Mother, I feel victimized by this contest's success. The pile of entries we received this year was freakin' gigantic. Consequently, the task of judging almost overwhelmed me. Thankfully, I had some grade A help from a judicial panel that included Christie Chisholm, Amy Dalness, Marisa Demarco and Laura Marrich. Thanks, ladies. Couldn't have done it without you.
Thanks also to the folks over at local independent bookstores Page One Books (11018 Montgomery NE, 294-2026) andBookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW, 344-8139) for sponsoring this year’s contest. Congrats to all the winners. This is your moment.
I would pay New York prices to see this movie. Let's get this thing made! Russell takes home the crown this year, winning a $100 gift certificate to Page One, a $25 gift certificate to Bumble Bee's Baja Grill, a $10 gift certificate to Gold Street Caffè and a grab bag of the hottest new releases from our friends over at Bookworks.
“Pitch to New Mexico Film Industry”
Evil brother on the edge of a pond stuffing rocks and then a small dog into a bag. He ties off the end and says, “Take that, hermana’s perro. I’ll teach you to pee on my zapatas!” He tosses the bag into the pond and laughs. Puppy sinks rapidly. His frantic claws catch a small tear on the bag. He pushes his way through and paddles blindly. He breaks surface and swims to shore, gasping. He makes a secret vow to himself. From that day on, puppy gets bigger, faster, smarter. He makes forest friends. Powerful friends …
Revenge Puppy. From the creators of Scarface. In theaters this summer. This film not yet rated.
Weird, dark and freaky—we loved it. Blackburn gets a $50 gift certificate to Page One, a $25 gift certificate to Bumble Bee's Baja Grill and a $10 gift certificate to Gold Street Caffè.
“To Grandma with Love”
Found her frozen out by the shed, no telling how long. Loaded her into the pickup like cordwood. Halfway through the memorial service, with some Christian nattering on about her kindness, my sister goes into labor. Baby's first cries, her angry squalling, I said, “It's her.” Who would've guessed she'd be back so soon? My sister doesn't believe it, doesn't want to. But those eyes! She could hold you or drive you, make you love her. She knows all about you. Funny smile for a baby, too, like a gambler coming up with the third ace. She's easier to watch when she's asleep, dreaming somebody else's dreams, in a language she has no business knowing.
Actually, I would pay New York prices to see this movie, too. For his efforts, Orman gets a $25 gift certificate to Page One, a $25 gift certificate to Bumble Bee's Baja Grill and a $10 gift certificate to Gold Street Caffè.
Working in the lab late one night, Serling Rodman made an eerie cryptographic breakthrough.
His heart pounded as he read the fragmentary decryption of the alien transmissions being sent between the spaceships of the approaching armada.
He noted that all those clichéd phrases like "bring home the bacon," "bite the hand that feeds you," "we need food for thought," "eat their hearts out," "give us a hand," and "present arms" were no longer just a bunch of jumbled out-of-this-world clichés. Frighteningly, they all added up to the inescapable conclusion that we were all toast, since the transmission correlated into a cookbook of the definitely non-vegetarian kind.
Other stories we liked
You can blame the town for your anonymity. When you got that letter from the magazine up north, we panicked. When we saw that printed bio with, “We'll see more from this gifted writer,” we knew you'd leave. The postman slit open your submissions, let the pages fall, slipped in his own doggerel. Your originals are framed on his basement wall. You missed your plane to the East Coast conference because the mechanic cut your starter line. The grocery stopped stocking envelopes, and was often “out of” stamps. The town was selfish, we admit, but we couldn't lose you. You were the single shining gem in this muddy place, Poet Laureate of a two-stoplight town. Without you, we were nothing.
The little girl dreamed of having a cat, ballet shoes, flawless skin, and her first school dance. As a collegian she dreamed of straight hair, iambic pentameter, and roaring lions on the steps of the White House. Then came the dream of the perfect soufflé and a baby supported by Ken, the perfect man. (This led to fantasies involving the mailman.) Following were visions of saving polar bears, going vegan, and educating the masses. World peace was in there somewhere.
Now she keeps it simple. She dreams of dancing the tango. And sex—coming out of nowhere sex—unexpected, intense, dripping, and hot—with a stranger. Saving the polar bears is still in there somewhere.
Slightly hobbled and suffering from organic brain disorder since a car accident in 1982, Raymond, now 39, moseyed outside to smoke a cigarette with the two day-staffers. One of them was new. Slurring badly and interrupting their conversation, he said, “My father and I rode with Billy the Kid.”
“Oh yeah?” asked the rookie. The other one paid no attention.
“Yes. And we impeached Richard Nixon.”
“They say Billy the Kid lived to be over 100. Some say he’s still alive.”
Raymond leaned in close. “The names,” he whispered, “have been changed to protect the innocent.”
The rookie laughed helplessly and Raymond turned away. “Fuck you,” he muttered. “I’m running for mayor—that’s how deep the conspiracy goes!”
Unceremoniously, the Build-a-Universe kit arrived, crammed into my mailbox, displacing my cat Schrödinger from her favorite sleeping place.
