Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Steven O. Young Jr., for sorting right from wrong. Here’s what he thought:
I feel it may be necessary to admit that I haven’t acted as a judge since screening entrants in my elementary school’s talent show. It’s never easy to hold one’s work against another, but it was a fairly simple process back then; we were only kids, most of whom weren’t especially skilled yet. The field practically came together on its own—I can’t recall having to make any tough cuts.
This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.
There’s a tad bit more talent this time around, which took the prompts in incredibly varying directions. Your pieces ran the gamut from the psychedelic to the subdued; from using Shakespeare and Tolkien while establishing contemporary settings, to having Grateful Dead lyrics outline a couple’s relationship; from works of utter playfulness to stories of subtle despair. It made for some difficult decisions that required multiple readings of each piece to even be able to trim the list down whatsoever.
Still, decisions had to be made and they’re surely a matter of subjectivity. Well, that’s fairly obvious, but what I mean to say is that there were plenty of worthy stories that could have very easily gotten the nod with someone else reading. At any rate, thank you all for making my part in this process a struggle, and congratulations to our winners!
Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay
The quiet façade of this story hardly hides its viciousness. “Desperately Seeking” is an incredibly apt title; its message is not guardedly veiled, from the immediate admission of a “soon-to-be single” seeking a “man who takes care of people” to the bold print spelling it out a bit more explicitly.
Destination by Marie McKay
The use of synesthesia determined a sort of bodily-detached reading for me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it certainly fit the diagramming of constellations and the “long distance souls skirting the edge of places”—lives told in the forever unobtainable, where the characters were all too eager to cast their dreams in the “empty track.”
Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan
With the vivid descriptions, it seems dangerously easy to be fooled by the illusionistic majesty of the scenery that surrounds the speaker. However, the curt sentences set a distinct rhythm that embodies the speaker’s fatigue. Her punctuated narration dismisses the possibility of allowing herself to become too attached to any of the potential delights after having suffered once. That realization is made all the more tragic when the speaker expresses the rigidity of her sense of solitude after feeling her baby kick.
Schoolboy Error by Sonya
This piece has such an innocent and genuine feel to it. Sure, there may be some sense of mild malice at the heart of the events, but Benny seems like such a gentle and earnest character that the reader’s attention is wholly diverted to Benny. While that may be an incredulous statement seeing as Benny only says two words—though “Chrimbo” certainly adds definition to him—the narration of the last paragraph sealed it for me with the pranksters set as the foil to Benny’s kind-hearted naïveté.
Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell
I’m jealous of more than a few pieces provided this week—more than just those that made this list—but this reads so naturally I’m almost annoyed to know it was written in a day! The lilting cadence carries throughout, dictated by a consistent syllabic patterning and rhyme scheme that molds each stanza. The use of “fayre” hints at the poem being a folktale of considerable age, which only goes to amplify its mythos. Plus, it practically demanded that I read the poem with my poor rendition of a Middle English accent. This isn’t as bawdy as many poems of that age, but it’s delightful nonetheless.
Karl A Russell
Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
And tug their flowered hair.
In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.
A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.
For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.
And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.