Winners of the
2010 Mona Schreiber Prize for
Humorous Fiction and
1st Place, 2010: “A Little Toilet Drama” © Sharon Rina de Villiers, Durban, South Africa
My dearest Gary,
I’m sorry to have to do this in a letter, but seeing as though you still won’t come out of the toilet, I really don’t have another choice.
Firstly, please stop crying. You are a 32-year-old man who runs his own chain of well-known restaurants. You are highly successful in every area of your life and so singing “Who Wants to Live Forever” out the window of our bathroom with full force is a little unnecessary. Also, you now have a backup singer in the form of our neighbor’s dog who has to be locked away in the garage because he won’t stop howling along with your personal tribute to Queen.
So your marriage proposal didn’t go as smoothly as you planned. So what? I still said yes. (Although I think you were unconscious at the time.) Your idea of surprising me with an engagement ring by pushing it into my mouth while kissing me was very original and I thank you for that. I am, however, sincerely sorry that in your excitement, you accidentally swallowed that same ring. I find it incredible how quickly you began to resemble a kind of foreign, hungover frog on some sort of drug: bulging eyes, purple face, that “I’m-this-close-to-projectile-vomting” look and running around the restaurant grasping at your neck.
I apologize that the waiters, the other patrons and I started laughing and cheering at this. I’ve known you for three years and even I couldn’t tell that you weren’t dancing. I feel awful.
I want you to know that I rushed you to the hospital as quickly as I could and you were tended to immediately. Your passageways were cleared, X-rays were taken and a double dose of laxatives were administered. Your doctor—a man in his 30s who incidentally looks like a guy from that Spartan movie, you know, the buff, shirtless one who screamed a lot and I had that dream about that made you feel a little uncomfortable—well, he explained to me that you had swallowed a strange object.
While your bowels were roaring away, the Spartan warrior-doctor invited me into his dark X-ray room. At first, we both burst out laughing because it appeared as though you had swallowed a napkin holder. Then, however, I remembered that ages ago I had commented that I didn’t want a flashy engagement ring (which you took extremely literally, apparently) and then realized that you had swallowed the ring that you were about to propose to me with. Had there been a diamond on the ring, the doctor would have had to operate to get it out. I suppose that your being a Scrooge is a good thing after all. Ha! Just kidding. I still love you.
So you don’t have to worry. I didn’t first see my ring floating around amongst half-digested spaghetti in your bedpan. I had seen the ring half an hour previously with the ripped doctor in the cozy, X-ray room, making its way through your intestines.
I know you still have a runny tummy, but I promise I can’t hear the noises that you keep screaming that you “know” I can hear. This is a very thick door, my love, and all I can hear is your cursing, crying and singing which I’d appreciate your turning down the volume on. My mother arrived last night to offer moral support and your noises scared her. She forgot that you spent the night crying in the toilet and woke up with a start this morning, thinking that we had a banshee haunting the house.
Your doctor from the hospital last night—did I mention that he has delivered exactly 1001 babies—has offered to come over and check up on us. He said I will need emotional support as a result of receiving an engagement ring without a diamond. How funny!
Gary, I want you to know that I would be wearing that ring right now if it wasn’t lying in disinfectant gel in the laundry room.
Please come out of the bathroom so that we can start our wonderful life together. Also, my mother is a bit upset about you disturbing her sleep last night and she’d like to talk to you about it.
Do you need any more toilet paper?
P.S. Your sister called. I explained what happened and she said she’d let the whole family know what “went down” (Ha!) and that you’re alright.
2nd Place, 2010: “Plane Jane” © Kerreanna DiMauro, Waltham, MA
My name is Jane Redeye and today marks my five-year anniversary as C.E.O. of Stretch Air, the world’s most trusted no-frills airline. We promise to provide no-nonsense, slightly unpleasant flying experiences to those folks on a meager budget willing to endure discomfort and indignity. Sure, cost-cutting measures have made us the punchline of insider jokes, but we’re confident at least student travelers will choose Stretch Air.
What we’ve done at Stretch Air is removed the last 10 rows of seats in the aircraft and replaced them with “standing seats,” (Yay!) a standing cabin outfitted with various handrails, much like a New York City subway car, only without the benches, the panhandlers and persistent funk smell. The standing area is affordable at only $30 one-way and is guaranteed to simultaneously tighten your biceps, neck, back, abdomen and quadriceps. Ripe from full-body CT scans by airport security, you’ll be loose and ready to stand upright during a particularly shaky flight from Boston to D.C.
Another way we trim the fat off both the ticket price and our portly passengers is to insist that the traveler carry his or her own luggage onto the plane. Baggage handlers are usually perverted thieves who rummage through your personal items, anyway. The idea of a bellhop securing your suitcases is an outdated, elitist ideal borne of a bygone era and one Mr. Louis Vuitton.
