2016 Half-Price Books and the Fremont Cultural Arts Council Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Congratulations to all our winning authors! The theme for 2016 required a non-human as the main character–the main character could be an inanimate object, an animal, a plant, a space alien, or anything other than a Human Being. Our authors came up with some amazing stories, and customers to the store who voted for their favorites posted throughout the store said it was hard to decide, and awarded ties to both the 2nd and 3rd prizes. Enjoy the 2016 winning stories!

1st prize: $65 cash prize
#5 Best Friends by Joanne Shiau

Breathe in, Breathe out

I don’t remember when breathing became so difficult. The cold silver table feel foreign and unpleasant but it’s her eyes that keep me still. Some kind looking man came in earlier and pricked me with something but now I don’t feel so ache-y, just tired. I lay there studying her face for as long as I can, looking for a movement or sign but she doesn’t give it to me and I know that she won’t.

I wonder what she’ll look like in the future, if she’ll always smell the same or if her pesky curly hair that I loved to sniff will ever learn to tame itself. I still remember her rosy cheeks and curious eyes, how small her little hands were as they grabbed at my fur and the way she giggled at my wet nose. I was not so sure we would like each other when we first met but now I can’t imagine what it will be like to no longer see her face.

There was one day when she came home talking about a boy. I had never met him but I already knew I didn’t like him.  Her eyes leaked salty water and I rushed over to lick them away. She giggled and pulled me close stroking me behind my floppy brown ears..my favorite spot.

She smiles at me now but her eyes are leaking salty water again. It’s like she hears my wish because her hands find my ears one last time.  I will miss many things but I will miss her the most. My best friend.

My vision blurs and now all I can see is her outline as she nuzzles my neck.

She whispers “I love you, my sweet boy.”

I love you too, sweet girl

2nd prize (tie): $25 Half-Price Gift Certificate plus $25 cash
#33 The Handkerchief by Sudha Krishnamoorth

The handkerchief stayed.

It had been ten days since the owner had gone on his unplanned final journey, leaving it behind. For the first time, it rested, undisturbed, tucked into the pocket of the blue shirt that hung in the closet. One corner, strategically placed, had a “K” embroidered in a majestic cursive script.

It was made of high-quality Indian cotton, that had seen better days. It was slightly frayed on the edges. The pattern of tiny checkered blue and white squares had all but faded. A sight trace of the Old Spices male perfume lingered, reminiscent of its late owner. It was neatly folded in a 2 by 4 inch rectangle that fitted into the pocket.

A gift from his father, for his wedding day, the handkerchief could reveal many a story. It carried memories of his life until the present. The handkerchief had helped mop the sweat on his tired brow after a hard day’s work. It had soaked up the tears of his young and lovely wife, during emotional outbursts. His kids, two little girls, followed by a robust healthy baby boy had put it to good use. Their father had lovingly wiped dirty little hands after play, wiped juice and milk remnants off their mouths. It had come with them on many a family outing. The family handkerchief, the kids had teasingly named it.

With the owner gone, would it share the same fate? As it lay there, its fate unknown, his older daughter stepped into the room.  She tugged at it gently until it was free of the pocket, and caressingly held it to her cheek.

She said, with a tiny sob, “I would like to keep this”. As she wiped her tears with it, the handkerchief grew warm in her hands.

2nd prize (tie): $25 Half-Price Gift Certificate plus $25 cash
#16 Handle with Caution by Divya Prakash

It has been three months since he died, but I don’t know if that’s a long time. It’s still vivid in my memory—the crashing of the glass, my sister’s silent scream, and myself, standing helplessly among the shards.  Nothing has changed. In these three months, I have walked the dog ninety-one times, my mother has undergone eight job interviews, and my sister has been on more date nights than I can count. These numbers are our lives from afar—lucid, melting time, not the mechanics of life after loss.  No number can measure the hunger of a dog that has eaten only bread crusts for two days, or the masked rage of a mother hearing—again—that she just “wasn’t a good fit” for the job.  A number can never capture the twinkle in my sister’s eyes as she smears on lipstick outside the lines, or the humiliation etched in her face as she returns home broken, mascara running down her face like tears.

