Welcome to the eighth annual 101-word fiction contest. We took great joy in reading the nearly 100 reader-submitted entries. We chose the 13 submissions you see here by stripping the author’s name from each entry, creating a blind scoring process for the three editors who then assigned a score between one and five on each entry. The entries here garnered a score of 10 or higher. We only learned of the winning identities after tallying the scores, which is why you’ll see some writers appear more than once in the list of winners. As always, we wish we could have printed more.
So, with that, please read and enjoy this year’s winners and finalists in our 101-word fiction contest. And many thanks to these creative writers for sharing their work with all of us.
Keep Colorado, Colorado
by Matthew Trujillo
Pre-COVID and we’re in the hallway making small talk. The nurse is talking. From our conversation it sounds like she’s a lifelong resident of the state. Good for her. I’m asking her about my sister’s condition and she’s telling me we need to keep Colorado, Colorado. Whatever that means, I’m thinking she’s alluding to folks moving here. I’ll use some profanity and say I’m conservative too, when it comes to my money. Again, the same rhetoric, we need to keep Colorado, Colorado. Yes ma’am, I get where you’re coming from, I’m Navajo, how do you think my ancestors feel?
by Brianna Suazo
It’s two hours into their date and he hasn’t noticed the blood dripping from her knee, even when she bends to pick up her neon green golf ball. It takes her too long to realize that it wouldn’t matter where she was bleeding, he hadn’t looked directly at her since their initial meeting.
So, she tests the theory. As he’s lining up the putt, she gently touches the wound, smears the blood across her left cheek, then starts her phone timer.
At 17 minutes, 22 seconds, he says she has a little lipstick on her face.
by Chris Norris
A man opens a gray door in the wall. One door among many. He pulls out from the wall a stainless steel-looking table, and there is Ashley. My love. I cannot bear it.
Do I see her blue hand twitching, faintly? I look away, imagining Ashley’s hand touching my own. I turn to the attendant, his eyes wide above his mask, looking down at Ashley. I look back at her, as she slowly sits up. I am mad; I am dreaming. Ashley’s legs swing over the side of the steel table and her feet touch the linoleum.
by Hannah Grip
My daughter won’t speak to me. It’s been 15 weeks since she answered my Sunday-afternoon calls.
Sunday afternoon now, I sit on my bed and look across the room at a jar on my dresser. I get up and shake it, believing briefly the phone will ring.
Her baby teeth rattle against the glass. The phone does not ring. I take the jar to the toilet and dump the teeth. They make six quick plinks on the water. I hit the handle, and they’re gone.
Then the phone rings. I slide to answer, think of the teeth, and hang up.
by Greg Halbreich
His hands are on my body now, though I do not want them there. Him breathy, chokingly desperate, torn between pleading and demanding. Relentless. And so I relent. After all, he is only a child.
by Kate Jonuska
The spirits traveled as dust devils, bodies dissolved into grains fine enough to mix with sand. The four met among the monuments: a man clad in black leather from the north; a woman from the east draped in white cotton and strands of shell beads; a boy in turquoise swim trunks with turquoise eyes from the south; and a girl in a sundress from the west, shaking sand from her yellow hair. Joining hands, the spirits became one whirlwind of four colors as they danced the dunes into new shapes and polished the rock monuments they’d danced into existence eons before.
They said this would happen
by BR Holland
The first bronze light of morning seeps in the broken zipper on the tent that has been your home for over three years. It lights up your grimy sleeping bag that has a fresh crisping of frost on it. The food cans are empty. The vodka bottles are empty. The cigarette packs are empty. Your pockets, hopes and dreams are empty. The only memories that play are of loss and regret. The only desires are for alcohol and nicotine. Uncertain when or why or where it started, or how it will end, only that they had said this would happen.
by Daniel Martinez
“You can’t go home again.”
Or so they say.
Alejandro peeked in the old boarded up cantina. He had fond memories of Saturday night dances there. Although only a teenager, Alejandro was allowed to attend–drink a soda–and sit quietly on the sidelines. Mom and dad sure came alive away from their many labors and even little old aunties made sure to doll up–hoping someone would ask them for a dance–their spouses long gone.
Now, the wind dances on a creaky floor, ghostly silhouettes dance on walls and there is a lilting scent of roses in the air.
by Devon Nelson
Charlie and I knew the water was cursed, more or less. The rumors flew like flies around town. Always, “Mind the Lake, boys,” and “Better stay dry!” Of course, we never listened. We were too busy throwing pennies to Death and feigning exorcisms with the Church’s holy water.
After some planning, on the last night of summer we stole my grandfather’s boat to go “fishing.” Who knows what we thought we’d find, but Chuck stuck one hand in the water. Maybe to impress me, maybe as a challenge. Either way, the last thing I saw was the whites of his eyes.
by Brianna Suazo
At least once a week my little cousin ditches class and comes to my job. She doesn’t recognize me. My mom and hers fell out when she was a toddler.
I ring up her Slurpees and snacks, sometimes “forgetting” to ring up a candy bar or two. I watch her read her library books on the curb and make sure the weirdos stay away from her. Occasionally I compliment her makeup, and she looks down and thanks me quietly.
I think she likes me better as a cashier than she ever would have as a cousin.
What Twenty Bucks Gets
by Chris Norris
I see Mikey walking toward me. I recollect last night, if we had any clashes… Nothing appears. So we say things to each other, parrying back and forth.
Always it’s like this with Mikey.
“Can I borrow 20 bucks? I’ll get you back tonight.”
I’m stunned. But maybe every night is a blackout for him. He doesn’t remember the nights– “ever,” it has been said to me.
I consider that Mikey won’t have the money tonight, probably not tomorrow or the next, that I would be unlikely to see him for several days at least.
by Greg Halbriech
In Washington State there is an area called the Scablands. A geological wonder. The ground is torn and rippled. Stone cliffs rise from the pocked, yearning surface. The colors there are dull browns and deep, conflicted reds.
When I step into the hospital room and see the scarred landscape of my daughter’s arms, all I can think to say is, “They used to think the Scablands were formed over thousands of years. Erosion. Change over time. But they weren’t. They were formed when a glacier broke, and a lake drained, and water rushed hundreds of miles to the Pacific.”
by Barbra Cohn
After a harrowing ride through the Himalayas, we awoke to bird songs that hung in the air along with my condensed breath. I needed chai, but the dining room didn’t open for hours. We walked up the road for a glimpse of Kangchenjunga before it disappeared behind the mist. I was startled by a woman-walking tree whose back was parallel to the ground from the weight of leafy branches. She disappeared into the forest as the rising sun illuminated the mountain. We stood silent, meditating on its grandeur, in awe of its majesty, looking at the face of god.