Posted by EPL Flash Fiction Contestants
This is a super-long post, but we wanted to get everyone in. Following are all of the entries for our First Annual Flash Fiction Contest. One of the prizes is a patron pick, so read through the entries, and select your favorite. Email your vote to email@example.com, hop over to our Facebook page and post a comment there, give a call to the front desk (692-9556), or stop by the library and fill out a ballot. The deadline for votes is midnight Nov 30th (Friday). All winners will be announced on Saturday Dec 1. Thanks (and applause) to all participants.
PROMPT #1 - Express checkout at the grocery store, 6th grade homework & Stephen King
Entry #5: Stephen King and a Gallon of Milk
My mother was loading the conveyor belt with our monthly groceries while I stood by the shopping cart memorizing a Longfellow poem for English class. I hated poetry. I hated acting like I enjoyed reciting nineteenth-century literature in my downtime.
While standing there, I spotted a man ahead of us in the other express checkout, his conveyor belt holding pencil packets and a gallon of milk. He was running his items over the scanner when I recognized who he was: Stephen King. My mother wasn’t paying me any attention, so I crept behind her to get to him.
“I’m a huge fan of yours,” I said loudly, and he jumped little at my unexpected presence. He must have been surprised to see an eleven-year-old girl in braces standing there. I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “You like milk, huh?”
“Yes, I like milk.”
Entry #10: Checking Out Hottie
“Holy hunk of man, he’s back! Mary thought, bagging the generic cheerios and unwieldy bottle of prune juice. Handing over the change and receipt with the grocery bag, Mary mooned at the delicious man next in line.
He was the reason she worked the express checkout at the grocery store on Tuesdays. Lately Mary had noticed that Mr. Hottie invariably arrived on that day purchasing the same items: two dozen mixed donuts and coffee.
She manually entered the price of the donuts and scanned the hazelnut coffee package. “No French Vanilla this week?”
“No. This week the group is discussing Stephen King’s latest, and French Vanilla seems too sweet for his work.”
“Still behind grading that 6th grade homework you assign?” Mary questioned, grabbing his money.
“Offering to help?”
Mary’s heart sputtered at the flash of heat in Hottie’s eyes. Oh boy…
Entry #14: The Homework Dash
Racing against the clock, Stephen King barely made it through the express checkout at the grocery store and to the school with his son’s forgotten 6th grade homework. Sticking to his parsimonious budget had not been easy, but he managed to skate through the aisles and glide into the checkout with fifteen minutes to spare. Facing the lady trying to make it seem as if she had few enough items to qualify for the express lane had been no easy feat, yet he triumphed, barely escaping with time to spare. In a final dash across the parking lot towards the school, he stumbled. Quick to rebound, our warrior righted himself and made it to the classroom just as the teacher was collecting the assignment. This was no easy task, but Stephen King kept sight of his motto –Fortitudine Vincimus- (By endurance, we conquer) and stared danger in the face.
PROMPT #2 - Darth Vader, running a marathon & a lost cell phone
Entry #3: Valentine’s at Gateway Regional
Somewhere between the laughing gases, the narcoleptic fits, the happy tears, the loud exclamations of my ex-wife’s beauty, I’m pretty sure my middle-aged nurse had a slightly less-than-professional crush on me, whispered sweetly in my ear, and definitely fought to keep wheeling me around. How much of it was a dream? When she made Darth Vader noises and called me Palpatine? When she lied to the head nurse and said I’d lost my cell phone? “No worries,” she hollered over her shoulder, as we made another circuit through the hobbled and the wounded, “We’ll find it!” A drowsy day coming back in pieces, but the evidence I keep rolling between my fingers, a protective red bracelet that reads: Soy Milk, with a little black heart topping the i.
Entry #13: Paternity
Sifting through the rubbish after the marathon was an annual event, trolling through the first mile as 10,000 runners shed their top layers.
Scouting out a sweet looking pullover, I spotted a lonely cell phone – staring up at me. I waited, anticipating a runner would grab it with a smarmy “that’s mine.”
That moment never came.
I reached down. It rang – the theme to the Titanic. Really?
I thought, “this can’t be good.”
Now, holding the phone, it buzzed.
You have a new message. Push here to listen.
In a sad, cancer choked voice, background singer to the noisy respirator keeping it alive, were five short words, “No, I am your father.”
Did the intended recipient ever get this message? Not from me. Not from this phone. Plop. That answer lies at the bottom of the Mississippi.
PROMPT #3 - A library card, amnesia & sushi
Entry #6: Keys From My Past
His mind raced in a swirling maze of memories. The amnesia was beginning to break, but in jagged pieces, incomplete and leaving more questions than answers. On more time, he intently looks at the objects returned to him as he left the hospital. Turning them slowly, he hopes to find any clues he may have missed or a memory he could hold on to. A well-used, time worn library card, a receipt from a sushi restaurant in midtown and a set of keys.
The receipt is from two weeks ago, dinner and Saki for two. Someone in this city knows who he is. A set of keys, four of them could be keys to anything; one was a key to a Toyota. The library card had an address and he would go there later. First, he needed to go to the restaurant. Something happened that night, something horrible.
