As a wordsmith of any experience will tell you, it's harder to write short than long--and the more you can do with little, the better at it you (probably) are. Though likely apocryphal, the story goes that Ernest Hemingway could break hearts with just six words: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn." Crafting a six-word novel is extreme--and a little absurd--but telling a fully developed story in 101 words? That's a worthy challenge, and one that more than 170 Boise Weekly readers threw themselves into.
For the 12th year running, Boise Weekly is pleased to unveil the winners of the 2013 Fiction 101 Contest. From the poetic to the bizarre, the sentimental and sardonic, below you'll find the top three finishers, plus two honorable mentions and five judges' picks.
Special thanks go to our judges, who parsed through the entries over the course of a month--plus a rapid-fire adjudication session at BWHQ--and artist Erin Ruiz, whose brilliant work has illustrated the contest winners this year, and in several years past.
They say brevity is the soul of wit, and this introduction has already run more than twice as long as our 101-word mandate, so in signing off, we save our final thanks to those who submitted stories. Winners or no, they prove that you BW readers are a lyrical lot, which I guess must be why we get along so well.
Executive director of the Idaho Humanities Council
Director of Literature at the Idaho Commission
on the Arts
Owner of Rediscovered Bookshop
Professor of English at Boise State University and award-winning author of Volt
Adjunct professor of English at Boise State University, author and former Idaho writer-in-residence
FIRST PLACE, $400
JSP Jacobs, Huntington Beach, Calif.
"It Is True, I Loved Him"
In 1986, I was one of Andrew McCarthy's personal assistants. I went cross country skiing with him and peeled his oranges. He was trying to quit smoking then, so he was eating a lot of oranges. I'd peel two in advance, kept in sandwich bags inside my parka's fur-lined pocket.
"I know, right?" he'd say to someone important/lovely/both, citrus-scented breath puffing into the cold. He'd reach his hand backwards at me, wiggle his fingers (his signal for orange. Now). I'd remove one, flex my thumbs in its center, plop it into his palm. It would fall open like a moist bloom.
SECOND PLACE, $250
Nicole LeFavour, Boise
My mother was the jackalope queen of Challis sagebrush. When I was born, she carried me papoose-style laced in deer hide under a rabbit skin shade, hunted ducks and geese in the marshlands. In town, she wore a long knife on her belt, drank firefighters under the table at Bux bar. At home she met white tie missionaries on the bridge with her shotgun. She wrangled draft horses and ranch wives, fed my sister and me frogs' legs and liver, rare; finally lost us in a run away buggy incident, bee stung horse streaking through hay fields where the mustangs ran.
THIRD PLACE, $150
Cody Gittings, Boise
"The Hungriest Man on Earth"
Bellagio devours single engine airplanes. On stage beneath the Big Top, the crowd goes wild, yet Bellagio longs for something with more... substance.
He begins with his ex-wives' homes, consuming them chronologically, sparing no time to check for occupants. He doesn't mind the screaming, and crunching of bones.
His appetite swells. Before long, the landscape resembles a quiet sort of devastation; half-eaten buildings miming crooked teeth.
Unsatisfied, Bellagio lies on his back and weeps. There is food on other planets, surrounded by stars, he believes. There must be. A rusted crop duster stands idling in a field nearby.
Bellagio takes flight.
HONORABLE MENTION, $50
Eric Wallace, Eagle
The first two spires he blew to hell with his 12 gauge.
The third he demolished with a full-choked bore.
One spire every week.
Churches panicked. Cops stalked.
He switched to rifle and scope. Harder, but he'd studied bullet selection, learned to fire devastating clusters.
His daughter had died in a schoolyard shooting. Pure randomness, officials said.
He had no argument with the NRA. No problem with the Second Amendment.
His dispute was with God.
If God allowed carnage, why did congregations still so complacently babble heavenward?
He'd sever the damned connection.
Five spires down. Many more to go.
HONORABLE MENTION, $50
Doug Kizer, Boise
During math, he passed her a slip of paper saying he loved her. After recess he found it cut into strips on his desk. He tried again, tiny triangles left on his chair.
So, he found a rock and scratched her name on it during art and later tossed it far out in the pond by his house.
The next morning he wasn't surprised to see her but she was changed. Her smile, her laugh, she was no longer someone he could ever love.
Later he found another rock, the kind he liked, round and smooth and cool to his touch.
JUDGE'S PICK, RICK ARDINGER, $25
Maurice Hamlin, Nampa
"One Day at the Volcano"
A loveable 1952 Ford with its working vacuum tube radio once traveled a volcano. I helped by driving. We once discovered a hidden place nested in sugar cane where wisdom and produce sat under a galvanized, corrugated, open raftered roof. It was just three or four million years ago that where we parked arose from beneath a glistening ocean. Now this day at the volcano we joined in wonder. From the rafters above floated yellowed paper banners with the visions of philosophers and seekers there upon reflected. I glimpsed the world of hidden things, bought wilted vegetables and we drove away.
JUDGE'S PICK, CORT CONLEY, $25
Doug Kizer, Boise
He was cold and selfish when they made love. Each day she could feel him becoming more distant and blamed herself. She followed him when he went out and read his email when he wasn't looking. She didn't expect to find anything. She knew there was no other woman just as she knew it was all her fault. When he quit speaking to her altogether, she sat silently each night pretending nothing was wrong.
And then one day he was gone.
The next night she danced with the men in the bars. She could smell their need, feel their beating hearts.
JUDGE'S PICK, LAURA DELANEY, $25
Melanie Mendenhall, Boise
"Baby I'm Yours"
I never believed in reincarnation back when I promised you everything. I'm sure I would have thought better of the beach and barefoot vows. You, in a tie, for once.
Now we're licking our feathers seaside, watching the younger birds strut themselves across this sandy stage while our day unrolls itself like every other day. Wherever I go, there you are. Some would find it comforting. Same face, same thoughts for all eternity.
It's not that I don't love you anymore. I do, okay. Even that corny little song you coo before you sleep. But a bird's gotta spread her wings.
JUDGE'S PICK, ALAN HEATHCOCK, $25
Sheila Robertson, Boise
"The High Cost of Dishwashers"
Pop was complainin' I don't see good 'nough nowadays to get the dishes clean. So the kids bought me a secondhand dishwasher.
Come night, Pop saw something scuttlin' around. They was cockroaches from outta that dishwasher. I called the secondhand man to come get that dang thing. He ran and ran it. Said it washed them all out.
Next week Pop found roaches in my toaster, my microwaver and my bread makin' machine. Yelled how we couldn't spray poison and eat outta them. Threw them and the dishwasher out.
I wash by feel again, like I always did.
Pop's not complainin'.
JUDGE'S PICK, CLAY MORGAN, $25
Patricia Staehelin, Scarsdale, N.Y.
She asked God for a computer.
He said, "You don't need one. Just peer down through the clouds."
And there she saw it. Her whole life, on eBay.
Bobby's eggcup. The clown was still smiling hard enough to keep an adult world at bay. Her white gloves with curly fur at the wrists--plastic still protecting her memories.
One dollar and twenty-six cents for her set of ruby red anchor hocking tumblers! That wouldn't cover
And the glass luncheon set in its
Wouldn't it be nice, she thought, to have just one more tuna sandwich and tomato soup.