GINOSKO FLASH FICTION CONTEST:
$500 Prize, $5 entry fee. Deadline for 2018 Ginosko Flash Fiction Contest is March 1st, 2018.
Submit by Submittable:
Amanda Yskamp, Michael Hettich, Gary Lundy, E M Schorb, Andrena Zawinski, Andrei Guruianu, Robert Paul Cesaretti.
Awarded work will be published on Ginosko Literary Journal website and in forthcoming issue.
Guidelines and Eligibility:
The Ginosko Flash Fiction Award is for an unpublished work of flash fiction. Awarded piece is selected through a submission process open to all writers with the following exception:
Relatives or individuals having a personal or professional relationship with any of the final judges where they have taken any part whatsoever in shaping the submitted manuscript.
Procedures and Considerations:
Please submit work, along with a brief bio and cover letter if desired, by Submittable: https://ginosko.submittable.com/submit. Attachments must be in .wps, .doc, .rtf, or .pdf form, otherwise they will not be considered. Name of author not to be on submission.
2019 Ginosko Flash Fiction Contest Winner
Songs for the Penny Man
“Sometimes what almost happens but doesn’t, shapes us as much as what actually happens.”
- Serena Pichou
He was forbidden to us because he lived alone and looked strange. His was the worst yard in the neighborhood—two broken cars, weeds, trash, gaps in the fence. But I went to him.
The big kids said he gave a penny for each song they'd sing. Most of them were sneaking behind their parents’ backs for the money. Well, I was too.
It was the July before I started second grade—I wasn’t a “first grade baby, born in the Navy” anymore. I felt brave enough to go alone.
So I went to him. He did scare me a little, but I didn’t know why. His face didn’t smile or frown, but just stayed flat, His eyes pierced but tried not to look into mine, so I had to catch him looking.
He was standing in his garage near tools hung on a board with a lot of holes in it. It seemed he was not doing much, just looking at magazines. I said, “I came to sing… for a penny?”
Mostly, I knew hymns. The first time, my voice came out like wires, like chalk breaking. He gave me no coin. My face got hot and even in the dim garage I knew he could tell I was blushing.
So, he stood, quiet, looking at me. Then he said, "Just talk… tell me… tell me… about… your family." I didn't understand. Then I thought of my mother. It was as if I saw her face leaning in on me, her rust-red hair draped over one eye.
"My mom’s hair is naturally curly… and… and her own color," I whispered. One penny.
"Her arm got mashed in the washtub wringer once. She had to wear a sling." Another.
The summer took on a shape the way a drift of clouds can look like nothing, then a lion. The sound my coffee can made changed as the pennies rose. One day I told him, "I want to be a ballerina when I grow up."
Nothing. A stretched silence. Then I began to understand. He wanted to hear about real things—about stuff that happens in our family: my father drunk and cursing while the cement set too fast on the botched patio, my brothers dragging a wagon of scrap wood for a fort. He wanted to hear how one sister helped the other apply a tiny Avon lipstick sample, and showed her how to wipe if off fast with cold cream before our mother caught them.
He paid to hear about my parakeets, Sunshine and Moon, who clung to my waist-long braids while I did the dishes, and about our disappeared dog, Taps—how I walked up and down the block a whole day crying for him. How I dried my tears with my loosed hair, thinking I was like Mary Magdalene.
One time the garage seemed darker than usual. He had pulled the hinged door mostly shut. I wedged in.
Without saying anything, he lifted one of my braids. It lay across his palm like a bird fallen from its nest, and he looked at it that way. His hand trembled a little. His face seemed damp and I could smell his breath. Whiskey, like my dad’s sometimes.
"What?" I asked, nervous, because he stared extra long at my braid resting in his hand.
I felt something was turning into something else.
He stepped back, shaking his head hard as if saying NO NO NO.
He drew a deep, shaky breath, dug into his pocket, pulled out a fist of coins. "Take it. Take it all, and go," he said in a rough, rushed voice.
I did, and heard him push the garage door all the way shut while he was still inside. After that, he was hardly home at all. Once I saw him going from his garage to back porch and I waved, but he acted like he didn't see me.
