Editor’s note: The rules were simple, as in our previous short-short story roundups: All stories must be 113 words, precisely. Not 112, not 114, and not including the title. They should be fiction, in any of its blessed forms.
This year we added a twist: Each story had to incorporate the word ham, while not actually being about ham. Didn’t matter how—as a verb (“hamming it up”), adjective (“hammy”), a prefix (“ham-fisted”), a suffix (“Birmingham”). It could even be used to designate meat products derived from pigs. Fine. As long as it’s in there.
ACT III, SCENE I
by Ken Miller
The hamster wars of 1999 abated, Noel cozied up to the notion that it was time to move. But with the housing market in the same shape as his crumb-filled, dripping beard, he sought out the nearest gold jacket he could find.
A wild-eyed stare here. A scary glance there. And there he was—walking past Noel’s alley, shimmering like an angel from the real estate gods. Lunging toward him with a religious fervor, Noel pointed to his refrigerator box, with its “this side up” arrow facing down. “I think I’m upside down in my home,” he carped.
“Are you f--king insane?” the Elvis impersonator cringed.
“Insane, yes,” Noel yelled. “F--king? Not much.”
by Aaron Thompson
Sal looked across his dingy apartment complex in Hell’s Kitchen in a frantic pace. It was only two hours ago that Sal, the diligent Muslim he was, was entertaining a woman of the night in his abode. But something felt wrong. Sal’s hair, so thick and so full, was gone, replaced by the smooth feel of his bare scalp. His hands were covered in blood and a knife was on the floor. A grip of horror came over him as he looked around, expecting to find the woman’s body on the floor. It wasn’t there. Instead a hot and juicy honey glazed ham gleamed into his eye and suddenly all was at peace.
by Ryan Olbrysh
I never imagined I would swallow my final breath lying in the fetal position. Alone. In the back seat of a 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. My father drove Cadillacs. Nice Cadillacs—not some bullshit Cimarrons or Allantés. No, the nice ones, that had the trunk where you push down on it lightly until some robotic mechanism kicks in to ease it closed for you. But I guess that kind of thing isn’t as exciting as it used to be. It’s probably standard now. Man, if this were my father’s car he’d kill me for what I’ve done to the floormats. F--k it’s cold in here. My father’s Cadillacs always had heated seats.
AS A KID, WE KNEW JACK
by John Katsilometes
He was a curious person to pick as a childhood hero, but he was mine. The team was loaded with stars, and it remained intact for years. The mad-bomber quarterback, the defensive line that, at least in that era, seemed positively gigantic. But one man, largely overlooked, caught my fancy. He was uncommonly fast for a player with a “5” on his jersey. He seemed to fall on every fumble and even had a bunch of interceptions—32, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And I loved that simple name stitched in gold across the back of his jersey: “Ham.” When I was a kid, that’s who I wanted to be.
CROSSING MARYLAND (OR, MORE EXPLICITLY, A CRYING SHAME)
by Joshua Longobardy
“Please forgive me. I’ve no one now. And even if I did, you’re the only one who ever claimed me. Even God’s quit me.
“And I know I deserve it. But, baby, I can and wanna do better and if you’ll just let me I’ll show you I’m that same girl you took to Mesquite and that dances in her sleep please, baby, please. I’ll do anything.”
It was not addressed to me though I wish it were. Because she was pretty. After the police bagged her and ticketed the driver I picked up the letter I’d seen fly on impact.
It was addressed to Eli.
“P.S.,” it concluded. “All my love.”
ME AND THE ALIEN
by Damon Hodge
Until today, I didn’t believe in extraterrestrials. But there I was face to, uh, bug-eyed, pomegranate-shaped face, with a scary-looking Martian. I wasn’t nervous.
Alien-thing was smaller than I’d imagined; a hamster-sized five ounces. Wimpy looking, if you ask me; the way its legs and arms pretzeled all around its teeny, tiny body.
At this point, alien-thing couldn’t kick Sigourney Weaver’s daughter’s ass.
It’ll grow to five or eight pounds in a few months, the doctor says. In a year or so, alien-thing will talk. For now, all we’ll get are whooshes and gurgles.
Yo, come here! It’s moving. It’s awake.
Ultrasounds are kinda cool. So, doc, what are we having?
