Write on. Write away. Write now.
We gave you 95 words to write a complete work of fiction. You budding authors gave us fanciful tales of sex, death and love. Here are our editorial staff’s favorites.
When Aunt Marlene’s cranberry minivan went off the bridge, nobody was sure how many McAfee kids were in the back. All I noticed when they pulled the van out of the water was that the first “r” was missing in Chrysler. “Ch ysler.” I thought it was weird. Chiseler, like they got cheated. After the bodies were counted and the police tape removed, I rented scuba gear and searched the debris. I found a wing nut, an unopened Pepsi, a Chewbacca action figure and my grief, but I never found the missing letter.
—Sheila Gardner and Andrew Bourelle
2. The Tree
“Let’s buy this tree,” said Rose to her 4-year-old daughter, Katie. “It’s only 3 feet tall now, but it will grow just like you will.”
With tender loving care, the tree and Katie grew tall and strong. The tree gave shade for picnics and branches for a tire swing and tree house. Laughter and secrets were shared—if only trees could talk!
After many years, the tree began to die, but a young seedling was seen nearby. “It’ll grow just like you will,” said Katie to her daughter.—Mary Pedersen
The fever finally broke around noon. Still weak, he dragged himself from the frigid hotel room and walked toward the restaurant that fed him twice a day.
A gust of Baltic wind carried upon it a faint chant from the center of the city so that he altered his course, drawn to its source. Moving along, he absently fingered the two thin wafers of metal in his pocket.
Ahead, a crowd appeared, and the incessant chant became clear: “Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh!” Mesmerized, he let the dog tags fall to the pavement.
The bald eagle soared self-confidently by day, through his political circles, knowing by successful propaganda that his enemies lived in fear of his honed talons and capacity to kill, sweeping down silently from behind with determined velocity.
Falling deftly from the sky, his shadow was seen too late. Everyone obeyed his rules out of shuddering trepidation. There was only one truth: His. Yet, once in a while, amid the scurrying underlings, rumors circulated over Napoleonic complexes. By night, in private, where no one could see, he festered timidly in the mirror, spraying his Rogaine.
5. Insect Invasion Averted
Staying with friends on each side of the Big Island, Hawaii, my first hostess, a fastidious housekeeper, meticulously washed out all food containers and juice bottles before disposal. Fruit and vegetable peels were composted one-half mile from the house. My second stay was on a Kona coffee plantation. My hostess sold queen-bee jelly. In her bathroom, I noticed a web of ants behind the door, wiped them out with tissue and flushed them away. Within the hour, she returned from the restroom distraught and asked plaintively, “Where are my ants?”
—P. Patterson Parsons
In 1920, my grandfather’s brother Ted, age 8, fell off his horse and hit his head. He remained unconscious for three days. Finally, he opened his eyes but recognized no one. He remembered nothing. Ted had to relearn everything, even his love toward his family. In 1970, Ted, having settled on a nearby farm with his wife and children, fell from a ladder while painting the barn. He hit his head hard and lay unconscious. “Speak to us, Ted!” his family shouted. Ted opened his bewildered eyes and whispered: “How’s the horse?”
7. Half-Caf, Half-Salvation
I walk into a coffee shop. Scripture taped everywhere greets me. One sticker reads: “Drink Jesus Water and Thou Shall Be Saved!”
What’s Jesus Water?
What happens if you drink Jesus Water? What’s the boiling point of Jesus Water? Does it taste like Jesus? What does Jesus taste like? Does drinking a lot make you go to the bathroom? Will Jesus Water kill vampires?
Wait—are vampires real?
Can you brew coffee with Jesus Water? I walk to the counter to order.
“Excuse me, do you have de-ionized Jesus Water?”
8. Miss Giving
They arrived at the popular nightclub after 10:30. Brandi and Lisa made their entrance, leaving Annie, once again, to pay their cover charge. Hours after many drinks, Annie, socially challenged, drunk and alone, staggered out to the parking lot. Ignoring her, Brandi and Lisa stayed.
