Some fun reading


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Jun 9, 2003
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For lovers of good writing, these are 10 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton contest --AKA, A Dark and Stormy Night Contest-- (ran by the English Dept. of San Jose State University), wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel.

10) "As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break
wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it."

9) "Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens."

8) "With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned,
unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep
azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied
for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that
defied description."

7) "Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept
along the East wall: 'Andre creep...Andre creep... Andre creep.'"

6) "Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism,
was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon
to become the woman he loved."

5) "Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her
from eeking out a living at a local pet store."

4) "Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins
often do."

3) "Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the
corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor."

2) "Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the
meaning of the word 'fear'; a man who could laugh in the face of danger
and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal


1) "The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along
the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle
window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder,
gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside
her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming maddly, “You lied!"

Personally, I think #6 should have won, but I like #2 a lot also.

I wonder what the worst one ever was...

I like #2 too.

I liked #3 the best :) it seems like something I would write :D
The worst had to be the original, written in 1830, here it is.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the novel Paul Clifford (1830)

To read the entire first chapter of Paul Clifford, and a favorable review written ten years later, go to:

Want to try your hand at it for next year, here are the rules:

History of the BLFC

Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the brainchild (or Rosemary's baby) of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line "It was a dark and stormy night." Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and--not least--Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy.

Conscripted numerous times to be a judge in writing contests that were, in effect, bad writing contests but with prolix, overlong, and generally lengthy submissions, he struck upon the idea of holding a competition that would be honest and -- best of all -- invite brief entries. Furthermore, it had the ancillary advantage of one day allowing him to write about himself in the third person.

By campus standards, the first year of the BLFC was a resounding success, attracting three entries. The following year, giddy with the prospect of even further acclaim, Rice went public with the contest and, with the boost of a sterling press release by Public Information Officer Richard Staley, attracted national and international attention. Staley's press release drew immediate front-page coverage in cultural centers like Boston, Houston, and Miami. By the time the BLFC concluded with live announcement of the winner, Gail Cane, on CBS Morning News (since defunct through no fault of the BLFC), it had drawn coverage from Time, Smithsonian, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Radio, and the BBC. Most important, over 10,000 wretched writers had tried their hands at outdoing Bulwer's immortal opener, with the best entries soon appearing in the first of a series published by Penguin Books, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (1984).

Since 1983 the BLFC has continued to draw acclaim and opprobrium. Thousands continue to enter yearly, the judging has been covered by all the major American television networks, and journalists and pundits from Charles Osgood to George F. Will have commented on the BLFC phenomenon. And each year the winners continue to be announced by both national and international media, including such worthies as the BBC, Australian Radio, Radio South Africa, and Radio Blue Danube from Vienna. To sustain the momentum, the Penguin collections of entries have reached five, each an indispensable addition to the bookshelves of discerning readers and collectors (lamentably, they are now all out of print, a commentary on the misplaced and mercenary values of modern publishers).

In the meantime, Lytton's fame has not rested solely on his literary accomplishments. In 1989 he came (albeit unbeknownst) to our attention when his ancestral estate at Knebworth was chosen by Tim Burton as the setting for "stately Wayne Manor" in the movie Batman. White water enthusiasts will also be gratified to know that "the rafting capital of British Columbia," located at the dramatic confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, takes its name from our hero, acknowledging his tenure as Interior Secretary, when he was responsible for building numerous roads in Australia and Western Canada. In the off chance you are interested in the assessment of species diversity in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone near Lytton, B.C., go here. In the greater likelihood that you do not give a rat's patootie about the biogeography for selected taxa belonging to some of the major phylogenetic groups in the eastern Rockies and western Cascades of British Columbia, we suggest that you loiter at our site.

The rules to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are childishly simple:
Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish.
Sentences may be of any length (though you go beyond 50 or 60 words at your peril), and entries must be "original" (as it were) and previously unpublished.
Surface mail entries should be submitted on index cards, the sentence on one side and the entrant's name, address, and phone number on the other.
Email entries should be in the body of the message, NOT in an attachment. If you are submitting multiple entries, please include them in one message.
Entries will be judged by categories, from "general" to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners.
The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories). The actual deadline may be as late as June 30.
Wild Card Rule: Resist the temptation to work with puns like "It was a stark and dormy night."
Send your entries to:
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Department of English
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0090
To inflict your BLFC entry electronically, digitally stimulate Bulwer's nasal member (and please include your name, phone number, and addresses--Gastropoda and e-mail [Note: this data is for our contact information, no longer for public consumption. It is a convenience for interested media to be able to contact winners but that has been taken away by the cyber sociopaths who like to inflict viruses]):

I've never entered, beacuse I was afraid I might win, and that would be a crushing experience.

Now it's one thing to do this as a joke in a contest, bu there are endless examples of Real Writers getting paid to churn out lousy first lines. Go here to see some:

And here are some entries from 2002:

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not
quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it
hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going
bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of
annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.
Ms. Rephah Berg
Oakland CA
(510) 652-1489

Proving once again that Tom Hanks is not the only illustrious person from Oakland, California, the winner of San Jose State University's 21st annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Oakland resident Rephah Berg. With 25 years of editing experience, she also occupies herself by producing puzzles for newsstand magazines and what she calls "bursts of wit" for lapel buttons. In her spare time she also tends to plants and animals and does volunteer work with an agency for the visually impaired. Her first name is pronounced REE-fa and her last name rhymes with the final syllable of "iceberg" (which is conveniently spelled the same).

In the musty world of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, also known as the Bad Writing or Dark and Stormy Night Contest, Ms. Berg qualifies as a recidivist or repeat offender, meaning that she has entered before. Last year she won the Detective Category with the following entry:

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.

