Fiction 59: adult winners
2018 Fiction 59 contest
When we finally returned home we found the pen littered with red-black blood-crusted chunks of white fluff and flesh, stench rising over the wet ground. Bits of wing floated in puddles of mud. The dogs, wild with fear of the thunder, were unable to escape the noise, the frantic howling wind, they could only silence the geese.
It’s been a few years since Sharon DeMeyer entered the CN&R’s Fiction 59 contest. However, if you’ve literally written the book on the subject—her master’s thesis for creative writing was devoted to 59-word stories—it’s probably pretty easy to pick things up again. The Chico State English Department secretary has won the contest twice before—in 2011 and 2009—and this year is back in the fold thanks to this piece that was workshopped in a writing group of creative friends.
What I Learned at Summer Camp
When I went to summer camp, I learned to shoot arrows into targets, how Indians made acorn mush, and how to pee through the screen in the back window of the cabin. I also learned that you could get Twinkies from the two teenagers who worked as summer help if you let them put their hands down your shorts.
As luck would have it, the day after he was interviewed for this little bio, Andrew Hanson’s first novel was published. In addition to writing three 59-word stories that made it into this issue (see honorable mentions for the other two), the retired Chico State education professor has just finished working on Revelation, a sci-fi book about a spaceman and five orphans who “give humans another chance to become galactic citizens.”
Danny rides his Harley alongside Jason, who’s on a German rocket, as they cruise from the Bay Area up the 101 to the Redwoods. Both are silent; the wind thick as a wall. They share a father, decades apart. They try to spread his ashes as they ride and not get their tires too close; urn slips, tires tap.
Jen White rounds out a top three this year that includes three writing professionals. In addition to working as a Butte College English instructor, White spearheads two annual publications of student writing—The Dill Pickle (a journal of academic writing) and the Inky Squib (highlighting creative writing). Also, in the spring you can find White and her husband at the farmers’ market selling flowers under the banner of Down to Earth Tulips.
A Wish for Normalcy
Schlup, schlup. Carlos’ pant cuff dragged on the sidewalk. He borrowed the pants from his younger brother, only half his age but still taller. The shoes stuffed with paper were Jorge’s though. He would pound Carlos if he knew. He passed behind his mother as she cracked eggs, yelling “I’m not hungry,” while shuffling out. Now his stomach growled.
Not wanting to be late for church and suffer her mother-in-law’s reproach, she sped out of the driveway. Turning sharply onto the highway, the back door of the old Caddie flew open, and out tumbled her four-year-old daughter. It was the faux fur coat, hat, and muff that saved her. Grandma swears it was Jesus.
The details of my mother’s untimely death are sparse; a murder mystery truly stranger than fiction. The only evidence found was unidentifiable residue at the bottom of her teacup. Poison, of course. The likes of which the FBI, FDA and CDC had never seen. Expertly homemade. Untraceable.
“THEODORE JENSWALD JONES! Can you do nothing right?! TEA TIME!!”
In the hospital, there was a small succulent beside her. It had a yellow flower just barely growing from its spines.
The deep cuts on her wrist began to bleed again and she turned to the nurse.
“I didn’t know cacti have flowers, how beautiful.”
“There is beauty in everything, darling.” She wrapped her wrists tighter with fresh bandages.
Rediscovering That Competitive Edge
Forty hit me hard and I trained to win my age division in a fun run.
It became me and an Abercrombie me trudging toward the tape, new gray hairs protruding for the spectacle.
“Statistically speaking, if someone drops of heart attack,” few big mouth breaths, “it would be you or me.”
And I ran hard, like a child.
OK, I’m going to read three of these short stories out loud. When I’ve finished reading them, I’ll reassess. If the fucking hippy in the next campsite is still banging away on her little vibraphone thing, I will murder her. I can read and write in prison. That’s all I want to do anyway. And she’ll be carbon neutral.
Business as Usual
His feet are wet. Again. Today it’s the living room. Last week, the porch. A month ago, the yard went under. He grabs a beer from the cooler. Turns the crank on the emergency radio. Climatologists are saying, “Expect to experience a 300-foot rise in the world’s oceans.” He pops the tab. Doesn’t believe a word of it.
Noah didn’t bring just two of us on board. He brought two hundred in a big wooden box filled with dirt and table scraps. He even relocated a lucky few every day to the roomier “digs” he had built for us on deck. Because of these astonishing accommodations, we worms considered ourselves Noah’s, and by implication, God’s favorite animals.
She sits in front of me. Smacks her gum and rolls her eyes. Her attitude so cold I need to put my jacket on. She let her wiry dark locks fall onto my desk. MY desk. Consequently, chewing my gum at the appropriate speed, I quietly remove the spearmint and gently place it in her ringlets. Sorry not sorry.
Friday Night Support Group
She couldn’t take her face inside the dance studio. The stares, the scars.
She waited in the shadowy alley for her friend with the braces. He wouldn’t take his legs inside. The braces, the stares.
When he came they danced freestyle to the pulsating music. He admired how her legs moved easily. She loved the smoothness of his face.
A fine thread tickled my mind as I sat drinking morning light, editing songs. I pulled it away, held it in my hand; a delicate copper strand coiled about gnarled fingers.
Smiling, I laid it upon the table, a new breakfast companion reflecting sun. “My hair,” she said, “will find its way into your soul,” and perhaps it has.
My Father Almost Killed Me When I Was Four
He let me cross the street in front of our house to get the mail, but only after he looked both ways and declared it was safe. I had an airmail letter in my hand when he gave the signal to come back. I jumped off the curb. There was an unexpected breeze. A door handle tickled my nose.
He jolted his neck toward the sound across the dark kitchen. He scanned for the source of it, but nothing. Then there were no more sounds besides his heart pounding in his chest and the whistling wind.
“Hello, is anyone there?” He stuttered.
He peered out the window into the twilight and saw his fateful doom, standing alone, staring.
Cautiously I dipped my foot into the crystal turquoise water. Fabulous, not cold, not warm. Like Goldilocks I thought, “Just right.”
I swam out and then enjoyed the free buoyancy only treading in water can bring.
Surrounded by green mountains and blue skies, I swam to the dock then watched as a cougar sniffed my clothes on the shoreline.