The Mona Schreiber Prize for 
Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction

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 to offer.

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 Region.

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 the aisles.

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 without warning.

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 complications.

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 place)

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 financial support.

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 soapfish.

---------------------------------------------Detach and Mail-----------------------------------------------

____ 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 bladder.

"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 twenty zombies.

"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 about it."

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."