the HONORABLE MENTIONS and other awards

The recalcitrant
By Tim Guthrie
I hate, hate, hate kindergarten.

While my little brother stays at home, watching morning cartoons, I have to go to this cold, unfamiliar building where I am told when to nap by someone I don’t even like.

Who does she think she is, anyway?

No more sleeping in for me. No more running barefoot in the yard trying to catch birds before they take flight. No more looking up to the sky hoping to witness a newsworthy catastrophe. I know from now on, grim reality will overwhelm my carefree fantasies.

So I turn to Suzi and spit my gum in her hair.

By Brad Summerhill
They owned a large suburban home with a white picket fence. Actually their fence was redwood like everybody’s fence.

Their marriage fenced them in, too.

“Give me one good reason,” she said, “why we should continue.” Her latest therapist encouraged the issuance of ultimatums.

He met her long ago in medieval literature. (He needed the humanities requirement.) He once envisioned himself as a Tristan to her Isolde, romantic young lovers whispering through a wall. Her parents were the wall. They didn’t like him.

He thought it over.

Finally he said, “We have financial security,” understanding in that instant that they were doomed.

Tomorrow, tomorrow
By Denise Ferguson
Serena looked out across the mountains rising like dough on an over hot day. The radio announcer interrupted “Sweet Home Alabama” to exhale loudly and comment on the day’s oppressive heat. Today was an all-time record for Reno, 108 degrees of delirium.

Inside, the familiar tap of the typewriter sounded sharp and cool in the rhythm of creativity. Sipping on iced coffee and chewing on a pencil tip of ideas did not help, nor did the cool of the air conditioner. Her words evaporated before her. Tomorrow would be a better day to storytell. Tomorrow.

Those bloody Martians
By Kathy Welch
She is a paranoid schizophrenic with violent tendencies. He is a germaphobe. They met while visiting a mutual friend on Ward 3.

“Tell the Martians to stop stealing parts of my brain,” the friend begged, twitching in his bed.

“I remember those Martians,” she said on the way out. “Ten years ago, one appeared in the form of my ex. Luckily, I was in the middle of carving the Thanksgiving turkey. I still have Martian blood embedded in my fingernails.”

She extended her hand.

“I’m Carla.”

He hesitated. She was amazing, but Martian germs had to be contagious, even after 10 years.

The bird lover
By Jack Hoyle
Dr. Moss says, with luck, maybe 12 months. Luck and I aren’t on speaking terms, so let’s figure about half that. Still, time enough to mend some fences. Time to ask a few folks for forgiveness and time to let a certain person know I’ve always loved her and wish our circumstances had been different. Maybe even time enough to get right with God, and for damn sure more time than I need to poison my neighbor’s fucking cats.

Gary Cooper in a kepi
By Paula Richards
Thump. The swamp cooler stopped again during the fifth brown out of the week in that “summer the sun got closer” of 2024.

Resigned to enduring the heat, I read until my eyes grew heavy and gave into sleep.

Soon, a vision of Gary Cooper in a kepi invaded my weary mind, the white material of his cap fluttering in the breeze.

At the oasis, a groom took his horse, and I handed him a frozen margarita.

Thump. The cooler was on.

Outside my window, the world was still as hard and dry as the week-old French bread on the counter.

By Sue Edmondson
The grizzled old man ambled toward me. Ready to rebuff a request for spare change, I looked away.

“Take these.”

He pressed two thin dimes into my hand.

“I can’t take your money,” I said.

The man smiled.

“You must. It’s your turn.”

Puzzled, I accepted the gift. The dimes felt hot. They vibrated. I heard a faint drumbeat, then a lion’s roar, a parrot’s cry, drumbeats, louder, pounding.

The door to my office burst open. My husband scowled.

“I’ve been knocking for five minutes. Are you writing for children again?”

The plant rant
By Christy Chalmers
“Stop!” she shrieked, sobbing. “You’re drowning them!”

I set the jug down. She had begun hyperventilating. After a minute, she resumed her ranting.

“It’s bad enough you force them to live in cages, in the sun and they can’t get away,” she shouted. “Then you drown them. How can you be so cruel?”

She ran away then, crying hard.

I sighed, picked up the jug and resumed watering my flowers. Gardening, I thought, would be a lot easier if that crazy plant rights group had never come knocking.

Me an’ momma
By Andrew Bourelle
Momma never got the irony in calling me the son of a bitch. I tried to explain it once an’ she slapped me so hard my mouth bled. Tears was spillin’ down my cheeks. I couldn’t help it. I was only 10. She glared at me with angry, bloodshot eyes. She pointed her finger at me like a gun. “You are a son of a bitch!” she yelled. I reckon she was right.

By Joe Neilson
The thin morning air gave energy to his gait despite his lack of sleep. He felt good. He stepped over the train tracks and continued south toward the river. The tall, reaching branches of the cottonwood trees were just beginning to fill out with tiny green leaves. He wished he had a camera.

The morning sun was just then peeking over the dry, brown hills. With it, came a cold breeze from the west as if the night wanted just a few more minutes and was wasting its last breath trying to blow back the new day.

