October 2023 Flash Fiction Contest
‘The October 2023 Flash Fiction Contest, co-sponsored by the Fremont Cultural Arts Council and Half Price Books, was held on October 7th, 2023 at Half Price Books, 39152 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA. Cash and Half Price Books gift cards were awarded to the 1st – 5th place winners. Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all who entered!
- 1st – “Changes in Perception” by Moukthika Kuruva
- 2nd – “Dosa” by Edward Soo Hoo
- 3rd – “Bonus Time” by Richard Lau
- 4th (tie) – “A Drink to Savor” by Samuel Rodriguez
- 4th (tie) – “‘Love Can Get Sticky’ by the Grape Jelly” by Jill M. Buono
President Emeritus Award – “The Car” by Al Minard
Here are the winning entries:
1st Place: “Changes in Perception” by Moukthika Kuruva
The world started spinning. Memories, regrets, and embarrassments from the previous day came flooding into the girl’s head. Her world had fallen apart, and she didn’t know what to do. Helplessness and exhaustion threatened to overtake her. Despite it all, she got up, her eyes going to her phone. Her mother had texted her asking if she was doing alright. She smiled a little, some of the emptiness inside her vanishing as she replied.
She greets her dog, and sings at the top of her lungs in her car on her way to the coffee shop. Her feet drag her to the bookstore, her face lighting up as she scans the novels. She catches sight of her favorite book, and a stranger sobbing while reading it. The girl sympathizes with the reader, remembering her own overwhelming emotions from the book.
She wanders to the park, clutching her newly purchased books tightly, and watches two young children making silly faces at each other. She nods and smiles at an elderly couple walking along the gravel path hand in hand. A wave of nostalgia hits her as she sees a teenage girl hugging her mother tightly.
Noticing the darkening sky, she heads home, and looks into the mirror as she gets ready to end her day. Surprisingly, none of her usual criticisms cross her mind.
She heads outside, her dog at her heels, gazing at the vast night sky. The large full moon casts pale light onto her face. Remembering the day’s events, she understands the beauty of the world. The beauty in failure and how it challenges her. It’s not so bad, she realizes. At that moment, as that revelation grows more insistent inside her, she realizes she has fallen in love. Fallen in love with life.
2nd Place: “Dosa” by Edward Soo Hoo
It was love at first bite. The spicy richness of the curried potato, combined with the crispy skin and coolness of the yogurt sauce was heavenly. Here was a new food that, after thirty plus years on Earth, was like nothing I had tried before.
Lunch options around work were pretty limited. We had the obligatory taco truck across the street from the plant. Down the road about a quarter mile was family run sandwich shop which, I am pretty sure, opened at the same time the plant did 50 years ago. I liked eating there but it was kind of expensive, the sandwich prices often rising fifty cents here, a dollar there, month to month. Some of the guys would drive a little further to get fast food but they ran the risk of being late coming back to their shifts. So either it was tacos, sandwiches, or candy and chips from the hallway vending machines every day.
We didn’t know what to make of the new truck that appeared just before third shift one afternoon. At first we thought maybe it was a different taco vendor coming in to replace “Alejandra’s”. Looking at the signs we were presented with things we had never heard of before: Palak Paneer, Naan, Idli, Paratha, Dosa. Thankfully there were pictures to help out our selection.
“Hello Sir, what can I do for you,” a cheerful Indian (I think) man at the catering window asked.
I asked for a Dosa, as this looked to be the closest thing to my lunchtime standby of a Super Burrito. I did not have to wait long until about a foot and half tube of crispy batter appeared at the window. That day began my love affair with Indian food.
3rd Place: “Bonus Time” by Richard Lau
The day I fell in love, time stopped.
Well, not exactly. But time seemed to lose significance, its oppressive dominance dissipated like morning fog cover.
The hands on the clock still moved, the sun rose and set, and year by year, we got older. But we did it together.
Milk soured and food spoiled, but we always managed to scrape something together for a delightful meal for two.
The seasons cycled and we greeted them like old friends with new characteristics and interests: Spring was fresher and brighter, Summer cooler but sunnier, Fall more festive and colorful, and Winter cheerier and cozier.
Unlike the seasons, friends, family, and pets expired, and we grieved together. And we missed and remembered them together.
And eventually, Time will throw down the final card, and we ourselves will be parted.
“Wouldn’t you want more time together?” I’m sometimes asked.
Of course. Who wouldn’t? But I’m not greedy. The way I look at it is that all the moments we have had together have been bonus time.
Some people go through their whole lives never falling in love. Others fall in love often, but never find that one true sustainable one. And still others may fall in love and find that love not returned.
It’s like playing a video game and achieving the high score of 9,999,999. Everything after that point won’t add to the score. You have already won. Everything else is bonus time.
My bonus time began the day she told me that she loved me, too.
Tie for 4th Place: “A Drink to Savor” by Samuel Rodriguez
I told my friend Al, that despite his efforts to get me to try a latte, I would never, ever drink one Why would I buy an overpriced coffee for young techies with full rim glasses, when I could get a senior discount on one at McDonald’s?
