Everyone at school was looking forward to Christmas break. Excitement stung the cool air that blushed our cheeks and sped up our expectation of life without classes. On the last day of school, as I waited by the flag pole, Marissa, instead of heading home, locked eyes with mine like a nautical captain sure of the right course into the horizon and headed straight for me.

“Sam,” she said, her mouth flashing uniform, pure white teeth.
I hugged the flagpole like a ship’s mast, my heart its sails. The sand under my sneakers started to sink. Does she know? Is she mad? Is she going to slap me?

“Will you walk me home?”

I was still trying to read her.

Then she laughed - plaintive organ notes resonating through the air between us. My heart lifted. I thought of World Literature class – Odysseus, sirens – and knew I was lost.

“You’d think I asked you to walk me to Miami. We do walk the same way, you know.” Her eyes, dark sapphires, revealed nothing, but the eyebrows above them, arched with knowledge. Here it comes I thought.

Then she handed me her books and I fell into step beside her, literally. I walked right out of one of my sneakers. We both laughed, and then she bent down on one knee to tie the sneaker lace. Other students stared - girls with raised brows, pursed mouths, and guys smirking macho-stud approval. Shame and exhilaration coursed through me. I felt like a child with my mother and a man with a lover all at the same time. Marissa rose from the ground toward me, brushing her hands together.

“Thank you,” I stammered with the urge to kiss her.

“De nada.” She smiled at me.

“What?”

“Spanish. For, it’s nothing.”

As the school grew smaller behind us, the sun sank larger ahead of us. It didn’t feel like nothing to me. We walked. I listened. She talked. Every once in a while, she swung her head sideways, looked up at me and asked, “What did I just say?” Most of the time I could tell her, but sometimes she caught me and must have known I was just a happy fish netted in the sound of her voice.

“You want to come in?” she asked as we stopped in front of her house.

“Is that Jeff under the car hood?” I motioned to the side yard where underneath the Chevy’s chassis appeared two legs in dark trousers.

“Yep, that’s my brother.” She started up the steps. “Taught me everything I know about cars.”

The inside was an architectural mirror of my house and others along the street. I felt at home and disoriented at the same time. Both our houses had dark wood floors, but everything was reversed with different furnishings and wall colors. The light was brighter, the colors bolder there.

In the white kitchen, her mother beat ingredients into a pie mold. “This is Sam, Mama. From across the street. Sam – you can call her Mama Dolores. I’m her tiger cub.” Marissa motioned me to a stool and then leaned across me, grazing my face with her hair and my arm with a breast. The gesture was noted by Mama Dalores who nodded at me and handed the bowl to her daughter.

“For you and your friend, Sam.”

Marissa pushed the bowl in front of me, then plopped onto my lap to feed me.

“Careful young lady, someone might get the wrong idea.” Embarrassed, I laughed, hoping Mama Dolores would see my respect for her daughter.

Mama Dolores looked at me strangely. “Don’t you worry none bout Missy Mae. She’s fifteen last week. I’ve schooled her. Ain’t no double standard for her. She can take what she wants. Be anything she wants. Same as any man can.”

I glanced surreptitiously at the mother in between the spoon dripping lemon-coconut I dutifully swallowed like a chick in a nest, except the school yard conflict of mother-lover was back, but this time hardened uncomfortably between my legs. I excused myself to the toilet and applied a solution to the problem. When I came out I spied a tale-tell wet spot. I was too embarrassed to go back into the kitchen, so I yelled through the hall that I had to leave - my mother’s expecting me. Mama Dolores padded patiently down the hall.

“Missy Mae’s in her room. Upstairs. Go on up. She’s expectin you.”

“I can’t. Could you just tell her I said goodbye?”

Her eyes found the wet spot then shot back up at me. “I’ll tell her.”

I rushed through chores and supper to get back to Marissa. In the bathroom upstairs I shaved what few blond whiskers had sprouted since the last mow and slathered my dad’s Old Spice across my neck and shoulders. I ran to my room and changed the guilty pants to clean ones. I raised my hand to catch the fan light string and glanced out my window. My body froze. All the hair on my arms and back tingled, rose. I jerked the string down; blackness flooded the room until there was no doubt of what I saw. Someone stood just beyond Marissa’s bedroom window, back arched, pulling her against him. Her hands embraced his face, then her fingers raked through his hair as his mouth covered hers, her pelvis thrust forward until she bent gracefully back like a vine. I was fluid. Sweat crept across and down my body. Water pooled in my eyes – a blessed blur. When it cleared, I refocused and saw her bedroom curtains closed for the first time.

