Contest judging took on a new dimension this year. Instead of the usual panel of undistinguished judges drawn from academia, this year's judges consisted of last year's winner, Gary Dahl, and a group of Silicon Valley technical and marketing writers. To honor this change, the contest has inaugurated a new Silicon Valley catetory. Meanwhile, another collection of contest entries is on the drawing board (to use an inappropriate metaphor). The next will be fetchingly entitled, The Brothers Dark and Stormy.
The lone monarch butterfly flew flutteringly through the cemetery, dancing on and glancing against headstone after headstone before alighting atop Willie Mitchell's already lowered casket, causing gasps of awe to fly from the open mouths of five or six
lingering mourners, until a big shovelful of dirt landed on it and it died.
Seal Beach, CA
The graphic crime-scene photo that stared up at Homicide Inspector Chuck Venturi from the center of his desk was not a pretty picture, though it could have been, Chuck mused, had it only been shot in soft focus with a shutter speed of 1/125 second at f 5.6 or so.
Ms. Rephah Berg
This was the night, the night that began when the sun dipped its hot belly below the trees outside Detective Gravning's window, the night that would not end until the sun rose in the morning, like the flaming red hair on the married head of Dectective Gravning's lover, who rose now from his bed, and pranced through the room, like a match struck, then thrown.
When the mightily-hewn warrior-hero Glark One-Ear, fed up with paying the tribute demanded by the despotic wizard Jormed-the-Doubly-Soulless, set out to single-handedly unite the warring barbarian tribes of Verfot and lead them in bloodily overthrowing the evil mage's tyranny, he envisioned a progressive tax system based upon income brackets, yet allowing deductions for business expenses, dependents, and charitable donations.
"I could tell you stories about this road we shall be traveling," the old man told his young companions as he leaned on his staff and stroked his silver beard, "of how it was built by Dwarves of the Barad-dur in the days of Thranduil the Great, numberless years before the Elves of the Ered Luin left their silver woods in Lindon, sailed their ships over the Western Sea, and passed from the knowledge of men, but what would you learn from these tales, except that I squandered my college years reading far too much Tolkien instead of meeting girls."
John La Torre
Winner: Purple Prose
The wind attacked the house with a voracious appetite, lapping hungrily at the eaves, whipping the gutter refuse into a frothy shake of leaves and dirt, while rattling the slate shingles like an orphan banging his plate for more.
Like most members of "Mustela putorius fero," known to laymen as the domestic ferret, our inquisitive hero (about whom more we shall shortly read) resembled a shrunken polar bear, toasted by a blowtorch, suffixed by a tail, and stretched out like taffy while still hot.
Santa Cruz, CA
Winner: Science Fiction
Kirk's mind raced as he quickly assessed his situation: the shields were down, the warp drive and impulse engines were dead, life support was failing fast, and the Enterprise was plummeting out of control toward the surface of Epsilon VI and, as Scotty and Spock searched frantically through the manuals trying to find a way to save them all, Kirk vowed, as he stared at the solid blue image filling the main view screen, that never again would he allow a Microsoft operating system to control his ship.
The battered starship bucked and yawed in the frigid belly of the interstellar ion storm, her tortured steel deckplates screaming as they were mercilessly wrenched by the lashing gravity tide waves, the ship's disaster alarms blaring madly and the crash lighting casting an eerie red glow in the smoke-filled bridge as StarCaptain Lazlo Permute, gripping the
diskette containing the necessary navigation coordinates to finally escape the storm, waited for the elevator door to the bridge to go "ding" and open."
Rodney knew that he was going to die a horrible, screaming, unspeakable death, when he arrived on the bridge in a uniform that did not match the others, was referred to only as "yeoman" and was to be sent planetside with Captain Kirk and the regular away team.
Out of the killer cold of the forty-below unending Arctic night into the glowing warmth of the Last Ditch Saloon, we stumbled numbly, dragging behind us the frozen dead corpse of our friend, Bartholomew, whom the hardened permafrost of the tundra resisted our burying, and, leaning poor stiff Bart against a wall, gaily called out for drinks for the house, as we were flush with prospected gold that now only needed to be split two ways.
As he saw her step lightly down from the stagecoach, Deputy Slim Pickens reckoned that Luella Mae Bumtugger, the new schoolmarm, was 'bout as fine as frog hair; tapered legs smooth as a salamander and skinny as a newborn colt; brown eyes dark and deep as a barn owl in the shadows of midnight; and a bosom that heaved up through the low cut blouse like two hairless prairie dogs trying to back out of the same hole.
