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No small feats 

Short stories are big endeavors

- THIS ENTRY, TITLED “TO DUST,” SKIMMED PAST SOME JUDGES, BUT CAUGHT ONE EDITOR’S EYE::  I will die here. Wherever I am, I will be here, standing on this hillside, eyes closed, feeling the sun’s warm palm, smelling the incense of this land, tasting its fine dusty spice. I will hear the whispered goodbyes of leaves and grass. And as I dissolve into this most sacred earth, I will smile. - Holly Thibodeaux - San Luis Obispo -
  • THIS ENTRY, TITLED “TO DUST,” SKIMMED PAST SOME JUDGES, BUT CAUGHT ONE EDITOR’S EYE:: I will die here. Wherever I am, I will be here, standing on this hillside, eyes closed, feeling the sun’s warm palm, smelling the incense of this land, tasting its fine dusty spice. I will hear the whispered goodbyes of leaves and grass. And as I dissolve into this most sacred earth, I will smile.

    Holly Thibodeaux

    San Luis Obispo

- BEST RE-TELLING OF A FAR SIDE CARTOON:  Is it outright theft? A buried memory mistaken for a new idea? Something else? Each year, we get a number of stories that are re-told jokes or comics. Some slip through. Others get caught. Here’s one, “The Butler Did It,” that sounded too familiar: - The policemen stared at the body. “You know this ain’t gonna be easy to solve,” the detective said to his partner. - The dead man lay prone in a pool of blood, a knife inserted squarely into his back. He wore a tuxedo, as did the other five thousand attendants around them at the Butlers’ Convention. - Alexander Asper-Nelson - San Luis Obispo -
  • BEST RE-TELLING OF A FAR SIDE CARTOON: Is it outright theft? A buried memory mistaken for a new idea? Something else? Each year, we get a number of stories that are re-told jokes or comics. Some slip through. Others get caught. Here’s one, “The Butler Did It,” that sounded too familiar:

    The policemen stared at the body. “You know this ain’t gonna be easy to solve,” the detective said to his partner.

    The dead man lay prone in a pool of blood, a knife inserted squarely into his back. He wore a tuxedo, as did the other five thousand attendants around them at the Butlers’ Convention.

    Alexander Asper-Nelson

    San Luis Obispo

Each year, hundreds of writers from around the Central Coast, state, country, and world roll up their sleeves and start writing. They click on keyboards. They scratch pens on paper. They hammer away at typewriters.

Then, they submit their tiny literary endeavors to the annual 55 Fiction contest, started years ago by founder Steve Moss at New Times in San Luis Obispo. A group of staff judges wades through the entries, scoring each one. At the end of the weeks-long marathon reading session, the stories with the most points are declared fit to print.

As summer slides out of June and officially settles into July, take some time to peruse these brief slices of wit, wisdom, murder, mayhem, folly, fun, foolishness, and more.

Ryan Miller is executive editor of the New Times and the Santa Maria Sun . Send comments to rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

 

 

Windows of Thought

John hated looking through the dirty window. He had started to hate his existence. Day in and day out he was a slave to the working clock. He’d had enough. He opened the 50th story window and jumped through.

After he was inside, he told his boss that his days of window washing were through.

Kevin Davis
Hartland, Wis.

 

 

Bad Choice

The gun was so close I could have stuck my nose in the barrel. Cold sweat mixed with warm urine that snaked between goose bumps down my leg. I ran; I ran until my lungs swelled and oozed. But I left her in the alley. She probably won’t want a second date after that.

Ron Ingaway
San Luis Obispo

 

The Doe

Father brought the dead doe into our backyard, strung her from the deck by the hooves, neck suspended, mouth open as if bleating. He was careful to separate coat from tissue; blood down her belly, legs. At dinner, I saw purple stains under his fingernails. Father, who flew me to bed, who checked bathwater temperature.

Leslie St. John
San Luis Obispo

 

 Onward and Upward

She was nothing if not an accomplished rock climber.

Strong and lithe, she honed her considerable skills, each time setting her sights on ever-greater heights.

