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55 Fiction 2007 Winners 

The basic premise is ridiculous.

How can someone write a good short story in 55 words? And why 55 words instead of, say 60 or 40? I don't have the answers to these questions I don't know why this works, but it does. This year we got something not too far shy of a thousand entries, from professional writers and elementary school classes, from local authors and foreigners practicing their English.

Our judges read every single one. It can be maddening writing "no" on 20 trite or forced or misspelled entries in a row. But then there comes one that makes a reader laugh or choke up, and the reward comes.

The sheer odds make it difficult to get published only 23 made the final cut but this year we put special emphasis on those that we felt honored the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut, who put random weirdness to effective, moving, and beautiful use in his career, which ended with his death in April.

We're mostly weirdos here, so Vonnegut's big with us, and we're happy to express our affection by dedicating this issue to him. I will note that I suspect at least a couple of pseudonyms have been employed here, but I'm not the name sheriff anymore than is Kilgore Trout. Happy reading.

Managing Editor Patrick Howe

Cleaning House

When Stan moved out Theresa moved into the backyard tree house. The children gone, her husband gone, Theresa's bond with her home evaporated. The tree house held the best memories. A week later, when she moved back in she brought the good memories with her and swept the bad ones out with a tree limb.

Christine M. Ahern

Los Osos, CA



Denouement and Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia slept in a turquoise Fiesta, kept his clothes in a Glad bag, bummed his smokes. He had little, wanted less.

Denouement lived in hotels, bought couture, vomited five-star food. She consumed life, wanted more.

"This time, I won't be back," said Denouement.

"Been said before," answered Onomatopoeia.

"No. This is the end."

"Fine Bang."

Justin P. Tyme

Boone, Iowa




I'm wearing farewell black. As I walk away, past the mound of wet earth, I silently curse the scent of fresh cut flowers. I'm thankful the cold rain conceals my tears.

She's wearing goodbye white. They said her wounds were deep, cut all the way to the bone. I wish my pain ended there.

C. Morgan Clayton

Ocala, FL



The End

The warm fire, as he entered, eased his mind: maybe he wouldn't need to apologize.

He called her name no answer.

Turning to the fire, he went over his apology again.

A metallic glint among the embers froze his limbs the apology vanished as he recognized the spine of his favorite book in the ashes.

Amanda Brooks

Lompoc, CA



My Cat and My Broken House

Relaxing on my deck. Cat walks by says, "Earthquake Leave now."

I'm stunned. "WHAT?"

"A worm I rescued from a bird told me. He felt tremors. Go walk. You need exercise."

Walking to the store, ground heaves. Flattens me. I look back. See my house sliding down the hill.

Cats just says, "Meow."

Weird day.

Phillip Cole

Morro Bay, CA



Pleasures of the Flesh

Jesus passed Mohammed a cigarette. Mohammed took a deep drag, then sighed with pleasure. Expensive fags were the best. Sheer paradise. And Jesus was one tight dude.

Jesus was sitting in a cloud of blue smoke. Golden light was shining behind his head, in a halo.

The light went out. Another long night in prison.

Kyra Kitts

Los Osos, CA



Letter to Arturo

Dear Arturo,

I'm sorry, but I ran over your cat, or gato as you would say. I will buy you a new one, and we can have a fiesta with tacos, sombreros, and a pi"ata. I know this will not bring back Se"or Mittens, but it will make you feel better.

Viva La Alamo,


Zander Pingel

Fort Worth, Texas



Spider Webs

Her white lace stockings shrieked out femininity. He didn't want to seem like an eavesdropper, and shyly looked away.

But one day, she asked, "Want some coffee?"

She shifted her legs. For a moment, he thought he could hear the lace scratch him.

"I want out," he said. "But coffee will do for now."

Matthew W. Fowler

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina



Stone Age

Is this flat stone big enough?

It will do nicely, thank you.

It is amazing what can be done with a little lightning.

In the right hands, of course.

Of course. Are you sure you've finished?

Down to the last letter.

But you only have 10 rules.

You obey every single one. Remember the lightning.

Jim Delaney

West Allis, WI



Trick or Treat

Plucking the moon from the sky I popped it into my mouth. My face lit up like a jack-o'-lantern as the moon's light shone through. Running my tongue over its surface, then popping it out of my mouth, I placed the moon back in the sky. Inexplicably the taste of candy corn remained.

Lynzee Kenady

San Luis Obispo, CA



The Visiting Professor

My mother lives in a New England college town. Kurt Vonnegut, a visiting professor at the time, frequented the movie theater where she worked.

"I think I'm going to ask Vonnegut out," she told me.

"Mom, I think he's married."

"So what?" she grinned.

