Nov. 7 2012 11:51 AM

Behold the winners of our short-story contest

Illustrations by Scrojo

The long wait is over—behold the winners of our 10th annual story-story contest

First Place
DNA is Key Clue in Zoo Mystery

A body discovered in the big-cat exhibit has been identified as double amputee Lefty Gabooble. The one-legged lion tamer was the last of the daring Gaboobles, a family of circus performers who fell victim to many big-tent tragedies. Greg Gabooble went first. The family patriarch exploded in a calamitous mix of fire eating and farting elephants. His half sister Demi continued performing despite mishaps, switching from hatchet catcher to human missile. Spectators also gasped when a clown-car snafu snuffed out the 15 funniest Gaboobles. Driver Goober Gabooble survived, but ended his own act with a starter pistol.

Peter Thomas Franson Hepburn, La Mesa

 Second Place
Oh, Cosgrove

Cosgrove the raccoon would visit Max Diamond every night when he got home. Max would fix himself a perfectly chilled dirty martini, play ’80s music and dance around the kitchen with a tambourine, Cosgrove waiting, knowing eventually Max would get an egg, open the door and roll it outside. Cosgrove would then trap the egg with his razor-sharp claws and teeth and suck it out.

After six martinis, Max Diamond went outside to pet Cosgrove. Max Diamond awoke in the hospital—436 stitches in his face, left nostril and bottom lip ripped off and a hangover.

“Oh, Cosgrove.”

Max Diamond, La Jolla

Third Place

“What’s in a name?” 

“Pretty much the manifestation of all the child will grow to be.”

My mother and the doctor debated back and forth, although from inside her, the sounds seemed muffled through oceanic bursts of amniotic fluid. Even before I was born, I knew “Soliloquy” was a pitiful excuse for a  girl’s name. Teachers, friends, balding uncles would try to shorten it, sweeten it. Despite endless rounds of “Lil,” “Quy-Quy,” I was destined to become a public speaker—even though the majority of the speaking is done alone, in a dimly lit room, to my cat, Meowington.

Justine McGrath, Pacific Beach

Honorable Mention

For my 92nd birthday, my kids got me a cat.

“I’ve been widowed for 10 years. I don’t need no pet,” I told ’em.

“Mother, you need something to care for and talk to.”

That was a month ago. Yesterday, Curiosity started talking back: first about litter-box hygiene and catnip, then about my dead husband. Wanted to know how I felt about all those infidelities. This morning, he told me how I should vote, said I should think about being cremated. I warned him that the Humane Society has a 90-day return policy.

Bil Fuhrer, Bay Park

Honorable Mention
Authentic Vacation

The driver had been hired to kidnap the family, whether they believed it or not. They were large-hearted Canadians, so, of course, it wasn’t on their minds. But he had already done it and they didn’t even know it. They were having the grandest vacation. He was the best guide they’d ever had. They had never driven so fast down such narrow alleys! Were those real guns, carried openly in the street? Homemade tortillas! Chickens, hanging! He started crying at the wheel, apologizing in Spanish, and the mother just sat next to him and patted his back.

“There, there, dear.”

Lana Storey, Normal Heights

Honorable Mention
Truck Stop Detective

I worked as a long-distance trucker for a year.

Drove 96,000 miles listening and re-listening to the collected works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

Got it in my head to be a detective. I set up shop in some truck-stop bathroom in some speed-trap town.

Truckers were supposed to write down their mysteries and slip them to me through a hole in the stall door.

Things didn’t go as planned.

Ben Ritter, Santee

Honorable Mention

On the shores of Tuvalu, a unicorn trotted across the sand, escaping his busy life of magic school, meadow-romping and log-jumping.

Admiring the crashing waves, a sparkle caught his eye; half-buried lay an intricately spiraling conch, bright white with hints of ocean blue, exceptionally smooth and glossy. Wondering how far this exquisite object could project his voice, he drew in a mighty breath and released it through the conch.

Immediately, the unicorn’s head shred apart into bloody bits, raining chunks of red brain across the white beach. The seductive conch dropped back into the sand, awaiting its next victim.

An Nguyen, North Park

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?

I wanted fame, but weaving zombies into a classic seemed so yesterday.

“I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout killing no zombies, Miz Scarlet!” No, I had an original idea! Music and lyrics for “My Fair Yeti” flowed from me, but the script lacked… something. So I invited Stan to move in.

I loved his loping stride, the way he basked before my freezer, the rapid nostril twitch when the pizza guy hit our block. I loved him.