I tried not to watch for the closing of those curtains during the rest of Christmas break. I failed. They closed with alarming regularity that bounced me back and forth between despair, jealousy and rage. In January, when we returned to school I switched from auto mechanics to shop class and avoided any hall, locker, or cafeteria area where I might run into her. On a few occasions, a glimpse of her – head back in laughter, shy promising smile offered to anyone but me - invaded my walled vision, but I quickly averted my eyes, moved out of view, a breathless swimmer fighting deep, swift currents of memory.

In the spring, I tried out for Junior Varsity football and made the team. The rest of the year was a jock dream that kept me from thinking too much about her. At least until summer practice. Coach worked us so hard we started turning on each other like snakes, spitting our venom for him upon each other.

I guess what happened was inevitable, perhaps even odd it didn’t happen sooner. During summer, to save money, the school turned off the hot water heater for locker room showers. The water whipped our bodies, a cold burn, ice sticking to skin. We howled the injustice. One lone howl shifted to a moan followed by a second answering moan, mimicking a girl’s orgasm. One after another, the remaining howls patterned into a group chant.

“Missy Mae. Missy Mae, Missy Mae…”

The concrete maze of showers concealed identities, but I knew my team mates’ voices. Primal instinct fulminated in four words.

“Stop, god damn it!” I slammed my faucet shut.

All sound trailed to silence interspersed with faucet drip. Whispers. Ghosts. Advance to low voices. I opened my faucet, plunged my head and mind into the ice flow.

“Jesus, Walters. What the fuck’s up with you?”

I kept my head up, eyes closed, bracing the cold stream off my chin.

“She’s not like that,” I said.

Tim Albury laughed. “Get yer head out of the ice, Walters. We don’t usually call her Missy Mae, cuz we know damn well she will.” Laughter ricocheted around me. In seconds, I was on top of him, slamming his head against the concrete floor. Jagged nails clawed my skin, hundreds of fingers shuffled across my body, gripped, pushed, pulled me from him. To help even the score, they let him have one punch at me.

The ring of confederate jasmine flowers in her hair wilted by the time I found her sitting on my front porch floor. Wisps wafted amidst long twirls of dark hair. A white peasant top draped toast-colored skin, and dangled bare her shoulder serving as head rest. Tiers of sky-blue Batik circled then flowed along the curve of her knees hiked above bare feet, red toenails. Her eyes, like the ocean, revealed only a surface of the world within. I was grateful to smell Jasmine along with the blood crusted in my nose.

“Why?” was all she asked.

I just looked at her and blinked back the boy in me.

She took my hand and led me across the street, onto her porch, through the screen door, up the stairs, into her bedroom that was like mine, yet hers. She motioned me to sit on the bed, then stepped back out and shut the door. Not much differed from the nocturnal spy view from my bedroom window.

Except for a vanity with three mirrors and upturned feet. It flanked her window so I’d never seen it. Curiosity pulled me to it. My eyes, hands embraced every object – silvered comb, brush, hand-mirror, glass-stopper bottles filled with gold or white liquid (each one a scent of her remembered from auto mechanics), two books – Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, a book of poems by Adrienne Rich - and a school library copy of Atlantic Monthly. When I picked up the magazine it opened to a dog-eared page titled, “Whatever Happened to Women’s Rights?” I closed it to replace it in the exact spot, then paused at what rested there, unlocked, waiting, a red velvet diary.

I heard a toilet flush somewhere and pipes rumbled, whistled me to hurry. Nausea roller coasted my belly as my fingers shook through pages of guys’ names and notes. A floor board groaned outside – my insides pounded like the Tell-Tale Heart - the doorknob turned. Football practice paid off. I tackled the bed from ten feet. Poking his head and an outstretched hand through the door was Jeff.

“Missy Mae asked me to give you this.”

“Thanks.” Shaking, I took two white aspirin from his hand. He opened the door wider and with his other hand offered a glass of water.

I took it, swallowed the pills, drained the glass, and gave it back to him.

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, it should help the soreness.” He shrugged and looked down at the floor.

“How’re you doing?” I asked.

He looked up then, grinned at me, saying, “Better than you probably.”

When he’d closed the door, I turned to make sure the diary and magazine were in their place, but the room played tricks. The sun was setting, casting rays of gauzy, iridescent light into the room, perfume bottles became prisms and when the door opened again, I looked up, and all of the light stored up in the room flew toward her.

I gaped as she came toward me, light shimmering against her white satin kimono, its sleeves wide and long on her arms stretched out to me, sapphire eyes both a plea and a promise. But then she turned to the window, raised both arms toward the sky and closed the ivory curtains.

