Blonde Noir

June 28th, 2020

by DC Diamondopolous

Kit Covington sat on the sofa in her Pacific Palisades mansion with a cigarette lodged in the side of her mouth. A cloud of smoke floated around her head. She adjusted the oxygen tube in her nose, then brushed ash from her dog Muffin’s champagne-colored curls. The miniature poodle dozing in Kit’s lap startled when the camera crew from The Great Morning Talk Show banged equipment into Kit’s antique furniture. 

“Watch it! You scratch anything, you’ll pay for the restoration.” Since her left lung had been removed, Kit’s husky voice had a rattle that lingered between words chaining them together like loose ball bearings.

“Sorry,” the stocky, tattooed sound woman said. 

Kit wondered if the all-female crew was a set-up—some kind of knife-twisting in the gut. She’d been anxious about the interview and now regretted it.

Her son, Robin, urged her to confront the nonsense. The 1950s blonde bombshell became notorious because of some damn youtube video a pop singer made by superimposing Kit’s dance sequence from the 1956 movie, I Was a Teenage SheWolf From Mars, while he sang to her. It went viral. Paramount capitalized on it with a box set of her films. The Screen Actors Guild sent her checks she hadn’t seen in sixty years. 

Kit would have laughed at the male juvenile obsession with her big breasts, platinum blonde hair, and erotic gyrations in her bullet bra and tight sequined space suit. But it happened at the time actresses came forward and named producers, directors, and actors who raped and assaulted them. The video ignited a firestorm of criticism from young women, who blamed her for their being sexualized. She became the poster girl, Adam’s Eve, the anti-feminist, the target for all the ills cast upon womanhood—making her name Kit into a verb synonymous with “fucks for favors.” 

What a load of shit! 

Kit had had enough after months of headlines, CNN pestering her old studio for her telephone number, and the tabloids offering money to anyone who had a recent picture of her. 

Centerfolds, headshots, movie-posters, her sexy blonde images from the 50s were everywhere.

She chose The Great Morning Talk Show because Bridget Lundgren, the lawyer turned TV host, defended her on the show.

Muffin jumped from Kit’s lap and wolfed a piece of jelly donut the beefy, spiked- haired, lighting woman had dropped. 

“This isn’t a barn! Use a napkin. That’s a three-hundred-year-old Persian rug,” Kit said. 

“Sorry, Miss Covington.” 

Kit watched Lundgren scrutinize the pictures on the wall. She was a real fashion plate in a navy pantsuit, with her short blonde hair tucked behind her ears. Kit tensed when the woman took a photograph from her carnival days off the wall and examined it, revealing a yellow nicotine outline. How dare she!

“Is this from the Gerling Carnival?” Lundgren asked.

“Could be,” Kit said surprised that Lundgren knew about her carny days. 

Lundgren replaced it and moved to the photo of Kit riding bareback in The Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, where she performed flips until she fell from the horse and broke her ankle. 

Above the walk-in fireplace, Lundgren gazed at the huge painting of Kit by Willem deKooning. It was Kit’s favorite, by the artist who inspired her to take up painting. Completed in 1958 when she was twenty-five, the painting recalled the memory of sitting for hours, her back arched, her tits pointing to the North Star, pouty full lips, a halo of platinum blonde hair, and the moist come-hither look women still use to lure men into the bedroom. 

“This is one of the few deKoonings I’ve seen that isn’t an abstract,” Lundgren said.

“He did others.”

“My favorite was the Woman series. I love how he broke rules.”

Kit puffed on her cigarette and flicked ash into a large serving dish sitting next to her. She wondered how much of the art world Lundgren knew. In person, Kit judged her as a cool and calculating woman, the way she inspected the pictures as if they hid the da Vinci code. Why not ask how all the hullabaloo affected her, how it made her irritable, critical, bitchy. She wondered if Lundgren had gone so far as to play nice-nice on TV—knowing Kit would be watching.

Outside the sliding screen door, she saw Robin watering the rose bushes. Since the operation, he’d been pestering her to stop smoking. She cut back from a four packs a day, to two and a half. What the hell did he want? She’d been smoking since she was ten.  When he tried to scare her with images on his phone of how the cancer could spread to the liver and kidneys, she grabbed the phone and threw it at him. She made him swear that when she died, he’d put her in a box, stick a cigarette in her mouth—preferably lit—and prod a lighter in her right hand.

“I can go without oxygen for four minutes,” Kit said.  “So break. I don’t want these damn tubes on camera. I’ll need a cigarette—.”

“Your son told us.” 

Miffed by Lundgren’s rudeness, Kit said, “When do we start?”

“In five minutes. Do you need to use the restroom?”