He bolted with Lola, my husky. Thick, white hairs stubble my sofa. Not sure if they’re Stan’s or that bitch Lola’s. I’m never vacuuming it.

Jackie Bouchard, La Jolla

Games Black Widows Play

He sat opposite her. 

“Can I get you a drink?” 

“Dirty martini?” 

“Dirty, huh?” 

Her lips puckered. “That’s how I like it.” 

He gulped. 

“You’re very handsome.” 

“You’re very forward.” 

“That a crime?” 

He shook his head. “Tell me—” 

“My life story?” She walked to the mirror. “Or just the juicy parts?” 

“Start with yesterday.” 

She reapplied lipstick. “You’re nosey.” 

“Occupational hazard.” 

She sat. “I was warned not to dwell on the past.”

“By a therapist?” 

“A lawyer.” 


Her eyebrow arched. “Good?” 

“With your fingerprints on the murder weapon, you’ll need one.”

“What fun would that be, detective?” 

W.A. Warner, Eastlake

Hammond Blue

Hammond Blue wanted to be an old man when he grew up. No one ever told him he couldn’t. I wanted to be an oak tree, as tall as the sky. I had a long way to go.

Hammond was the kind of sick that doesn’t get better. I told him to meet me in the field when his doctors told him it was time to go. He crossed his heart and promised, but he didn’t make it. He left without saying goodbye. I waited, lying alone in the grass, curled up and dreaming I was a tree.

Shannon Bates, University Heights

The Expensive Noodles

She disclosed a seductive smile as her wine glass touched her soft, full lips. Lucas couldn’t help but gaze at her lustily over his bowl of expensive noodles, aimlessly fondling his chopsticks. Maintaining eye contact, she gracefully removed her left breast from the confines of her tight red dress, leaned forward and dipped it into her soup. Somewhere in the restaurant a plate crashed to the floor.

Phil McAndrew, University Heights

Sea Bass and Key Lime Pie

It’s safe to say Di Rhea is the only quadriplegic assassin in Jackson. He was injured rollerblading. Di hated his name.

Fran Sassel looked a bit like Al Gore, but was surprisingly striking in boots. Fran wanted her husband killed. When her lover gets out of the joint, they have plans for the Keys.

“Five-thousand in $50 Olive Garden Gift Cards,” said Di. “Your husband will be six feet under in 24 hours.”

Lou Sassel died peacefully on the toilet, his last thought was Maybe I shouldn’t have had the sea bass?

Fran really loved the Keys, especially the pie.

Doug Leiber, Ocean Beach

The Sunday School Teacher

Everybody knows Millie keeps a loaded .45 behind the bar. Nobody there knows she teaches Sunday school. Every Sunday morning, she dons a wig and long-sleeved dress to cover the tattoos, then leads discussions on selfless love.

At the sleazy bar, she dispenses cheap booze, breaks up fights and displays lots of cleavage and impudence to encourage big tips from rough regulars.

When a drunk talks about changing his evil ways, Millie is ready with answers. She is always moved by a tanked-up confessor’s sincerity, something she never finds in church.

Bil Fuhrer, Bay Park


In space, no one can hear you scream.

Nor can they hear you cry, cough, sneeze, wheeze, belch, fart or giggle. If you can make noises by sticking a hand in your armpit and jerking your arm up and down quickly, no one will hear this, either. In space, no one can hear a tree falling in the forest; nor can they hear the sound of one hand clapping. In space, no one can karaoke.

But, worse, in space, no one can eat ice cream. That’s why they have space ice cream, which is different.

Roger found out the hard way.

Ryan Forsythe, Alpine

There’s No Place Like Divorce Court

Dorothy sighed at her husband stretched on the sofa. “You never want to do anything.”

“Me? You’re the one who’s all, ‘There’s no place like home,’” he mimicked.

“Just because I hate traveling doesn’t mean I don’t want to go out. We could go dancing. Or, I heard Scarecrow and his wife take a wine-tasting class.”

“Pseudo-intellectual snob,” Lion muttered into the nub of his tail.



“Shoulda married him when I had the chance.” Dorothy returned to her knitting.



“Face it, Dot. If you wanted romance, you shoulda married the Tin Man.”

Jackie Bouchard, La Jolla

New Position

“Maybe a new position would fix everything,” she said, “something that really puts me in command.”

He stared at her. It had been less than a week.

“I mean, I’m pretty flexible. What do you think?” 

He tried to focus on his sandwich, the coffee maker in the corner under the cabinets, the calendar of birthdays on the bulletin board. Anything but her. He chewed slowly, trying to come up with a response. She sighed and put her hands on her hips impatiently.

