Tiny Light's Annual Essay Contest
Contest Results from 2003
First Prize of $300
Honolulu Whorehouse, 1944 by Doug Stout
We hang out on the starboard railing of our ship swapping stories, razzing each other, arguing to pass the time, looking for laughs, jockeying for a place in the pecking order. We are all experts, pick a topic: sports, ships, women, our recollections reshaped and textured for an idle afternoon. We lie at anchor in the harbor and turn our eyes to the hills above Honolulu and catch a sight of Diamond Head beyond Waikiki. A liberty party has gone ashore and our watch must wait until tomorrow to sample the pleasures of Honolulu—a carefree afternoon, a walk on the beach, a swim, beer and burgers until we are about to burst, and maybe if we're lucky we can meet some women. Maybe, if we want to, we can go to one of those houses on King Street.
If we want to. Three of us want to. Okay, we'll go. Tomorrow, for sure. We've never been with a woman, though we don't mention this great deficiency in our personal histories. We'll go. King Street? Why not? Prostitution is legal in Hawaii. It is said that the women are pretty and work in brothels during the war to make enough money to set themselves up for life afterwards, never mentioning to their post-war husbands how they earned the money. They can make more money in one day than if they were welding for a week in the shipyards. We have facts and figures aplenty, most sources. Stories have a way of growing and adding details that seem just right for the moment. Pure scuttlebutt. Anyway, why not give it a try? Only three bucks.
We don't talk about ourselves. We like to speculate. How much money does a Honolulu whore earn? How long can she work? How about when she has her period? What about disease? The prettiest woman might be carrying the clap. Or crabs. Or syph.
We have our private fears, but we don't mention these. Will we be up to the situation, we privately wonder. What if the woman we're with isn't appealing to us? How will we feel afterwards? What will it be like? These are personal questions and we don't share the answers we make up for ourselves. We'll do it, but let's talk about something else.
Tomorrow comes. We're down the gangway, into the boat, on our way to the dock where a bus will pick us up and drop us off in the middle of Honolulu. We don't talk much. This is private time. We're aboard the bus. We're on the street. It's in the next block. You can tell exactly where it is because there's a line of men out on the street. A line! We hadn't anticipated this.
We have to fall in line out here on the sidewalk, stand behind sailors from other ships, marines and soldiers all wearing uniforms. Hurry up and wait. Always, hurry up and wait. We can see ourselves reflected in the glass store windows as we inch forward, our destination a stairway two or three shops ahead.
Questions: What outfit? What ship? Where you from? Hey, we must make a pretty sight to townspeople passing by. You been here before? Some civilian passes by. What's this line? Got your ration card for butter and sugar? The line moves forward. Someone has been here before. The expert. “The queen whore,” he says, “will ask you what you want.” Whaddaya mean? “You know, old fashioned, French, whatever.”
We hadn't thought of choices to be made. We're on the stairs leading up to the second floor. At the top the glass paneled door is closed. We wait. The door opens, we can see the woman talking to the dogface at the head of the line. He goes in, and the soldier behind him follows. Now we're almost there. We can hear what she's saying. "Go into the waiting room, give your name and say what you want. Someone will call you when it's your turn." Someone makes jokes. Someone exaggerates. Someone lets out a yahoo. Someone keeps a tight lip. It's fair to say we're all eager, nervous, exposed, private.
It's our turn to go into the waiting room which is nothing more than a living room with several couches and chairs. About six of us wait at one time. Then a woman comes and calls out, "Pratt? Old fashioned? Follow me." And Pratt disappears. Someone snickers. Another sailor enters to take Pratt's place. We don't talk. We listen for our name. Then my name is called. "Stout!" Now, it's my journey.
I follow the woman to one of the doors in the hallway. She gives instructions, "Go in, remove your clothes and wait." She opens the door and I'm surprised to find myself in a small bedroom, even more surprised to find another man, a sailor, sitting in a chair tying his shoes. I'm undressing while he's dressing. "Be out in a moment," he says.
