Every seven days since the creation of the planet Wii-klee (which happened when a speck of creative dust broke through a black hole's catalytic filter and collided with a volatile, ambition molecule, creating a supernova in the galaxy known as 523-broad), the inhabitants dispatched a ream of communication into the ether of the dark universe.
Between each massive launch, the inhabitants worked tirelessly under the guidance of a leader known only as "The Diva." For six days and nights, the Wii-kleeans lifted every rock and shook every tree in search of the communique that would disperse into the universe to resettle in the nooks and crannies of fertile thought, grow into fully formed opinions in their own right and make their way back home, navigating through meteor fields, avoiding gravity waves and defying all odds. Upon their return, much like a species of fish found on Earth, they returned to explode and die, thereby reseeding the crop of information upon which the Wii-kleeans depended for survival.
Things were chugging along just fine until a rogue wave of anti-matter sideswiped Wii-klee, and time sputtered, coughed, then stopped altogether. And the whole system went haywire.
The cessation of time proved bothersome for the Wii-kleeans.
They knew not how to count the days. Without a measure of time, they began missing the designated launch every seven days, and the reams of communication couldn't get out. When the reams failed to go out, fewer fully formed opinions arrived back on Wii-klee. The entire planet was in peril (as determined by Anderson Cooper).
The Diva had to act quickly to save her kingdom.
"Henceforth," cried the leader, "the kingdom of Wii-klee will operate under a new system of marking the passage of time, and yearly the clock will start anew from the outside."
The Diva proposed a plan in which inhabitants of the universe would be asked to submit a story of exactly 101 words every 365 days. As a sign of gratitude, The Diva would appoint a panel of judges to choose the most worthy stories and award their authors with cash prizes. For the planet Wii-klee, the contest, which became known as Fiction 101, would signal the start of a new time count and the beginning of a new era.
And if you believe all that, BW owns a ski resort about an hour north we'll sell you at a very reasonable price. Seriously, it's Fiction 101, so we thought we'd have a little fiction fun of our own. After all, the newsroom at BW is a bunch of displaced fiction writers masquerading as newsies.
Welcome to 2009 and to the seventh year of Fiction 101, an annual contest in which we turn to you, our creative readers, to entertain one another and us with short, short, short stories of exactly 101 words. Thanks go to this year's panel of judges, Rick Ardinger from the Idaho Humanities Council and Limberlost Press, Pam Atkins from Borah High School, Cort Conley from Idaho Commission on the Arts, Janet Holmes from Boise State's English department and returning judge Russ Stoddard from Oliver Russell.
As you read through this year's winners, you may notice a few names crop up more than once. We assure you that's complete coincidence; judges reviewed only anonymous entries.
Finally, thanks to you, readers. Sincerely, thanks for taking the time to pen such wacky stuff. Without you, Fiction 101 would be just another time suck. And congratulations, winners.
CARS PACKED WITH DIRT
MICHAEL PRENN, STAR • $500
Daddy watched me play with the cars. "How's the drivers see through that dirt?" he asked. Any kid knew it was a dumb question. They didn't have drivers. It was playing, that's all. I felt I had to answer something.
"They can't. They feel the track through the wheel."
He crushed out his cigarette. "Seems about right."
The ambulance came closer, no lights. Mom wheeled the oxygen tanks to the front door—weren't no use now. I raced the purple car along the porch and it flew into the pokeweed.
"Better go find that car," my dad said, and went inside.
MARK PERISON, BOISE
The AM radio crackled in the southern Indiana summer heat: "Continued power outages in Perry and Spencer Counties." My father dragged his hulking Weber into the front yard, beneath our huge elm, and began grilling every thawed thing from the freezer. I made a sign, "Free Meat!" One by one, neighbors emptied their dark fridges and set up beneath the tree. Children gorged themselves on steak and cold cuts. Later, I lay in the hot dark, belly full, listening to adults under my open window laughing and drinking warm beer. I woke before dawn, sad to see the hall light on.
JESUS AND MARY
RACHELL MCCOLLY, BOISE
The jewelry booth is between Belt Buckle Bill's kiosk, which also sells large leather purses and clown dolls, and El Pajarito-Musica Para El Mundo. Seventeen-year-old Tami, who is seven months pregnant, works five days a week. When she steps out of the booth, people sometimes stare at her belly in judgment.Her boyfriend brings her a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, carrots and Jello, which they eat in the mall arcade. Tattooed on his arm, in the place where they look for veins to pull blood, is inscribed Joseph, which is what they have named the baby. They love him already.
