Winners of the 2004 Mona Schreiber Prize
for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction:
"Discovering Arzamistan" © Ryan Murphy, Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada (2004, 1st place)
Despite a raging, twenty-five year civil war that shows no signs of waning,
and weekly coups and assassination attempts of elected officials, Arzamistan
remains a beautiful country just waiting for you to discover!
Itís little wonder that itís often referred to as the gem of extreme
fundamentalist vacation spots. Now, thanks to a special loophole in UN
sanctions, tourists are welcome to set foot on its soil for the first time in 33
years and explore all the majesty that this increasingly uncrowded country has
Plan every step of your journey and make it an unforgettable experience with
these helpful hints from the newly established Arzamistan Tourist Bureau:
Overview: Formerly known as Upper Vyat, Arzamistan is an independent republic
which lies to the north of Moldova and forms part of the landlocked Ivanovian
Arzamistan gained its unofficial independence from the USSR in 1943 when a
cartographer forgot to include the country on an official government map. Later
notified of the error, Soviet officials chose to let the mighty nation-state
remain independent rather than continuing to invest its time and resources into
its upkeep. What has followed since has been years of hotly contested civil war,
as Arzamistan has changed hands on a frequent basis.
The capital city this week is the historic Kazanvog, a must-see for visitors
and those seeking refuge from constant mortar fire. Kazanvog is also home to the
countryís international airport/prison/munitions factory/hotel complex and
what were once some of its most famous landmarks.
The main industries in Arzamistan are agricultural processing and
hostage-taking and although Arzamistanís economy is decidedly modest in scope,
it is a proud world leader in the exporting of bird droppings.
Air Travel: When traveling by air to Arzamistan, always request a window
seat. If the flight is highjacked, terrorists tend to hit the people sitting on
Car Travel: With automobiles only introduced in 1979, Arzamistan is perhaps
the only country in the world to have never experienced a traffic jam. When
traveling by car, remember that tanks and wild packs of lawless children always
have the right of way. It is also worthwhile to drive slowly in the mountains,
as the marvelously scenic, mortar-riddled roads have a tendency to suddenly stop
Health: Health problems sometimes affect visitors to Arzamistan. It is wise
to review your health insurance policy before you travel. If your insurance
policy does not cover you in Arzamistan, it is strongly recommended that you
consider amputating unnecessary limbs in advance to avoid needless
Currency: Although the local currency remains largely goat-based, visitors
are reminded that it is not advisable to travel to Arzamistan unless you have
enough money to pay for ransom.
Crime: For the most part, stories about crime in Arzamistan are highly
exaggerated. As any local will tell you, serious crime only affects people who
have possessions worthy of being stolen.
Children: Arzamistan loves children and has many for sale in its vibrant
marketplaces. No reasonable offer will be rejected.
Attire: A modest and conservative camouflage look is appropriate for most
occasions, with an accent on green in the countryís lush, wooded areas and
gray in its world-renowned mountainous region.
Pets: Traveling with pets to Arzamistan is greatly encouraged. Not only does
their presence give added comfort, but they can also give you a tremendous
advantage while navigating through the countryís many pastoral minefields.
Temperament: Arzamistanians are very affectionate. In most counties, they
greet acquaintances by taking your wife into an adjoining room for up to an
hour, repeating the ritual when saying goodbye.
Conversation: Good conversation topics in Arzamistan include history,
geography and American Pig Dog Imperialism. On the other hand, tourists are
discouraged from discussing local politics and religion. Haggling over ransom is
also considered to be in particularly bad taste.
Whether itís Arzamistanís many deserted ghost towns that rival those of
the American West or its nightly rocket fire that lights up its expansive sky,
discerning travelers are certain to fall in love with this tiny countryís
worldly pleasures and breathtaking scenery. Discover Arzamistan, and discover
the deep satisfaction of living every day as though it were your last.
"Save the Soapfish" © Bhyl Hughes, Beaverton, Oregon (2004, 2nd
Somebody needs your help.
Youíve seen their brightly colored faces looking up at you from the
decorative soap dish at your pretentious friendís home. The soapfish.
Soapfish? But those are just pieces of soap carved to look like fish, right?
Dig deeper, my friend, to where that nagging voice lives deep in your psyche.
Youíve always known that something didnít seem right. Soapfish donít
really function well as soap, do they?
And if someone was going to pick an animal shape for decorative soap, why
would they choose the fish? Fish smell very bad and no sane person would want to
wash their hands with a fish. The natural choice would be a puppy or a
kitten...but do you see soappuppies? No, you do not.
The reason is...the soapfish are real fish and they are not dead!
Thatís right, each year hundreds of thousands of brightly colored, vibrant
fish are turned into soapfish by a process so cruel that the knickknack industry
has until recently managed to keep it a secret.
If you have heard enough, then skip directly to the last page to make your
contribution and join us in our cause. If not, read on...
One month after the spawning season, Minnesota "fishermen" use
giant cranes to hoist massive steel plates over the lakes where the baby fish
frolic. When the plates are dropped, the impact creates a concussive force that
stuns the baby fish into a catatonic state, and they float to the surface where
the "fisherman" scoop them up with nets.
Your contribution of $2000, $1000 or even $25 will go directly towards
research and direct action initiatives aimed to ease the plight of these
helpless fish. For $365, less than the cost of a replacement windshield for your
car, you can help our researchers find a way to reverse the catatonic state.