A knock on a door from an adjoining room. In steps a naked woman. The sailor is dressed. "Hey, that was great!" he says. "How about another one?"
"Go out and get in line," she says, laughing, and ushers him out the door on the opposite wall. I've now removed all my clothing.
She leads me to a basin and washes me briefly, takes me to the bed. "Do you have a girl on the island?" she asks. Me, a girl on the island? No, ma'am.
A very short time later, I am dressing while another sailor enters and begins to undress. The woman is apparently in the next room with another man, taking us on in assembly line fashion. Rumors about the women’s prettiness are now supported by fact. Mary, or whatever her name is, is quite pretty, quite gentle, carrying on her trade in a very efficient and business-like manner. I can see why the sailor wanted another one. It would be great to have something more than a few minutes of pleasure.
We three initiates meet outside. We look at each other but say nothing as we head down the street. We're going to the Armed Forces clap shack. We've been advised aboard ship that if we go to a whorehouse, we should take care of ourselves at a clap shack afterwards. And since we are corpsmen and know something about sexual diseases, we take such advice seriously.
An attendant gives us instructions and some equipment. We stand before a trough, wash ourselves thoroughly with green soap, insert liquid argyrol into our penises, hold it there for several minutes, then apply an anti crab ointment in the crotch over which we place a layer of protective paper, pull on our scivvies, button up our bell bottoms, and walk out onto the streets of Honolulu once again.
We have taken a major but private journey, made a passage, and feel privately uneasy, privately relieved, privately proud or ashamed. I share with my shipmates a change of status. I am now a man. A man among men. But neither I nor they talk about this change. Publicly, we make a few jokes, a few generalizations, and we go look for a steak, a baked potato or fries, something solid and satisfying.
Douglas Stout is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, universities, marriages, children. He has published English texts in Japan, lived in Japan and Thailand, and written for most of his life. A few high points: winning a national comedy contest (Ukiah Players), publishing short stories and poems in national magazines, becoming Healdsburg's Literary Laureate. His two books of poetry are Urgent News! and Sometimes I'm Surprised.
Second Prize of $175
Grow Old Along With Me by Rosemary Manchester
You know how it is when you’re young and you look at the old folks, sure that you’ll never look like that. Or, if you do, you’ll have enough pride to hide yourself away in the attic. When I was twenty-two, a girl-wife, I went with my boy-husband to meet his family at their compound on McFarland’s Cove, east of Boothbay on the convoluted coast of Maine.
I noticed immediately that those of the bloodlines bore an uncanny resemblance to one another: double cousins. Grandpa Bert and Great-Uncle Irving, brothers, had married, respectively and respectfully, the Haigh sisters, Grandma Cassie and Great-Aunt Emily. Each of the couples had produced six children, and so inseparable were these siblings and cousins that they lived near each other and vacationed together. From the original quartet of fishermen’s “cottages” purchased in 1910 by Grandpa Bert and Great-Uncle Irving had sprung a score of smaller rustic cabins, clustered around the grey-shingled old two-story houses on the minuscule point of land like a brood of chicks around the mother hen.
The cottages had been improved over the years, indoor plumbing added, tiny windows replaced by expansive sheets of plate glass to take advantage of the view out across John’s Bay. The kitchens, however, retained their original “charm,” with ancient sinks on wobbly legs, undependable stoves, wooden cupboards filled with chipped and mismatched dishes, heavy ironstone ware. I found the old places charming, but at that time I had yet to prepare a meal in one of those kitchens.
I did not find the family charming. They looked down their long Yankee noses at me, the interloper from Kansas who had snared their Prince. They seemed ancient to me, in their fifties and sixties, the men in wrinkled madras plaid pants and slightly stained polo shirts with little crests. All tanked up from the cocktail hour, they harrumphed and reached out in furtive attempts to press my firm flesh. I couldn’t distinguish the lascivious from the merely flirtatious. The dowagers’ sharp eyes didn’t miss a trick, and I knew I was grist for the gossip-mill.
