April 2022 (Issue #39)

The premise for Issue #39 was


We challenged contestants to write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters arrive somewhere and find something they don’t expect… IN THE STORY’S FIRST SENTENCE.

We received 348 contest entries. Of those entries, six stories won prizes. We also selected one story for us to work on with the author on and publish as a guest writer.

Two of our prizewinners have had a story published in OTP before, and the other five authors are new to OTP. Four of this issue’s stories are speculative fiction and the other three are real-world stories.


When I arrive at my home and open the door, my lips still burning from my date’s goodnight kiss, I see my husband inside and my mouth falls to the floor.

FIRST PLACE: Six Long Years, Beth Gaydon’s speculative story about an unexpected reunion. (New OTP author.)

It was late June when I dribbled my basketball into the park and saw the backboard was gone.

SECOND PLACE: The Backboard, Tony Concannon’s real-world story about an adult version of a playground dispute. (Tony was also published in Issue #25.)

You’d think we could make it two damn miles, but when I get into the left lane to turn onto Travers Street, I see an LED road sign flashing: HAM PICK-UP, NO LEFT TURN.

THIRD PLACE: Ham Pick Up, No Left Turn, Dawn Ronco’s real-world story about a man who can’t seem to stop having one bad day after another. (New OTP author.)

With a flash of purple light and a clap of normal-colored thunder, two surprised-looking boys appeared in front of a unicorn.

HONORABLE MENTION: Unintended Magic, Carter Lappin’s speculative story about two kids in over their heads. (New OTP author.)

I said good night to my wife and returned to my study, only to find a bird fidgeting on the white wooden window sill.

HONORABLE MENTION: Not the Raven, Mark Lucius’s speculative story about a retired office worker facing an unexpected commission. (New OTP author.)

I was annoyed to find Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse, and Poirot already at the crime scene.

HONORABLE MENTION: A Baker Street Dozen, Liam Hogan’s speculative story about what happens when crime is rare and amateur detectives are not. (Liam was also published in Issue #28.)

Old Eizer Griggs arrived home about noon and was startled to find a small boy sitting alone on his porch, a cardboard suitcase at his feet.

GUEST WRITER: Eizer Griggs and Eli, Sharron Bassano’s real-world story about an old man and an unexpected visitor. (New OTP author.)

Note: Photo courtesy of 张学欢 from Unsplash