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory if not the reputation of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) and the phrase, "the pen is mightier than the sword," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has attracted thousands of annual entries from all over the world. This year category winners came not just from the United States but from Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The professor looked down at his new young lover, who rested fitfully, lashed as she was with duct tape to the side of his stolen hovercraft, her head lolling gently in the breeze, and as they soared over the buildings of downtown St. Paul to his secret lair he mused that she was much like a sweet ripe juicy peach, except for her not being a fuzzy three-inch sphere produced by a tree with pink blossoms and that she had internal organs and could talk.
Charles Howland
St. Paul, MN

Winner: Detective
Chief Inspector Blancharde knew that this murder would be easy to solve-despite the fact that the clever killer had apparently dismembered his victim, run the corpse through a chipper-shredder with some Columbian beans to throw off the police dogs, and had run the mix through the industrial-sized coffee maker in the diner owned by Joseph Tilby (the apparent murder victim)--if only he could figure out who would want a hot cup of Joe.
Matthew Chambers
Hambleton WV
(304) 478-4957

Detective Driscoll had fallen off the wagon like a frozen turkey from a Goodwill helicopter and, like a talking elephant reunited with his old circus buddies after 50 years, he reminisced about the most memorable collars of his career -- and he guffawed so hard that he fell off the barstool like another turkey from another helicopter as he recollected the time he arrested a mime for shoplifting and had to say "You have a right to remain silent . . ."
Vince Lucid
Pennellville, NY
(315) 668.8620

Dishonorable Mentions:
The jangling phone disturbed the fly, the blue bottle fly, the blue bottle fly performing precise, low-swooping wingovers above my four-sugar coffee while the potted palm made a feeble attempt at photosynthesis with the naked 25 watt bulb that hung from the cracked plaster of my low-rent office on a less-than-desirable (unless you were vermin) stretch of Pico.
John Knoerle
Chicago, IL

It was a warm, rank odor that hit Detective Swatworth's nostrils, breaking into components that seemed hauntingly familiar, reminiscent of dangerous deeds past, lighting up every wary fiber in his torso, warning him to be wary of what lay ahead, on guard, finger on the trigger, then relaxed again as he realized it was coming from his own armpit.

Duke Smith
Warren, Oregon
(503) 397-5604

Winner: Purple Prose
The blood dripped from his nose like hot grease from a roasting bratwurst pierced with a fork except that grease isn't red and the blood wasn't that hot and it wasn't a fork that poked him in the nose but there was a faint aroma of nutmeg in the air and it is of noses we speak not to mention that if you looked at it in the right profile, his nose did sort of look like a sausage.
Jim Sheppeck
Farmington, NM
(505) 327-1262

Henrietta slept like a log; not your garden variety log, mind you, but one of those phenomenally enormous old-growth South American rain forest logs that is completely enshrouded with luxurious plush green moss and encircling vines with those unworldly twisted rope-like root structures wrenched from the earth and sitting there on its side in the mud and when you try to wake it up just lies there like the enormous moss-covered, vine-enshrouded log in the mud that it is.
Martin F. Melhus
Evanston, IL

Dishonorable Mentions:
Sheila was easy as opening a jar of pickles, not one closed by a man who has virility doubts and closes a jar so women and young boys get hernias opening it or at least the boys get them; although I heard about a woman who had a hiatal hernia so I guess women get them too but doctors don't ask them to cough unless their malpractice covers sexual deviance but a jar closed by some ninety-year-old whose grip on the jar as well as reality has slipped.
Warren T. Smith
Redmond, WA
(425) 882-8852

The cracked, cement-colored, wooden steps to the cellar of the old haunted mansion lead down to the basement, which also had a creepy cement color on the walls, although they were constructed from drywall.

Cindy Shirak
Redford, MI.

He slumped in his chair like a sack of flour slung over the shoulder of an aging warehouse man who had seen too many midnight shifts in a town where second chances were left only to the savvy souls who knew enough to skip out of this forgotten bastion of whorehouses, rotting fish carcasses, and a third-tier law school.

Leslie A. Pardo
Lakewood OH
(216) 687-6885

As her tears blurred his receding figure into a ghostly memory, she realized how thoroughly he had broken her heart, like a steamroller grinding the shards of a perfume bottle into splintered, dusty oblivion, at least as much as one can "break" a squishy organ composed of 70% water by weight; heck, let's be honest, you can no more break a heart than you can perform an appendectomy with a spoon, which is perhaps a better analogy for her pain in the first place.

Phil Currier
Cambridge, MA

The tropical island rose abruptly from the jade-green sea like some ancient leviathan skimming the surface for krill and imperceptibly deflected the warm, spice-tinged trade winds that had once propelled Drake, Cook, and Chichester on their momentous voyages, but which made no difference whatsoever to Forbes MacVane as he stood shivering in the "Windy City," waiting for his contact to alight from the EL.

Patrick Bomgardner
APO AE 09469

Winner: Science Fiction
It was a dark and silent night in Pluto, a planet nobody had ever taken seriously because of its name, which reminded us of the funny cartoon dog, and it being so far from the sun and having no atmosphere, which seemed unimportant as it was, obviously, lifeless - we thought - in those happy and carefree days when all the world had to worry about was war, famine, pestilence, and death.
Anna Rotenberg
Sao Paulo, Brazil

The controls looked normal--the beeping thing was beeping, the humming thing was humming, the blue number display was displaying blue numbers, the yellow number display was displaying yellow numbers, everything seemed OK, but the redundancy of this interplanetary trip left Col. Mountain feeling troubled, troubled like a beeping thing not beeping, or a humming thing not humming, or a blue number display not displaying blue numbers, or a yellow number display not displaying yellow numbers; nothing felt right.
Kevin Kriss
Cedar Park, TX
(512) 917-0257

Dishonorable Mention:
It had started off as a prank, but when Major Elyse Livesay discovered (during her solo space walk, no less!) the tarantula that the boys in the crew had slipped into her spacesuit, she knew that while in space no one could hear you scream, it was damn sure not for lack of trying.
Matthew Chambers
Hambleton WV
(304) 478-4957

Winner: Western
Doc Parker looked down as Sheriff Eddie LaDuke lay desperately gasping his final breaths in the dusty sun-baked Arizona desert, knowing there was little he could do as the outlaw's bullet had shredded Eddie's internal organs like fresh coleslaw, leaving Doc to ponder his next move equipped only with his pistol, some chewing tobacco, and now, one extra horse.
Mike Madill
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(416) 481-6019

Spy Category:
It was a long and boring flight to Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport and when Special Agent Jasper Smoot debarked and walked into the restroom marked "Dama" in Cyrillic he might have found the woman there attractive except she had more whiskers than a Civil War general and was pointing a crossbow at his head.
Michael McNierney
Greeley CO
(970) 330-8257

Winner: Romance
Hermann lay with Esmerelda, entwined with one another among love-tangled sheets and he thought how this one constant yet mercurial woman was one whom he could hold in his arms forever, although eventually he'd have to get up to go to the bathroom.
Vance Atkins
Seattle, WA 98103

Ralph awoke groggily, and after searching through the overflowing ashtray on the nightstand for a half-smoked cigarette, looked over at the rumpled form of Lila sleeping next to him in bed and wondered idly why making love with her made him feel as though his body had been pounded by heavy surf.
Mary Britton
Berrien Springs, MI

Dishonorable Mention:
As she lay in the embrace of her lover's arms following their ardent lovemaking, Sharon quietly hoped the moment could last forever, well, not really forever, since she had a pedicure in two hours, followed by lunch with her former college roommates, but at least for a long while or so.
Tom O'Leary
Covina, California
(626) 484-9623

