1st Place, 2015: “Firing Myself,” © Jake Teeny, Portland, OR
After working as the corporate manager of sales for twelve years, a job where my soul dieted on moist cat litter for 4,384 days, I specifically decided Friday, May 16—National Sea Monkey Day—I would quit my job.
Today is that celebration of brine shrimp in children’s plastic aquariums.
It is the afternoon and everyone has just returned from lunch to the long, walnut table in the conference room. Up on the fifteenth floor (a height, I’m surprised, that hasn’t encouraged a lemming-like trail of suicides over the years), irritatingly pleasant sunlight streams through the ceiling-high windows. At the head of the table, Mr. MacKinlay, wearing his customary toupee that screams of erectile dysfunction—speaks in tongues about a whiteboard with some new sales figure we’re supposed to give a tit’s flick about.
I, however, am evaluating the other eight men and women, the other jelly doughnuts dressed up in suits, trying to decide how best to make my exit, my grandiose, arm flourishing, buttocks baring—should I select that method—resignation. Understand, this departure wasn’t fully premeditated; I wanted it to be inspired, like free-form jazz. Anyone can commit sheet music to memory, but those who improvise, those who let their fingers whirl at will, sweaty, eyes clenched, they get the standing ovation.
And I want those orangutans to cheers, “Encore!”
As I recline in my admittedly comfortable leather chair, I am juggling a number of options. One, I could scribble a derisive note, stride up to Mr. MacKinlay and staple it to his forehead, though that may carry criminal repercussions. Two, I could inconspicuously remove pieces of clothing until I’m entirely nude, at which point I leap onto the table and vigorously twirl my certain, swinging appendage. Though with air conditioning on, I may not be showcased at maximum potential. Three, I could fake a seizure, accuse Mr. MacKinlay of poisoning me for sleeping with his wife, vow to start my own sales company with the sole objective of eradicating this one, and then strut out without a backward glance.
Yes, I like three.
Unfortunately, I, contrary to the others, had not brought a drink to this meeting, and to allege Mr. MacKinlay had poisoned me through aerosol means seemed rather preposterous. Furthermore, claiming that I slept with his wife, too, might prove problematic, considering she died seven years ago. And there is that rather large parking ticket I still have yet to pay. (The judge hadn’t believed my confusion over am/pm.)
I supposed, then, this could wait. Not long, though. Just until better inspiration comes to me. May 24 is National Escargot Day. And what am I really, besides a spineless, amorphous blob just waiting to be eaten?
Yes, National Escargot Day would be perfect.
2nd Place, 2015: “A Perfect Hiding Place,” © Gary Hoffman, Okeechobee, FL
“Isn’t it kind of cold to be out here in your robe, Mrs. Worth?” the mailman asked. “And why are you digging through the snow? Lose something?”
Kathy Worth raised her right hand so she could turn her head and look at him. “I came out here to get the morning paper.”
“And you think it’s buried in the snow?”
“No. I’m looking for a little pile of plastic dog crap.”
“Plastic dog crap?”
Her left hand was now freezing, so she raised it and rocked back and forth on her heels. “When I came out for the paper, the wind caught my front door and slammed it shut. It’s locked now. I keep an extra key out here in the yard under a little pile of plastic dog crap, figuring no one would go through dog crap to find a house key.”
The mailman put his pouch on the ground and knelt down. “So now you can’t find the pile of crap and the key. That about right?”
Kathy sighed. “Yes, that’s about right. I can’t find the dog crap.”
The mailman started digging through the snow.
Two kids were walking by on their way to school.
“Did I hear that right? They’re out in the snow looking for dog crap?”
“Sounded like it to me,” the second one said.
“Hey, man, we need an idea to write about for English class. Maybe this is it.”
They approached Kathy and the mailman.
“Mind if we help?” the first one asked. “We’ve never dug through snow to find dog crap before.”
Kathy shook her head. “Yes, please, anything to help.”
“So, how old is this crap?” the second kid asked. “It’s not new and all gooey or anything, is it?”
“No, it’s plastic,” Kathy said.
“Plastic?” the first kid asked. “What the hell do you feed your dog, lady?”
“I don’t have a dog,” Kathy said.
“So, you’re going to find it and put it back on your neighbor’s lawn?” the second kid asked. “Is this a revenge thing? That would be really cool.”
“Think I found it,” the mailman said. “Oops. Nope. That’s not it. That’s a real pile that’s frozen.”
“Damn neighbors,” Kathy mumbled.
A police car pulled up in front of the house. Both cops came strolling up the sidewalk. “We got a call about some unusual activity going on over here. Anything wrong?”
The first kid smiled at him. “Nope, just looking for a pile of plastic dog crap.”
“Plastic dog crap? This might be a case for animal abuse,” one cop said.
“I found it,” the mailman yelled, holding the key in the air.
Kathy opened her front door and invited them all in for something warm to drink while she explained. While they were inside, the neighbor’s dog came over and took a dump in one of the cleared spots in the snow.
Later in the day, Kathy’s spare key went under a flower pot on her porch.