It’s time for the big reveal, as they say! Contest judge Steve Davenport’s been reading all week to narrow down choices from some 250 entries left between here and LitPark. (Thanks, Susan!) Steve likes to pretend this was hard work, but the guy used to work in a flour mill. Grout factory. Something.
By Thursday he had chosen ten entries in no particular order, and when I was done teaching at 3:30, he’d decided on five but was still tinkering with placement. I pushed him to get me his final decisions by dinnertime so I could ready them for posting, and he asked if I’d ever had a male friendship where the two guys punched each other for fun. If nothing else, you’ve given him the chance to speak about himself in third person, as you’ll see in his responses below.
If you’re a lucky prizewinner, e-mail me, Oronte, at OChurm@aol.com with your real name, address, and e-mail, and I’ll put you in contact with the appropriate sponsor. (Please allow a few days.) And though I didn’t explicitly forbid anyone from entering, if one of you is Mike Madonick, you’re totally disqualified.
Grand Prize, a $100 VISA Gift Card, courtesy of Inside Higher Ed, your online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education:
Bob Schenck, “Mr. Skank.”
Life? Too hard! He? Rightly pissed! In this reflection Mr. Skank had missed the tiny diamond lights by which the vast black night sky is so brilliantly starred and twice six thousand million miracle eye mirrors are nightly lightly kissed. Not out but in, not up but down, he stared. And in that well if he saw hell, who cared? So stank Mr. Skank, one fine blind big old fat tub of lard!
Steve Davenport comments:
Here’s a piece that would struggle mightily to get into a lit mag where the decision-making process is democratic.
Mr. Skank’s only chance is to land on the desk of a despotic judge who loves its humor, its archness, its singularity. For the record, the despotic judge does not want to meet the author. Ever. But is willing to love him and his Funhouse of Language from afar.
First Prize, a $50 gift certificate for everything from a magazine subscription to books to tattoos at the McSweeney’s store:
K. Carson, “When my usual is served at the cafe's counter that morning...”
When my usual is served at the cafe's counter that morning, I realize I can do nothing to reverse what has become. I debate against the lump in my throat on whether or not I want to pay for the extra latte and take it home to no one, or send it back to the barista, explaining that I now have a new order.
Here’s a deceptively simple piece, quite the opposite of “Mr. Skank.” If the despotic judge must find some return on the effort he expends returning to a piece for a fifth or sixth time, he finds it here in the sad news that every morning the abandoned lover will relive the awful secret.
Second Prize, two novels of your choice and a “reusable, rewritable, rarely regrettable” letterTee from featherproof books:
Upright Citizens, “I asked her why.”
I asked her why. She said smoking was control. I was naïve then. Yet there she was: tubes strangling arm, dripping unknown chemicals, machines counting down. Daddy left the room, I never saw him cry. So I stood bravely, while Mama coughed my name. “Light me a cig.” She inhales as her grip goes limp to white-coat men who enter. I pick it up, smoldering, coughing clouds of smoke.
The despotic judge, who is about to miss his bus home, appreciates Upright’s sense of economy and the deployment of concrete details: the sterile hospital equipment and that last, desperate cigarette. When mama’s cig hits the floor and the good child comes up with it hacking, the judge feels it.
Third Prize (two to be awarded), the debut album of Les Chauds Lapins, Parlez-moi d’amour:
(a) brainbag, “Lazarus argentatus.”
They take the blue man out on a stretcher, stiff in cyanotic repose until the paramedics shake him.
He sits bolt upright, startled, confused, indignant.
“Lazarus?” I ask.
“Argyria. Happens every fucking time he naps on the couch. Someone looks in the window, calls 911.”
The paramedics hate him. Nutter has pica, they say, and eats silver; it turned him blue.
I say if you come back to life you can eat whatever you want.
The despotic judge, who has now missed his bus, would like to know if the word “pica” all by itself improves a story’s chances. The judge cannot quit saying “Nutter has pica.” Bird feces, anyone?
(b): Lorrim, “Did you know that a hickey on the lip is blue . . .”
Did you know that a hickey on the lip is blue, impossible to hide without making your whole mouth a bruise? I paid for his sin by carrying it around for a week, typical women’s work. No one said anything.
Now the wound is gone, transformed into story, and so is the man. He rented the house next door, but the owners never sold it to him. I made sure of that.
The despotic judge has no idea why one person would let another person suck a hickey on her lip, but he bets there’s a website for it. The judge appreciates the deft way in which this story turns into a “story” and hickey dude evaporates in five words.
Thanks very much to all our generous sponsors, to judge Steve Davenport, and to everyone who entered and visited!