“My legs are cramping.” Kit struggled to rise, shooing Lundgren away when she tried to help. She stood and rolled the oxygen tank she called Sherman across the living room floor while pulling a pack of Winstons and a lighter from the pocket of her long flowing gypsy skirt. 

“Aren’t you afraid of the tank exploding?” the sound woman asked as Kit wobbled by.

“No, I’m not. If I could walk a tightrope while on my period, I can roll a damn dolly while smoking a ciggie.” 

The girl raised her eyebrows and turned away.

Robin saw her and slid open the screen. 

“I don’t want to do this,” Kit said. “That woman’s going to ambush me.”

“C’mon mom, you liked her.”

“Not anymore. She snapped at me, ‘Your son told us,’” she mimicked. 

Kit pushed past Robin and stood above her tiered English garden. Even with her fading sense of smell, she caught fragrances of her lemon and peach trees. Below the garden was a view overlooking Highway 1, Malibu, and the Pacific Ocean. She had bought the house in the fifties while pregnant with Robin and married his father Daniel soon after.

The April morning glistened as Catalina Island sat like a treasured cast-off from the mainland. Cast-off. When Kit hit her late twenties, it was over. No producer wanted to hire an old hag at thirty. Her agent got her jobs on TV, as a panel member on To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got a Secret, and her big whoop-de-doo, the center box on Hollywood Squares. In the 1970s, her agent dropped her. 

“You signed a contract, Mom. Let people hear your story.” He peered into the living room. “They’re ready for your close-up.”

Kit rolled her eyes. Robin was always quoting from Sunset Blvd., The Wizard of Oz, or All About Eve. On occasion he’d dress in drag and perform dance numbers from Cabaret, A Chorus Line, and musicals she never heard of. Her boy knew how to make her laugh. 

Kit counted five strangers in her house, eating, drinking coffee, moving her furniture, and using her bathroom. Well, at least they were women and wouldn’t be pissing on the floor. 

“We’re ready, Miss Covington,” the sound woman yelled.

“C’mon, Mom. It’ll be fun.”

“I look like an old beatnik.”

“You arean old beatnik.”

Kit’s chuckle rumbled like a truck bouncing over potholes. She smoothed her long white hair with her ciggie hand. She hadn’t worn lipstick or make-up in years. She lived in sandals and, before the operation, went barefoot. 

Robin waited for Kit to enter, then slid the door behind him. Kit rolled Sherman to the couch and settled in. Muffin jumped in her lap and Jezebel the cat slinked around the sofa and nestled beside Kit.

“We’ll open with the video,” Lundgren said. “then cutaway for the interview.”

“Why show that again?”

“It’s the reason for the interview, Miss Covington.”

How sucky, Kit thought. She wasn’t ashamed. She just didn’t like having to defend herself. 

“Everyone in the world has seen it.”

“It’s a lead in,” Lundgren said.

Kit scowled at Robin. He came over and straightened the string of turquoise and silver beads that dangled from her neck.

“Quit fussing.”

“Come out, come out, wherever you are and meet the young lady, who fell from a star,” Robin whispered.

“Glinda the Good Witch,” Kit mumbled.

Robin winked at her. 

“Ready when you are, Bridget,” the camerawoman said.

“Good morning. Today, we have a very special guest. Kit Covington. In case you’ve been living under a rock the last several months,” Lundgren smiled, “we’re going to play the video that’s caused a sensation. Here’s the Grammy-winning pop star, Walker, singing from the hit video, “You’re My Dream Girl in the Night” along with Kit Covington from her movie, I Was a Teenage SheWolf from Mars.

The video played on a small monitor. Kit watched herself from the 1956 horror movie, dancing, spinning, cleavage bouncing, her generous ass stretching the satin on her sequined spacesuit. It was hard to imagine her wrinkled and shriveled body once had so much oomph and had been so sexy. 

She took off the tube and laid it beside her.

The camerawoman pointed her finger, and Lundgren began.

“We’re sitting in the home of Kit Covington, a movie actress known as the Queen of the Bs from the 1950s, who has become infamous for being the poster-girl for the sexualization of generations of women.” 

“That’s a load of shit!” Kit said. “Why blame me? Women have always used their bodies to get what they want. As if women didn’t fuck before 1956.”

Lundgren’s jaw dropped. Seconds went by before she made the throat-slash sign with her hand.

Kit coughed and hacked. Muffin jumped on the floor. Jezebel leaped from the sofa and ran around the couch. Kit took the tube and fastened the nasal cannula inside her nostrils, then lighted up a Winston. She inhaled and glanced at the stunned crew and Lundgren. Robin, with his eyes popping and mouth opened, reminded her of Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

“You can’t swear on TV,” Lundgren said. 

