Teeny, Tiny Tales

The Alibi's Ridiculously Short Fiction Contest

Amy Dalness
13 min read
Teeny, Tiny Tales
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One-hundred-and-nineteen. It became a life-controlling number while judging this year’s Ridiculously Short Fiction Contest. In the meme phenomenon, it popped up not just in the word count tool, but in numbers of e-mails, on license plates and in mysterious patterns in our alphabet soup (which, we had never consciously realized, also has numbers).

With the help of Erin Adair-Hodges, Nick Brown, Jessica Cassyle Carr, Christie Chisholm, Marisa Demarco, Laura Marrich, Simon McCormack and Steven Nery, I picked through the more than 119 entries submitted to uncover those that conveyed the best tale within the tiny word allotment. It was a difficult task, but after 119 cups of coffee (combined), we plowed right through it.

Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winners. If we could run 119 of the stories, we would. But alas, like the word count, our space it limited. Thanks also to our sponsors—Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill, Calico Café and Central Park Hair Studio—for providing our terse wordsmiths with prizes, which can be picked up at the
Alibi office during business hours. Without further ado, we present the 119-words-or-less winners of the Alibi’s Ridiculously Short Fiction Contest.


First Place

“Herfume ” by Dawn Sperber

The girl who sweats perfume is held in the perfumery basement. Her tears stink like ammonia, but the perfume bottle-holders have good aim. She is kept hot and nervous. Staff are employed to make her sweat, and since all the perfumery workers fall in love with her datura-like scent, they don’t want to dangle tarantulas at her or wear threatening long-fanged masks. But they must somehow make her nervous for her intoxicating water, so each day charming men and women try to outdo each other in delighting the warmblooded girl with thoughtfulness, whimsy and wit.

She forgets her job, blushes, giggling heatedly, and looks coquettishly away as bottles gather her nectar, drop by drop slipping past their lips.

For first place, Sperber receives $50 in Bumble Bee’s Bucks, a $60 gift certificate to Calico Café, $40 in services at Central Park Hair Studio, a copy of
Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do with Pigs by Katherine Barber, the paperback version of Marianne Wiggins’ award-winning The Shadow Catcher and the super-awesome Church Signs Across America by Steve and Pam Paulson.


Second Place

Untitled” by Rebecca Donnelly

They guessed Barb was 60 pounds lighter after the liposuction. The wide buttocks were gone, the heavy rolls of the belly. She was left with a few sharp angles covered by leftover skin. People joked that she might have wings if she stretched her arms out. Unkindness helped to mask the vague longing they felt, the loss of their desire to crawl into her lap, bury themselves in the soft flesh of her middle. In desperation, they contrived ridiculous Bacchanalias, forced reasons to bring food to the office. They never looked at Barb, who stayed in her cubicle, but urgently offered each other pieces of cake, tried to persuade each other to eat just one more slice of pie.

Donnelly’s second-place tale (and, boy, what a close second) earns her $25 in Bumble Bee’s Bucks, $40 in certs to Calico Café, $40 in services at Central Park Hair Studio, a copy of
Alibi book reviewer Lisa Lenard-Cook’s The Mind of Your Story: Discover What Drives Your Fiction and the paperback version of Marianne Wiggins’ award-winning The Shadow Catcher.


Third Place

“Flowers of Kabul” by John Knoll

Sasha was executed yesterday, stoned to death in the square for being a Jew. The desert air is a scar. Burial mounds dot the moon-drenched cemetery. An old bearded man, shoes untied, stumbles, cries, searches for his wife’s grave.

I climb a hill outside the city, look down to Kabul, throw three rocks at the devil, walk towards the city lights.

The desert air is a diaphanous skin I can’t touch. I breathe dust. Blood flowers from my ears. I can’t live here anymore. In Kabul, tomorrow is my enemy, and I hunger for Sasha’s touch.

Third place snags John Knoll $40 in eats at Calico Café, $30 in services at Central Park Hair Studio and a copy of local poet Don McIver’s
The Noisy Pen .


