Archive for the ‘!Short Story Contest!’ Category

Meet the 2017 !Short Story Contest! Finalists

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Welcome– or welcome back–



We are excited for you to Meet the Finalists of the 2017 !Short Story Contest!

We ask our authors for photos in her, his or other’s favorite chair

resulting in some quite intimate portraits, both non-glossy and non-commercial.




Lisa Clark‘s work has appeared in various publications including The Alligator, The Gnu, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Best Modern Voices, v 2. She’s winner of the Glass Woman Prize for fiction and the Mia Pia Forte Prize for creative non-fiction. Bulgaria has been her home for over eighteen years. She’s currently working on a YA novel about AI sentiency.



Jessica Costello began writing when all her friends got too old to play make-believe and she still wanted to. At eleven she decided to try writing a novel, after she read Lord of the Rings and thought, “I can do that.” Though that first attempt was unsuccessful, she hasn’t stopped: throughout high school and college she wrote four unpublished novels, and is now working on her first novel to be published. Her flash fiction is available at Jessica is a recent graduate of Emerson College, where she earned her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and is working toward her Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University to become a children’s librarian. Her stories have appeared in the online magazines East Coast Ink and the Merrimack Review, and she has reviewed books for Graphic Novel Reporter, Indie Reader, and The Horn Book, Inc. She lives in Los Angeles.



B. Craig Grafton‘s stories have appeared regularly in Scarlet Leaf Review. His story Misconceptions appears in The Prison Compendium a book if thirty three short stories. Two of his stories are in the book Tales of Canyon Lake and two in 100 Voices An Anthology one in Volume Three and one in the upcoming Volume four. In addition he has had nine stories published in Romance Magazine, one in Heater and seven in Frontier Tales and a few others here and there. Author is a retired attorney now living in Texas who began writing stories about two years ago while recovering from a broken foot.





In addition to writing fiction, Andrew Livingston writes and draws a daily webcomic at Back when he was a linguist, he wrote an extremely technical descriptive grammar of an obscure Polynesian language. He also co-authored What The French!?, a very non-technical textbook on French grammar. He subscribes to the notion that any window can be a door if you believe in yourself.



Isabella Hernandez is unemployed young adult of 19 reapplying for another try at college in the Fall. She hopes to be accepted into SUNY Delhi, where she will pursue an Associates in Culinary Arts; then later a Bachelors in Culinary Management in the hopes of owning her own fine dining restaurant, Arato’s. After that, she would like to continue studying culinary overseas at Tsuji Culinary Institute before gaining work experience and finally opening her place. On the side, she writes her own novel set in an alternate history WWII that while not changing the outcome, will offer a fresh new take on the subject that also shows the trials and tribulations of mankind from either side- moral, psychological, and physical. Aside from cooking and writing, she is also a massive history buff, and is particularly fond of the pilots who flew on regardless of their flag, the odds, and at times in spite of the horrid ideologies of their governments. The only other official contest she has won was an essay on Thanksgiving during 5th Grade which instead spoke out on the inhumane treatment of Native Americans. Ever since, she has continued to expand and improve her writing by first reading good books, classic or otherwise. She consistently scored extremely well in English class, and once achieved the highest grade on the English Language Regents exams in her first high school – a 95. She looks after her old dog of nine years, named Happy, on a daily basis.



Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer who writes primarily in English. He has recently released two science fiction novels: Siege (2016) and Outside (2017).  He has nearly two hundred short stories published in fourteen countries.  They have been translated into seven languages.  Many of the stories are collected in Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011). The Curse of El Bastardo  (2010) is a short fantasy novel.  His website is at




Thank you for your interest in

Surf through all Summer for more of the 2017 !Short Story Contest!

publication schedule




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Announcing the 2017 !Short Story Contest! Finalists

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

We are honored to announce the finalists for

the 2017 !Short Story Contest!

only on



Now posting in order of first submission

“Bearcat”, Lisa Clark

July 9th

“Blank Faces”, Jess Costello

July 16th

“Lost in Defenestration”, B. Craig Grafton

July 23rd

“Delocation”, Andrew Livingston

July 30th

“The Hunter”, Isabella Hernandez

August 6th

“The Collector”, Gustavo Bondoni

August’ 13th


-Fan Voting is now closed.

