Flash Fiction: The Question

All Gover and Hoffer prize nominees and winners are featured in the 2014 edition of Best New Writing.
All Gover and Hoffer prize nominees and winners are featured in the 2014 edition of Best New Writing. | Source

What is the Gover Prize?

The Gover Prize, named after groundbreaking author Robert Gover, awards an annual prize and publication in Best New Writing for the best short fiction and creative nonfiction. Entries limited to 500 words or less.

In February of 2013, during a creative writing class at Portland Community College, I came up with the following story. I don't remember the specific prompt but do know I found something from my memory bank, fictionalized it and put it to paper. What I composed and read to my class that day is almost exactly what I ended up submitting to the Gover Prize competition. And, while I didn't win, I was one of eleven finalists and my work was published in a beautiful, paper back book with many other fine writers.

I signed a one year exclusive agreement with Hopewell Publications which expires this month, October 2014. Now, I can finally publish this piece elsewhere-- a piece I am quite excited to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

This story is under 500 words, which is a challenge I put forth to any writer. Practice brevity. Make every word count. Pretend an editor is charging you for each word you send him or her to look at. Writing flash fiction can help any writer of any genre and medium to really hone their craft. If you haven't done so, try it.

Source

And Now...

THE QUESTION

BY JUSTIN W. PRICE

As I approach the border of the enclosure, the stench of urine and sawdust attacks my nostrils. I’m holding a chopped sweet potato and a question gnaws at my brain. Behind the glass, the occupants laze away inside a Kleenex box.

No one watches as I begin to take the pieces and mix them with the nuts and seeds that comprise their regular diet. This is business as usual. Danny goes to school: I feed them. Danny plays video games: I feed them. Danny spends the night at a friend’s house: I feed them. I am their caretaker. As a devoted mother, I welcome this role.

When Danny’s dad brought them over for Danny’s birthday—three of them for God’s sakes!—I objected. “I’m gonna end up taking care of them.”

“You won’t, Lena. Danny’s a man now. He’ll take care of them, won’t cha buddy?” He said, grabbing Danny and giving him a noogie.

Danny’s dad makes a promise. Danny’s dad doesn’t keep it. This is business as usual.

An inhabitant peers out, its long nose twitching, its pupil-less eyes glaring, like a snakes’, straight in my eyes. It watches as I prepare its meal.

“Hold your horses, little buddy. Dinner’s almost ready,” I say. My voice drips with sugar.

It skitters back to the comfort of its den.

The meal prepared, I lift the hatch, drop the bowl of food in and wait. It won’t be long; I’ve seen them devour an entire carrot in the time it takes to light a cigarette.

An inhabitant slinks out— obsidian fur, white belly, dead eyes, snarling overbite— They all look the same. It approaches the food bowl and sniffs before grabbing a paw full, stuffing its cheeks and heading back to shelter. This routine is repeated by the other two occupants, one after the other.

I wipe my hands together and walk away, satisfied.


Pet Rats

Have you ever had a pet rat?

  • Yes. Currently
  • Yes, but not now
  • No, but I would consider it
  • Are you kidding me? Dis-Gust-Ing
See results without voting

***


I awaken to Danny screaming. I stretch, put on my bathrobe and mosey into his bedroom.

He’s in his room, tapping on the enclosure. “Mom. Mom! Ritzy, Carlos, Julius. They’re dead! They’re all dead!” He says, between stifled sobs.

I feign a frown and pull him close to me, burying his face against my chest and running my fingers through his hair. I look in the cage and suppress a smile by biting my lip. The three of them lie on urine soaked sawdust. Their disproportionate genitalia hanging flaccid, their paws curled like claws, their hideous faces stretched into grotesque grimaces of pain. “Daniel, I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved them.” Seeing those nasty little critters, assuming the pain and discomfort they endured in their final moments, I can only smile.

Danny watched TV. I fed them. The television explained natural ways to kill rodents.

Sweet potato, they said. Raw.

I had a question.

Question answered.

My Poetry Collection

Thanks for Reading

A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.

HIS WORK IS ALSO FEATURED INBEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY INTHE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW, BURNINGWORD, SEE SPOT RUN AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE PREVIOUSLY SERVED AS MANAGING EDITOR OFEPOETRY MAGAZINEAND THE BRIDGEONLINE NEWSPAPER.

HE WORKS IN A MEAT AND SEAFOOD DEPARTMENT FOR A HEALTH FOOD GROCERY STORE. HE ALSO WORKS AS FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR, AND GHOSTWRITER, AND IS WORKING TOWARDS HIS PH.D. HE LIVES IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND, OREGON WITH HIS WIFE, ANDREA, THEIR LABRADOODLE, BELLA, AND A NAMED SHPOO, SAUVEE.

PLEASE VISIT HISPROFILE FOR MORE INFORMATION. THANKS!

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5 comments

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

I can see why this was a finalist story. It is excellent and I never saw the ending coming. Kudos to you!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Okay, it is well written and certainly interesting but could a mother actually do that to her child? Well done Justin and Congrats on being a finalist.

Voted up, awesome, and interesting.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Such a great write Justin! Congrats!!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 2 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks BTR, Glad you enjoyed this


btrbell profile image

btrbell 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

Wow, what a great story! You rose to the challenge and it is easy for me to see why you made it up to the finals! Congratulations! Up++

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