Honorable Mentions

“The Disappearance of Bobby Pillman” by Marc Calderwood

Bobby always ran home accusing someone of something, bringing his mother back to yell at the rest of us. When we built a tree house, Bobby fell and broke his arm. His parents demanded the tree house be torn down, and it was.

One day, on a bluff overlooking the inlet, we were going to try to fly using a giant homemade kite tethered to a tree. Bobby demanded to be first. We strapped him and the kite tightly together. He jumped, swept down the face of the bluff, got enough air to get lift and he flew. When he was well over the cold gray waves of the inlet we cut the tether.

“Small Things” by David H. Doyle

Inertha was terrified of small things. Pennies made her cringe, as did dust mites and thumb tacks. Often before an episode of Diminution Hysteria, Abel’s pudgy little arm, holding a bottle of Gerber’s blended carrots or peas or celery, would rise up from the highchair, and he’d smash it on the green linoleum. She’d howl at the broken glass, scattered into countless terrifying shards. But because it was Abel’s doing, and he could do
no wrong, she was temporary healed. Like homeopathy. Yes?

One day the bottle didn’t break. It just bounced. She screamed. He laughed. She gave him up for adoption.

Nowadays he works for Underwriters Laboratories. Electric sockets amuse him. He lives. She doesn’t.

Calderwood and Doyle each receive a $20 gift certificate to Calico Café and $20 at Central Park Hair Studio for their honorably mentioned super-short stories.


The Best of the Rest

“His Skin” by Michael X. Goodrich

The man loved the woman. He gave her flowers and candy, his heart and soul, and finally he gave her his skin. Afterwards he would sit at home shivering, for a man with no skin grows cold.

She would wear his skin when she went out to clubs, his arms wrapped like a scarf around her neck, his legs trailing behind her like long tails on a coat.

At the bar, a man bought her a drink. "Whose skin?"

"My boyfriend’s."

"Where’s he?"

"Home shivering."

"Huh." He swallowed his beer. "Want to get out of here?"

"Works for me," she said, and they left, her boyfriend’s toenails clicking like spurs on the tile floor behind her.

"Reality Bites" by Antone Martinez

Everything he ate, he was able to live in the universe of. If he ate a piece of bark off of a tree, he understood the reality of what it was to be bark. If he ate a whisker off of his kitten’s cheek, he knew what it was to be a whisker. He grew to be immensely intelligent. Of course with a great amount of knowledge, comes a great amount of insanity. He couldn’t, for the life of him, understand the actuality of himself. In the end, the poor man, the idiosyncratic wonder, ate himself.

“Untitled” by Antonia Montoya

“Would you still love me if I had a moustache?” she pleaded as I shuddered but continued my rhythm. I don’t love her now and surely would not then. I imagined her with a moustache standing so thick that an ant couldn’t trail through, though many would die trying.

She spoke again, but through my groans I only heard the words pus, crusty, teeth, my twelve year old son and pussy. Is she getting off on some type of sadism? Is she trying to assure we never see each other again? Delay my orgasm? If so, it worked, I’m not coming, maybe not for years. I shriveled back into the protective recesses of my skin and turned my head.

"PowerPoint My Love" by Virginia Chavez

Perhaps it’s best not to take romantic advice from a metro-sexual gay couple at a wine festival. After sampling twice from every booth, they easily convince you that love letters are overrated and you are a marvelous technical writer. They jubilantly tie argyle sweaters around their necks and exclaim it would be fabulous to express your true feelings, to the man you adore, in a PowerPoint presentation!

While setting up the Mac on his Corona metal table you silently remind yourself
I am effective not defective and bravely proceed. After presenting twelve slides, you shakily look up from the printed notes and notice his alarmed expression and realize you made a capitol-M Mistake.

“Wake-Up Call” by Jon Nielsen

I awake in completely strange surroundings.

Pink walls. Soft pillows. Pink drapes.

Smell of perfume.

This is not my room. I don’t belong here.