Winners now announced



keep surfing through, all summer long

Meet the Finalists— photos, bios and more




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Judges confirmed for 2017 !Short Story Contest!

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Welcome to defenstrationism reality.


We are honored that our four returning judges have confirmed their availability for our 2017 !Short Story Contest! panel.


Submissions are rolling in, and the competition is already fierce.  Once finalists are chosen, we publish one story a week, then open the polls to fan voting for at least two weeks; this counts as an additional judge vote.  Judges cast their votes by Labor Day weekend, US, and winners are announced Labor Day Monday, US.


Meet Judges Christian, Moet, Glenn, and Suvi, here.

Guidelines for our !Short Story Contest!

More exciting content




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Fan discussion forum: 2016 !Short Story Contest!

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Winners now announced.

To comment, please Sign-in, screen left,

or simply email

that’s PNRenterpriZesATgmailDOTcom

Opening Questions

Billy Luck:

-How do nuanced depictions of unorthodox lifestyles and/or marginalized body-types, (Carnival workers, Side-show workers, Little People) broaden all readers’ of this story understandings of such life-styles and body types?

-In what ways does Daisy’s gender, femaleness and womanhood effect the story?

-Does a story with such confrontational Otherness (or minority status) necessitate that the author be of such a minority?  In other words, should it matter if/ that the author is or is not a little person, and should this or should this not effect our reading of the story?

By the River:

-How does humor and the most light-hearted voice of this contest effect our reading?  This story demands to be taken seriously, how does humor force us to think twice about Capitalism, human kindness, pregnancy, human intelligence (“too valuable to lay off”), and the disastrous effects of lottery jackpots?

-This author is published twice on .  In what ways does Post-modernism demand readers take this author seriously, when the material is so light-hearted, humorous, and seemingly flippant?

-Did the speaker of the story actually win?  Does this matter to the story, to the character, to the author, or to the reader?

I’ve Got You:

-Is this story a work of fiction, or creative non-fiction?— in other words, did it happen in history?  Do such distinctions matter?  Why or why not?

-Early 20th century air-combat may be the most dynamic, picturesque, difficult, deadly… and awe-inspiring form of warfare in human history.  What could this specific form of warfare symbolize in the story, and how so?

-How do multiple cultural references (songs, to name but two) effect the story?  These references are so important to the author that it features in the very title, WHY THAT SONG, so specifically?

Circe’s Bicycle:

-What an incredible title— sorry to devote so much time to it, but we’re a bit obsessed with titles, here at  What the foosball does this title mean?  Who was Circe?  Why doesn’t she appear in the story (at least, if read in this way, why does the Homeric Circe character not appear in the story)?  If the bicycle of the title is read as nothing more than a circular object that spins and takes you somewhere, what does that mean?

-Unicorns, insects that grow large, islands of the dead: is this a realistic story or a dreamy story?  Put differently, does the mother character die to achieve these unending visions?  Or a dream that never ends?  If either, then prove it with quotations from this text.  There is a difference between dreams and death, what is it?

-Importance of gender and gender roles in this story: discuss.  How does gender tie into motherly roles, daughterly roles, back to that dang Circe of the title, and bodies (or lack-there-of) in the story?


-Is the speaker being spied upon?  What difference does that make to the story and characters in the story (the fiction), the political statement of the story (the authorial meta-narrative, if you allow us to still use the term), and to the historical reality of the present?

-The internet is crucial to this story.  In what ways do the give and take of internet publication (on facebook, but also comments on effect the story, the message, and historical reality?

-How is internet publication a dynamic movement away from the literature of the CODEX (or book with pages) and how does this tie to the change from the literature of the MANUSCRIPT (or pre-modern scrolls with no pages)?

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Winners now announced for 2016 !Short Story Contest!

