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Winners: Short Story Contest, N°1: A Short Form List

Winners: Short Story Contest, N°1

Never add more than one teaspoon of lava per week. That’ll cause a meltdown.

From the winning story, “My Volcano” by Carmen Petaccio.

The results are in for our first ever short story contest. Pictured L to R: Brian Patrick Eha (2nd place), Carmen Petaccio (1st place), Thomas Batten (3rd place). Honorable mentions: Alberto Calligaris and Nicole Haroutunian.

A note from our judge Hunter Kennedy, editor and writer at The Minus Times:

Okay—it's been a bit hectic in the war room, but I've got my leader board together for The Short Form 1st Annual Fiction Joust.
Contributors should realize that due to the level of subjectivity involved in the selections, such as whether or not this reader had an interest in sign language or German gardeners, my selections should not be considered any more binding than your last scotch-chugging English professor's handwritten note about your potential (or lack thereof).

Stories were judged based on a blind reading. Word limit was 500 words. Thanks to everyone who participated. 

Selected Stories


Winner, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013.

My Volcano
Full Story

Here are some facts about my volcano:

  • It is a mud-brown rise of earth, ankle-high, with a candle’s curlicue of smoke.
  • It is made of pulverized secondhand bricks and a polystrene/rebar composite.
  • It was manufactured by the Eisaku Noro Company in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan.
  • It cost $427.98, after New Jersey sales tax.
  • It is now the nicest thing in my dumpy backyard.
  • When I cup my hands round its glowing quarter-sized vent, my palms get warm.


Here are pieces of advice from my volcano installation specialist, Stan, after he’d successfully installed my volcano, and was guzzling the Sprite I’d brought him, in the staid heat of my backyard:

  • “Never add more than one teaspoon of lava per week. That’ll cause a meltdown.”
  • “When you run out of cinder-scented potpourri, order more from the website.”
  • “If the external bubbler makes like a grinding gears noise, turn it off immediately.”
  • “Recycle this Sprite.”


Here is a list of my coworkers at the coffee shop, as well as a few choice others, who I invited to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Daniela, nightshift waitress
  • Danny, dayshift manager
  • Jeff, line-cook
  • Manny, barista
  • Chris, dayshift waiter
  • Myself, nightshift waiter
  • A bunch of people who didn’t leave town after high school either.


Here are the preparatory measures and grounds keeping tasks I performed in the sweltering days leading up to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Soldered the spots in my fence where rust had unknotted the chain link.
  • Laid sod where the crabgrass had taken over.
  • Sold my old, unused tandem bike on eBay for $140.
  • Used the $140 and the remaining $180 in my checking to buy beer.
  • Scattered extra cinder-scented potpourri around my volcano.


Here is a list of everyone who showed up to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Everyone except Daniela.


Here are the two things Jimmy, night manager said to me after I showed to my shift reeking of beer and volcanic ash, and dumped a latte macchiato into the lap of Rosie, one of our regulars, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a childhood ailment:

  • “Why didn’t you invite me to your party?”
  • “You’re fired.”


Here is what I said to Daniela when she found me smoking by the dumpster behind the coffee shop, and she apologized for missing my party, she and her fiance had been in California, hiking Mount Shasta, would I like to see pictures?

  • “Sure.”


Here is what happens when you pour a liter of lava into your volcano, and kick its external bubbler until it starts making a grinding gears noise:

  • It spits up, like a petulant baby.
  • It boils over, like a busted sprinkler head.
  • It melts into the dirt, leaving a stinky, blighted circle.
  • All the sod you buy to cover it up dies, so eventually you have to plant real grass.

First Runner Up, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013.

The Limbs of Osiris
Full Story

We're covering Pvt. Valley from small arms fire in the Afghan mountains when an enemy mortar impacts right next to him. He's there one second and then a geyser of dirt and fire occludes him and he's down and there doesn't seem to be enough of him anymore. The MEDEVAC chopper is already inbound as we crawl over to him. Everyone else is returning fire from behind a bunch of skinny trees. We're trying to gather Pvt. Valley together and lift him onto the stretcher. It's like trying to gather the limbs of Osiris. The MEDEVAC chopper is closing in and now is hovering above the mountain and now is settling lower, suspended motionless above our heads like a dragonfly. The noise is terrific. All the dust is lifting up.

The journalist who's been dodging bullets with us comes up with her absurd huge black camera in her hand and her face all smeared with dirt and asks as nicely as she can if she can take pictures of Pvt. Valley. The platoon sergeant just stares at her and says Yeah, okay because this isn't even Valley anymore, it's just an object we're trying to lift into a chopper that keeps coming apart in our hands, it's a problem of mechanics really, the atomized parts of the man we're not supposed to leave behind keep sifting through our fingers. So we're struggling with the body and the chopper's blades are confining us in a funnel of dust and all the while this bitch journalist's camera is going rapid-fire, clickclickclick, like a revolver cycling on empty, God knows where her pictures will end up, documenting something that isn't even here anymore.


Second Runner Up, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013.

Whatever Happened to DB Cooper
Full Story

He ended up in Berkeley, where he used the money he’d stolen to fund a production of Hamlet with an all-dog cast. They wandered the stage and literally chewed the scenery. Voice actors stood behind the curtain and read the dialogue into microphones, and the dogs were fitted with electrodes, so they’d jump a little when it was their line. That was to make it easier on the audience. When the run ended, DB released the dogs in a supermarket parking lot at night. He’d used all the money he’d stolen, he didn’t know what to do next. Neither did the dogs.


Honorable Mention, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013

Mrs Schulz
Full Story

Mrs Schulz said that if she had seen us again skateboarding on the roof of her house she would shoot and bury us in the back of the garden with all the other kids she had killed before. The next morning we went back onto the roof as usual. Mrs Schulz was a German widow on a wheelchair, so we couldn’t care less. People said that during the war she was signalling to Nazi submarines from that very roof, and someone pushed her. That morning she was shouting that she was going to get the gun when James, who was trying to make a Godzilla flip, skidded and fell from the roof into the rose bushes underneath. Everybody stopped. And then James started shouting I’ve found a skeleton! There’s a skeleton here!, holding a couple of bones in sign of victory, as if they were cricket stumps. We all ran away and called the police. It turned out that dead cats were the secret ingredient for her first prizes at the annual parish flower show. We agreed that as long as we kept her secret we could all skateboard on her roof while she was gardening with a sardine can.


Honorable Mention, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013


We lay still in bed, out of sleep’s reach, buzzing electric in the dark. At the appointed time, we slipped from the house, careful not to wake the adults as we unlatched the back door. They’d packed us along on their family vacation, three girls for the price of one, and we were one—one mind, one thing in mind, never I, always we.

We had flat teenaged-stomachs, long hair, cut-off shorts and nerves to spare. The boys we’d met on the beach that day were waiting, bikes leaning against trees, sunburned arms hooked around six packs of beer.