This was to be a honeymoon, as well as my first visit to the ocean. The one-room log cabin on the granite ledge above the surf could not have been a more romantic setting. Stewart and I unloaded the car and carried supplies down the path, through the pines, over the ledges, to the cabin. A parade of the curious elders followed and, invited or un-invited, continued to pop in. We could not refuse invitations to lunch, dinner and cocktails, and we were expected to reciprocate. Unexpected visitors took over the bedroom in the loft. When we escaped to walk to Back Bay, mosquitoes dive-bombed us, as pestiferous as the omnipresent in-laws.
Just in time, I discovered an ally and made common cause with Gwen, close to me in age and height and outlook, newly married to one of Stewart’s many cousins. I was dark, she was fair; we both loved the sun. She became my mentor in family protocol. We called ourselves outlaws, not in-laws. On the long afternoons Gwen and I sat together in the squeaky glider on the porch of the Big Cottage, stretched out our long sun-bronzed legs and idly pushed ourselves back and forth, back and forth as we watched the intergenerational parade pass by, up and down the stony path to the beach, in correlation with the tide, an hour earlier each day.
The small children, fresh from their naps, followed their parents, who were laden with towels and striped beach umbrellas, and red and blue buckets and shovels. “Watch out for the poison ivy,” the mothers cautioned. Next in line came the aunts, great-aunts and grandmothers, wearing baggy cotton bathing suits in faded floral prints. Dressmaker suits, they were called, shirred bodices stretched over flabby breasts, pathetic little skirts which failed to camouflage doughy thighs. Neither the suits nor the ladies made any pretense to hold in protruding stomachs, and the spider-veined legs looked like maps of the tributaries of the Amazon. The old men followed, smoking cigars, their bellies bouncing over faded boxer trunks.
I followed Gwen’s lead and murmured polite greetings until everyone was out of earshot. She and I went down to swim at odd hours when we had the cove to ourselves. We swore to each other that when we got old we would never display our bodies in public, never, never commit the sin of ugliness.
The annual vacation to Maine marked the passing of the years. Gwen and I found solace in one another, pregnant, carting babies up and down the steep path, chasing toddlers across the sand. In our prime, we were a feature in the afternoon parade to the beach, where we sat on a blanket and watched our daughters build sand castles.
The pack of five boys, three of hers and two of mine, close in age and size and temperament, terrorized the cove one summer with their improvised ski tow. They hitched an old barn door onto the heavy wooden rowboat, under-powered by an outboard motor, and chugged around the cove, threading their way through the moored sailboats and motorboats. Confident in the agility of their strong young bodies, they positioned one of the boys on the dock and one on the barn door behind the boat. We waved and cheered as they drove by the dock, maintaining momentum while the boys changed places, the one on the dock now holding the towrope as they headed back to open water. On one memorable day a distracted skipper steered the contraption into Uncle Wally’s cabin cruiser. Wally was a good sport about it, but water skiing was banished from the cove.
Then the children had summer jobs and summer plans, and we rarely got back to Maine. They went to college, married and settled in far places and started their own families. Stewart and I divorced, and I was exiled from Maine. I started a new career in banking and personal finance and moved to California, where I had my own coast. But I still longed to be in Maine on a cool summer morning, sitting in the sun on the porch of the Big Cottage with a steaming cup of coffee, the scent of the pines blending with the salty smell of the calm sea.
When Stewart and his new wife invited the children to Maine, envy and sadness tugged at my heart. I couldn’t bear to hear the children’s reports of improvements on the cove, their enthusiasm for the cottage which Stewart and Cynthia had purchased, the new sailboat. I had nothing like that to offer them.
Stewart developed an unexpected talent for grandparenting, and proposed to entertain the entire clan to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. I suspect the children talked it over because out of the blue I heard from Peter, the family diplomat.
