The second mini-contest was held in July 2007. It challenged contestants to tell a complete story between 50 and 100 words long that showed the result(s) of a bad decision made by one or more characters. (A “complete story,” in our view, has, or at least strongly implies, a character, a problem, and a resolution.)
Two judges selected 10 contenders from all the entries received. Five judges selected one entry as their “favorite” and rated the rest as either “yes,” “maybe,” or “no.” In addition, this contest was OTP’s first to feature one of those guest judges we’ve talked about before—someone who likes reading, but who has no experience in writing, editing, or publishing fiction. This contest’s guest judge was Dr. Rose Miller of Manassas, VA, a psychologist and show dog breeder whose two teenage daughters have, at least once each, handled show dogs on television.
Our diverse judges had diverse opinions, but when all the votes were counted, the results were clear.
Third Place ($5) by Judy Furniss
Frank snuck out of the dorm with his two fraternity brothers to crash the party on Seventh Street. When they arrived, everyone was raising their glasses to their host who had just finished a speech and downed his drink. The young men filled cups with the remainder of red punch and chugged it down with the rest of the guests. Then the spokesman said, “May we all rest together in peace.” After that, he fell to the floor.
Second Place ($10) by Renee Holland Davidson
Malcolm was a romantic, I, a realist–a relationship doomed from the start.
He begged for one last night together. I refused. He insisted. I relented.
We drove to Winsome Beach and climbed the path to the cliffs. Beneath the bright full moon, Malcolm swore he’d love me forever.
Yawning, I watched the waves crashing on the rocks below.
He cried and clung. His arms, like tentacles, suctioned me in his grip.
I pulled away. “You’re smothering me.”
“I’d rather die than live without you.” Malcolm was so dramatic.
Call me pragmatic. Problem solved with one firm push.
First Place ($15) by Brian K. Lowe
They say an old lady came into the casino, her dog smuggled under her coat. She hooked the dog up to the month-machine, to use its life to pay for a few spins. When it got old she’d disconnect it, re-connect herself, and keep playing. Getting in a few spins on the dog’s life, not hers, she’d be that much ahead when she hit a jackpot.
Except she hit the jackpot on the first spin. Three bells—500 months, straight to the dog. She’s long dead; he’s still a puppy.
It’s probably an urban legend, but it could happen.
Honorable Mentions (no money, just fame)
Two other entries scored highly enough to earn honorable mentions.
The couple sat in the Mini, watching the children play.
“Rather good idea of mine,” Madeline said.
“Absolutely,” George agreed.
“I love that rhyme.” She snuggled nearer.
“Born on Monday.”
“Christened on Tuesday.”
He pulled out a long scarf. “Sweetie?”
“Let’s skip ahead to the dead on Saturday part.”
(by Paul Alan Fahey)
Gary was hurrying home after work when he saw the lemonade stand manned by the little girl. Something so traditional and at odds with the big city fascinated him, and he found himself stopping as the little girl looked at him hopefully.
He bought one cup, and gulped it down. He bought a second, and savored it. After the third one, the tart sweetness had transported him back to his own childhood. His steps felt bouncy, his stride longer. Exhilarated, he watched his feet as they raced down the sidewalk, into the street, and in front of a bus.
(by Bill Siderski)
It Was His Idea
This contest premise came from newsletter reader Richard Lyon. Since he gave us the idea, he gets to have an entry published.
“Madame President, the flying saucer has just landed on the White House lawn!” the young aide declared excitedly. “They’re asking you to come for dinner tonight.”
“Has the CIA learned anything about them?”
“Based on an intercepted message, they believe it’s a student group on an interstellar good will mission. The aliens said they were coming to Earth to learn how to serve people.”
After giving that careful thought, Hillary Clinton said, “Tell them I can’t come because of a prior commitment but Bill will be glad to. End the message with, Bon Appetit.”
(by name with history)
Now It’s Our Turn
Five of our judges wanted to try this challenge, too. So…
With a flourish and a bit of a yelp, Madeline opens a fourth bottle. “Dinner, as always, was wondrous, my dear,” she gushes, pouring into our offered glasses. “I’m so glad I married a man who can cook!”
Laughing, Maddie and I toast Oskar. He lowers his eyes, embarrassed, but still smiling. “It is no trouble. I am happy you enjoy.”
“No comparison to that putz Leon.” I point to Maddie. “Remember that overcooked game hen last week, with the bitter cab? Ugh! That was….”
Utter silence as Oskar slowly sets down his glass. “And who is Leon?”
(by Geoff Duncan)
An egg, perfect in its own fragile, natural package. The breakfast food of choice, when there is a choice to be had. Carried delicately to the workplace, to its ultimate destination to rest on darkly toasted bread with salt. Luxury.
I place it gently inside, where it rocks back and forth in its shell. I’ve read they can be cooked to perfection in a microwave.
(by guest judge Rose Miller)
My girlfriend wanted to catch a film, but my drinking buddies were in town.
I could have asked for coffee, but we had another round.
I might have called sis for a ride, but she’d probably tell our dad.
I would have pretended to lose my keys, but maybe my buddies would be mad.
I should have seen their bicycles under all those gleaming lights.
Now I see them always—mornings, days, and nights.
I could have might have would have should have but now it’s just too late
To rethink choices I once made like turning down a date.
(by Blanche Kapustin)
The argument stretched tension across two miles and five bus stops. The captive passengers stiffened shoulders and clutched packages. Children shushed without being told. Then:
“Well, I may have flunked my driver’s test, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”
The driver’s booming voice triggered laughter. Tension eased, and the bus seemed free. The driver glanced at his audience. Encouraged, he took one more stab at getting in the last word. “Ring late, and I go to the next stop. It just works that way.”
“No, you just work that way, bastard!”
(by Bethany Granger)
Based on true events:
“It’s like tiny fireworks,” Judd said as the blue streak evaporated.
Beth flicked the lighter’s wheel again. Another small spark, another blue and orange slash that clawed at her face and disappeared.
Judd sniffed. “You smell something funny?”
“With this cold?” She flicked the lighter again.
“I’m gonna check something,” Judd said, heading for the basement. “Don’t light that cigarette.”
Of course, Beth thought. He was always trying to make her quit. She unwrapped a new lighter. “Nice try!” she shouted. She lit up, then she blew up.
(by Tarl Kudrick)
Congratulations to the winners and our sincere thanks to everyone who entered the mini-contest.