Thatís only $1 per day or little more than 4 cents per hour. In the time it
has taken you to read this far into this letter, hundreds of soapfish zombies
may have been created, and if you had been contributing less than 1/10th of a
cent each of those minutes, we might have already found a cure. Would you spend
1/10th of penny to save a life?
Wonít you help us today? Imagine the grief and horror you would feel if you
came back after a swim only to find your child gone.
"Where is Junior?"
Junior is lying in a dish in the guest bathroom, next to the decorative hand
towels that are also not meant to be used, his face forever frozen in terror,
constantly subjected to the smell of potpourri and overly-scented candles.
Our researchers have recently had promising results reversing the catatonic
state via simultaneous exposure to reruns of Gunsmoke and the music of Captain
and Tennille, but they need your help to continue the work. Our Victimís Aid
division purchases soapfish and enriches their lives via entertainment and
outings. Last year, soapfish went skiing, saw movies, rode on cats and more. But
our motto, "No dish for any soapfish," can only be realized with your
In a world full of pain, suffering and reality TV, it sometimes seems like
one person canít make a difference. But you can make a difference to a
____ Yes! Iíll do my part to fight the senseless zombie enslavement of
little fishies in order to serve the decorating needs of froofy people. Enclosed
is my contribution for (check one)
___ $5000 ___ $2000 ___ $500 ___$100 ___$25 ___ $ Other (cheapskate)
____ Yes! I would like to help by adopting a soapfish. Enclosed is my
contribution of $50. Please send me a picture each month of my adoptee so that I
can see how my support has enriched its life.
____ Yes! Though I canít make a contribution now, Iíll do my part to
fight the problem through direct action. Please send me the pipe bomb kit.
____ No. I will not be helping you stop the zombie enslavement of little
fishies. I do more important things with my money, like buy $5 cups of coffee,
and I need one of those new phones with a camera in it, even though I already
have two cameras. Maybe once itís too late, and the soapfish harvesters have
moved on to people and my own family is turned into soappeople, then Iíll care
and wonder how you let this happen.
"Attack of the Unexpected" © Nigel Macarthur, London, England
(2004, 3rd place)
"The zombies are coming!" screamed the woman, crouching with the
other two in the corner of the station cafeteria, "and I never even got a
chance to finish the crossword."
"She never does," remarked her husband to the third in the trio, as
the twenty shuffling shapes came into view through the window. "She usually
blames me for spoiling her concentration, but tonight, itís the zombies."
"Iím too busy promoting community harmony to do crosswords," said
the man next to them, loading his pistol. "I think itís very important to
promote a feeling of trust in our communities." He pushed in the magazine
and chambered a round.
"Where are the zombies now?" whispered the husband.
The woman got up and peeped through the window. "Theyíre at the
smashed ticket barriers. All except one, whoís stopped for a pee."
"So, itís us against nineteen," said the man. "Pity I only
have ten rounds."
"Theyíre already dead," muttered the woman, crouching with them
again. "Whatís the point in shooting them?"
"I want to show them you donít mess with me before they kill me!"
"So you get your picture in Life?" asked the woman. "Or, come
to think of it, Afterlife?"
The man gripped his pistol. "I always expect the trains to be late. I
never expected the people in the station to be, too."
"At least," said the husband, "I get ten minutes to fill in
the form about the previous dayís train being late..."
He broke off, as the first zombies became visible at the far end of the
platform. The twenty glassy-eyed figures shuffled slowly down the forty metres
of the platform. One had the relaxed expression of a zombie with an empty
"Some of them have been dead for a long time," whispered the woman.
"Because theyíre rotted half away?" asked her husband.
"No, because they arenít wearing any logos on their T-shirts and so
forth. And that hairstyle is just so 1976!"
"Didnít you have a hairstyle a lot like that, last year?"
"I did not! It was totally different! Are you straight on that?"
The husband considered. If he was to stand any chance of sleeping with her
after they were dead, he realized he would have to apologize.
"Look, Iím sorry. My memory has been playing me up lately. Youíre
right. Your hairstyle was totally different."
The zombies were now twenty metres away.
"Darling, youíre so sweet," whispered the woman.
They kissed, the romantic moment disturbed only by the shuffling footsteps of
"Typical of the government not to have a contingency plan for this sort
of thing!" hissed the man, gripping his pistol more firmly. "They take
your tax dollars and then, when the zombies invade, thereís nothing to do
The husband broke off the kiss. "I know," he agreed, turning round
to face the man while vainly trying to fondle his wife. "If the zoning laws
had been stricter, the cemetery would have been elsewhere. I blame Congress for
this whole mess!" He rubbed the hand his wife had slapped, while taking a
final look out of the window.
The leading zombie began moving his head slowly from side to side as he
shuffled along. His "Ban Handguns" T-shirt was perforated by several
bullet holes, as the man who blamed Congress took aim and fired.
The zombie didnít even slow. He shuffled to the door of the cafeteria and
turned the handle.
"I knew there was something we forgot," moaned the wife, as the
unlocked door flew open.
The three clung together as the zombies shuffled toward the counter. It could
surely be only moments before they turned and looked away into the corner.
The zombie turned, then started towards them. The other zombies followed.
The woman screamed as the leading zombie drew level with the basket of apples
on the counter. The zombie stared at the woman, the remains of his face breaking
into a grin of maniacal delight. The zombie took a breath to speak, his fetid
breath escaping with the words.
"Thanks for the apples. We appreciate them a lot. No one ever thinks
that zombies might be vegetarians."