Here are 25 additional stories that we considered for print. You might say that, just like writers of stories limited to 101 words, we ran out of space.
"Please, Jeffrey, don't tell him this time" a beautiful woman, with eyes like cobalt fire, implored of me as she staggered drunkenly out of the Wagon Wheel Tavern, and blinking twice from the afternoon sun, managed to slink past me and into the arms of a fellow I'm guessing was Jeffrey.
“You know I won’t keep this secret,” the man who was probably Jeffrey replied. She sobbed and pushed against his chest with clenched fists. Then they kissed like animals. I actually said out loud as I mounted my red Schwinn Stingray bike, “How come this never happens to me?” — Robert Salsbury
A Summer Distraction
Arlene Hill pointed the toe of her black pump toward the casket and then slowly flexed it back. The pastor’s voice droned on, a mumble in the humid air. She stretched her foot again and stifled a yawn. William Montgomery Hill III was undoubtedly enjoying his departure more than she was. She lifted her gaze and stared through the wave of heat quivering across the horizon of his bronze coffin. Justin the pool boy, sitting tall and straight, stared back. His shoulders filled his new Armani suit the way he filled other empty spaces. From behind her veil, she winked. — Tracy Wilson-Burns
“I would never argue with a guest,” the bellhop said, opening my door and pulling my luggage in, “But it doesn't make any sense for hell to be full of flames. Smoke kills people very quickly, and they pass out too easily from the pain of being burned.”
“Then what do you think it is?” I was testy, and had no intentions of tipping him.
“That's easy,” he grinned, “Hell is a locked hotel room with an empty mini-bar, a television, and no phone.” He slipped the key into his pocket and closed the door. — Jen Garrison Stuber
Never one to complain about manual labor, she digs her own grave. Prematurely, perhaps, considering long decades before death calls. Anything to escape sitting at the kitchen table watching snow again, or still; she’s buried in a blizzard of doubt.
“Which is worse?” she wonders, “the mind decomposing with longing or the body aching for touch? I want musky earth pressed into my skin now. I want coffin-dirt pushed against my forehead and skull. I want subterranean roots coiled tenderly between my toes.”
This last snow has come, will go, and she waits for the threat of spring impending. — Andrea Reid
Yellow Pine Legerdemain
One summer, Sam and I stayed up all night shooting shots of schnapps. We poured sweet firewater over our bodies and stayed lit, on the cabin deck, in the fog, upstaging each other with the shell games we called plans, in the trick we called love. I still don’t know why I let him lock me in that stuffy little box and saw me in half. Life is misdirection. On that deck I left Idaho a thousand times, but never got away. Until I finally learned that I am the magician, until I saw at last how the trick is done. — Holly Doering
Should Have Known
“Why is he being paid more than me?” she ached to ask. She already knew the answer, and it had everything to do with her last name. So she decided she would consume the disparity’s worth in Post Its, Kleenex, and Sweet ’n’ Low. Her coffee intake increased from a few cups to a whole pot per day. The thermostat in her office got cranked up to eighty. She had thought it would be fun to work for a family company. She should have known better. One day she’d had enough and stormed the boss’s office. “Daddy,” she said. “I quit!” — Mallory Schuyler
Cotton on Concrete
They looked angry, even from the backseat. I couldn’t hear them anymore. Just the song on the radio displacing the yells and insults. They seemed to argue in slow motion, their mouths opening, closing, baring teeth, nostrils flaring, all as Joshua trees passed on the left and right. It’s like I wasn’t even there. I wished I weren’t. The stuffed bear in my lap smiled up at me, and as the radio sang, “...but the levy was dry...” I threw it out the open window. But the arguing continued, and Joshua trees passed in slow motion on the left and right. — Isaac Jensen
Paper or Plastic?
"Plastic, please. No Patrick, no more candy." The boy reduces a Twix bar into hot sludge then screeches as his mother jerks the molten, brown plunder from his anxious grip. He lunges, nips her on the sleeve. "No biting. Count to ten."
She clutches his wrists. "Quiet voice, Patrick."
Butter. Bread. Chardonnay.
The boy twitches, squints and shrieks a siren howl. She ducks the shrapnel of anonymous glares.
Ketchup. Coffee. Eucerin.
The cashier leans in, flits her eyes in spy mode, utters a clandestine hiss, "Is he ... autistic?"
"Yes. But no need to whisper. We already told him." — John Nelson
“How in the world did I end up alone?” Jill cried. No one ever called.
