With each passing year, our Fiction 101 contest submissions never cease to surprise and impress. This year, over 70 entrants submitted well over 100 entries, ranging from the clever and cute to the dark and deranged, including touching on the current combustible political atmosphere. In the end, it was the lighthearted and whimsical that proved to be the winners by consensus. One thing, however, that should not be overlooked, which is the real point of this contest, one entrant added with her submission: “Grateful your contest got me writing again.” Hopefully such inspired creativity will be contagious. Enjoy this year’s winners and honorable mentions! — Michael Sullivan

For placeholders, contact editor@vcreporter.com about prizes.

FIRST PLACE

Grandpa Reads Little Mary a Bedtime Story

Illustration by Kevin Whipple

by Chris Walker

“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well.”

“That’s creepy, Grandpa. He put her inside a giant vegetable? She’ll die in there.”

“It’s just a nursery rhyme. To help you go to sleep.”

“Sounds more like a murder mystery.”

“Actually, when Peter was implicated, the police wanted to know where he got that big of a pumpkin. Turns out, some outfit in Jersey was advertising really, really big pumpkins on the internet, no questions asked. What do you think of that?”

Oh, she’s already asleep.

SECOND PLACE

Beg Pardon

Wendell Jones

by Wendell Jones

Sitting foggily, with a hangover, in his living room, Charlie heard his wife changing the sheets in their bedroom. She screamed, “Charlie, you’re 80. Way too old for this nonsense!”

Something about her tone reminded him of 40 years ago. He didn’t want to think about that, and he hoped his wife had forgotten it too. Way back then, he’d cheated on his wife for the first time, and she’d found another woman’s earring in the bedding.

What the hell, now?

“Christ, Charlie, whose damn hearing aid is this!”

THIRD PLACE TIE

The Billiwack Monster

Richard Senate

by Richard Senate
John walked into the small Santa Paula country store.
He heard the shopkeeper has seen the Billiwack Monster, the creature John had vowed to shoot.
The old man behind the counter nodded to him.
“I heard you saw the monster?” John asked.
“Ja, I saw him,” the old man said with a thick German accent.  “The thing was born here, a creature of science.”
“You seem to know a lot about the thing?”
“Ja, I helped to make Hans during the war.”
“Where is it now?”
The old German smiled slowly and answered,
“Right behind you. Get him Hans!”

Drop Dead Looker

Craig Minney

by Craig Minney

In the last 50 years

I have never locked my doors.

In the last 40 years

I have not been in a fist fight.

In the last 30 years

I have yet to chain my bike.

In the last 20 years

I have not raised my voice to a loved one.

In the last decade

I have not handled a weapon.

In the last five years

I did not give anyone the finger.

In the last year

I did not step on an ant.

I haven’t hurt anything all day

But I can kill you with a stare.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

THE “YOU FOOL! HELP YOURSELF” AWARD

I Love My Family

by Rosalind Harris

They couldn’t enjoy the Bahamian water from the shore. Oh no, they had to get in it. I watch with contempt as they argued.

“You’re not paddling in the right direction.”

“Yes I am. I know what I’m doing. It’s you.”

You can’t blame me. I’m not paddling at all.”

Somehow, the mutinous crew of one and the captain manage to tip their canoe. My daughter swam to shore. My husband cumbersomely stroked backwards while crying for help.

Some wives would swim to the rescue. Not me. I stood on the shore and wondered, why doesn’t he just stand up?

WE ARE IMMIGRANTS AWARD

California, Here We Come

by Anne Elliott

Eliza McKenna walks slowly through the dank lower east side street, New York, 1901.

Her third child now dead. No fresh water and the darkness in the attic where they live killed them. She remembers Armagh County, Ireland, home, and the apple orchards. Seventeen years have passed since leaving.

The thought comes to her like a sunbeam. They must take the other children and leave.

Entering the attic. “Charles, light a candle and pull out the map.”

“Sure now, why?”

Map flat on the floor. “Here, this is where. Cali … for … nia. There’s sunshine and water. Maybe apples. We’ll  take a train.”

THE CREEPER AWARD

Untitled

by Norm Tappin

I had a girlfriend once. I called her my girlfriend; she just thought of me as the neighbor. It wasn’t till the night of the fire that I expressed my true feelings. She pretended to be terrified when she discovered it was me who used gasoline to spell out “Be Mine!” on her lawn. She moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address even though I asked for it through my probation officer. I am over her. I now have my eye on one that lives in the upstairs apartment. She doesn’t know it yet but we are going to get married.

SUDDENLY INSPIRED AWARD

The Birthday Gift

by William Vietinghoff

Aunt Bess slid the apple pie slices on the plates in front of Ralph and his mother, Bernice.

“Happy twelfth birthday, Ralph,” she sang.

“Not hungry,” he grumbled.

“Why,” Bernice asked,”

“My essay is due tomorrow in English class; I don’t know what to write.”

“An outstanding pie,” Bernice exclaimed.

Aunt Bess smiled. “Ralph made the crust; better than I ever did.”