I bought Jujubes, jawbreakers, and nickel rainbow note pads, where I practiced cursive, drew horses, or pretty ladies in profile like on matchbook covers.
That summer I got roller skates, from my next door neighbor. I’d told Mr. Aperson my dream in which I could skate really, really well.
By the next week, he got his only daughter’s skates, out of storage. She was a grown woman now. Somehow he made them look new and shiny and gave me a key.
I fell down over and over, not like in the dream, but finally I could skate like the big kids.
I began to wonder if I really could become a ballerina, and whether I would turn pretty like Mama when I grew up.
I wondered what I might become, and if I would turn out to be a lucky girl.
Kathleen Lynch has published poetry in many literary magazines, and has had work included in textbooks and multiple anthologies. Most recently, she won a 2018 Pushcart Prize. In addition to her 4 chapbooks and full book, HINGE (winner of Black Zinnias national poetry book prize), her next manuscript, LUCKY WITNESS is forthcoming next month from Blue Light Press.
2018 Ginosko Flash Fiction Contest Winner*
A girl drowned one summer, when I was twelve.
I can still picture her after they’d dragged her out, after someone had tried mouth-to-mouth long enough for
her ribs to crack – the sound was like twigs snapping – lying wet and sand-covered and still.
People said things like Don’t let the children see, but I got up as close as anyone, just gazed at her limp
girlish limbs, her pale-white face, her flat bare chest.
And the eyes… Open, bright, orbital things. Two fixed blue moons.
Her mother cried in a whispery kind of way, ‘Wake up now Honey, wake up, it’s time to wake up...’
I was near her, beside her in the water, just before.
We were splashing, teasing, pawing, wrestling.
And it was me who handed her mother the top part of her drowned daughter’s swim-suit, after the
resuscitation attempts had stopped.
She said nothing, just stared at what I handed her, then knelt and lay it upon the girl’s chest.
Later, back in the rented caravan, my father was sleeping, and my mother was drinking. Her eyes were so
different than the girl’s – yellow and red-streaked, gin-riddled suspicious saucers, drilling into me, like she
could read my soul.
‘I don’t want you near that water again, do you hear?’ she said eventually.
There was no concern there, only cold warning.
I will never forget the sight of her body just after it happened – just barely submerged, like driftwood, her long
hair splayed across the surface of the water like seaweed – in those endless-seeming moments before someone
else noticed her.
I liked that girl in a way I hadn’t experienced before; felt inchoate urges I didn’t understand, just beginning to
I have felt them sparking since.
I suppose you could call her my first.
2017 Ginosko Flash Fiction Contest Winner
PRAYER FOR SMOKE
Jason Del Guidice
Ruben died on a cold night. I mean, not regular cold, but cold cold.
We’d had us a session that night. Smoked our junk supper on the tracks. Sufficiently fixed, Ruben sat there looking like the Thinker, elbows on his knees, his body rocking fluidly, head dropping lower and lower until he fell off the crate he’d been sitting on.
I crawled over to him and found a face like a rubber mask, and whispered his name into his ear. I dragged him to his spot and worked at covering him, and then Magda knelt down beside him and felt his head for fever. “It's going to be a long night,” she said.
Ruben had been sick. Had been going around for weeks, coughing hard. But he never complained, never said shit except for when that cough came from deep within. I remember him making a desperate face, saying, “It’s like a hot knife,” and then knocking on his bony chest to show where it was hurting.
It was so dark that night. The street lamp on the bridge was out. No neon blue glow from the go-go bar sign, either. A police raid shut that down. All of Mr. Larry’s girls locked up for selling it.
I heard Ruben’s breathing, shallow and quick, reedy and whistling in his throat. I moved my bed beside his. I laid down and pulled my cover over me—an assortment of sheet-foam, old blankets and plastics that smelled fishy like the dead air from inside an old tire. The only parts of us exposed to the cold were our crying eyes, dripping noses, and our split, bleeding lips. I fell into a half-sleep, an opiate dream, trembling, watching the shifting forms in my foggy breath rise to a night sky the last shade of blue before black, and violet clouds like strips of torn paper, moving across a white moon encircled by signaling planets. Everything pulsating with the beating of my heart and the coo of a hidden dove.