"Hold your horses," exclaimed the durably dressed cowboy as the sharp scent of sweat dripping down his twenty-two-month-old chestnut mare's buttocks wafted through the arid air into his left nostril, past the fine cilia of his nose, through the nasal cavity and
into the dark damp depths of his single emphysemic lung.
"Alas," Vanessa sighed, "What can one do when one's relationship begins to stale in much the same way as a day-old cinnamon roll which was wrapped in wax paper rather than having been sealed in plastic, and can only be made remotely palatable for a very brief period when reheated for a few seconds in a microwave, after which it becomes even more revolting than it was in the first place?"
Carol E. Scott
Green Bay, WI
As I gazed at my new bride's perfectly round face, with its one eyebrow slightly longer than the other, and listened to the continuous ticking of her grinding teeth as she slept, I grabbed a felt-tip marker, realizing that all she was missing were twelve numbers around the perimeter of her face to remind me this was forever.
Fort Collins, CO
My first night with Anastasia was the kind of magical, passionate ride that left me with my pants on the back of the kitchen chair, my underwear on the chandelier, my socks in the toilet, my hair on the door handle, half of my artificial leg somewhere in the pantry, my kidney in a Coleman ice chest on its way to the Moroccan black market, and my car in a Tijuana auto repair shop with new, red, diamond-tuck interior.
Beverly Hills, CA
From the roundel of her fifth-story pied-à-terre, Clara watched her ex approach, strutting to retrieve a moldy yearbook to aid his recall for the R.M. Nixon High class of '76 silver reunion, oblivious he would be as invisible to them now as then, although his electro-plated medallion and scalp peering through the feathered fringes of his comb-over both bore the startling sheen of passing time, and her heart pounded with the sudden conviction justice was served when disco died and no one told Roger.
"Welcome to Upcharles Manor," she breathed, while a tremulous index digit gently pressed the tip of her amber tongue, her breasts like albino apricots heaving and revealing their rosy stems, ripe with misty freshness, not unlike the emission that cloaked the shrouded visage of her dark and commanding visitor, Baron Giovanni Pulsolattamio, who emitted a whiff of black lacquer from his hair--or was it his boots?
Carlotta lay on the mound of pillows strewn about the floor of the poolhouse, back arched and head thrown back, screaming the name of the only man who had ever taken her to the pinnacle of unbridled ecstasy, the only man with whom she had experienced the overwhelming rush of carnal electricity - unfortunately not the man who now peered up at her from the tangle of hastily discarded clothing with the sullen and quizzical visage of a calf looking at a new gate.
It was the classic conundrum - marry Dirk, who truly loved her, or spend the summer in Iceland shoeing horses and teaching geodetic science to indigent zucchini farmers - but in the end she knew she could only follow her heart, which was what brought her to the airport, passport in hand.
The Ohio State University at Marion
"Was it only a dream then?" she lamented, lying on her side, and were these sweat-soaked sheets merely the product of her lonely erotic subconscious, and the tears began to flow as she turned over onto her other side, abated briefly as she noticed the teeth still in the glass at the bedside, and began again in earnest as she recognized the familiar reverberation of the flushing toilet in the bathroom - yes, Earl had stayed the night!
Mark R. Hermann
Yorba Linda, CA
Winner: Vile Pun
Luigi knew deep down in the pits of his four stomachs that he and his fellow bovines on the island could no longer rely on the meager rations of electricity doled out to them by Farmer Pietro to stay warm, and he sought to convince the herd that the heat generated by a few hours of singing would give them the independence they sought, saying simply, "One day mooing heats our isle; I can beat Pete's supply--get some more hay!"
While they listened to the dulcet strains of Wayne Newton, quaffed champagne, cuddled in the hot tub as bubbles nibbled at their shoulders like a peckish Pomeranian, Tiffany and Shane grew lethargic and groggy; and as Shane drew a final, sweet drag from his cigarette, an errant breeze hijacked an ember-only to release it into the slumbering Tiffany's mane; but Shane, besotted and inherently doltish, could muster no plan of rescue until he heard Wayne Newton intone, "Dunk her, Shane."
Port Angeles, WA
Dr Doolittle's visage darkened as he dissected the diseased duodenum of the deceased male sheep, declaring that the malady was critically contagious and that it was our patriotic duty to guard the severed specimens from possible biological terrorists, so all through the night o'er the ram parts we watched.
