Short Story Competition: Sixth Batch Is Open for Voting!
The sixth batch with 10 new stories is live. You have until next Sunday to cast a vote on your favorite story. Next Monday we will have the seventh and final batch, so stay tuned!
I would like to say thank you to all the people that sent a story. It has been a funny and pleasant experience to run this competition, and I am sure that most of the readers are enjoying it as well.
1. 300 Guinea Pigs by Claire Bradshaw
I don’t know how I get involved in these things. My so-called friend Sparky rang me the other day as he had a problem. Sparky has many problems, but this one was a fluffy, squeaking problem.
His trucker buddy Super Dave had a job to collect a consignment of 300 live guinea pigs from the airport and deliver them to the local University research lab. Unfortunately Super Dave tends to gets rather misty-eyed about cute animals (especially after a few drinks, as on this occasion). Fearing he was driving his furry passengers towards a life of misery and pain, the idiot pretended they’d escaped from his rig and instead drove them to freedom.
More specifically he drove them to my house. Sparky had already declined the doe-eyed delivery due to the major house renovations he had coincidently just started that morning. But I wouldn’t mind looking after them – he’d call me right away and arrange safe passage for the liberated pigs. Oh, great. What was I supposed to do with 300 guinea pigs?
Not one to miss out on a money-making opportunity, Sparky realized he could make some cash out of the little critters. According to the Ecuadorian guy at the gas station, guinea pig tasted just like chicken and was a delicacy in South America. Sparky figured he could sell them at $5 a pop to the local World Cuisine restaurant as an exotic entrée. They would also make great barbeque food as they were perfect patty size. Super Dave was not having that – he didn’t liberate them from the lab just for them to end up being grilled to perfection.
Sparky went off to visit his local herbalist with Super Dave’s tearful pleas ringing in his ears. I warned Sparky to hurry up and formulate a plan – my basement floor was now a wriggling carpet of fat-faced furballs. And their numbers seemed to be increasing.
A few days later, Sparky returned with his foolproof plan. His herbalist told him that guinea pigs were used by Andean bush doctors to cure arthritis. By gently rubbing the poor creature on the affected area, the pain would magically disappear. The herbalist reckoned he could flog the guinea pigs at local seniors’ homes, where he had a large customer base for his ‘arthritic healing herbs’. They could probably sell two pigs a time – one for each knee. And the old folks would have a new friend to stroke and chat to. It was all good.
Sparky’s $15 ‘One Pig and One Gram’ deal sold like hot cakes. Within a week, they’d sold out of the little critters. For once I was impressed. For my help, Sparky gave me $200 and a promise never to let Super Dave anywhere near my house again.
Now all I have to do is find another $200 to cover my basement cleaning bill. Thanks, Sparky.
2. Morning Meeting by Jaguar
Sean poured some milk and took a sip. He rubbed his eyes and opened the window shade.
The street was empty.
Would she show up? It was hit or miss with her. She would show up promptly, 2 to 5 minutes after 6:00, or not at all. He glanced at his watch: 6:01.
The rhythmic percolating of his old coffee pot fell silent. He filled a mug and walked out the front door.
The morning air was brisk. Sean hunched his shoulders and leaned on his porch railing.
The sun was rising amidst sleepy puffs of pink and red. He smiled. This was the best part of his day.
No irate customers screaming obscenities into his ear. No explaining the difference between a desktop and the top of a desk to incompetent users. Just fresh air, peace, and her.
He sat down and checked his watch again: 6:03.
His brother, Ryan thought she was bad news. “Bad luck,” he had said. “Stay away from her. You don’t want none of that. You get too close to her and bad things will happen.”
Bah. He was just superstitious. Besides, Ryan didn’t know her like he did. Mandy was gentle and kind. And so beautiful that he smiled every time he saw her.
Perhaps Ryan was jealous. She didn’t go to see him morning after morning. Maybe some empty part of Ryan’s soul needed her.
Sean rubbed his wedding ring. Ryan wasn’t the only one with a broken soul. Even after two years, Sean had been unable to take his ring off. He looked up and smiled sadly. Somewhere beyond those rosy clouds, his wife was looking down on him, wanting him to move on. He was sure she liked Mandy. But Mandy could never take her place. How could she?
And how could he move on? Jill had meant everything to him. Could time really heal all wounds? How could he forget her wrinkled nose when she laughed? How could he forget the woman who had played basketball with the neighborhood kids? How could he stop loving the woman who had filled his life with vibrance?