Monday, September 5th, 2016

We are pleased to announce the winners for the

2016 !Short Story Contest!



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Last weekend for fan voting: 2016 !Short Story Contest!

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Thanks to all who have commented, this year, we are pleased to be hosting a discussion forum thread on Labor Day Monday (US), to dissect all the nuances of these compelling and diverse stories– of course, only AFTER the Winner and Runner-ups are announced!


!This is the final weekend for fan-voting, so have your final say before Sunday!

Looks like we have one clear fan favorite with over 40% of votes (NO HINTS, don’t ask), but the second fan favorite is so wide open that hyperbole does not do justice to how close this contest is…

!VOTE NOW!, only at


and remember us next time, lovers of literature,

read all the stories of the 2016 !Short Story Contest!

!What’s New!


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Sunday, August 7th, 2016

By Don Noel

Ernie’s first awareness of the government’s spying was through the late news.  It disturbed his civil libertarian sensibilities, but not his slumber.  The government was monitoring people’s e-mail.  Outrageous.  Still, not a personal concern:  He and Susan had agreed from the start never to e-mail each other.  There would be more detail by morning; he punched off the television and spooned up next to Penny, who was almost asleep.

He thought of himself as an ordinary man.  Happily if not always faithfully married for twenty years; two ordinary teenagers; an ordinary law practice in wills, trusts, real estate; occasional pro bono work for the American Civil Liberties Union.  An ordinarily busy man:  Too little time for morning newspapers, relying mostly on National Public Radio news during drive time.  Occasionally, if something awaiting attention at the office demanded thought, he tuned instead to classical music.

Next morning, it was exactly eight when he backed out of the driveway.  NPR devoted a whole five minutes to the eavesdropping, a report apparently drawn from a Washington Post blockbuster.  Secret data disclosed by some former CIA operative.  It wasn’t only e-mail they were prying into:  text and telephone, too, focusing on communications to and from other countries.

That got his attention.  He stopped at the commuter-station newsstand, bought the Times, Journal and Post, drove a few blocks to the park and turned the radio off to read.

It was worse than he’d first thought.  The Fourth Amendment — to be secure against unreasonable searches — suddenly became intensely personal.  The government was looking for patterns of contact between Americans and people overseas.  Not reading or listening, officials insisted, just looking at something called metadata — unless a pattern was detected.

He and Susan posted Facebook photos occasionally, sharing with each other by sharing with the whole world.  They scrupulously refrained from ‘liking’ each other’s posts.  Carefully discreet, unlikely to attract attention.  Their guarded, long-distance correspondence and conversations would heighten the physical explosion when she came home on leave in a few months.  They would find ways to spend a secret night or afternoon or morning together now and then. He felt himself aroused just thinking about her body.  He willed himself to stop. 

Circumspect.  Seeing the kids through to adulthood was important.  The last time, Penny said she’d dump him in a minute if he strayed again.  And he loved her, really.  Wouldn’t want to hurt her.  Let alone provoke a messy divorce.

But he and Susan talked almost daily.  Never landline calls: always on Skype, from his office computer after his secretary left for the day, calling her cellphone at daybreak in Hong Kong.  A pattern that must surely have been noticed.  Intimate calls.

Would the government listen in on longings, on loving words?  In J. Edgar Hoover’s day there would have been a file on him.  Liberal lawyer, fancies himself a civil libertarian.  Indiscretions?  Put ‘em in the file.  We might someday want to persuade him to back off a case.

Who was to say there weren’t such files nowadays?  He put the newspapers in his briefcase, tuned to classical music, got onto the highway.

They would have to stop calling.  How to tell her?  Not by phone:  One more call could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, triggering devastating attention.  Not by e-mail or text, either.  Still, he must explain a sudden silence, lest Susan try to call him.  That could be really disastrous.

Facebook.  Some veiled posting only she would be able to translate.  By the end of the day, he had it:  Begin an innocent-sounding trivia quiz for friends.  He Googled.  Perfect!  “What Gershwin song,” he posted, “did Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers make number 34 among all-time film hits?”

