Lyrical Beginnings: Flash Fiction Contest Winners

As part of this year’s One Read program, we invited you to take inspiration from M.O. Walsh’s naming convention in the “The Big Door Prize,” by telling a tale in 250 words or less, and we asked that you titled your story using a chapter heading from the book. The stories could be about anything and anyone, but they should harmonize with your chosen title.

Thank you to everyone who entered and shared your works of flash fiction.

Our two winners are Scott Garson and Suzette Haefling. Honorable mentions go to David Lake and Regan Puckett.

We are excited to share these stories with you!

They Ought to Name a Drink After You, Scott Garson

A stiff drink, of stark complexity, without syrups, so no one could think they were in for the dance of a margarita. And it would be dark, like your eyes, obviously, and spread warmth in a chiming of ice. And it would be good, like even the bad times were, because it would come on without compromise, would offer no less, in any encounter, than truth, in its instant of being. Like the rooftop, of course. The roof of the house where nobody lived. Where you had grown up. Your father’s house, misplaced in an island of time, caught in probate. The crickets, the weeds. I wondered whether your wearing a dress was a sign that we’d talk about marriage or something. We sat on the roof and kicked our legs and tipped our heads to look at the stars, which were splashed through the velvety blackness. You said that you used to go up there and think about what your life would be. You said that we had to break up. I forget what’s next. When I’m lucky, I just forget. I think of you walking into some bar and seeing your name on a board, your name in chalk, the name of a drink. And it would have cherries, pierced, I guess, like hearts on the blade of a plastic sword. And it would be sweet. And it would be bitter.


Things That Go Bomp in the Night, Suzette Haefling

TW: child abuse, suicide, bullying

School; the kids that beat, laugh, point. The teachers don’t see or don’t want to.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

Head down; eyes on the floor; school ticks and done. Down the road; the rusted truck shows whats behind the crooked home door.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

The door creaks; smoke swirls; he laughs and coughs damanding food. I scurry as a bottle flies.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

I put my bag and shoes away. I have only hours to wait. I don’t eat. I lay down and rest. Rest.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

A creak at the door to my cage. I click the button and the recording starts. The door murmurs the treatment that waits. His weight pushes me into the mattress and he covers my mouth.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

“This is all you’re worth. Just like that little bitch that gave birth to you!”

The mattress creaks and groans. The stinging and burning increase. The tears run; hours tick; the weight vanishes.

It’s okay; I’m numb; tick-tock.

Its quite and dark. The recording stops and flies to the police to save an innocent. In the tub of warmth; the edge gleams. Pain blossoms as red spreads.

The tick is gone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255
National Bullying Prevention Center- 1-800-537-2237
National Child Abuse Hotline- 1-800-422-4453


A Crooked Piece of Time,  David Lake

“Morning Bob. You headed to mass?”

“It’s crooked! Can’t you fix it!”

The knob in the back of Bob’s clock fell off weeks ago. He never found it, so he took the face off and tried to spin the hands to set it to the right time. Now the minute hand’s bent.

“Damn it Jim, I’m a small engine repairman, not a clockmaker!”

Bob didn’t notice my Bones impersonation.

“Can’t you just fix it!”

“I ordered new hands two weeks ago. They’ll be in soon.”

“Damn Republicans!”

He’d come into the shop about 4 times since he bent his minute hand. Bob’s dementia was definitely getting worse. His daughter told everyone, if we found him wandering to tell him, “The Cardinals game’s about to start.”

It didn’t matter if the Cardinals were on or not. You’re just supposed to walk him home, and set him up with Gunsmoke or Andy Griffith, whatever’s on.

I thought I better take him to mass instead. If Bob doesn’t make it, the whole parish worries. Father Charlie usually sends a deacon to check on him if he’s not there by the first reading.

“Mass is about to start. Let’s go.”

“It’s not Sunday, you’re at the shop.”

“I had to pick up my check book for the offering. Come on, we’ll be late.”

“But, yesterday was Wednesday.”

“Bob, it’s Sunday.”

“Damn Republicans! I sure wish time would run straight again.”


There’s Flies in the Kitchen, I Can Hear Them A-Buzzin, Regan Puckett

My dinner table’s got a wobble, but it still stands. An Ozarkian heirloom passed down to me by some uncle’s uncle at my wedding two-and-a-half decades ago. It didn’t come with chairs, but I’ve got a knack for making things whole, so I found a set of six that harmonized just right. It did come with a husband, but he dulled faster than the wood stain, so I traded him for a rare Pyrex and a Donna Summer record. The record didn’t play, but I still danced.

There’s dust on the chairs, which future Jeanine will tend to. For now, I let it hibernate ‘til the holidays when the kids and their spouses visit. I take my dinners before the TV. With every Stouffer’s lasagna and Lifetime movie, I’m breaking some vow I made in my twenties. Back when my hair was sprayed and my kids were young and my life was small enough to squeeze into the palm of a man’s hand. I let him squeeze it. Then my babies grew wings, an expected tragedy that shattered just the same. Then that pain quieted enough to hear possibility, still humming.

I grew wings, miraculously. Flew to heaven — a lawless land where I drink wine when I want to, abandon my robe at my leisure. Where I bake a batch of molasses cookies just for me, eat them hot and savor the scald. There’s flies in the kitchen, slurping at molasses I spilled and didn’t wipe away. Let them buzz.

One Read is generously underwritten by the Friends of the Columbia Public Library and made possible by organizations in our community. We thank all of our partners on the task force for their support.