Thinking of Jill brought a heavy, hollow feeling to the pit of his stomach. He wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Maybe Mandy was a spiritual salve, sent by God to mend the tear in his soul.
Why did Mandy come to see him? Could Mandy have lost someone to? Did she need him as much as he needed her?
Sean looked at his watch: 6:06.
He looked down the street. Nothing.
Perhaps she didn’t need him after all. It wasn’t like she came every day. Maybe he was just a curiosity, someone to study for amusement and discard before brightening the life of some other broken man.
He sighed. She wasn’t coming.
He got up to go back inside. A black cat stood between him and the door.
“Ah, there you are. Would you like some milk?”
3. The Tea Party by Kristine H. J.
It was a hot summer day and in all the little neat square gardens the only thing mowing were the bees that were too busy making their sweet honey to notice the heat and form time to tome a lawnmower whose owner decided to do something other than lying in the sun. In one of the gardens, the one with the yellow house, the little girl Patricia with the long plaits was sitting in the sandpit with her china dolls.
“I am so very delighted to see you all here today at my tea party. How are your today Mrs. Andrews?”
“I am quite well, thank you very much Miss Potter.”
The little Patricia poured some of her imaginary tea into the four little cups in front of the three dolls and herself. They all took a sip and continued with their conversation.
“How is Mr. Lucas getting over that dreadful cold of his?”
“Oh, Mr. Lucas is doing quite alright, thank you Miss Johnson, he is nearly completely well”
“Have you heard Miss Johnson that the new owner of the Spinnets old house, Mr. Bradley is it not? He is having a ball on the first of May?”
Yes, I have and I am very excited. I cannot wait to see what he has done with the place. According to Miss Collins he has made a lot of changes especially in the parlour.”
“Yes, I heard that Mr. Collins had the grand tour in the house the other week.”
Then Patricia’s mother called for her from inside the house.
“Well, ladies you must excuse me but I have to leave.”
“Yes of course, goodbye and do have a nice day.”
The little girl stood up and walked inside leaving the china dolls to continue drinking tea.
4. Hel Calling by Doug
‘I’m getting wet,’ Theonious thought to himself as the rain continued to come down. The pool around him was stained pink as the blood diluted and ran off in rivlets. ‘Doesn’t hurt so much any more,’ crossed his mind while he looked at the cut on his upper thigh. The blood stained skaggox rested a few feet away, the rain spattering on the metal head. “Going to be Monday before they find me, too late for anything at that point.’
“It is not too late now, Theonious March. You still have the choice to live,” she said in a brittle, cold tone. “Dying now will not get you into Valhalla.”
Theonious glanced up at the robed women, standing a few feet away. Her face was concealed by the wide brimmed hood of a cloak. Her dress was old, he thought, no one wears those styles any more. Except at folk dances.
“I do not dance anymore and this garb suits me. You will learn this and more if you wish to live my son.”
“Mom died long ago. You must be her shade,” he said, shivering at the cold. His leg was long since numb and the light-headed feeling muddled his brain. ‘Now I’m hallucinating my dead mother…aaarrrggghhh…,’ he gasped as the pain enflamed his leg.
She was standing next to him, the end of a staff leaning on the wound. The pain vanished as it was lifted off. Her hood was down and a pair of cold eyes examined him. Half her face was scarred and rotted, while the other side was a picture of beauty. ‘Just like me,’ the thought flitted through his mind. Theonious was compelled to look at her and a long dead sluggish feeling clawed through the numbness and pain in a struggle to survive.
“That is the feeling of the living. You blood now understands and calls for its destiny. Do you wish to live? There’s a price, always a price.”
“Yes.” The word gave him strength, as the pain came back a little and his mind cleared. “I want to live.”
“Good,” she spoke curtly as a clawed hand reached out. “Your face mirrors mine and that will not change. But the service you owe me; that will last until you draw your final breath, and stand before me in Judgment. The ax will be your token of power, use it to find your attackers and exact your justice.” Someone stepped on his grave and then she was gone with a final word, “You are my son and shall bear that as an honor, Theonious Helson.”
Theonious lurched upward. A vivid red scar now raced down his thigh, but the pain was gone. He bent over and picked up the skaggox, hefting it a couple of times and then experimentally swinging it. The handle was rough and worn, but the balance was perfect. ‘Made for me.’ He grinned to himself. ‘Now to find those thugs and get a bit of payback.’
5. Call Me Mrs. Malaprop by Christine Lind
I have this malady called “malapropism.” One day in my e-mail subscription to Daily Writing Tips, it had malapropism as its writing tip of the day. This is how I found out that my blooper habit has a name!