In the morning, some force pulled me away from the sleep world. Something jabbing at me. A voice. I opened my eyes and saw two cops wearing knit hats, leather jackets with thick, wooly collars. One of them was standing, backlit by the sun. The other was leaning over me, poking me in the chest with his baton.
“Get the fuck up.”
Magda was crying. She was being escorted away by a lady cop. I stood up and called to her, but my legs cramped and then buckled and I began to shake. The cop with the baton grabbed a fistful of my coat and said, “Let’s go.”
Ruben was where I had left him. He laid there uncovered, his hands curled into claws near his face, fingers that looked like they could be laced through a chain link fence, and I thought of that Star Wars movie when bad guys froze, what's his name? Indiana Jones.
Ruben’s face shimmered with frost. His eyes were wide open, a frozen froth ran from the corner of his mouth. His expression was a paused look of surprise, or like the face of a child in a classroom who knows the answer and is excited to tell it.
Cops were everywhere. A lot of folks from the neighborhood asking questions, talking shit. “A bum…a junkie...homeless filth.” a man in a heavy green parka was pointing a ridiculously large camera at the river bank, the no trespassing sign, our camp. “Don’t take any pictures of the body,” one cop told the photographer.
I spoke with a detective. Told him my name was Jimbo and I was twenty years old and he said that was bullshit. I didn't argue. I told him Ruben had been sick.
“Sick with what?” he asked.
“I look like a doctor to you?”
An ambulance was idling nearby, its red lights hypnotically turning. The paramedics casually lowered Ruben onto a stretcher and wheeled him over to the rig.
“What are they doing? They gonna try and save him?” I asked.
The detective was blowing steam over hot coffee. He laughed abruptly and said, “He’s fucking dead, you lunatic.”
“Then why they putting him in an ambulance, man?”
Magda broke away from the police. She limped to the ambulance and fell to her knees. She reached out for Ruben and cried, because Magda was everybody's mother. We came to her and she accepted us unconditionally. We needed her love and she gave it to us in its entirety.
She clawed at the frozen ground, her body shuddered. I tried to go to her but the detective stopped me.
Magda invented prayers, she did it all the time. This one was her most beautiful. She prayed aloud for everyone to hear.
Jason Del Guidice was a musician before he became a writer. In creating music he found that he was always drawn to the wrong notes. All those unintentional noises, odd time signatures and angular structures were what came naturally to him, though. They were the components that amounted to his voice. Eventually he learned to accept this, to allow himself to be surprised with what that voice had to say to him, to let it flow. He follows those same instincts as a fiction writer. His stories, the Shotgun and Canned Ham and Werewolves, both were quarterfinalists in the 2015 & 2016 ScreenCraft Short Story contest, which seeks short fiction with strong potential for adaptation to film. Jason lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and three children. Prayer for Smoke is his first story published.
Winner of 2016 Contest:
Gina M. Fields
He lays the gun down gently on the end table, like a baby he’s afraid to wake. I don’t know him. I don’t know his name. And I don’t know why I’m here. I’m smarter than this, or so I’ve been told. He’s a grisly man, probably younger than his hardened looks reveal, wearing an unbuttoned blue plaid lumberjack shirt, over a fresh to death white tank top, with blue khaki pants - the unofficial Crips uniform.
Staring at me from his worn down, green, easy chair on the other side of the living room, he says, You’re the smart one.
I don’t respond, not because I’m not, but because, I don’t want to seem arrogant or hurt the feelings of my three girlfriends who are stuffed onto this overstuffed, broken down, beige couch with me, in a barely sunlit, sparsely furnished apartment in The Jungle, a low income neighborhood in Central Los Angeles, where I’ve live with my overprotective mother and my older brother and sister.
We should go, I say.
No, he says, picking up the gun and placing it in his lap. His eyes won’t leave mine.
He adds, Pretty too.
Earlier this afternoon, we met three boys, a little older than us, maybe 16, 17, outside the Rave movie theater a few blocks from here, and they asked if we wanted to come over to their friend’s place and hang out.
I said no, but Francine giggled, Yes, and Michelle, said, It’ll be fun.