And who is that? All in pink, not moving. My God, what have I done?

I awake in completely strange surroundings.

Gray walls. No pillows. Gray bars.

Smell of fear.

This is not my room. I don’t belong here.

And who is that? All in gray, scowling. My God, what have I done?

I awake in completely strange surroundings.

Soft walls. Soft white floor. No windows.

Smell of disinfectant.

This is not my room. I don’t belong here.

And who is that? All in white, smiling. My God, what have I done?

"Daddy Was a Carpenter" by Blue Barringer

He took my childhood, not with his fists or with his sex, but with his tools. Pry-bars, hammers, two by fours―anything that could be thrown or swung in my direction. Never knowing when it would happen was the hardest part. An argument with my mother, a slight from a co-worker, a reprimand from his boss. He’d be quiet, quiet, quiet and then explode, and tools would fly. I figured out early it wasn’t because of me but didn’t learn to stop him until I turned thirteen. I finally hit him back and said, “You ever touch me again and I will kill you.” He never did―not in anger, nor with love.

"Honey-Do" by Beneatha Younger-Mann

Her chest grazes his face through her white silk blouse. Her knee on the side of his thigh, raising her white skirt to just above her knees. She is stretching her arms high above her. Desperately grasping at the air, in an attempt that will prove fruitless. He allows this to continue, so pleased that she is unaware of, and unconcerned by, the affect she is having on him. "Jim, will you please get me my hat? I’m ushering today." Grinning, he reminds himself to raise that shelf again while she is at church. She nearly got it that time.

“These Colors Don’t Run” by EL Martinez

Seventy-five percent of the 2.8 billion pencils manufactured today are yellow. This is because pencil makers paint their pencils yellow, the traditional color of Chinese royalty, to create association with China and its high quality graphite.

Jeremiah sweated nervously. The floor of the Annual International Office Supply Tradeshow, held this year in lovely Des Moines, Iowa, was hot and crowded. He wondered if the A.C. would ever click on.

He glanced down at a single ink stained index card. It read:

• Pencils!

• Yellow?

• Yellow pencils = Communism.

• Trust Commies with our writing needs in these turbulent times?

People began to congregate before his red, white and blue adorned "Freedom Pencils" booth.

“Bob the Janitor” by John M. Gombeda

Bob picked up his mop from the bucket and began to work on the marble white floors. The hallways were long and quiet. The wet sloshing of his mop killed the dead quiet. The aroma of Pine-Sol flooded the air with a sickening “clean" smell. It was his job. Each wipe against the marble floor was incredibility calculated and expressed a gentle purpose that could almost find its origin in love. No one would ever notice the subtle silent unapologetic joy he found in what he did. Had one taken a brief moment to observe him it was uncountable would have noticed the aura of a gentle artist painting his greatest work. He loved his job.

“Flitter Flutter” by Jon Forrest Little

It had been raining.

It weighed heavy on my brain.

What could I do about his unjust plan?

My mother told me the end was near.

I did some figuring.

Two hippos weighed 18,000 pounds and ate 188 pounds of food per day. I weighed a gram and barely ate anything.

Two hippos weigh the same as 7.97 million Monarch Butterflies yet we were told that only two of us would be spared!

Fuck you Noah! We hate you!

We won’t miss you. Flitter. Flutter. We are thriving and surviving with two less lizards and two less frogs to dodge.

“Halloween” by Vanessa Abbott

Jeff adjusted his shark costume with the hand that wasn’t holding a cocktail. Before him stood a myopic cad talking about the woman who broke his heart. The one who ran off with a rockstar four years ago but kept him on a short leash because he was good in bed and pathetically devoted to her. Jeff hated men like this—who seemed to revel in their distress, wearing their hearts on their sleeves as if it gave them depth or something. Jeff was sensitive, but he was a pragmatist.

Sam Noble once said to him, "Jeff, I don’t like you. You’re always trying to be someone you’re not."

And he said, "But Sam, that’s who I am."
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