“No,” he said finally. “No other options or a new position. I said you’re fired.”

Shannon Bates, University Heights

How They Get You

He tried to tell her. “Don’t let vampires in the house! It’s not all sparkles and teen angst. They’re soulless killers.”

“Those eyes,” she said. “He sees my soul.”

The party ruined. Blood everywhere. A smug, immortal douchebag railing about the frailty of human life while the few survivors cringe in terror and beg for undelivered mercy.

It’s that heart-throb look. That’s how they get you.

Steve (McGuinn), University Heights

Rock Star

Benny was a big deal—went from a band to a solo career. But he wanted privacy. He couldn’t even go fly-fishing.

So he gave it up, moved deep into Africa. Finally. Peace in a tropical village. No crowds. He could fish all day. He even took out his uke and wrote some new songs. He played all the time in his lonely shack. It was fun again.

That’s when the natives decided they’d heard enough.

They emerged from the rainforest, filleted him and roasted him on a spit. Then they feasted on him—a high honor in their culture.

Stephen Silke, El Cerrito

Daddy’s Girl

I’ll never forget last Christmas. We called my ankle monitor “daddy’s watch” in front of Emmy, our 4-year-old daughter, and I had it removed on the 23rd. Suddenly tetherfree, I put up the lights just before Emmy’s “Picture Granny” (the grandma we point to in pictures on our refrigerator) arrived.

Picture Granny tried to girlie-girl Emmy with pink these and pinker thats—all thrown aside, except for a Cinderella watch. Emmy yanked up a leg of her Batman pajamas, strapped the watch to her ankle and hopped over to me, yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, look at my watch!”

Marcus Tanawan, University Heights

They Still Live

“I’ve come to stop your madness!” screamed Frank, his gun shaking.

The executive sat, silhouetted by the glow of the television.

“You’re too late; it’s live.” He laughed. “We spent decades trying to transmit apathy, obedience and fear. But all it took was to offer something that would make them feel justified in their sloth. Show them videos of useless idiots and they feel accomplished without improving anything, without challenging us. We never dreamed control could be so simple.”

Frank shot, splattering blood and brains across the screen. Beneath the gore, “Honey Boo Boo Real Jersey Shore World” continued to play.

John Perkins, South Park

Zombies Don’t Surf

“No way, it really worked!” Jared said as he finished the incantation. Madam Ellie said it would bring back the dead, but he only half believed her. The zombie was going to help him take back his beach break.

He paddled out the next day with the zombie wading in after. It didn’t take long for Jared to get crowded out of the lineup, and the zombie began its attack. One by one, each surfer was pulled under, leaving Jared with the surf to himself. He couldn’t help but smile, until he felt a cold grip from below.

Shane Lutz, Carlsbad

The Last Supper, Or Next

Boy, it’s green out tonight. Hongre, I am so hongre! I need sumpin to eat. Decisions, decisions. No more fast food. But it all is kinda fast. That looks good.

Wait a minute, what just happened? Sum-a-bitch with a hat on. I am fast, but not that fast. The light! Don’t go to the light! (I heard that somewhere.) Left turn, now right turn. That didn’t work.

What the hell is that laying next to me, the last thing I’ll ever see. Pabst Blue… How ghetto! So, take the hook out already, bastard-face!

Peter Burke, Oceanside


“Did you hear about Bobbi?” Ray had to shift out of ukatasana to see who asked. It was Ashley, the Tuesday instructor.

“Bobbi? As in moved-to-India Bobbi?” 

“Yeah,” Mary said, dipping down to bhujangasana beside him. “She’s dead. She went crazy during an intense meditation class. Started screaming she was the boddhisatva and threw herself off a roof. Didn’t you guys date or something for a while?” 

Ray was locked in a tree pose. “Yeah, something like that” 

“Anyway, the memorial service is tomorrow. Can you come?” 

Ray concentrated, shifting from Warrior One to Two.

“I’ll think about it”

Matt Lewis, North Park


Really, it wasn’t a good idea. But she met him outside a coffee shop on Coast Highway. He sat on the fence around the electrical pole like he was sitting on a barstool.

“I’m Mike,” he said. 

“Catherine,” she said. 

He followed her to her place in his black Mustang. They watched football and drank beer. He told her funny stories about hiding tools from the mechanics on ship. “They’d Sherlock that shit,” he said.

He penetrated her twice, and they got a rhythm. He promised to get her pregnant when his ship came back. She never saw him again.

Natori Moore, Carlsbad