Al wasn’t a young techie, but he had full rim glasses and liked to shop at Gap. Even though Al and I might not have agreed on what kind of coffee to drink, we both loved baseball. But he was a Giants fan, and I was an A’s fan.
We were watching the two teams play each other one day on TV, and Al said, “George, if the Giants win, you have to drink a latte, the whole thing. If the A’s win, I will give up lattes for a month.” I said, “Deal!” and we shook hands. Of course, the Giants won.
Al said, “George, we’re going to Starbucks.” We arrived and I opened the door. I admit, the place smelled enticing.
We got in line and I said, “Al, you order for me.” The young man in front of us in skinny pants and oxford shoes ordered a “hot, Venti, decaf, soy, vanilla latte with whipped cream.” Al ordered me a hot caramel latte and instructed me to smell it, then drink it in sips. It smelled like coffee, but different than any I had ever tried before. It tasted like a divine mix of coffee, cream, and candy. I wondered if I had been missing out for years.
Al asked, “How was it?”
“Better than I thought it would be.”
Then Al said, “Next, I need to take you to Gap.”
“Don’t push your luck.
Tie for 4th Place: “’Love Can Get Sticky’ by the Grape Jelly”
by Jill M. Buono
I met him during the summer of the BEFORE TIMES. I’d just gotten out of a claustrophobic relationship with a donut, and I was chilling with my cousin, the orange marmalade. One afternoon during lunch, I saw him across the table in all his golden-brown gloriousness. He was manspread on a piece of bread.
“Chica, that dude looks like a smooth operator,” my cousin warned me as I lustily gazed at the peanut butter in all his creaminess.
She tried to convince me to stay in the pantry, but the peanut butter said something charming and invited me over. I couldn’t resist! By late afternoon I was living in sin in the condiment section of the cool refrigerator.
At first, our relationship was perfect. During the day, we snuggled together between fluffy sheets of bread. At night, we kept each other warm while the mustard and ketchup debated whether a hot dog is a sandwich.
As winter arrived, our relationship chilled. The peanut butter spent most Sundays on the coffee table in the living room watching football with a couple stalks of celery and some brews. On Saturday nights, he often hung out with juicy apple slices that he claimed were “just friends”. Finally, he came home one night with marshmallow fluff on his shirt collar. That was the last straw! I was ready to leave!
Then COVID hit and reality shifted. The human took the coldcut bin by eminent domain to quarantine newly arrived perishables, and a turkey drumstick was unceremoniously balanced on my lid. After my cousin bragged that her shelf had become quite spacious since the mysterious disappearance of all the toilet paper, I fled to the pantry, leaving behind the skanky peanut butter with his marshmallow fluff hussy.
President Emeritus’ Award: “The Car” by Alvin Minard
Once upon a time on a cool rainy overcast day, as I was sliding down the sidewalk looking for a new place to eat, I saw this beautiful low slung bright red Ferrari with a throaty exhaust that you just knew had lots of power and could go really fast. Speed really makes a difference to me because I am a snail, and I am the slowest of the slowest snails in Fremont. The last block long race I entered I came in two days behind the next to last snail.
When I saw this beautiful Ferrari, I knew that this would be the one thing that I could love and cherish forever. A week or so later I slid across a lottery ticket. If I could just win the lottery, I would buy a Ferrari.
The redemption center was five blocks away and it took me six months to get there. I did tell you that I am slow, didn’t I? When I turned in the ticket, I found that I had won 200 million dollars. I nearly fainted, but I knew that I was going to get that Ferrari.
Two months later I made it the two blocks to the Ferrari dealer and asked for a Ferrari SF 90 Stradale. They told me the cars were built on order. I special ordered this Ferrari painted lime green, my favorite color, with a large bright red “S” on each front door. The car was finally delivered six months later. I was so in love with this car.
As I screamed past a group of people waiting at the bus stop, in my lime green Ferrari with a bright red “S’ on each door, I heard them say:
“Look at that S-car go.”
April 2023 Flash Fiction Contest
The 2023 Flash Fiction Contest, co-sponsored by the Fremont Cultural Arts Council and Half–Price Books, was held on Saturday, April 29, 2023 at Half-Price Books, 39152 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA. Cash and Half-Price Books gift cards were awarded to the 1st – 5th place winners. Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all who entered.
- 1st – “A Day in the Life of a Jar of Peanut Butter During COVID-19 Lockdown” by Jill M. Buono
- 2nd – “The Riddle Of A Writer” by Nitika Sathiya
- 3rd – “Michelangelo #1” by Elaine Rodgers
- 4th – “Dear President Lincoln” by Pat Doyne
- 5th – “Fan Mail” by Tish Davidson
Here are the winning entries:
“A Day in the Life of a Jar of Peanut Butter During COVID-19 Lockdown” by Jill M. Buono (1st place)
It’s day who knows what of COVID-19 lockdown, and I’m losing my FREAKIN mind. This morning, the grape jelly finally followed through on her threats and moved to the pantry. She claims that she “just needs space”, but I suspect that she’s never forgiven me for my fling with the marshmallow fluff.
