The micro-story fiction writing contest is back! Just as in years past, we challenged the writers of Ventura County to give us their best short stories comprising of only 101 words — no poems got through the gate — and what an amazing array of unique tales we received.

From dark humor to political statements to heartwarming stories, we read and reread through dozens of entries and found this year’s best of the best — a story of a tragic predestined accident, a unique love-match experience, a painful, regrettable situation and what winning the lottery will do to a relationship.

Congratulations to our winners and honorable mentions, and we appreciate everyone’s participation in this year’s Fiction 101 contest.

Here are the winners and honorable mentions….

 

First placeF

Strangers in the Night
by Jason Erik Ward

It was a chance encounter that I wish had been avoided.

I remember the brilliant spark in her eye as I came around the corner.
That radiant glow should have been my cue to lay heavy on the brakes,
to avoid tragic destiny and a mortal blow.

She seemed intent on avoiding me — turning and walking away.

I felt sure in my cautious approach that safe passage could be made.

Though I mistook us both for smarter, our fates were synchronized in slow, stop-motion frames.

It was an excruciatingly slow and crunching thud under the tire.

I’m sorry, Miss Didelphidae.

 

fSecond place

The Lemon Peeling
by Pat Skees

Two lines shuffled toward the platform under the canopy-covered space. Women snaked from the left and men from the right.

Attention alternated between the current peeling couple and the other line. Counting backward only approximated probable pairings. Last-minute skittishness shortened both lines, and leapfrogging seemed to be, if not sanctioned, at least tolerated.

With a lemon between their mouths, the peeling began while both strummed a zither. The lore goes that as the peeling is stripped away, so, too, are inhibitions.

Advance. The old man, heart racing, looked into the young woman’s eyes.

 

Third place — tief

The Limits of Personal Expression
by Lee Sherman

Delia was in pain. She could taste blood. The stud kept knocking against her teeth, making a sound that reminded her of shaking a can of spray paint.

For two days, all she could ingest were cold smoothies, placing the straw well to the back of her throat and a little to the side to avoid jarring the foreign object she had introduced to her unsuspecting tongue tissues. Her mother, with her customary derision, asked why she would do “such a thing.” 

“I wanted to ex-thpreth my-thelf.”

Those words echoed in her ears; why hadn’t she just pierced them instead?

 

fThird place — tie

First and last
by Jay Windsor

Johnny and Janie had moved in together recently. He had some charm; she had a good job. Then Janie hit the lottery for $2.5 million.

Next day, Johnny selected a rolling toolbox from the Sears catalog. Craftsman. When Janie got home, he showed it to her. “Ain’t she sweet? She’s even on sale!”

Janie pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check, payable to Johnny, and handed it to him.

“Honey, the tool box is only $795. This check’s for $5,000. I don’t get it!”

Janie said, calmly, “That’s for first, last and a security deposit, John. Sunday. Noon. Be gone.”

 

Honorable mentions

The better in theory award

Wanted
by Bob Chapel

That was my wife under the caption WANTED FOR BANK ROBBERY.

“Your picture is in the post office!”

“I should have mentioned that; it just never came up.”

“But why …”

“I found a darling little skirt at the Gap, and my card was maxed out, and I just had to have it, so at the bank I stuck my hand in my pocket like I had a gun and asked for 50 dollars. I’ll show you the skirt.”

“But the picture …”

“Looks like my mother. Let’s forget about it.”

We did … almost. But I’ve been thinking. If it’s that easy ….

 

The movin’ forward award

Ash Thursday
by Sheldon Miller

The moonless night displayed a corner of dazzling color — flickering golds and heartbreak blues. The Meltzers home, burning in high winds, crackled and crumbled with mournful sounds.

Safely away, the family, sitting at McDonald’s, stared at smiling Ronald McDonald.  Bill put a loving hand on Amy’s shoulder.  Two-year-old Brenda, in mother Amy’s arms, sucked a reassuring thumb.  They saw swirling flames, alive and hawk-like, tearing at house timbers, eating hungrily their beds, photos, bicycles and memories.

