Fiction 59: adult winners

Write, count, repeat …

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First place

This Is the Way You Start Over

First, she poured the gasoline on that ugly floral couch she had never liked. After that it somehow seemed easier and she began spilling it enthusiastically about her house. Then she lit the match and tossed it. There was a satisfying pop and then sprang the flames. She opened the door. The night was crisp and cold. She smiled.

-Marjorie Okie

Marjorie Okie used to write poetry, but that was 30 years ago. A recently retired drug and alcohol counselor for a women’s correctional facility, Okie joined a writing class at The Hub wellness and recovery center in Paradise, where the instructor challenged students to submit entries for the Fiction 59 contest. “Well, now it’s a throwdown, so I have to do it,” was Okie’s response, and did she ever throw down. Not only did she take first place, she also had two entries receive honorable mentions. “It’s just like a renaissance for me,” she said.

Second place

Seeing Himself Seeing Himself Seeing Himself Seeing Hims—

He could see himself pretending to think in the reflection of the plate glass. One skinny-jeaned leg over the other; bitten-apple aglow, set against the hegemonic aesthetic: exposed brick, reclaimed wood. A plan to write. But a fear of being mediocre, mocked, unworthy. So: he employed an ironic, meta- narration. Cowardly. Then he said it was cowardly.

-Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff

The words of local writer and father of two Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff have graced the pages of local newspapers many times over the past several years, with his reviews, features and general musings having been published in the now-defunct Synthesis magazine as well as the arts section of the CN&R. His fiction has been featured in these pages before as well, having been chosen for honorable mention a handful of times and taken first place in 2013. Lately, he’s been volunteering at Butte County Juvenile Hall’s Table Mountain School, working with the writing students who entered this year’s contest (see page 18).

Third place

A Man Walked Into a Bar

He sat at the dark end of the bar, his private sanctuary. Several empties in front of him, he was tormented by three recurring thoughts.

He named them: 1, 2, 3. He worried them like a dog would a bone. He repeated them like prayers on rosary beads.

Last call. He staggered out, three shadows stepping on his heels.

-Karen Aikin

Chico marriage and family therapist/registered nurse Karen Aikin has been entering the CN&R’s Fiction 59 contest for several years, and this is the second time she’s taken home third place. Her favorite kind of writing is the short story form, and she says that the “short short stories” she does for this contest are especially fun.“I look at [it] as sort of a word doodle.”

Honorable mentions

Crane Fly Season

My friend died in crane fly season. We would get drunk on the porch and pee on the oak in my yard. I made him an altar with a tiny typewriter, hot water and whiskey. But he died anyway. Now he lives in the oak and sits with me on the porch.

My friend died in crane fly season.

-J. Murphy

Close Encounters

On the slithering Andean trail, an Aymaran woman rests, shaded by a coffee tree. We smile; in broken Spanish she recounts, “I’ve been bitten by a serpent,” as she peels a sheet of skin from her forearm. Back in town, the doctor assures me she was likely sunburned. But he hadn’t seen her, and he is wearing snakeskin boots.

-Danielle Lang

Perfect Shot

Frozen morning, the sky dotted with snowflakes. She tugged on her red cap, pulling it lower over her ears. Her boots crunched in the snow. Breath blew clouds ahead of her. She scanned the woods, hands tightening on metal. The buck stood before her, crowned head raised high. Her hands lifted. The shutter clicked. Leaping buck disappears into whiteness.

-Marjorie Okie

Had a Dream …

I sat on the curb of East Second and Wall. I was homeless—with a gimpy sore leg and a mangy pit bull mix. The love I felt for her was immense. The Saturday morning market goers looked at me with what felt like contempt; some of them looked at me as if they were looking in the mirror.

-Leonard Rush


Hutch was a little different. He had a job and sometimes he abstained from drinking. He came to Happy Hour anyway, just to be a pain.

He hesitated, then said, “Gimme a water.”

Next round he said, “Water—no, wait. Double margarita. TWO double margaritas!”

He finally staggered out and rode away on his motorcycle.

You know the rest.

-Michael Bagwell

Hot for teacher

Polka dot dress swings. I know he is watching. My shoe strap is almost worn through. He sits on the grass shading his eyes, the giant magnet in my core pulling us. My lips want to talk, to touch. The strap is almost broken free. I’m hopeful, but I don’t know why. Damn, I should have worn different shoes!

-T.H. Miller

Domestic Incident

My hand stirs tea. The spoon clinks against porcelain. He is raising his voice again, pacing like a panther about the kitchen. He stops before me. Leaning close, he yells, “This is all your fault!” His breath hot and sour. I raise my eyes; his burn like lava. His hands clench into fists. And in that moment, I knew.

-Marjorie Okie

Death of a Serial Killer

Her focus took control, steadying death yielding skills. The rat was held up in an abandoned building across the freeway. Stealth her friend, patience her partner, weighted down her victim’s odds. Advancer in lanes waiting on a single flying light. The winking pickup lunged left. Panic! Steel smashing bone.

Weeks later, an homage on Facebook: “I miss my cat.”

-Roger Jolliff

Ironically Tortured

Darry knelt before the crucifix. Filled with guilt, begging for forgiveness.

An hour later he’s shooting dice. Darry’s up. This is unusual. Shake after shake, roll after roll. He keeps finding more money in his pockets. Drinks flowing, women teasing, smoke floating.

Darry leaves thinking of how much he will put in the offering next week.

Ironically tortured circumstances.

-Brent Kennedy