The super-stringed box, labeled with my assumed name Ima Godd, magically unfolded itself at my first touch.
Astoundingly revealed were quantum baggies full of pin-wheeling plastic galaxies, fuzzy balled proto-stars, shrink-wrapped neutron stars, and a dark, sucking bundle of black holes.
Following the instruction book, I Hawking-blended all those ingredients into a cosmic soup.
But time stood still when I read the manual's last line that froze everything at T minus zero entropy--“Big Bang not included."
In a lonely moment of indecision, Patrick extended his “uuhhhmmm” just long enough for Sidesaddle Sal to realize he’d never ridden a bull before.
“Jeez, Paddy—you’re gonna die, aren’t you?”
“We’re all gonna die.”
“We’re not all gonna die right now! Why’d you enter this rodeo if you’ve never ridden a bull?”
“I didn’t know they meant a real bull—who the hell rides a real bull?” He sighed. “I’ll just fall off right away. I won’t get hurt.”
“You are gonna die.”
Damn, Patrick thought. If I was anywhere but Texas, she’d be saying get outta here—don’t ride, just run. Instead, I’m in Texas and she’s tellin’ me I’m gonna die.
And that’s just what happened.
We named our second cat “Pinkerton,” because he’s nosy and gets into stuff.
Like the refrigerator. We couldn’t keep him out of it.
Then we decided to use peer pressure ...
We made sure our other cat, Monticore, was watching whenever we put tomatoes or lemons in the refrigerator. And we never let him see us remove anything except chicken or beef.
Within a month, he was convinced that stuff he wouldn’t eat turned into stuff he enjoyed eating if it was put into the refrigerator first. So Monticore started trying to refrigerate Pinkerton.
Pinkerton stays away from the fridge now.
Unfortunately, today I found a dead bird and part of a mouse next to the milk.
Earth is full of crossing places. It's easy for people to leak out of their own words and into each other's. Sometimes, I see strangers at a distance, and it's like they've been copied and pasted onto the street behind them. Their colors and contrasts don't fit. They glitter while everything else blurs. Up close, it's more subtle. It's in the smile. In the voice, and the faraway light of the eyes. They wander through, these strangers, looking for souvenirs and hiding in alleyways. Sometimes I follow them down those cityland narrows. And like Alice after her rabbit, when I get to the other side, I find out I was the one out of focus all along.
No one could've imagined John Lennon's dream for the world to live as one would become such an all-consuming reality. The principle behind the cloning experiment was simply to improve life on Earth. That it did. Today there is no war, no famine—just peaceful existence. Defying international protests, South Korean scientists forged a brave new world in a single petri dish. The chain reaction caused every living cell in the laboratory to instantly morph into omnicells. Gaseous formations hungrily sought out more living matter at lightning speed. Within minutes the blood red gelatinous mass had assimilated every single biological entity in Seoul. Today, every living thing on Earth has become one. Me.
If only the dog hadn't died. But there was the new neighbor, digging frantically in the secluded corner behind his shed, trying to bury Fido before the family returned to wail over his act of vehicular homicide.
Any minute he would unearth the human skeleton. There would be no wallet, no clothing, no dentures to find; but the bones would reveal the congenital limp. That was always the worst of an impulsive murder. It was so hard to dispose of all the evidence permanently.
Now there was no choice. The unlucky neighbor would have to disappear. An offer to help, a blow from a second shovel. Nothing could be easier.
Only, where would she hide the body?
Overly enamored of his linguistic wiriness (to the same degree, sadly, as he was disgusted with his career choice), acquired as a precocious English major at an Eastern university 30 years before where and when the verbal riposte ruled, and flaunted with impunity before his guileless and unappreciative students, the veteran teacher, in a careless unguarded moment of indulgence, when asked by his most annoying yet gifted student about his (the student’s) current class ranking, responded aloud in front of the class, to the hushed amazement of said class, “You’re A-ness is apparent to all. By God, you are A-ness personified,” for which inapt paronomasia, when reported, he was summarily fired. Soon thereafter he wrote his first novel.
Trotsky was a bitch, to the point that Karl came out of the Last Retirement to croak him. He'd cripple the Movement, Karl decided; he must die. And die he did, a gruesome death by any standard: brains splattered across his desk, across his burgeoning missives and subversive correspondence. According to the police report, Cause of Death was a sharp blow to the head, most likely with a hammer or sickle. Trotsky's maid described the assailant as "an unkempt fellow, with hair like an Aboriginal shaman ... only he was white, and dead."
Karl was arrested four days later, in a flophouse in Guadalajara. He came quietly.
Maybe our "Kazooing for Konsciousness" ensemble shouldn't have razzed the National Anthem at the Memorial Day ballgame? (The Los Alamos Angels nuked the Dulce Demons!) Should all those peaceful folks have grown so violent? Why do those oath-taking veterans so hate the First Amendment?
And should we have escaped by speeding? Through a red light? A Hum-V nearly smashed our Prius, its "America Right Or Wrong" sticker scraping off our "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" We almost killed a bicyclist lighting a cigarette.