They came together like the pages in her diary flooding the room and my heart with darkness. All those names.

By the time her body lay next to mine, I was shaking uncontrollably. Her voice and hands tried to soothe me.

“It’s okay. I know how you feel. I’ve always known.”

“You’ve always known?” I asked. Her nose and mouth nuzzled into my neck. My body and mind raged against each other.

“How you felt about me. It’s why I picked you.”

“Picked me?” In a flash, I knew I could forgive her. Forget. Put all those names behind us. My shaking stopped and I stroked her face, her hair. I drew the glossy, perfumed length of curls across my face, then gathered the ends like a bouquet and kissed it with the greatest tenderness I’d ever known.

“To be the first,” she whispered.

I lifted my head, foggy with desire.

“You should have been the first,” she cooed.

“First” plunged me back into the ice flow of water in the locker room today.

“Why not the only?” I asked. “From here on out.”

Her giggle reminded me of the guys’ laughter in the locker room. Only I felt much more foolish now. Angrier.

“Like you would be with only me forever? Sam, we’re so young. We’ve got our whole lives in front of us.”

Suddenly I realized that I could never be more than a name on her list. That some unknown man in the distant future would marry the only girl I’ve ever loved. I hated him. And I hated her for using me until he comes along.

I pushed her away and stood up. “I can’t do this, be this…nothing to you.”
I crossed to the door as she sat up, her mouth open as if to say something, her eyes large, but not with surprise.

“I thought my whole life was in front of me, with you.” I opened the door slowly, wishing she would stop me. Say I was her whole life too. But then I finally had to close the door.

***

In truth, after all these years, I was curious. Curious about Marissa and the man she finally married.

Recently widowed, I’d returned home, hoping to find Marissa at our class reunion. She wasn’t there. That’s why I said yes to my mother’s invitation to come for lunch with Dolores.

Some months ago, while I browsed the book shelves of a used book store in the theatre district, I discovered a copy of Rich's Diamond Cutters and Other Poems. When I opened it, I was stunned to read Marissa’s name on the inside cover. Then I remembered it as one of the items I’d seen on her vanity. I leafed through it, then scanned the table of contents. One poem’s title struck a chord of memory with me. “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers.” I remembered Marissa saying she was her mother’s tiger. The last stanza jumped out at me because of the ink pen marks. I wondered at its meaning for Marissa if she was the one who had circled and underlined the lines.

“When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud, and unafraid.”

I wondered if the Aunt represented Marissa’s mom. If Marissa, by being her mom’s tiger, was supposed to live life prancing, proud, and unafraid, whatever that meant. I also wondered at how this book had traveled all the way from Key West to a used book store in New York, to me. Of course, I bought the book that day, then brought it back with me this summer to Key West.

The book was in my hand, a gift for Mama Dolores. I thought a memento from the past might be meaningful for her. She had stopped driving after the doctor diagnosed her with a touch of dementia. Since then, her son, Jeff, and my mom have taken turns looking in on her every day. Jeff’s wife does Dolores’s shopping and cleaning while Jeff, a shrimp boat captain, gives my mom fresh seafood for cooking Dolores’s meals and cleaning up afterwards.

I arrived early. My three light knocks bounced the unlocked screen door. It whined slightly as I opened it, but the parlor appeared empty. I paused in the hall before walking inside, all the while listening to kitchen sounds of lids clanged back on pots and pans, water running and the opening and closing of a refrigerator, all the while searching, hoping to find something. I didn’t know what. Pictures maybe. I knew Marissa had no children, but she’d married a Brazilian poet and they lived in Rio de Janeiro. The bold colors had faded or peeled and the brightness was defeated by dark green pull down window shades. Mold and dust reigned. From a dark corner of the room a rocker creaked.

Her voice hissed low and pierced the air causing me to flinch. “I know you.” Dolores teetered toward me. “I know who you are – you and my momma. I remember. She said an American sailor would love me special cause I was a virgin. But you didn’t. You ran around with every girl in Havana, then promised me a different life in Key West. But you got tired of coming home to babies, so you left. You used me up and went on your merry way. You get on outta here. Get!” She shook her cane at me.
Within moments, a sliding glass door of memory exchanged thresholds of time in her eyes. Their gloss hardened to disinterest.

“I tole you no double standards for Missy Mae. Didn’t I?”

Gooseflesh quivered across my chest, arms and belly. Heat flushed my torso and face.

“She got the same right as any man. Her own power. Same as you. Now go on.”