Kit glanced at her, looked away, and flicked ash into the dish. It was a knee-jerk reaction, a build-up from the last several months. Also, she wasn’t convinced Lundgren was on her side.

“You can’t go off the rails like that, Miss Covington. It won’t help you.”

“Infamous. Sexualization. Men sexualize women. Who’s head of advertising? They use sex to sell hamburgers, anything. Look at films! Who runs the networks?” 

“It’s a lead-in,” Lundgren said. 

“I’ve been assaulted and harassed like all those women. I don’t blame anyone but the shits who hurt me.” Kit blew smoke at the side of Lundgren’s face. “How dare you judge me.”

Lundgren waved away the smoke. “I’m not, Miss Covington. Not at all.” Jezebel arched her back and rubbed against Lundgren’s leg.

Kit crushed the cigarette into the plate. She narrowed her gaze at the blonde, who with her furrowed brow and the gentle way she stroked and caressed Jezebel, didn’t fool Kit. Behind Lundgren’s look of compassion was a frozen dish of ambition. 

“Would you like to try it again?” Lundgren said.

Kit caught the rapport—the way Lundgren and Robin shot glances at each other— and now her cat had turned traitor.

She took off the oxygen tube. “Muffin.” The poodle ran to her and leaped in her lap. Robin sat at the far end of the couch.

“We’re ready,” the camerawoman said.

Lundgren looked into the camera. 

“We’re here with Kit Covington. Known in the 1950s as Queen of the Bs, she has made a scandalizing comeback—.” 

“Scandalizing! That’s nothing compared to the shit I see on HBO.”

Lundgren made the throat-slash sign and stood from the sofa. 

“We need to take a break.”

“We sure as hell do.” Kit attached the oxygen tube and rose from the couch. Muffin bounded to the floor. Kit wheeled Sherman to the screen door, shooing Robin away, opened it, and went outside. 


Kit ignored him. She wheeled Sherman down the ramp while lighting a cigarette. 

She and her boy had been snookered into believing Lundgren was on her side. “Scandalizing,” she mumbled. What did Lundgren know about the life of a girl in the 1940s? Those young punks don’t know a damn thing about what life was like before they were born. 

She clamped the ciggie in the corner of her mouth and steered the wheels over the yellow bricks Robin had laid that led down to her studio. She’d shut the door, pick up her pallet and brush, and lose herself as she disappeared into her painting.

The white stucco building, with red bougainvillea blooming against the side of the wall, inspired the artist in Kit. She painted color in splashes and dashes, mix-matching paint, blending oil, watercolor, and charcoal onto the canvases. Entering her studio was the closest thing to going to church. It was a place where her creativity transported and elated her.

She mashed the cigarette into the standing ashtray outside. The galleries complained of having to clean her canvas’. To show her how the smoke diminished her work, Robin took a moist cloth and gently wiped a painting. The rag turned yellow. Without the cover of nicotine, the colors burst with vitality. It was a huge sacrifice not to smoke while she painted, but for her art, she would do anything. 

Kit went into her sanctuary, the studio overlooking her cactus garden. Rows of tall windows allowed light to stream in. And where there weren’t windows, her imagination decorated the walls. Robin had constructed built-ins for stacking paintings, nooks for brushes and paints, a worktable with drawers. Her boy built the studio exactly how she insisted. 

In the late 1980s, Robin went behind her back and entered her work in contests. Furious by Robin’s betrayal, even when she won, she wouldn’t talk to him for days. He adored being the son of a movie star, but being her art agent satisfied both his nurturing and dramatic nature. He arranged her exhibits at MoMA, the Whitney, and others, with as much flare as his once movie star mother. He made deals so her work hung in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Prado.

From the beginning she signed her work D. L. Hawkins, after Robin’s father, leaving off his last name, Sutton. He lived his forty-four years as an art form, free and spontaneous, he danced when other men walked. My God how she missed him.

Kit made a fortune from her paintings, donating millions of dollars to art institutes. Who would take her seriously if they knew the esteemed D. L. Hawkins was once a second-rate sex-kitten?

Kit shut the door against the world. It hurt having those young women wrongly judge her. She knew what women went through, especially young women. Mad at herself for being so sensitive, she hated to admit that she cared what others thought of her.

“I knocked but you didn’t answer.”

Kit turned so fast the oxygen cannula pulled at her nostrils.

The blonde talk show host stood in the doorway, holding Muffin. Lundgren wore the same expression—open mouth, wide eyes—as when Kit dropped the f-bomb. 

“Oh my God. I don’t believe it.”

“I’m not doing the interview,” Kit said. 

Lundgren gazed at the art on the walls. “Neither am I, Miss Covington.”

“Then why are you here? And why are you holding my dog?”

