Winners of the
2008 Mona Schreiber Prize for
Humorous Fiction and
1st Place, “Get Frankie” ©
Christopher Hivner, Dallastown, PA
I am Chris Liveru^ux;;9*1ea-ux. Don’t try
to pronounce it. It’s Belgian and can’t be spoken in English
without special tongue prosthetics. Call me Chris Liver.
It was a place and time only solitary men
and evanescent dreams exist: 3:15 a.m. in Peoria, Illinois. I
was sitting alone in my car, staking out a gentlemen’s club,
Hal’s Hooter Hut, waiting for Frankie Zamboni to come out.
Zamboni was an enforcer for the Parcheesi family whose specialty
was running his victims down with industrial machinery. I was
hired by the Parcheesi rivals, the Peoria Council for the Arts,
to take Zamboni out.
I was what some called a “fixer.” Others
called me an “asshole” or “major douche.” Either way, I got
The air was bitter that morning when
Frankie finally emerged from the club. The big man was a
hunchfront who walked bent over backward, like the small letter
“r,” moving in reverse through the alphabet. His fat arms swung
to and fro and he whistled “The Banana Boat Song,” his absurdly
bent legs shuffling down the otherwise silent street.
Grabbing my weapon of choice, a harshly
worded letter, I took off to get Frankie. Because of his
condition, Zamboni was naturally looking up. Believing I had the
element of surprise, I charged at him, unfolding my letter with
a crisp snap. I hadn’t even read the salutation before he
started to run.
Apparently, Zamboni’s other senses made up
for his awkward stance. He had smelled my Mardi Gras cologne and
took off, but they didn’t call me an “arrogant prick” for
nothing. Matching Frankie’s wheezing waddle with a light trot, I
“Dear Mister Zamboni,” I began. I saw
Frankie’s upside down eyes glare at me as he spit out
expletives. “The Peoria Council for the Arts object in the
strongest terms to your continued murdering of our members.”
“You’re…dead…you…douche,” Frankie gurgled
at me, choking on his own saliva.
“If this wanton killing does not stop
immediately,” I continued reading, “we will take legal action
against you. We do not wish to impinge on the plying of your
“Stop…reading!” Frankie bellowed.
“However,” I shouted back, “we cannot
continue to have meetings where bloody corpses are found in the
Zamboni started laughing. I looked up to
see him climbing into the seat of a two-ton backhoe. The engine
roared to life. I had one chance and that was to keep reading. I
found my place in the letter and yelled over the giant machine.
“The Council is down to five members, now
hidden in undisclosed locations.” The backhoe came at me but I
stood my ground.
“We will never stop trying to bring
quality art and entertainment to downtown,” I screamed as the
heat of the engine blew into my lungs. “Our mission will always
be one of pretentiousness, incomprehensibility and
The backhoe crashed into my ribcage at
three miles per hour, knocking me slightly off balance. I
climbed on top of the bucket and stared into Zamboni’s hump.
“We are the Peoria Council for the Arts!”
Zamboni lurched to the side, as if I’d slapped him. “You can
take away our grant money!” Frankie weaved the backhoe back and
forth, trying to shake me off, but I remained steadfast, holding
one as he raised and lowered the bucket.
“You can ignore our poetry readings; you
can protest our art exhibit of world leaders in animal
costumes!” I shouted. The backhoe slowed to a stop. Zamboni’s
breathing turned raspy.
I climbed into the seat next to him. He
looked at me, pleading, his eyes bulging out. Holding the letter
up for Frankie to see, I finished reading.
“You can even force us to serve inferior
domestic white wine at our fundraisers, but we will prevail.
Peoria needs us. Illinois needs us. The world needs us.”
“So…vain…you…douche,” Zamboni insulted me.
I watched his hump rise and fall for a last time. He was dead.
Once again, I had pummeled a man to death
with my bloviating. I hadn’t asked to be a “pantload” or “that
idiot who writes like a self-important playwright.” But in the
fullness of time, we must accept who we are. I am Chris Liver.
2nd place, “My Grannyhood” ©
Bethany Bryan, Astoria, NY
Bethany Bryan's blog,
"Welcome to Bethville"
My first reaction upon seeing the “hip granny”
on the subway, with the spiky gray hair and the trendy jogging
outfit, was, “When I get older, I want to be just like hip granny,
there. Still active and healthy. And, you know…hip.”
But then I remembered that I’m me. And the
likelihood of me, at 29, suddenly becoming hip and/or taking up
jogging are about as likely as realizing my lifelong dream of moving
to Fraggle Rock or owning a house made of bacon. I understood then
that while we can’t control the fact that we age, we can control how
we go about it.
So, I thought about it for a while and I
decided I want to be a classic, blue-haired granny. One who drives
an antique, powder blue Cadillac, and lets her cat eat at a high
chair pushed up to the table, and drives way faster than she should,
and yells at the kids next door for looking at her lawn ornaments
funny. Because there will be lawn ornaments. Thousands of them.
Enough garden gnomes to repopulate the Mines of Moria. Holding their
tiny ornamental pickaxes and looking wistfully up at the rosebushes
I’ll pay somebody else to care for.
I’ll have an entire pitcher of vodka lemonade
at 10 AM if I feel like it. And wear rhinestone-studded cat’s eye
glasses. Then, I’ll take them off when people come over and pretend
I don’t know who they are. I’ll rig boobytraps for the Jehovah’s
Witnesses who step on my porch. Then, I’ll offer to let them run
through my lawn sprinklers in order to wash off the corn syrup and
chicken feathers. As a final gesture, I’ll give them a brownie for
amusing me so.