I dropped the book and gasped for air in a space that suddenly seemed a sealed vault of time. I fled. I left my mother there without saying goodbye or why I was leaving. How could I explain? How could anyone explain my discovery of such bitter understanding of Marissa in Dolores’s confusion of me with her ex-husband? I bolted back through the screen door, from damp darkness into a sauna of sun. My lungs ballooned. My sprint slowed to a brisk walk.

A red convertible whizzed past. Sandy dust whirled an image in front of me on the sidewalk. Black waves of a high pony tail swinging shoulder to shoulder in rhythm with her hips. She paused and shifted her red diary to the opposite arm. My body seemed to lift from the ground, reaching, stretching, straining to catch up. To convince her that not all men break vows. To give me the chance to prove it to her. I remembered the velvet cadence of her voice – its promise, the silk of her hair teasing my skin, her eyes fluttering wide with acceptance. And then she disappeared. A statue, I stared in disbelief at my outstretched hands, cupped as in prayer, spilling over with nothing.


Retired high school teacher, Vicki Riley is working on a collection of short stories and a screenplay set in Key West.

Vicki lives with her husband and Yorkie, Garbo (for Greta Garbo) in St Cloud and Cape Malabar, Florida embracing small town life that resembles what she remembers of her youth.

“Writers are a blend of loves. Vocabulary, sentences, maybe grammar, the written word always, but then personality shapes our writing subjects: politics to gardening. My personality gravitates to the heart, to people and to Key West where I lived thirty years and which remains the haunting “home” of my soul. Much of what I write is somehow embedded with a tribute to the past and hope for the future. Minority or women’s struggles ride the arcs of my stories. Characters abound in Key West, so mine reflect that unconventional, singular spirit of the island.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Honorable Mention: "Anomaly" by Fran Haley

There’s too much whiteness in this room.

A white linen tablecloth shrouds the table. Two white tapers stand guard; in the candlelight Mother’s treasured Lenox china reflects a maddeningly holy glow. Forks are laid with precision on the left, glasses exactly above the tips of knives on the right. I thought I could catch a few precious minutes of hush in here while David and his brood are in the kitchen, oohing, aahing, sampling and plattering the usual traditional fare. I can’t take their bustling or the loud clinking of dishes. No sanctuary for me, not here, not anywhere. Even my knuckles are white from gripping the back of the chair. Muscles contract,my head throbs, I can barely breathe, yet the serene candle flames don’t even flicker.

Curious.

“Daniel! Here you are.” It’s Mother, coming through the doorway with a tea pitcher in one hand and an ice bucket in the other. Act normal! I take the ice and fill the glasses so she can pour the tea.

Might as well be liquid sugar. Dad couldn’t get enough of it. I recall Thurber’s Princess Lenore, who fell ill from a surfeit of raspberry tarts; it’s a wonder we all haven’t died of sugar surfeit.

In come my nieces, Caitlin and Gracie, with sweet potato and green bean casseroles. Little Nate, age five, is right behind them with the plate of devilled eggs. One is missing. Nate’s cheeks are bulging, his mouth too full to chew; it’s like I’m seeing his father at that age again:

Do you think it’ll snow so we can play on the sled, Daniel?

No, silly, it never snows at Thanksgiving. You gotta wait ‘til after Christmastime for that. Are you still eating? What’s in your mouth?

Debbled egg. I got another one in my pocket for you—here!


The memory is almost warming but evaporates as David, paunchy and balding, strolls in with the enormous browned bird. How many of us does Mother think she’s feeding? We’re three down from previous years.

We go through the motions. We sit, and I feel five pairs of eyes on me. Expectant. It’s time to return thanks and, being the firstborn, the intended bearer of my father’s legacy, I’m normally the one to offer it at our gatherings.

There’s nothing normal about me now.

I feel hands reaching for mine, Nate’s little pudgy ones and David’s too-soft ones which make my insides writhe like spirochetes. How could you, Sabrina? I flinch at my brother’s touch but I manage to sit rock-still even though I want to fling him away and shout God, David, be a man!

They’re waiting. I’m supposed to pray, God’s supposed to hear. Once I was sure he did.

I bow, my eyes not fully closed—I can still see Mother’s Opal Innocence gleaming up at me in derision:

For each new morning with its light,
for rest and shelter of the night,
for health and food,
for love and friends,
for everything Thy goodness sends,
Amen.

“Amen,” chorus three little voices. Mother smiles at me, misty-eyed. David’s eyebrows are raised. He recognizes Emerson, of course, literary expert that he is. If he’s such a phenomenal professor, why can’t he find another job?

Who am I to talk?

