Winners of the
2011 Mona Schreiber Prize for
Humorous Fiction and
1st Place, 2011: “The Artist Formerly Known” © Christopher Hivner, Dallastown, PA
Artist Chablis Visits Local Farm
Stu Hazzard, reporting for the Moon County News Nerds
World-renowned painter Chablis was in Moon County yesterday at the farm of Harald and Gretta van der Skeeterhornenflugen. The artist, who also claims to be clairvoyant and a Unitarian, came to research the farm’s champion fowl for his next masterwork, “Duck Wearing a Watch.”
The painting will be done on a twenty foot by twenty foot canvas made of Arkansas plywood which, according to Wikipedia, is sheep stomachs stapled together and covered in oatmeal. Chablis will also be mixing his paints using his own special blend of resins and the sweat of the proletariat.
I tried to get an interview with Chablis but was told, “Back away, you imbecile. You’re scaring the widdle duckies.”
The diminutive artist originally hails from Paraguay. His real name, according to Wikipedia, is Che Guevara and he adapted the name Chablis after a night of drinking with Danny Bonaduce. His last project was not a rousing success. In 2008, he painted a mural of the twelve days of Christmas as seen through the eyes of an alien from a planet in the Pegasi 51 system, on the side of a Manhattan office building. It was visible approximately twelve hours before local street artist D-Dog Nazzy tagged the building with “STEFONIA IS SUCH A CUTIE, WOW WHAT A BOOTY.”
Asked to repaint his swirling mass of seventeen shades of blue, Chablis refused. A scathing editorial read on National Public Radio damaged the artist’s reputation, severely curtailing sales of his silk screens of monkeys’ genitals that had been such a hit over the previous holiday season.
“Duck Wearing a Watch” will be Chablis’s first major work since that debacle, and he hopes it will revive his flagging career the way thirty-six months of veterinary pharmaceuticals and Malaysian hookers did not.
The famous painter’s visit to our small community caused quite a stir, with gawkers clogging the road into and out of the tiny burg of Clod. Harald and Gretta van der Skeeterhornenflugen were especially taken with their guest. Harald, 67, and Gretta, 65, have raised champion ducks and chickens for three decades.
“Gretta likes her birds,” Harald told us. “We tried cross-breeding once. We were going to call the result a ‘chuck’ but it didn’t work out too well. The birds ate some of our pigs and were sending psychic messages to Gretta in her sleep. We had to have them destroyed.” According to Wikipedia, this story is true.
Gretta braved a conversation with the enigmatic Chablis. “I asked him why he wanted to paint a duck, and he told me his grandfather was a free-range Andalusian mallard. I don’t know what that means.”
Chablis spent the afternoon sitting on the edge of the van der Skeeterhornenflugen’s pond communing with his proposed subjects. Onlookers say he took a liking to one duck in particular, naming her Peggy and doing an elaborate Morris dance in her honor. Could this be the duck in “Duck Wearing a Watch”? We’ll have to wait and see. Chablis isn’t scheduled to start his painting until his grant from Red Foster’s Aviation Disasters Cyclorama begins.
In the meantime, life in Clod is getting back to normal. Main Street is clear enough now for Mrs. Gunderby’s flock of cross-eyed sheep to amble back over to their meadow, and Harald and Gretta have returned to tending their prize-winning birds. Perhaps six-year-old Jeffy Flester summed up the excitement best, when he told me, “I like to eat ducks. My Gramma cooks them sometimes. They poop a lot.”
2nd Place, 2011: “Mediocre Burger” © Scott Erickson, Portland, OR
At the sound of the 3:00 buzzer, he rushed out of high school, clutching the sacred ketchup packet. It was as if the contents of the packet were his life blood, but thicker. He could not bear to be without the packet. It was the only thing he had left from her.
He leaned toward the one place that could satisfy his hunger, a hunger that was not only physical. He passed through the familiar glass doors and solemnly placed an order for a Double Whopper Large Value Meal. It was what he ordered every day. It was what she had had ordered.
When he saw the packets of salt, he nearly cried, for he realized that she contained salt, just like the packets. It seemed that he could not see or hear anything that did not remind him of her.
As he was eating the Double Whopper, it occurred to him that it was truly a mediocre burger. But he would never dare consider ordering an Original Chicken Sandwich or a BK Big Fish, not even a Cheesy Bacon BK Wrapper, although from the picture on the menu board it looked pretty good. He would feel unfaithful, as if he would be going out with another woman, even though it was a burger.
He realized that his memories were all he had, in addition to his stuff. He recalled their third date, when they dumpstered a 12-pack of Coors Light. He recalled how she laughed when she broke a jar of Del Monte kosher dill pickle slices over his heard. He recalled how she stopped laughing when she found a severed arm.
Why did she leave him? He considered the Double Whopper, and it occurred to him that someone like Buffy was too good for such a burger. Then, it came to him in a flash: He suddenly knew why she left. It was because of the mediocre burger.
He cursed his poverty. If only he had a better paper route, he could have afforded to take her to a real restaurant, like Pig ‘N Pancake. Maybe even Red Robin or Perkins.
It wasn’t him. It was the mediocre burger.
He missed her so much! Their time together was so short, just like midgets. If each of their minutes together had been a year, they would have been together for that many years.
Then it struck him with all the clarity of something really clear, like a glass marble with no colored squiggles in the middle. Or like water where you can see way down to the rocks at the bottom and there are Coke bottles.
It wasn’t the mediocre burger; it was him. He was the mediocre burger. Was he worthy of her love? Was a mediocre burger worthy of being eaten? Finally, regrettably, he realized that the answer to both questions was no, not really.
They say that the truth will set you set you free, but first, it will hurt like heck. We both crave and avoid truth, much as we crave and avoid an excellent burger. Yes, it really tastes good but it costs a lot.
He realized he would now have to abandon the false security of the Double Whopper for an uncertain future. The path ahead would be a long, difficult path filled with big rocks and stinging nettles and pigeons trying to steal his sandwich and people dropping things from overpasses and spiders.
Where before he had been reluctant to leave the security of the Burger King, now he had to leave, realizing his security had become his prison.
He took a final look around the Burger King. As he prepared to get up, he heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, George. Did you miss me?”
“Buffy!” he cried.
He was overjoyed. His cup runneth over, like a waitress who gets distracted and keeps pouring the coffee and it spills all over and it’s hot.
“I’d given up ever seeing you again,” he said.
He considered the timing of her sudden appearance, of her arrival at the precise moment he’d accepted that he would never see her again. Perhaps only by becoming free of her could he have her in a genuine way—out of true desire and not out of desperate need—for dependency is not love. That was clear to him now.
“Let me look at you,” he said with a wide smile. “I can’t believe you’re really back.”
Buffy smiled in return and asked, “Want to go check out the dumpster?”
3rd Place, 2011: “Missouri” © Robert Morgan Fisher, Woodland Hills, CA
November 11th, 2010
1745 Broadway, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10019
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Jefferson City Correctional Center
8200 No More Victims Rd.
Jefferson City, MO 65101-4539