Bill, hollow-eyed, turned to Amy.  “We’ll rebuild,” he croaked with a freckled voice of ashes, extinguishing any more words ….

Best way to scrounge up extra cash

Economic Downturns
by Lee Sherman

They held hands and surveyed the accumulated possessions of their lives together, laid out for sale upon the cement of the driveway, under the thick marine layer: a couch, a dining set, the treadmill they never used, the crib their son had recently grown too big for. 

He played with a ball in the side yard, happy and oblivious to the changes that had brought them to this point. They held each other close, both wanting to cry, but holding it in, and hoping that they would make enough money for the U-haul and the gas back to Michigan.

 

Most interesting visual

Untitled
by Jonathon Rios

So there I was, running down Main Street completely naked with a bouncing syringe needle deep in my right butt cheek. The thing that struck me as weird, besides the hypodermic attack that I was in the process of escaping, wasn’t the biting cold of the 2 a.m. air, it was how painful asphalt is to run on while barefoot. 

When I asked for a shot at the bar, that’s not the kind of shot that I expected to get.

Why did the bartender do that to me while I was using the trough in the restroom, and why didn’t someone stop him from sticking me, stop me from taking everything else off or at least give me shoes to run in?

 

The “Is it getting hot in here?” award

Breakfast
by Patricia Lynn Belkowitz

Bright summer morning splashed through the open doorway as she looked out upon the expanse of green lawn before her. A random breeze caused the sheer fabric of her robe to billow out around her silhouetted form. Behind her lay the rumpled bed.

As he studied her from across the room, his desire began to build. He walked up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She sighed and eased back up against his nakedness. Brushing her hair aside, he nuzzled her neck. She shuddered as she felt his lips touch her skin.

“Breakfast?” he asked.

“You,” she replied.

 

The demented roommate award

Prank Time
by Joey Waltz

It was perfect; my roommate didn’t know what was gonna hit him. A storm of hilarity was about to ensue.

He wakes up to go surfing, and finds his board broken in half. HAHAHA!!

Then he goes to buy a new one, and finds I have demagnetized his plastic. HOHOHO!!

He goes to the bank, and discovers his account canceled by his ‘’wife.’’  HEEHEEHEE!!

He feels queasy, and remembers that lasagna I made for him last night. He pukes; I laugh!

Finally, I end the day by barging into the bathroom and shooting him in the head!!! Oh, MAN!!! What COMEDY!!!

 

The Clueless award

Menton 1989
by Philip Scott Wikel

In Menton, on the Cote d’Azur, there’s a youth hostel on the Plateau St. Michel. You must climb 1,000 steps to the Auberge de Jeunesse. A sign above the door reads “égalité, fraternité liberté.”

A white South African sits alone.

I ask, “What’s it like there?”

“How do you mean?”

“The political situation.”

“How do you mean?”

“The apartheid thing.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You know, Nelson Mandela?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean … the media.” (He shakes his head)

“You did say you were from South Africa?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

 

The best worst-case sci-fi scenario

Passage
by Gerome Mauricio

Mr. Costman answered the door, and then dropped to his knees at gunpoint.

Assembly Guards. Elite.

“Leah Lynn is declared ‘Fit for Society,’ ” one said.

Her Hormonal Disposition Report was shown.

Authentic government seal.

Her mother begged repeatedly, “NO! TOO YOUNG!”

“No warning? What did Mom know?” Leah thought.

Leah was taken; handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded. 

She was unbound at their ‘Maturation Center,’ then escorted down hallways. 

She saw numbered doors.

213.

Leah was pushed in.

Soft music.

Candles.

Some unknown boy. He sat tense, nervous, on a lavishly styled bed.

The door locked from outside, confining them together.

Leah trembled.