Second place

Illustration By GB Tran

Ink Love

Sheila Lee was the loveliest girl ever to have her name tattooed on a man’s sweaty bicep.

She moved men that way. She possessed them. Although lacking natural beauty (she looked exactly how you’d imagine a truck driver’s daughter), Sheila Lee played her opposites: chubby thighs/short skirt, sagging breasts/tight shirt.

Harper loved opposites, and Sheila Lee got under his skin.

On Tuesday afternoon, a week after first laying eyes on her and after just four beers down at the Brick Oven, Harper found himself under Tattoo Larry’s needle, inking his devotion to Sheila Lee in the finest blood-stained script $40 could buy. Harper even paid the extra 10 bucks for the rose accents.

It wasn’t until after arriving home, the stinging in his arm having finally subsided, that Harper wept like a child. Tears of joy and confusion. In his 22 years, he had never been in love, never been possessed.

That evening, without calling ahead, Harper drove out to Sheila Lee’s house, wearing a tank top and proudly displaying what was now faintly Sheila Lee’s name in ink and scabs. In his exuberance, he didn’t even notice the silver Chevy extended-cab 4x4 in the driveway as he approached the door, for he would have recognized that truck as belonging to his best friend, Chuckster.

Second-place winner Jamey Nye, who lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children, teaches composition and creative writing at Cosumnes River College (CRC). A distance runner, Nye finished this year’s Sacramento Cowtown Half Marathon in one hour and 29 minutes—as the only barefoot runner. He has plans to barefoot his way through next year’s California International Marathon. Nye offered his students at CRC extra credit for entering the Flash Fiction Contest and set a good example for them by entering himself. “Ink Love” is his first published story.

Photo By Larry Dalton

When nobody answered the door, Harper let himself in—and there, sitting too close to Sheila Lee, was Chuckster himself, sleeves rolled up revealing a tattoo identical to his own—without the scabs.

—Jamey Nye, Sacramento

This robustly written story has whimsy and the type of detail that makes a reader sit up and take notice: “Harper even paid the extra 10 bucks for the rose accents”—you can just see that tawdry tattoo. The ending is telegraphed a bit early and not altogether smoothly, but still, the final payoff is unexpected. The poignancy of Harper’s situation is both pathetic and laughable, leaving you with an uncomfortable concern for the poor sap at the same time you fully grasp his foolishness.