I’m so glad that I wasn’t a judge for the 2011 Golden Donut Short Story contest, because each of the entries were absolutely wonderful. But, after a first round of screening, the top ten stories were submitted to our judge, editor Kristen Weber, who had the difficult task of picking a winner. (All stories were submitted to the judges as blind entries—no names were attached to the stories, only randomly selected numbers).
In case you don’t remember the contest rules, the stories had to feature the picture above and be exactly 200 words, including the title. With that in mind, here are the top three stories beginning with the winning story written by Rick McMahan. The Golden Donut Award was presented to Rick at the WPA during the Saturday night banquet.
“When I was little, I used to dance and pretend I was a ballerina,” the chained woman said.
He knew she was trying to get sympathy. He held a flashlight in one hand, a gun in the other. “You said you would cooperate,” he said.
They stood in front of an old rambling house, overgrown with weeds. It was a place Norman Bates would find appealing.
“I will,” she whispered, struggling to raise her shackled hands to push her blonde hair behind her ear.
On the roof, a row of crows and took to flight.
She didn’t try to run. “On stage, I hold my eyes closed against the neon and pretend I’m a ballerina.” Her voice and steps faltered as he opened the door.
The flashlight’s beam pierced the dark interior. The smell of spoiled blood filled the air.
A sturdy pole stood in the center of the room. The flashlight illuminated the overlapping bloody footprints circling the pole.
“How did you pick them?” the cop asked.
She stared at her collection arrayed along the wall.
“Their age, dark hair and the whiskey on their breath, just like Daddy did when he came for his tiny dancer.”
“OMG!!!!” squealed Courtney. “This place is SO awesome!”
Jason turned the lock on the door behind him.
“How’d you find this place? It’s like a haunted house out of a
movie or something.”
“Came across it one day. Nobody lives here, so I figured ‘what the
Jason placed his hands on either side of Courtney’s waist and
looked into her eyes.
“Man, I’ve got to call my BFF Heather and tell her about this
place. It’s sick.”
Courtney wiggled away and started digging in her humongous purple hobo bag.
“Call her later.” Jason smiled, coming toward her. Courtney’s back
was against the wall.
“So are you legal Courtney?”
“What kinda legal?”
Jason placed his palms against the wall on either side of Courtney’s
head. Her hand still in the hobo.
“I’m 16. You?”
“I’m a little older,” he whispered, “but I like making love to
pretty young girls. What do you like?”
Courtney giggled. “You’re going to think I’m such a freak!”
“No I won’t. Tell me.”
Courtney whipped a pink handled Bowie knife from her hobo bag and
giggled again as she plunged the blade into his chest.
“I like watching things bleed.”
The house was a beauty, all right. It looked regally traditional, nestled so prettily in waves of blooming flowers. Everyone raved about those flowers, and about my dear auntie Heliotrope (just a little dotty, we all thought, but harmless). Who would have guessed her penchant for taking in derelicts wasn’t for the greater good? “I just give them a chance to contribute,” she often said. “Isn’t that nice?”
The day I went to check on her she answered the door with her grey hair all screwed up on top of her head, stuck through with a lethal-looking pair of knitting needles that I swear could skewer a small dog. Her apron was spattered with something unpleasant I couldn’t identify.
“Why, Sissie,” she said. “Thanks for coming but I can’t have tea now. I’m busy.”
“Just turning my compost. Come see.” She led the way to the cellar door and threw it open. The stench that billowed up was unbelievable. She flicked on the light. All I could see was a floor covered with bones and rotting bodies.
Heliotrope’s smile was proud. “See? At last they’re contributing. You think my flowers get that beautiful without good fertilizer?”
*Thanks to everyone who participated in the short story contest. Your support is greatly appreciated!
*Photograph by Sunday Kaminski