According to Daily Writing Tips, “Sheridan’s 18th century play, The Rivals, featured a hilarious character called Mrs. Malaprop, who was apt to drop a verbal clanger whenever she opened her mouth. Malapropisms are often the same part of speech, begin or end in the same way or have the same rhythm when spoken. It’s where you take a real word and substitute it for another” (Daily Writing Tips/November 17, 2007). In lay terms, it’s the Norm Crosby syndrome. He’s the comedian who made a career out of malapropism. He is known as the King of the malaprop and always speaks from his diagram and drinks decapitated coffee.
Now, I’ve never drank decapitated coffee, but I’ve been known to brag and tote my own horn and join a couple and be a fifth wheel. Another time, at an outdoor concert, I lamented to a friend as we tried to shield ourselves from the sun, that I wished we had a camisole.
My husband, who hears malaprops daily, calmly announces the right word after I’ve messed with the King’s English. But sometimes (especially after a long day), I can sneak one passed him. For instance, after discussing a particular issue we had going on in our lives, I concluded the conversation with, “We’ll have to grit and bear it.” Without skipping a beat, he gave in and said, “All right, we’ll try gritting for awhile!”
Evidently, I’ve passed the malaprop gene to my youngest daughter, Anna. Anna is 26 years old and a resident director at a large university. She’s also attending classes toward her Masters Degree in Communications (weird, huh?), and has aspirations to be a motivational speaker (true to myself, I told her I couldn’t be more proud she’s going to be an emotional speaker). This past Christmas as she was shopping for kitchen towels atWilliams Sonoma, she asked the sales lady with all sincerity if she could get the linens
mammogramed. The clerk was taken off guard (and maybe hasn’t heard of the disorder), staring at my daughter with her mouth agape. Anna and I have learned that “staring,” usually means we’ve swapped out a major word!
But it’s not all bad; malapropism can even bring a little happiness. Not only does it contribute great fodder around the dinner table, it’ll make any get-together less stuffy—giving friends and family a memorable time.
Thank you Daily Writing Tips for this great tip and for giving a name to this every wordsmith’s nightmare. And to all you out there (and you know who you are) trying to get as close to the intended word as possible—clang on and be counted! Mrs. Malaprop would be proud.
6. Teens Gone Wild by Benjamin Hall
“Pregnant! When’s it due?” Shauna joyfully shouts the words into the phone, listens, and hangs up. Jumping up and down she turns to me, “Oh my God, Tony, we’re going to have a baby to take care of.”
We dance around in a circle laughing hysterically until her mom screams for us to shut up and settle down. We run outside to the bench under the willow tree.
“I’ll bet it’s going to be a boy,” I say, rocking an imaginary baby.
“Well, I’m hoping it’s a girl, so there,” says Shauna.
She looks into my eyes, “Tony, I love you. We are the cause of a new life entering this world.”
“I love you too—and they say thirteen is too young to know what love is.”
“Yeh, but I’ll be fourteen in ten months.”
“And I’ll be fourteen in seven.”
“Plus, my boobs have already started to show.”
I look at the slight bulges on her thrust out chest.
Shauna’s face turns serious, “We can’t tell anybody about this. Swear it!”
“Okay, my mouth is glued shut.”
She puts her hand on my cheek, looks at me with those doe eyes and whispers “Daddy.”
I do the same to her and say “Mommy”.
We start laughing out of control again and wind up dancing around the trunk of the willow. In a while, we sit back down on the bench, all grins.
“What time do you have to baby-sit,” I ask?
“Mrs. Murphy said to be there at six. She warned me again not to sneak you in anymore. God, it’s been months since they came home early and caught us pigging-out on all their goodies.”
“When did you say Mrs. Murphy will give birth? That’s going to stop our pig-outs for a while, since she’ll be home all the time with the new baby.”
“She’s due the first part of June, and won’t need me again ‘til the baby’s about two months old. She’ll probably stay home the last few before it’s born too, so I won’t get to baby-sit for four or five months.”
In April the baby-sitting stops, but we don’t care. We have plans to make about how we’ll raise our baby.
The first part of September my cell rings. . . . “Oink, Oink,” Shauna shouts to me, “Mrs. Murphy just called and wants me there at 8 o’clock. Guess what? She went grocery shopping today. God, we’ll get to raid the goodies big-time tonight.”
“I’m in the back door before the Murphys are even out of the driveway. We run to the baby’s bassinet and look down at our baby, the one we caused to be born when we poked tiny needle holes in the condoms we found while snooping in the bedroom drawers.”