Winner: Vile Pun
It wasn't a dark and stormy night when the Russian space station burned up in its final descent through the atmosphere, so it cast a glow on the face of a young Fiji girl sitting on the beach, causing her boy friend sitting next to her to utter, "Bei MIR bist du schoen."
Jerome Radding, M.D.
Laguna Woods, CA
(949) 583-0986

The giant ape's broken body lay upon the asphalt and I didn't know which had finally done him in -- the planes' machine guns, the fall from atop the building, or maybe just a broken heart -- but it was all so heart-wrenching, so tragic, his climbing the Empire State Building just to get a glimpse of that woman's gorgeous derriere, and the sheer waste of it all finally prompted me to pronounce my own benediction over his great, furry carcass: "'Twas booty killed the beast!"
Justin Gustainis
Plattsburgh, NY
(518) 564-4294

Dishonorable Mentions:
The Sultan, having dutifully consulted with his palace sages, historians, and theologians, was finally convinced that nothing in the lore of his religion could guide him in the selection of a Network Operating System, and the conclusion was now clear to him, that though most computers in the Palace Administration should run under WINDOWS, yet the Harem Management must be served by UNIX.
Mr. Harry W. Hickey
Arlington, VA.

What though the steed that carried the young knight over the streets of old Prague was foaled in far Araby, what though the sword at his side came from distant Spain, what though his armor had been formed on German anvil, yet the patriot heart of the warrior was all that mattered; in that mail there was a Czech!

Mr. Harry W. Hickey
709 N. Frederick Street
Arlington, VA

This is a story of twin Siamese kittens, or, more specifically, of their shared appendage; it is a tail of two kitties.

David Bubenik
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 328.6721

Dispatched to the steamy tropics by crusty editor, Warren Pease, to interview renowned spiritualist, Serrafima Raire, in her grass shack, which he truly feared would exacerbate his chronic asthma, London Times ace reporter John Donne found her dying of jungle fever, forcing him to write despairingly in his cable to the home office, "Medium Raire not well - Donne."

Allan W. Eckert
Bellefontaine, OH
(937) 592-9967

Winner: Adventure
The sun beat like a molten hammer upon the sand that Jasper trudged upon, scorching his bare skin, baking his eyeballs dry, boiling his brains in his skull, and bleaching his hair to that lovely yellowy shade that perfectly matched his taupe shirt, the one that he could wear with either his suede jacket or the denim one.
Geoff Blackwell
Bundaberg QLD Australia
(61 7) 4152 1383

Ungaloo, although he found the new washer and dryer fair dinkum for washing his cutoffs, could only wonder at the occasional loss of a single stocking, something he attributed to his Aboriginal ancestors, thoughtfully considering the footwear as going sockabout.
Vance Atkins
Seattle, WA 98103

Dishonorable Mentions:
The late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the veldt, but the hot air still shimmered above the ground, heavy with the pungent melange of dust and acacia and animal musk--no relief for Weatherby, crouching in silence for hours in the shelter of the giant thornbush, clinging to hope and recalling the baleful warning of the old Masai: "Don't drink the water."
Steve Miller
San Diego, CA

I traveled long and hard to get here, blindfolded by suspicious gunmen, riding donkey-back for hours across inhospitable terrain, with no idea of whether the next valley would contain an ambush or a bomb, cut off from communication and denied the basic amenities of civilization, but finally I was able to meet with the terrorist leader and see the Polaroids of how silly I had looked riding blindfolded on a donkey.

Nina Schroeder
Damascus, MD
(301) 253 0263
Boris, the flying monkey, shot a glance backwards and although it missed he did glean that the enemy F-18 was hot on his tail and the serpentine limb was beginning to smolder and smoke like plump persimmons that have been in the oven too long.

Isaac Emmanuel
Rio Rancho, NM
(505) 892-8527
(Age 14)

Children's Literature:
Dorothy could hardly believe her ears as the uniformed Munchkin reeled off the citations: flying without a license, flying an unregistered building, reckless flying causing injury or death, parking in an unauthorized place, double-parking (vertical), failure to give way to pedestrians, failure to indicate, 2nd-degree witchslaughter, and closing her eyes she fervently prayed, "Please, I want to go home . . ."
Matthew Roscoe
Auckland, New Zealand

Pulling her red coat tightly around her and running the gauntlet of wolf whistles from the nearby building site as she made her way to the short cut through the woods, Maureen wondered yet again why her grandmother could not do her shopping on-line or at least get the super-market to deliver.
Elisabeth Glyptis
South Shields Tyne and Wear, England. UK

Dishonorable Mentions:
"Oh dear, Mr. Hippity Hop the Bunny is late, and if he does not arrive soon, we shan't be able to hold a birthday party for Good Old Busy Beaver before it is time for me to leave the Fluffy Forrest, which shall be most disappointing indeed," said Susan, because she was completely smashed on the narcotics she had purchased in the alleyway behind the club from a foul-smelling yet reputable dealer called "Skullz."
Nicolas Juzda
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
(514) 270-2190

Miss Francesca often lounged in the tiny wood beyond the stile, and here she lay languidly watching days pass into night; for it was in that good night that Miss Francesca crept so very stealthily amongst the daffodils, finding baby bunnies and mice, tearing their heads off and dragging their lifeless bodies to the back porch door of kindly old Mr. Marvenschire.

Albert T. Keyack

"After many years of constant striving, during which Timmy the Tree grew to be the tallest pine in the forest, men from the National Lumber Corporation visited the Magic Woods and told Timmy that he was to be cut down and used as fuel to further the interests of big business, and in the process he would add to the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, eventually unbalancing the planet's ecosystem and destroying all life on Earth, all because he'd simply tried too hard."