Around lunchtime, the human took the coldcut bin by eminent domain to quarantine newly arrived perishables, leaving its inhabitants homeless. Since then, a tub of yogurt, perched precariously on a half empty can of olives, has complained of a pinched nerve in its neck. A package of ground beef, pushed to the back of the refrigerator, is constantly moaning that it’s freezing. The ham and roast beef are locked in a death struggle with a stick of butter.
On my shelf, there’s a block of sharp cheddar cheese balanced on my lid. A bottle of Caesar salad dressing, propped on its head, is drip, drip, dripping its dressing dregs into its head. It’s muttering incoherently, probably brain damaged.
One shelf down the mustard and ketchup, who used to be BFFs, are having a personal hygiene discussion regarding the black crud around the ketchup’s lid. A bottle of who knows what, which lost its label in a scuffle with the soy sauce, has been trying to intervene, but with little success.
Added to the cacophony of complaints, there’s been a faint odor of sulfur since a cracked egg was evicted earlier this evening. The eggs can’t socially distance in their carton so I’m not surprised that they’ve turned on one another.
Yup, that’s my reality! This also explains why all my recent paintings resemble Dante’s first circle of hell… if it were in a refrigerator!
“The Riddle Of A Writer” by Nitika Sathiya (2nd place)
My pencil twists and turns into new places.
I take the wrong direction on purpose.
I run confidently into dark alleys and abandoned buildings.
Day and night, I fight.
I kill monsters and banish ghouls.
I reform corrupt governments.
I build castles in wastelands.
I travel and experience more in each paper.
Every punctuation mark is a punch.
Every sentence is a new mystery.
Every poem is a power.
Every decision is another story.
Day and night, I write.
A vigilante in the streets made of lined paper.
I live in a different world within these words.
A world without boundaries.
A world without fear.
Some call me a fighter.
Others know me as the writer.
“Michelangelo #1″ by Elaine Rodgers (3rd place)
Dust, I live in dust,
Marble blocks from the quarry,
Towering heavy white rock,
Hiding what is miraculous,
Envision what’s inside.
I pick up a hammer,
Chip away at the stately rock,
Looking for the hidden prize,
Located inside this hulk,
A priceless treasure.
A face appears,
Eyes searching for love,
Arms reaching out to me,
Slowly coming to life,
Freedom is near.
Dust, I live in dust,
My hand holds the hamme6
Man, woman or child,
Prisoned in the marble,
“Dear President Lincoln” by Pat Doyne (4th place)
Dear President Lincoln,
I’ve been reading that speech you gave at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, the “Gettysburg Address.” The one about “all men are created equal,” and “these dead shall not have died in vain.” All those soldiers who gave their lives so the Union might live must be feeling pretty disappointed right now.
We’ve got this Congresswoman giving interviews and speeches to encourage a “National Divorce.” She wants Red and Blue States to make their own laws: choose who votes, who’s permitted inside secure borders, whose rights will be protected. If a Blue migrates to a Red State—well, that’s ok, but he can’t vote.
Looks like our union is once again coming apart at the seams. So, Mr. President, do you have any healing words for us today?
Of course, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” has a built-in problem: people. Some think that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is the enemy — so they grab a gun and start shooting. I guess you know all about that attitude, since John Wilkes Booth shot and killed you.
Anyway, our nation is a war-zone again. We know you’re honest, Mr. Lincoln. Do you think the United States will ever pull together? Or will we “perish from the earth?” Just asking.
Concerned California Citizen
“Fan Mail” by Tish Davidson (5th place)
E. B. White came down from his writing studio to eat lunch. His wife had set his fan mail at his place on the table. White loved hearing how much his readers liked his books. He opened the first letter. It was from a fourth grade teacher who wrote “I have been reading Charlotte’s Web to my class. My students got so involved in the story that they threatened to go on a homework strike unless I read two chapters each day instead of one. The girls love the gentle spider Charlotte. The boys like Wilbur the pig because he is messy, and the troublesome boys all want to be Templeton the rat.”
“A homework strike,” White chuckled. “They must really love my book.”
The next letter was from a mother. She wrote, “I read Charlotte’s Web to my children. It took me back my happy childhood on a farm in Iowa.”
The paper inside the third envelope was covered in cobwebs. White read, “We are angry orphans. You killed our mother before we could meet her. Thanks to you, we grew up without parents. How could do such a thing?” The letter was signed Wilbur “Some Pig” Zuckerman, typed for Charlotte’s 518 offspring.
White wondered if he were hallucinating. He glanced around the room. Everything seemed normal, then his eye caught sight of a spider web high in the corner of the dining room. He got up for a closer look. Slowly the words the spider was spinning emerged. “Bad Man.”