Honorable Mention | Soldier | AV Laidlaw | @AvLaidlaw
Cara Says: I love stories that delve into the nature of the human experience, and I’m really loving your observing AI trying to emotionally understand the aspects of humanity in her programming.
Ruth Says: There is a sense of longing here that echoes what’s just beneath the surface of every person – can one truly understand the human condition? Wonderfully executed.
Second Place | Underboss | Andy White | @laughingandy
Cara Says: Where do I even start? This story is a freaking riot, steadily building throughout the Tooth Fairy’s emotional and verbal dump on her sexually frustrated summoner. “Give it all to me,” indeed.
Ruth Says: A wonderful runaway read. Love how the chastened narrator’s wisdom frames the Tooth Fairy’s tirade! 🙂
Winner | Boss | Brady Koch | @BradyTheWriter
Cara Says: My husband (mostly) teases me about calling the Hoarders folks, so I chuckled my way through Carlo’s pleading with his mother to appear on the show. The end is the true payoff here though, as the surface financial reason for Carlo’s interest is peeled back to reveal the much darker suspicion of how Dad *really* left his family.
Ruth Says: As an unrepentant paper hoarder, this story had me chuckling right up until I got to the darker twist, the suspicion that Dear Old Dad had perhaps ‘gotten his’ but not the way he expected.
The Winning Story: Mother’s Stacks by Brady Koch | @BradyTheWriter
“C’mon ma, you’d be perfect for the show. I told you about the pay, right?” Carlo stared his mother down trying to dial up the insistence in his voice more than the dozen or so other times he’d had this conversation with her. He knew she’d take the papers from him pretend to look over the waivers from the production company then stack them up wherever she stacked the rest of these printouts in her capacity house.
“I’m just not the on camera type,” she offered again.
“They’re just here for the week. Enough to clean out all this hoarding mess and get you a new start.” And give each of us five thousand for participating, he added to himself.
“I’m happy the way it is.”
“Ma, one stray spark from the stove and this whole place goes up. Don’t be surprised if that happens.” The floors were stacked with newspapers. The piles reached the ceiling. The whole house reeked of them. Now Carlo reeked of them too. His wife would complain about it, but he couldn’t afford to dry-clean the smell out. Not after the layoff.
“I don’t use the stove.”
Carlo sighed. He couldn’t push her too hard. This all started when Dad ran off two decades ago. She collected the papers hunting for any sign of him in the news. He was certainly in the news before then. Mainly the police blotter. Always telling his kids he needed to get what’s his. Minor crimes. Petty theft. Larceny. Nothing violent. Ma was the violent one, but only to Dad. Carlo didn’t blame the man for leaving her.
He never did come up in the papers though and the papers never left. They just stacked up. Ma was able to collect his insurance policy about five years after he was gone. Somehow she was able to get him declared deceased. Now the money was running out and Carlo was also in a pinch. The Hoarding reality show was a sure thing. Easy money.
“I ain’t got dead cats. That’s what’s on the show now. This house is clean. I keep it up.”
“Geez ma, can you think about it more?” he implored. “For me at least?”
“I’ll look over the application.” He could tell she had no intention of doing that.
“All right.” He gave her a kiss on the head. Even her skin exuded the stale paper smell of her domicile.
He made his way through the foot-wide cleared path of paper back to the front door where the newspaper stacking had started. He’d get her to sign the papers. The five thousand for himself was only the beginning. He knew he’d get much more with the press tour in the aftermath of what the film crew would find under Ma’s piles. He was certain Dad was under those papers somewhere, Carlo just had to wait it out. He’d known for a while, but like his Dad, he had to wait for the opportunity to get what’s his.