Herewith the final results:
Melanie Sue Bowles
And here are the finalists:
The landscape, graced with ferns taller than the stars, cries out in fortissimo for a mark, some proof of my final, greatest achievement.
For who would know I made it here? My time machine has dissolved to dust, victim of its own energy, and I am alone.
My signature will be a joke to anthropologists, who will no doubt scramble to decode the anachronism.
The cave will protect my work, I will descend tonight to draw gazelle in the age of dinosaurs, leave coded messages in my handprints.
Millennia from now, before I am even born, I will be famous.
I love the concept of this story (that the earliest cave paintings were done by visitors from other worlds) but I also love the voice. And that last line is simply haunting to anyone who has created art.
He asks about her date.
Happily, she chatters.
I place the milk pitcher. By him.
“Scapegallows,” he insults. Of course. “He wouldn’t know a fortissimo from a finocchio.” He eats his cornflakes.
Our daughter gazes, blankly.
Angered, I touch her shoulder, “Fatherly humor.”
He rolls his eyes.
Stiff-backed, I sit, “Finish your breakfast, dear. How was the band?”
Her cannolo remains untouched.
Patient, I sip my Italian Roast.
He stands—slender and handsome as ever—and scrams.
I accept his tainted kiss, airbrush-style this morning.
He leaves. Scapegoat.
“How was your date?”
I love the perspective/S here. The dad is both the antagonist and still the mom's true love (slender and handsome as ever.) And use of the word "scrams" gives us a sense that maybe dad understands what he's done here. This is a lovely subtle piece of writing.
Wednesday night. She’s cramming. If interrupted, she says, she might never reach the goal. He understands. As a future doctor’s spouse, he can be a time-thief or timesaver. But she has to eat. He brings her a chimichanga, zealous in his need to prove himself supportive.
A gentle knock. No answer. He knocks again. Frets. Faint from hunger? Asleep? He tries the door. Locked. Panicking, he locates the key he hid under the eaves.
Empty – her escape gracefully executed.
He sighs, glad he installed that tracker on her cell phone yesterday. She’d better be at the library. Or else.
I think it's "a gentle knock" that really sets up this very very creepy story. And of course those last two lines bring it home. This is lovely spider web construction: the story is not just what's written, it's the story between the filaments.
Horoscope: a moment today will make you a hero!
Half marathon: I’m a gazelle!
…Silver by one millimoment.
Brother’s audition: his cape graces boulder shoulders, regal Phantom rendition. In finale, baritone voice squeaks. Audience laughs.
My 'moment?' Punch them all in the suckers?
Job interview: nail it. “Thank you, sir,” I close.
Candlelit proposal: girlfriend confesses moment of indiscretion, aka ‘Shawn.’
Universe has dark humor.
11:58 PM, can’t sleep. I text brother: beer fortification??
Phone gleams: sure. I’ll postpone suicide
Bah-ha. Love his morbid jokes.
And, screw you, horoscope.
Midnight: Grab keys.
Brother flushes pills.
I just love this. It speaks to the very core of my faith: you might never know what good you do in the world, but have faith you will be put where you're needed.
I found a photograph of you today but the pictures in my head are better.
Your wedding day: honeysuckle scrambling over the gazebo, framing us, as you wave your bouquet at the bee circling my mother-of-the bride hat.
Or this one of Graduation. You, finished with school, chomping at the bit to make your mark on this world.
And here! 7-year old you: a tumbling, tree-climbing scapegrace; all legs and laughing independence one moment; claiming comforting knee-kisses the next.
Yes. These pictures in my head are much better than the faded polaroid of you in my arms. Perfect. Newborn. Breathless.
This took my breath away. I literally gasped aloud when I realized what that last word did to the story. This is brilliant.
Every morning I escape grace and wake in an unfamiliar bed.
There's a woman next to me. We're lying side-by-side like two corpses in a double-wide coffin.
I have no idea who she is.
She's old, but beautiful. I probably know her. I hope I do.
Her gaze is on me.
I try to ignore the fortissimo beat of my heart, scrambling for something to say, something to ease the worry in her eyes.
I know I'm supposed to recognize her, but I don't.
I'm supposed to know her name, but I don't.
"Good morning, Dear. I love you."
And it's that last line that grabbed me. It's unclear to me who is speaking, and that's the beauty of it.
I will not beg a zebra mussel for forgiveness.
The beastly bivalves take over our lake and starve thousands, yet we're supposed to be grateful for cleaner water? No. I'm done paying.
Someone needs to take down this mollusc a peg.
"Race is a social construct," I say.
"Don't care. Apologize or owe triple the algae tomorrow."
"Stripes aside, we're not so different, you and I."
"Don't try to appeal to--"
"Except you're small."
"Ooh, you're dead, Clam. Finished."
With great effort, I dig in and drag myself directly at the infernal mollusc. Ramming speed!
I've come to expect hilarity from Nate Wilson; we all have in fact, I'm sure. This may be one of the best ever. It's that last line that left me laughing out loud in my apartment by myself.
And there are pretty deft prompt word uses here. We may need to have a Steve Forti/Nate Wilson head to head competition with some kick ass prompts: scallywag comes to mind.
There was never a doubt in my mind about the winner this week. There were many fabulous entries; probably the best field of finalists we've seen. It was tough competition but this story, in both subtlety and grace led the field.
The winner is Kate Outhwaite.
Kate, drop me a line and let me know if you already have the map book. If you do, we'll figure out something else. Otherwise, I'll get that out to you at once.
Thanks to all who took the time to write and enter this contest. I loved reading your work. I wish all of you had contact info on your google sign in names cause a couple of you really piqued my interest about what you're writing and if you have an agent or are looking for one.