Stephanie, who’s way more practical than any of us, whispered in my ear, We can’t let them go alone, they’ll get killed or raped or something stupid like that.
Now, I’m sitting in a weed stench-ed, dimly lit apartment, a single bead of sweat dripping down my spine, staring at a gun, trying to keep us all safe. The three boys who we met, who brought us here, who probably sell weed for the guy with the gun, linger in the hallway door, having been dismissed from the room by our captor.
I’m not that smart, I say.
You’re not? he asks.
No, if I was I wouldn’t be here.
He laughs and says, Funny too. How old are you? Ummm, 16, I lie.
I’m 15. Why do I lie? Does that one year make me a more formidable opponent for a half stoned, 185 pound, 28 year old, gang member with a gun?
He squints his eyes like he doesn’t believe me.
I left this behind. I got a scholarship to the private prep, Westlake School for Girls, and left behind, Audubon, my neighborhood middle school, my friends, and my mother’s fears for me, to ride a Metro bus an hour and a half away to Bel Air, driving pass the recovery centers and wigs shops and 99 Cent Stores of my neighborhood to sprawling lawns, 15 foot hedges and palm trees, like you see in the movies.
Then, came summer.
Why are you here? the drug dealer asks.
She thinks he’s cute, I say, first nodding my head toward Francine, sitting next to me, and then towards the light skinned, skinny boy, nervously snickering in the hall with his homies.
Francine shoves into me, angrily denying, I do not. Why’d you go and say that?
I want to tell her, because staring at a gun promotes honesty, and I barely got away with lying once, so I’m not anxious to try again, but I’m concentrating on not breaking our captor’s gaze. He will not respect that sign of weakness.
The late afternoon sun struggles in through uneven blinds, saturating the room with heat.
Michelle’s nerves have gotten to her and she can’t stop giggling. Stephanie is sniffling, trying to hold back tears. And Francine, blinded by her crush, is making flirty eyes towards the hallway.
He picks up the gun and points it at me, asking, So, are you afraid, Beauty? Every breath in the room halts.
Heart pounding, mind racing, hands sweating, what’s the right answer, what’s the perfect quote, with a mind full of knowledge, surely Ellison, Emerson, someone, something I’ve learned will make me bulletproof? Words, thoughts, quotes jumble and stumble around in my head.
Nothing to say? he prompts. Words can’t stop bullets, I mutter.
He laughs loudly, and says, Naw, they can’t. Laying the gun back down on the table, he adds, Remember this, today, this dumbass nigger sitting here, gave you a gift, gave you life. Don’t ever forget. And I don’t care what your stupid-ass friends say or do, don’t ever walk into nobody’s place if you don’t know what’s up. The next motherfucker may not be in a giving mood. Get out of here, go save the world or do whatever shit it is you need to do.
Gina M. Fields received her B.A. from UC Berkeley, and is currently taking novel writing courses at UCLA and regularly attending Writer’s Digest Conferences. With her writing, she seeks to shine light into the darker corners of the human experience, so that we can better understand this wild and beautiful thing called life. She is seeking representation for her literary fiction manuscripts, "Fireflies in Winter" and “The Blue Hour.” Feel free to send thoughts or comments to: GFields347@aol.com.
WINNER OF 2015 CONTEST:
A Clown's Lips
She smears it round and round. Santa red, an inch beyond the ridges. The 55 bus pulls up and I board with the crowd of iPhone zombies. But she stays behind, rifling through a soiled plastic bag or tyinguntyingtying a shoe, her clown lips fluttering in petroleum fumes. At haters imagined, I imagine.
I once tried concealer on the blue veins around my eyes. I’ve never told anyone that. I was so tired of hearing You look so tired. That’s sort of like your lips, don’t you think?
You need to know, she says, what happens when it glides against me? It skates like ice, then waxes maternal. Like pig fat warming. Then something cums in my brain and spiders shiny like tinsel from synapsis to synapsis to synapsis. Sometimes I only have to unscrew the tube, twist it up and Merry Christmas.