San Andreas, CA
Bruce remained on bended knee in front of Sheila, who fixed him with a gaze as cold as a seven-bone roast which had been in the coldest part of the freezer for eight months, and even though a tear trickled down his left cheek, her heart hardened, becoming actually as hard as that same seven-bone roast after that same amount of time in that same part of the freezer, (because when things freeze they also become very hard), and then Bruce knew with certainty that, as usual, Sheila was going to give him the cold shoulder.
It's hard to believe that Lucy and I are actually getting married, considering the fact that her multi-millionaire father owns the local NFL franchise, and I'm just a lowly, underpaid member of the grounds crew, relegated to painting the team logo on the field, which is actually a fairly difficult job, what with all the little flairs, curlicues and swooshes I have to deal with, not to mention the texture of the turf itself, relative humidity and all the foot traffic that it gets . . . but I dye grass.
Wm. W. "Buddy" Ocheltree
If it weren't for the knee-high sewage lapping at his dress pants and the confused terrorist spraying automatic gunfire over his head between loud, emotional outbursts in a language that sounded like someone choking on gravel, Johnson could see little reason to change his mind about the wisdom of registering at a two-star hotel.
Cranbrook, British Columbia
It was a dark and stormy night when Leviathan-sized waves pitched Malcom overboard from the small schooner and he found himself clinging to a cider barrel in the tempest-tossed sea, to be borne thereon to a barren atoll leagues off the main shipping lanes, a sandy dot in the ocean whose only life was a leafy shrub with a pulpy substance inside its stems, which, with the contents of the life-saving barrel, long since gone sour, provided Malcom's sustenance for the next months until a search party discovered him, not emaciated and sere as one would expect but literally full of pith and vinegar.
"Terry the Tarantula and Wendy the Wasp were frolicking and cavorting together in the Flowery Meadow, ( as they were the best of friends in all the Enchanted Forest of Miggly-Wompsly) when, all of a sudden, and with no warning whatsoever, Wendy accidentally stabbed Terry with her stinger, making her very sad for she knew that soon her poison would paralyze her friend and after a while her eggs would hatch inside him, and then her happy wriggling larva would slowly eat him alive, but Terry tried to smile and would have told her not to be sad as this was how the Circle of Life was continued, but he was in too much pain and, as I mentioned before, paralyzed."
With echoes of "fee, fi, fo, fum" still hurtling about the cavernous dining chamber, the giant, breath reeking of l'orange, narrowed his crimson-rimmed eyes till they appeared as slits carved haphazardly into his beefy, liver spot-sprinkled visage; set his prey back upon the floor; drummed his bulging, sausage-like fingers against his substantial belt; and signaled to the small boy that he was free to leave, at which point Jack, scurrying toward the towering open door before them, realized he'd learned the lesson of a lifetime: sometimes there were advantages to being Canadian.
Seal Beach, CA
Winner: Dark & Stormy Night Category
It was a dark and stormy night as Jacque the baker slogged through the black cheerless alleyways of Avignon, the cold Provencal rain soaking him to the bone, increasing his fury at having chosen the life of a breadmaker, for the early hours truly went against his grain and it chaffed him that he trudged to work in wee hours of the morning while the rest of the world loafed in bed; what more proof did he need of his misery, why did he bother, surely it was not for the dough, exasperating as the rise and fall of the boulangerie's business might be, and suddenly he knew with conviction that he was, after all, just a gluten for punishment.
The afternoon was gray and cloudy; the drizzle fell intermittently -- in the distance, across the Potomac, a torrent was stealthily creeping eastward -- amongst a gently wafting breeze amongst the trees lining the Mall (for it is in Washington that our scene lies), misting the windows of the passing cars, and annoying the feral cats that lived in Rock Creek Park who would soon be mad as wet hens as the night became dark and stormy.
On this dark and stormy night my mother hung the worn enema bag, as was her usual habit, by its sad frayed rope collar to a rusty nail that protruded from the grotty wall beside the faded print of Maxfield Parrish's "Daybreak," whose ethereal fantasy contrasted sharply with what was about to happen to me.
Baron Fork Weans
It was a stork, and Darmy Knight, the intrepid, nearsighted veterinarian who was prone to
making deliberate, yet rash decisions, thereby surprising his very impressionable and
lovely, painfully shy, velvet-eyed assistant with whom he was secretly in love, in the
operating room, particularly where large-billed waterfowl were concerned, especially this
one, especially here, especially tonight, was confused.
