Thursday, December 22, 2011
In an office where the placement of a comma can cause a fight, imagine the battle that goes on when it comes time to read and select the winners – and the best of the rest – of the Weekly’s 101 Word Short Story Contest. We put out the call, as we have annually for the past 19 years, and you answered, with stories of bomb-wielding bunnies, of a mummy finally meeting the right woman, of the slow punctuation of long-time love, of hard-lived lives meeting an untimely end. And we picked them apart, debated them, took pleasure in the humor, cringed at the violence and found sorrow in the tales of heartbreak and loss.
But there can only be one story to rule them all. So as this year’s winner Randa Asfar suggests: Grab yourself a meatball. And as we suggest: Settle in with stories of the 101-word variety. – Mary Duan
Randa Asfar | Marina
“I’m a superhero. I shoot lasers of destruction at my nemesis and blast meatballs of fury at his sidekick!” The class burst into laughter as I read the short story we were assigned to write for homework. The teacher quiets the class down and asks me to take my seat. I sit down and write on my paper; “Matthew Latson Saves The World!” I draw me in tights with my cape blowing in the wind; I will become a superhero, they’ll see, they’ll all see! I pull out a meatball from my sleeve and munch on it until the bell rings.
Clark Coleman | Pacific Grove
My friend says I’m living the life. Driving next year’s Porsche, getting the girls. I hyperventilate if anything gets too close to my baby. One day I pulled into the last available parking space and saw a kid sneer at me because I almost ran over his skateboard. As I walked into the store, I kept looking over my shoulder, waiting for his key. He bent down by my passenger side. I started running back, knocking into people, ready to punch him, only to find him helping a woman remove her stroller from her car adjacent to mine. This isn’t living.
Elise Billingsley | Marina
For my eighth birthday, my mom bought me a new pair of purple Converse All-Stars. My old shoes were worn, and too small. I put the old shoes in the trash. I found them today, in boxes in her closet, with one-hundred-fifty other pairs. I’d moved out when I was eighteen, escaping, leaving behind everything I was now sorting, plus twenty-five years more. The 42-year-old in me wondered how my mother’s hoarding had gotten so bad. The eight-year-old in me touched every pair on the shelf, searching for the purple birthday shoes.
Charlotte Whittle | Pacific Grove
Go to Oxford. Buy a tweed suit and wear brogues. Drink sherry in crypts. Smoke with erudition. Enter libraries in darkness and leave them in darkness. Roam the stacks, heave back mechanical shelves. Dust off unread journals. Smell acrid, brittle paper. Delight in De Quincey, scorn Hazlitt. Frequent low-ceilinged bars, where graffiti is scholarly. Carry the book: it’s part of you. Punt on the river, hear madrigals. Use commas wisely. Understand folly. Scale stone walls by the light of complicit stars. Be led up a creaking staircase. Ignore the eyes in portraits of wardens’ wives past. You’ll still be found out.
USE COMMAS WISELY.
Mommy’s Little Monster
Aaron Breeden | Carmel
The 8-year-old boy with the cute blond curls had blood in his hair and skin in his teeth; his hands a gory mess. He sat on the edge of his little bed swinging his feet. Racecars were on the comforter. Stuffed animals sat on the dresser next to the closet door. The half-eaten body of his daddy lay in a crimson pool on the ruined carpet. Sgt. Bannister and four uniforms listened as the little boy told them that a monster came from the closet and ate daddy for beating mommy with a belt. Downstairs the mother screamed.
Michael Whalen | Pacific Grove
At our annual feast, Sylvia sat next to Ed, who was having an affair with Katya, who was married to a man that repeatedly made passes at Bethany. She always declined because long ago, at 16, such attention led to a child that her husband would never know. Grant wouldn’t have cared due to his obsession with Lauren, who consented only when upset with Mark, who – and only I knew this – was secretly gay. I lifted my glass to toast, but without a word, downed my wine in one swallow, and plunged the knife into the beautifully browned beast before me.
