Announcing the two winners from the On-Ramps and Off-Scripts challenge! These third round finalists of this battle we call the Sundress Summer Flash Showdown will go on to compete for the glorious grand prize…
OF FIVE SUNDRESS TITLES OF THEIR CHOOSING AND THE SHOWCASING OF THEIR STORIES ON THE BLOG!
Congratulations to Shawna Mayer for her first prize story, “Appreciation.”
Let’s see what drew honored judge B. Rose Huber to her conclusion:
This piece embodies the core elements of good flash fiction. In less than 500 words, the writer has used pointed details to tell a story that lingers.
I especially like the writer’s use of repetition, which evokes many of the senses. I can smell the pilfered cigarettes. I can hear the Spanish curse words. I can taste peanut butter on the roof of my mouth. As I read the story, these moments made me chuckle because I knew the writer was being deliberate — but not in an overt way. These word choices and placements were intentional, showcasing the writer’s strong sense of structure and rhythm.
Overall, this story did what flash fiction does best: it used brevity carefully, relying on facts to tell the story. And in this case, it worked beautifully.
-B. Rose Huber
Shawna is the winner of her very own copy of Amorak Huey’s debut, full-length collection, Ha Ha Ha Thump!
We also congratulate Sam Slaughter for his story, “Pierogies,” this week’s featured runner-up.
Let’s get right into their work. Good luck to those in the final round!
by Shawna Mayer
In 1963, the summer Dave, a freckled Catholic school kid turned twelve, his parents decided to take the family to Florida. Dave, his brother, and sister were old enough to appreciate it now. That’s what his dad kept saying, they could appreciate it. Dave wasn’t sure quite what that meant.
The car was hot; this Dave appreciated. The back of his legs stuck to the vinyl seats, and every time they stopped he had to pry his thighs off the seat like duct tape. The vinyl was cracked too so if you weren’t careful it would pinch in tender places.
They stayed with Henry and Lorraine, Dad’s cousins. Dave could tell they weren’t thrilled with the familial invasion. The apartment was pretty small already, and having five more people only made things tighter. They had to eat in shifts, and Lorraine wasn’t much in the kitchen. He’d eaten so much peanut butter his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth just remembering those two weeks.
At the center of the apartment complex was a dazzling sky blue oasis that was full to the brim with kids. He made fast friends with a kid named Raoul who taught him to dive headfirst into the deep end. Dave just bent forward, gave a little springy jump and his body cut through the water like magic. He dived over and over again, only coming out for another peanut butter sandwich.
Each day that Dave and Raoul practiced their dives Dave’s skin got darker and darker until he was sure people couldn’t tell the difference between him and his new friend. Most days at mid-afternoon, when the sun became relentless, Raoul took him to a secluded spot under the stairs at the back of the complex and taught him swear words in Spanish: Culo, chinga, cajones, mierda, and puta. They smoked pilfered cigarettes and tried to look up the girls skirts.
Eventually they packed up the car, shook hands with the Florida cousins, and headed north. The sun that had soaked into Dave’s skin that week seemed to radiate back out of him like a fever as the interstate rolled by. All three kids were limp in the backseat; it was as though they had poured out every ounce of themselves into that giant sparkling pool.
The tan faded as fall encroached, and so did the languid mood of the time away. But the part of the trip that Dave most appreciated came on the playground of Our Lady of Fatima’s when the scrubbed pale boys in their button down shirts and khaki pants leaned in to hear Dave repeat just as Raoul had taught him: Culo, chinga, cajones, mierda, puta.
Grandma told me she was going to die if I didn’t get her the right ingredients. I didn’t believe her, but I didn’t want her to die on my watch. My mother was away and I was in charge of making sure Grandma didn’t leave her apartment—there were gators in the lake and my mother didn’t want Grandma to get eaten. I told my mother she was ninety-five and no gator would think of wasting energy on a meal like that.
I’d gotten up to go to the bathroom and when I got back, my grandmother pushed a paper toward me.
“Piotr,” she said, “You need to go to these stores. I need the right ingredients. I will die if I don’t have these pierogies.”
Her handwriting was left-slanting and I knew that at least one of the stores had been closed for years. She’d written one ingredient as, “flower.” I decided I was going to Publix.
“Tell Aleksander at the deli that you’re getting the kielbasa for me. He’ll give you a good deal. Real good.”
I nodded. “I’m not supposed to leave you alone, Grandma.”
She waved me off. “I made it out of Krakow when they killed people like us. I’ll be fine for an hour. Just pour me some more tea.”
Four of the stores she told me to go to were closed. I went to one of the specialty stores because it sat in a strip mall with a Winn Dixie. I got the rest at the grocery store. I stayed out an hour like she thought, driving in circles. When I got back, she looked at the ingredients, an eyebrow raised. I’d tucked a tulip in the bag and waited for her to asked why there was a flower there.
“You didn’t see Aleksander. You didn’t get the potatoes from Dmitri. Why didn’t you get the potatoes from Dmitri?”
“They are, Grandma.”
She seemed to think about it for a moment.
“No, she said. “No. Now I am going to die.”
She refused to touch the other bags and told me to go again.
“Do it right this time, or I will die.”
I sighed, grabbed my keys and left.
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