“I followed Muffin,” Lundgren said, releasing the poodle. “She brought me here.”

“Fink,” Kit said, glaring at the dog.

“I wanted to let you know I cancelled.” Lundgren continued to stare at the art and the unfinished oil painting on the easel. “And to say goodbye.” Lundgren shook her head. “I can’t believe it,” she said, looking at a pastel that leaned against the wall. “I’m standing in D.L. Hawkins’s studio.”

Kit hacked, “Th—This is,” she stuttered, “private.”

“I’m sorry. I swear—swear, I won’t mention a word to anyone. Are you and Hawkins an item?” she said, glancing at Muffin’s bed and water dish in the corner.

Shaking, startled by the intrusion into her secret life, Kit watched dumbfounded as Lundgren made a b-line to the easel.   

“You, you’re not supposed—.” Kit stammered.

“A merry-go-round, where the horses are riding the people.” 

Didn’t Lundgren hear her? Just barged her way into D. L.’s studio as if Kit didn’t exist. She shuffled across the wooden floor, shoving Sherman over to the easel.

Lundgren angled her head. “Animal cruelty. It’s amazing to me how Hawkins takes an idea and turns it on its head. I saw his exhibit at MoMA when I did my post-graduate work. Blew me away.”

“You know his work?”

“I majored in art. Didn’t have the talent, so I changed to law.” Lundgren leaned into the unfinished painting. “He tells a story with brush strokes. What a genius.” She looked at Kit. “I know he’s a recluse, but I’d be honored to meet him.”

It reminded Kit of when Robin told her how critics and docents praised her work at exhibits. But to have someone stand in her studio and express how her art touched them, well, it made her—happy. 

“He uses horses a lot,” Lundgren said. “My favorite is the Equine Series. You can feel the movement, hear the hooves beating against the ground.”

Kit was impressed by the woman’s knowledge, her trained eye.

“Where did you meet? In the carnival, or circus? It must have been a hard life.”

“Not as bad as home. Carnival came to town, and I ran away. Fourteen years old, a hoochie-coochie girl. It was roughest on the animals and freaks. In 1948, no jobs for women, but I survived.” Kit hadn’t talked about her life with the carny for years. But like Lundgren said, it showed up in her work, often with horses. “The circus. Then the pin-ups and movies. I survived that too. Not like the other blonde bombshells. So many died— suicides, over doses. Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash.” Kit felt fatigued. “Yes,” she nodded, “I survived that life, too.”

Lundgren listened, but Kit observed her inching her way toward the collage series on the worktable. 

“This is an incredible studio. The lighting. High ceilings. Skylights. Everything an artist could dream of. Makes me want to paint again.” Lundgren glanced at Muffin lapping water from her bowl and then settle into her bed. 

Kit flinched when Lundgren spotted her pink paw-patterned smock draped over the back of a chair and the unopened pack of Winstons on the work table.

Lundgren turned slowly. She didn’t look at her, just stared off. Kit experienced a shock of her own. She saw Lundgren putting it all together— amazement, then the revelation. Oh shit! What could Kit do about it? Kill her?

Lundgren tidied her short blonde hair behind her ears. 

“I need a cigarette.” Kit wheeled Sherman toward the door. “C’mon Lundgren. D. L. wouldn’t want anyone but me alone with his work,” she said, making light of a moment that changed both their lives.

Muffin ran out the door. Kit looked over her shoulder. “You coming?”

Their eyes met. Lundgren’s were filled with tears. 

“I’m tired. I need to sit down. Coming?” 

Kit and Muffin walked down the path to the cactus garden. She figured Lundgren was somewhere behind. Tears. She knew them well. But when others cried, it put her at a disadvantage, made her feel mushy. And the young woman looked so beautiful standing in her studio with the sunlight catching every nuance of understanding that passed over her face.

Kit sat on a wrought iron bench, pulled Sherman close, lighted up, and surveyed her garden. 

On a lookout, atop the Palisades, her nearest neighbor somewhere below, she really was a recluse. At eighty-five, with death a kiss away, she’d been angry for decades, for her stepfather’s abuse, Daniel’s death, even the small slights, building on top of one another making her view of life a vista of loneliness. 

Muffin whined. Kit looked up and saw Lundgren. Muffin jumped up on her hind legs begging Lundgren to pick her up. The woman crouched down, petted Muffin, and looked at Kit. 

She nodded. 

“I have two silkies, I bet she smells them.”

“It’s more than that.” Kit’s voice had the tired monotony of a flat tire. It wasn’t even noon and she needed a nap. She coughed, hacked, and spit out a glob of phlegm. “Excuse me.” Kit took out her handkerchief and wiped her mouth. “I’m not used to company,” she said and continued to smoke.