Man’s Only Friend
Dan Magallanes | Pacific Grove
He walked his dog at 6:00 and 6:00. In the mornings, he swooned as she jogged towards him. He was sure she would stop, and in the course of the forty-nine second “conversation” realize they were soul mates and she could not bear to live another day without him. But he was lucky to get the occasional, polite nod. Obviously they were polar opposites: She with perfect skin, upright form, and smooth gait. Him all pudgy and fish-belly white, shuffling along. After evening walks, he’d return home, feed the dog, and surf the web for hours before retiring, alone as usual.
SHE WITH PERFECT SKIN, UPRIGHT FORM, AND SMOOTH GAIT. HIM ALL PUDGY AND FISH-BELLY WHITE, SHUFFLING ALONG.
Marie Gilmore | Pacific Grove
Late in the afternoon he bent to tie his shoe. Overhead neon blinked and buzzed coming to life. Power lines sagged. Sidewalks glittered with tiny flecks of broken glass. His laces tight as streetwise predators hunted this part of town. He looked up at his path through the crumbling streets. His timing was perfect. A fast rhythm moved in his body. Cans softly clanked keeping the beat in his paint-smeared backpack. Then in the shadows he moved with animal stealth invisibly across a scabby vacant lot toward the surfaces waiting to be made holy. Danger tingled while dusk surrendered to night.
Elise Billingsley | Marina
The week before had been joyous, until the ultrasound showed that the baby’s heart had stopped beating. She’d been unable to call him from the doctor’s office, she had said, shaking, and the nurse had called instead. He remained calm. Two days and a stillbirth later, she had taken her few packed possessions and left the hospital. “I’m going. I can’t come home until the bedroom is an office again.” It had come down to a choice between flying elephants and pastel crayon scribbles. Sitting on stacked paint cans in what would have eventually been the nursery, his emotions overwhelmed him.
Alice Lum | Annandale, NJ
Violet stepped back to admire the cake topped with thirty candles. The door opened. Honey, I’m home. Happy Birthday, Charlie. Charlie reached to finger the frosting. Violet slapped his wrist. Later, dear, after dinner. They ate heartily, then Charlie blew out the candles. A large slice was served. Charlie gobbled up several bites. Mmmmm, so this is your mother’s secret recipe… so sweet, so moist. Yes, dear, she baked it for my Dad, too. Your Dad… Charlie searched his memory… Didn’t he die… young? Yes, dear, he did. He died on his 30th birthday. And so will you.
Love in the Stars
Laura Colosky | Monterey
“Daddy, what was Earth like?” Phoebe asked while looking out the moon bunker window. “It was everything you imagine it to be. Why do you ask Pumpkin?” “Well, mommy lived there right? Why isn’t she here on the moon with us?” “Because she chose to live among the stars.” “Why didn’t we go with her?” My father sighed, “Well, Hun, you know all those stars out there? Every single one, mommy made for you, and she is still out there making them.” “They are all for me?” “Yup, and she can’t come back until she’s done showing her love for you.”
Jordan Garrick | San Juan Bautista
I’ve spent years looking for them. Who? The women of the night. What? You know – five dollar sucky-sucky. Where’d you look? Everywhere – I got drunk and drove all over Salinas. I even hung a $20 bill out of the window. What happened? A bum took it and said God bless you man! before I could tell him vete al carajo! And then it happened. What? I found them. How? From my neighbor. He’s a reporter. With who? The Weekly. They did a tell-all. Research, huh? Said it was strictly business. Did he get a corporate discount?
Pas de Deux
Carol Kaplan | Monterey
She was Irish, Catholic, middle-class. He was Russian, Jewish, rich. They met in college, thought good sex equaled love, married, and moved to Los Angeles. Twin boys, one autistic, a failed business, her affair, his drinking led to couples therapy. $2,000 later, still estranged, they started ballroom dancing. Moving together, she felt his hand lightly guide her. He smelled her hair, remembered her freckled nose. Improving, they entered a dance competition and made it to the finals. “What Now My Love,” played. They lost the contest. It didn’t matter.
