June 2020 Winners - First Place
"The Change" by Jennifer Vandenberg
The day Jamie finally turned invisible came as a relief. She was tired of people asking when she would turn. Her mom was the only one telling her not to rush it because invisibility was forever. Jamie didn’t care. Four of her best friends at middle school were already invisible, and it was all they ever talked about. Jamie had felt excluded.
Excited to share the news, Jamie ran downstairs into the kitchen. Her mom stood at the stove, scrambling eggs with a spatula that seemed to float as she held it in her see-through hand.
“Mom!” Jamie shouted. “I’m invisible!”
Her mom turned, the front of her colorful button-down dress now visible. “I’ll miss your beautiful smile, sweetie. It’s a shame you can’t change back.”
Jamie’s smile slipped as she realized no one would see her expressions again. Was this why her mom wasn’t celebrating with her? No, she chided herself. This was a good thing. “I won’t ever want to change back. Now I will know what my friends are talking about. It’s exciting!”
Her mom hugged her. “Today it is. Eventually, it will just be normal. It’s our burden as women.”
Jamie shook the doubts from her head. “It’s not a burden. I’m glad I went through the change.”
Something warm touched her cheek, and Jamie leaned into her mother’s hand. The gesture felt reassuring, but her mom’s sigh sounded sad. “If you’re happy, then I’m happy for you.” After another quick hug, the spatula waved in the air toward the stairs. “Go on, and wake your brother.”
Jamie walked away, sure her mother was wrong. Being invisible was the best, even if no one could see her, right? Puzzled, Jamie knocked on her brother’s door. Change was harder than she had expected.
"Non nobis, Domine, non nobis - Not unto us, Lord, not unto us" by Ryan Diaz
Oh how they loved Father Steve. Whatever he said was holy and right.
He arrived two years ago from the adjacent diocese and became highly popular among the faithful ladies.
It was his birthday last Friday, they praised the Lord before the barbecue, backstabbed the choir girl during, and walked him back to their Lord their God after.
The congregation gathered this Sunday, they arrived three minutes late. ‘No biggie, he is up there, we’re down here.’ They sang their hearts out, with their floral dresses swaying sideways and oblivious to the divine bread still sticking onto their fleshy gum. Lord have mercy.
Father texted on Monday asking for volunteers to help out the service, he got as many disciples as his Lord had in less than five minutes. ‘Father needs help. Stacey, you coming?’ They sat in the pews for an hour, scrolling for updates and adding to carts. ‘No biggie, He is up there, we’re down here.’
They brought their sons and daughters to the luncheon on Saturday and clapped after Father Steve put down his microphone. ‘Well sung, Father!’ ‘You should be on talent shows!’ They commented as they spooned their soup and forked their salads.
Prayers followed the luncheon and they faced the crucified Lord. Father spoke of his celibate life and the graces from the vocation. He thanked the ladies for the food and the Lord for the gifts He laid.
'See you Friday, Father Steve!’ It came out moisturized by an always-gossiping tongue.
'Ben, honey, forget what Father Steve said.’ It was commanded by another.
Oh how they loved Father Steve. Whatever He said was holy and right.
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam — but to thy name give glory.
"Red Raw Knuckles" by Alan Kennedy
Red raw from knocking, Andrew’s knuckles throb like a cartoon character’s. When they deigned to open the door, a uniformed guard ushered him into this cubicle. Six hours squirming on the edge of the plastic seat. He checks his form to remind himself why he is there, goes over his personal information for the fifteenth time and pleads with the screen number to change.
How much longer?
Through the bullet-proof glass partition, a steady stream of smiling people trickles out the exit door clutching the coveted permission, stamped and triplicated. Two of them give Andrew the thumbs-up sign. The machine above the way in hums into action, whirring faster and faster. Andrew’s heart matches its rhythm. He takes a slug of water from his canteen.
Click! Sixty-seven becomes sixty-eight.
Despite his bladder being on the point of bursting, Andrew doesn’t dare to shift from his chair. Every morning for the last week he has repeated this ritual. Today’s the day. He’s not going anywhere.
The apparatus throbs one more time before cutting out with a wheeze like a heavy smoker’s last breath. Andrew jumps to attention when a clipboard holding civil servant strides out. The pin stripe suited man looks down at his notes and clears his throat.
‘Sorry. No more interviews till tomorrow.’
Andrew crumples the slip of paper with ‘sixty-nine’ into the wastepaper bin. Blinded by his tears, he shoves his way out past the queue already forming for the next day’s consultations.