The Mona Schreiber Prize for 
Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction

Winners of the 2001 Mona Schreiber Prize
for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction:

First Place:

"Under the Influence" by Amber Ferguson, Livingston, TX

Don't you hate it when it happens? You're minding your own business, going about your normal routines--maybe reading, ironing or paying some bills, when get an overwhelming craving for Spam. You drop everything to dig through the pantry, looking for that elusive blue can.

Your mouth waters; you fling aside packages of crackers, Twinkies, popcorn but, alas, no Spam!

Your heart beats faster. You ransack the refrigerator and find only sliced honey ham from
the deli-pricey stuff. Blah! You race to the basement and paw quickly through old Y2K rations, though you know it is futile. You have raided this stash before. There is no Spam left. You panic.

You must get to the store. "Of all the days for the car to break down..."You call the bus line, but the number nine is not due for another two, agonizing hours. You consider calling a cab, but you're low on cash.

You try to go back to work but can't concentrate. Images of previous Spam sandwiches present themselves for your inspection and dance within your head, taunting you: Spam on white with mayo, lettuce and a dash of lemon pepper; Spam and mustard, tomatoes and black olives; Spam, plain, on whole wheat toast with a glass of champagne on the side. The images are maddening. The craving is so real, it is painful. You could call your sister, but do you dare?

Shaking, drenched in sweat, you misdial the number not once but twice, as you think back to that night, the last desperate Spam call. She had been furious, disgusted to hear your pleading voice at 3:00 AM, promising her anything if only she would bring over a can.

"I can't believe this is happening again." As you begin the ten block walk to the store, memories of your senior year in college emerge. "I had to have it. Had to! I'd never have made it through those late-night cram sessions without it." The worried look on your roommate's face, the night you clung to your can of Spam, passing up a piping hot pizza, flits before your eyes.

"Mother, I swear, the turkey was wonderful!" Your mother's hurt expression when she found you hiding in the guest room, with a plate of stuffing and three generous slices of Spam, pops into your thoughts.

"I'm sorry. Pleeeease!" The aching memory of your husband packing, screaming he could not live with a woman who would falsely claim pregnancy just to cover up a ten-can Spam binge, explodes within your soul. Too excruciating to bear, you stop dead in your tracks, smack in the middle of a busy intersection. A BMW slams on its brakes. You drop heavily to your knees, sobbing, mindless of the screeching tires and cars slamming into each other in order to avoid you. The police will be arriving any moment. They will notify your husband, your mother, your sister. Soon, they will all know. Despite your best intentions, once again, Spam has become your master.

Suddenly, something inside you snaps. "No, no, NO!" Your will power, that paltry, nonexistent force, at last rises up in a magnificent rebellion. You raise your bleary eyes toward the glory of the noonday sun and feel the power of the artificial meat weaken. It crumbles, crushed by your emerging strength. You rise to your feet, shaken but confident, dazed Free from the grip of the spicy meat, a hold even electric shock treatments hadn't broken. That door has been shut. You are free!

A new life begins for you. Without the influence of Spam restraining you, your creative genius emerges. You develop cures for the common cold, cellulite and athlete's foot. Five years pass. You are the CEO of the fastest rising company in American history. A pharmaceutical giant offers you millions for the formulas. As you lower your pen to sign the contract, the deal of a lifetime, a long-quenched memory of anchovies on a bagel, topped with Spam and melted mozzarella, suddenly slams into your brain. Your speech begins to slur from the drool and, unable to understand you, they believe you have backed out of the sale. You are ruined. You don't care.

The pen lies abandoned on the contract, as you rev your engine and speed recklessly toward the nearest supermarket. You've become a statistic, another life wasted, ruined by Spam.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Amber Ferguson

Second Place:

"Just a Stage" by Thomas Becker, Laconia, NH

"You need to do something about Junior," said Marcia.

"He'll grow out of it," said Harold, who bowed his head before taking the first bite of toast.

"I'm not so sure. Not everyone shares your blase attitude toward sex."

"Excuse me for not allowing animalistic impulses to dominate my existence."

"Don't get pious with me," said Marcia. "Our son wants to be an artist? That's fine, but shouldn'the be sketching more than breasts and vaginas?"

"He used to smoke. Does he now?" asked Harold.

"No. Maybe one in the morning, but nothing like before."

"And his experimentation with drugs is by the boards. Am I right?"

"I suppose, if we can believe his urine."

"When was the last time you found a gin bottle under his bed? I mentioned your concerns to Reverend Black and he said his boys went through the same thing. His exact words were, 'All they could talk about was puffy nipples. Then, a week after joining the Y, they wanted to get pierced and the fetishes were over.' I agree with Black. If we make it an issue, it will become one."

"But Junior is only nine years old," said Marcia.

Harold kissed his wife on the forehead and walked down the hall to Junior's room, where he found his son sitting in front of the new, flat-screen monitor.

"Check out this awesome clitoris," said the boy.

"Could you turn that off so we can talk?" asked Harold.

"I'm not dropping acid, if that's what you're worried about," said Junior, as he obediently
disconnected from the Internet. "Drugs are for dopes!"

"I'm proud of you for coming to that realization. Do you have something a little less graphic in your menu of screen savers? What happened to the one where Bart Simpson is dismembering his family? What do you find so fascinating about all this?" asked Harold.

"I guess it's kind of like how the doctor explained my drinking problem," said Junior. "Natural curiosity mixed with a double shot of excessive peer pressure."

"My Lord!" said Harold, as he looked at the enlarged image his son had brought to the monitor's screen. "Is that possible?"

"I was wondering the same thing. I know they expect kids to believe anything. This is kind of cool, us spending time together."

Father and son both turned when they heard Marcia coming down the hall. Before she reached his room, Junior had clicked his mouse button twice and the monitor now displayed a map of Africa with Christian missionary sites marked by exploding starbursts.

"Even from here, I can see our dedicated friends are making progress amongst the stubbornSudanese," said Marcia.

The ringing doorbell interrupted any further conversation and soon, Junior was off to play with a group of friends and a pair of apprehensive-looking girls. Harold went to his study but found it impossible to concentrate on his sermon.

"I'm going to the store. Is there anything you need?" asked Marcia.

"No, I'm fine."

The family car had barely cleared the driveway before Harold was seated in front of Junior's keyboard. Typing in "Brazilian sluts" yielded mildly interesting material. Then, Harold remembered what Reverend Black had said about the "Favorites" button. Several clicks there provided access to more images than Harold's latent libido could handle. The minister was back at his desk, doodling on a legal pad, only moments before Marcia returned.

After greeting her husband, Marcia went to her room to change. The moment he heard her door close, Harold removed his clothes, dashed down the hall and burst into her room.

"What are you doing?" asked Marcia. "It's the middle of the day. Oh, my!"


Junior and Leon walked into the seemingly vacant house. When the boys reached Junior's room, they heard noise coming from behind the computer.

"What's that?" asked Leon.

"It sounds like the soundtrack from "Hollywood Hotboxes," but that can't be. The computer is off."

"It's in the other room," whispered Leon, who had stepped out in the hall.

The door to Marcia's room was barely open but the two-inch gap gave the boys plenty of space to peek in and observe Junior's parents on the sheets.

Junior grabbed his friend's arm and pulled him away. The boys then tiptoed out of the house.

Once on the porch, Leon said, "That was disgusting!"

"I know," said Junior.

"Got anything we can smoke?" asked Leon.

Thomas Becker