When she grew bored of scaling the local topography she gathered her things and headed off, traveling the world in search of new conquests, each diamond bigger than the next.

Pat Rigley
Woodland

 

 Not Only in New Guinea

I step into the chicken coop. Nine pairs of beady eyes turn to me expectantly. The chickens race to the trough as soon as last night’s dinner is emptied. They begin pecking furiously. Black beans, churros, and arroz con pollo. They don’t know, my mother reassures. I insist it’s trickery of the worst kind.

Mackenzie Morrison
Hartland, Wis.

 

 What They Say is True

So ... to make a long story short ... she waltzed her way through most of life (all by herself) partly on basic (very basic) good looks and partly on a strong, healthy body. With time, the good looks faded and the healthy body weakened. Now she’s learning to tango. It does, by the way, take two.

Sybil Ashley
Los Osos

 

 Five Lasagnas, One Call

She cooks lasagna when avoiding something she doesn’t want to do, something important, necessary, painful. She’s made lasagna five times in the past two weeks. I savored the first one. The second one tasted better than the first. The third, fourth, and fifth I couldn’t swallow. Soon she’ll have to make the doctor’s appointment.

Sue Ann Horan
Austin, Texas

 

 A Cry for Help

Tony found the note slipped under his door:

Come tonite before he gets home.

My life may depend on it.

Margo

Such careless penmanship, the vulgarized “tonite.” What were they teaching these days? Tony crumpled the paper, then tossed it into the wastebasket. Later while driving to work, he wondered who Margo was.

Paul Alan Fahey
Nipomo

 

Sometimes, the Decision Just Makes Itself

“Think about our future,” Jerome had begged her, and all through dinner, Janet did. Somewhere between his mother’s disappointed, “We had always hoped Jerome would enter the priesthood,” and her delighted, “I’m sorry, Dear, Jerome didn’t tell us you were a vegetarian,” Janet decided.

“Didn’t Jerome tell you? I write porno novels. I’m Vivian Vavavoom.”

Ron Pearson
West Hartford, Conn.

 

 So Long, World

While walking along, eyes to the sky, I slipped, tumbling down this well. Fright came and went, but the dark stayed all day, until I came to embrace it. When offered a rope, I decided, saying, “Nay, but do be a dear and bring me some wine and a woman with whom to enjoy it.”

Mina Fada
San Luis Obispo

 

Numbers

Sanjay was in the hospital on a defibrillator. He was the number one math genius in the world, and I, second.

I mentioned, “Your room is a dull number: 1472.”

“No,” Sanjay replied. “It’s the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in different ways.”

Unplugging his defibrillator, I said, “Enough is enough.”

Michael T. Chambers
San Luis Obispo

 

Free fall

His world became summer bright outside, winter dark inside, with no spring to bridge the two. Only tumbling in a perpetual fall. His life narrowed to a series of breaths floating in free fall, as peaceful as he’d ever been, until the rope snapped taut and his feet came up just short of the ground.

Edward P. Morgan III
Seminole, Fla.

 

The Search

They gloomily walked the streets of the little tourist town. They found chestnut tarts, goat cheese popovers, and marzipan muffins. When they stopped for a drink, she ordered a decaf caramel macchiato. He ordered a small coffee. “Is it unreasonable to want to enjoy my vacation?” he said. “All I want is a decent donut.

Holly Frank
San Luis Obispo

 

The Helper

Eunice fidgeted as her sister continued.

“No one ever tells me anything. I could have helped with Dad, but didn’t know he’d fallen.”

“Well, Jen—”

“And I only missed the funeral because George got pneumonia. You know I’m happy to help—”

“Jen, I called because Mom’s got Alzheimer’s and needs constant care. It’s your turn.”

Rob Weibe
Rocky River, Ohio

 

Abode

I hate my place. It’s so small, and it leaks every time it rains. Shoddy workmanship. But it’s the bugs. They’re the worst. I can’t seem to escape them. I can’t exactly call anyone, though. Even if I could, exterminators wouldn’t come near the place. Really, though, the blame is mine. I could’ve chosen cremation.

Bill MacAulay
Hartland, Mich.

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