Our baby coos at the attention we’re giving her.
Before we head for the munchies, I look knowingly at Shauna, “Nothing like a planned pregnancy, huh Mommy?”
7. Bullets And A Gun by Chance Harper
The off-white towel lay crumpled at my feet. The cold breeze from the noisy air-conditioning unit gently caressed my bare skin. I stood in front of the tarnished mirror in my cheap hotel room, and forced my eyes to acknowledge my naked reflection. It repulsed me to see the marred skin. Every inch of my body from my throat to my ankles irrevocably scared. I could call them battle scars if I had put up a fight. Submit or die were my only options, I chose the former, and hated myself for being so weak.
My freedom came at a price though, and sooner or later someone would be sent to collect in full. But is it a crime to kill a monster? I didn’t think so. To me it had been justice, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Sadistic, depraved, remorseless, oh he had been a monster alright. I should have killed the bastard years ago.
Gingerly I touched the puckered scars as tears I had denied for so long ran down my cheeks. He had taken so much from me, my childhood, family, friends, but I refused to dwell on those thoughts right now. I had to lock away the pain. I couldn’t deal with it and its implications. Distractions would get me killed, and I’d be damned if I let them take me without a fight. The girl I used to be died back there, in that room with him, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes I had been reborn.
I rummaged through the bag Joseph had given me and found money, a change of clothes – including a turtleneck jumper, fake ID, and a bus ticket to Vancouver. God, the man had thought of everything. I still couldn’t believe he had helped me. He had been indifferent the whole time I’d been there; I didn’t think he gave me a second thought.
In truth Joseph’s revelation had shocked me. When he promised to help me escape I thought it had been a trick. A ploy designed to test my loyalty followed by a severe punishment when I accepted the offer. But when Joseph told me how to kill him, I knew it was no trick. I saw the hatred in his tired eyes, and knew he wanted Alexander to suffer as much as I did.
I looked down at my hands, the hands that had wielded the weapon. Hours earlier they had been stained crimson. Now, they looked the same as they always had – small with delicate fingers and bitten fingernails. No discernable signs of my crime remained, but the memories would not be washed away so easily.
I put the jeans and turtleneck jumper on, reached inside the bag to remove the trainers and found a hidden compartment. Inside I discovered that Joseph had left me with three final parting gifts. A stake, identical in design to the one I had killed Alexander with, bullets and a gun.
8. The Ghosts of Ruby by Christie Smith
The department store had changed a lot over the years. The ghosts hadn’t. They remained trapped in a continual re-enactment of the tragedy that had rendered them ghosts. Rarely were the shoppers, eyes glazed over in an orgy of want, aware of the ghosts fighting in their midst.
But once in a while, just once in a while, someone would notice.
On this particular hot summer day, the person noticing was 8-year-old Ruby Martinez. Everyone said Ruby was an odd child. Even her name, a throwback to a screen siren of long ago, marked her as different. For an eight year old, she possessed a dignity befitting a young woman three times her age. Many times Ruby’s mother would exclaim in an effort to explain her child, “She’s just so mature for her age!” promptly putting an end to further inquiries.
Today as Ruby trailed her mother through the ladies underwear section, she became aware of the panicked shouts of doomed men.
“My God, how much longer must this last?”
The boom of a rifle accompanied the last desperate question. Ruby jumped, eyes widening in fright.
“Keep up with me Ruby,” her mother commanded. “Good Lord, child, what’s the matter?”
Ruby shook her head, keeping what she heard secret from her mother – just like she always did. She continued to follow her mother, ignoring the embarrassment she felt as her mother pawed through heaps of discounted underwear.
Sounds continued to grow in Ruby’s ears, drowning out everything else, including her own breathing. As she kept her watchful eyes on her mother, the sight dimmed as Ruby began to see the owners of the voices. Rough-looking men with shaggy hair and unshaven faces darted in and out of her field of vision. They carried long knives and rifles clenched like lifelines.
“God damn Mexicans!”
“We can’t kill them all, but if we can just get Santa Anna…”
Ruby didn’t know who Santa Anna was, but fervently hoped the ghosts couldn’t see her, seeing as how she was one of those goddamn Mexicans.
As Ruby’s mother completed her selections and moved to the front of the store to pay for her purchases, Ruby’s otherworldly visions faded. The last thing Ruby heard as she left the store and stepped out into the bright San Antonio sunshine was, “Remember the Alamo!”
9. End Game by Srihari Yamanoor
There was very little time left. When had it come down to this? It was a rhetorical question anyway.