“We’d like you to come to Maine this summer, Mom,” he said. “I know it’s asking a lot, but we’ll do everything we can to make it easy for you.” He assured me the invitation came from Stewart and Cynthia, though neither of them ever contacted me. Against all reason, I decided to go.
I picked up a rental car in Portland and was in Damariscotta by noon on a Friday. Main Street gridlocked, I inched my way onto Route 129/130 and left the traffic behind. Not that much had changed in twenty years, the gracious white frame houses set back on green lawns, shaded by enormous maple trees. I followed the familiar curving road up and down the gentle hills, past the Old Walpole Meeting House where my daughter Mary married her sweetheart, Dave, twenty-three years ago. I zipped down the single stretch of straight road, and wondered if they still called it the South Bristol Speedway. I remembered sweaty palms when the children drove this road with their learner’s permits while I begged them to slow down.
Then the tangy nose-wrinkling smell of the sea. At the turnoff, a new sign pointed the way to the family enclave, past the old icehouse and the ice pond, past the road to King’s Cove and Poorhouse Cove and Back Bay. McFarland’s Cove appeared, then, on my right. High tide. More boats than I remembered, a new dock, but the Cove hadn’t changed.
The sign to Edward’s cottage was almost hidden by the trees. The gravel roads had names now; Point Road went all the way down to Priscilla’s Point. I recognized the old garage, newly painted, and turned into the grassy drive. I parked by the shuffleboard court Grandpa Bert built years ago beside the Big Cottage. Overcome by memories, I sat in the car for a minute, enjoying the quiet after I turned off the engine. The sea glittered in the sunshine, and I could see a few white sails out by John’s Island. The hemlock trees sighed in the breeze. I took a deep breath, savoring the salt air.
The screen door banged, just as I remembered it, and my daughters, Mary and Martha, came out on the porch, barefoot in shorts and tee shirts.
“Hi, Mom. You made good time. Have you had lunch?”
Inside, the familiar wicker armchairs flanked the fieldstone fireplace. The braided rug looked the same. The table stood in the middle of the dining room, surrounded by the cane-bottom chairs. I had always moved the table over to the picture window to enjoy the view, and somebody always moved it back to where it “belonged.” I had been warned about the new kitchen, but was still shocked to see the new counters and appliances. Knotty pine cabinets. A dishwasher. A Cuisinart. I thought of Grandma Cassie patiently shucking clams for chowder, grinding salt pork and potatoes and onions.
“What do you think?” Mary asked.
“I love it,” I said, surprised that I really did. “It’s wonderful. We can actually cook in this place.”
“I like it too,” she said, “but I miss the old sink. Anyway, the door creaks just the same.” She opened and closed it to demonstrate, while Martha made a sandwich for me.
People I didn’t quite recognize watched when I walked down to the cove with the grandchildren. The children threw stones in the water, a perfect occupation, as there were plenty of stones and no end of water, although the tide was ebbing. I thought I heard my name, but I couldn’t be sure. I heard it again, and the children looked up.
Could that be Stewart? He rose up out of the water like an apparition, seaweed dangling from his bony frame. He looked like a drowned scarecrow. At least he was wearing decent bathing trunks, not those awful Speedo briefs he used to fancy. He threw the seaweed off his shoulders and ran his fingers over his head, rearranging the long strands of hair across his balding pate. How strange it is to be with someone you once loved and knew intimately. He seemed like someone I used to know, someone I might have gone to college with, met at a reunion.
The curious grandchildren hung around, relishing this significant moment. He waded ashore in his Tevas. He said hi. I said hi.
“How was your trip?” he said.
“Fine,” I said. “The place looks about the same.”
He pointed out the house he and Cynthia had bought from one of the old-timers.
“You’ll have to come up and see what we’ve done to it,” he said.
We stood there side by side, getting through an awkward moment, looking out over the water, knee-deep in our grandchildren.
“Which boat is yours?” I asked.