Lantha Larson | Durham, NC
“Bus she has a duck face. She waddles. I can’t marry her! Even if my parents consented, how could I get over the way her black beady eyes watch my every move? We’ve been together for almost a year, and still not a kiss. Not that I’m complaining! Have you seen what she eats? You can’t choose who you love, so I guess I’m stuck with her! But boy oh boy, I wish she were more reasonable. Having to come all this way to see her every day is lopsided. It’s like she doesn’t care.” “Quack,” says the duck.
Brighton Kirk | Marina
“I’ll be right back,” said the mother. “Okay, I’ll be here,” said the little girl in the bathtub. As her mother shut the door, she plugged her nose and submerged herself in the bathtub. She held her mermaid doll and imagined her own tail to be turquoise, just like her doll’s. Then, she watched her long, beautiful tail grow. She looked to her right and saw a school of silvery fish. To her left, her mermaid friends were all waiting for her return. The bathroom door opened. Her gorgeous tail vanished and the mermaid friends waved goodbye, until next time.
Haley Kirk | Marina
They stood atop the dresser in utter silence. “She gave you a makeover?” asked a makeup-stained octopus. “Yes,” responded the marker-covered stuffed rabbit. “And she will pay.” “Tonight at midnight?” “Midnight.” The next morning as her mother came to wake her from her slumber, she screamed in fright. Her daughter was surrounded by every toy and stuffed animal in her collection. A rainbow of markers was spilled out across the floor. Her favorite stuffed octopus gripped a black marker. On the little girl’s face was written “extreme makeover: little girl edition.”
LATER THAT EVENING, SHE FED HIM A CRAPPY DINNER, CLEARED THE DISHES, BLEW HIS BRAINS ALL OVER THE TABLE, GRABBED THE KID, AND WALKED TO HER MOTHER’S HOUSE.
Drill Baby Drill
Aaron Breeden | Carmel
The small hybrid cut off the large beat up pick-up truck as it merged onto the freeway. “Goddam these hippy green pot pants wearing liberal gay loving commies!” Randy Smith roared out his window as he slammed on the brakes. Buster the pit bull slid off the seat banging his head on the window jam, nipping his tongue. He looked up at Randy reproachfully from the passenger floor. Randy gritted his teeth. His eyes narrowed. These electric car driving people are ruining the country. “Drill baby drill!” He screamed, flipping off the driver as he accelerated past the small car.
The Band Played On
Marc Ferris | Castroville
It took Chuck longer than normal to tune up. He plugged in his guitar without looking at the rest of the band. The drummer told him to shake it off; Chuck shot him a stare that shut him up, and he looked at me. “Ready,” he said. I winked and began the opening riff. The band launched into the song, and Chuck sang like a man possessed. It was good to have him back, even if he wouldn’t stay long. The other guys didn’t know about his cancer, I was sworn to secrecy. I wore shades to hide my tears.
Fight for Life
Christine Romero | Salinas
Stumbling out of the alley, she crunched the gravel with each footstep. Her heartbeat pulsing in her throat, clothing torn. He snagged her. She yelled… but her plea was smothered by his hands reeking of cigarette. A pinch on her hip, and the sound of an empty needle echoed. Her eyes opened wide. A gasp for air. Images began to blur with every blink, colors meshed together, and sounds distant – muffled. She’s losing control of her body, her eyes rolling back as she struggles to see his face. A commitment to a lifetime of bad decisions. She was his victim.
Evelyn Garrigan Valtr | Pebble Beach
I had finally made my escape! Wandering streets looking for food wasn’t an easy thing but better than staying in that awful place with the awful people. Suddenly, a leash was around my neck as I was urged into a truck. Oh dear, the awful people were back. But, no, it was someone else! Taking me to their house, showing me the yard (where I could rub myself on the ivy-covered fence) and food everywhere, gave me warm feelings. Rescued and living the good life with the good folks is the best.