Emily Garber
Princeton, NJ

Winner: Dark & Stormy Night Category
It was a stark and dormie night at the University of Texas as the on-campus residents poured into the central quad, where the shimmering, wafting, piercing, soaking beams from an authentic Longhorn cheese moon lit the walls of the encircling buildings the way a really large flashlight using AA batteries dimly brightens a cavernous mineshaft, for the results of the city leaders' baking contest, hoping that they'd be able to shag some pies from the Austin Powers.
Bill Crowley
Santa Rosa, CA 95409

Toadstool, the lackey of the evil black wizard Dar Kand who had kidnapped and hid Off-White's knight in shining armor (Snow Off-White was a princess by birthright and a detective by profession), had his head stuck between the floor and one of Off-White's leather boots; Off-White's question was simple, "Where did Dar Kand store my knight?"
John Grayshaw
Bayside NY

Dishonorable Mention:
Marie-Antoinette, the dusky-eyed Comtesse de la Belle Blague that is, rather than the more famous wife of Louis XVI, although coincidentally she was in fact descended from the same aristocratic stock, looked out across the windswept, storm-lashed terrace where her soiree had been in full swing up until a few minutes ago and apologized seductively to her English guest: "C'est vraiment une nuit sombre et orageuse, but later per'aps I can make amends . . ."
Francis Turner
Mouans Sartoux, France

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions:
While Karen hand-made bows on her pixie bow maker, and Calvin designed photo nametags on his computer, he couldn't help but wonder if Martha Stewart could see them, would she invite them for drinks by a fire started from rubbing sticks together on a hearth she masoned herself with stones hauled by reindeer over the North Pole from a remote Norwegian quarry, while cherubs entertained them with flutes hand-hollowed from Jordan River bamboo and preserved for centuries in Palestinian prune sauce at room temperature?
Cindy Haynes
Bedford, MA

It was just as she had always imagined celebrity would be, Cindy thought as she stepped dramatically into the limelight created by the flash of what seemed to be hundreds of reporters' cameras all going off at once as they screamed her name in hopes of getting just a moment of her attention-well, except for the handcuffs, the tack orange overalls, and the decidedly unglamorous sheriff's deputies leading her into the courthouse.

Debra Allen
Wichita Falls, TX

My underwear stuck to my backside like an All-Pro cornerback to a rookie wide receiver as I browsed through the seed catalog that had mistakenly found its way into my mailbox.

Ron Calabrese
Reisterstown, MD

Phil Peppercorn tiptoed timidly up to the bleak, nail-encrusted door that would become the entrance to his so-called home for the next eight years of his life in the fabulous underground society of bread-makers, pastry chefs, and other leavened-product producers.

Terrence Clark
Cameron Park, CA

As Borson turned around slowly to face the source of the ridicule he was receiving, crushing the empty tin can in his powerful grip, heedless of the extra sorting that would ensue for the four teenagers working in the recycling plant for 6.85 per hour from 6:00 am EST to 5:00 pm EST on weekdays, but significantly shorter hours on weekends, the entire bar fell silent.

Peter Cruickshank
Hanover, Ontario,Canada

As he gazed over at his aged and sickly wife lying at his side, he remembered the woman he had once known - the vibrant exciting beauty with a heart of gold and a head full of dreams - and instantly wished he had married her instead.

Julia Fernandez
Portland, OR

Ladyfingers crackled like knuckles in the distance, and a string of Black Cats was a more substantial reminiscence of back and shoulder joints, but it was the flatulent hissing and keening of the younger kids' Vesuvius Fountains and Whistling Chasers that enlightened Lee Bob: he hated the Fourth of July because it sounded like getting up in the morning.

David Franks
Wichita KS
(316) 685-2030 (home)
(316) 838-0805 (office)

She walked around the corner and caught Big Jake ripping his boot off with his teeth once again and she could just hear the words in his growl, "What moron ever thought it was a good idea to put boots on a dog?!"

Brenda A. Getsinger
Lawrenceville, GA
(o) 678-258-6108
(h) 770-696-4612

"They say danger is the most compelling emotion of them all," purred Evangeline Jones, my trench coat-clad one-time arch-nemesis, with something like a trace of real regret, if by trace you mean drawn through a translucent piece of paper over another piece of paper, that other piece of paper being the regret she was copying, like a petulant school-girl with her daddy's knives and too much time on her hands in a poorly-lit balloon factory.

James Pokines
Hickam AFB, HI
808 448 8062 x182

Listless, Dr. Jekyl returned home to sift through an endless sea of undergraduate term papers, stacks of late of credit card bills, and a pile of crusty week-old dishes, but his mind was back in the laboratory, where earlier that same day his one and only dream had come to a sudden end, his prized experiment had failed miserably and he finally had to accept the fact that frozen pizza would never be any good and there was nothing science could do about it.

Joel Rodrigue
Kingston, Ontario, Canada

"All rise," said the Judge of The Company vs. Workers' Comp., "except for those with tendonitis, eyestrain, headaches, neck pain, pinched nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries, lumbosacral sprain, ruptured disks, temporomandibular joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, Axis II mental disorders, smoke inhalation, amputations, electrocutions, Gulf War Syndrome, Agent Orange exposure, anthrax poisoning, or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," leaving only the two Workers' Comp. lawyers standing in the courtroom, looking sheepishly at their feet.

Debra Rosenfeld
San Mateo, CA

There was a time when she did not relate to life as though it were on the other side of a mesh screen on which she would press her nose close, inhale dust that was embedded in the corners of the little squares in the grid, sneeze, and back away.

Marina Salazar
New York, New York 1
(212) 987-0321

As Professor Wincklespoon took a sip from his coffee, craving the caffeine that scalding hot water had seduced from the beans, his eyes fell on an old equation he had written down years ago, metaphorically speaking, for the falling of his eyes should not be taken literally, and suddenly it struck him, as if his mind had been cleared by the same stormy wind that had brought a dark cloud overhead, two million volts of electricity from that same cloud and gone were the man and his equation, the solution to the theory of everything.

Sander van Daatselaar
Amsterdam , The Netherlands

Throwing his moccasined feet forward with the delicate assurance of a skilled tracker, Silver Cloud Stevens paused to cautiously swing a flaxen braid over his manly right shoulder, and in that brief pause became intensely and intoxicatingly aware of the one sixtieth Navajo blood surging through his veins and steering him toward the grey SUV he had earlier nestled somewhere in the vast metallic foliage of the mall parking lot; his instincts whispered "Row J, near the Cinnabon."

Brook Sprague
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
(612) 870-6572

It was then that Caroline remembered her kitchen back in Montana, with a stove that she might or might not have turned off, and so with a heavy sigh, she put down the penguin.

Mona E. Xu
Forest Hills, NY

You don't know about me vitout you have read a book--vell, to tell da trute, you vouldn't know me anyvay, because no book is out dere already dat tells about my earlier vacky adwentures vit anudder kid; so vat I'm gonna do is describe to you here in my wery own vinsomely vhimsical dialect da yootful escapades of yours truly, a scrappy liddle Norvegian, radder dan dose of some scrappy liddle Finn.

Julie Stangeland
Wichita, KS
(316) 303-0892

"Uncle Albert!" shrieked the chubby-faced cherub of a niece who dashed excitedly through the parlor, leaping toward the arms of her favorite relative, until stopped abruptly by the sliding glass door she had failed to notice, leaving her for a moment curiously suspended in space like a happy, golden-curled pancake with special anti-gravity powers, before slipping slowly to the floor.

