Graeme −> Language −> Short stories −> Dark and Stormy Night 
She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail . . . though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.

- Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, CA, a 42-year-old software developer and former National Spelling Bee contestant, and now, winner of the 2004 edition of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Dave Zobel of Manhattan Beach, California, won with his timely entry.

"They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white ... Mozzarella, although it could possibly be provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently."

- Mariann Simms of Wetumpka, Ala., whose entry won $250 in the 22nd (year 2003) Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a parody honoring the writer of the worst beginning to an imaginary novel.

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.

- Ms. Rephah Berg
Oakland CA
2002 Bulwer-Lytton winner

A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea.

- Sera Kirk, Vancouver, British Columbia
2001 Bulwer-Lytton winner

The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog as thick as smoke in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows slipping off land's end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints.

- Gary Dahl
Los Gatos, CA
2000 Bulwer-Lytton winner

The prolific Dahl also penned another strong contender:

Gwendolyn, a world-class mountaineer, summoned the last of her strength for one more heroic haul on the nylon strap (for she was, after so many failed attempts, dangerously close to exhaustion) and looked heavenward with resolve, aware that, in spite of her fatigue and anguish, she must breach the crevice in one well-coordinated movement, somehow cleave the smooth fissure with the flimsy synthetic strand even though she was chaffed raw by her repeated efforts, or more sensibly, just give the heave-ho to this new-fangled (and painfully small) Victoria's Secret thong and slip into her well-worn - and infinitely more roomy - knickers.

In keeping with the stature and dignity of the competition, Dahl will receive the traditional first prize award, a mere pittance.

"Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracking paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life."

- David Chuter, 47, who describes himself as a "harmless and rather obscure bureaucrat," said he wrote the winning sentence in what he called "a moment of total insanity" to win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in 1999.

The corpse exuded the irresistible aroma of a piquant, ancho chili glaze enticingly enhanced with a hint of fresh cilantro as it lay before him, coyly garnished by a garland of variegated radicchio and caramelized onions, and impishly drizzled with glistening rivulets of vintage balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic oil; yes, as he surveyed the body of the slain food critic slumped on the floor of the cozy, but nearly empty, bistro, a quick inventory of his senses told corpulent Inspector Moreau that this was, in all likelihood, an inside job.

- Bob Perry, Milton, MA, 1998

The moment he laid eyes on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap on the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit the exact spot where the tab clicks into place, allowing her to remove the cap and swallow the entire contents of the bottle, thus ending her life.

- Artie Kalemeris, Fairfax, VA, 1997

"Ace, watch your head!" hissed Wanda urgently, yet somehow provocatively, through red, full, sensuous lips, but he couldn't you know, since nobody can actually watch more than part of his nose or a little cheek or lips if he really tries, but he appreciated her warning.

- Janice Estey, Aspen, Colorado, 1996

Paul Revere had just discovered that someone in Boston was a spy for the British, and when he saw the young woman believed to be the spy's girlfriend in an Italian restaurant he said to the waiter, "Hold the spumoni--I'm going to follow the chick an' catch a Tory."

- John L. Ashman, Houston, Texas, 1995

As the fading light of a dying day filtered through the window blinds, Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45, surprised at the serenity that filled him after pumping six slugs into the bloodless tyrant that mocked him day after day, and then he shuffled out of the office with one last look back at the shattered computer terminal lying there like a silicon armadillo left to rot on the information superhighway.

- Larry Brill, Austin, Texas, 1994

She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on Friday the thirteenth.

- Wm. W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, Washington, 1993

As the newest Lady Turnpot descended into the kitchen wrapped only in her celery-green dressing gown, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental soufflé, her tart mouth pursed in distaste, the sous-chef whispered to the scullery boy, "I don't know what to make of her."

- Laurel Fortuner, Montendre, France, 1992

Sultry it was and humid, but no whisper of air caused the plump, laden spears of golden grain to nod their burdened heads as they unheedingly awaited the cyclic rape of their gleaming treasure, while overhead the burning orb of luminescence ascended its ever-upward path toward a sweltering celestial apex, for although it is not in Kansas that our story takes place, it looks god awful like it.

- Judy Frazier, Lathrop, Missouri, 1991

Dolores breezed along the surface of her life like a flat stone forever skipping across smooth water, rippling reality sporadically but oblivious to it consistently, until she finally lost momentum, sank, and due to an overdose of fluoride as a child which caused her to lie forever on the floor of her life as useless as an appendix and as lonely as a five-hundred-pound barbell in a steroid-free fitness center.

- Linda Vernon, Newark, California, 1990

Professor Frobisher couldn't believe he had missed seeing it for so long--it was, after all, right there under his nose--but in all his years of research into the intricate and mysterious ways of the universe, he had never noticed that the freckles on his upper lip, just below and to the left of the nostril, partially hidden until now by a hairy mole he had just removed a week before, exactly matched the pattern of the stars in the Pleiades, down to the angry red zit that had just popped up where he and his colleagues had only today discovered an exploding nova.

- Ray C. Gainey, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1989

Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was sleek, shapely, and gorgeous, her red jumpsuit molding her body, which was as warm as the seat covers in July, her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, and her lips as dewy as the beads of fresh rain on the hood; she was a woman driven--fueled by a single accelerant--and she needed a man, a man who wouldn't shift from his views, a man to steer her along the right road, a man like Alf Romeo.

- Rachel E. Sheeley, Williamsburg, Indiana, 1988

The notes blatted skyward as the sun rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day, webbed appendages frantically peddling unseen bicycles in their search for sustenance, driven by Nature's maxim, "Ya wanna eat, ya gotta work," and at last I knew Pittsburgh.

- Sheila B. Richter, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1987

The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn't heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn't reacting yet to let you know.

- Patricia E. Presutti, Lewiston, New York, 1986

The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably--the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.

- Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, Connecticut, 1985

The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal."

- Steven Garman, Pensacola, Florida, 1984

The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails--not for the first time since the journey began--pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil.

- Gail Cain, San Francisco, California, 1983

Internet references

the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest