There are a million and one ways to write a 101-word short story, and every year, the variety of entries people submit to the Boise Weekly Fiction 101 contest astounds me. Trends do emerge, though. The usual themes include family and nature, violent death, politics, youth and old age. This year, a rash of entries waxed anxious over Fiction 101 deadlines.
Getting the word out about the contest, we may have pushed a bit hard for some readers.
In aggregate, Fiction 101 submissions are a window into Boise Weekly readers' passions and concerns. All year long, we write about what we think they should know, and for one issue at the beginning of the new year, we give up a few pages to their soaring imaginations. It's one of the ways we can tell our readers that we couldn't do it without them.
This year, readers entered more than 180 entries to the contest, and in late 2018, our group of eminent judges selected yet another fine crop of winners. A word about our judges: The tradition of this contest being overseen by excellent minds continued this year, with a panel comprising Rediscovered Books Co-owner Laura DeLaney, Idaho Commission on the Arts Literature Director Jocelyn Robertson, HomeGrown Theatre Manager Chad Shohet, The Cabin Operations Manager Hillary Bilinski and my colleague here at Boise Weekly, Staff Writer Lex Nelson.
As always, we hope you enjoy the stories and, if you can stand the pressure, submit 101 words of your own later this year!
First Place: "The Rabbit" by Carol Keogh Lindsay
I saw it first. A dead rabbit, belly eviscerated, maggots at work. My mother stayed back, waiting, watching me. The rabbit's black eyes stared, milky and unseeing. I grabbed a stick, stabbed at its intestines, strangely rubbery and strong, impenetrable. My mother appeared abruptly, gripping my forearm, knocking the stick away. She took my hand in hers, pulled me down, and together we stroked the fur, the spine, gently examined organs as she described their elegant, symbiotic functions.
I returned alone every day until the rabbit absorbed fully into the forest floor. Until the skeleton fully emerged, perfectly formed, nature's census.
- Jeffrey C. Lowe
Second Place: "Traffic" by Isabelle Shifrin
Whiskers started sprouting from Delphia's chin when she was 40 .
Get laser hair removal, her friends told her. But Delphia refused, on principle. At a red light, she pulled at a particularly pernicious whisker with her fingernails.
"If I were a real feminist, I would pick my nose in traffic," she thought. The man in the half-ton truck next to her examined the end of his finger, then reached to wipe it someplace below the steering wheel.
Then, suddenly, unbelievably, truck man looked over and winked. The whisker simultaneously came loose in Delphia's fingers, curled like the ribbon on a present.
Third Place: "Mony Mony" by Dusty Aunan
Billy Idol's "Mony Mony" plays and it becomes clear who at the wedding feels most untethered. Aunt Regina gallops around the dance floor, both pony and rider. Her husband fails to entangle her in a slow dance.
Off the shoulder of a kneeling photographer, Regina launches onto the head table, then to the canvas roof of DJ Scary Gary's tent, then into the darkness above the fairy lights.
"There!" someone yells. Regina's galloping shadow passes in front of the yellow moon.
Search parties are sent out into the woods. Scary Gary stays behind playing the macarena, chicken dance, and electric slide.
Honorable Mention: "Butterflyman" by Gabrielle Nelson
After Hank came home, she noticed his skin had the elastic feel of taffy. He couldn't remember their favorite breakfast place, but vividly recalled the red airless landscape he had come from, she could smell the dry sunsets on his breath. He reverently brought her comic books instead of flowers, he said understanding Superman would help. She stopped calling him Hank, now he was Knah. His skin wasn't green, but banana blush. Knah wore moon child clothes from the sixties and hibernated in a cocoon. When he emerged, her heart felt like a jellyfish, when they flew through clouds she laughed.
Honorable Mention: "Griselda" by JSP Jacobs
The ghost of me haunts my childhood home.
Its new owner is first frightened, then grateful for company. Griselda is old, alone, hair white and wild.
She makes butter sandwiches while we watch Frasier.
I show her the spot in my mother's bedroom where I was born, "So quickly Mom didn't have time to remove her shoes."
"I would've had a dozen babies like you," Griselda says. But we are both childless. She promises to will me the house, if I'll just stay.
When she hugs me, her arms pass through my silvery body, back around to embrace herself.
- Jeffrey C. Lowe
- "Mony Mony"
Lily checked the time. Ten minutes until dinner: enough to avoid detection.
She opened the website's homepage. Login required.
"Damn!" Lily felt naughty for swearing.
She rummaged through the drawer next to her bed and found the paper with the password. Her skittish fingers managed to enter it.
The warm ring of a message notification. From him.
Lily read it and blushed. She sent an equally daring reply. What she knew at her age was amazing.
Footsteps! Fun over, Lily closed the tablet and her eyes.
Nursing home life wasn't bad, Lily thought, if you knew your way around social media.
By Mark Perison
"It takes three to tango!" He was always saying weird things like that, technically incorrect but sometimes more interesting. I tried to imagine the six-legged dance floor monster he'd conjured as I handed him the gun.
He held it out sideways, like some deranged gangster from TV. "Habba labista, Baby!" He pulled the trigger. Nothing. Of course. That's always how it always went with him. The can still sat on the fence, mocking us.
He examined the gun for a second and then chucked it into the tall grass. "The road to Hell is paved with grey intersections." It certainly was.
"Gum Reassignment Surgery"
By Ross Hargreaves
The Periodontist's assistant has my blood on her gloves. I love her. They carve gum from the roof of my mouth and sew it onto recession above my back teeth. Recession caused by my suffering from degenerate mouth breathing.
"Suction," the Periodontist says to her.
"Doing okay," she says to me.
"Sure," I say around tubes and fingers.
I know this love can never be reciprocated. Not after the intimate hour she's spent in my mouth. And yet, when the Periodontist leaves to check on other patients, she applies balm to my lips and very gently wipes blood from my tongue.
By Mark McAllister
The barman warned her of traveling at night, said there were bandits and highwaymen on the road, that it wasn't safe for a lady to travel alone. He indicated several escorts for hire sprawled about the pub. She sized the men up: a scoundrel, a brute, a roguish youngster. Seeing her distaste, he suggested traveling with a gentleman who would be taking the road himself later that night, if she could delay. She thanked him, but presently took her leave.
Two miles out of town she eased her horse off the road into a thicket, shadowed from the moonlight, and waited.
By Eric Wallace
The explosion was benevolent. It vaulted an intact Henry, tightly buckled into 3F, out, up and away from the disintegrating jet. His seat reached a quick, shuddering apogee, hesitated, dropped, plunging him downward through the silent, frigid clouds. His silk tie strained heavenward, the steepled point fraying. Henry frowned. His shoes, high-shined, and his laptop, mid-spreadsheet, had fled. He'd not be properly dressed or fully prepared for the meeting. His bosses would be apoplectic. And, besides, when he landed, who would be there to pick him up and get him to the hotel? It was all so inconvenient, so terribly inconvenient.
"The Parrots of Brooklyn"
By Allison Maier
I first saw them on the neighbor's clothesline, a huddle of green and yellow against a slate sky. They flew away hours before the snow fell and before you came home, bourbon-sour and slurring imagined indignities.
You didn't believe me—even after I explained how their ancestors, destined for domesticity, escaped a crate at the airport. How they established themselves undaunted across the borough, their delicate feathers masking steel. You never heard their frenetic chorus or watched them pilfer crumbs as I drank coffee on the front stoop. You always underestimated the fortitude of instinct, the way it tends toward freedom.