THE IMPERIAL MARCH
by Spencer Patterson
“I’m Mark Hamill, but you can call me Luke,” a graying man said to the first woman who approached him at Utica’s 4th annual Speed-Dating Whirlybird. “I’m Cindy,” she responded indifferently and without a hint of recognition, scanning the room for more promising prospects. “Do you like flying? ’Cause I’ve been told I’m a heck of a pilot,” he tried, wincing at the line he’d worn out so many years before, back when it might have meant something. “I’m gonna get a drink at the bar,” she replied and turned to go, unceremoniously ending their brief encounter. His spirits sank and he unthinkingly whispered after her, “May the Force be with you.”
by Kristen Peterson
He saw her across the busy street and he ran to her. Ran like the dickens, wondering mid-gallop, what “dickens” actually meant. “Was it an abbreviated reference to a Dickens character?” Just then a car hit him. It broke his legs and he forgot about dickens all together because he had also landed on his head.
Eventually, his legs healed, but not his brain, so when he saw her across the busy street, he ran to her. Like the dickens. A deli truck filled with ham sandwiches plowed over him.
Years later, while sitting in his wheelchair, he saw a man running across a busy street. “Hmmm,” he said, “That looks vaguely familiar.”
THE SHAMAN’S PIE
by James Cullum
After three long gulps on his double Jack and Coke, Detective Betynha glared across the table at Nigel.
Nigel had spent the better part of their lunch winking, and enthusiastically sending a very lurid groin thrust in the direction of every waitress that walked by. Neither had spoken for the last ten minutes, but the Detective figured it for the best. It seemed every time the Shaman said something, some strange perverse thing would happen. Be it a salt shaker getting up and screaming bloody murder, or his Salisbury steak trying to stab him with his soup spoon. At last Betynha stood up and shrieked, “Eat your f--king pie so we can leave!”
by Josh Bell
The big-city types were always poor choices; it was in the little hamlets that you found the ones with just the right mix of fearlessness and naivete. She looked down at her chosen one, barely 19, thin, delicate, hair falling in his eyes. Too look at her, you’d imagine she was only a year or two older, but she hadn’t been 19 in nearly 200 years.
“I’m ready,” he said eagerly.
“You’re going to be beautiful forever,” she said, repeating what someone had told her once, a long time ago. He flinched a little as she extended her fangs, but he did not look away. She bit, and they were bonded for eternity.
SMALL BUT DEADLY
by Julie Seabaugh
“Brown Recluse,” they called her. Possessing a killer competitive edge, she rarely mingled before (on the bus) or after (in the restroom). And she was all carnivore. Cannoli and jalapeno finishes paled next to pigs’ feet and Krystal burgers. The advantage was hers to lose.
Sun and stickiness pervaded, and the meat quickly took on that all-too-familiar sheen. Couldn’t they at least pat the pink slabs down first? “No time,” came the curt reply.
The alarm sounded. Chopped pork shoulder. Salt. Water. Sugar. Sodium nitrate. Chomp. Swallow. Repeat.
Twelve short minutes later, Bunnettes cheered and cameras flashed. She’d done it. The Brown Recluse, perennial Nathan’s Championship also-ran, was the IFOCE’s newest Spam Champion.
by Kristen Peterson
“Honesty comes in tears,” said the cowboy, twitching his lip, sipping his beer and staring at nothing in particular. “It’s like vomit, you purge and you purge and you purge. Everything comes out because it has no choice. You’re cleaning the system. And there you have it. A mess of everything. You see it all. The whole story.”
“That’s crap,” said the other cowboy, a rascally little man. “I ain’t need no tears, no cryin’ to know something. I got my thoughts. I listen to ’em. I listen to ’em good. They tell me all I need to know.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” said the first cowboy, while cutting into his ham.
by Bridget Fahrland
The pothole on Ham Rd. was not especially deep nor particularly wide but it did the trick.
Though “trick” may not be the right word. Maybe the word is “fate” or “irony” or “not under warranty.”
How does one explain the thin front tire of a 1987 Nissan Sentra hitting a pothole at just the right angle as to cause the radio to become stuck on a Christian station?
Nobody’s response satisfied her. She drove in silence.
Then she began singing. Songs just came to her as she drove along. Her song “Potholes” won an award.
She rented a gown. She wrote a speech. It made no mention of Jesus.
by T. R. Witcher
In Birmingham, on a morning wet with clouds, they tucked the last of his things—a tennis racket, four white plastic bowls, a bag full of shampoo and hand soap—into the back of his Accord.
He squeezed the tires to check their pressure. “All set?” Luisa asked. Luisa was Brazilian, but she spoke English with an almost perfectly realized Southern accent. There was no trace of Portuguese. This amazed him. He would miss the voices most. He wondered whether Las Vegas could remake the way he spoke.
“How do people in Vegas talk, anyway?” he asked.
She gave him a warm, entirely empty, look.
“They talk faster, right?”