She'd had four husbands. Her daughters were divorced and didn't cater to her. Besides, they moved away, taking her precious grandchildren with them. Her parents died, leaving money, so she had no need to associate with her three contemptible siblings who dared argue about important issues.
Her multi-year pre-retirement co-workers were worthless, not to her standards.
She got constant compliments about her flawless appearance, though. She smiled.
Gently clearing her eyes, she decided none of them was worth it. After all, who's more important than herself? — Sharon Ganson
Labor of Love
She was exhausted. Sweating, straining, pushing for the last 10 hours. Her back and abdominal muscles fatigued, her legs trembling. She wanted to just stop, sleep. But there's no turning back, her body had a purpose now, regulating her breathing, clenching her teeth. The end was almost here - she thought she could even see it. She took one last breath, held it, bore down and strained mightily. She pushed as she'd never pushed before and felt something burst in her eye. She watched his body roll over the edge of the cliff, bouncing on the way down. Finally, relief. — Diane Gordon
Welcome to the Neighborhood
People huddle around the new grocery store, peering in.
As it grows from mysterious beginnings — what could it be, we wondered — we prepare for the day it opens, the changes in our routines this will bring.
Life will be better when it opens.
It will be closer. Prices will be reasonable. The wheels on the grocery carts won’t stick. I will become beautiful. They will have that one type of corn chip discontinued years ago. The one that looked like a Dorito but tasted like a Cheeto? They will have it.
Life will be better when it opens. Won’t it? — Matthew Weaver
A Curve in the Road
She was adrenaline-pushing through an almost-hairpin turn, imagining her hair streaming behind her, her skin catching moonshine like in a romance novel, her the heroine needing something or someone strong, someone telling her to ease off the gas, that too soon she’d stop beating the centrifugal pull, that she would be missed if she let her car hurl off the road, to spin and flip, not the proverbial ride of her life, just the last.
But her hair did not stream, skin did not glow, and she pulled out of the turn without anyone noticing or speaking a word. — Kathryn Houghton
The Esteemed Mr. Bumberscuzzle
Herald was a sorcerer. But he didn’t like to be called Herald. No. He liked to be called Dorfel P. Bumberscuzzle. The P. stood for Bert. Sitting in his room, he smiled to himself as he took a deep breath and shot fireballs out of his ears. Small ones, not big ones.
Popping his neck, he wiggled his toes, and a flower started growing out of the ceiling, down to the ground.
“Hello, Mister Bumberscuzzle,” said the flower.
Dorfel then shot purple streamers out of his nose. All these wonderful things Dorfel did in his little room. His little padded room. — Nicholas Monnastes
My Iron Lung
The sorrow furrowed itself deep between his brows, leaving an unfathomable and permanent crevice on his face. Like a wrung-out rag, he lay slumped across the yellow linoleum, not daring to move and forgetting to breathe. Memory was a terrible thing, for his was all too candid and unbroken. Images poured out unbidden and dangerous, playing against the faded walls in vivid Technicolor. Jack Daniels and Coke colored his shirt a deep amber-brown. Feathery ashes touched his left hand, his last cigarette had burned out. Tears sparked at the corners of his eyes as he thought of nothing but ashes. — Ashely Whedon
“It’s snowing,” she said.
“Sometimes, with a breeze, it’s just frost being dusted from the trees,” he said.
They jogged in the middle of the street, between lawns that looked like T-shirts rolled out and frozen as a prank. Mounds of brown ice covered the curbs on either side, like bumpers at a child’s bowling party.
People don’t think in language, she thought, or she thought something that could be coded as such. Her next code: there are two kinds of people; I categorize all winter — the pure-clean-hope people, and the brown-before-it-hits-the-ground people.
“Look,” she said.
“No,” he said. “It’s not.” — Ross Carper
The plane drifted down with the snow while Tom Petty sang "Since You Said You Loved Me" on her iPod.
She deplaned into his arms, moaning as he kissed her. People stared.
The ranch house loomed in the moonlight and her passion awakened like a trump card at a dealer's table. They ripped and burned their way onto the floor and devoured each other's heat and wetness. Somewhere outside a coyote howled as she moved rhythmically astride him.
His eyes met hers and she screamed, "Oh god!" He whispered back, "The name is Vince."
