Our October 2019 Writing Contest
This contest is now closed to submissions!
The prompt for this contest has been...
This month's prompt is... no prompt! The long-awaited free topic, no-holds-barred contest is here. Any theme and any genre go, as long as your story is 1,500 words or shorter.
We have 2 honorable mentions:
"Kitty's Gas Station" by Avra Margariti
Avra's story combined great world-building with a touching story. Her opening and closing lines were particularly well-crafted.
"Forgiving" by Linda Juliano
Linda's story is a beautiful representation of a transformative moment.
And the first-place winner is...
Maggie Nerz Iribarne with "Gus"
This one touched me deeply. Maggie has pulled off that special magic of showing us our familiar world through an alien point of view.
Read the winning entry below.
By Maggie Nerz Iribarne
Word count: 906
Gus was an orange tabby cat, like Morris from the Cat Chow commercials, the ones where the cat put his foot forward and back in a cute little cha cha cha dance move. He wore a big metal heart around his neck that said GUS, which he found really embarrassing and uncomfortable. Mary and Tom went overboard, Gus often thought to himself, too much food in his bowl, that crazy refilling water thing, and this heart with their names and address on the back. He knew it was because they felt guilty. They were always away somewhere, somewhere where there were lots of fish; Gus could smell it on them when they returned. They cut that flap in the kitchen door so Gus could come and go as he pleased, but it was more so they could come and go as they pleased, that was the truth of it.
He knew not all the other pet owners were like Tom and Mary. Gus had spoken to Fluffy two doors down, and she bragged about all the petting and snuggling she received. Gus was not the receiver of much petting. He wasn’t sure why Tom and Mary wanted him. They didn’t even have a mouse problem, which, according to Shivers on Gaberdine St., was the reason most humans got cats. Gus didn’t like mice; they were so defenseless. He got down just thinking maybe Tom and Mary could send him to the animal shelter. Gus’ friend Sassy went to the animal shelter.
The neighborhood, called Hamletshire, was nice enough. Lots of sidewalks and small houses in different colors. Lots of people walked their dogs on ropes. Gus was glad he did not require such restraint, but he did envy the attention the dogs got out on the sidewalk. He always saw humans stop to talk to the dogs, kneel down and let them lick their outstretched hands. He wondered why his nice, neat, sandy little tongue would not be more preferable, but, to each his own, that’s what Tom always muttered when Mary said something weird, which she often did. “Tom, I am going out to buy yoga pants at the studio sale!” She’d said things like that.
Gus was hungry. Hungry for food, attention, love. He remembered his mother, who called him a beautiful cat name that cannot be spelled and sounded like some far- off purring, her warm belly and comforting smell. He knew he was with her once, and then he woke up to the cold world of Tom and Mary and the door flap. Perhaps it was this hunger that led him to the yards of families. He tended to get more attention in the yards than on the sidewalks. The ladies, Janet and Beth, put out bowls of milk for him, which gave him diarrhea, but he loved to drink anyway, kind of like the chili Tom was always making and getting sick from. “It’s so good it’s worth it,” Tom often said when he left the bathroom. Gus got that. Janet and Beth talked to Gus like he was a baby, “Ohhh we wish we could keep you.” When they were inside, their seven-year-old son, Max, chased Gus with a baseball bat. This is why Gus generally did not like children. The little ones were sometimes scared of him and ran away. Two brothers named J.J. and A.J. ran screaming from Gus every single time they saw him. Gus often rolled onto his back and stretched out on the grass to show he meant no harm, but those two always went running and screaming no matter what. That’s why Gus started hissing at them. He reasoned, well if this is what they think I am then this is what I’ll be. The horrified look on the parents’ faces made Gus feel a little nervous; what if they told Mary and Tom? But some things were worth it.
Only the strange, lonely children or the confined old people were gentle with Gus. Maddy, a teenager in a wheelchair, Alex a girl who kept bats in cages behind her house , and Mr. Giardano who walked in his driveway in circles with his walker, they always received Gus with warm hands, soft strokes, kind words. Mr. Giardano even brought canned cat food and soft treats just for Gus. But Gus knew he could not count on them consistently.
Gus was not so sure about humans. He wanted one to love him, but he knew there were so many kinds of humans and so many ways they could act. Mr. Holstein slapped his wife across the face in front of their kitchen window and the wife cried. Mrs. Williams shook her tiny baby and then she cried too. She looked so scared and lonely. As he prowled from backyard to backyard, he heard many people fighting and yelling.
Gus decided to stop taking their treats of milk and soft food, returning to his empty house to eat his kibble and drink the water, sleeping in his basket by the door. He began to think he was lucky to be on his own, with a roof over his head, food in his bowl, and no one bothering him. He stopped going into the backyards, learning to steer clear of outstretched hands, not looking up at the windows. He didn’t want to see inside the other houses anymore.