Ian Monteith
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
(306) 586-8875

"If I may beg your pardon, my dear lady, I happened to catch your eye from across the room and I was entranced by the beauty therein, the pure and unveiled light of honesty flashing bravely at me, the sweet coyness couched in the depths of your green iris like a dolphin in the sea, the smooth marble of your soul in my hand which drew me hither to you," said the dark stranger, returning the glass orb to his hostess, who gratefully popped it back in place with a soft sucking sound.

Nicole Dixon
New Haven, CT
(203) 436-0940

And so rosy-fingered Dawn awakened him, first with light counterclockwise strokes, then with gentle kneading, and finally with relentless ticklings that made him rue ever buying her finger paint.

Thomas Fox
Riverdale, New York
(718) 432-5395

"No use crying over spilt milk" she laughed as she handed him a paper towel to clean up the milk from the toppled carton, which had, in a torrent, poured across the table (a gray formica and chrome art deco reproduction), slowing to a trickle by the time it came to the edge, where it finally dripped to the floor, the droplets exploding on contact and looking like those in the photograph in that old advertisement for the Milk Advisory Board.

Mary Gibson
San Juan Bautista, CA
(831) 623-2126

Jenny's water broke at the most inopportune time--just as her daughter was rounding third base in her first tee-ball game, pigtails flying backwards under her batting helmet, pudgy legs piston-like in her bright blue baggy nylon shorts, the coach yelling "Run! Run!" in the same rhythm that Jenny's husband had used when he impregnated her and with which he urged "Breathe! Breathe!" during their Lamaze class.

Wendy Chatley Green
4390 Clearwater Way #3210
Lexington, KY

To put it in a nutshell - though, not an ordinary hazelnut-shell, because this would be far too small - and not a walnut-shell either, though it is bigger in size but too rounded - unfortunately, a cashew nut is too crooked - a peanut would come pretty close in length but it is too narrow - a chestnut has too odd a form to be suitable - and a Brazil nut is too unknown and not suitable either - it is more or less a complete virtual nutshell I am talking about: to put it in such a nutshell this story has nothing to do with nuts at all.

Hilja Stöber
Humbolt University
Berlin, Germany

Lady Eva floated down the stairs like a luminescent ghost with lush, over-ripe, jungle-berry scented décolletage, surveyed the room, pausing momentarily to brush a yogurt splotch from her vintage Dolce and Gabbana velvet bodice, and then boldly approached Lord McCreary, whose bald pate gleamed like the Grand Prize trophy of the ninth annual Oregon Trail Lanes League Bowling Competition.

Alissa King
St. Helens, OR
(503) 397-2965

Green, not blue as for some who stare endlessly in to sky or out to sea, gaping to find some thing of interest backlit by azure or cerulean or buried in navy or cobalt, nor red as for those who would scan field and forest for smudges of scarlet or crimson, for smears of cherry or ruby, nor yet yellow as for others who all their lives lust for gold or long for blond, nor even purple as for some who think God feloniously offended should they not notice violet or lilac, lavender or plum, is my second favorite color.

David Kinzel
Billerica, MA

"Mummy's gone to Paris to buy hats, and Daddy's pranged the Bentley," Fiona responded with a mélange of wry acceptance and distant promise, her ring-less fingers playing slippily on the moist champagne flute in a way that suggested to the normally jaded Sir Jeremy far more than merely imbibing Bucks Fizz .

Mrs. Juliet Toland
Ban Tinkhao
Muang, Phuket, Thailand

The moon looked like a discarded toenail clipping submersed in a puddle of saliva on a black formica countertop.

Lindsay Robertson
Brookyln, NY
(347) 564-5007

Having opened my 40th birthday present from my husband-a kitchen window fan-and now on my way to the bakery to pick up my cake, I started thinking: What if I get hit in this intersection, and, struck with amnesia, I hobble to the edge of the highway, hungry and confused, and am picked up by a lonely trucker headed for McDonald's and since I have no memory, I've forgotten I hate McDonald's, so I hop in, and he-just thankful for the company-figures I'm a middle-aged housewife looking for love in all the wrong places and he's got several of them?

Cynthia Mizner Walgren
Chadron, NE
(308) 432.9974 (h)
(308) 432.6312 (w)

Notice that these folks even identify themselves?

I borrowed this form VPF, where Clean Richards had posted it.


A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds. Dogs only have about 10.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.

It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

Maine is ! the only state whose name is just one syllable.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

On a Canadian two dollar bill, the flag flying over the Parliament building is an American flag.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right.

The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The cruise liner, QE2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

The words 'racecar,' 'kayak' and 'level' are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: "abstemious" and "facetious."

There's no Betty Rubble in the Flintstones Chewables Vitamins.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks; otherwise it will digest itself.

.Now you know (almost) everything
I haven't found the time to yet, but I intend to. I have read quite a bit of Victorian writing, since I have a real interest in that period, as well as the American Old West. And while by today's standards, a lot of that stuff is overblown and stilted, it does make for some entertaining stories.

In honor of Tilt / John, here's the 2020 roundup:


2020 Grand Prize

Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind.
Lisa Kluber, San Francisco, CA

Grand Panjandrum's Special Award​

As hard-nosed P.I. Dan McKinnon stepped out into the gray gritty dawn, a bone chilling gust of filth-strewn wind wrapped the loose ends of his open trench coat around him like a day-old flour tortilla around a breakfast burrito with hash browns, sausage, and scrambled eggs, hold the pico.
Lisa Hanks, Euless, TX

Adventure Winner​

"Haul away on those slug guskets, you bilge-scum!" roared the aged captain, leaning wearily against the starboard clog-hutch and watching as the mizzen spittlestoat rose majestically upward until it cuzzled atop the upper spit flukes, and cursing his fate that rum and advancing years compelled him to continually improvise names for the rigging of his own ship but then deciding, with a resigned sigh, that it didn't really matter.
Geoffrey Braden, Seattle, WA

Dishonorable Mentions​

Sally loved Geoff so deeply that if he were a pirate on a dread pirate ship (and not an insurance adjuster), snarling and drinking, murdering and raping his way across the Caribbean (well, maybe not raping, it was the sentiment that counted) and he had a peg leg, she would have gladly sawed her own leg off and sewed it to his stump with silken threads, so he could dance again, holding her up since she was now a sudden amputee.
David Lourne, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

None of us, not a single jack-tar of the ten poor souls consigned to the only surviving lifeboat from our torpedoed freighter, the “S.S. Walter Jacob,” the noblest vessel that ever hauled the weapons of war across the Seven Seas and back again, had a nickel's worth of life insurance.
John Hardi, Falls Church, VA

