The picnickers have scattered and the victorious hordes of ants have arrived with a message.
Meagan Cass has chosen.
Congratulations to Gordon Buchan for his first prize story, “A Simple Solution.”
Here’s what moved Meagan to her decision:
The strong, original voice and characterization won me over here! I can imagine this narrator protecting his alopecic dog from ants one moment, then exterminating them and listening to his ailing client the next. His obsession with the weight ants carry and his respect for their beauty make him even more interesting. As the story moves forward, images of domestic comfort, anger, violence and longing stoke the tension. When we hit the last, troubling line, we feel like we’ve gotten to know this flawed, imaginative person deeply. “A Simple Solution” is a heart breaker in an unexpected way. Also, you can learn a cool trick for killing ants!
Gordon is the winner of a Sundress title of his choice from the Sundress store, along with a surprise broadside!
And for the runner-up this week, we congratulate Donna Vorreyer for also catching our honored judge’s eye with her story, “Desperate But Not Serious.”
Both authors will go on to compete in the final grand prize round, where one writer will walk away with five Sundress titles of their choosing and their story immortalized on the blog! Get cracking on this week’s contest here!
And without further adieu, here are the winning stories.
A Simple Solution
by Gordon Buchan
I don’t care much for picnics. Mostly because of ants. Like when I was trying to teach my alopecic dog to enjoy the outdoors again, but ants kept biting his chest. Or this other time, beside a moonlight tower in Austin, when I was doing house renovations for a woman named Hannah Liberto. Hannah had an ant infestation and liked to talk to me while I seasoned the woodwork with white sugar and borax. Her eyes were anxious and muscular, no smaller than walnuts, and, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, Hannah believed that I was her husband’s battle buddy in the Korean War. She would talk about him longingly, and then, in the same breath, with an almost convincing hostility, complain that he called her too much, wondering what good a soldier did crammed inside a Chicago phone booth all day. Now, clocking in at roughly 1,600 pounds, I figure it would take 48,000 ants to lift the average phone booth—54,000 if someone was in it, and, by contrast, you would need a little more than 9,000,000,000 ants to carry everyone out of Chicago, leaving Hannah and her husband hand-in hand with the Windy City all to themselves. This is because, while an ant only weighs 3mgs, it can carry 5,000 times its body weight. So, since a sunflower typically weighs about 1 pound, it would take 30 ants to carry it. A stick of butter would be a quarter of this, whereas an Enfield rifle weighs about 10 sunflowers, give or take. I really do think that ants are a beautiful organism, but that doesn’t mean a simple solution of ⅓ borax and ⅔ sugar won’t wipe out an entire colony—kind of like a few grams of oxycodone had chased away my family.
Gordon Buchan is Philadelphia based writer. His work has recently appeared in Sugar House Review and BE Literary. He co-edits the online journal, Pretty Owl Poetry.
Desperate But Not Serious
by Donna Vorreyer
Charlie picked me up at eleven, a mini Weber and a red Igloo cooler in the backseat of his Mazda. We had been out several times, to movies or to watch baseball at the bar, and he was…fine. Nice. Simple. Not exciting. When he had asked to see me again, I suggested a picnic. I needed something, anything, to ignite a spark, or I was out.
The picnic started poorly. The coals were too hot, burning the food, and the seemingly comfortable spot near the cooking pavilion ended up being damp and sandy. But I never anticipated an ant problem until one showed up in his pirate boots and face paint, his bare chest glistening beneath an elaborate military jacket, open to the waist.
“Is that fucking Adam Ant?” Charlie blurted. I just shrugged my shoulders, unable to look away. The man nodded a yes at Charlie and inched closer to me, a tiny beaded braid knocking against his forehead as he whispered in my ear, “There’s whip in my valise,” his tongue just grazing my lobe.
I blushed, and Charlie bellowed, “What did you say to her?” leaping up to point a finger into the intruder’s chiseled face. The stranger spread his arms toward me. “Throw your safety overboard and join my insect nation. Be my queen.” The air swirled with smoke from the grill, creating a fog around us.
“Fucking psycho,” Charlie sputtered. “Get the fuck out of here. Leave my girlfriend alone.” But I wasn’t Charlie’s girlfriend, I didn’t want to be, and I didn’t need protection. I was already on my feet, reaching to trace the white horizon striping the stranger’s face, to loosen the sideburn pin curl from his cheek.
Charlie started to speak, but lifting one finger to his lips, the Ant Man said, “Shhh. Do us all a favor?” He turned toward me, smirking in gold brocade. “If you think it’s all a bit risqué, don’t say a word, I’ll just slip away.” I stripped off my pretty dress, folded it nice and slow, and threw it on the fire.
Donna Vorreyer is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish (Red Bird Chapbooks). Her fiction has previously appeared in Storychord, Extract(s), Cease, Cows, and Boston Literary Review. She is a poetry editor for Extract(s), and her second collection Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in late 2015. She resides in the Chicago area with two large dogs and a regular-sized husband.