“Hey, Mom,” Robin yelled from the top of the garden path, “is everything okay?”

“Yes,” Lundgren answered for her. “Tell the crew I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

Lundgren handed Muffin to Kit and walked around the garden. Her hair was tousled by the breeze. 

Kit preferred her like this—mussed. She wondered what the woman looked like at home, in jeans and a T-shirt. Lundgren walked through the narrow aisles, inspecting the plants. 

“They’re beautiful how they bloom,” she said. “Like a miracle. I love the subtlety of the color, the shape, how the sunlight captures the unexposed side of the petals.” 

Kit remembered how Lundgren studied the photos on the wall. She was sensitive, with an artist’s eye. Maybe she wasn’t going to exploit her after all. The pretty blonde with the slender build must have put up with a lot of sexual harassment. If so, Kit doubted she’d share any of it with her. She thought of Lundgren as quiet, low-key, except when she talked about D. L. Hawkins, then she herself bloomed. 

“I understand why you had to choose a pseudonym,” Lundgren said with her back still to Kit. She turned. “I can’t imagine what you went through.” Lundgren walked over and sat next to her. “Not just your generation. My mother had me young. My father ran off and the only way she could keep me and get an education was to dance in strip clubs. She made a good living. That was the 1980s. It’s still hard.” 

The two women gazed at the garden with the Pacific as a backdrop. 

“There’s a way to make everyone forget about your video,” Lundgren said.

Kit took a deep inhalation of oxygen, closed her eyes, and savored her last moments as D. L. Hawkins. It was her little champagne-colored poodle who had pulled back the curtain and revealed her identity—Muffin, leading Lundgren down the path to her door, giving her away. 

Kit could see it now. Robin would take off her oxygen tube and dance her around the living room, overjoyed that his mom would be coming out of the closet. The thought of his endless euphoria exhausted her, but Lundgren was right. It would wipe that stupid video off the networks and change her name from a verb back to a noun.  

She stubbed out her Winston. Leaning on Lundgren, she struggled to her feet.

“I’m going to lie down. Run this by Robin. You guys work out the details. But tell him not to wake me until three. And I’ll want my martini extra dry.”

Kit shuffled along. She pulled Sherman as the wheels made clap-clap sounds over the yellow brick path, with Lundgren beside her and Muffin running ahead. 

Go straight to the Contest
Meet the Finalists
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Meet the Finalists of the 2020 !Short Story Contest!

June 25th, 2020

— including a portrait of each author’s favorite chair–
!a tradition!

Read the stories, here.

DC Diamondopolous is an award-winning novelette, short story, and flash fiction writer with over 200 stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. DC’s stories have appeared in: 34th Parallel, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Ball State University, Lunch Ticket, Progenitor, Blue Lake Review, and many others. DC was nominated for Best of the Net Anthology. She lives on the California central coast with her wife and animals.

Sage Kalmus is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in The Writer Magazine, Spine Magazine, Sanctuary, Whisperings Magazine, CARNIVAL Online Literary Journal and Rose Red Review. He is a freelance writer, ghostwriter and editor of tens of thousands of articles and dozens of novels, plays and screenplays. He is a writing teacher, including a course in magical realism in Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program. He is also the publisher, with his beloved spouse, of 10 LGBTQ+ literary anthologies. They live in the lovely Berkshires of western Massachusetts with their furred, finned and feathered family. 

Malda Marlys teaches science just outside Chicago and writes the sort of speculative fiction that requires too many qualifiers for the normal flow of conversation. An out-of-practice black belt, mediocre birdwatcher, and two-time ISFiC Writer’s Contest winner, she spends most of her time being bullied by disreputable housepets and adding to a monumental TBR pile.

A.L. Diaz graduated cum laude from the University of La Verne with a degree in Creative Writing. She has publications with such literary anthologies as Prism ReviewCultural Weekly, and Fiction Kitchen Berlin, and was selected as a finalist for Defenestrationism’s 2020 Flash Suit Contest.

John D. Payne grew up on the prairie, where the tornadoes and electrical storms play.  Watching the lightning flash outside his window, he imagined himself as everything from a leaf on the wind to the god of thunder. Today, he lives with his wife and family at the foot of the Organ Mountains in New Mexico, where he he focuses his weather-god powers on rustling up enough cloud cover for a little shade. 

John’s debut novel, The Crown and the Dragon, is an epic fantasy published by WordFire Press. You can find his stories on podcasts like The Overcast, magazines like StoryHack, and books like X Marks the Spot: An Anthology of Treasure and Theft. 

Stalk him on Twitter @jdp_writes. Patronize him at

Aditya Gautam is a writer from India who believes very much in the power of fiction beyond entertaining—for instance, in throwing people out of windows. Among the many things he loves in this world are roasted peanuts, the sound of rain, thick books, toy trains, and weak sunlight. 

