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Short-Shorts — last of the pros, launch of the contest

Here are the final examples by distinguished Minnesota writers (reprinted with permission), one of 215 words, another of 641 words. We hope you’re trying — and enjoying — writing some of these distilled moment pieces of your own. We’re waiting to read them. Send them in!

Submission deadline: December 18, 2009. First, second and third place winners will be announced January 11. The prize will be a surprise short-short something.

Again, the guidelines: Only one short-short by an individual will be accepted. Your short-short must be under 800 words — 100 words for each letter of MinnPost. Please put your last name and short-short contest in the subject line of the email. Include your name, address, telephone number, email address, word count and a brief biography (up to 150 words).

Please note: This contest is for Minnesota writers only.
Send your entry — in the body of the email, or as an attachment — to mbarrett [at] minnpost [dot] com. The file must be saved in Word.
While you’re creating and submitting these next weeks, we’ll be posting short-shorts from students in The Loft Literary Center’s ‘We Like Short-Shorts’ and ‘The Art of Creative Nonfiction’ classes.

“Summer Plans” by Jorie Miller   

I love phlox growing and pansies spilling over the tops of the pots my neighbor painted and gave me last year. And I love my neighbors all out in their yards, the children on their bikes slapping mosquitoes. I love my hammock though I never get to sit in it long enough. And I know Paris is hot in summer. I love hot. I love the white shadow of moon in the morning sky and Rose saying, “Mom, is the moon a ghost?” It’s the kind of thing children say that’s so hard to capture, and I want to capture it because it’s like capturing childhood itself. But what I really want to capture is this feeling I’ve been a good mom because I have a child who says such things about the moon. And I need to tell my husband we need to fly off to Paris right now, the same way Stephanie is flying off to Los Angeles to be with her lover for five weeks. I bet she’s not thinking, “Oh, the children, and how much will it cost?” She’s thinking of being with this new lover in his house with black marble floors. She’s thinking about romance and summer and getting away from work and getting out of town.
Jorie Miller has published poetry and prose in print and online magazines. She is most recently published in the anthology County Lines: 87 Minnesota Counties, 130 Minnesota Poets, and on-line in the What Light Poetry Project.  Her story ‘July 29, 1954’ (forthcoming February 2010) was a winner in the 2009 miniStories/mnlit contest sponsored by and Magers and Quinn Booksellers. Miller teaches creative writing to adults at the Loft Literary Center.

“Warning” by Kris Woll

I fear thunderstorms, all the power, the lightning, the wild winds. And hail, icy spheres like those that fell from a green sky on an August afternoon when I was a child. Broke through the front porch windows just as I ran inside. And tornados, like those that flattened nearly every house in a small, dying farm town just down the highway a few years later. I remember pictures of the destruction in that storm’s wake: photos, a teddy bear, a kitchen table with no legs scattered amidst torn lumber and single shingles. The remnants of a house — without a roof, without walls, but with all its furniture intact and arranged — stood in the very center of that town. Storms can be strange like that.
When we were still together, still married, my fear irritated him. He couldn’t understand how a grown woman could get so worked up by lightening. He got angry when I creaked down the worn wooden stairs into the basement ahead of any warning, flashlight and library book in hand, ready to wait out the storm. He tossed and turned until I returned, storm over. He’d huff, “I told you so.” I never felt silly though. Storms can escalate quickly. I simply accepted a fact that he denied, with his head buried there in his pillow. Maybe not this time, but maybe sometime. Maybe next time. It happens.

But like I said, that was back then, years ago, when we were together, when we were still married, during those six years — some stormier than others — in that old house with its chipped woodwork and scuffed floors, with green shutters and a green roof and a often brown and weedy lawn. That house had only two cupboards in the kitchen! I can’t remember where we stored everything — the canned peas, measuring cups, flour, plates. Impractical. Nothing had a place, everything sat out in full view. A disaster.

I guess there were a few warnings: he started working later, our fights got louder. On a cold late November night, with brutal winds from the Dakotas seeping in through the gaps in our doors, he stood in the living room, bags packed, and talked about risks and passions. He never raised his voice, but in the heat of the moment a bulky vase, projected from across the room, shattered the front window. Cold gusts chilled the room. I meant to hit him, not the glass. He stayed in a hotel for a few weeks until the all the papers were signed and filed, then headed south. It went quick. Friends said they didn’t see it coming.

I packed the place up when the house sold, months later. A light spring breeze teased the curtains as I worked. I walked my boxes around the corner, to another old house with more chipping paint but a few more cupboards.

And I’m still there, after all these years. From my second floor window, I can see our old house. When it’s dark outside and their lights are on, I notice the new residents remodeled the kitchen — more shelves, bright lights, shiny appliances. Seem to have fixed it up nicely. I’ve not done much to my place. The woodwork still needs repainting. I did finish off the basement — made it into a family room with a comfy sofa and cable TV. Works out nice. In a storm, I can sit downstairs and watch weather reports. 

I keep an eye on the Carolina coast, where he lives, at least last I heard. I wouldn’t like those hurricanes. I imagine him boarding up his windows, or worse yet, sleeping through warnings and not sealing things up at all. Gosh, he could lose everything. Something might hit sometime. Maybe not this time, but maybe next. Never know. It happens.

Kris Woll is a Minneapolis-based creative nonfiction and short fiction writer. Her flash fiction story “Furious” was a 2009 mnLit miniStories Grand Prize Winner.

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