By the next morning, his old college roommate Warren had posted the answer: “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

Anything on her wall?  He checked. Yes.

“What 1964 song,” she’d posted, “reached number 9 on Billboard?”

It took him less than a minute to find the answer:  “It’s Over.”

Damned government spies.


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Circe’s Bicycle

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

by Tara Campbell

The moth came one night in October. Mallory still isn’t sure where it came from, not that it matters anymore.

That night she awoke to a fluttering in her ear. Her fingertips brushed against a tumble of wings and she jolted awake. The streetlamp shining through the window illuminated a tiny blur of grey over her bed. The moth (which had been right next to her ear, she thought with a shudder) stumbled through the air, evidently knocked out of its path by her waving hand, and landed on the hill of her husband’s knee under the blankets.

She thought about the wool suits in the closet.

Her husband snored.

Out the window you go, she thought (to the moth, not her husband), and inched her legs toward the edge of the mattress. The moth flitted back into the air. She slid out of bed and slipped into her fuzzy pink house shoes, which were a little goofy, but she wore them because her daughter Amy had picked them out. 

Mallory stepped to the window and opened it, then turned to look for the moth. It fumbled above the bed, fat and woolly, flashing grey to white to grey again as it lurched across the grid of lamplight shining through the windowpane. She crossed to the bed and swatted at the hairy insect, not wanting to actually make contact. She waved currents of air in its direction, trying to sweep the grape-sized menace out the window.

The cold floor chilled her feet through her slippers. The soles were getting thin after a few years, but she wouldn’t throw them out. They were the last present she would ever get from her daughter. The car had struck Amy on her bike a month after Mother’s Day. She was almost seven.

Mallory’s husband snored on.

She pursed her lips. None of their battles were shared. She was still trapped in the wreckage of Amy’s bicycle. It had pink tassels and a unicorn painted on the seat. She and her husband had widened their eyes at each other when their daughter had picked it out, silently asking each other, So girlie; where did she get that from? Mallory still pushed and bled against twisted metal in her sleep. Her husband slept the night through.

Mallory thought it was just her imagination when the moth grew to the size of an egg. She could almost hear the thrum of its wings from across the room. But those could only be the tricks of a tired, frustrated mind, like those nights after the funeral she thought she heard her daughter’s footsteps between her husband’s snores. Months after she stopped waking her husband to hear better, she still stayed awake to listen.

Amy had been riding just outside the house. Mallory had only turned around for a moment. She’d gone to get the wrench to take off the training wheels. Amy had finally decided she was ready to try riding without them.

Mallory stopped swinging when the moth grew as large as a grapefruit. Its fluttering wings pushed riffles of air toward her face. Her skin prickled. The insect developed black and yellow stripes, and a stinger, and an insistent buzz.

Her mouth opened, silent and frozen.

The bee—it was definitely a bee now—kept growing. Its wings thrummed. The window rattled in its frame.

She wanted to whisper to her husband, she wanted to wake him up, she wanted—

The bee, now fat as a watermelon, extended its spindly legs and picked her up. It lifted Mallory from the floor, its tiny claws hooking into her nightgown. With a thrust, it carried her toward the window. She was still too shocked to scream as it dragged her over the windowsill and launched into the night air.

The bee latched on to her nightgown with all six legs, suspending her parallel to the ground like a hang glider. Mallory wriggled in the giant insect’s grip until it let go with one leg, swinging her off-kilter over rooftops and trees. She held still, and the bee grabbed the loose end of her nightgown once again.

The bee flew across the neighborhood and into the fields. Mallory dangled below it, shuddering in the cold night air and shielding her eyes from the rush of wind in her face. Moon-silvered grass and trees flowed below her. Hills rolled up toward her and down again, until they finally reached the coast.

They flew out over the ocean. Mallory looked down over chopping peaks of white froth against inky black water. She felt a jolt and her stomach flew toward her mouth. She was falling. The bee had released her, all six legs at once.