Our quiet observer’s passing has left nothing more than a ripple, For years he watched from a corner, listened as my sister and I belted out Newsies tracks and wept over heartbreaks, watched as we scribbled our homework and blew out birthday candles. He shielded himself from the shards piling up against the wall as my father screamed and my mother cowered and my father packed a single bag and stormed out and we all cried and we all cried and we all cried.  He was ever un-noticed , as the three of us cuddled together on the thatched sofa, singing off-tune and telling groan-worthy jokes, attempting to cover up the Father-sized hole in our hearts.

Circling repetitively in a tiny glass bowl, only he seemed to notice the fragility of it all.

3rd prize (tie) $25 Half-Price Gift Certificate plus $5 cash
#34 The Job by Tish Davidson

I’m Adella. I have a tiny round head, large ears, and four feet. For years I’ve felt like a misfit – a speck, a crumb, a scrap of fur in a family of giants. My humans call me a Teacup Chihuahua. They’re always reminding the family not to step on me.

Everyone in my multinational family has a special job except me. Elgar, the German Shepherd, barks when strangers arrive, Marcos, the Portuguese Water Dog lifeguards at the fishing hole, Old English Sheepdog, Colin, bosses around those pesky hunks of baa-ing wool, and Rex, the Labrador Retriever, claims he is the official house greeter.  The humans think he is adorable, but the rest of us think he is lazy. The only thing special about me is how little there is of me.

One day Maria, the full-grown female human, ran into the house crying. “My wedding ring,” Maria sobbed, “It slipped down the drain in the sheep’s watering trough” Maria grabbed a fishing pole with a large hook and ran to the barnyard. Why? We followed and watched her dip the hook in the trough. No fish. Not even nibbles. She was so upset.

How could we help? Rex wagged wildly, Elgar barked to scare something out of the trough.  Marcos tried to put his head in the drain hole. Colin just looked confused.

I yapped at Colin to pick me up. Once I was in the air, I squirmed free. I hit the water with a splash, took a deep breath, and went straight into the drainpipe. I saw it, a gold flash. My teeth closed on it, and the splashed to the surface. Maria hugged me.

“Adella,” she cried, “You found it.”

Now I have a job. I find gold fish.

3rd prize (tie) $25 Half-Price Gift Certificate plus $5 cash
#23 Release by Keven Simpson

Exiting my rock, I swim towards the boat’s bobbing light. Three fish peck at the feathered meat of her slender hand, leaving behind bone and a golden ring. Shattered coral scars the seafloor and human debris still floats on the surface.

I coast around the hull, seeking the weary man, again. After the waves devastated the mainland, several boats combed the waters, with their  bright lights and suited men. Only his boat remains, working its lonely light across the sea each day.

“I was wondering if you’d show, my friend.”

The man leans over the side, light in hand. His face thin, his eyes hollow.

“More food?”

He tosses a silver sardine at me. I devour it, and feel a sharp pain through my mouth. I thrash on the line, whipping my long tail, but thick, gloved hands grab me.

“Every night you torment me,” he says, clutching a knife.

I writhe, gasping for water. He bites his lower lip.

“No matter where I search,” he says, stabbing toward a pile of rolled up charts, “You always appear.”

His grip tightens.

“You horrid, loveless thing. Is that why you took her?”

Tears streak his face.

“Return her,” he says, raising the knife, “Give her back!”

His sobs grow louder. My vision blurs and my body numbs. His hold loosens. The knife clatters on the deck.

“Sorry,” he says, “I’m so sorry.”

Cradled in his hands, he removes the hook and releases me. He stares out at the darkness, his tears falling. He stays like that for a moment longer, then disappears from the railing. I dive, passing the meatless hand. The light sweeps across and catches her ring, but he doesn’t see. The engine sputters, the light fades, and I wonder if it will return.