His short stories and poems have been published in Singapore, the USA, and the UK.  A speculative short story by him was included in the Best Asian Fiction Anthology, 2018 by Kitaab, Singapore. Most recently, he has been published in the June 2020 issue of The Bombay Review. 

His debut novel, A Dream of Duplicity, will also be published sometime later this year.

Ross West has placed fiction, essays, journalism, and poetry in publications from Orion to the Journal of Recreational Linguistics. His work has been anthologized in Best Essays Northwest, Best of Dark Horse Presents and elsewhere. He edited the University of Oregon’s research magazine, Inquiry; was senior managing editor at Oregon Quarterly; and served as text editor for the Atlas of Oregon and Atlas of Yellowstone.

Bryan Joe Okwesili is a chocolate loving realist, a poet and storyteller keen on telling diverse African queer stories. He writes from Anambra, Nigeria. He divides his time between reading, writing and drinking lots of water. His art have appeared on Brittle paper, Lunaris, Expound, Kalahari review, African Writers, and forthcoming elsewhere.
He is currently a student of law at the University of Calabar, Calabar.

Back to the 2020 !Short Story Contest!
Who’s responsible for this madcap affair?– Masthead
home/ Bonafides

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Last Hours of the Submission Period for 2020 !Short Story Contest!

June 9th, 2020

It is the 9th of June, on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Which means there are very few hours left for you Lovers of Literature to submit to our Summer short-fiction contest.

Be forewarned– this is not a subtle contest, but a contest of sudden change.

Read our very specific guidelines, here.
And be sure to meet our Judges, here.

We will accept submissions until it is no longer June 9th anywhere on Earth.

Best of luck, Lovers of Literature,
Yours, Paul-Newell Reaves,
owner, co-editor,

And no matter what, never forget the words of
poet Thomas Sayers Ellis
“Whatever you do, don’t stop”.

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Strong Traffic Heading into 2020 !Short Story Contest!

June 4th, 2020

Greetings from Defenestrationism reality.

With less than one week left to submit to our 2020 !Short Story Contest!, we have some substantial traffic numbers to brag about– including a new daily high in site-visits.

On Monday June 1st, we received 1,640 hits– 1,388 of which went to our !Short Story Contest! guidelines page.

In the past week, alone, we exceeded our average monthly rate for visits with 2,765 site-visits. Although we average between 500 and 2,500 site visits per month, months in which we hold our three annual contests generally garner far more. January of this year resulted in 8,622.

So keep surfing through, Lovers of Literature, as we publish the 2020 !Short Story Contest! across July and August.

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Dispatch from Washington, D.C.– we must make bigotry unprofitable

June 3rd, 2020

by Paul-Newell Reaves,
owner, co-editor, co-founder,

Greetings from the Capital of a flawed and troubled nation.

No one in the current administration gives one orange hair about people in the street– those marching peacefully, those staying still, those looting opportunistically, even those incapable of movement at all.

For this reason, and at this time, protesting is a useless endeavor towards sincere, meaningful change. Undoubtedly, it is a great emotional catharsis for all involved– but that is about all.

My sister called my today. She lives on 5th st., NW. That’s eleven blocks from the Whitehouse– on 16th. Last night, Monday June 1st– the same day the city was to open from the quarantine– military grade helicopters flew past her building at rooftop level. In her words, a phalanx of armed guards marched down her two-lane street. E st. is not very wide.

There is no resisting a Black Hawk helicopter. With the shows of force this administration is willing to display, no amount of people in the streets will demonstrate anything other than their need for greater force.

The issues we have faced this year, however, reach far beyond the current administration– far beyond Nation States, and far beyond recorded history. And, for the issues of Racism, Bigotry, Rape-Culture, Hate-Culture and Sexism, there will be no vaccine. So what will we do? What can we do?

We need to vote with our dollars.

Capitalism is also larger than Nation States. We must apply this system to address our deepest flaws. The stock-market need not rebound to do so, nor the economy surge– no one need die, no one need become infected to do so. Indeed, a bust-economy will only make my following strategy more effective.

We need to make bigotry immensely unprofitable.

If profit is all that the empowered care to consider, then we must let them know how bigotry will not be stood for in the only ways they understand.

We know how to do this. Research whom you buy from– choose which stores, which corporations. The information is there– pay attention to the watchdogs, the independent media groups, the American Civil Liberties Union. As importantly, be vocal about this effort– tell your friends, your co-workers, and tell those you will not patronize why they have lost your business. We know how to do this. We need only follow through, commit, and be thorough in our pursuit of this aim.