As he slowly shadowed the white Amazon Prime van down Midvale Drive in the Fresno suburbs on a sweltering July afternoon, Nigel “Cutthroat” Hawkins thought back over his career —fastboating along the Somali coast, broadcasting at 50,000 watts from international waters just off the Isle of Man, running half a million counterfeit “Bourne Identity” DVDs out of Hong Kong—and had but a single question: is this really what piracy has come to?
G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

As the large wild turkey soared over him, propelled by the twin blasts from David’s shotgun, Michael gazed up at the cornbread-colored sky and thought, “What a blessed day to be a Christian!”
Ed Buhrer, Louisa, VA

Children's & Young Adult Literature​


As Charlotte meticulously finished her egg sac on the lonely rafter at the county fairgrounds, she thought about the future day when her children would burrow into Wilbur's flesh to consume him from the inside-out, and hummed her favorite song about the wheel of life rolling on.
Robert Greer, Gilbert, AZ

Dishonorable Mentions​

Dorothy and Toto got kicked out of Kansas just before that group had several hits back in the day but at least Toto achieved some success with his band, while poor Dorothy, penniless and insane, lived under a bridge, prostituting herself and screaming about rainbows.
DJ Hicks, Jr, Manchester, NJ

Once upon a time, in a far off magical kingdom, there lived a beautiful princess who was loved by everyone in the land, except, of course, for her servants, for whom she made every waking moment a living hell.
Paul Kollas, Orlando, FL



When she walked into my office on that bleak December day, she was like a breath of fresh air in a coal mine; she made my canary sing.
Yale Abrams, Santa Rosa, CA

Dishonorable Mentions​

She sauntered into his smoke-filled office with legs that, although they didn’t go quite all the way to heaven, definitely went high enough for him to see that she was a giraffe.

Jarrett Dement, Eau Claire, WI​

The first thing I noticed about the detective’s office was how much it reminded me of the baggage claim at a nearby airport: the carpet was half a century out of date, it reeked of cigarettes and cheap booze, and I was moderately certain that my case had been lost.

Paul Kollas, Orlando, FL​

“Handless” Harvey Hanker, the sharpest detective in the northern hemisphere, had little regard for fingerprints, but a nose like Karl Malden’s, and he could sniff out clues like a bloodhound with its nose buried in the groin of a fox.

Pete Zenz, Middleton, WI​

Handsome French policeman, Andre Poiret, grappled with the puffed-up albino hitman, who was about to shoot the beautiful high-class call girl, Gigi Lamour, who was taking a shower in her apartment, with his big gun.

Belinda Daly, London, UK​

The fact that the cantor's body was covered with a lamb shank, salt water and a mysterious concoction called charoseth, led Chief Passover Homicide investigator Ari Ben-Zvi to describe the pattern of murders as "uneven, perhaps unleavened."

Leo Gordon, Los Angeles, CA​

Dark & Stormy​


It was a dark and stormy night, explained Moscow weatherman Sergei Ivanovitch Nabokov, or Sergei Invanovich, fondly called Seryozha by some and Seryozhenka by his family, but don’t bother memorizing that as Sergei won’t appear again until the end of this book, when his weather forecast is heard in the background as we learn that the main character, Alexei Dmitriovich Makarov, or Alexei Dmitriovich, also known as Alyosha, Alyoshka, or Alyoshenka ( or simply Alexei M.) has shockingly died.
Frank Bennett, Malvern, PA

Dishonorable Mention​

It was a dark and stormy night, the kind where the orchestra in a crime movie would bang on a piece of wavy sheet metal and blow raspberries to add ambience to the drizzle coming from an off-camera stagehand holding a garden hose.
Benjamin Tennenbaum, Chicago, IL

Fantasy & Horror​


“So, these are Hobbits?” Grenwildr thought to herself, making an attempt to seem worldly and not at all surprised by how small they were, despite the pressure to purchase quickly; the price was right and the taxidermist would be closing shop soon.
Grant Gordon, North Sutton, NH

Dishonorable Mentions​

Upon reaching the age of 13, young Ker-Jar of the Hill People was anxious to complete the time honored Test-of-Manhood required for all boys his age; to hunt down and kill a corporate Director of Personnel Management using only a cordless belt sander.
Greg Homer, San Vito, Costa Rica

She was the aptly named Queen of Night, dark in demeanor and sullen in psyche, nocturnal as well so her given names, Madleve, Noirine, Vespereth were spoken only in the eboonic gloom of a moonless night whereas otherwise everyone just called her “Debbie.”
Tim Metz, Kokomo, IN

"Master Wlfindermx sauntered across the Plains of Teflandous towards the city of Gjorgturc carrying the mythical Blade of Vulbertrian, once owned by Lord Leszsoriog," wrote the author, who wanted to make the life of the audiobook narrator a living hell.
Robert Greer, Queen Creek, AZ

“You may know my true name,” gloated Archmage-Emperor !Gfńatt’ Bdúnśṽiobfhńr to the foolish traitor who had dared try to end his glorious mage-empire’s reign, “but can you pronounce it?”
Gideon Gordon, Boston, MA

Historical Fiction​


When Sir John of York fought in the crusades, he killed many Saracens with great dispatch, and was likened unto a whirling dervish of steel and Christian might—minus the dizziness from constantly spinning in a circle, and the fact that he was on a horse that couldn't do that.
Edward Covolo, Menlo Park, CA

Dishonorable Mentions​

Before the beginning God leaned forward from the Empyrean Throne and gazed at the heaps of OED fascicles littered in layers across the cloudy carpet, still uncertain just which Word was the perfect one with which to begin and seriously annoyed that She had decided to do the whole damn thing in English . . .
Art Feenan, Kennesaw, GA

The fearsome isle of Gandew was home to two native tribes: the Lacenites, a proud warrior race, and the Demescans, a warrior race but not exactly proud of it, as they found the whole "raping and pillaging" enterprise a bit distasteful, but recognized the fact you can't build an empire on artisanal ceramics alone.
James Fuerholzer, Crystal Lake, IL

The Bulgars (Bulgaris), a 17th century semi-nomadic Turkic tribe, are often unfairly compared to the Vulgars, who invented the leather bikini in honor of Princess Urskika from Pacific Palisades.
John Holmes, St. Petersburg, FL

Deep within the Great Pyramid, Pharaoh Khufu gazed at the walls of what would eventually be his burial chamber, asking himself what he had been thinking in entrusting its adornment to the teenaged Prince and Princess, but comforting himself with the certainty that the younger generation would soon tire of these annoying “emoticons” and return to the rich thirty-character Egyptian alphabet.
G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

It was the time of the Salem witch hunts when Pastor Edwin Shaunsberry entered his home one night to a scene of horror in which, just beyond his son drawing pentagrams on the floor and his wife writhing as if demon-possessed, he saw the cat with the last bit of bacon in its mouth.
James Cope, Sanford, NC

Purple Prose​


The biker gang roared into the parking lot of the bar and grill like a troop of howler monkeys trying to lure mates, the gravel beneath the tires of their well-oiled bikes crunching like the dill pickle spears the place served alongside their famous tuna salad, BLT, and Reuben sandwiches.