Mallory slammed through the surface of the water, a rag doll thrown through a plate glass window. Icy seawater needled her skin; her nose and mouth filled with brine. She flailed against the waves and swallowed another mouthful of ocean. Her stiff limbs chopped through the surf, which gathered itself and pushed back. She couldn’t stay up.

Later (she would never know how long it had actually been) Mallory awoke to something prodding her shoulder. She didn’t want to open her eyes. She was warm and dry, and was lying on her side in what felt like sand. Something shook her shoulder again.

A little girl’s voice whispered, “Momma?”

Mallory’s eyes sprang open to reveal a blurry, sideways image of a little girl squatting next to her. Recognition shot through her body like lightning. She raised her head and blinked.


“Uh-oh, Momma,” laughed Amy. “Watch out for your horn, you almost got me.”

Amy? Baby? Mallory struggled to sit up, her four hoofs pawing at sand and air. Her daughter backed away from the flying sand, giggling and brushing off her dress.

Mallory looked down at her body. She was a white horse.

Amy reached toward her again. Mallory’s eyes followed her daughter’s fingers to the tip of the golden, spiraled horn sprouting from Mallory’s forehead. Her vision blurred, this time with tears, as her daughter drew closer. She closed her eyes as Amy carefully stroked her cheeks. Her heart swelled when Amy slid her arms around her neck. She breathed in her baby’s sweet warmth, turning her long neck to pull her daughter even closer.

“I missed you, Momma.”

Mallory tried to answer, but her reply came out as a whinny. She grunted a couple of times in frustration.

“It doesn’t matter, Momma. I still love you.”

Mallory nuzzled her daughter.

# # #

She and Amy explore the island every day now. They eat juicy red fruits and coconuts that Mallory cracks open with her hoofs. She speared a fish with her horn once, but Amy was too squeamish about gutting it, so that was that.

Mallory has lost track of how long she’s been gone. Her husband must have filed a missing person report; there must still be a search. Once in a while they hear an airplane and run, giggling and neighing, into the trees to hide until it passes.

Eventually, she knows, there will be a funeral. Her husband will move on. The moth will return to his bedroom in the form of another woman. Perhaps the moth will lay her eggs next summer and bear him dozens of beautiful children. That wouldn’t bother Mallory; she’s with Amy. She’ll see her grow up. Or maybe, on this island, she won’t grow up at all.

Mallory can hardly wait to find out.

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I’ve Got You

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

by Chad Ehler

Flight Lieutenant Mills never imagined that a member of the Royal Family would be giggling with glee on his very lap.  Never mind having to explain to his squadron commander how the entire situation had unfolded on an early spring day in May, 1940.  And that was assuming he got to keep his wings. Mills knew he broke the rules by landing his Spitfire in occupied France. But he didn’t care since it had to be done.  And he’d do it again.  Well done” they’d say. Perhaps there might even be a medal in it for him. Now, an eight year old boy named Edward, tenth in line to the British throne, sat happily strapped to Mills’ parachute harness with a stout canvas pistol belt.

“She’s a loverly kite and not a bleedin’ Jerry crate,” Edward said. He fidgeted for a better view forward as he sat between Mills and the Spitfire’s control column. Mills chuckled. He improvised a few bars of a Cole Porter tune:

I’ve got you . . . under my skin. Jerry’s crate . . . isn’t so great. Cause in our Spit . . . we’re going to win. I’ve got you . . . under my skin.”

Sure, it was tight quarters for the short journey but better than leaving the boy stranded behind enemy lines. And Edward was loving every fast mile of the ride home.  Just a few minutes and we’ll be home free.  Relief overcame Mills as the white chalk cliffs of Dover loomed large in his windscreen. My God it was beautiful.  With his guns empty, he was thrilled to be within sight of safety. Good ole Blighty. She’s always there when you need her. His airfield was visible in the verdant sanctum just a few rolling hills and two forests away.  Mills inched the throttle lever forward to put the big expanse of blue-green English Channel water behind them. 