Later we performed a P.E.T.A. fundraiser at the zoo. The last Mexican gray wolf howled plaintively through the barbeque smoke to our rasping rendition of "Born To Be Wild."
Maybe I should switch to harmonica ...?
—M. Buckner Higgins
Stories we liked involving strange and/or mythical creatures
“Rio Rancho Wolfman”
I remember driving without lights down some hill, rattling along like we used to. Now I'm back, but I've been sick. Skin burning. Red and blue sparks. Walking now. No gas, left my car back near the mall. Dead concrete and garbage just like those rotten patrols. And the moon! My God! On fire!
Red and blue. I got really messed up over there, just doing my job. Not anymore. My teeth hurt all the time now, sharp and bloody. Some kind of disease. My hair ...
Can't quite remember. Everything is broken shards except the moon. Red and blue, rolling hot through the sky like we used to. And I'm really hungry.
“The Beast What Loved Trousers”
Bigfoot and I were on our second date, so, I was expecting things to go a bit further. What I didn’t expect, however, was the argument over my pants.
“They’re just not today,” the Sasquatch told me. “I admit there’s a retro quality, but, it feels accidental rather than planned.”
The date continued in this fashion and we ended things before one of us wound up hurt. At least, that’s what I tell myself. The truth?
I still wear the same pants I did back then. But the pockets are filled with court orders for Littlefoot’s child support.
“Tehachapi Bigfoot Encounter: Chapter 5; index day-4261”
Max had to re-tie his shoe again, for the 47th time. The hike would take more than 19 hours to reach the peak where he initially planned the conference. People would be coming from all over the world to discuss their sightings with others, in detail.
Ten years ago today, Max had his first encounter. He had been hiking for about four hours and definitely needed a rest. Max set his gear down and sipped from his canteen. Hearing a faint movement in the bushes nearby, he slowly reached for his camera. Within seconds, the camera was smashed into 50 pieces, and Max was thrown to the ground.
—Ralph T. Sanders
Originally, I was told Interstellar Pickup, or IP, was an underground alien escort service accidentally exploited by a terrified exterminator "just doing his job."
Burned out on online dating and curious about alien intimacy, I signed up.
With promises of alien love and the boasting of safe re-entries in Wal-Mart parking lots, I followed the IP instructions.
As it turns out, IP is a group who cryogenically preserved my brain for pick up by aliens at the 100th anniversary UFO Festival in Roswell.
I am being held hostage by the Interstellar Alienorati who forces me to perform think acts for a show they call "Brains Gone Wild."
Alas, my telepathic escape tunnel is working.
Quick, think something.
Dru catches fairies and bakes them into cakes. It's not an art, she says, it's a science. She wakes up early and stalks through the garden. The best fairies come out early. Who would want to eat those lazy fairies that only wake up at noon, to drag themselves out and slouch from tulip petal to tulip petal? No. That's like buying Hershey's chocolate when you know you could drive downtown and get the good German stuff for just a few dollars more. Only 2 a.m. fairies are cake-worthy. She grinds them into the batter, juices them into the frosting, decorates the top with their crunchy little bones. "Delicious." She licks her fingers. "Science," she says. "Not art."
Learn to Count, Pinhead
Stories we liked that were tragically over the 119-word limit (including title)
“Sir! We have a report of two, repeat two trying to cross Central and Carlisle!” the radio crackled. The elite members of the Garden Snail Tactical Rescue Squadron jumped into action. The Sikorsky CH-53 Stallion helicopter swooped low above the fast-moving vehicles. Team leader Ace McMann was lowered by cable in between incoming cars. A Dodge Neon full of teenagers barely missed him. “You dork!” they shouted. Ace radioed in to lower him more as a truck roared by. He grabbed the snails gently. “Mission accomplished,” he mused. The Sikorsky lifted him safely up above the traffic. Later, the medic leaned over to Ace. “This one's pregnant.” “That's what makes this job so rewarding,” he said to himself as the snail smiled at him.
—Ralph T. Sanders
The lady in the cooking show smiles genially, the fat under her chin and around her mouth shuddering as it moves to make room for those big, grinning teeth. She says "tuh-may-tahs" and speaks in a charming Southern accent, but she can't fool me. I know her half-hour slot is spent on teaching spiteful people how to poison their dinner guests, and that she speaks in code. Every mention of butter is a reference to hydrogen fluoride, and her smelly cheeses are really hunks of rat poison, tossed carelessly into "refreshing garden salads." Her use of hominy reeks of homicide.
"Squash the tuh-may-tahs with your hands," she says, red lipstick still outlining a malicious smirk. Her guests chill in the freezer.
Even before you knock on the door I can smell you, that biting scent of gasoline. Maybe the smell was why I saw you as a phoenix blazing through the night skies, and the drugs and the suicide attempts were all part of your nature. Every time I was burned trying to help you I thought it was my fault. You can’t help being a creature of flame. Now I think you’re just that, if you actually did incinerate yourself there would be nothing left but ash that not even the wind would carry. So I answer the door to hear you repeat the same old plea. That smell of gasoline is overpowering, so I light a match.