When there’s some kind of potluck dinner I
don’t want to attend, I’ll make one of those inedible Jell-O salads
with mandarin oranges, marshmallows and bits of chicken liver. Or a
casserole with cream of mushroom soup and peas, topped with candied
cherries I picked from a leftover fruitcake. Then, I’ll snicker to
myself when people tell me how good it is.
My back yard will have a big, round pool. And
during the summer, I’ll float around on it all day long, reading a
book and getting a suntan on my saggy, unfettered old breasts.
During the winter, I’ll just keep the pool hotter and wear mittens.
But don’t think for a second I’ll be lonely.
There will be gentlemen callers and friends coming over for a nice 4
PM supper every once in a while. Not too often, though, because I
can’t be in the kitchen all day long. I’ll be old, you know? And
I’ll have store windows to drive through, when I can no longer
distinguish the brake from the gas pedal.
When my knees finally go and I can’t get
around on my own any more, I’ll eat the slightly bloated can of tuna
in the very back of my pantry and let the ptomaine poisoning kill
me. The pizza delivery boy will find me out on my faithful old pool
float, the scent of rancid tuna still hanging in the air, very
sunburned and quite lifeless.
I’ll be cremated and stored forevermore in a
cookie jar on the kitchen counter of some great-nephew or
grandchild. Guest will think they’re sneaking a cookie, and there
I’ll be. Still very unhip, but always with a few surprises left in
3rd place, “Too Old to Rock and
Roll (or: Hope I Diet Before I Get Old)” © Therra Cathryn Gwyn, Palm
You don’t know me, but I’m going to ask you
anyway: Who stole my body when I wasn’t looking? I once was a young
cutie with nary a care in the world. For fun, my best friend Sherri
and I would go to rock concerts back when tickets weren’t the same
cost as purchasing Canada. We would bat our eyes, make friends and
go backstage. We’d stay out late, rush to class in the morning and
get good grades. Fun times!
So, when my younger friend Donna invited me to
see Poison and Ratt (“You’re going to see rat poison?” my husband
asked me, confused), and go backstage (she knows Poison), I thought,
“I haven’t done that in while, but you’re never too old to rock and
roll, heh, heh, heh.”
First of all, once you actually finish any
statement with “Heh, heh, heh,” you’re old. Secondly, once I put on
high heels and a much loved, once-hip, designer dress, I realized
that Houston, I had a problem. I was the size of Houston. Fat
apparently attacked me the minute I turned off MTV for a few years.
I remedied this the only way I knew how, by putting on black
clothing that was four sizes too small. I’m ready to rock now, I
However, I had not counted on my high-heeled
feet rebelling so early, during the aforementioned Ratt. This band,
I noticed, had aged far worse than I. They were terrible and
lackluster. I’ve seen back hair with more energy.
Poison, who survived the last twenty years to
tease their hair and rock again, fared much better. I danced and
cheered. Soon, my toes were asking for the last rites. “You’re fat,”
they said through the confines of my too-tight shoes. “Please stop
But I couldn’t limp away. It was backstage
time. No one else seemed to care how late it was. No one else had
feet that were dying on the vine. I scowled in true pain, hoping it
would get mistaken for youthful angst. I held my head high and
wished for a quick death, one where my dress wouldn’t ride up.
The first thing I noticed when we were ushered
backstage was that some things never change. Forget that the band
was my age or beyond. The girls were young cuties wearing three
ounces of clothing. They had nary a care in the world. That was when
my rock and roll dreamsicle melted. I realized with horror that I
was the oldest female there. Panic overcame me. Was I too old to be
here? What if I got carded? (Or worse, weighed?)
“I.D., please, ma’am,” some hulking, tattooed
giant with a lip ring might ask.
“I’m not a ‘ma’am.’”
“Let’s see I.D.”
“Why? I’m young enough to be here.”
“Lady, how old are you, anyway?”
“How old do you think I am?”
“Old enough to ask for your I.D.,” Lip Ring
would scowl at me.
“I don’t have it here. I left it…dude…in my
parent’s car,” I would insist. “When I snuck out of the house.”
As this scenario was playing out in my head,
sending my blood pressure soaring, I had a pre-embolism epiphany. No
one here was looking at me suspiciously. In fact, no one was looking
at me at all. They weren’t thinking about me or my age. They were
only thinking about themselves and their own fun. Piggy youth! Don’t
they know what I went through to get into this dress? To stand in
these shoes for hours? I suddenly wanted to challenge everyone.
“Hey!” I wanted to yell. “Who here was alive
at the same time as Elvis Presley? I’ll tell ya’ who!” I would
bellow. “I was!”
And if that didn’t impress, I was ready:
“Guess who sang along when eight-track was king? Right again. Me.
And I’ll tell you something else. I remember when the drummer in Def
Leppard had two arms!”
I wouldn’t finish early. I ‘d drop the big
bomb of truth on the young cuties. “You will gain weight! You will
get cellulite on your forehead! Your pierced elbow will become
outré! I’m going to sleep!” Then I would stagger off in my too high
heels and too small dress and not look back.
But that would embarrass my nice friend Donna,
who knew the band. So I didn’t do it. Instead, I shook hands with
the drummer, remembering smugly that I was minutes younger than him.