But Mills’ stomach sank as a black speck appeared like a cancer in his rearview mirror. He had strafed all those Nazi planes in a French field as they sat like sitting ducks in a row.  But as the speck grew larger so did his fear.  Had he missed one? Mills altered his course left and gained speed, and as the blackness grew, its cockpit glass glinted in the high sun. Was it friend or foe? The glare blinded him even through squinted eyes.  Damn.

But then his left bank lit up the distinctive bright yellow propeller boss of a Nazi Bf-109. Holy crap. The yellow nosed bastard bobbed up and down in the mirror, now clear as day.  Mills hammered the throttle lever forward as hard as he could for more speed.  He felt the lurch in his arm as a brass wire snapped flooding the Spitfire’s thoroughbred engine with high octane fuel.  The engine growled with the violent admixture of 50 extra galloping horses. The sudden acceleration pinned him to his seat.

Red and orange filled Mills’ mirror as the 109 spat short bursts of white hot incendiary bullets.  Fiery tennis balls zipped the air overhead striking the mirror, disintegrating it into silver pixie dust.  Mills flinched.  He heard the sharp pings of Nazi pig iron bouncing off the rear armor plating of his seat.  The oil gauge needle went spastic.  A burst of 7.62mm incendiary rounds shredded Mills’ lower oil radiator.   He pulled back the spade grip to jink upwards into the sun to blind his pursuer but Edward’s body blocked his motion. Mills felt the sickening vibrations as 20mm cannon rounds ripped into the coolant tank under his engine.  Those same rounds smashed control wires in the tail and rattled the fuselage.  The rudder pedals went slack under his boots.  Intermittent puffs of fluffy white glycol smoke belched from his exhausts. The acrid, throat-closing stench of burning rubber flooded the cockpit.

The 109 screamed past them at high speed, and peeled off in a vertical victory roll.  Mills slid back his canopy hard for fresh air. A bizarre chiaroscuro of black and white smoke billowed from his Rolls-Royce engine.  It was at once beautiful and horrifying. Their Spitfire was a flaming cotton candy streamer of gliding death dropping 32 feet per second.

“Hang on as tight as you can. We’re hitting the silk,” Mills yelled. 

Edward turned and clung to Mills like a newborn koala with eyes as big as black olives. The blue canvas belt dug into the small of Edward’s back.  Mills felt a comforting warmth on his thighs as the boy lost his bladder.

“Ups a daisy.” 

But with 55 pounds of young boy on his chest, Mills struggled to gain a foothold up and out of the cockpit. He hooked his boot heel on the landing gear lever and the wind did the rest. The 100 mile an hour slipstream caught them both and sent Mills scraping back-first along the flaming fuselage.  Tumbling end over end, Mills’ flying boots went sailing into the ether.  He pulled the metal ripcord D-ring unfurling the white blossoming silk from his seatpack. The chute slithered open then deployed with a loud POOF BANG jerking them upwards. Mills felt the pistol belt go slack. He watched in horror as it twisted and fluttered away towards the Channel.  Edward remained with his arms and legs entwined inside Mills’ sturdy harness. The boy buried his small face into the warm sheepskin fleece of Mills’ flying jacket. 

Their fully engulfed Spitfire continued its odd and insistent smoky path to the white cliffs ahead with its waggly rudder and deployed landing gear.  At 1000 feet high, air rushed up Mills’ pant legs turning Edward’s clammy uric acid into stinging goosebumps.  They descended way too fast for comfort and logic.  But it wasn’t the boy’s extra weight.  Mills looked up to his canopy to see that two of the 28 wedge shaped panels were gone, devoured by hungry burning petrol.  Their downward speed increased as the licking flame gobbled its way through more fresh silk.  Without a reserve chute to deploy, Mills hugged Edward with all his might as they twisted and dropped into a fluttering freefall.

“It’s OK,” Mills said closing his eyes.

“I’ve got you.”

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By the River

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

by Glenn A. Bruce

It came in the mail, Monday, that damn thing. “Mr. Roy Altoona, you’ve won ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Congratulations!”

Those fuckers—ruined everything.