INSIDE A DARK CAVE A BUNNY WAS WALKING WITH A BAG OF BOMBS BECAUSE HE WAS LOOKING FOR THE GOLDEN CARROT.
Amy Gee | Salinas
“Why do they always have to scream like that?” he thought, sucking the air between his teeth the way he normally did when he’d finished a drink. Sam had a soft spot for dive bars like this. He found comfort in their universal air of hopelessness, the way they outlived everyone’s wagers, eternally lingering on their last legs like old dogs that refused to die. He liked to knock back a bit of cheap Scotch, bask in his self pity, and pretend he was Humphrey Bogart: down on his luck, and through with dirty dames – which wasn’t far from the truth.
John Espinoza | Monterey
One bone chilling winter day at a gas station in Salinas, 1964. I was a boat builder, surfer, musician, ex-Navy medic, Texas transplant, spiritual seeker, Catholic runaway, Vietnam doubter… On my way to becoming a Vietnam war protestor at a peace rally in Berkeley with thousands that could see through the lies while middle America was slumbering, buying, selling, making babies and building the “American Dream.” So new, so neat and supported by clever deception. But what I remember was looking West in the freezing November air… the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Toro and the Coast Range… seen from Highway 101.
HE REALIZED THAT THERE’S A LOT YOU CAN’T CONTROL IN THIS WORLD, AND ONLY A FEW THINGS YOU CAN. CLEAN UNDERWEAR IS ONE OF THOSE YOU CAN.
Catherine Badin | Pacific Grove
The Mummy needed more bandages. He was starting to unravel and the heat wasn’t helping matters. Now, bits of his putrid grey flesh were showing through in unlikely places. He shambled slowly into CHOMP and pressed the elevator button which would take him to the third floor where the nurses kept all such supplies. The “ding” of the elevator doors opened heralding the exit of Betty Lou Jenkins, who had just received plastic surgery on her face, neck and arms. Her doctor informed her she’d be bandaged up for at least three weeks. It was love at first sight.
The Last Walk
Hans Lehmann | Carmel
“One and one make two. Two and two make four. Four and four make… ” Daniel closed his eyes, desperately trying to sleep. He listened impassively to the insistent clanging and noisy reverberations sounding from the prison’s clammy walls. Then he heard a key being turned, opened his eyes and stared as two slovenly and ashen faced guards stepped quietly into his windowless cell. “Let’s go,” one of them snarled in a strong foreign accent, pointing toward the door. Daniel shivered and meekly began to follow his captors. He knew his time had come. And he shivered again. This time violently.
HE GOT COMPLETELY READY: FINGERNAILS TRIMMED, HAIR GELLED, TEETH CLEAN, BREATH FRESH, AND ARMPITS SMELLING LIKE OLD SPICE.
Him stinking of whiskey and baked in cigarette after cigarette; why did I open my door when he knocked? “Let’s run away to Mexico,” he’d say. Not even stroking my hair, he was just drunk. Again. And naked in my bed. Again. Still I drove while he drank his cheap, syrupy alcoholic “roadie sodies.” Obliterated by the time we made it to the coast, he ran and swore at the trash cans on the side of the street. In the middle of the night, he knocked again. Ignoring it for a while, I eventually opened my door. I always did.
Dream Inside the Wall
Shawn T. Boyle | Pacific Grove
The excavator tore into the wall as he saw something stuffed inside. He ran over and saw it was a magazine, a Playboy from 1963. He opened it up.There was Miss January, Judi Monterey.He thought how real this woman looked. He imagined himself meeting her at a crowded party, then jet-setting off to some Mediterranean paradise.Inside thoughts of having a couple of kids, the white picket fence, the house, he was interrupted by the horn of the excavator. The operator frantically waived for him to move. He threw his dreams in the debris pile and walked away.
Lynn Pickerell | Monterey
Click. Oh my God, the safety’s off, now I have to do this. I can’t do it. What am I doing here? I’m gonna be 14 tomorrow. It’s my birthday and I’m gonna kill a man. A kid. Both of us. Lives over. Squeeze. Threats to me, my mom, my little brother. Get rich or die tryin’. Shit he’s cryin’. Don’t cry. Die like a man. Squeeze. What if I’m caught? Mom will be destroyed. Why baby, why? I had to mom. It was me or him. You or him. They made me do it. That’s no defense, baby. Squeeze. Bang.