Annie unlocked her black Jetta and climbed into the backseat. Feeling nauseous, she used her purse as a pillow and lay down in a fetal position for warmth from the early morning chill. She drifted to sleep, waiting for her “best friends” to return and need that ride home.
9. March 4, 1949, 7:35 p.m.
Traveling due south on Highway 395 and a mere 19 miles to his fiancée’s house in Gardnerville, Michael Stonegate was filled with the eager anticipation of showing off his newly acquired two-tone, four-door Desoto sedan.
Slim Rutherford hopped into his just-loaded flatbed truck and wanted to make it to Reno by 8 p.m. but would really have to push it and was a tad leery as to how the severely balding front tires would hold the road.
It began to rain as Slim headed north on Highway 395 that cold March evening.
Jeffery flew up the weathered steps, kicking up small, soft, white clouds of ash. He thought only of getting into the house to save his past. Grabbing the pictures on the mantel, he came last to his daughter Marisa’s photograph. It was the last item he had of her. His mind drifted to memories of her running through the sprinkler that hot summer when she was 5.
A pine-tree top exploding abruptly brought him back to reality. Pressing the pictures tightly against his chest, he ran back down through the smoke and ash.
Stannard spotted a fresh, curled mound and galumphed over to it. He ran his tongue across his snout, closely examining and sniffing. Inhaling more deeply, he envisioned a robust, male opponent of medium build—possibly a Weimaraner. Intimidated, he decided to edit this personal ad. Lifting his leg, he squirted a potent liquid, saturating the heap. Frantically, he wiped his musky paw scent about, thwacking a medley of leaves and pebbles behind. When the dust subsided, he sneezed, circled and returned to examine his work. This two-pronged sabotage was complete.
Standing ankle-deep in horse shit—hardly the life I envisioned that night in Greece. A night of first kisses, honey-scented breezes on an ancient island set in a sea of mercury. Surprised by an unexpected embrace, we pressed against the thick, white-washed walls—still warm from the sun-soaked day. With your arms around me and the first kiss on its way, this was the perfect moment.
The acrid smell of urine-soaked hay snapped me back. I wish that version of us was still there on the shores of the Aegean.
Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Grandmother’s last hours in her home of 50 years were atop a pot on a chair in the parlor. She’d tripped over an ottoman and broken her hip. But she wouldn’t call an ambulance, and Grandmother had to pee, thus the pot. For years, her feet rested on the enemy ottoman, wearing pink slippers (quasi-moccasins, though far less Native American), clicking together for hours. That’s one of my few memories. That and playing ambulance on the ottoman, which usually resulted in me leaving it in the middle of the room.
Stepfather and/or Foster Father
As I make my trek to take care of my seniors, I pass a yard with two dogs. One is quite a large male and reserved, while the other is still quite a puppy with, of course, puppy ways. The older dog is so tolerant of the puppy’s playfulness. The youngster literally jumps and runs over and around the older male just having the time of his life, while the older dog is quite patient with him. It goes to show that even male animals can really care for the young.
—Gloria J. Robertson
One recent afternoon, my sister and brother-in-law were visiting their grandchildren, three girls and one boy.
In the course of conversation, the 10-year-old granddaughter complained that she wasn’t doing very well in basketball, which she really enjoyed.
Hoping to downplay her disappointment and encourage the young girl, her grandmother said, “But you’re a good dancer, you play the piano well, and you’re a wonderful, sweet and compassionate person.”
The young girl responded, “But grandma, that doesn’t count in basketball.”
Her grandmother asked, “Well, what does?”
The exasperated 10-year-old responded, “Shots, Grandma. Shots!”
It wasn’t because his mother blew smoke in her face and called her stupid white trash. It wasn’t because he commented about her growing girth or her inability to carry a tune; nor was it about his gambling. She was not motivated by hatred toward him or his boss’s wife. And it wasn’t because he explained movie plots to her or the meaning of Poe’s work. No, she thought, as she threw the hatchet into the muddy Carson River. It was because she always wanted to know the feeling of breaking someone’s skull.
Hey, it’s Chris …
Are you there? Pick up …
Listen … I’m sorry, man. We didn’t mean to. It just happened.