Can you say Hallelujah? — Denise Reynaud
Me and Fill in the Blank
Mother and I, nesting dolls for nine months. The next nine years: Daddy’s little girl. Then there was awkward me, hiding in bathroom stalls, comparing notes written in Sharpie with scenes from dog-eared romance novels. Me and he. That is the story that everyone writes. Right? I dreamt about it day and night. Only now my history reads like a Mad Libs entry: me and little drummer boy, me and knucklehead, me and solitaire, me and… I’m in love with cotton candy, but she melts in the rain; she disappears when I cry. Once again, it’s just me, myself, and I. — Danielle Ringwald
She posted another note in her window this morning. It says, “Suzanne, don’t forget that I dated a very prominent attorney and he’ll take my calls.” It is next to last week’s “No more parasites, no more con artists.” Does her placement of messages mean anything? Top left, bottom middle. F**kin’ weird.
Four months later, there are two voids in the window — exactly my eye level — left uncovered by posted notes. The kitchen curtain’s drawn back for once and she dangles from a noose. I see one giant note tacked to the wall inside: Why didn’t you ask? — Matthew Geense
I Shouldn't Have Said What I Did
The Whitmore Bugle called yesterday to schedule a review.
I attributed my anxiety to the habitual dread of independent restaurateurs. In the cutthroat world of Chili’s, Applebee’s and Red Lobster, each Technicolor commercial for a two-for-one special rolled Sisyphus’ boulder backwards, right at us. The masochistically-minded manager could graph seafood costs into an exponential curve. A bad review in the local paper might as well be syphilis.
So when my ex-girlfriend smiled at me and jotted on her pad before sitting at the reserved table, I could immediately think of three reasons to regret medicating my anxiety with cooking wine. — Jessalynn Uchacz
It was a hiccup of the fates that opened my eyes too wide. Looking around the shoe store, I could suddenly see into what Wikipedia tells me was the fifth dimension — a maelstrom of coulds, shoulds, and would haves. I saw every possible event unfolding in my mind like reverse origami, and choosing the right shoes became a lot more difficult. I wanted to cry out at my fellow shoppers, “Wait! You’re making a terrible mistake! Those loafers are totally wrong for you!” But in a few moments I was gone, having realized my ultimate destiny: I had to save Tokyo. — Jordan Delker
Encounters of the Unexpected Kind
I will see you when I least expect to see you. Maybe you’ll appear on a busy sidewalk or at that tiny coffee shop with the uncomfortable chairs. Perhaps you’ll be in the produce section of a store at which I rarely shop.
There you will be, maybe balding or with a child in tow. There will be no fanfares or alleluias. Just us and a few dusty memories among the laughter, or lattes, or off-season melons. And from nowhere I will hear the faint inkling of a sound: “Let go. Let go. Let go.” — Tricia Leahy-Charles
ER Comfort Care
“Suck it up before you go in there, Father. It won’t be long.”
The putrid stench of burned flesh and hair caught in his throat.
Intense green eyes glared through charred remains; the face, melted and puddling.
Father thumbed her matted hair with a cross of Holy Oil. “I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
A gasp, and intensity softened to surrender. Whispers escaped her gnarled lips: “How do I look, Father? Jesus is here!”
“Like the most beautiful woman ever taken Home.” — Pam Albee
And a Very Merry Xmas to You, Too
Lovely Christmas letter. Who’d have guessed little Tommee would dominate the school play? A talking onion! The Oriental Express sounds fab. We couldn’t get away, but were never lonely. One day, Sears called 27 times! And Zeke’s such a character — kept wondering aloud if we’d ever have kids, just so I didn’t miss Mother. My sister’s pregnancy e-mails have finally taught me to spell “hemorrhoid” correctly and my brother, like yours, just got his Ph.D. — only his diploma says “Pfunky Hair Design.” Congratulations to Jaymes on the Poet-in-Residence gig. Your dad still golf with the nominating committee chair?
— Norma — Holly Doering
He lies. I’ve known that since 7th grade, when he cheated off me in math. I knew when he watched me in the shower after gym but denied it.
He says he was orphaned by tragedy but his parents and three sisters make that story laughable.
Downtown, on weekends, he lies about his age. But why? In this town, Abercrombie guys can get cocktails and get laid without a fake I.D.
I know he lies about wanting to be a doctor. He has a poet’s heart.
With perfect lips, he lies and says he doesn't love me. — Gary Lindsey
Rick’s quivering when I open the door. This morning over breakfast at the diner, he babbled nonstop about another sure winner, his third new business this year: shampooing carpets.
“Y’know the client I told you about – lawyer with beige mohair six inches deep that cost a fortune? Now it’s beige and pink. The chemicals leached red dye out of my tennis shoes that won’t come out of mohair.”
“But surely you’re bonded.”
“I… fudged on that. Planned to buy insurance out of my profits. Say, I gotta leave town. Any chance you could lend me money? Only temporarily, of course.” — Cookie Robertson