The Mona Schreiber Prize for 
Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction

Winners of the 2002 Mona Schreiber Prize
for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction:

"The New Margaret Sanger Doll" Cathy James, Weaverville, NC
(2002, 1st place)

I cringe whenever someone gives my daughter a new Barbie Doll. She's only five years old, and she has four of them. I admit it. I had Barbies when I was a kid, but I never had more than three, and one of them was actually Barbie's frumpy friend Midge.

Recently, my daughter Meg begged me to "play Barbies" with her. I was lying on the sofa reading an essay by Helene Cixous, and I was very lukewarm about the prospect of getting up. After she threw herself over my body, telling me I NEVER did ANYTHING fun, I relented.

She handed me a tousle-haired doll and asked, "What's your doll's name?"

"I'm Margaret Sanger, founder of the modern contraception movement," I said, in my chirpiest teen doll voice. "Let's go to a suffrage rally!" Meg was suspicious, but she kept adjusting her doll's pink, spiked shoes anyway.

I've seen pictures of Margaret Sanger, and I can say with some authority that she never would have worn a shimmering pink mini-skirt. She never had waist-length buttercup yellow hair either. But I'll bet Ms. Sanger would have loved the accessories: the Barbie Camper, symbolizing Barbie's personal freedom and her concern for the environment, the Barbie Boutique, allowing her entrepreneurial spirit to find its ultimate fulfillment in managing her own business, and of course, the Executive Barbie in her car going to work at a challenging, high salary job. |

Okay, so it's a pink convertible with matching briefcase, which means Barbie is probably working at some nail boutique that only hires former cheerleaders and beauty queens.

I tie my Margaret doll's hair in a conservative braid and knot it at the back of her neck with a tiny rubber band. "My doll's going to the White House to lobby for funding to support women's health clinics," I said.

Meg scowled at me. "No, we're getting dressed to do a concert!" She threw a pink skirt at me with lavender, painted-on tulips and told me to get my doll ready. I squeezed the one and a half inch waist over Margaret Sanger's hips and snapped it under her cone-shaped, plastic breasts that were as hard and perky as a couple of bullets from a .38 Special. "No one in Congress is going to take you seriously now," I muttered.

Meg shoved two dolls onto the stage she had crafted from the lid of an old Twister box and began rattling off a Backstreet Boys tune. Margaret endured it as long as she could before she went running across the sofa on her pointed plastic feet, shouting, "Our righteous indignation at our oppression can not be silenced!"

Meg smacked her dolls down on the stage and took Margaret away from me. "You just can't play right, can you?"

For a moment, I thought she was going to send me to my room. I decided I could compromise,
so I asked for my doll back. I would make her a hair stylist who owned her own shop, or an honor roll cheerleader, or even a beauty queen with a really politically correct platform.

But Meg didn't trust me. She said I would just have to watch.

We had to come up with a name for the girl band she had created from her collection of dolls.
My suggestion of The Feminine Mystiques was dismissed because Meg thought it was too hard to say. She named them Girlpower, which I really couldn't argue with. Meg was their agent, and I convinced her that the Backstreet Boys should be opening for Girlpower and not the other way around. She thought about it and decided that was a good idea. When I left to go and do adult stuff, the last thing I heard was her telling her imaginary crew to add more lights and build another level
for the stage.

How proud Margaret Sanger would have been.

"Lesson...Loined" MorrisoN, New York City, NY (2002, 2nd place)

I had a cockroach roomie once,
I never knew its sex.
I did not care much if its name
Was "Jezebel" or "Rex."

I never yoined to know its age,
I never axed its sign,
Nor if its favorite armchair was
Of oak or knotty pine.

I never went to hear it sing
In Sunday morning mass.
I never brung it chamomile
When it came down with gas.

It wanted chardonnay? Too bad-
I stocked the fridge with ales.
And writ out checks to "Lottery,"
When it whined: "Save the Whales!"

I never thought to send it flowers
To celebrate its boith.
If it axed me: "Do I look fat?"
I criticized its goith.

If it read me its poetry,
I'd shove in my earplugs.
When walking down the street with it-
I'd ogle other bugs.

But still, no matter what I did
To keep it in its place,
It simply wouldn't take a hint,
Was always in my face.

'Till finally, the day, it come,
I could not take no more.
I packed its grip, brown-bagged its lunch
And showed it to the door.

And told it: "Listen closely, kid,
It's time youse took a hike,
Or Checker cab or Amtrak car,
Skateboard or motor bike.

'Cause when it comes to Cupid's way,
Youse do not meet my tastes.
I like my lovers my own size
With legs four less than seis.

And as for being "buds," the truth,
No matter how you spin it:
I want to raise a glass with friends,
Not find them floating in it.

So, cockroach baby, here's your hat,
Your CDs and ten bucks.
And as they say in Chinatown:
"So rong and rots 'a rucks."

But did it scram? Oh, no, instead,
It shrieked and started crying,
Threw itself down, wailed up at me,
"Widdout youse, I am dying!"

