It was indeed a helluva week, and y'all provided a helluva contest to judge!
It's always fun to see entries that come as poems
Thomas Brennan 11:18am
Lisa Bodenheim 3:37pm
Homage to the query for Premeditated
This is so creepy I may never look at a staircase the same way again
Marie McKay 2:42pm
A heartbreaker for sure
Kathy Ellen Davis 8:15pm
This isn't quite a story but it sure did make me laugh
Rachel McCauley 11:06pm
Not quite a story, but I love this idea a lot!
Kate Higgins 12:02am
And why I'll never eat Jell-O again
Terri Lynn Coop 12:50am
This is an exquisite sentence
A week ago, he’d made it over the mountain’s shoulder blade onto the glacier scarving her collarbone
Oh no! Felix Buttonweezer goes rogue!
Gabby Gilliam 9:09am
Here are the entries that made the long list
Steve Forti 10:42am
Gramma’s ragu took the whole weekend to prepare. Slow cooked mirepoix. Fresh garden tomatoes. Secret herb mixtures. Tender braised beef. (Or venison? She never let anyone snag that recipe.)
Such vivid childhood memories. The aroma, watching her stir the ancient pot.
In her waning days, her creaky knees and peakish figure toiled at the stove, yet her spoonula whack remained just as sharp if anyone stole a taste before it was ready.
After she passed, I cleaned out her basement freezer and discovered her secret ingredient. And what really happened to Grampa.
Now the family loves my Sunday dinners.
Colin Smith 10:53am
Annie Ragdoll couldn't speak,
She shut her mouth last Tuesday week
When Billy Bunny tried to tell her
Maizie Mouse had snagged her fella.
When another week had passed,
She'd had enough and went at last
To find her wooden soldier boy,
And end his fling with this new toy.
She'd win his heart back with her charms,
And oil to mend his creaking arms.
She'd whisper nothings in his ear,
Feed him brownies and cold beer.
But when she came to Maize's house,
She found that wretched knitted mouse
Alone beside her fireplace,
A wicked smile upon her face.
Her blood got all mixed in with the ragu sauce she spilled. It mostly pooled up right on top of that creaky floorboard Lois nagged me about fixing all last week. That’s like irony or something, right?
She can’t nag me anymore, she can’t even speak with her tongue under the table. Plus she’s dead.
Hell, I spent most of my marriage wishing Lois’d shut up and now I’m wishing she could talk. That’s irony too, ain’t it?
Whoever killed her did me a big favor, not saying they didn’t. I just wish they hadn’t set me up.
Here are the entries that made the shortlist
(1) Mallory Love 10:04am
Don’t speak unless spoken to, you’d say.
Don’t drag your feet, you’d say.
I don’t have time for this, you’d say. Week after week.
You have to be the best, you’d say. Harvard only accepts champions.
You will take over the firm, you said. There was never a choice.
You can’t marry her. You won’t, you said. A snag in your plans.
You’re better off, you say, tossing her wedding announcement aside.
The floor creaks under my weight.
Drop the gun, you say.
Don’t shoot, you panic.
The metal against my ear muffles the sound.
No, I say and fire.
I gasped aloud when I read this on the first go-round. Notice how the varied uses of "to say" informs the urgency of the story, and then at the end, it's "panic" not "say" in the last line. This is precision writing. And it's a complete story. This is amazing work.
(2) Nate Wilson 12:26pm
Once school ended, Ben and Jacob headed for the woods. They followed the winding mountain trail until they heard the small creak on the other side of the ridge. The boys clambered up and each took a peak. From either point, the old mill was barely visible, clothed in vines.
Inside, a gaunt figure slumped against rusty machinery, its arm snagged in the gears. The boys poked and prodded the body a while, till it stirred.
"Please... help me," the man said weekly.
Jacob dragged out water and crackers before joining Ben at the door. He smiled.
"Maybe next Friday."
Of course I was drawn in by the macabre story but then, reading more carefully, there it was. "Weekly"
Oh my god.
To use a homonym to twist the story is just plain ever lovin' brilliant.
Then, when you read it again, you realize he's playing with more than just weekly. Brilliant stuff here.
(3) Emi PdeS 4:48pm
Don't like to brag or nuthin', but I’ve been lookin’. Been all over. Last week, I almost snagged one at Schoenfeld’s. But no. I tell you, nobody’s got any.
Course, that didn’t stop him from promising one to my kid. I told him, but it’s like he didn’t speak English.
A fine thing, promising a kid.
Real whiskers, but bad breath. Yellow teeth, creaky voice.
So Mama thanked Santa Claus, too. Thanked him with an ice skate blade to the neck.
‘Cause nobody’s got any business promising my boy something he can’t have.
A fine thing, promising a kid.
This is a brilliant example of voice.
(4) John Frain 3:04am
I’d been dead a week when I met Corinne, my intake interviewer. She had ligature marks too, so natural curiosity.
Hers were from someone’s hands, so I lied about my rope of guilt.
“They never fade away,” she warned. Calm, no rage. Presented my assignment.
“You need my signature?”
She pulled her collar. Showed her bruises. “I already have it. Welcome to purgatory.”
I didn’t recognize her. She hadn’t aged in thirty-seven years.
A gate creaked open. Peter speaking. “Sorry, sir. A snag in your paperwork. Corinne was too forgiving. Afraid you’ve been demoted.”
Some sins you keep paying for.
There's nothing flashy here, no word play, no sudden twists. It's just good clean storytelling at its best, and like meatloaf and mashed potatoes on a cold day, it's comfort food. I love this entry and I'm not sure I can explain why, other than it's just plain good writing. Not to say other entries weren't but this appeals to me a lot. If you don't love it, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with your taste or your judgement. It's a subjective biz.
As always, you guyz make this a very difficult choice. Any of these finalists are worthy of a win, and picking one really shouldn't diminish the others.
In the end though, I had to go with Nate Wilson for that sublime word play with the prompts.
Nate, if you'll email me with your mailing address, and what kinds of books you like to read, I'll get you a prize in the mail.
Congratulations to all the short and long list entries, and many thanks to all of you who took the time to enter. I enjoy reading these contest entries very much. (In fact, I'm behind on answering queries today cause I wanted to read these first)