In Sincerity, Solidarity and Peace
— Paul-Newell Reaves,
owner, co-editor,

Should you choose to submit to our Summer fiction contest, please read our Editing Tips.

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Before you submit: some editing tips

May 13th, 2020

Importance in Editing

Have you edited enough?– probably not.

So, here are some tips, including

Substantive Content Editing

and advice from Contest Judge Glenn A. Bruce

Substantive Content Editing:
Major changes– often deletions– that make a piece of writing better.
-Is this scene necessary?– would the piece flow better without it?
-How realistic is this bit of dialogue, or that character’s decision?
-If this entire character were deleted, would that strengthen the piece?
-Is the ending as impactful as it can be?
Break-out the black Sharpie marker, because these types of edits make contest winners.

Toying with language to maximize your desired voice.
-Reorder words in a sentence. In a sentence, reorder the words.
-Exchange words– usually the verbs.
-Delete words.
-Prepositions: substituting a different preposition can be endlessly generative in prose– not recommended for dialogue, as it can sound unnatural (importance of editing becomes, importance in editing).
-Save old drafts and compare the effects.

WARNING: this part becomes obsessive.
It has been said that writing is never finished, merely abandoned. I am inclined to disagree. There is a point when writing becomes as good as it can be. At that point, any changes do not improve. Identifying that point is the trick.

Identifying and eliminating errors.
-The process should be as such: Read through your manuscript, entirely, marking any errors you find. After you have read through entirely, correct them, then read entirely through, again. Hopefully, every time you read through, you will find something new to change. Repeat this process until you do not find anything to change. Then read through once more. Then, print it, and read again. If you change anything in the printed version, re-print, re-read (don’t worry, printer paper is recyclable). Only once you have read the printed version twice without changing anything, should this process be complete.

And, straight from the pen of Glenn A. Bruce
— one of our esteemed !Short Story Contest! Judges

“Cut every damn thing you can cut before submitting. Make it as clean and sparse as possible without taking away from the story, characters, flow, or (minimal) descriptions. Some disagree with this ultra-clean kind of writing, but it is what I strive for and what – I believe – most of today’s readers seek. I.e., they don’t want to spend a lot of time reading extra “stuff.” Tell me the tale, do it efficiently, and give me a solid ending. It’s not easy! But it can be done.

“Also, I strongly recommend using the red/blue/green underlines in Word. They aren’t always correct – i.e., they adhere to grammar norms which might be broken in, say, dialogue – but they catch a LOT. I have never used Grammerly, but I know people like it for that reason as well. Basically, use anything available to make sure you have caught everything that can be caught. Typos are inevitable, but lazy editing is a sin.”

more of his thoughts on:
Working with an Editor

Even– or especially– if you have already submitted, you have until the end of each reading period to submit new drafts.

Finalists will have an additional week or two to revise before the contest begins.

Is it as ready as can be?– then Submit:
!Short Story Contest!

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Talk for the National Writers Union D.C. Chapter

April 26th, 2020

Paul-Newell Reaves presenting on Lengthy Poems, Modernist Poems, Populist Poems, including a reading of his own poem “No Skateboarding”
to the National Writers Union District of Columbia Chapter
on April 26th, 2020:

links referred to in this talk:

In a Station of the Metro, by Ezra Pound

The Plumet Basilisk, by Marianne Moore:

A Lamppost Named Mark, by Paul-Newell Reaves:

No Skateboarding
is an unpublished poem by Paul-Newell Reaves,
only available in this reading.

So, You Want to Understand T.S. Eliot’s the Waste Land?
more from

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Judges Confirmed for 2020 !Short Story Contest!

April 11th, 2020

The !Short Story Contest! is STILL ON, and
now open for submissions. So read the guidelines, here,
and submit by June 9th.

But first,

! We are ecstatic to announce
confirmation of our
returning and fully healthy
Contest Judges !

Meet the Judges:

Suvi Mahonen is a freelance writer based in Surfers Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast. Her non-fiction appears on many platforms including The Weekend Australian MagazineHuffPost and The Establishment. Her fiction has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies including in The Best Australian Stories and Griffith Review. A portion of a longer work-in-progress was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Follow Suvi on:
and check out her page on the online art-selling platform Redbubble, here:

Glenn A. Bruce, MFA, was associate fiction editor for The Lindenwood Review. He has published nine novels and two collections of short stories. He wrote Kickboxer, episodes of Walker: Texas Ranger and Baywatch, and was a sketch-writer for Cinemax’s Assaulted Nuts. His stories, poems, and essays have been published internationally. He won About That’s “Down and Dirty” short story contest and was a two-time finalist in the Defenstrationism annual short story contest. He has judged film contests, art shows, and short story contests. He was the final judge for Brilliant Flash Fictionin 2015 (which has included one of his stories in their first print collection) and currently for Defenstrationism (2016-2019). Glenn left 12.5 wonderful years of teaching Screenwriting at Appalachian State University to concentrate on fiction.