He pointed it out, a small Rhodes, a day sailer.
“Nice,” I said. “Will you take me sailing?” I asked, surprised that I meant it.
“Sure,” he said. “Be happy to. Any time.”
The grandchildren sensed that there would be no further excitement, and ran back up to the cottage to report in.
“Guess what?” Mary said on Saturday afternoon. “Dad’s preaching tomorrow in South Bristol and we’re all going to hear him. Want to come?”
“I don’t know, Mary,” I said, caught off guard. “It might make him nervous to have me there. Let me think about it.”
As usual, I was the first one up. I climbed into the hammock on the front porch, wrapped myself in a blanket against the early chill. A few lobster boats nosed their way through the pleasure craft in the cove, their engines far less noisy than the ‘one-lungers’ I remembered. Mary’s husband Dave brought me a cup of coffee. We watched as my son Tim and his daughter carried the double kayak down to the water and moved smoothly out of sight around the point, a widening vee marking their passage.
“I’ve never heard Stewart preach,” Dave said. “I’m looking forward to this.”
I knew it would be perverse for me not to go. “I didn’t bring any church clothes,” I said. “I’ll just have to wear my flowered overalls.”
We filled two pews in the little white church. I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was Gwen, my long-lost friend. She squeezed my shoulder. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said. “I heard you were coming, but I didn’t know when.”
Her once-handsome husband was almost unrecognizable, his athletic frame morphed into stockiness. An oxygen tube wrapped itself around his head, and I noticed the wheeled tank at his feet. Emphysema.
The organ wheezed into action and Stewart came up the aisle into the pulpit. He wore a robe of beige homespun cloth, what we used to call monk’s cloth, with a rope sash knotted at the waist, and a colorful stole with desert motifs, from the Holy Land, I guessed. I could tell he was nervous. His fingers combed long strands of hair across his pate. He cleared his throat, welcomed the congregation to the service and announced the hymn. We rose and sang “When morning fills the skies, my heart awakening cries, let Jesus Christ be praised.” I hadn’t been to church for awhile, but I knew the routines, and I still knew the words to all the hymns. I liked to show off and sing without looking at the hymnal.
I recognized some familiar faces among the congregation, saw folks nudge each other as if to say, “Isn’t that what’s-her-name?” I smiled my gracious smile. Let them think what they liked about my flowered overalls.
I’m a connoisseur of sermons. This one was well-presented, reassuring, but I missed the zeal of yesteryear, the anti-war jeremiads, the tirades against racial injustice. At the coffee hour I agreed with everyone that yes, it had been a nice sermon. Nice sermon, indeed. When sermons are nice we’re in big trouble, but it wasn’t my place to say so.
Gwen came over to the Big Cottage that afternoon to visit. We reminisced about old times when our children were young, and brought each other up to date on the children and grandchildren. I realized we were sitting in the same place on the porch where we had watched the beach parade so many years ago. The glider was long gone, but the green Adirondack chairs seemed familiar.
“Do you remember,” I asked her, “when we used to sit here and watch the old ladies go by? Now we’re the old ladies.”
“And look at us,” she said, looking down at her tanned legs. “We’ve got varicose veins and stretch marks and saggy arms and tummies, and here we sit in plain view.”
“Yes,” I said, “a couple of survivors, in our Land’s End bathing suits with the ‘kindest cut’ leg lines.”
The sailboats tacked their way across the bay in the afternoon breeze.
“What was it,” I asked her, “that Margaret Mead said about the power of post-menopausal women?”
“What did she say?” Gwen asked. “I don’t remember.”
“I don’t either,” I said.
Rosemary Manchester is proud to announce her new degree, Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature, from Bennington College in Vermont. She lives in Sebastopol and is working on a memoir of the years she lived in Africa.
Third Prize of $125
Chew by Colin Berry
In July of my sixteenth summer, I try chew for the first time, in the back of the Trojan Theatre with Eric, who has just pried the foil pouch apart and tucked a plug neatly in his mouth.