"Spare me the drama, toots," I sniffed,
"I'm not impressed by props.
Just haul your keister outta' here.
Don't make me call the cops."

At that, it went all quiet and still,
Sat up and wiped its feelers,
And hissed, "I've known creeps in my time,
Rat finks and doity dealers.

"Low lifes and voimin by the pound,
But not one, I would say,
Was near as low a life as youse.
Oh,'re gonna' pay!"

Then, suddenly, it pointed 'round
My legs and screamed, "A fiver!"
And when I jumped and yelled, "Where? Where?"
That bug, it took a diver.

And threw itself across the floor
'Neath my descending shoe.
I had no time to stop my tread.
A muffled crunch, then goo.

And there I was. "You moiderer!"
The cops sneered when they came.
The D.A. snickered, "Ain't we all?"
When I swore, "I been framed!"

The press yelled: FIEND RUNS ROACH MOTEL.
Man inna' street howled for my tail.
PETA-the other end.

The trial, it went without a hitch.
My "loving pal," kaput,
Snuffed for its Max Roach jazz CDs,
"Exhibit A," my foot.

The jury took but half an hour
And smiled as foreman stated:
"He should be made to pay the bill.
Judge, have him fumigated."

Thus I await upon this row,
The end we all must meet,
In aging's bed, by chamber's gas,
By robber's gun, by feet.

And try to chalk this whole thing up
To just life's starts and stops,
While counting seconds to the day
The other shoe will drop.

But knowing underneath it all
I would not have this role.
There'd be no blood upon my hands,
No bug guts on my sole.

If I'd 'a acted smart for once,
The road ahead'd be wider.
If only I'd 'a heeded Ma'...
And rented to a spider.

"An Open Letter to the CEO of Chintzy Airlines" Marilyn D. Davis, Morton Grove, IL (2002 3rd place)

Dear Mr. Chintzy:

I recently flew from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Kalamazoo, Michigan on Chintzy Airlines.
While I have flown this route before, I thought I'd try Chintzy, based upon your new advertising slogan:

"We cut costs on everything from on-board service to equipment maintenance and passed the savings along directly to you."

I'll give you credit for having gotten me to and from my destination safely and on time, but I feel compelled to write about a few concerns I had during my flights.

1. I appreciated receiving the complimentary ice water snack, but I didn't know passengers had to provide their own cups.

2. I question the fairness and efficacy of the lottery system that determines which three people will serve as flight attendants. Although I wasn't chosen, the woman seated next to me was. She said she did not receive as much as a crash course in the art of pouring liquids during extreme turbulence. (Talk about a cold training program.)

3. Your safety demonstration was unclear. I still don't understand where I'm supposed to feed in the dimes to purchase oxygen for the emergency mask. And I think ten cents a minute is an awfully high price to pay.

4. I am thrilled that the seat cushions can also be used for flotation, but I'm afraid the college kid across the aisle from me took it quite literally. When we landed and he didn't want to wait in line to deplane, I saw him jump out the rear door, holding the seat cushion above his head.

5. I paid a premium for a "Comfort-Plus Seat," which was advertised to provide "up to 5 inches of extra leg room." This was a gross misrepresentation. Once the guy in front of me moved into a reclining position, the five inches were immediately reduced to negative three. Also, I found it difficult to keep my lips from brushing up against his hair spikes.

6. I applaud the fact that your flights are non-smoking, but the rule needs to have more "teeth." To put it bluntly, no one with the intent to light up in the lavatory will be deterred by your policy that prohibits tampering with, defacing or ignoring the no-smoking sign. Smoke detectors, while more expensive, would probably be more effective.

7. Eliminating barf bags from the seat pockets may save you some money in the short run. However, I believe the benefit does not outweigh the risk of having to spend company profits on cleaning and sanitizing the pocket, should a passenger vomit directly into it while frantically searching for the bag. And since you've replaced the carpeting with a metal grate overlooking the luggage compartment, vomit on the floor may damage suitcases-another costly cleanup expense.

8. As with the ice water, the complimentary headphones were appreciated. Unfortunately, I heard nothing but static while listening to the available broadcasts from a series of local radio stations over whose wave-range we were flying.

9. My seat happened to be one of those adjacent to an emergency exit. While I don't object to the concept of assisting during an evacuation, to be honest I felt that the instructions on the door were far too complicated for the average passenger. I'll quote just the first couple of sentences, so you will understand why I believe a simpler explanation is warranted: "Turn the red dial to the right three times past the letter E to the letter M. Then turn the dial left past M twice, stopping at the blue letter E..."

I can see how having the code spell out the word "emergency" is a clever device, but perhaps if you changed the code word to "exit," you would speed up things for the door operators. In either case, you'd still have a problem with people who are spelling challenged.

I hope you'll take my criticisms in the constructive spirit in which they are being offered. If your company hasn't gone bankrupt from claims paid out following lawsuits, I look forward to seeing improvements the next time I fly Chintzy.


Marilyn D. Davis A partially satisfied customer