Lady Moet Beast, the Beast From Southeast. What can’t be said about this interesting lady? Godmother of D.C. Rap, multi-genre lyricist, producer, poet, musician, writer, singer, actress, and the list goes on. Performing live since the age of 5, determined to be heard, adored and admired, Lady Moet Beast has performed all over the U.S. for the past 25 years. Not your average HipHop Femcee she has grown along with her husband obtaining her own band The Cruddy Crankerz, Beast & Monster Ink,  Drama City Records/Draztick Measurez., Cruddy Rite Publishing, Cruddy Rite Radio, Monster Graphix, and Lioness Filmz. Lady Moet Beast has set a lot of trends from green dreadlocks to hardcore femcees in Washington, D.C. and abroad.

Christian McKay Heidickerthe 2013 !Short Story Contest! Winner, reads and writes and drinks tea. Between his demon-hunting cat and his fiddling, red-headed girlfriend, he feels completely protected from evil spirits. Christian is the author of Scary Stories for Young FoxesCure for the Common Universe and Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Judging Process:

Our contests are judged by our four Judge Panel, with two weeks of online Fan Voting counted as an additional Judge vote. 

In the event of Judge Votes and Fan Votes being equal, the fan-vote becomes a tie-breaker.

One Grand Prize vote counts as two Runner-Up votes.

Guidelines for the !Short Story Contest!
What’s New on

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Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssby feather !Short Story Contest! is STILL ON

April 3rd, 2020

Dearest Lovers of Literature;

Whether or not you are well– perhaps especially is you are not–
the time has come to submit to
the !Short Story Contest!
only on

Be forewarned–
this is not a subtle contest.
Guidelines, here

Please be understanding, should there be any emergency changes in our readers or judges.

home/ Bonafides
submit to our Lengthy Poem Contests

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Not to Panic: an appeal

March 22nd, 2020

Dear Lovers of Literature;

A deep thank you for continuing to spend your free time on . I know some of us have now suddenly far more free time than we know how to deal with.

While I understand the full impact of this catastrophic flu, I cannot understand certain reactions some are having. Yes, wear your gloves; yes, keep Purell on your person at all times; do not– do not– let your fears overcome your needs to be human.

The proper preventative precautions are easily taken. But the stress levels of panic on this scale– a scale that we rise to so very swiftly– will kill us as suredly as any virus.

For this is an issue of faith in humanity.

At the up-ticking of the cold war, in 1949, William Faulkner gave a speech where he said, “Man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”  

We all– as the totallity of Sapiens and in our own personal lives– have survived far worse than this virus. And will continue to do so.

I consider myself a September 11th survivor.  I was 16, and I could see from my High-School this blackest smoke rising off the Pentagon.  The same evening as that disaster, I was privileged to watch a little league baseball game– uninterrupted.  It had to go on– for the sake of those young baseball lovers, but even more, it had to go on for the sanity of mankind.

I went to New Orleans after the hurricane, the day the city opened. I saw panes of glass fall from skyscrapers, and heard of crocodiles swimming through the brack, swallowing anything warm-blooded. And, I heard a man named Michael say that all he needed in his new life as a refugee were power tools to rebuild his own city. That’s when I saw him cry.

You Millennials sure are a tough luck generation. You graduated with vast debt right at or after the 2008 depression. Now, just as you start to buy your own homes, have families of your own, this shit happens. My word of advise– as a wisened X-ennial who didn’t finish school till 2016– prepare for worse; never panic; carry on.

The death toll looks to be high, by the end. So– all while taking the proper precations– buy groceries for your elderly neighbor, you know the one, who yells at you for the volume of your music, whose breath is always, like, butt.

The economic ramifications will also be an undoing. There will be no restaurants or bars to re-open. I only pray the majority of landlords are forward thinking enough to know no one new will move-in if they kick us out. But anyone with a morgage will not have to worry about one for very long. Banks will collect, as banks will. But now is the time not to hoard cash so easily burglarized, or buy gold bricks you haven’t a hope to carry with you in an evacuation. Now is the time to donate. Now is the time to invest (especially in Purell). Now is the time to loan what little you have to someone who has even less. I do not say these things hypocritically.

We must never panic.  Yes, we must prepare; yes, we must take precautions; yes, we must know when we are in danger.  But we must never– never– give in to this disease of fear. We will live on. We will adapt. We will endure.

For, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”–  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Peace, Paul Newell Reaves,
owner, co-editor, co-founder,

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