I'm at work. My eyes wander from my Excel sheet hell to a window, blocky buildings beyond. I wonder where Clown Lady goes when she’s not at the bus stop. I’ve held back hellos because I dread where a real conversation might take us. You know, if you back away about twenty feet from an Excel sheet, all numbers look like fours?
Dopamine! she shouts at the bus stop the next day. A dopamine stampede! She laughs at her near rhyme.
I laugh at my own jokes too. I like to feel empathetic. But maybe I see myself too much through others. Sometimes I try to look out Clown Lady’s eyes just to see if her world looks whole from there. Maybe it’s black and white or ultraviolet.
Maybe it’s Heaven.
Maybe there’s a blind spot right in front of her. Like a horse.
A kid jumps up to kick a rock at the approaching bus; Clown Lady sits down next to me. Kids think I’m a retard, but I’m not, she says to everyone and no one. I used to do tests on animals in a lab. Had a Master’s degree in slapping lipstick on pigs and other pretty little atrocities. Freaked out, got fired, can’t afford my meds now. People say I ought to stay home like a bug in a cocoon. A bug! she shouts. But I like the smell of people waiting for perdition. She's smiling at me now. It's a very big smile, as you might imagine.
Like me? I whisper, still unsure I want to be heard. But the bus has just pulled up, and I’m not moving from her side.
You? Burnt toast, Barbasol and funk. The loneliest. That woman over there? A tumbleweed of primers, foundations and powders, blushes and balms, bronzers, lipsticks and funk. People don’t get it: they never really cover up the funk.
I’m a goddamn clown. Just say it. Say I need to find out what’s up with the clown lips like everyone else. People think if they bully me into talking about my mother or some mean man who left his subtle scars, one day I’ll show up all normal in a navy blue pantsuit and pumps, wearing pale peach skincolored bullshit on my weedyass lips.
I quote sitcoms.
I need my meds.
Clown Lady paces the length of the bus stop, retouches her lipstick. A new copse of kids has begun to huddle in a corner. Their sniggering grows louder until it erupts into Clown Lady Clown Lady Clown Lady as they board the bus. Cowards, I say. Clown Lady smiles, sits back down next me and twists up her lipstick another inch.
What's your name, sailor?
She leans in close to me. Baby bulls, James, those kids. They don’t try to figure you out; they just charge. Me, I’m the bull and the poser with the Mickey Mouse hat and the stretchy sequined suit, drinking in Oil of Olays! from the crowd. Do they see my inner struggle? No. How the lips pass me in a mirror, a window, someone’s sunglasses and want to be touched up? No. How they need to be touched?
I do, I say, which sounds like I'm saying I need to be touched. I let it go. Maybe I do.
Clown Lady stands up to address a colossal audience. And when they see me, she shouts, my lips all fat and red, do they see how I straighten, lift my chin to the hissing crowd and dare the bulls to charge?
Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Litro Magazine, STRIPPED a collection of anonymous flash and many other fine places. He's the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. He lives somewhere in Europe and blogs about his crazy life at www.imustbeoff.com.
WINNER OF 2014 CONTEST:
BONE FOLDER He was sad and angry because his friend had died in a way that made it suicide in everything but name and he sat in a place where they used to drink and talk about Japanese literature and bullshit about work in progress and he thought that his friend might be forgotten which would be unjust because he was part of the resistance whereas the living collaborated and his anger at himself coalesced into action of a sort and he went out and bought tiles and a foam brush and a sheet of acetate and gloves and a mask and fingernail polish remover and a bone folder and he made color copies of a photograph of his dead friend with the right type of ink and he pushed the mirror image button so that the image would not be reversed on transfer and he heated the tiles in the microwave and placed each copy of the photo onto each warm tile face down and coated them with the fingernail polish remover and smoothed them with the bone folder under the acetate and applied the tile sealer to fix the image forever and when he was done he took off the gloves and the mask and left the tiles to dry and he was crying but he did not notice or if he did he thought it was the fumes of the solvent in his eyes and then one night later that week he mixed up a batch of cement and went out and fixed the tiles with the picture of his dead friend to the facades of buildings all across the indifferent city and for the rest of the year he smiled seeing the tiles in secret places or being denounced as vandalism by the authorities. - Jason Price Everett