2020 Online Boulder Generative Workshop Short Short Contest

In the spirit of generating new work Writing By Writers held our 8th annual Short Short Writing Contest to win free tuition to the 2021 WxW Online Generative Workshop. The rules were simple. The piece could be fiction, nonfiction, memoir or poetry but it had to contain their favorite type of soup, a geological formation, a color specific to horses (or a horse identified by its color), a song lyric or title from any time before the year 2000, one item they would evacuate in the event of a fire, and the name of a state won by Joe Biden/Kamala Harris in the 2020 election.

Winners: Caitlin McKenna, Kelly Bean Miranda, Grace Powell, DonCarlos Price & Gabby Yates

Finalists: Emilio Carrero, Jenny Ferguson, Debbie Golos Schmitz, Jaime Grechika, Hayley Igarashi, Rachel León, Becky Mandelbaum, Avvy Mar, Kailyn McCord, Amanda McTugue (Runner-Up), Winter Miller, Jodi Paloni, Jen Parsons, Marissa Tinloy, Sarah Twombly, Sonal Ullman & Quan Zhang (Runner-up)

The Thick Red Line, by Caitlin McKenna

The dining hall thunders like a July storm over the Flatirons.

You lead nine guys in palomino linen shirts through the standing ovation that started in the bar and spread like a ring of fire all the way to the kitchen.

Sunburned, tipsy, and embarrassed, the guys sit around a ten-top. The table wobbles under the weight of cracked wheat bread, grapeberry jam, peppered duck soup, bacon-wrapped tournedos, and bottles of cabernet.

One-by-one, residents take the empty seat at the head of the table. Crying, they squeeze the guys’ calloused hands. Laughing, they joke that they forgot their passports but somehow evacuated their whole sock drawer. One of the other waitresses tells them that her car wouldn’t start. She stuck it in neutral, pushed it to a dirt lot, and hitched a ride out of town.

Outside, twilight chills the air.

Even at dusk, you can tell that the ground is black, the trees charcoal, the pine needles ash in the breeze. When you stroll to the edge of town during your break, knit sweater pulled tight over your apron, you can still see the slurry in a thick red line, staining the back porches on Hill Street. Later, driving towards Boulder after your shift, you will pass hundreds of solitary chimneys, upright stone corpses alone in the dark.

 

Back at the restaurant, the guys eat orange rhubarb pie. You wrap up two more, plus a folded note, for them to take home to Oregon.

Momma Bean Box by Kelli Bean

 

 “Her momma’s in there,” airport security guy says of the shoebox. He’s an old bull of a man, hands her to the whippersnap. He gives me a soft look. “We have to put her through the x-ray again,” he says. “Sorry for your loss. Gotta make sure she’s not a weapon.”

 

Momma Bean would appreciate being considered a bomb.

 

I watch them open her up, place a piece of metal mesh on top of her ashes. She’s all there, all fifty percent of her that Kristi and I split even stevens.

 

Where do you want to be buried? I’d asked her just hours before she slipped into a coma.

 

I was hoping she’d say here, the Idaho Batholith, 195 miles from Floyd’s grave.

 

“I don’t,” she said, eyes furious.

 

My California girls, Sofia, Lily, they’ve been with me through it all, in the form of little egg drop soups in my womb, and they were there yesterday when we hunted Floyd’s grave in the Caldwell graveyard. I’ve not been back since we buried him, cursed him again for how he was out riding fences a whole life long. Floyd, if you want a piece of her, lead me, I said aloud and there he was, right under our feet. I kneeled, opened her box, took a pinch of white dust and pushed her into the earth, wondered what I’m offering up: her thigh, her rib, her Appaloosa brown eye?

Angry August (except) by Grace Powell

 

We do not have a red barn and we do not have horses. We do not wear overalls or chew grass between our teeth. We own this land, but it isn’t really ours. My father is an alcoholic and my mother an actress. For them, farming is an act of anarchy. It is not an idyllic existence. 

Breathless (excerpt from a Apropoet) by DonCarlos Price

I want to write in my book of poems about talking Ravens and Mason lines between love and

madness like Allen Poe did,

I don’t want to write apropos for Poor kids who need something thicker than alphabet soup

when there stewing in the melting pot,

Gil Scott wrote poems like this, so i wouldn’t have to but ‘Whiteys on the moon’, again,,

might soon colonize Mars, oxidize stars and disregard Alien Rights despite the revolution is

riding bay back through the streets being televised thru the eyes of camera phones and

ringtones like theme songs of when,

the devil went down to Georgia worked his round the Appalachian mountains to Kentucky and

landed in Minneapolis,

where for almost 9 minutes it held its knee on the neck of George Floyd until breathless and

destroyed everything I thought this poem was gonna be,

I wanna write happy poems about nothing that turned into something my grandpa told me while

spending summer vacations at the family lake house,

poems about Coffee Shops and how I spilled Pumpkin Spice Latte all over the body of a

paragraph,

then put avocado on everything, on toast and called it breakfast, on Mexico and call it Texas,

On a poem and call it breathless.

And you think of wolves, by Gabby Yates

You should think of death once a day, that way you won’t be afraid of it when it comes for you.

Think of how poetic that sounds, and try to think of wolves each day instead because you are

terrified of the prints you find in the snow all fall and because you are too young and too near to

it to be so afraid of dying. And then because we are on the subject of poetry think of the most

poetic moment you can when at the vet clinic, the one with two vets both named Morgan, they

led the bay mare into the chute to preg-check her and the one Morgan goes “careful, she’s a

race horse she might think it’s the starting gate.” And think of how you would love to be a

racehorse, all edges and danger but instead you are someone who makes gazpacho and cries

to Unknown Legend and who has never even seen a wolf and who chose (you chose) to live in

Wyoming now so you have no right to be so weak. And you think of the boy (who you’re always

thinking about) who moved to New York and not just New York but New York City and how now

isn’t that poetic? That you have mountains and rivers and wilderness in you and around you and

you still carry his letters? And you think of wolves again and if you were a wolf would you still be

this hungry?