PASSING TIMELISA DAY, BOISE • $75
After he slept with her neighbor and burned up the clutch in her Toyota, he lost his favorite Timex. She enjoyed every second, watching him search for it. Eventually he accused her of taking it. She accused him of cheating. They both lied. He moved out before spring semester. Twenty years later, one night at a 7-Eleven, she unwittingly held open the door for the guy who still owed her 200 bucks. "Thanks," he said without noticing. She watched him grind into reverse as he left the parking lot. Sometimes he wondered about the old watch. She knew it still worked.
IN TONGUESLUKE FELT, BOISE • $75
Inside Foursquare Pentecostal, our mother paces aisles, swallows hot coffee, and waits her turn to be knocked down by Jesus.
My kid brother spins this yarn about his birth: says the nurse on duty swears on a stack of bibles she's never seen a baby flail so much. Says she nearly fumbled the catch. He signs this story with whipping, exaggerated arm motions. He's mute, see? That's part of the joke.
Soon, we'll line up between pews with Mom. She'll stand, singing, raising her arms toward God. My brother will mouth silent hymns, praying, waiting his turn to be born again.
RICK ARDINGER'S PICK: SIDESHOW OF LOVEJAMES MCCOLLY, BOISE • $40
Donnie's tail stopped growing when he was nineteen. It reached to the floor and was strong, yet nimble. His popular stunts included opening a jar of pickles and composing limericks on a typewriter.
He was billed as The Amazing Monkey Boy, which he hated. He had a tail, that was all. Otherwise, he was like anyone else; with the same dreams and desires.
He loved the Wolf Girl. Sharing a stage year after year, you get to know someone. Donnie never told her how he longed to wrap his tail around her waist, pull her close, and groom her downy beard.
CORT CONLEY'S PICK: LEGACYDON WATTS, BOISE • $40
Born lived died in Idaho. To war in 1942, home in 1946. Brought home souvenir wooden shoes from Holland. Brought home poster of Eisenhower's proclamation to German citizens—we are here as liberators, not conquerors.
I have his ribbon, brass, and ruptured duck discharge pin. And a ring he had made for his brother in the Pacific, who didn't come home.
I bought them at a thrift store in Boise. He was a son, father, grandfather. After he died they gave it all to charity. Nobody cared.
I cared. Bought it all for twenty bucks.
And that was a good war.
JANET HOLMES' PICK: ROAD-TRIP TO THE LAND OF BUDDHAS
JOHN COLVIN, BOISE • $40
We cruised along the interstate past midnight, Orion to our right, the Big Dipper to our left. Sitting to my side as I held the wheel steady, my friend draped his face against the window. I had slept earlier, but now, when it was his turn, he refused to shut his eyes. Night was the great ocean and dawn the white whale he sought. This was his obsession, to somehow endure a night from beginning to end and, for once, to see the dawn glow beyond strips of neon and headlights.
He smiled, said nothing.
"Awake yet?" I said.
PAM ATKINS' PICK: THE STORY OF CREATION
JR WALSH, BOISE • $40
His left nipple had seen better days and both hers were ruddy Tic Tacs round the clock. Adam and Eve were semi-professional Slip 'n Sliders. They were acutely aware of the occupational hazards but needed to eat. Playing charity benefits made it almost worth the discomfort.
When you're running at a long yellow piece of wet vinyl and launching yourself face first onto the barfloor, you're not performing, you're telling stories.
After shows, they autographed souvenir scarves and Frisbees. Wham-O threatened litigation. They switched to mittens.
Their booking agent asked, "What are you doing for the Lord?" He was never pleased.
RUSS STODDARD'S PICK: FRANK'S APPETITE
JIM MCCOLLY, BOISE • $40
Frank's fingernails had grown such that he could no longer operate zippers and buttons. He hired Annabelle, an immigrant from Belaraus to dress him and polish his yellowed talons. Disgusted by Frank's sloth, she thought only of Vincent the butcher, her lover, as she stuffed Frank into his clothes like so much trembling sausage into an under-sized casing. Vincent learned meat cutting from his mother; watching her deftly remove flesh from bone. Vincent did not love Annabelle. Frank paid him to sleep with her, and to share the graphic details, which he savored as she wrestled daily with his libidinal girth.
KIDS' FICTION 101 WINNER
WEIRD THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT SCHOOL, EMMA BARKER, AGE 6
Once my friends found a green shell and blue glowing footprints leading to a dark hole with green water. We found pine cones with secrets locked inside. There was an eyeball in the grass. It didn't look like somebody made it. It looked like it was always there. Now and forever, it will always be there. Lots of people noticed that the mud turned to stars. We also found a few skeleton bones. This is a real story. This happened to me when I was with my friends. Also, I kept this a secret, but I found pieces of squid legs.