Although the female guards at Worthington State Correctional Facility for Women thought the lawyer for the convicted Dr. Laura Scrimshaw was cute, it was the
doc in stir men eyed.
Winner--Special Silicon Valley Category:
The shattering news hit him like a blow to the solar plexus, and his adrenal glands prepared for a massive secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine in the classic "fight or flight" response as he realized the truth-the mind-deadening months of toil, the endless Little Debbie Snack Cake-fueled late nights, the ingratiating compliments to the CEO's pubescent fourth wife, the obsequious pandering to the snide staff in Human Resources, the feigned interest in the Director of Purchasing's numbingly repetititive wingnut collection, the humiliating groveling to win the miniscule Withers-Grimes account, it had all been for nothing; Spivens, it seemed, would be getting the much-coveted translucent blue pencil sharpener.
Diane S. Harvey
The first bullet entered and exited Ed's abdomen, penetrated his elbow, reentered his body and exited his buttocks, severing a tendon there; the second entered through the right side of his neck, missing all of the major structures and exiting through the front; the third entered an inch to the right of the midline of the back and below the seventh cervical vertebra, exiting at the inner third of the left clavicle; and their impact caused him to wonder (as the smoke cleared to reveal to him a ring of his fellow commuters standing agog over his prostrate form just before he fell unconscious), whether he should have talked more quietly on his cell phone in the crowded train or perhaps stayed off of it (the train or the phone, one or the other) altogether.
Unwittingly, Bob pressed the Enter key, sending a stream of zeros and ones in electronic form across the computer's bus, through the processor, out the serial cable, through the 56K modem, and into the seamy and unfathomable world of the Internet where his MasterCard number became as ubiquitous as the cute chord that plays when you boot up a Windows based computer.
Alan C. Elliott
Cedar Hill, TX
It was a dark and stormy night; the electronic missive's profligate packets wormed their wandering ways through the taut, transparent cables of the Internet's infrastructure, sped by swift, silent Solaris servers between bevies of brawny binaries - gap-toothed GIF's and jolly JPEG's - only to perish pitifully at the hands of the callous, capable kill-filter that protected the penultimate portal of Pauline's precious PC.
Alfei Menashe, ISRAEL
Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions:
The shame and stress of rejection were overwhelming, as overwhelming as the smell of a forgotten jockstrap at the bottom of Captain Hook's hamper, or as bad as tripping while being chased by the bulls of Pampalona, she reflected as she thought upon the cruel fate that prevented her from being selected; after all she was smarter, more beautiful, and much more willing, and "It could have been me," she lamented, but deep in her heart the Rejected Intern knew it was close, but no cigar.
Alan B. Combs
"The victim was found in a water hazard adjoining the Seventh Hole, a picturesque but demanding little Par 5 at 583 yards, with copious sand traps, dangerously sloped
fairway and a perilously fast green."
"Van Nichten surveyed his ragtag group of vampire hunters with a baleful eye until their laughter quietened, then said "Fools! This vampire has crossed milennia, seen the births and deaths of nations, has seen the very sands of time run through his fingers- do not underestimate him, simply because now he runs a chip shop."
Unbeknownst to Stan, his convulsive, celebratory leap into the air at the winning Manchester goal, propelled his sausage from between the clenched grasp of bread and mustard into the wildly cheering crowd, only to land harmlessly beneath the bleachers in a turgidly congealed pool of spilt beer and the random effluvia typically present at sporting events of this nature.
Randall A. Fry
Pismo Beach, CA
Her low-cut, revealing gown was black - black like her heart, although not really because everyone knows that a heart is just an internal organ whose natural pigment is pink just like the lungs, except, of course, for the lungs of a long-time smoker which may be as black as her low-cut, revealing gown.
In a delirious fit of ire, Colette, her porcelain complexion marred by a fearful knitting of her fine brow, proceeded to expectorate at the blue-patterned Ming vase, tip the bloated goldfish from their bowl, run her nails over the parquet floor and lacerate the florid carpet, before a second stolen glance at the mirror revealed that the zit was a mere fleck of dust on the brilliant plane-"Jeeves," mused Colette, "your time is nigh!"