“Need to do this first.” “I don’t feel like it.” “I would rather get everything in line before venturing on something this big.”
After all, who begins things in a shoddy manner? Planning is essential. Do it right, first time and all that.
The “ruminating” ensued, rather emptily as he piled things away – “For Mom and Dad”, “For Sis”, “For Her”, “Trash” and of course, “Recycle”.
The news had come as a shocker.
Was there a single person who received this pleasantly?
It had been so glorified in cheap novels and B-grade movies (and short stories)..
“… a couple of weeks… good idea to spend it with your friends and family. Sorry to break it to you this way, but I thought you might want to know”.
He hadn’t the heart to tell his parents or his sister. It was too complicated anyway. Plus, who wanted the emotional repercussions anyway?
Every time he grudgingly called up, it was about “settling down” and “finding someone”.
Women nowadays are smart. They don’t fall for losers that easily. Actually, they do – it really depended on who he was telling the story to. Sometimes they were too smart to evade him, sometimes they were dumb enough to be “taken” by lesser nincompoops.
He was leaving behind his entire life – a mishmash of knicks and knacks, and incomplete projects. How he had wasted away. He was better than that. At least, he thought so…
He seemed to have adapted to the news surprisingly well. He would have imagined crying a lot or at the least being very frustrated. Had he subconsciously put it off – for later?
Huh! Old habits do die hard he guessed, and sometimes you went before they did….
There was the stupid phone again.
Phones were societal traps. If you weren’t alert – a sister dropped by, a parent urged you to reproduce or a collector wanted you to stick to his plan of how you organized your finances. Or it was yet another single loser wanting you to communion in mutual grief…
“The Doctor asked me to call you immediately. He double checked your reports. It was a misdiagnosis. He wants you to know that you have nothing to worry about.”
“You are not joking are you? Because if you are…”
“No sir. The Doctor will call you back soon to explain things himself. Would you also schedule an appointment instead?”
“No, I will wait for his call.”
Appointment? What the hell was that? So, he had just wasted his time looking back on his life for nothing? It was a “misdiagnosis”? Why the hell did all this happen to him anyway?
At least, he was relieved. He would finish all this, just a little later. This time, it would be for good. He had learned his lesson after all.
But first, a drink….
10. Home Sweet Home by Kate Freeman
“Then Denny tells me to guard the plants because people been sealing them. I’m sitting around with a pot and a metal spoon. My job is to run out banging them and yelling. ARRRAAWWW!” Jesse yells clapping his large hands together to mimic the beating the two kitchen items. His friends are laughing. “I almost gave grandpa next door a heart attack. It was ridiculous. So yeah. . . California was great.”
“How . . .,” Gail pauses looking for words. “How did you come to be on a farm harvesting dope for a bunch of crack heads in California?”
“My ex-step-mom lives on the farm. She came up to visit and stayed with my step-dad. She told him that if we helped with the harvest, we’d make two-thousand a week for four weeks. My step-dad didn’t go, but it seemed like a good idea to me.”
“Hindsight,” Marty says.
“I wouldn’t have guessed she had a crack habit before I left. People just lit up in front of me. ‘He’s from St. Louis. He’s use to this.’ Yeah, it’s all a normal day like this in the Good Ol’ St. Lou. They never even took me to see the tourist stuff. I had to take buses to go see Alcatraz by myself.”
“So did you not have a good time at all?” Gail asks.
“I saw some good stuff. They did take me to this gay guy’s house. He had a basement sex dungeon. He was like, ‘You want to see it don’t you?’” Jesse flipped his wrist and winked his eyes mimicking the ultra-fem character of his story. Jesse added, “’You do!’” and flips his writs over again now pointing at his audience. “There was a cage, some whips, pictures of penises everywhere. It was funny. I liked that guy. He was alright . . . I went to this bar that was cool. I drank two beers before I went to pay with my debit card. Then the bar tender tells me he can’t take a card and I ain’t got no cash. . . So he just paid it. Told me it was on him that night. I thought that was cool. I went to another bar and got cash back. I paid the man back. I just thought that was real nice of that guy.”
“So would you do it again?” Marty asked.
“No. Those people are stressful. I will gladly be poor in St. Louis over making a buck in California. I’m glad to be home. An earthquake can come and take California off the map and I’d praise Jesus and by sacrificing a bag of good weed.” His friends laugh.
“But we get our oranges from there,” Marty points out.
“I don’t eat that many oranges and I don’t think I would miss them all that much.” Jesse says shaking his head as his friend again laugh at his sarcastic comments.
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