David stands to carve the hulking bird carcass. The senselessness of it all makes me want to hurl my plate Frisbee-fashion through the bay window, but I can’t in front of the kids so I sit and make a conscious effort to unclench my jaw. I stare at the dismemberment of the creature, feeling a kinship with the hollowed-out dead thing at the end of the line, where scavengers await to pick the last of flesh from the bones in this oh-so-civilized setting. I must endure this thlipsis of meaninglessness just a little longer. Survival of the fittest, wouldn’t you say, kindred turkey? Maybe you never had a chance to fly away, you Frankenstein fowl, but I, the true modern Prometheus, do, and it’s all that buoys my soul.

My soul. I suppress a wild urge to laugh. David hacks away at the bird; suddenly, I know why the candle flames don’t flicker when I walk in or out of a room:

I’m already dead.

Will my image soon vanish from the photos Caitlin took with her digital camera?

I pass the potatoes, the cranberry sauce. I chew, swallow. Conversation drifts around me. As long as there are no jarring sounds, I know what they’re saying without really hearing them. White noise..

Jen would still be here, if not for me. Sabrina would be gone with or without me—do American transplants celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia? Do they put kookaburras on spits? Dad’s the only one who earned the right to be gone and he didn’t choose it. I have a choice; unlike Sabrina and Jen, I’m not running from anybody, least of all myself.

I make my own appointments.

Not even the chains I’ve forged can hold me.

“Uncle Dan?” A voice jolts me back. Gracie, standing at my elbow. Little Sabrina. “Are you ready for dessert, Uncle Dan? We made your favorite!”

“Of course, honey,” I hear myself answer. I fake a smile.

Mother is visibly pleased. She’s too thin. She worries too much. She still emanates elegance, although her regal posture is considerably stooped now. She’s the Opal Innocence plate with the fine cracks running through it, the one she sets at her own place so no one else will have to have it.

Why do these things matter?

Gracie goes to the kitchen and promptly returns with a slice of triple chocolate bundt the size of my head. I say, “That’s too big a piece for me, Young Grasshopper.”

The children giggle.

It’s Gracie’s voice but Sabrina’s wide, entreating eyes: “Pleeeease?”

“All right! I give up. You win.”

This cake is too rich; the only saving grace is that the dark chocolate chips cut the overpowering sweetness with a needed shard of bitter.

“So, Daniel,” says my brother, leaning toward me while his offspring help Mother clear the table, “what are your plans?”

I freeze.

“My plans for …?”

“Filing your papers. The sooner you get it done, the quicker you can put it all behind you. It’s the inevitable, you know.”

I relax.

“I’ve taken care of it.”

He’s surprised. “When did you see your attorney? Does Mother know? She hasn’t mentioned it.”

They think I can’t think for myself any more. I ran my own multimillion-dollar business from the time I was twenty-six without their help and I don’t need their help now that it’s gone.

“I went last week and started the process. The office will call when the papers are ready to sign.”

He regards me somewhat dubiously but I continue savoring my cake, stretching it out, making it last.

Endure. Transcend. It won’t be long now.

“Which process, exactly?” he probes.

I take my time chewing, swallowing, chasing the cake with a swig of tea, not nearly so sweet after such decadence.

“Here’s the thing: It’s kind of hard to serve separation papers on a woman when you don’t know where she is. She doesn’t stay in one place very long.”

“How can you file for bankruptcy without her?”

I let a long, heavy pause hang there before I look straight into his eyes. “What about you? Divorce final yet?”

And a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

“Dan.” I can hardly bear the gentleness in his voice, so Motheresque. I’d rather he punched me in the face—hard. C’mon David—let me have it—

I throw a sucker punch: “Any new job prospects?”

“Actually, yes, a couple.…”

Something about going overseas, he’s in demand by Japan, China, and the Arab Emirates. He could teach for a year, leaving the kids with Mother until he gets on his feet and the universities here start hiring again. I could interrupt and ask him—again—why tenure didn’t save him except that I don’t want to hear him drone on, when he stops and sighs:

“I can’t go through with it, though.”

“Go through with what?”

“I can’t leave the kids. No matter how I explain all the reasons I need to do this, it just comes down to my leaving them like Sabrina did. I won’t put them through that.”

“What are you going to do, then?

“I don’t have much choice. The unemployment helps but I have to sell the house. Mother wants us to stay here until something opens up.”

I can’t control myself any longer; I burst out laughing.

David coming to live here.

Poetic justice.

He doesn’t know how to react to my laughter but then again, no one knows how to take me these days.