Entry #8: Remembering Me
Unfamiliar voices reach me. The unfamiliar faces lean in close and smile expectantly. Eyes brim with glittering tears, threatening to spill over. One person takes my hand; their thumb traces my knuckles. The look they give begs me to remember them, but I can’t. Amnesia has eaten away my memories. The one holding my hand asks for a moment alone, and the others leave reluctantly. Wordlessly, the hand holder retrieves a wallet from their coat. The style doesn’t seem to match that of the holder. When it’s offered, I take and open it. In a clear sleeve is an ID of myself. So, it’s mine. I run my fingers over the pockets, stopping to pull out the only other card. A plastic library card. Instantaneously, a hint of a memory flashes through my mind. Books, sushi and a pair of blue eyes much like the ones I look into now. (150)
PROMPT #4 - Piano lessons, a blind dog & inner demons
Entry #1: Lullaby
“What was he dreaming?” she wondered. “Did he see the car coming at him again? Did the last thing he ever saw haunt him as he rested?” His feet and tail moved rapidly. “Avoiding the headlights,” she imagined. At least the music seemed to quiet him. Quiet them both really. As she waited for her piano teacher she played for the little dog. A gift to say she was sorry.
Entry #4: When Dinosaurs Fall Out of Line
The results of the evaluation chased loops through my mind, searching for acceptance. The finding made our reality seem more official, but nothing had really changed.
Olivia practiced dutifully for her piano lesson while Logan sat naked on the cold linoleum floor. Fingers plugged each ear. Plastic dinosaurs stood in a straight line as Logan inspected them. Our blind, geriatric husky hobbled into the toy dinosaurs as she searched among the clutter for a place to lie down. Tyrannosaurs tumbled over destroying the perfect dinosaur line. There was a death scream and one loud bang as Logan slammed his tiny head on the hard floor.
As he began to sob, my solution presented itself. I would take care of my children, my blind dog, and myself every day, just as we were. My inner demons, my fear, and the judgment of others would have to play quietly in the background.
Entry #9: PRACTICING:PIANO LESSONS, a blind dog, and inner demons
ARF!!! ARF!!! ARF!!
Entry #11: Untitled
Pace. Pace. Pace. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Dong. Dong. Dong. Three o’clock. The dog felt his way along the polished hardwood floor to the door. He opened the latch with his teeth. After he heard the door close and latch lock, he found his sanctuary under the wing back chair. Soon the demons exploded from the piano and whirled, screeching wailing and moaning, around the book lined room.. The dog wished he was deaf instead of blind. The child and teacher were oblivious to the turmoil swirling around them, calmly discussing the composer and how to refine to the musical piece. After a time, the dreadful sound slowly subsided. The teacher complimented the student on such a relaxing rendition of Brahms. The dog heard the student rise from the piano bench. That was his cue to unlatch the door. Pace. Pace. Pace. Tick tock, tick tock… until the next lesson.
Entry #12: The Demon Inside
As Johnny walked into the house for his piano lesson, he felt a feeling of foreboding. His teacher, Julia, always acted a little strange and her blind dog always scared him. Once he was inside, Johnny went to the grand piano and sat down. It was a little too quiet. Then a crash reached his ears. He turned around and thought he saw Julia turn the corner. He followed but immediately halted. Julia wasn’t Julia at all! The new “Julia” was a monstrous, disgusting, giant dog with glazed over eyes and a slobbering, foaming mouth with fangs inside. She loomed over Johnny threateningly, yet Johnny was unusually calm. He walked over to the piano and began to play one song after another, humming along. When he was finished, he looked over his shoulder to see Julia petting her small dog, saying “there are demons inside us all.”
“Special” Cases: The first entry uses all the prompts, the second uses none of them. These entries were not judged with the others, but have been included for the Patron Pick.
Entry #2: Margaret’s Marathon
Margaret looked forward to running the Edwardsville marathon. It broke the monotony of working the express checkout at the grocery store. However, it wasn’t boredom that drove her to run, but rather the desire to purge her inner demons. Where was her lost cell phone and library card? What was this strange amnesia? At mile eight, she saw a man with a beard and glasses who looked remarkably like Stephen King stuffing himself with sushi in the shadow of Wasabi. At mile seventeen, she began to feel the fatigue of rising too early to help her son with his 6th grade homework. There wasn’t anything Margaret wouldn’t do for her son: the search for the perfect Darth Vader costume, weekly piano lessons, and endless soccer practices. At mile twenty-one, Margaret hit her stride and was in the zone until she stumbled over a blind dog and crashed to the pavement.
Entry #7: Reconciliation
The phone awakened me at 3 a.m. No one calls with good news at 3 a.m. I was sure that it was my brother, Sam, telling me that my terminally ill sister-in-law had died. My brother and I would be able to reconcile at long last. We hadn’t spoken to each other for three years. My brief affair with his wife, really only a one-night stand, about which so far as I know, he was unaware, (it was all her fault, she had initiated it and I was too drunk to refuse her) had driven a wedge between us. At long last we could talk again, now I could face him. We could rekindle long neglected bonds and take up where we had left off. It would be such a relief. I picked up the phone. I was shocked to hear a woman’s voice. “It’s Sam. He had a heart attack. I want you to make the funeral arrangements.”