Candy Mosely, Hydro, OK​

Dishonorable Mentions​

Ah, dearest Lumplina: Her lips were a symphony, her face was a melody, and her body was a concerto—except for that one hangnail that was like a strident E-chord from a sleepy, hungover guitarist who, if he shows up drunk again to practice, so help me I will kick him out of the band—yes, that was Lumplina.

Edward Covolo, Menlo Park, CA​

He revved the engine—filling the air with a deep, throaty roar, rather like a giant with a wretched head cold, a rumbling cough, and nasty post nasal drip (the kind where your swollen throat hurts so horribly, and your eyes turn red and watery, which only makes the cold more drippy [and the phlegm!])—and sped off.

Connie Kleinjans, Honolulu, HI​

On March seventeenth, when the dawning sunshine was drying up the rows of tufted fog lying gently over the meadows on both sides of the highway and turning them into wisps of lace floating over the road in front of him, Jamie, on his way home after a night shift at the plant, decided to quit.

Elly Fantain, Kfar Saba, Israel​

Hattie fell to the scratched mint linoleum floor with a thud hear only on the third day after Halloween, when discarded Jack-o-landterns are strew over frozen fields, now rotting shells mashing into the permafrost, spilling seed like a sailor on furlough after seven months at sea.

Mark Lawrence, Columbus, OH​

The rain fell in buckets as I walked the cobbled streets of Old Town, although I supposed, if rain really came in buckets one might land on my head and knock me unconscious so I’d much prefer raining cats and dogs because I’m quite fond of cats, but better still if were hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement as I’m rather peckish.

Kathy Chapman, Canandaigua, NY​

The sound of his raspy voice and the feel of his chilly hand on her shoulder made her shudder, like the wooden things on the sides of windows, but a verb rather than a noun, and with two d’s rather than two t’s.

Kagte Minyard, Denver, CO​



In Gertrude’s experience lovemaking was always bittersweet, or at least it had been until one fateful night when Chaz, the seductive man behind the concession stand blessed her with the salty-sweet bliss reminiscent of both true romance and quality kettle corn.
Julie Winspear, Washington, D.C.

Dishonorable Mentions​

Gasping for breath as she lay in the dew-laden lakeside grass, Rifka Lieberman's chest heaved with rising passion as Saul Cohen approached with the inhaler she had left behind at the assisted living facility.
Leo Gordon, Los Angeles, CA

In his passion, he tore at her clothes, popping the buttons off her blouse, causing her to moan deeply, as she dreaded the thought of having to find beige buttons on the off-white carpeting, to say nothing of her hatred of sewing and her hopes that her favourite blouse wasn't ruined.
Mike Bowerbank, Vancouver, Canada

Jarrod, lying in the bed next to Selina, on his side with his head in his hand, asked, “What would your husband do if he saw me right now?” and Selina, who was watching her husband sneak up on Jarrod holding a tire iron with two hands raised above his head, replied, “Probably sneak up on you with a tire iron raised above his head, preparing to use it for something other than its intended purpose.”
Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

She awoke dreamily as she fumbled around on her side table for her alarm, knowing that the restless dreams of her faceless lover would be forgotten like that guy in the movie “Cocktail”—not Tom Cruise, but the other guy.
Kelly Hay, Milwaukee, WI

“Of all the bars and all the taxidermy shops in all the world, why did she have to walk into mine?” Hank wondered, “and when did Wanda shave off the moustache?”
Ed Buhrer, Louisa, VA

Her lips hesitated to meet his—as one might hesitate to immerse their hand in the toilet tank to reconnect the chain, because they worry that the water is . . . you know, dirty—but she granted him the kiss (just as one does, eventually, fix the chain, because if not, the toilet will never flush, and who wants that?).
MJ Hurben, Bloomington, MN

Farmer Bob, unlucky in love and life in general, received yet another Dear John letter, this time from Bubbles Magaggaggey, the last blind woman in town, so here he was, alone and penniless; so penniless, in fact, that he neglected to make the payments on his tractor and soon received a John Deere letter, coincidentally from Bubbles, who ran the Tractor Emporium.
DJ Hicks, Jr., Manchester, NJ

It had been fifty-seven days since Madi left him, and still her stinging parting words slithered through Brett’s mind and echoed jarringly in the emptiness of his life like a half-frozen iguana falling out of a tree in an unseasonable Cozumel cold snap.
Lisa Hanks, Euless, TX

Science Fiction​


"You folks from outa town?” inquired waitress Ginny, shifting her wad of gum, notepad at the ready to take the orders, while the slime-green, scale-covered, three-eyed members of the Dzznks family, who had travelled many a parsec from their rock planet home in the Large Magellanic Cloud, rubbering their eyes over the menu in Buck’s Diner, wondered if ‘grits’ tasted just as good as they sounded.
David Hynes, Bromma, Sweden

Dishonorable Mentions​

“The quantum flux field of the post-Einsteinian hyperdrive has gone asymptotically and we are in danger of approaching singularity as described by the Schrodinger equations!” cried Captain Quirke, having no clue what he said, only knowing it sounded sciencey, secretly crossing his fingers behind his back and hoping there were no physicists reading because he didn’t want any pedantic letters saying it was nonsense.
Sue Doenim, England

In the midst of fleeing the city which was under heavy assault by the invading aliens, known as Comadans, in their octagon shaped flying machines, Marjorie fell to the ground with a twisted ankle and feared the inevitable, until a Comadan, in a moment of alien compassion, picked her up and took her inside where he put her to work washing the dishes and scrubbing the toilets.
Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

The arrival of the Earthlings with their superior trade goods had devastated the Trmfflagons’ civilization, but Krrsqtch vowed that by before night fell, his people’s pincers-to-mandible existence would come to an end.
Gregory Feeley, Hamden, CT

Vile Puns​


As the passing of Keith Richards was announced on the evening news, just as had been done with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood before him, Jorge gazed at the television in his Tijuana home and felt a sickening knot form in his stomach, for he realized that finally, after all the albums, concert tours, and era-defining cultural impact, the Rolling Stones would gather no más.
Aaron Cabe, Hillsboro, OR