"Just don't."

He never did return. Oh, what he missed.

Kerrie Quinn

Half Moon Bay, CA



You Can Dust It Off

Peter moved his butcher's blade with calligraphic grace. Could this be the perfect burger?

"Stop," she says.

Peter sighs. Not today.

"You're slicing too thin."

"Sorry mother."

"It takes practice."

He studied his teenaged, defeated reflection in the crimson pooling over the linoleum. "What's this, the fifth husband now?"

A warm smile. "It takes practice."

C.J. Arellano

Tinley Park, IL



Rain of Secrets

Star and Moon quarreled, each wanting to acquire the other's secret.

"Tell me how to shine like you," said Moon.

"Tell me how to dream like you," Star replied.

Their voices fell as rain on the planet below. A woman, who had lost her umbrella, stood in the street, hair and skin soaking with secrets.

Kirsten Anderson

Burbank, CA



She is called she

The bank teller talks withdrawal and automatic social security deposits to the middle-aged daughter, never acknowledging the wheelchair- cocooned mother whose name is the one on the checking account. She is ignored as they chat. She is an afterthought. She is nothing to them. Finally they request her signature. She replies with a fart.

Monty Cartwright

Jacksonville, Oregon



Highlighting Harris

If you've only got space for 23 entries, maybe it isn't fair to allow a couple of authors to get multiple works published. Who cares? These were some of the best we got.



Only $5

SEE A WOMAN BURNED ALIVE! the marquee screamed. ONLY $5!

Inside, she was tied to a stake, coals piled around. She wore a bikini kind of thing. They lit a match.

She struggled and screamed. It took about 10 minutes.

It was okay, but not as good as when they strangled the guy last week.



People Person

Once a month I drive to New York City and rent a motel room high over a busy sidewalk.

Inside, I unpack plastic bags containing my turds of the past few weeks.

Then, one by one, I empty the bags out the window.

I love watching the reactions!

I guess I'm just a people person.




The roach was at least four feet long. It was lightning fast and it lunged at me. I slammed the door shut just in time. I heard it bang repeatedly against the wood. I went back to the manager and handed him the key.

"That room is simply unacceptable," I said. "Do you have another?"

James W. Harris

Rydal, Georgia



Our pseudonym sweetheart

This author and her apparent pseudonym must have a background in the sciences, as she has an uncanny ability to distill words. We've included five of her entries, and several more were equally worthy.



The Early Days

She collected cobwebs from the rafters, rolled the sticky mess into cigarettes. Held one to her lips and lit it, inhaling deeply. The webs glowed, shrank, and vanished, the paper scarcely singed. She coughed for minutes, then rhapsodized for years: spider spirits, "perfect highs" but in truth she'd only seen our squalor, only tasted flies.

Anne E. Campisi

St. Paul, Minnesota



Equal Opportunity

The Emperor's lotus divers decided to hold an international diving contest to prove whose lungs were the best. The winner would receive (ethical) diamonds and tenure.

A pearl diver, a dumpster diver, a deep sea diver, and one walrus showed up. The walrus was disqualified for being a walrus. Its lawsuit bankrupted the empire.

Heloise Shinglewit (Anne E. Campisi)

St. Paul, Minnesota



A Happy Retirement

Grandpa's scooter mired in the playground sand. Its motor choked and died. The children couldn't move him. First it was hilarious, then tragic, then sad. They brought blankets and cookies. The next day someone climbed up and beeped the horn. It was fun. Grandpa enjoyed it, too. He became their favorite part of the park.

Heloise Shinglewit (Anne E. Campisi)

St. Paul, Minnesota



Inheriting the Wind

My father told me my Irish grandmother was a Mandigo warrior. Said he'd kept a pet brachiosaurus and that sleeping under moonlight: people's eyebrows swapped places. I was young and silly I believed him. In his will, he warned, he'd leave me the wind.

I grew obsessed with honesty, then made a living writing fiction.

Anne E. Campisi

St. Paul, Minnesota



Subtlety, Subtlety

My editor advised, "You don't have to marry your mother and poke out your eyes in order to feel the pain."

But I did.

Now, a blind, incestuous, patricidal bigamist, I think I understand what he meant. But I'll tell you this much, children: lesser stories don't impress me anymore keep your dramas to yourselves!

Heloise Shinglewit (Anne E. Campisi)

St. Paul, Minnesota



Pussy Whipped

I love vagina so much I gave my mom's clitoris a little lick on my way out during birth. I've made plenty of sacrifices to get it. I've sat through shopping trips, paid for dates, and I've even gone as far as to prey on drunks.

Once, I even said, "I love you."

Thrust Longwood

San Luis Obispo, CA


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