I wipe my eyes. “Yeah, well, it’s a good thing I added that extra bedroom when I built this place, huh? Mother and Dad said one guest room would be enough but remember how Sabrina said there should be two, for when Jen and I have kids and all the grandchildren want to stay at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house at the same time?”

“Dan…”

“No worries, baby brother. Even if bankrupt builders don’t get unemployment like terminated teachers do, I can take care of myself.”

I neglect to say that, until the 5,000 square foot monster beach home I shared with Jen sells—if and when it ever does in this economy—I have eighty-six dollars to my name.

More than what I need to close this last deal.


* * *


FINALLY.

Gluttony and tryptophan do me a favor; everyone goes to bed early. When I’m sure they’re all asleep, I slip on my coat with Dad’s keys and a flashlight in the pockets.

I put his old F-150 in gear and push until it’s far enough away to crank.

His shotgun’s in some blankets under the seat.

I drive through the darkness, past streetlights, neighborhoods, on to the highway. What are you driving now that the Range Rover has been repossessed, Jen? You can’t live on your credit cards much longer. Nothing’s left to pay them with. The bills are still coming; for a while I tracked your movements that way..

Go after her, Daniel. She’s in so much pain.

What’s the point, Mother? I’m the one she’s running from.


The last time I headed to Dad’s old cabin at Serendipity Lake, I’d just met you, Jen. Dad took me fishing in an effort to help me gain clarity about the future. He knew I was struggling with my calling in life. Out in the rowboat on the placid water, I asked him: How do I know I’m meant for the ministry, Dad? How did you know?

He thought a minute before answering. I just knew, like I know my own name. I couldn’t do anything else, Daniel— it was meant to be. You have so many gifts, Son— you can do anything you want. As much as I’d like to see you at seminary and ordained, I can’t tell you what to do. That’s between you and God.

That’s what I wanted, Dad. I wanted to be complete like that, like you.

You know I came away determined to follow your pastoral footsteps. That was before the
church told you, after twenty-three years, that they no longer needed your services, that they were ready for a younger man with “more creative ideas.” You stepped down far more graciously than I ever could.

And where were you, DAVID, brother mine, when Dad had his first heart attack the following month? Finishing that almighty doctorate Sabrina was determined you should have. Getting her pregnant. The rest of us weren’t a blip on your radar, were we? My quitting seminary for a full-time job in construction was supposed to be temporary:

Mom says you’ve got your hands full but we could use your help, Dave. I’m slapping beams twenty-four/seven. With Dad’s hospital bills, it’s still tight.

No worries, Dan. I’m going to do my part as soon as I finish this dissertation….

We need your help now, man.

If were you, Danny Boy, I would have started my own company by now.

This from a man who’s never done a day’s manual labor.

Pure spite led me to create my company; the contracts flooded in for several years before the industry tanked and it all dried up overnight.

My personal monsoon.

It wasn’t really the money that mattered. The solitary thing I’m proud of is building that house for Mother and Dad. He lived there a year before his heart gave up.

I haven’t been able to stomach a churchyard since the day we buried him.

It’s uncommonly cold tonight. I’m dimly aware of some advisory on the radio. I reach to turn up the volume when something large darts in front of the truck. I slam on brakes, screeching tires and swerving. A deer, of course; I should have been watching.

Between the moon and the flashlight I find the cabin easily. I carry the blankets and Dad’s shotgun with me. I find the key on his key ring and the old door scrapes open.

A powerful mustiness welcomes me. The flashlight reveals some firewood by the hearth, right where Dad left it on his last visit. The wood is dry; it’ll still burn. In a little bit my fire is crackling and popping sparks up the chimney.

I watch the jumping flames. I know how this will play out. David will swear he saw it coming. Sabrina will think it’s because of some secret torch I carry. Jen, wherever you are, you’ll believe it’s because I lost the business and the money, being convinced that’s where my heart lies. Anything and everything will catch the blame, except the truth:

I’m choosing this because I can.

Mother, you’re the hardest. Don’t blame yourself. You can’t fix this. Focus on David and the kids. I’m trusting you’ll find the path to peace; you always do. I’ve made sure you’re taken care of and when you’re gone, leave the house to David; he’ll be taken care of, too.

What a neat package for you, Dave, as usual. Consider it my atonement.

There’s no atoning for the rest of it.

When can we have a baby, Daniel?


Soon, Jen, soon … I promise.

My sweet, loving girl, if you would listen: You’re right, I’m not the man you married. I didn’t understand until last week, when I was showing the house to the one potential buyer so far. I opened the closet in the bedroom you wanted for a nursery and found it crammed, top to bottom, with new baby things. Little clothes hanging from the racks, price tags still attached. I put you off because, to me, bringing a child into this world is—well, inconceivable. And the helplessness of infants terrifies me. How can I admit that to any sensible person? You’d be an amazing mother. I thought the cars, clothes, the big
house would compensate. I thought you’d eventually give up on the baby—not on me.