Benjamin Tan Yongcheng
The clouds, heavy with the weight of rain that once evaporated from the mighty blue oceans, several rivers, three streams, a brook and Miss Pricklefit's backyard swimming pool which she absentmindedly forgot to cover, released their steady flow of rain onto the streets (for it is Boise in which our story takes place, with the exception of the flashback in chapter fourty-two, which takes place a mile or so south-southeast of Des Moines).
Sheboygan Falls, WI
With wild gesticulations and loud, gutteral shouts, "Father Steve" jerked the desperately ill patient back and forth while pelting him with oil, dousing him with holy water, and beating him vigorously about the head with a pocket New Testament (the words of Jesus being written in red) in his own unique version of Xtreme Unction.
Rev. William F. Charles
In an Indian restaurant like any other, Forbes MacVane stared through the flickering candelight at the stranger's weatherbeaten visage; his mind raced, his palms moistened, his nostrils filled with the pungent aroma of mingling saffron and cardamom, "What are you talking about, one million pounds; I only came in for a Balti chicken tikka and a Peshawari nan."
Bayard Wingate sat in his Biloxi office, softly repeating the Southern pronunciation of his name, which no one at Yale had gotten right, Northerners being congenitally unable to say his first name correctly because the art of slurring the letter 'y' in a flourish of the soft palate so that it did not demarcate a second syllable but rather slid into an elision, along with the knowledge that the second syllable of his last name was pronounced 'git,' as one would exhort a stray dog to depart, formed part of a deep pool of consciousness alien to those born north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Susan B. Felker
Just like (or as) a bicycle rider lifts his butt from the seat when he sees a bump coming, so Bob pulled back, emotionally, when Alice got angry.
Although somewhat plump in appearance, Deloris had an unmistakable quality of grace and elegance that her loving husband once described as "an unmistakable quality of grace and elegance, despite her somewhat plump appearance."
Staring precociously at the white foam that surrounded his bulbous white flesh, Norman could not help but wonder why he had let himself be cajoled into this discerning nightly ritual but of course bath night was something that the three-year-old could not avoid.
Virgule gazed across the vast, cold, steel expanse past his inquisitor to witness the full consequence of his previous decision - feral, withered children, in tattered, filthy garments, toiled mindlessly at his command in a single chamber which reeked of oil and
burning animal flesh - his time had come to deliver the final instruction; "Yes! I would like fries with that."
Gorillagar made his way to Inasmuchaslinn in two effortless strides, grabbed her by the scruff of her tender neck, temporarily relieving her of her scrubbing duties, and seizing a handful of sunlit tresses within the grasp of his lean, strong fingers, whirled her about on her slender heels to meet his mocking sneer which curved his handsome lips that served to protect his glossy white teeth, and snarled, "Just you remember this, my waxing flaxen Saxon wench: you WILL be mine--and I don't mean maybe!"
The candles were guttering in their sockets, when the aureate dawn's lambent gaze scuttled upon the recumbent figure of Sir Richard, murmuring languidly to his flask of smuggled Napoleon, "To be jiggered, scuppered, piqued, repiqued and capotted by one's barque of frailty is tolerable, but to choose my drinking bosom bow is demmed
unsporting effrontery and so veddy wulgar, what?"
Ms. Dueep Jyot Singh
Wearing a tutu to the frat bash had not been such a hot idea, Joe mused, as he was gently pushed into the drunk tank, and when the hulk with far more prison tattoos than teeth stood tippy-toe, licked his lips, and asked Joe if he could demonstrate a pas de deux, grand; a battement sur le cou-de-pied, petit; a entrechat six; and a rond de jambe en l'air he knew he must give the performance of his life.
Penn Valley, CA
Oblivious to the crass sounds of banging on the headboard and squeaky bed springs, Jemima muttered the Lord's Prayer several times through and then hummed For All the Saints, before having to slide out from beneath Roy's sweat glazed body, like a greasy dissatisfied mechanic from under the chassis of a Daewoo.
Sydney, NSW Australia
As she idly played with the gold crucifix that lay tangled in my sweaty chest hair, I studied the ring in her puckering navel, noting how it cast a shadow that slowly marched across her lean abdomen like a sundial, counting out our love in increments too tiny to be measured without a very small device of some kind.
I'm telling you, that man had big teeth - teeth like marble headstones with lichen growing on them, teeth like transparent buckets of whitewash with streaks of ochre mixed into them, teeth like the keys of a battered old piano - no words of mine can describe those teeth!
Aoife Mac Manamon
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