We have a big cup to spit in.
I trust Eric because he waltzes at the edge of trouble, but is never actually in it. He has taken up chewing two weeks ago, and I have known that my time will come.
There are a dozen people in the theater. On the screen, above the pairs of heads, a sign appears, its letters sparkling like a fuse: No Smoking, Please.
I open the pouch and sniff the heady sweetness of the tobacco. It smells like the farmers in their denim shirts on Saturday. I pinch into it and the chew is cool and moist, like damp earth or freshly-cut grass, sticky between my thumb and fingers.
“Put it way in the ba’,” Eric whispers, leaning forward to spit. I tuck the chew deep in my cheek, spilling a little. Immediately it starts to burn.
“Uhh—!” Almost instantly I spit a huge mouthful of stringy, sweet saliva into the cup. My whole mouth is filling with it, and it’s as though I can’t possibly spit fast enough to keep up.
The movie starts. We pass the cup back and forth. I spit about three times as often as Eric does. My head seems to have inflated into a long balloon with a plug of tobacco inside, and I can feel suddenly all the spaces in my body, my heart, my lungs, the thick, unruly blood that lurches through my arms and legs. The movie’s soundtrack whirls around me, as though I’m listening under warm water. I feel as though I might throw up, but at the same time the experience is fascinating, delightful.
By the end of the first scene I turn to him and whisper, “I feel like my head is ten feet tall.” This strikes him funny and we snicker quietly, a pair of monkeys in the darkened theater. The film will be forgotten, we know, but we will remember this.
“Just don’t swallow it,” he says.
Tony Pinskey did, a few weeks later, in the back of Dale Cozner’s pickup. We were driving through the subdivision at dusk, heading down the freshly-blacktopped avenue into town. Somebody passed Tony the chew, and as the truck gathered speed, the sun set behind us, ruffling the sky pink from the foothills to the sugarbeet fields. We were all looking up at the sky when the truck hit a dip and Tony swallowed a mouthful of spit. It amazed us how quickly he threw up, one moment staring at the pink and orange clouds and the next leaning over the side of the truck, wave after wave flowing from him, neat patches equally spaced down the curved suburban street.
It is late evening at the end of August, and I am standing on the narrow porch of a tiny white house on Emery Street, on the rough side of town. It is the home of Miss Covelli, our student council sponsor, where fifteen of us have met to plan the first-day assembly for the new school year. The meeting is over, and everyone is saying goodnight, copping rides, calling out across the lawns. A mile away, Eric waits for me at the Dairy Queen on North Main, where kids are hanging out, enjoying the last few nights of summer.
Our host is twenty-eight, with bobbed dark hair and a sharp wit. She is pretty in a plain way, a short woman who favors khakis and simple dresses. She is a confidante, a friend to me and others; we call her Linda. I have taken her geometry class a year earlier, and she has been our sponsor for two years. She makes me laugh. She is transferring to the new high school in the fall, and tonight is the last time I will see her.
“Stick around for a little bit,” she says casually. “I have something I need to give you.”
After everybody leaves, I follow her back through the screen door into her living room, where we sit and talk.
At one point she steps into the kitchen, and comes back with a tall glass that she sips from while we talk about the vice-principal.
“Think Van Arsdale will go for it?”
“I’ll call him on Monday.”
We pause. Outside, a car passes. I feel an awkwardness I’ve never felt with her before.
She offers the glass to me, and when I take a sip, my throat tightens: the drink is strongly spiked with sweet rum.
By the time she kisses me, I am in a panic, not so much from what is happening as from the sudden change, our abrupt realignment. I’ve been attracted to her wisecracking, her spirit; I have never fantasized about her, never craved her, her plain body and square hands. I have never considered her this way.
Yet I make no effort to resist, for her small fierce mouth, wet and strong, has ignited a current I had sensed but never felt. I am in a new kind of motion, turning a corner, growing, flowering, shedding skin. I am on my way to something I’ve always wanted, never dreaming it would happen like this—with her—now—but riding along, confused and fascinated and entirely unable to stop.