I’m so sorry, Jen.

And you don’t know about Sabrina, my Pandora.

She walked out on David right after you left, Jen. Found an apartment and called me to come see her; said we needed to talk.

I never should have gone.

Why hide it now? She was a fire in me from the day David brought her home from college. When she married him, I tried to hate them both. You were the only thing that helped, Jen. You and David never knew how she showed up at my sites, how I had to avoid her.

It only happened that one time, after you were gone.

I was weak. She wasn’t. She meant to have her way.

Daniel, my not loving him isn’t your fault.

You loved him once.

I thought I did, in the beginning. It’s been you for years. Jen’s not coming back, Sugar; you just made me yours, at last.

Are you some kind of spider that devours its own? Jen would’ve thought of the children. Caitlin, Gracie, and Nate deserve better. I’m not serving them up on a platter just to satisfy my pheromones. Understand, Sabrina: This isn’t about David. I don’t love you. I’m already on my own road trip to hell; you just bought your own ticket, honey.

This is why I laughed so hysterically when you said she’d flown one-way to the Land Down Under, Dave.

My brother’s wife. What would my father say?

I can’t tell you what to do. That’s between you and God.

Well, Dad, I think this one’s up to me. If God’s really there, he hasn’t intervened so far; why would he bother now?

The fire is dying and I don’t add wood, because the room is becoming gray with the first traces of dawn.

It’s time.

I take the shotgun and go outside—I’m not going to ruin the cabin. I need to be in the lake so that when I fall, the water will close over me, absolve me, dissolve me. I shall feed the fish for a long, long time, if they don’t die of me first.

The air is biting cold and if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was about to snow.

Do you think it’ll snow so we can play on the sled, Daniel?

No, silly, it never snows at Thanksgiving. You gotta wait ‘til after Christmastime for that.


I walk the old path until the trees thin and water spreads out before me. Serendipity Lake is as smooth and clear as a mirror, reflecting the gray morning. The silence is so deep. What profound stillness; Nature’s holding her breath before the world wakes up.

An unexpected pang: Dad, I miss you desperately.

Something brushes my cheek and I wipe it away. The leaves are not as vivid as I thought they’d be. The colors are muted, darker than I remember. I’d imagined a brilliant blue sky for the occasion, not this milky cloud cover. Something touches my other cheek—a snowflake?

There’s a sound in the distance, faint but familiar.

I listen.

It grows a bit louder.

Dogs. They’re on the trail of a deer, no doubt. Someone got an early start this morning. I expect the sound to fade momentarily, but it grows louder still. The blood’s pounding in my veins — do it, DO IT! — but I won’t have a bunch of well-meaning Good Samaritans finding me and trying to bring me back.

I’ll have to wait until they pass. I’ve waited this long; I can manage a few more minutes.

I don’t want to be seen. I make for the cabin; as I move through the woods, the baying grows closer.

I rest the gun against the wall on the cabin’s front stoop. It’s hard to tell, but I think the dogs are getting nearer; it sounds as if they are headed this way.

In fact, one of them is barreling out of the woods right now.

It’s a small, odd-looking dog. Wait … that’s not a dog; I cannot believe what I’m seeing ….

A bit of a blur, but I think it’s a fawn. At the completely wrong time of year for fawns. I’ve never heard of one being born this late—that’s the point of hunting season; mothers aren’t taking care of their young anymore. But it’s definitely a fawn, terrified, running for its life. It tries to cut away to the right but the dogs are closing in from all sides—I can’t see them yet, but they can’t be very far behind.

The fawn arcs back to the left and streaks straight for the cabin.

It’s going to be trapped.

Without thinking, I step forward. The creature comes skidding to a halt five feet in front of me, realizing that a man and a house are in its way and it can go no further.

It screams, the horrible cry of an animal that knows it’s at the end of the line. It looks at me, quivering violently, and I see the veins throbbing in its neck. A very young fawn; I can see its spots through the snow—snow!—now pouring down like a benediction.

None of this is supposed to be happening.

I have the power to make my own choices; this little deer can’t. It’s deer season, this fawn’s too young, the dogs are too close—it doesn’t have a chance.

It takes a faltering step toward me and I’m frozen, in awe, as the dogs come into the clearing with deafening bays, closing in on the prey.

A kinship and a fury suddenly flood me—who dares destroy this helpless anomaly?