Jenny and I had just moved into our single wide by the river. Everything was so good. We couldn’t actually see the river; but when the wind was right—which is most of the time—we could hear it. It sounded beautiful.

Like when Jenny told me she was pregnant.

I make sixteen dollars and thirty-eight cents an hour. Not bad. Jenny makes half that, but she works more hours. I only get twenty-nine a week. That’s because I’m on “probation,” and we all know what that means. Soon as my six months are up—one day before—they’ll let me go.

Only: Tom Fisher, my manager, said he won’t. They won’t—Sysmeck Industries. (They’re the largest employer in the Valley.) Tom said I was “too valuable to lay off.”

Then I got this damn letter.

Do you think for one second a guy like Hisham Sysmeck is going to keep me on as a fitter if he knows I won a fucking million dollars?


He’ll fire my ass on the spot. And you know why? Because he knows how much he is hated around here. He can’t take a chance on someone with a big mouth like me having a million fucking dollars and being so goddam independent.

I have a history.

But the second I heard, “TJ, I’m pregnant,” everything changed. My mouth got zipped like hog going to slaughter—that moment when they know there’s nothing they can do.

It’s over.

My life was over—my old life, that is.

My momma told me, “Tommy, you live it up. You have a grand time. Enjoy your youth. It’s gone too fast. I can tell you that. But it’s okay. It’ll be okay.”

This was a few months before she died of the cancer.

Mama said: “There will come a time, a certain moment, when it happens. When it’s all over.”

I asked her how I’d know.

She said: “You’ll know.”

And when Jenny told me about little Erica, I knew. Right then. I didn’t know it was gonna be a girl, of course. I just knew:

It’s over.

I went out the next day, found us this nice trailer—until we could find something nicer, in five or ten years. I got a good price on the rent, utilities included, and we moved in on the first of month.

Four months later, I get this fucking letter. “You’ve won a MILLION DOLLARS!”

“Congratulations!” my ass. My whole life’s over; my whole life as I ever knew it.

I got no job, I got no future. I got a baby and a happy wife. All of that ends the second Sysmeck finds out. I’m done for. Jenny, too. She works at Git-n-Go #4, which is owned by Sysmeck’s brother-in-law, George. So, she’s done for, too.

This Valley is like that. One person gets ahead—even a little—and no one wants it. We’re all in this shit-mess together, is how we see it. And the ones who have got it, already, whether they earned it or not, inherited it, or just bought it up (Sysmeck that bastard, came here with money to burn from some goddamn place over there in some godforsaken desert place, got a tax break, put in a factory, and treats us all like goddam low-rent slaves) they don’t want us to get ahead, because then we might get cocky and mouth off.

Like I said, I used to have a problem speaking my mind. Now, not so much. I tucked my tail under and my chin down and chewed on my harsh words until they tasted sour and as bitter as they were and decided it was better to swallow that pill than spit it out on someone who might take exception and pound my lights out by revoking my lifestyle.

Tommy, my manager, saw that and appreciated my hard work towards fallin’ in line. (It was hard work for him, too!) He was ready to reward me for it—to keep me on. Especially when he heard about the baby and saw how I stopped drinkin’ and carryin’ on with my buddies. They already won’t talk to me just because I won’t get shit-faced and act stupid with them. When they hear I got a million fuckin’ dollars and they want some and I tell ‘em no, hell, they’ll probably all come over and tip this damn trailer over, just out of spite.

But the thing is: Jenny and me, we got no sense. Not really. She’s got the kindest heart of any one person I’ve ever seen. And she worked on me, too. We’ll spend every dime of this windfall bullshit on her family and mine, our cousins and nieces. Everybody needs something. Nobody’s got nothin’. My friends, too. I’ll try to buy them all off—just keep ‘em from flipping over the single-wide!


And there we’ll be—Jenny, me, and the baby—out on the street again, nowhere to live, no rent money, no jobs, no prospects.

Not here, not in this valley.

Million dollars. Shit.

You know how much that is? Nothin’.


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