The Mona Schreiber Prize for 
Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction

Winners of the 2008 Mona Schreiber Prize for 
Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction:

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 paid.

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 attacked.

“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 trade, however—“

“Stop…reading!” Frankie bellowed.

“However,” I shouted back, “we cannot continue to have meetings where bloody corpses are found in the men’s room.”

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 holier-than-thou snobbery.”

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 her.

3rd place, “Too Old to Rock and Roll (or: Hope I Diet Before I Get Old)” © Therra Cathryn Gwyn, Palm Coast, FL

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 thought defiantly.

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 this crap.”

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.

Winners of the 2007 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2006 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2005 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2004 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2003 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2002 Mona Schreiber Prize

Winners of the 2001 Mona Schreiber Prize

Mona with the winners of the first
Foster City Writers Contest, which she founded in 1974.
Left to right: Mayor Jim Dufflemeyer, Stephanie Chang, Wolfgang Molke, Mary Ann Benoit, Mona and Carole Di Camillo.