She came over, and I was drunk. I don’t know how it happened. I’m sorry.
Your best friend should never do anything as effed up as sleep with your girlfriend.
I don’t know what to do, or say, or anything. Don’t be pissed at Christina. This is all on me. OK? If you never wanna talk to me, or you wanna kick my ass—whatever.
I’m just … so damned sorry.
Bye, Warren. Oh, uh, happy birthday.
In conclusion, the pen was mightier than the sword—sword purportedly used to hack up a Shoshone captive, subsequently cooked and fed to his brethren, encouraging their signature on the Ruby Valley Treaty.
One hundred forty-one years later, the president’s pen eviscerates the nation, destroying a people—the pen costing the price of a day’s war on Iraqis, the 21st-century Shoshones.
The people bleed; parched Earth (moisture drained to sustain Las Vegas) soaks it up.
The heavens have no tears; global warming dried them.
Pen beats sword.
—Shayne Del Cohen
“Just one little bite. It’s not going to kill you,” she said to her husband. “You’re such a wuss; I eat them all the time. Besides, Don said they’re good for you. They’re brain food.”
“My father told me to stay away from them. Our family is allergic to them or something.”
“Don wouldn’t lie to us.”
“Don’s a salesman. He’d lie to his own mother.”
“Just one little bite. Just for me,” she cooed.
So Adam took one little bite.
Boy, was his father mad.
Together we left each other
I remember the last words we spoke.
“Don’t leave this way.”
“Which way should I leave?”
“The way you left time before last.”
“I don’t recall; how was that?”
“I came home, and you were gone. There was only the note.”
“You said there was someone else.”
“That wasn’t me.”
“I don’t leave notes.”
“I can’t remember the last time we saw each other.”
“Maybe because the last time we were together we didn’t realize it would be the last time.”
“Who are you?”
“GO! GO! GO!” they yelled as I scurried through the yard. Even though I had only been in the GLN for three days, I had finally found my calling: the savior for abused and battered yard gnomes everywhere. The Gnome Liberation Network toiled during the night, scampering through unkempt yards and tripping over uncoiled hoses just to rescue a gnome. Just as I was grabbing the oppressed statue, a light came on and a gruff voice yelled, “Let go of my gnome, you tree-hugging, gnome-stealing son of a bitch!” Oh no …
The little girl had beautiful blue eyes. I was looking at ’em real careful, entranced almost. Then I seen her pupils change shape. They narrowed from these tiny black disks to thin vertical slits. The eyes changed back immediately. But I knew what I’d seen. And she knew it too; I could tell by the way she started grinnin'. So I told her, “No thanks, I don’t want no cookies, thanks for askin’ but no, no, no, no, no.” And then I slammed the door.
Bump and Grind
Charlene plopped her bikini-clad butt down on the barstool as the jukebox went silent. 4:30 a.m. in the quarter and not one drunk to hustle.
A large, blue presence filled the doorway.
“Morning, Officer Claude,” greeted Charlene. The beat cop shuffled over, his moustache wilting in the humidity.
“How you makin', babe?” he asked, as he slid a rough hand up her bare thigh.
“Starving to death,” she sighed.
“Brighten up, honey,” he said. “Remember, this is the city that care forgot.”
And me, too, thought Charlene.
Water rushed through open lips as it hastily filled small lungs like two flesh balloons. The eyes were partially open as though they had frozen in the midst of blinking; the mind behind them was silent in an unnatural slumber. A knot on the young boy’s head continued growing as the muscle in his chest began to slow.
River still flowing, still filling, still filling those ghastly balloons.
The body still floating, between silt and sun, and no one had noticed. Not a mother, not a father and not the man in the boat.
She was driving too fast. Wilshire Boulevard blended into pastel stripes in her field of vision. Tropical palm fronds zoomed past, as out of place in this plastic world as she was. She bought a bag of oranges on the corner; wisely, he didn’t comment. She followed him into the terminal, where they superficially embraced. On her way out, a poster of Jamaica, sand and sky, grabbed her attention. She realized she still had his Visa and hesitated only seconds before buying the ticket. She boarded the plane and offered her seatmate an orange.