But there’s no more time to think as the fawn crouches and springs, with the last burst of its strength, through the swirling whiteness and into the sanctuary of my open arms.


*************************************************************************************


Fran Haley is an educator with a lifelong passion for reading and writing. She loves symbolism and experimenting with different genres and voice. Her stories are typically born from a single image and fleshed out from there. Fran believes that the experiences of ordinary people make the most extraordinary stories; for example, the first house she remembers living in was a morgue. As for her current home, Fran’s husband and two sons keep it overflowing with laughter. She would like readers to know that her eastern North Carolina roots run deep and that there’s nothing in the world that compares to the taste of a scuppernong grape.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011 WINNERS AND HONORABLE MENTIONS





Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 2011 Winners and Honorable Mentions


1,289 Entries

FIRST PLACE
: $1,500 and publication in Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts
Darci Bysouth
Edinburgh, Scotland
“Hold”

SECOND PLACE
: $500
Jennifer R. Adams
Birchrunville, PA
“Girl on a Balcony”


THIRD PLACE
: $500
John T. Biggs
Okalahoma City, OK
“Soul Kisses”



HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order):

1) Megan Doyle Corcoran
Wellington, New Zealand
“Only the Scars Are Right”

2) Fran Haley
Zebulon, N.C.
“Anomaly”

3) Karen Turner
Mornington, Australia
“Crazy Cat Lady”

4) Vicki Riley
St. Cloud, FL
“De Nada”

5) Elaine Murphy
Vancouver, B.C.
“November 25th”

6) Douglas Bruton
Scotland
“Godforsaken Stone Gilbert”

7) Kari Baumbach
Edina, MN
“Lepidoptery”

8) Tom Deegan
Tipperary, Ireland
“Magpies”

9) Leah Kaminsky
Austin, TX
“And How the Algae Twines”

10) Megan Ainsworth
Florence, MS
“Lucky’s”

11) Mahalia Solanges
Lauderhill, FL
“Vague in Conversation”

12) Matthew Merkl, M.D.
Holmdel, N.J.
“CLAY”

13) Kay Cruse
Menomonie, WI
“The Bunker”

14) Waimea Williams
Kaneohe, Hawaii
“What You Find and What You Keep”

15) Jeffrey L. Schneider
Ellenville, N.Y.
“A Pair of Soup”

16) Todd Flynn
Ainsworth, Nebraska
“The Roofer Marking Time”

17) Paul Michel
Seattle, WA
“Big Night”

18) Olesya O. Maximenko
Moscow, Russia
“Purple”

19) Ames John Gigounas
Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Water”

20) Hal Ackerman
Los Angeles, CA
“Leash”

21) Alex Carrick
Toronto Ontario, Canada
“Caboose Follies”

22) Ladee Hubbard
New Orleans, Louisiana
“There He Go”

23) Dana Fitz Gale
Missoula, MT
“Schooling”

24) Athena Abrams
Boulder, CO
“The Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel”

25) Ayodi Chrispinus Handa
Goodnews Mission, Nairobi, Kenya
“The Blind Love”

26) Kate Zahnleiter
Queensland, Australia
“Lullaby for the Living”

27) Abdul Adan
St. Louis, MO
“SAMAN”

28)Eileen Sutton
New York, N.Y.
“Dear Mr. Doctorow”

29) Dwaine Rieves
Washington, D.C.
“The Eager Eagle”

30) Sarah Bowman
Port Townsend, WA
“The Lords of Life”

31) Lesley Truffle
Victoria, Australia
“The Secret Game”

32) Steve Fayer
Boston, MA
“The Diver’s Game”

33) Margaret Lawrence
Culpepper, VA
“But Not to the Swift”

34) Douglas Bruton
Scotland
“The Bed Lucy Made, and She Lies in It”

35) Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid
Georgetown, MA
“Snip It”

36) David E. Lee
Jacksonville, FL
“Dreams Come True”

37) Vickie Weaver
Haverstown, IN
“The Shootist”

38) Benjamin Doty
St. Paul, MN
"Trains"

39) Kyria Amtsfeld
Berlin, Germany
"Ra's ahl gul"

40) Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Morgan Hill, CA
"Final Billing"

41) David Holloway
St. Louis, MO
"A Head in My Garden"

42) Adam Stanley
Rome, GA
“Eucharist”

43) Laura Borden
Merseyside, UK
“├Éogwood”

44) John-Paul Cirelli
New Port Richey, FL
"Pasteboard Masks"

45) Helen Sedwick
Santa Rosa, CA
"Bourbon and Pipesmoke"










1