BTW, Bambi
By Linda Hiller
The air was still hazy, the ground warm to touch and the smell of smoke mixed with death was in the air as the doe and fawn gently tiptoed through what was formerly their backyard.

The circle of Jeffrey pines where the fawn had been born three months prior was charcoal black, sending wisps of pungent smoke into the air.

“Between the cigarette smokers, the thwarted lovers, the campers and the damn lightning, I’ve about had it with those bastards, Mom!”

“Oh, and before all this crap started, I was just getting around to telling you about something called ‘deer season’ … “


Advice God’s Award

You gotta finesse it
By Jeff Milligan
“Ya gotta finesse it, Frank.”

“Finesse it?”

“Ya know,” explained John. “Sneak up on her and slip it in before she knows what’s happening. Sort of. Not really sneak up, but go slow. Talk. Be friendly. Ya know what I mean?”

Frank nodded but his expressionless face made John struggle for more words to help him understand.

“Subtle. That’s what ya wanna be. Subtle. And be smooth. Smooth as ya can.”

“Subtle?” asked Frank.

John gave up. Never mind, I’ll distract her for you.”

Frank picked up the thermometer and slowly eased behind the cocker spaniel while John patted her head.

Happy Sap Award

Thinking of you, Ali
By Andrew Bourelle
Snow falls outside. I’m numbed and weary, stranded in Chicago, backpack at my feet. It was an airport like this where I last saw you, Ali, where I left you crying. There’s a pay phone nearby. I take a deep breath before turning away from it. It’s been so long. I’ve hiked glaciers and climbed frozen mountains. But the beauty was always gray. I never stopped thinking of you. I hope you’re OK. I’m anxious for you to answer the door. I hope you smile. If you cry, please let the tears be warm. I’m tired of living in the cold.

PC Award

The American
By Adrienne Tropp
Listen and tell me if you think I was wrong.

This Arab guy lived next door and was acting strange. He took phone calls outside. Other times he’d check his house and then lug in bundles. Friends of his, other Arab-looking men, whispered outside his door. Obviously, they didn’t want to chance the house was bugged.

After seeing this, what was I supposed to do? It’s our duty. The president said so.

When the agents showed up, seems he was throwing a surprise party to celebrate that his wife had just become a U.S. citizen. How should I have known?

Huh? Award

Jim Butler speaks from the grave
By Jane Vernon
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void.

In my story, the beginning has a date, 2250 B.C., give or take.

God is a title, not a name; which is very important to remember; something to do with the missing 13th Amendment. I’ve given God a name. And his name is Ham. The father being Ham, the son Jack, and as for the Holy Ghost, I have to keep something out for a surprise.

Ham’s an insurance agent; that’s right, insurance is the big cheese. Oh, there are 13 voids. Go figure.

Sylvia Plath Award

There’s no bun in the oven
By Matt Reed
Father, a high school physics teacher and pedestrian Faust, sold not his soul, but the ability to cook for his uncommon grasp of physics. Finding himself in Mother’s kitchen, he’d gaze upon it with the same awe that most look upon the stars. Polished, twinkling, appliances. Several months after Mother’s death (her head placed in the gas oven), he sits in her kitchen, no longer hungry. Frayed, his familiar elementary particles now fleeing him too and gray, he sips a glass of water. “I don’t understand how she ever managed it,” he says, without caring to explain which “it” of hers he means.

Carli & Miranda’s ‘We Love Will’ Award:

American Jesus
By Will Doherty
Walking down Second Avenue near St. Mark’s Place, I shuffled through my pockets for enough change to get cheese blintzes at the Kiev. Still reeling from the previous night when an intimate encounter with a rum bottle was prelude to the drunktank. “I am the King,” I yelled out loud. “A messiah to the drunks, my disciples of the Bowery.” To others, I was Svengali with bad breath and missing teeth. Passing a flea market, an old mirror teetering on a retired milk crate reflected my image. A sad little boy approached, so I reached out and said, “Pull my finger.”

Be Nice to Geeks Award

By Patty Lee
The rock musicians gloated, smelling “imminent record deal.” Those lean years, almosts … finally! Stardom!

Greenberg held their press kit. “Impressive. I’m from Lewiston High, too.”

Frowns. Nameplate: “Robert James Greenberg.” Sounded familiar.

Greenberg removed his shades, leaned back, viewing the city 47 floors below. “Some of us did pretty well! … Ahhh, Lewiston High band …”

God, no! Bobby J. Greenberg? The kids whose trumpet they’d hid? Butt they’d kick? The dork they made fun of daily? Jimmy’s stomach fell 47 stories.

“Yeah, some did pretty well,” Greenberg leaned forward. “But not you.”

Press kit hit the basket with precision.

e. e. experimental Award:

By Frank Patten
he goes, there. The River. trestles (east and west) willows wildrose dust scent, a breeze off the water below the wind.

barn swallows eatin’ bugs (turkey vultures, soaring, way up high!) Divorce. a hundred miles away. he’s hunting garbage. fishing line broken glass, weird stuff washed in somehow (then dropped). the dogs are wading. the sound of water falling, tumbling and sliding.

every day it gets harder to find the Garbage (which is never gone). a hundred miles away, but it’0s never gone. at least not yet. Maybe Tomorrow.