Give us a stellar, unpublished short story about D.C., using a maximum of 1,000 words. That was the call that went out in the Oct. 20 issue of City Paper, and the stories were due by Dec. 1. Between announcement and deadline, of course, we were blindsided by the election. The whole country was. Meanwhile, here we are in the nation’s capital with no national representation, the future home to a president who got less than 5 percent of the D.C. vote. As we reeled from the implications of a Trump presidency, many of you put pen to paper. Two of the top three stories directly responded to the election.
The first-place story, “Victory Party,” depicts young Democrats gathered in an overpriced basement bar to toast history being “on their side,” only to see “the map had turned red, from the inside out, as if an organism was ripping apart a host.” Good fiction vividly and accurately describes the world we know; great fiction upends that world. And so this story not only exposes the privileged ignorance so many had about the election but also introduces believable supporters for the opposition. Joe Flood masterfully doles out information. Writing that Randy, the main character, “didn’t vote, couldn’t vote,” we’re introduced to his legal trouble. Next we learn that his mom back in Kentucky was desperate to vote for someone who could improve “their cursed little lives.” After the Hill staffers whine that all their hopes are gone and carelessly throw a dozen credit cards Randy’s way—“at least $100k in purchasing power”—we race to see how this party ends.
The second-place story, “Ana and the Payaso,” opens with Ana waking up the morning after the election when her aunt tells her the “payaso malvado,” the evil clown, has won. In Kyle Burk’s tale, Ana and her family are undocumented immigrants; so is everyone else who works with Ana at Mr. Kim’s McPherson Square sandwich shop. That may include Mr. Kim himself.
Because a thousand words isn’t very many, dozens of entries captured a portrait or a scene rather than an entire story. This made “Carrying,” the third-place winner, especially noteworthy, as Sydnee Monday told the tale of Jay and her friend Feven in under 500 words! The women talk about “abortion as more than what old white men made laws about,” and we can’t know how the change of power might affect their lives, or any of ours. As these writers show us, we can only imagine.