Dishonorable Mentions​

With a whole Holst of problems Mahler Liszt unRaveling from the Verdi beginning, Chaz was the most clueless employee ever at SCHUBERTTER BELIEVE IT!, but the straw that Baroque the camel's Bach—that led his supervisor to finally fly Orff the Handel—was watching as Chaz lost his balance while attempting to climb a ladder with his arms containing the entire store inventory, and he decided once and for all that Chaz was destined for the Chopin block.
Amy Torchinsky, Chapel Hill, NC

Enid shrewdly considered the lushness of litigation for copyright infringement as she once more reviewed her genealogical studies which revealed that her aunt, Senta Berger, whose first husband was Gregor Mendel and second was Carl Czerny made her a Senta Mendel Czerny.
F. Michael Angelo, Plowville, PA

As the angry mob of poets filled the National Mall, a group of sonneteers and ballad-mongers surged toward the Capitol Building, but it wasn't until the Japanese poem enthusiasts stormed the White House that I realized this was a genuine haiku d'etat.
Bart King, Portland, OR

Louie "The Limp" Lorenzo was the first one the feds indicted because in the gangster world where they have a language all their own everyone knowed that nobody knowed as much as da Limp knowed.
Jay Dardenne, Baton Rouge, LA



Although Snake-Eye Slade had told him to get out of town (in some old-timey western vernacular), Allthumbs McGubbins reckoned that ever since the unfortunate pistol-in-the-holster discharge accident, he couldn’t quite manage a skedaddle but felt that his departure would require something faster than a mosey.
Tim Metz, Kokomo, IN

Dishonorable Mentions​

As sheriff, I had handled most of the Dwarf gang, having shot Sleepy, Bashful and Sneezy, strung up Grumpy and Dopey and disemboweled Happy, but Doc, since you got away, I’m sending Happy’s entrails to you, until we meet again.
Arlen Feldman, Colorado Springs, CO

Lou, the bartender, knew that gunfire in the saloon was pert near sure when Rex threw down his cards at the poker game, rose from his chair and accused Charlie of cheating, and then Charlie replying, “Yeah, well, if you spent more time with your missus then she wouldn’t be spending so much time rollin’ round with me in your hayloft.”
Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

Folk peered out from shuttered up houses, hotels, saloons, and storefronts as the fearsome gunslingers faced each other down in the midst of the muddy thoroughfare, knitted brows beaded with sweat, eyes narrowed and unblinking, lips curled into cruel sneers, hands poised at holstered six-shooters, when a stagecoach came tearing up the road and flattened both those bastards but good.
Jonas Lefkowitch, Glen Ridge, NJ

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a female undocumented immigrant.
Steve Lynch, Tucson, AZ

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions​

With all three baserunners standing on second base and two of them crying, Little League umpire Brittany Skiles thought to herself; ‘Rule Brittany; Brittany waive the rules.’
Greg Homer, San Vito, Costa Rica

A young and only slightly slack-shouldered Igor acted on his hunch —that University of Ingolstadt organic chemistry morgue interns (whose collective job was to replace decaying corpses with ‘fresh’ cadavers) might better recall the destination protocol with an appropriate mnemonic device: “to Victor go the spoils.”
Peter S. Bjorkman & Benjamin P. Bjorkman, Rocklin, CA

The gentle, rhythmic sound of water lapping at the metal hull of the boat transported Phillip back to a simpler time of marshmallow campfires and magical summers at the lake until, upon waking, he came to realize it was only the sound of the Roomba vacuuming robot which had short-circuited and was running repeatedly into the baseboard heat register.
Tony Buccella, Allegany, NY

Our story opens, unfortunately, in Florida; a place that's only good for unhappy old couples living in mobile homes—oh, and the childhood trauma of making awkward conversation with the cast members dressed as princesses at Disney World.
Jordan Busby, Leander, TX

The best job in the world is often debated and Grogslac had thought his new job as head of the volcano virgin sacrifice procurement and delivery committee would be it, as he was expecting potential ‘clients’ to be lining up to prove they weren’t eligible, but he found they took one look at him and started climbing.
Shaun Calvert, UK

Digby was fine with wearing a mask, since he wanted to do his part to help flatten the proverbial curve, but the elastic straps on the one his wife made for him chafed the back of his ears like his first jock strap, which was two sizes too small and abraded his inner thighs until they were raw.
Ray Campbell, Redwood Shores, CA

As Professor Quinter surveyed his students, his gaze was drawn to their scrappy sets of cookware and their bemused faces staring stupidly at the history professor's presentation on Carthage, and with a sigh, Quinter realized that the students had misread the day's agenda, which was "Hannibal Lecture."
Savannah Carmichael, St. Charles, MO

She swept into the ballroom, expensively dressed, coiffed, and bejeweled, her opulent display most obviously done for the same reason that a baboon has a red butt, both saying, "Pay attention to me!"
Jack Ciotti, The Villages, FL

Having lost part of her left ear while working in a circus knife-throwing act during the summer between her junior and senior years, Karen felt all the more reassured about her decision to major in statistics, but she couldn't help but to ponder the probability of regaining physical symmetry were she to return to the circus for one more summer after she graduated.
Steve Cormier, Slatington, PA

“Dilly, Dilly,” Nelda sobbed, “Tell me you still care, Dilly,” as his blood spurted rhythmically onto her freshly-starched, pink pinafore—the one given to her on her 16th birthday by her maternal grandmother, Nana Gertrude, the one she had worn the previous Sunday to the witch dunking, the one she swore never to stain— which was now permanently stained, but she mused that it didn’t matter since it was in the same color family.
Pat DuVal, Arlington, VA

Her breasts heaving like the 50-pound sacks of grain thrown over the shoulders of sweaty dock workers, Karen stepped up to the counter and demanded to see the manager, as only a Karen would.
John W. Engle III, Houston, TX

The rules of drama are many and varied, but the most important, as stated by the great writer Chekhov, is that if there is a banana covered in axle grease in act one, then you’d better hope that the theater burns down before act five.
Arlen Feldman, Colorado Springs, CO

Call me Ishmael, for my tale is that of the only survivor of the attack by a great white whale on the “Pequod,” our Nantucket whaling vessel, and though the story is so fantastic you may be tempted to question my veracity, I need only remind you that writers write and readers read, and you really should stay in your own lane.
John Hardi, Falls Church, VA

“You know, Pierre,” said Harry Sackville-Soup to the friend seated opposite him in the Chloroform Club’s smoking room, using much the same tone that precipitated their trek across the Dark Continent last year and that cost poor Fellowes three of his toes the year before that, “I’ll wager I can turn a guttersnipe into a ragamuffin in time for Ascot.”
Drew Herman, Port Angeles, WA
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