Her hands are on my neck, my back, pulling up my shirt, sliding into the waistband of my shorts. I am powerless to move. It is as though I am looking down on myself, separated, unable to control my own young body. She leads me by the hand to her bedroom, my brain skipping like a needle over grooves, things falling away faster than I can grasp them. I know that this moment—the moment—is important, that I should note each detail, but I only capture glimpses: the pattern and texture of her bedspread, the flicker of headlights on the walls and ceiling.
She does everything and I simply lie, electric with life but unmoving in the dim light. I don’t see her motions so much as feel them, like water spilling over me, buoying me, pulling me under with its flow. For a second I open my eyes and her naked body startles me with its cherubic paleness. I recognize her face, but she looks at the same time wholly unfamiliar, a stranger smiling and speaking softly, smelling of baby powder and sweat. Incredibly, I worry about contraception, but that too falls away.
Later, as I’m pulling on my clothes, she takes my hand again and places it on one of her breasts. Her nipple is thicker and firmer than those of the girls I have felt before. It seems suddenly maternal, and my uneasiness, briefly suspended, crashes back into me. I buckle my belt, say good night, and hurry out the door.
The night is windy when I step from the porch. Everything is heightened—the stars brighter, the dogs next door barking louder. The smell of autumn is in the air. I walk to my car and sit in it for a minute, my hand tracing the countours of the switches and knobs on the dashboard. Up on her porch, a moth is swirling around the light. As I start up and pull away from the house, a few leaves blow across my windshield.
I am an hour late to meet Eric. I find him in the parking lot, sitting on his car, talking to some kids I don’t know.
“Thought you’d stood me up,” he says. “Want a chew?” He offers the pouch to me. He is angry that I’ve kept him waiting, annoyed that summer is ending so soon. I shake my head and realize I cannot tell him.
We sit together on the hood as he chews and spits into a bottle. Along the street, kids pass slowly in Chevys and Chryslers, metal music mixing with gasoline and perfume that drift past with each car.
“There’s Mark,” Eric says, suddenly sliding off. “Jackson!” He hails a car passing through the lot. He hails a car passing through the lot. As he kneels and talks to the driver, it strikes me that he and I will soon grow apart. In a week, we will be back in school, the summer fading as quickly as the tans our arms and necks. As I watch, the lights in the parking lot flicker, and for a second, every kid is frozen in darkness. They blink on again and we all glance up at them, our heads identically positioned like the sunflowers in the fields north of town. Eric is looking up, too, and for a second I’m afraid for him, afraid he’ll swallow his chew. For a second we are all stuck there together, looking up at the lights, the cars slowly passing.
Colin Berry lives in Guerneville, California. He writes for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” KQED-FM, and Artweek, and is a contributing editor for Print. He is co-author, with Isis Rodriguez, of An Ecdysiast’s Primer (Soft Skull Press); his fiction appears in the anthology Food, Foibles and Family Traditions (Creative Arts).
In alphabetical order
Contestants received $
Scalping the Games by Rebecca Lawton, Pizza with Stacy by Bora Lee Reed
Entries of Note
And Comments from Susan
To those who entered Tiny Lights' 9th annual personal essay contest, thank you. Your writing helped create a wonderful mix of work that was delightfully stimulating and difficult to judge.
So difficult, in fact, that I feel compelled to remind you that writing markets are unpredictable and more subjective than most of us dare to acknowledge. As André Maurois was supposed to have said, "In literature, as in love, we are astonished by what is chosen by others."
I hope you will be astonished in a positive sense by the winners of this year's contest, whose work will appear in Tiny Lights this summer. Contest participants will receive a copy of this issue. Additional copies can be purchased for $5 by sending to:
Tiny Lights Publications
P.O. Box 928
Petaluma, CA 94953
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