We’re able to charge very little for a boarding pass because we’ve punctured the basic misconception that travelers must be fed, hydrated and entertained during routine flights. No peanuts, no Diet Coke, no Happy Meal, no meal of any kind! Just fill up on bread before leaving for the airport. Stretch Air is not a fun, family restaurant suspended above the clouds. (For pregnant women, the elderly or those with a severe flu, if you require a daily need of water, we can offer you a quick spritz of H2O.)
The in-flight entertainment is supplied by the Improv group Hey Small Spender. Prepare yourself for a troupe of hilarious stand-up chameleons. (Comedians cost more.) They’re a wonderfully assembled lot: misfits and flunkies plucked from high school drama clubs in states that encourage inbreeding. Just kidding. Kissing cousins are forever banned, thanks in part to the notorious 2004 incident as stated in the general release form. There are absolutely no magazines nor books available. When did the airplane become the new bookmobile? If you are a frequent flier who has attained mile-high club status, we may or may not offer you a take-out restaurant menu and ask you to locate typos. It’s impossible to glance over the entrée “Peeking Duck” and refrain from giggling.
We’ve replaced oxygen masks with durable plastic Halloween masks. In the event of a real emergency, our passengers don a Freddy Krueger, Grim Reaper or The Joker mask. These “killer shields” keep everyone calm during erratic plummets toward Earth. Try it. Now look in the mirror. Yep. You look like a haunted house reject.
Furthermore, you will not find hand sanitizer dispensers anywhere on the plane. As far as I can tell, germs don’t ruin the economy. Useless spending does. You won’t have to drown your hands in Purell since the only bathroom on board is a pay toilet. We cut down on the overuse of bathroom visits, charging only those who insist on disposing human waste over glorious mountaintops and spellbinding oceanic masses. Cartoon-themed toilet paper is available to maintain company morale. (Non-employees will have to fend for themselves and pretend they’re jolly campers.)
Children fly free…because we have a strict no-child policy. In the beginning, we drew the line at infants – both screaming and perfectly likable babies – but soon realized that kids 13 and under are also obnoxious, incapable of controlling their attention-seeking outbursts or “playing nice.”
But your pets are welcome. Pets are priced according to their cuteness ranking and number of YouTube hits they receive once we’ve videotaped them performing an inane trick. If your beloved pet dies mid-flight, you may use it as either a flotation device or a pillow. Please be courteous to the passenger nearest you; he or she may not be as lucky. Being the owner of a living pet means having to nap without an animal-padded headrest.
We hope you’ll choose Stretch Air, the vessel where extremely ordinary people can stretch their legs and their dollar.
At Stretch Air, our motto is: “Keep your expectations low and we’ll get you high.” *
*(Marijuana not included.)
3rd Place, 2010: “Why I Love to Write” © Keladria Boyt, Tucson, AZ
I love to write because it keeps me from slapping my imaginary assistant, Sally. (We’re good, now. Writing heals.) When all I feel like doing is tripping Carebears and pulling the plug on the “jumping castle,” I have to write.
In life, I’ll be nice, play fair, make you a sandwich and rub your back. But in Writing Land, why yes, I do own the whole damn place. And I’ll call you a “ho” if I feel like it.
I love to write because it keeps me from doing real work. I can do absolutely nothing all day and call it “brainstorming.” People are impressed with that.
Instead of playing with people’s minds, I play with words. I love words. Love to twist them, eat them, blackmail them, spit ‘em out, wrestle them, corrupt them. Then offer them a cigarette and start manipulating them all over again.
In writing, there is no one there to stop my madness.
Writing is good for me. It keeps me from eating cheesecake, collecting cats and licking the earlobes of hot strangers on the street. It keeps me out of pool halls and strip joints, except when doing serious research, as is required with the job.
In Writing Land, I trip the bully in the school bus aisle. He lands flat and red-faced. And no one catches me. There is justice.
It lets me create magic, fear, wonder and belly laughs.
Writing lets me make fun of others in a public forum, under the protection of the First Amendment. I love this. I need this.
In writing, I can live vicariously through my slutty characters, when my real love life feels like Kraft Mac-N-Cheese. In writing, I am Cherries Flambé. Yes. My name is Bianca. I always have a breeze flowing through my red hair and every man is my über-skilled “lovah.”
Writing suits me. Socially unacceptable acts are largely okay, falling under the broad heading of “research.” And I make myself laugh all day, my favorite thing to do.
Writing lets me go anywhere I want to go, unlike life. (Restraining order be damned.) It’s the only way to extend my time in La-La-Land, without being committed. Again.
I love writing because my alter ego, Svetlana, the highly trained KGB spy, can do everything I cannot. (And she veeel eenterrrogate you veeth top secret torture techneeeque. Da.)
I love to write because my wacked-out voice needs to escape. I like to wonder if there are people out there who need my kind of kooky. I needed to read a voice like this when I was young.
I love writing because it lets me expose myself to strangers. And touch them. But it’s just writing. So I can’t go to jail for it.
If I didn’t write, I might spontaneously combust. (Did I spell that right? Sally, can you Google that for me? And some coffee would be nice.)