Generations of War
Ann Malokas | Marina
She watched her husband go to Vietnam. He returned whole, but not. She watched her daughter go to Desert Storm and come home coughing up the black sludge of burning Kuwaiti oil fields. She watched her grandson go to Afghanistan. Home now, the 15-inch gash on his back is already a scar. The surgery should fix his leg just fine. That bump on the head is a worry. Hard. Harder. Hardest.
Leaving the City
Lily Patterson | Santa Catalina School
She was upon the very top of the peak, the view not unlike the one to be found on the tops of skyscrapers in the city. The slopes down the hillsides were high-speed transportation systems, and patches of birch trees were penthouses. The untamed, thorny bushes stuffed with wild berries were the five-star restaurants, and the unforgiving northern wind was the constant city drone. As she stood looking over the valleys, she knew her journey had ended. The end that had seemed a pointless, cowardly surrender in the eyes of those she left behind became the surrender to her true identity.
And Sometimes, Gummo
Shel Erlich | Santa Monica
The 60-something golfer swiveled himself out of his cart. “Greg Marx,” he introduced himself. “Spelled like Groucho and Karl. Not sure they ever played, though. Hey, if you see me hobbling around some, just wanted to tell you I’ve got kind of a bum leg.” I was thinking bad knee or sprained ankle, but he quickly pulled his pants leg halfway up, displaying a shiny, high-tech apparatus of titanium and aluminum and clear plastic, attached a few inches below the knee, ending inside a golf shoe. “Are you any good?” Greg asked me, with no discernible irony. “What’s your handicap?”
Elise Billingsley | Marina
Her current partner, a sweet man with sparkly green eyes, knew a thing or two about sex, but lacked a little in the erotica department. A future “erotic memoir” entrant, but only just. She wanted the tingly feeling on the surface of her skin, just because the object of her longings was in the room. Tingling not from touch, but from knowing. Desire. Warmth deep at the core, that a person knew you, even if you never met. She wrote his name down as the last on the list, sighed, and then added the next number and left the line blank.
NOW THE MISSION IS TO GET THE SPIDER OUTSIDE - ALIVE - WHILE NAKED.
Kiri Peterson | Carmel Valley
She craved pi most evenings, savored its infinite sequence.One aubergine night, after imbibing 101 luscious integers, she awoke draped by a green diamond. Daffodils filled her pockets and an empty pie tin filled her hand. Startled by a trash can unsettled by relinquishing its crumbs, she remembered the dream that led her there.She’d wandered toward the ballpark, seeking pi’s demise.Daffodils screamed in pain as she picked them, but they were her yellow brick road; they’d sacrificed their lives for her quest. Close she held their dying blooms, meandering home under shadows cast upon them by a full moon.
Martin Perez Ceron | Seaside
Inside a dark cave a bunny was walking with a bag of bombs because he was looking for the golden carrot. But before he made ten steps, dart arrows came toward him! Quickly he threw a bomb. The explosion made a hole with a secret passage, but before he could enter, a boulder came towards him! The bunny ran and ran, and with all his might he threw the bag of bombs. Smoke filled the cave and the bombs exploded! The bunny ran quickly without any golden carrot, and went to California to seek gold.
Peter Robinson | Pacific Grove
Their special school had classes in ambulation, consciousness, hair and makeup, identity reconstruction and other missing skills. The students, all with the same background and political career goal, walked with outstretched arms on the shoulders of the one in front down the hall of graduation portraits of The Speaker, Senators, Congresspersons, Presidents, and Corporate Chiefs and were inspired by the motto underneath: “If You Can Be You, You Can Be Us.” They stared at the words and photographs with fixed gazes as they passed by bottles of soul parts for sale to fund their future… but then zombies are like that!