Ralph looked at his mother enjoying a chunk of pie. A sense of accomplishment he never felt before poured over him.

Bernice patted Ralph. “Want my help with your essay?”

“No. I know exactly what to say.”

UGLY HUMANITY AWARD

Empathy

by Robert Schwartz

At mile five of my run, I saw him.

“Hey man, you OK?”

He raised his head.  Rheumy red eyes. The stench palpable.

“Can I help you?” I reached for him.

“Don’t touch me, asshole.  Give me money.”

“Money?” Gesturing at my sweaty running shorts.

“Then go fuck yourself.”

“I didn’t have to stop, you know,” My emotion made words. “I’m trying to help a fellow human being and you treat me like shit!”  I looked down at him, unlike me showing no emotion.

I shouted back as I headed home into the warm day, “Fuck you too!”

CREATURE COMFORT AWARD

Untitled

by Kerry Bryan

Jenny is under no illusion that the deeply caring, exuberant greeting she receives when entering the house is anything other than an expedition for any paper products she might have on her person. It has taken him some time to find his oeuvre, tissue shredding, and his obsession rivaled only by tennis balls and food of any kind. The sound coming from her coat pocket is something akin to a truffle hunt or bulldozer but, as his muzzle emerges triumphantly, little flecks of tissue sticking out of his teeth like Tibetan prayer flags, Jenny can only smile and say “Good boy.”

ALL FOR THE RATINGS, ANY RATINGS AWARD

Untitled

by Cyndy Taschman

And now, the BIG award!” Samantha sparkled from the stage at the Tony Awards.

“Will it be a sweep?!” Brock taunted as he waved the sealed envelope at the spellbound audience.

The contenders for Best Play were about a man reflecting on life while on his deathbed, horses negotiating amongst themselves who’ll win races, an English rock band struggling to become famous, a woman’s plot to murder her cheating lover, and a vicious presidential election where one candidate bullied everyone standing in his way to rise to the top, regardless of fabrications and consequences.

“And the winner is … again … THE LYIN’ KING!”

THIS IS THE REAL LIFE AWARD

In Good Company

by P. Maguire

“Hmmm… sore muscles, intermittent disorientation, difficulty concentrating… when did these start?”

 “Around the 9th of November last year. I’ve changed my diet, tried meditation, been exercising more, trying to focus on work, stay positive. I’m at a loss,” Dan responded.

“Well, you have ‘muscolotrumpitis’ — a physiological reaction to the monumental ego and mental instability that’s now the principal of a very powerful, influential government. Everyday there’s another OMG – what’s next? Since then, thinking, intelligent and sensitive people like you have been showing up at clinics worldwide with the same symptoms. Time’s the only cure.”  

 “But …”

“Remember Dan, you are not alone.”

FAR AWAY PLACES AWARD

I think Jake is Turning Japanese

by Rusty Shackleford

On a regular night in a regular city a regular boy named Jake realized that in order to become an anime and/or manga artist cum celebrity he would have to move to Kyoto, Japan. So, packing away his drawing tools and semi-erotic inspiration, Jake hitchhiked across America to the west coast, where he hopped aboard a fishing vessel with a picture of his mother the only token of the life he had left behind. “Mother,” Jake said to the photo. “Me no naka ni iretemo itakunai.” The coast faded in to obscurity and Jake was alone with his hentai at last.

THE SURPRISE ENDING AWARD

Untitled

by Natalie Williams

We were shooting pool at Mary’s Crab Deck.  After a couple of games, Marshall adjourned to the bathroom.  He returned several minutes later with an odd look on his face and a large, damp spot on his shirt.  As he approached, it became clear that the damp spot was giving off a strong, cloying scent.  Marshall told us that he’d made use of a cologne-dispensing machine while in the bathroom; he expected to receive a scented wipe and was surprised by the machine’s automatic spray feature.  Eric said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t put your quarter in the condom machine.”

SAD, DARK PLACE AWARD

Come here often?

by Dianne Bates

“Hi!”

“Hi…”

“Come here often?”

“Not really. Sometimes.”

“You’re very pretty.”

“Oh…thanks.”

“Date?”

“We just met.”

“So?”

“Well … OK.”

“Tonight? 8:00?”

“I guess so.”

“Address?”

“101 West Flower. #22.”

“Roommate?”

“No.”

“Did you mind the stairs?”

“No problem.”

“Good.”

“I love your dress.”

“Thanks.”

“Neighbors?”

“Away.”

“Considerate.”

“Funny!”

“Funny?”

“Glass of wine first?”

“Sure.”

“Another?”

“Why not?”

“Let’s go.”

“Little kiss first?”

“Well…”

“Oh, c’mon.”

“Hey, wait.”

“Problem?”

“Stop.”

“No.”

“Stop! Ow! No!”

“Typical.”

“Stop!”

“Shut up!”

“Please, no!”

“Bitch!”

“Help! Can’t breathe … can’t …”

“There, there. So quiet now.”

“Sorry about your dress.”

 

“Hi!”

“Hello.”

“Come here often?”