Contest guidelines: Only Minnesota writers can submit. Only one short-short by an individual will be accepted. Your short-short must be under 200 words. 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). 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.
Enjoy reading the following short-shorts written by students in my We Like Short-Shorts! class at the Loft Literary Center. You’ll notice these pieces vary in length from 189 to 256 words.
Marge Barrett has published prose and poetry in numerous print and online journals and in The Best of the Web 2009 and The State We’re In. She teaches at the Loft Literary Center and the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul.
“Wondering Wife” by Han Pham
Sally decided to open up in a way she had never done before to deal with the upheaval in her life. She started a blog. Choosing a domain name proved to be most difficult. She ran through the usual course of possible titles, but as she typed in her newest cleverest ideas, each seemed to be taken.
After several attempts, the Wondering Wife completed her first entry and felt she had contributed something good to the world. As she waited for the responses to pour in, she wondered who these other similarly situated women were — the ones who had taken up her other blog names.
She investigated. And found something unexpected: a deserted wasteland of despair. Abandoned beginnings of heartfelt exposure. Some of the entries were years old. One, maybe two posts each, a muted cry for help. Women reaching out, to receive nothing in return but spam as comments to their wrenching posts. Some of them didn’t even have posts, just titles of blogs exposing their state of mind. She felt like an archaeologist finding scratch marks on a prison wall, wondering if they ever made it out. [189 words]
Han Pham recently moved back to Minnesota after several years in New York City. She now finds time to appreciate the small quiet joys that only Minnesota offers.
“Among Brothers” by Al Rieper
I’m sure Russ or Charlie brought it up first, prob’ly after our ‘Ol Man broke Charlie’s arm with a pitchfork handle. He said it was “Charlie’s own fault for stickin’ his hand down to save his ass from the lickin’ he deserved.”
Okay, I know it’s not “normal” to want your dad dead, but I bet alleight of uswished it sometimes. Ask anyone why. Ask mom. So Charlie, Russ and me, his last three slaves, were plotting.
“He’ll come up. Just piss him off good.”
Easy enough. Russ or me was spose to throw down hay, and if bales weren’t flyin’, the Old Man would scramble up that ladder bellowin’ and swingin’ — even firing Russ’s BB gun at us once!
“And someone downstairs has to stick the pitchfork up outa the bales just right, real quick.”
Oh shit, please not me. Charlie would have to set the fork. He oughta do that part anyway.
“Then one of us has to shove him right back down the chute onto the tines!”
Jeez, the worst. No way was I brave or strong enough to slip that awful grip. Russ would have to push him. Thank God I was “the baby.”
But my brothers couldn’t really do it either. Our dad never had any impaling “accident” in his forties but hung on bitterly ’til his own heart got him at ninety-one. No, we kids didn’t kill our ‘Ol Man, but he never saw our faces after we escaped the farm. [249 words]
Al Rieper lives in St. Paul and writes fiction for the fun and the agony of it and just to keep learning.
“A Real Trip” by Jan Strootman
I didn’t know that taking a bus in downtown Hong Kong during rush hour could be embarrassing! I didn’t have to wait long for the bus, but there were a lot of people already on board and several of us queued up to get on it. After jockeying around for a standing-room-only spot, I grabbed onto a pole as the bus lurched forward. I thought we would get to Repulse Bay fairly quickly since the bus was full. Wrong assumption! The driver stopped at every collection point along the route — everyone continually pushed, pulled, tugged and yanked toward the back. I jumped on the first step leading to the top deck to avoid the crush. Unfortunately, the people who had gone up ahead of me had no luck finding a seat; down they came only to find me in the way. There was no going forward, backwards or sideways. Alas, one of the more prominent parts of my anatomy was one and one-half inches away and at eye level from a fellow traveler. I wasn’t wearing the most supportive undergarment so that part of me was visibly keeping time to the rhythm of the road. I tried not to look at the passenger who was forced to take in this spectacle. Fortunately his wife was facing the other direction. We traveled for twenty-five minutes — I think the bus driver hit every bump in the road at least twice. When I finally squeezed past him to get off, he smirked at me, “Nice to meet you!” [256 words]
Jan was born and raised in Minnesota and currently divides her time between Bloomington and Zimmerman.